SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - Have You Checked Your Existence Lately?
Life is complicated & so is living.
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, no hermeticism required.
The Trauma of Birth — “I didn’t ask to be born,” is a line every moody teenager who finds Jesus in a Hallmark movie shouts before slamming a door. Lamenting one’s birth might seem like petty drama but Otto Rank took those lamentations to Olympic levels with his 1924 book, The Trauma of Birth.
Otto Rank was left out of pop psychology and relegated to textbooks by no accident; Freud was the mafioso of psychoanalysis and Rank’s major theory about birth trauma required decentering Freud’s Oedipal complex. Freud basically said “bet” and tossed Rank into a psychoanalytic alley, though he went on to become the psychotherapist of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, and is credited as inspiring 2 entirely new philosophies of psychotherapy. He’s like the Joy Division to Freud’s New Order — both majorly influential but one having more mainstream appeal.
Mean Girls, but make it unconscious. (Otto Rank in upper left corner behind Freud).
Existential psychologists see anxiety as something that naturally results from the chaos of life; by giving our lives meaning with our choices to move forward despite the terror of living, we can quell this natural anxiety. Otto Rank took this theory of anxiety one step further — birth itself is the root of anxiety, not merely life. It is the violent removal from the womb’s protection that imbues human beings with our existential anxiety. Depending on whether your parents practiced good enough parenting, that anxiety might take its normal healthy place in your life. For those infants lacking guidance to show them love and fear can co-exist in that moment of violent existence, emotions themselves become a threat to avoid.
Virgil Finlay (1914-1971), “Famous Fantastic Mysteries”, Vol. 5, #4, 1943
Birth has been the portal between life and death for all of human history — only now has it become medicalized enough to coax us into forgetting the insanity that is our moment of existence. Do we carry the trauma of our first moment of separateness in our bodies like hints of a past life that makes itself known only through goosebumps and déjà vu? Rank theorizes we spend our entire lives making peace with birth trauma — we obsess over death, our only true return to the non-existence of pre-birth; religions redirect our obsession with death into the acceptable form of an afterlife; we intellectualize our world to keep the primal fear of existence contained by explanation.
Information Overload, 2019, original art by Supa Alien
Not a day passes that we are not reminded of the trauma of birth in a way that speaks to the parts of us that cannot speak. We see a soft, green leaf unfurling; we see an animal’s mangled corpse on the road — though we never consciously remember our own moment of violent existence, we know within our living bones that we too tread lightly on that frightening line between life and death. Not a single organism is apathetic to its own existence; even as infants, we came into life struggling with the weight of knowing we were born to die.
Perhaps the answer to making peace with the trauma of birth is to allow that terror-stricken infant to grow up, to move away from mother’s side and take its place in the world instead of living torn between a need to exist and a craving for the safety of non-existence. Existence is traumatic but without acceptance of this world we shrink our lives and selves small enough to cope with, unconsciously longing for the bliss of non-existence. A life guided by a craving for death is no life at all.
Original art by Luis Colina
Wellness Wheel — It’s getting close to the time of year where we fill ourselves with optimism that a new year will somehow beget a new you. Throw that superstition to the wind and replace it with the one thing that really creates change…actually doing new things (sorry).
The wellness wheel is an organizer’s dream — it breaks your life into categories that you can analyze. The goal of this wheel is to bring into sight and thus into management the vital aspects of your life. Sometimes we’re hyper-efficient with our careers but neglect ourselves, other times we consciously put our needs first but neglect the care of our relationships. The wellness wheel sees all and will remind you never to “forget what you have chosen to neglect,” as psychologist Gordon Allport said.
You can do a quick life assessment by writing down a few things you’d like to keep doing, quit doing, or improve for each category. If you’re like me and find peace in planning, this intricate wellness wheel with starter questions and prompts will bring you joy. Planning freaks tend to forget the second most important part of an assessment, though — progress checks. Set a deadline for you to review your wellness wheel progress or else you’re just writing a neurotically complicated wishlist. New wheel, new you!
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.