Dancing in the Shadows by Laura Bryannan

Chapter 11


The writing of Jean Houston, Ph.D., is bursting with valuable exercises and meditations that can be of use to anyone seeking to explore mythology and sacred psychology. One of her most important contributions, as far as survivors are concerned, is an exercise called "The Sacred Wound" from her book The Search for the Beloved (Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1987).*

Ms. Houston discusses the importance of reframing experiences of abuse in more hopeful and meaningful ways. She sees these woundings as necessary to our soul's development. "Our woundings tell us that old forms are ready to die, however reluctant the local self may be to allow this to occur, and that hitherto unsuspected new forms are ready to flower."

She notes that you will find such woundings in all the great myths of heros, heroines, gods and goddesses. "All of these myths of wounding carry with them the uncanny, the mysterious, the announcement that the sacred is entering into time. Each prefigures a journey, a renaissance, a birth or rebirth, a turning point in the lives of gods and mortals."

Houston challenges all who have suffered woundings in their lives to see the great potential for growth and change inherent in these experiences. It is my personal belief that those of us who suffered childhood sexual abuse had souls who decided to take on an important challenge in this life. The destruction of the old self, the penetration of the archetypal "dark" energies, the phenomena of rebuilding one's self from scratch, has set the stage for the attainment of great compassion, creativity, healing, psychic ability, and strength.

"The Sacred Wound" exercise asks survivors to place the story of their abuse into a mythological context. This accomplishes two very worthy goals: First, it encourages you to question the "truth" of your story as you now understand it. It can show you the larger pattern playing itself out in your life. Second, telling your story as a myth is a way to examine the abuse in your life from a safe vantage point. As your myth unfolds it provides a strong container that protects you from being overwhelmed. Personal energies are replaced by larger, archetypal energies, and the abused little girl can become the Maiden-to-be-Rescued or the Magical Child.

Jean Houston provides a thorough and rich discussion of this process in The Search for the Beloved. Anyone choosing to work with this exercise (and I highly recommend it) should seek out the book and read it before beginning. The directions below are a thumbnail sketch of the complete process. As the search for healthy and balanced love (both from others and toward themselves) is a goal of many survivors, this book has many other wonderful exercises that will prove invaluable in healing.

The Sacred Wound

*Material from The Search for the Beloved used with permission.

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Last Updated: 1 feb 99
Laura Bryannan