This month, NY-based “therapist for creatives” Melissa Daum, LMFT, sets up her couch for Free People. In her work, Melissa draws from ancient symbols, Greek mythology, fairy tales, and alchemy to shed light on modern-day conundrums. This realm of feminine magic and symbolism is easily overlooked, on a cultural level and in turn, within ourselves. In an effort to better identify and explain some of this magic, Melissa wants to field questions from YOU! Feel free to share with her your deepest secrets, strangest dreams, most absurd single behavior. This space serves as a place of healing and wonder, redeeming the cast-out witches, queens and goddesses in you, the modern woman.
SEND YOUR QUESTIONS/DREAMS/SECRETS to: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll be addressing YOUR thoughts in the weeks to come, so please don’t be shy!
I can hear your anxiety as you second-guess the path you’ve chosen in jewelry design and metalsmithing. All of the questions swirling around for you are a sign that you’re having doubts and maybe not connecting to the path, or to the fantasy of what this path could be, in the same way that you used to. Then I imagine your impending graduation is only amplifying these anxieties, creating a kind of internal pressure cooker. How alchemical of you!
In its most basic form, alchemy is a cryptic and obscure practice of transforming base metals into gold. With origins in ancient Egypt and eventually spreading throughout the globe up until the development of modern chemistry, alchemy was a mystical craft rooted in philosophy, magic, and metalsmithing! While alchemy did not survive the Enlightenment, we have Carl Jung to thank for reviving it in a new way. Jung’s theory suggested that perhaps alchemy is less about a literal transformation of base metals into gold, but rather a metaphorical one. Think of the lead as the parts of ourself that we’ve rejected, or even deadened, and the alchemical journey is learning how to redeem the value, or gold, in those discarded places. As a jeweler/metalsmith in an identity crisis, I think you have something very important in common with the alchemical tradition.
The alchemical process can be simplified into three main stages: Nigredo, Albedo, and Rubedo.
Nigredo: Blackness, darkening, chaos, shadow, nonsense, depression, melancholia, death, lead.
Albedo: Whiteness, spirituality, abstract, hope, mania, lightness, purification, moon, silver.
Rubedo: Redness, blood, embodiment, return, wholeness warmth, passion, life, gold.
My advice for you is to reframe your feelings of confusion and stuckness as not a failure on your part, but actually a necessary chapter on a larger journey of transformation. The nigredo stage is about actually darkening the lead. This is like when a hero sets off on an adventure and winds up in a dark wood, lost far from home, literally feeling around in the pitch black. There’s no way to be here without feeling the melancholy of missing home and confused by the nonsense of the place. With this image in mind, I wonder if it would be possible for you to lean into your lostness instead of fight it? The task here is learn to rely on other senses not needed in the light of day, to help you move in the dark. If you give yourself more space here and ease up on the pressure, you might find some glimmer of inspiration that carries you out of the dark and into the albedo phase. I may be biased, but I recommend seeking out a therapist to help contain this journey with you.
The alchemists lived by the Latin proverb Solve et Coagula, meaning to break down and come together. Perhaps your creativity is not measured by the content of what you’re producing, but your capacity to survive the alchemical journey of breaking apart and coming back together.