Illustration: The Magazine of Yoga
What Haunts Me?
I can’t heal anyone but myself, but I can share what I’ve learned on my personal journey, and the techniques and tools I used, to help and inspire others
BY MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR JOANNA TEBBS YOUNG
Conversation: Ruth Farmer
Practices: Josh Pollock, Goddard College IMA scholar
Practices: Tiffany Beard, Goddard College IMA scholar
Practices: Bridgette P. La Victoire, Goddard College IMA scholar
Practices: Joanna Tebbs Young, Goddard College IMA scholar
Practices: Eric Dalke, Goddard College IMA scholar
Website: Goddard’s IMA Worlds of Change Blog
Sed Dickerson was born during a blue moon, which she says has set the tone for her life. She has found she adapts in order to fit in anywhere, which means she really fits in nowhere, like a ghost. In an effort to figure out and heal from what haunts her, her studies at Goddard synthesize both Psychology and Literature with a host of other transdisciplinary practices.
Sed hopes her discoveries will help others to understand out what haunts them and to give them tools to heal themselves.
Joanna Tebbs Young Last semester you studied how ghosts serve as a metaphor in different cultures. But you didn’t originally begin at Goddard with that intent. Can you tell us how you arrived at this fascinating subject? What is it about ghosts that intrigue you?
Sed Dickerson I jokingly “blame” my first semester advising group for my study of ghosts. I came to Goddard with the intent to study alternative and holistic healing practices through creativity, spirituality and community.
It was during our first group meeting that I expanded upon my fascination with America’s obsession with ghosts in the past few years especially. I was finally convinced to look into this, and set aside a packet in which to explore the topic. The turning point was it happened to be packet one.
I became fascinated by the things that I was finding. Patterns were emerging and that is when I realized that most of the time, ghost culture is not about ghosts. They tend to be a metaphor for something else. It was also during this time that I realized I thought of myself as a ghost as well.
It was at that point I realized I was more interested in studying ghost than my original topic, and so I switched. I remember telling my group initially I couldn’t study ghosts. It wasn’t an academic topic.
The response came, “This is Goddard. You can study anything.”
What haunts me?
Joanna How do you see ghosts as a reflection of our need for healing? Is there an issue of Reality vs. Illusion in self-identity when responding to trauma?
Sed You bring up a good point with the question of reality vs. illusion in response to trauma. This semester, part of what I am looking at when it comes to what haunts me is my identity (as a ghost) and how it was formed out of my personal response to trauma. That is not how my original thinking was though.
The light bulb that first went on for me happened when I was rereading one of my favorite ghost stories from childhood. It is written for a younger audience, but was a fascinating read as an adult because I picked up on things I didn’t notice before.
First, it was a ghost story, but it was really not about the ghost. It was about other issues facing the living (and this is one of the distinct patterns that emerged with ghost as metaphor). The second light bulb was that I was supposed to be relating to the living people in the story, but I was relating to the ghost.
With this idea that this ghost story along side the research showing that many ghost stories were tall tales in which to help people face and cope with certain issues in life, I got the idea that the metaphor of ghost as coping could be translated into ghosts as a tool for healing. That was the real point of many of the fiction and nonfiction stories I studied.
Ghosting and disappearing
Joanna How do/have you seen yourself as a ghost and how do you foresee this study being part of your healing? How do you see your personal healing as part of a universal need?
Sed When I first realized I was identifying with the ghosts in many stories instead of the living, I was trying to figure out why this was. Finally the conclusion came that it had to do with the fact that I have always been an observer of life rather than a liver of it, just like many ghosts. It was like a disembodied experience.
I just felt this great disconnection with the reality that was going on around me, and most of that came as a coping mechanism for trauma I was dealing with from an early age.
For example, at a young age I had a baby sitter who did not like me for reasons I am still unsure of. After a long day of facing various types of mistreatments and abuses, she would put me in the coat closet by the door until about 10 minutes before pick-up time.
That was my favorite part of the day. I got to be alone in a cool dark space. I could hear life going on all around me but I did not have to participate in it (which I deemed as a very good thing). I could just shut my eyes and “disappear.”
As for how this plays into my healing, it comes down to the fact that one cannot really heal until they really understand what the real problems and issues, the roots, are. That is what I am trying to figure out now.
I have come to the conclusion that I cannot heal anyone but myself, but I can take what I have learned on my personal journey and the techniques and tools I used to help inspire others and give them a tool kit they can use in their own personal journey to healing.
Haunted by this elusive womanhood
Joanna You have mentioned feminist theory being part of your studies. Is this related to your ghost studies?
Sed Part of being a ghost is having a lack of place, which extends far beyond the physical. I did not grow up with bad messages about being a woman. Quite the opposite was true. Being woman was a high honor to be revered and respected. But I did not meet the expectations and therefore was told I did not deserve to be one. I certainly did not fit in the masculine world either, nor did I ever feel like a boy, so I became haunted by this elusive womanhood, an object of desire I could never achieve.
The reason feminist theory became a part of my studies because I have this disconnect with women, and so, as I identify as a woman, I needed to learn again what it means to be one. This understanding will be part of my healing.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.