I’ve been cheated / been mistreated / when will I be loved?
I’ve been put down / I’ve been pushed ‘round / when will I be loved?
When I find a new man / that I want for mine
He always breaks my heart in two / it happens every time
I’ve been made blue / I’ve been lied to / when will I be loved?
Linda Ronstadt’s 1975 hit, “When Will I Be Loved?” aptly illustrates separation, the third of the operations of transformation in alchemy, and a necessary aspect of psychological transformation. Someone dies. Someone leaves. Something is lost. You are bitterly disappointed in an outcome. You experience the brokenness of the separation that “breaks [the] heart in two.” Suffering reduces you to the smallest particle possible—to the essence of you.
Reduced to the Utmost
The separation process reduces one to his or her utmost, most essential aspect, much as matter can be reduced to the atomic level. It was quite appropriately philosophers, not scientists or physicians, who first proposed atomic theory. In the second century BCE, Hindu philosophers Vaisheshika and Kanada postulated that all objects in the physical universe were reducible to a finite number of atoms. Centuries later, alchemist Pseudo-Geber postulated the existence of corpuscles, a theory expounded upon later in 1661 by natural philosopher Robert Boyle, who proposed atomic theory.
Perhaps philosophers discovered atomic theory because philosophers studied suffering. One who suffers knows what it means to be reduced to the utmost. One “falls apart,” “comes unglued,” or is “unhinged.” We feel disconnected, we withdraw, we seek separations and divorces. The language we use indicates our experience of separatio.
The word “separation” is from the Latin separare, from se- ‘apart’ and parare, ‘prepare.’ We can be sure that when we’re set apart, or when something or someone is separated from us, our experience of loss is a preparation. No matter how brutal the process feels, it will transform us if we let it.
Before separation, we experienced a nigredo stage of chaos, a massa confusa in which soul and body were inextricably wed and unconscious elements related to everything instinctively. This was a sort of slavery in which the enslaved and his chains were one. During the dissolution phase of transformation, the fetters were dissolved. Unfortunately, the slave still perceived himself a slave. One who has long lived with a harsh master encounters this same harsh master time and again in his environment or in others.
In practical terms, one is enslaved as long as one is deluded by projections. The separation phase of transformation is therefore essential, for by it we come to see where we end, and the other begins. A most important stage of therapy consists in making conscious and dissolving the projections that falsify a person’s view of other people and the world, and obstruct his self-knowledge. Once projections are made conscious and dissolved, psychological and physical symptoms may be managed consciously. A person is then able to set up a rational, spiritual, and psychological reality to aid him when he experiences turbulent emotions or troublesome bodily symptoms and urges.
What You See is What You Get
Object relations theory proposes that we relate to people and circumstances in our adult lives according to habits established in our family of origin. For example, a woman with a self-absorbed, abandoning mother will expect similar behavior from those who unconsciously remind her of Mother. She will gravitate to those who remind her of Mother and are similarly abandoning as long as the Abandoning Mother is unconsciously internalized.
As a result of the separation process, however, she is somehow forced to see that the problem isn’t actually “out there.” The problem is “in here.” We go through life projecting our stuff onto others until we meet someone with enough self-knowledge and self-love to object to being objectified. “Stop that,” they insist, “Cut it out.”
Jesus, one of my favorite psychologists, illustrated the unhappy results of projection when he taught, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2, NIV). Put another way, “we accept the love we think we deserve,” (Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower).
When Will I Be Loved?
Without psychological cutting, sifting, and separation, we don’t know where we end and the other person begins, what belongs to us and what belongs to the other person, what is essential and what is unnecessary. Our projections veil the reality of things until we withdraw them and set ourselves and others free. Only then are we able to live rationally and perceive truth. Only then will we be loved.
Alchemy: The Great Work on Third Eve
Adapted from Purpose Fairy.
1. Always focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.
The mistake that most of us make when having a problem is to talk about it over and over again instead of focusing on the end result, instead of focusing on what we want to achieve.
2. Know that every problem comes with a lesson.
There is always a lesson in everything that happens to us, and we should constantly look for what that lesson is and master it, because you see, just as Confucius said, “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.”
3. Don’t believe everything you think.
Our problems aren’t as big as the mind is trying to convince us, and if you choose to believe every negative thought that goes through your mind, you will always get in trouble. Observe your mind, observe your thoughts, but don’t identify yourself with them. Go beyond them.
Choose to express your gratitude for everything that happens to you, whether good or bad, and also for every person you interact with. The more you choose to express your gratitude, the more reasons you will have to express it, and when you’re too busy focusing on the many things that you are grateful for, there will be no more room left for stress and worry, there will be no more room left for negativity.
5. Know that there is a reason for everything.
As Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.” Therefore, everything that happens and every person who enters your life will ultimately do you good, if you keep your eyes and heart on the Transcendent and on Love, which is God. It’s your responsibility to act upon this knowledge rather than to judge events and people as “bad.” It’s all good, eventually. Believe it.
6. Let go of your need for perfection.
When you try to do everything perfectly, you will meet with stress and frustration, because it’s impossible to be perfect in everything you do. Why would you want to be perfect anyway? Don’t you know that perfection leaves no room for improvement?
7. Let go of your resistance.
Accept things as they are without you trying to change them, without trying to fight against them. When you stress over an outcome and when you resist what is, you fighting against the present moment, against the present reality, against the whole universe, and this is a battle you will never win. Allow yourself to just be. Go with the flow, and know that life wasn’t meant to be a struggle, even though that’s what your mind was trying to convince you all of these years. Learn to “Let go and let God,” knowing that “By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning” (Lao Tzu).
8. Learn to be present in everything you do.
When you become present and engaged in the now, your whole life will become easier and you will realize that problems will begin to disappear, little by little. If you get too caught up in your mind, and if you think too much about what happened in the past and about what may happen in the future, you will create a great deal of pain and suffering, and the energy you will generate will be toxic, not only for yourself, but also for those around you, because energy is contagious. Go with love in the present moment.
“To suffer consciously means to live through the ‘death of ego,’ to voluntarily withdraw one’s projections from other people, to stop searching for the ‘divine world’ in another, and instead to find one’s own inner life as a psychological and religious act. It means to take responsibility for discovering one’s own totality, one’s own unconscious possibilities. It means to question one’s old patterns–to be willing to change. All of this involves conflict, self-questioning, uncovering duplicities one would rather not face. It is painful and difficult” (Robert A. Johnson, We).
William Butler Yeats
I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
A terrible beauty is born.
Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.
Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
Yeats wrote this poem about his mixed feelings over the Easter Uprising of 1916, in which the Irish clashed with their British oppressors. The Irish failed, and the Irish leaders were executed for treason. Though Yeats disagreed with the means of the uprising and many of the participants, he recognizes and lauds the courage with which the rebels fought. Ambivalence can be the most noble friend.