By Suzie Chick
A couple of years ago, I bought a wood burning stove for my new home. Nothing particularly astounding about that you may ask. I thought the same. But little did I know that this little, black stove had something important to teach me about myself.
As someone with a strong fiery disposition (or so I thought), I rubbed my hands with delight at the prospect of becoming my own fire starter (my own twisted fire starter nonetheless). And so with kindling, matches and wood in hand I knelt by my stove to light my first fire. The flames came strong and fast as the kindling took. I basked in the immediate warm glow. Over excited, I began to add my logs. The flames struggled for survival under the weight of the wood. After a few minutes the flames disappeared completely leaving behind a smoky residue, which filled the stove and obscured my vision. I sat by my extinguished fire perplexed. I made several more attempts over the coming weeks but still these produced the same weak results. With every failed attempt, my fantasies of a long, roaring log fire on cold winter nights were fading. My fire had no stamina. No staying power. No real strength.
My complete inability to maintain a fire surprised me. I had believed myself to have strong fire qualities. Surely I should be able to start a physical fire as a reflection of my soul nature? What was my weak physical fire telling me about my fire nature? Maybe I wasn’t as comfortable with my own fire as I had first thought?
my dreams at this time were also indicating that my fire required attention. I regularly dreamt of multiple broken ovens
Unsurprisingly my dreams at this time were also indicating that my fire required attention. I regularly dreamt of multiple broken ovens and angry older women. Through dream work in personal therapy, I began to realise my fire qualities were greatly distorted. I was rigid and over-focused in my life (to the point of obsession) ensuring I became indispensable to others. If I were rejected or hurt, I would seek revenge and withdraw from connection (apologies to all of my past burn victims). Instead of incarnating my knight archetype of balanced fire I was impulsive and destructive. No wonder I couldn’t keep a physical fire going when my own internal fire was so disguised under layers of distortion.
One key area of my fire, which suffered, was anger. I often struggled to express my anger preferring to suppress it and therefore allowing it to fester and evolve into a distorted form like revenge or bitterness. When my anger did make a rare public appearance, it came out quick and fast and packed a lethal punch to its unsuspecting victim. I also discovered that most of my held anger could be attributed back to early life and was being misdirected to whichever poor soul transgressed me. My anger lacked perspective and boundary. It was unsafe to others and me and ultimately it was hindering my spiritual growth.
When my anger did make a rare public appearance, it came out quick and fast and packed a lethal punch to its unsuspecting victim
I realized that my stove was a metaphor (isn’t it always). The failed fires were symbolic. Just like my anger, my physical fires came quickly and lacked longevity. I was like a firework, spectacular but short-lived instead of a candle burning long and low.
Aptly timed, I had started to see clients with specific issues around anger. This was no coincidence. The universe was sending me the clients I needed to act as the catalyst for my own process. Similar to me, these clients were raised in emotionally neglectful homes where their anger was repressed to make room for excessive parental rage. Their material greatly touched my own. My clients needed to experience their anger within our therapeutic setting. As their anger began to enter our sessions, I very much struggled to remain in my role as therapist. I quickly became my small child hiding in the shadows, fearing to become the subject of their rage. During one tough supervision session, I was challenged about my fear of anger and how this was stalling my clients’ journeys. I realized that I would need to face my angry ghosts if I was to grow both professionally and personally. Avoidance was no longer an option.
I was able to take back parental projections, which I had placed onto others. I learnt to sit with the burning fire, which raged deep in my belly
Through exploration in therapy, I was able to acknowledge my anger particularly around my childhood. I was able to take back parental projections, which I had placed onto others. I learnt to sit with the burning fire, which raged deep in my belly. Over time this fire transformed and released a great deal of sadness and mourning. Dreams of the broken ovens were replaced by ones filled with flowing water and lonely children (my inner child). Through acknowledging and releasing my anger, I was able to experience my deeper feelings, which had previously been hidden.
As I explored my anger in therapy, I continued to persevere with my stove. I was determined to work on my physical fire. I researched and experimented and eventually started to see some positive results. I learnt the importance of warming my stove. Without adequate heat, no fire would be able to take hold let alone last. I had to practice patience to allow time for the stove to heat up with the lit kindling before it could handle a log. Sometimes this heating process took almost forty-five minutes and during this time the stove required a lot of attention to ensure the kindling was replenished when needed. The flames continued to be of a healthy controlled condition. The fire had to be sufficient before it could handle the density of the earth (or wood). I soon learnt that the time spent warming the stove paid dividends, as the fire that ensued was strong and warm. At last I had created a nourishing fire.
Just as with my physical fire, I learnt the importance of allowing my anger to be. To allow it to be acknowledged and experienced (to heat up) and then in time (and with patience) for it to be transformed into something healing (or nourishing). It felt no coincidence to me that my physical fire was finally successful in parallel to my personal work on anger.
Two years on, I still find it inspiring every time I kneel at my stove to light my fire. It acts as a welcomed reminder as to my personal journey especially regarding my anger. It also makes me reflect on my work as a trainee therapist and how without my personal growth, I could not have guided my clients’ healing. I am forever grateful to my little black stove. It acted as my physical alchemical container helping my calcinatio (or fire) operation to come to the fore. Now I no longer fear anger. I feel comfortable to allow the flames to burn long and bright both within my clients and me. I’ve learnt that fire can be an agent for growth and healing. So burn baby burn.