Hot off the press, Trauma and the Soul, by my friend and colleague, Donald Kalsched, Ph.D., delves into trauma, the soul, and the demon Dis. I think I'm going to contemplate this area for a while on this blog. In particular, today, I am drawn to the body as container of repressed pain and trauma. Kalsched explores the myth of the god Dis, the penultimate demon of negation, the one who divides body from soul during trauma.
People who have been scathed by emotional, spiritual, physical, sexual trauma encounter Dis, sometimes in the form of bodily symptoms that mainstream medicine can't diagnosis or effectively treat. I've found that at times, there are reasons in a person's background, perhaps dating to childhood, for chronic body pain and various ailments. The dark archetypal energy of Dis separates us from psychic pain so that we can survive. Dis distances us from what is unbearable, too much to admit to consciousness.
Dis can also refuse us access to the emotions of anger and fear so necessary in the working through of trauma. Dis is the inner persecutor who blames us for our sufferings. So often I've heard patients say, "But, it was my fault. If only I hadn't been that way then it wouldn't have happened." This attitude of self blame represses true emotion of outrage to an inner hell place that then threatens us with ongoing misery since it is never worked through.
Dante, in the Inferno, describes Dis as the vilest monster at the center of Hell. Psychologically, he is one who generates dissociation, disintegration. He shoots us full of the chronic sense that everything, including our very sense of self , is coming apart at the seams. Dis disintegrates, dissociates, disempowers, disconnects, propagates disharmony and disease.
However, Dis can also inspire a displacing of Dis. Plainly put, it's miserable to keep trauma locked up and hidden. Doing so makes life a living hell. Consciousness, motivated by a healthy desire for mental and physical relief, and a willing moving into true feeling that has been denied or repressed, potentiates healing. The ongoing narrative that emerges in the living of misery and chronic body pain, the psychic story of Dis within the context of experienced trauma and the soul, echoes the adage that when the mind is in pain the body cries out.