Honoring Symptoms as a Voice of the Soul

Care of the Soul
A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
by Thomas Moore
Chapter One

“Care of the soul begins with observance of the soul.”

This line stood out to me, since it’s something I have taught about in different situations. I talk about noticing the cultural messages all around us. My acceptance of my fat body involved a lot of simply looking at itJust looking and nothing else. I have frequently found that there is great value in simply paying attention to something, even if I don’t consciously change my actions. So it seems entirely right to me that Thomas Moore begins with suggesting that we simply observe the stirrings of our souls.

Another idea in chapter one that really spoke to me is the idea that we tend to strive for an idealized version of “normal”, when in fact our selves, our soul, resides specifically in the ways that we are different.

“…People often neglect their own natures and are tantalized by images of some ideal normality and health that may always be out of reach.”

“Individuality is born in the eccentricities and unexpected shadow tendencies of the soul, moreso than in normality and conformity.”

I am definitely “tantalized by images of some ideal normality and health”. I write a lot about being different and rejecting mainstream thought (The Fuck-It List comes to mind), but I have to constantly think about and write about these things because I feel the constant pull of conformity. I’m sometimes alarmed by how often I find myself doing things I don’t want to do because I think I’m supposed to do them. Trying to achieve normal is something that will always pull at me and something at which I will always fail.

Moore speaks in chapter one about not seeking to excise movements of the soul – symptoms, complaints, fears, and perversities that present themselves. He talks about speaking for these shadow aspects, moving towards them, going through them, embracing them, rather than curing them or seeking their opposite.

My greatest complaint is about my depression. I think about accepting it rather than trying to cure it through medication or through making some great life change after which I will magically no longer be depressed. I am tempted to think that if I “accept” it then I will no longer be depressed, but that’s not right. When Moore talks about “honoring” symptoms, I wonder if it is possible for me to both be depressed (miserable!) and also have a relatively peaceful acceptance about my feelings at the same time. I just don’t know.

(Image credit)

  • I’ve started off the comments with some questions. Jump in and reply or comment yourself on any thoughts you had from reading this chapter.
  • Even if you aren’t reading the book, you are welcome to answer the discussion questions and topics as they arise.
  • Comments are threaded. Reply to a specific comment by hitting the reply button underneath it. To allow for different conversations to develop at different rates, try not to reply to multiple comments in the same reply. Even if you want to reply to all the questions or comments, reply to them individually.
  • You can still join in on the discussion of the introduction.
  • We’ll discuss chapter two in the post on next Monday.