Friday, December 7, 2007

Like Learning to Swing

I'll write a little further here while the back-up's going on.

I just moved into a new understanding of the concept of "figure/ground". I've been 'seeing' that theme a lot in my life in much more personal application than the old Gestaldt (?) illusion that appears to be a vase when you look at it one way, or the profiles of two faces nose to nose.

It's a strange day. I feel very restless, not quite able to settle down to anything yet unsure which is my best direction. I wonder if these feelings fit into 'ground' at all.

Anyway: new understanding of figure/ground. The water the fish swims in; the tip of the iceberg, the wind beneath my wings: figure/ground. The Ground hiding in plain sight.

As a child I attempted to cut myself off from the Ground, tightly squeezing myself into Figure. That meant that though I may have been protected from some of the dangers of the Ground, I also didn't have access to its pulse, its...I don't know what to call It. "Power" is a very inadequate word to describe It--I picture It as the movement of the waves a boat is floating on. Bob Schwartz, in "Winning Through Enlightenment" describes It as Context.

A consequence of trying to split away from the Ground is that I mistakenly attribute elements within Ground as being located inside of me. Trying to keep Ground out is futile; information leaks in in the form of feelings. Which I attribute wholly to me as their generator. If they are uncomfortable feelings I feel totally responsible for them and I fear that they might mean something bad about me. I see now that I can relieve myself of some of that responsibility now: for feelings that exist and for other people's feelings.

I see that being cut off from Ground has meant that I haven't been able to operate out of a whole Self. I've been like a child learning to swing, pumping furiously and going nowhere...because I haven't yet learned the part about letting go of effort, or at least excess effort, in order to work in harmony with the forces that make swinging possible. A certain amount of allowing in 'emptiness' and trust is required to swing oneself.

As a person who has always tended toward excessive effort, I am trying to let my nervous system tolerate some emptiness as I try to learn the cues that will enable Us to work together.


Lori said...

I had never heard of the figure/ground concept. Would you say it is yin/yang -like?

excavator said...

Hi. The figure/ground concept I've been playing with for a while, and felt a little uneasy about including it in that blog entry. Just because it's not well defined in the entry and might seem a little fringe-ish to anyone who happened across it.

But I guess the seed of the concept was planted when I read Lucy Grealy's "Autobiography of a Face". At age 9 she was diagnosed with a fatal form of cancer in her jaw. Removing her jaw saved her life and left her disfigured at a very vulnerable age. This is her account of how her life and being were shaped by this.

I came across her phrase in discussing the unhappiness in her family--which seemed in general unhappy anyway--her mother was clearly depressed and there were many other stressors within that family. I'm paraphrasing but it was along the lines of not knowing 'how to locate' these ever-present feelings of despair (and not realizing they were in the Ground she was growing out of) she "located them in myself." She concluded that *she* was the source of all the negative feelings that added up to the general angst.

So recently I was reminded of that passage and that it had resonated with me. I guess it was in the pain I was feeling in the aftermath of Helen's visit. I just suddenly got it that there is a 'whole' that is made of both figure and ground. "Figure" was Lucy and her feelings and feeling responsible for the tone of the family; "Ground" was the family environment itself. There was no one to help Lucy see that she was experiencing feelings that were appropriate to what was in the family environment--she was responding to the general despair. The feelings came from the Ground and they were hurting her, and because there was no one to help her she concluded that SHE was the cause of the general despair. She located it all within herself.

I'm not sure if this is illustrating the idea of Figure/Ground, or clouding it. And yes, I guess this concept *has* been explored before and has been called yin/yang.

Well. Guess I'm in good company. Though I guess it amounts to reinventing the wheel.

Thanks, Lori