There was a time I was puzzled by the bible and the idea of heaven and hell. I found it difficult to reconcile the external teachings of the church… and having a faith with the internal journey of discovering how to live a moral life and contribute as a human being in a way that was good for me, others, and humankind. I’ll give you the broad strokes and start at the beginning of my experience with faith, almost sixty years ago. Maybe something you read here will help your own spiritual quest.

I once went to Catholic mass with my father as a very young boy to sing with him in the choir. I’m not sure how it was that I ended up at the St Thomas D’Aquin church on Kilborn Avenue in Ottawa singing in Latin or French with my dad, but I was up there once or twice overlooking the congregation from the choir balcony at the back of the church.

It is a rare and good early memory of my pops. He was still kind and gentle back then, and when I’d lose my place in the hymnal, I’d look up at him and he’d lean over while singing and patiently place an index finger on the right spot of the page for me. I was so impressed he could keep up, even more so at his tolerance.

This is a picture I inherited from my father, it may have been given to me while he was still alive, or maybe not. In any case, I have it and I’m glad I do. It was around somewhere on a wall of his home as far back as I can remember. I treasure it because it came from his life with my religiously devoted mother, and so, when I see it, well, I think a little bit of them both. We exist in each other.

This picture is often called the Sallman Head or The Head of Christ. It was done first as a charcoal sketch in the 1920s entitled “Son of Man” and later painted in oil in 1940 as you see it. It has since been reproduced an astounding half-billion times worldwide… and is also associated with miracles.

According to David Morgan in The Art of Warner Sallman (1966), a white businessman was released by vicious head-hunters in a remote jungle when they came upon a picture of the Sallman Head in the man’s wallet. Apologizing, they vanished “into the jungle without inflicting further harm.”

Another is a story of a thief who changes his mind when spying the Head of Christ on a living room wall. There is even a tale about a purported conversion of a Jewish woman shown Sallman’s picture on her deathbed by a chaplain. Another miracle tells of a child’s remission from Leukemia after seeing the picture.

Sallman himself said the idea for the sketch and eventual painting came from a “miraculous vision” one night at 2 am while despairing over what he might present to a class the following day.

This tiny version I have is yellowed with age and framed in such a way that it has brown paper covering the backside of it the way old pictures from a different era once did. While my father may have attended mass with me the odd time when I was a kid, I don’t remember him going after our choir visit, even though my brothers and I all became altar boys at that very church where I first sang with dad.

I had occasion to ask him about church attendance later when he was in his 80s. After all ma, his wife of more than six decades, had faithfully attended Holy Cross Catholic church at Riverside and Walkley since the church was built. She counted coins for them and had close friends there.

Dad said he had made Alcoholic’s Anonymous his church but that if he had to do it all over again he would have attended with his wife. He said it was because he realized too late that he was likely missing out on community. He said it not wistfully but matter-of-factly, wide-eyed and leaning in a bit while punctuating his words with finality. He did that when he admitted things during our private conversations, as if an interminable impatience with himself lingered beneath the surface of his speech.

My journey around faith took a different route. After my altar boy years (unmolested), I was out of the house early once my father burned out and broke down and unsurprisingly, I turned away from the church to eventually live a thug’s life in the streets. Beaten children often become deviant, no surprises there. In my mid-thirties I was welcomed into the Anglican faith, its inclusion of female priests more suited to my emergent feminism. I realized later I valued justice after all.

The Anglicans caught me off-guard during the conversion ceremony when, during the rites, the bishop appeared to lightly slap the Catholic out of me in while I knelt in front of the congregation. I remember looking him in the eye quickly and thinking, OK I’ll let that slide this once, as if my internal incongruities were being tested.

Around that period of accelerated renewal in my life, I reasoned that since I’d confirmed I could make hell on earth, I suspected the idea of heaven was to try to make heaven right here in this world around us each day.

I shared this “heaven on earth” minor epiphany with my Anglican sponsor, the Reverend Doctor Pellegrin, who was kind enough to confirm my suspicions with muted encouragement. It’s funny how the world conspires to put just the right person in a man’s life if he allows it. To become a psychologist, Bruce Pellegrin had done his doctoral dissertation on how the priesthood was for many a search for a father. He helped me bridge the gap between faith and logic.

Later, I moved away, leaving organized religion (and feminism) behind while taking up a more deterministic view of humankind under the influence of my behavioural science training and eventually the likes of Spinoza’s pantheism. This is how I refer to myself now and I don’t see nor feel conflicted about it. God as a metaphor for the universe seems grand enough. Nevertheless, the idea of God stands to me as a reasonable quest in people’s lives so atheism would never do in my case.

I credit my father for blessing me with one of the best practicalities about religiosity and the idea of God The occasion was when my young son (ten or so at the time) was on a cub scout weekend. He was invited to take a pledge, “I promise to do my best, to love and serve God, to do my duty to the Queen, to keep the law of the Wolf Pack, and to do a good turn for somebody every day.”

The boy refused, stating he didn’t believe in God.

What should have been a slam-dunk formality became a back-room haranguing from the cub leaders who told him point-blank, no pledge, no cub scouts. When he got home, I heard all about it. I had the local cub leader over to point out psychological development of abstract concepts were a little early for most ten-year-old kids. I received an apology; he’d waive the pledge.

My son rejected this entreaty. I had attended cubs, then scouts, and later was privileged to be allowed in as a pioneer in the movement and I wanted this for my son. I consulted my father. He suggested we use G.O.D. as in Good Orderly Direction. BINGO, I thought to myself, what a perfect compromise.

The boy was having none of it. He saw this as a ruse to get him to believe in God and wasn’t about to let the adults who ganged up on him during the cubbing weekend off the hook. He quit, refusing every attempt at compromise, never attending cubs again. I had to respect the kid’s guts while saddened for him too..

Perhaps I had inadvertently… but I don’t remember ever trying to convince him there was no God, so his mother and I were surprised at the whole of it. I’m guessing it was probably the same year he found out there was no Santa Claus. Poor kid, I imagine he had his model of the world shifted and there was no going back.

I can’t say that I have struggled with faith, that would be too strong. I have considered it, though I know having a faith seemingly and miraculously comforts many others, probably as many as half of us. I conclude humans are undoubtedly hardwired for faith.

I think there is something inoculative about believing and people often drift in and out of faith with the ebb and flow of life. I myself have hung onto the simplicity of G.O.D. since learning of it and have shared dad’s tip with countless others. It seems enough as is… but there is more.

My father read a book or more per week most of his life and when he was slowly dying of dementia and moved to a care-home, I inherited his books. There I found Freud, Jung, the Greeks, many philosophers, all books he’d read decades ago, many yellowed but with brittle pages intact. I imagined him again and saw how these must have contributed to his religious reluctance just a bit. And Nietzsche, that “God is dead and we have killed him” fucking Nietzsche.

One of the great finds among dad’s remnant collection was a copy of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, someone I’ve followed for years. It’s a 1970 thirteenth printing by Meridian Books of the original 1949 version and the copy my father had cost $2.75 Canadian.

In The Power of Myth, a book written based on interviews with Bill Moyers almost forty years after his Hero book, Campbell answers Moyer’s question about metaphor:

MOYERS: What is the metaphor?

CAMPBELL: A metaphor is an image that suggests something else. For instance, if I say to a person, “You are a nut,” I’m not suggesting that I think the person is literally a nut. “Nut” is a metaphor. The reference of the metaphor in religious traditions is to something transcendent that is not literally any thing. If you think that the metaphor is itself the reference, it would be like going to a restaurant, asking for the menu, seeing beefsteak written there, and starting to eat the menu.

For example, Jesus ascended to heaven. The denotation would seem to be that somebody ascended to the sky. That’s literally what is being said. But if that were really the meaning of the message, then we have to throw it away, because there would have been no such place for Jesus literally to go. We know that Jesus could not have ascended to heaven because there is no physical heaven anywhere in the universe. Even ascending at the speed of light, Jesus would still be in the galaxy. Astronomy and physics have simply eliminated that as a literal, physical possibility.

But if you read “Jesus ascended to heaven” in terms of its metaphoric connotation, you see that he has gone inward—not into outer space but into inward space, to the place from which all being comes, into the consciousness that is the source of all things, the kingdom of heaven within. The images are outward, but their reflection is inward.

The point is that we should ascend with him by going inward. It is a metaphor of returning to the source, alpha and omega, of leaving the fixation on the body behind and going to the body’s dynamic source.
(The Power of Myth (pp. 67-68). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

Mythology helped me understand God. Once I did, I never had a problem with it again.

The real fun is in mystery, in miracles even. Everyone loves redemption, sublimation, and we can’t help but root for an underdog.

When my mother was a few days away from death, I visited her. We spoke of faith, especially mystery and miracles. At one point she looked up at me in pain and with unwavering conviction obvious in her eyes, voice, and expression, patted my hand and said, “You’ve got to have a bit of faith, Christopher.” It was her final advice.

Though I would have said anything if it meant she would not die, I remember promising that I would indeed, leave room in my life for mystery, for miracles, for a bit of faith. My perfectly imperfect mother died that Friday after a two-day vigil at home, surrounded by her nine adult children and husband of sixty-two years, all wishing her well while sending her off.

The family dog keened mournfully at the exact moment of her passing.

Desire is always accompanied by fear, even if we don’t recognize it. In a similar way the wonder and excitement of awe is coupled with the threat of chaos. It is this which makes us a little afraid and drives the creativity needed to consider things outside our normal perceptions.

You can imagine that “someone like me” has lived at times what may have seemed like an exalted life if only for the many times I have eluded the Grim Reaper’s scrolls. I have also visited dungeons of despairing, mostly of my own creation, while carrying hopelessness and shame for a half century.

I suspect most of us have at least a version of some of this (if not a lot).

When I first read the following quote, I thought it could have been written for me. Of course, Carl Jung is writing it for himself on behalf of us all. It’s my favourite of anything I’ve read by him and another reason why the Sallman Head occupies a place on the wall of my house. In his Collected Works 11, p, 550, Jung wrote:

“That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ—all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself—that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved—what then?”

I have come to believe a faith in God is about fostering a faith in yourself. Its representation can be both internal and/or external, of seeing the interconnectivity of all things, the known and the unknown, the sacred and the profane, the miracles and the mysteries, the compassion and the belonging. Mike Spencer Brown (The World’s Most Traveled Man) reminds us of some of this when he writes, “At the end of the day, we are all of us staring at the same heavens.”

It doesn’t make sense to decry another man’s search for meaning as he arrives at his understanding of God.

It could be faith is about accepting one’s divinity and the divinity of others with each of us finding a way home to the God within.

Power & Love,
True and Free,

©CHRIS WALLACE, 2022, all rights reserved, advisortomen.com


I think most people have an inkling of their two selves: a rational thought and logic-based self for day-to-day utility using primarily language as its means of communication within consciousness; and a deeper, emotionally intuitive self where their passions, wishes, dreams and aspirations reside communicated through the body’s dreams and somatic experience.

Whereas the thinking part of self is always located in our heads, the intuitive and emotional part is more physiological. People will often point to their heart or mid-chest towards the sternum as the location of this part of self.

We are advised to listen to our gut when appraising circumstances and deciding things, as if this gut and heart experience represents a truer form of our internal identity and might bring a closer understanding of our needs and a better path to our end goals. We could call this the body mind, appreciating how it bypasses the strictly rational self (and comes before it seeking self-preservation) and often seems to speak from a wiser or higher form of self.

We seem to instinctively know the gut is less encumbered by the rules and expectations we’ve picked up conforming to the wishes of  adults who raise us. We can bypass the intrusiveness and often endless complications of our thinking by going directly to the gut. We realize our trust in thought alone is faulty because we know our thoughts are informed just as much by other’s wishes for us (or for themselves in our regard) as they are our own.

I read that we often have tens of thousands of thoughts in a day. How many feelings will I have in that period? Because of the power of focus, I’ll only become aware of a tiny portion of either of these. Feelings paint my experience with much broader strokes than do my thoughts, which are often errant and imprecise themselves.

We realize our very survival depends upon having a well-honed intuition for danger. That “sixth sense” we sometimes detect when confronting a puzzling or uncertain circumstance can make the difference between life or death. There is more than a little truth to the maxim, “if you’re in your head, you’re dead.”

Often enough, thinking gets in the way, and feeling and acting saves the day.

A hundred years ago, Carl Jung’s model of the human psyche described how we have a “true self,” something we are born with. It’s our essential nature, what we arrive with, perhaps in terms of raw material encoded in our DNA. It is also what becomes obscured by ego formation, the process of learning to conform with the adults upon whom we depend for sustenance and protection. Later, the psyche is further divided as the ego adopt various masks to wear in public or in private performing differing societal roles.

You may be one way at home, another at work, and adopt differing personalities as a father or mother, lover, friend, community member, churchgoer, etc. Jung called these personae and we can see how this ego buries true self even more.

The true self idea is interesting because it suggests we arrive in this world with a blueprint, a “truth,” which is later forged into a self concept which takes into account those around us. Our idea of who we are, then, becomes how we see ourselves contrasted against how we believe others see us.

This inner self would contain our “potentials and possibilities,” something the mythologist Joseph Campbell mentions in his books, “the Power of Myth” and “Pathways to Bliss.” We could even call it something like a soul. Jung himself authored a book called “Modern Man in Search of a Soul” in 1933.

They say Immanuel Kant gave us back our concept of “soul” in the late 1700’s, wresting the idea from the rationalists, saying, “I, as a thinking being, am the absolute subject of all my possible judgments and this representation of myself cannot be employed as a determination of any other thing. Therefore, I, as thinking being (soul), am substance.”

Kant seems to say because everything we see, think and feel, can only be through our personal lens. It is this internal system which allows us to project a systematizing force upon our environment. It precedes reality.

Our DNA blueprint is ours, and how it is manifested upon the world around us is filtered by ego and experience but still entirely personal.

And what would this “soul” be made up of? Is there proof of its existence beyond a sense that is there? Can we point to some tangible proof from the sciences and the metaphysical arts? Something which would tell us it is more than a simple heuristic? Let’s take a shot at it:

First, we know influences on ancestral DNA are passed down through the methyl groups. This is field of “behavioural epigenetics” holds a lot of promise. I have often thought it might even explain why alcoholism runs in families. Grandchildren of holocaust survivors are affected by their ancestral experiences.

Furthermore, we’ve identified inborn temperaments such as labile vs non-reactive; dysthymic vs optimistic; anxious vs calm; obsessive vs distracted; passive vs aggressive; irritable vs cheerful; shy vs sociable and mood suggesting methyl group influences. We are not born as a blank slate but come programmed in advance.

Wouldn’t that be part of the soul?

What about Carl Jung’s idea of collective unconscious, humanity’s shared memory? Pointing to the mythological record, we see variations of myths have been repeated throughout history, often continents apart and in different era, in cultures which had no contact. This gives us an idea of our connection to each other.

Similarities occur from Egyptians and ancient Greece, China and India and even North and South American Indian myths and rituals, to the three Abrahamic religions, and we see the same stories in variation. The two books by Campbell mentioned above are a good start if you are interested in learning more.

Jung suggested we all possess this common background. We are all born afraid of the dark and of heights. If you showed a snake to grade school kids in Siberia in the 1950’s where there are no snakes, half of them would recoil in fear. Why? Jung would say that’s the collective unconscious. It is our instincts, the ones we have in common with others.

We know from the baby gaze studies at Yale that we are born with at least a rudimentary sense of justice. We can tell good from evil almost right away. Far from arriving into this world as a blank slate, we each come pre-programmed with some of our direct ancestry’s influence and archetypes—qualities of memory which govern all men (and women).

Couldn’t we say that’s part of your soul?

With what we know about how emotions are made in the last ten years I’d add at least one more thing: we know the brain is “predictive,” not reactive.

In any given situation, beneath your awareness the brain receives messages from the body (called interoception) through the tenth cranial nerve wired to the brain stem. It uses this information to put you in the best-guess state to meet circumstances relying on your databank of prior experience since birth. Then, your brain corrects after the fact according to the social reality before you. All this happens mostly beneath awareness.

Arrive home later for supper and snap at your significant other over something trivial. Later, while eating you realize you had not had any food since late morning and were famished. The body responded and you lashed out without even realizing what was driving your impatience.

The whole brain works predictively this way, subconsciously running things beneath the surface. You only get the results. Thoughts reflect what is happening in the body. Then, we use those thoughts to make sense of our world, applying an ample internal bias to the process.

So, we possess an inborn temperament and we share a collective unconscious… so wouldn’t a databank of prior experience become part of your soul?

This would suggest the idea of a soul made up of your personal ancestry, a species-wide shared memory, and a personal lived history, forces informing the present with what is brought forward from the past.

We could add another influence to account for gender.

In his book, The Psychology of Transference, Jung wrote: “The “soul” which accrues to ego-consciousness during the opus has a feminine character in the man and a masculine character in a woman. His anima wants to reconcile and unite; her animus tries to discern and discriminate.”

Since males have XY chromosomes and females XX chromosomes, it would mean Jung’s masculine and feminine “energies,” as such, would be less derived from DNA per se, simply because women with two X chromosomes would not experience influences from the “male” Y chromosome.

Rather, it is the varying levels of the male and female sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, which occur because of the XX and XY differences. Both sexes have some, though men far higher levels of testosterone and women far higher levels of estrogen.

As men age, their level of testosterone wanes. Is this why aging men often find they can access the anima (feminine sourced energy), becoming more compassionate and finding the inter-connectedness between all things? That’s fine with me and as good a guess as any. But let’s leave that aside for now.

Combined, this gets us to the present, but how does the soul manifest itself?

What about spirit? We see it in admiration of types in the animal kingdom, appreciating a spirited horse, for example. We may find ourselves stirred with the animal spirit when we consider the great migrations of African Wildebeest or Canadian Caribou. Or the majesty of a Bald Eagle, an Asian Tiger or African Elephant. It’s clear we have a sense of spirit if only in the way we might admire those whom we find “spirited.” My adopted “animal totem” is the rooster, standing for loyalty, flamboyance and protection, among other qualities. It was the first animal heard in the morn after a battle and the Celts said it was communicating with the dead. Mysterious.

And who can see a sunrise or sunset and not feel a connection to spirit? Go into a desert or Canada’s arboreal forest at night far away from the lights of the city and gaze up and the sky and the Milky Way. If you have never seen the Northern Lights, I say go see them and tell me about your spirit.

Great art, cathedrals, music, nature and people all lift spirit. And why is it we cannot help but be attracted to the underdog in any story? Why is it the quintessential human experience is to root for the downtrodden? From Rocky Balboa to Luke Skywalker to Florence Nightingale and Joan of Arc, we appreciate heroes for their spirited commitment to a cause.

Because it always involves the spirit acting to overcome a challenge. It is always about being lost but somehow, our hero finds themselves again. It’s the great Hail Mary Pass of life, the long shot, the one in a million chance. It’s irresistible.

And that’s because so are you. It’s the Hero’s Journey, something the mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote about in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” In this collection he shows how the Hero’s Journey is the story of human beings. It is the stuff of our legends as told around fires for thousands of years.

We live these stages repeatedly in our lifetime, roughly following these steps:
The hero is confronted
The hero rejects the challenge
The hero accepts the challenge
The hero undergoes a road of trials
The hero gathers allies, gaining power
The hero confronts evil—and is defeated
The hero undergoes a dark night of the soul
The hero takes a leap of faith
The hero confronts evil—and is victorious
The hero becomes a teacher

This is our shared destiny and your soul and spirit are compelled to contribute. You see, the universe doesn’t make mistakes.

Though you began as a glint in your parent’s eyes, something like 40 million to 1.2 billion possibilities competed to bring you to life. You could have been born a girl, a boy, with missing limbs or whatever. But, no, you were born you.

You were the underdog and you vanquished all others and won the race. This is a staggering feat: the universe in its infinite wisdom, the same force which put a billion stars in the Andromeda Galaxy, chose you. Your prize was a life.

I suggest your soul represents your true self, the gifts you bring to this existence. The spirit is its voice. One is the present and past combining into your potentials while the other is the present and future suggesting your possibilities.

Consider that your self concept is made up of how you see yourself contrasted against how you believe others see you, maturation involves strengthening your inside game, relying less on what can become the tyranny of external influence. Soul and spirit are your keys to a more powerful you. It’s how you gain awareness of what was previously only in your subconscious. This is what brings about the possibility of change. It is where your free will begins: personal power equals agency.

Kant said, “two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe: the starry heavens above me and the moral laws within me.” It is your duty to share your contribution with the world. “Be afraid to die,” said Horace Mann, “until you have won a victory for mankind.” Give us something, anything, it says, if only the goodness you spread among your fellow man.

The soul and spirit are the forces behind your Hero’s Journey. Not because it’s what you can do. Not because it is necessarily because it’s what you want. No. It’s because it’s what you owe. The miracle of your life demands it.

Take time to honour your soul and listen to your spirit.

Stay powerful, never give up

©2020 Christopher K Wallace
all rights reserved


Further reading:

Methyl groups and epigenetics

Joseph Campbell:
The Power of Myth, 1988, Anchor Books
Pathways to Bliss, 2004, Joseph Campbell Foundation
The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949, Meridian Books

Carl Jung:
Modern Man in Search of a Soul, 1933, Harvest Books,
The Psychology of Transference, 1983 Routledge Books

Lisa Feldman-Barrett:
How Emotions are Made: the secret life of the brain, 2017, Pan Macmillan

Hero’s Journey interpretation
Steven Barnes, Lifewriting

Katharina T. Kraus, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 2017
Kant’s Critique of Metaphysics, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2004
The Soul as the Guiding Idea of psychology: Kant on scientific psychology, systematicity, and the idea of the soul


Sleep in this morning? Needed it maybe? Not worried? Maybe you will “catch up” later? Good.

Perhaps you are on modern society’s treadmill, a pawn of the bankers and their capitalist soldiers using interest to create scarcity and competition. Like a junkie’s tolerance, their heroin is ever-increasing growth at any cost, never enough, more and more. That’s life, right? Can you keep this up?

Indeed, chances are for you there will be a  “personal reckoning” of some kind. You suspect this already. Sleep was your God-given right. It was your blessing from the universe: your dreams a therapist’s couch and an art school within the confines of your head.

That you are not alone in this struggle offers little comfort. “We die together,” might be our valiant stance. How honourable. For what cause was this again?

Best get on it. Why? Think you can scoff at your body like that and get away with it? Modernity is relatively new; Mother Nature is old. “Don’t be obtuse,” said the warden to the prisoner…

“Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep—even moderate reductions for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Fitting Charlotte Brontë’s prophetic wisdom that “a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow,” sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality. (Walker, Matthew. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (p. 3). Scribner)

Fuck me. Walker takes all the fun out of insomnia. Speaking of which, I suffered this way from about single digits until my 30s. Unluckily, once out my parent’s home at 15 years of age, I gained access to intoxicants to knock me out each night, from hashish to booze to heroin. I say knock me out because although I was unconscious, apparently sleep still evaded me. What did I know?

In my thirties, I temporarily gave up all that shit. Oh my, and insomnia returned. It was like meeting an old bully you thought was left behind years ago and then after transferring into a new school, you find them there, well-established and hanging with those you intend to make your friends.

I learned self-hypnosis and defeated insomnia. Defeated it. Although, I eventually allowed substance use to creep back into my life, I was a more of an intermittent user. Functional, until those last few years that is. Both these things were gifts. I solved that addiction riddle too. Defeated it.

It’s the dreams you see, you can’t escape them. And, for better or worse, we need them. I can sleep in a gas station parking lot with cars going by now. I almost slept through the birth of my second son sitting in a chair ten feet from the missus. “Wally, you’re going to miss it!” was her cry. I awoke to find her and her sister and the nurse giving me the look women give men for being men. Oh, I know that look so well.

“They went painlessly in their sleep,” should be everyone’s hope. To go out that way is to gift wrap the inevitable. Link up years of sleep deficits with how sleep tunes the brain up each night and your chances of facing significant mental decline increase exponentially. It could be the difference between dying horribly and dying healthfully in your sleep, your DNA clock simply having wound down to zero.

Rob yourself of sleep and you may face dark dementia days ahead. With dementia, your brain slowly breaks down, and the horror is you are aware of its every step into madness. The horror, yes. You see and feel yourself slowly getting stupider and there is nothing you can do about it. Stupider, yes.

Your frustration falls on sympathetic but capably deaf ears, speaking of which the voices of those you love become garbled. Garbled, yes. And this might make you mad, so angry you fight back, swinging wildly in self-defence and at other times in righteousness. Whereas most of your life you were occasionally wrong and corrected yourself with humility and an apology, now you are always wrong.

You might take a walk down the hallway of your locked ward, this institution where you now live. You see others and take a seat among them to rest. You put your hand on your cane to steady yourself as you sit. Someone gets up to leave and wants your cane. You refuse to give it up, a struggle ensues. You get the worst of it. You are 89 and both your eyes are blackened. The horror… it was their cane after all.

You just don’t understand…. Anything.

Your speech goes from full sentences down to phrases. You nod a lot at those who visit… if you have visitors at all. For a while, at times you read better than you hear so some take to writing notes for you, you know, so information can enter what’s left of your mind using a different pathway. Soon the letters on the pages might as well be Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Eventually, your confidence is so shot you are afraid to even venture a word and instead, stare silently doing your best to convey your mood with your eyes and facial expressions. A smile, a shrug, the odd eye-contact is what you are left with. You may feel like the family dog now, and so you sleep. You can still eat if it’s put in front of you, a lifetime of putting food to mouth not gone yet.

Until you are left staring straight ahead, in the stink from pissing and shitting yourself, great blistering red rashes burning your balls and ass. You scream in pain and lash out at your well-intentioned tormentors, your only salve the drugs you are given to knock you into unconsciousness once more. That’s when you shit yourself again and your torturous cycle of shame and humiliation begins anew.

The pain of your care awakens in you glimpses of injustice. These are triggered deep inside you as if you are being molested while mentally in a coma yet physically capable but weakening more by the day. It’s like you are immobile while being operated on without anesthetic, and your screams go unheard. Powerless, you are outnumbered, and alone.

You realize this is an awful way to go: and you never thought in a million years it would come to this. How can this be?  You are awake and it’s as if brain worms are slowly consuming your reason, but you can’t stop them. They are locked inside your head, slithering among your neurons, multiplying in your Glial spaces, swimming in your cerebrospinal fluid, laying eggs, building a hungry army of young consuming your brain whilst you are alive and listening. Oh, the horror.

Get your sleep. How will you make it a priority? How?

Stay powerful, never give up

©CKWallace 2019 all rights reserved

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Lieutenant Commander H.C.Wallace (ret)
You’re life counted dad,


THE BOUNCE The emotional crazy 8 involves bouncing from one negative extreme to another. Following the graphic , you see it goes from versions of sadness over to versions of anger and back to versions of sadness and back and forth again and again. You observe it in folks all the time, and you’ll notice […]


I’ve felt this gloom and I have gone deep with it. In fact, I’m just coming out of a depression which lasted a year. During that time, I didn’t work out as I usually do. I craved carbs and ate sweets more often too. I was slowed down. Sure, I was recovering from injuries which made things worse but I know my sluggishness was more than just from this.

I slept much more, often nine hours per night after being a seven hour per night guy for thirty plus years. And, the bi-phasic sleep I’m accustomed to from a lifetime of waking in the middle of the night and reading for an hour, was often absent. I slept right through it almost half the time and had trouble getting up and facing the day. I soldiered on because that’s what men do. it’s what people do.

Furthermore, after a few months, I knew I was depressed. I didn’t talk about it to missus, nor did I burden anyone else. Men were my confidants, it was to these few I turned as I searched for answers, as I sought to realign my life in response to my body’s signaling. You see, I knew what was going on, lucky to have that kind of awareness. I think most of us do know the answers;  we just need to let them bubble up and spill out. Then, we need to believe.

After finally taking the necessary steps to course-correct over the past two months, Bingo! the depression lifted. And that’s the thing: In my heart of hearts, I knew a year or two ago I needed to make these changes and resisted because of external pressures. I have a family to look after, a wife who needs certainty, children who depend upon me. I was compromising my existence for others. It’s a typically male trap though not exclusive to men. Sound familiar?

First off, you must realize your depression is a normal thing. People sometimes get hung up on the issue of depression and think it means they are broken, that there is something wrong with them, that there is a “normal” out there and by some accident of fate, they don’t fit the bill.

Of course, this is bullshit. And it’s not only bullshit we tell ourselves, it’s often the same bullshit implied by the medical community. It’s a chicken and egg thing: Did my depression cause my chemical imbalance or did my chemical imbalance cause my depression? More like a dog chasing its tail.

Every year, the Mental Health Awareness Week folks remind us that one in five adults will have a MAJOR depressive episode in their lifetime. That’s a lot of people, a big chunk of us. So, if 20% of the population gets a big depression at some point, you can safely bet the rest of the people feel depressed at some level at some time too. I’d take those odds.

This means it’s a normal thing. Clearly, this psychological mechanism has survived tens of thousands of years of evolution for a reason. Traits generally only stick around because they are needed. We wouldn’t all feel it if it didn’t serve an important function. And, it does.

Then there’s grief. People can become depressed after the loss of a loved one. Grief has that effect on you and me, though 97% of people return to a version of normal within a year. A few take heartbreak and refuse to let it go. We must respect this while recognizing the drivers behind it: We exist in each other.

The idea that you are over there, and I am over here, is an inadequate way to describe us. Losing a loved one means that part of us which exists in them is put into doubt. This shatters our trust in the world, our operating paradigm is forever altered. It’s only resolved to a kind of imperfect homeostatic balance by settling for the part of them which echoes endlessly in us. It’s an honourable process, and a big part of what it is to be human. Our need to belong to each other is universal.

Relatedly, depression is your signal to look at your model of the world and give it a tune-up. Something is not working for you, profoundly, and needs your attention. It may need a complete overhaul and rebuild. Something may need to die or be abandoned, or at least be reborn as something else. That’s what depression is, and there is no need to conflate it beyond this powerful simplicity. How you understand your world and operate within it is what’s broken, not you.

So, what does the body do in this case? It slows down, becomes lethargic at times, sleep and eating is affected, and we turn inwards, a great introspection of doubt and questioning occurs. Our thinking slows as well, often looping, like a skipping record, and usually becoming narrower in scope as we fixate on the things which cause us pain. We are so enamored with our suffering we actively turn away from happiness.

No one fixes another’s depression. Just as it’s true we do depression rather than it does us.

We may think positively, telling ourselves we really ought to lighten up, but for all our cognitive steering, the body doesn’t seem to follow. That’s because the body is where your feelings lie. I suspect it is your methyl groups passed down ancestrally added to your lifetime databank of emotional experiences which comprises your soul. The soul is in the body, linking all of your organs but particularly the heart and the belly, connected to the brain by the vagus.

Perhaps it’s trite to say we are all on a journey, but call it what you wish. Depression is the dark night of the soul in your hero’s journey.

  • You’ll remember these ten steps of ancestral myth:
    1. Hero confronted with challenge
    2. Rejects challenge
    3. Accepts challenge
    4. Road of trials
    5. Gathering allies and gaining powers
    6. Confront evil and defeated
    7. Dark night of the soul
    8. The leap of faith
    9. Confront evil and victorious
  • 10  The student becomes a teacher

Number 7 is a tough step. It causes pain. It’s a black cloud of inability and doubt which befalls us. Hopelessness sets in so that the affected being is rubbed painfully and cruelly into the mire. Hard to see it this way but it is purposeful torment.

It’s like when you dive too deeply in water as a child and are running out of air, you look up and see the light at the surface and it’s a race to kick your way to oxygen before you pass out and drown. You give it all your might, every ounce of your body and will combined.

It’s like when the bully has you pinned down and is slapping your face and suddenly, you find the power you did not know you had to buck him off and escape.

It’s sourced from the same stuff as when a person finds the superhuman power to lift a car off a loved one after an accident. It’s an agonizing call to reach deep and pull out all the stops. It’s a silent scream inside us that’s says “NO.”

How many times have you been pushed into danger, into a situation where you felt like your survival was in question, and found somewhere inside you the resources to overcome and live? Pushed to grow, by some means you carried on. We do until called to grow once again; it’s complacency we should curse.

That’s what depression is. It’s the universe tantalizingly telling you to adapt. It’s demanding change. It’s saying you’re coming up short, that the life it bestowed upon you is under threat and it demands your care. It screams at you for adjustments, and lets you know through the whole chain of your being with pain, confusion, darkness and hopelessness. She’s a hard taskmaster our universe. There’s a billion stars in the Andromeda Galaxy I like to remind people. Best not fuck with that kind of force.

Like a child demanding attention, depression is a temper tantrum of the soul. It’s a test of your balls. It’s a doubter, the take-away closer who says, “Maybe this isn’t for you.” It’s a push at your boundaries of tolerance, demanding a greater integration of your parts. It’s nature calling you, provocatively wondering if you have what it takes to stand up for yourself and declare, “THE PAIN STOPS HERE.”

Like confidence, depression can be lifted from one big change or a series of small things which add up to a retooling of your model of the world. Sometimes changing jobs, moving to a new city, or leaving or gaining a relationship allows the light of change to shine in. But that’s rarely enough.

At other times, these are temporary because the internal operating model is what really needed attention. In my case I realized I was compromising my life and whatever gifts I have to satisfy responsibilities to others. Realizing, I do this as a tendency, having done it most of my life. And of course, I could source this to an abandonment fear as a child, to a deep toxic shame inculcated in my early years as broken and not good enough.

This gift meant my method was to become more, so as to convince myself and others around me I was worthwhile. This nice guy strategy works… until it no longer does. I needed to change jobs and set limits, imposing boundaries to keep my sanity, so I did.

Knowing all this, feeling the pain as a signal for change, what’s one tiny step you could take? Just one thing in what you think or what you do. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Our expectations drive all of our disappointments. Change one thing, then another. Soon you will have a direction. You will know if it’s right for you because your body will tell you. Our eyes see out but somehow you will see the fog within begin to lift.

When the way in which we see ourselves measured up against how we believe others see us is lived consistently, we go confidently into the night. We are ready to meet challenges, putting order to chaos, best expressing the gifts given to us by life. Self-concept is destiny.

So ask yourself: what shall I do with my metamorphosis?

What kind of butterfly will emerge when you are done?

This is your act of creation.

Stay powerful,

Christopher K Wallace
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