Blessed greenness 4

17th century Greek painting of Christ as the true vine by Leos Moskos

The colour green as signifying the divine spirit of life in all things, becomes a central metaphor for Barbara, a woman in therapy with the Jungian analyst, Donald Kalsched. Following a traumatic childhood with a mentally unstable mother and an emotionally distant father, she remembered being beside herself with fear when her mother acted out manically, often actually tearing the house apart. As a child Barbara hardened herself on the outside, trying to be good, whilst removing a part of herself emotionally on the inside. She described this as going to a cold remote place.

As an adult Barbara dreamt that she was on a cold, dying planet, invited to rescue any surviving creatures, and bring them back to earth. The only being on the planet is one known as ‘the emissary’, which she cannot see, but she can hear the voice. At the end of the dream, Barbara sees that the emissary is a green monster with a tentacle that wraps itself around her, and around the bundle of repulsive rescued animals that she carries. She deduces that in the dream she both suffered the monster, but also loved him fiercely; somehow the green monster was part of her that needed to be brought to earth and to dry land.

In the process of her long analysis, new understanding emerged when Barbara learnt that at 16 months, she had been separated from her mother for six weeks, suffering a serious rupture in her early attachment; a pattern that was repeated in subsequent relationships and situations, and that left her with a deep sense of insecurity, and an abiding threat of loss of love. Towards the end of her work with Donald Kalsched, Barbara dreamt: ‘Green tendrils of a plant were waving in the breeze, with an accompanying voice-over that said: “I am the true vine”.’ Whilst a simple image it was clear that it was a further and meaningful development of the earlier dream of the green, tentacled monster. In the therapy session, Donald Kalsched immediately linked this to John 15, 1-11; he found the excerpt, and read this section to Barbara:

Jesus said:

‘I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-grower. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit … Just as the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. If you abide in me, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’

Kalsched writes that for both him and Barbara a deep spiritual truth flooded into the space after he had read this – like a blessing:

‘… though neither of us could grasp its full meaning … In that moment, the wisdom of the psyche came into full view. It was as though the benedicta viriditas – the blessed greenness – had settled over us both, blessing us, and filling the “third” space between us with a beauty and a mystery whose meaning could only be sensed and felt, not fully known.’