What Winter Means

In one month, on October 26, daylight savings time ends. Yet here it is, shortly after 8 p.m. in September, and my woozy, sleepy brain struggles to summon an interesting thought. My eyes are tired and don’t want to stay open. I’ve always been mystified by this. Every year, as the days shorten, I feel pulled to the depths — of sleepiness, of the subconscious, of that which is at rest and prepares for a long period of rejuvenation.

I am reminded of the Greek myth of Demeter and her daughter, Persephone. At one point Hades kidnapped Persephone and took her to the underworld. Demeter was distraught and outraged, and the whole world plunged into winter. Zeus, the father of Persephone, became worried about the state of the earth and intervened. Eventually, Persephone was permitted to reunite with her mother, for since she had eaten some pomengranate seeds while in captivity, she was obligated to return to Hades for part of every year. Hence, the story of winter.

This myth is also seen as a metaphor for psychotherapy:

An archetype of healing. Like our own wounded inner child, Persephone, had been abducted into the dark Hades of her unconscious patterns and process. She was lovingly searched for and assisted by Demeter, her mentoring mother. Their annual reunion, depicted here, was celebrated by the Greeks as the Rite of Spring. Illumined by the torch of insight, Persephone has returned to the upper world; Demeter blesses her with a sheaf of grain symbolizing nurture and renewal.This image offers a powerful metaphor for the psychotherapeutic process.

All of life slows down as we enter winter. Holiday time will increase our frenetic activity, but then we will experience the post New Year’s anticlimactic plunge. It need not be negative. Rest and quiet are healing, if we choose to use the opportunities when they arise.

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