By Casey McCarthy, M.A., L.P.C.C.
and Quinn Mims
Greetings fellow wanderers and welcome to part 6 of our 9-day journey with Yggdrasil and Odin. We are continuing our theme of transforming hardship into agency through leaning into our struggle. Odin’s journey on the tree is a profound metaphor for facing one’s own deepest pains in order to transcend them and become a denizen of the world, rather than separated from it.
In Day 5, we examined the roots, trunk, and branches of the World Tree as a representation of how our bodies process bodily stimuli into information. By engaging in a direct bodily experience and allowing it to inform our experiences instead of the other way around we embody how a tree carries vital information up from the roots.
Continuing this metaphor, we move to the trunk of the World Tree. Just like the trunk processes information it drew up through the roots, our bodies draw from our direct experiences to inform feelings. Although we may want to avoid direct experiential engagement with our feelings, doing so is the only way that we can move through struggle into self-sovereignty and wisdom. This is the deeper wisdom of Odin on the World Tree. Odin demonstrates that in order to derive true wisdom from experience, you have to feel it. In Odin’s words he “took up the runes screaming.” What a raw declaration of victory and vulnerability.
We often think that mastering the self means conquering the self, when in reality self-mastery is the opposite. We must learn to embody our most raw experiences as they are, instead of trying to circumnavigate them with logic. This how we cross the bridge from the external world to intellect that shields us from it.
As we approach the tree as a metaphor for transcending the self, begin approaching feelings with an intent to experience them directly for their own sake, without trying to make sense of them. (Once you are hanging from it you can’t do anything else except to be with the experience. )
This is easier said than done and may ask us to reframe our perspective around discomfort. We often separate our feelings into what we might consider ‘acceptable’ or ‘unacceptable’ emotions. Our natural tendency when faced with feelings we deem ‘unacceptable’ is to avoid them or shut them down. Don’t do that.
Sit in the fire of your own feelings. The experience of difficulty is immediate and shocking. Don’t allow them to overwhelm you. Don’t let them dictate your actions. Merely observe them.
Just like Odin on the tree, accept your vulnerability from an assured place; watching your feelings without judgment. By allowing them to pass as the transitory things they are with kindness and compassion, you gain emotional agency, and thus mastery of the self.