In the myth of Inanna, a descent into the underworld occurs. At each gate she surrenders aspects of her self such as intellectualizing, niceness and her armour. Stripped of the usual means of defending herself Inanna is alone and helpless, left on a hook as a corpse. Inanna has no choice but to face the depths of her existence.
When people encounter depression, addiction, anxiety or meaningless they often view their life as a ‘living hell,’ feeling trapped, caught in the mire, with little or no hope. As unpleasant as these times are, descents provide a passage into our unconscious and offer an opportunity for the reintegration of missing life energy. However, if we are to gain any renewal we must stay long enough in the angst to learn what it is really about. This belief goes against common practices such as taking anti-depressants or keeping busy to avoid boredom.
Some people voluntarily enter the underworld by hearing their subtle yearning for ‘something more.’ For others it takes a profound, “I’m not doing this anymore!” Many times throughout our life we all enter the dreaded cave, tunnel or watery depths, as Jonah did when swallowed by the whale. As Jung stated, one enters a “tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well.”
As Inanna experienced, we are required to remove our masks, roles and false persona. We may feel as if we are ‘coming apart’ or ‘going crazy’ as we experience an inner dismemberment. As our fears arise we ask, “Who am I? How do I really want to live my life?” We find our self with outstretched hands, weighing options that no longer have meaning for us.
However stuck in our angst we feel we may be, there is nothing ever not happening. Energy previously spent outwardly on job, relationships and daily tasks is pulled inward. Energy now goes into trying to problem solve, going through different scenarios and options. As we spend time looking at who we have been and who we want to be insights are seen into how we have been moving through life. Glimpses of new, albeit scary, possibilities occur.
If we decide to stay in the muck, courageously and patiently as Jung phrased it, holding the tension of opposites, we eventually reach a still point where our perception shifts from old to new. It’s neither the right nor the left hand, it’s something else, something new. However, there will be losses, and these bring suffering. However, we get what we are able to handle. As much as Ego is struggling, resisting and suffering, it is strong enough to handle the pain.
We eventually reach down and remove the newly-seen traps that have imprisoned us, creating space and energy for the new. We ascent back to a new phase of life integrating the lessons learned in our recent descent. As we continue along the spiral of life, we wisely know there will be other necessary descents which we will heroically accept and travel.