Inner Alchemy

Art inspired by the four major stages of inner alchemy


Inner Alchemy: An Introduction to Transformation


Let us start with a brief explanation of the history of alchemy and why it is an important practice for mental health. We will be exploring certain stages of change from an alchemical perspective and offering insights that provoke conscious understanding and movement. After our introduction, we’ll begin with what is referred to as the prema materia or ‘primary material’ which is a term for the starting places in alchemical work.


What is Inner Alchemy?

As the ‘alchemist,’ our roles are to work with the material of our psychological life in ways that make changes. In short, alchemy can be understood as the process of accelerating natural transformation. Concerned with the transformation of lead into gold, alchemy draws our attention to the parallels between the inner and outer world. With origins in ancient Egypt and texts found across the world, alchemy addresses the relationship between materials in nature and the practices that accelerate their transformations. 


Why is this important for our own growth? Understand that the physical material of the external world is our primary source of projection. How substances evolve, change, react, and intermingle mirror the same processes within the psyche. Our philosophy is that we are not separate from our environment and alchemical wisdom is one of the most powerful tools in understanding and working with the psyche.


The Structures of Alchemical Processes

Freud and especially Jung took these texts deep into consideration when producing a working understanding of psychological change. Not all alchemical texts are linear nor do they all suggest the same operations when changing substances. 


What they do have in common, however, is the range and power of these metaphors for our own internal alchemy. Yes, the concepts may seem abstract, even removed from our need to pay a bill or battle traffic, yet the structures of alchemical processes help us to check in with where we are mentally and spiritually. That is to say, what places and what materials are present in the chem lab of our lives. How can we begin to work with them?


Seeing a Fuller Direction

We are each in many phases of psychological change at once. While we get wrapped up in the details of one behavior or mood or detail, taking a metaphorical look at primary material – the starting places – can help us to see our life and inner alchemy in context. 


What and where are you now? This operation supports and grounds the soul in image. When we identify where we are it helps us to imagine where we are going. Rather than a single goal, we observe the material and begin to see a fuller direction.


The Hidden Inner Fire

Let us look at the primary material known as the “hidden inner fire.” In each of us, there is a longing from the inside of the human body. The hidden inner fire refers to the burning or ache in the solar plexus. The hidden aspect refers to the fact that it is unmet by our present life. I’d like to remind clients and staff that this often unmet fire is the catalyst to using behavior, anxiety, fear, and more. 


Rather than treat the symptom i.e. medicating anxiety, when we look to the angst as an important psychological starting place, we can imagine these eruptions of discomfort, restlessness, and longing as a yet undiscovered place of fulfillment. In other words, the angst is for something the soul is calling out to. We may replace that with drugs and alcohol, intensity in a relationship, or even a bouncing leg during a group.


Accessing Our Longings

Rather than trying to fix this angst, what if we took this to be an indication that something wants to be fulfilled? That hidden inner fire must be felt. Let us consider this inner fire. What does it truly want? To put it another way: if we sit and breathe into the solar plexus, what does that feel like? When accessing our longing, not simply what we think we long for, what can we imagine of a self resolved and content?


5-Minute Exercise

Take a blank sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. Clear a space and breathe into your solar plexus. Access that longing for fulfillment. Imagine yourself standing upright in one year from today. Don’t think about the practical pieces, how you will get there, or what obstacles may come along. Focus on the figure, the face, and the feelings. 


Draw an ideal image of yourself with no external details – no houses, money, or partners. Just draw you as you imagine a fulfilled and matured individual. Don’t be humble or realistic. Instead, embellish the image. Who is this person? It can be helpful to write words around the drawing that describe what the feelings are. Don’t worry about how good it looks and how skilled you are as an artist. Take the time to feel the hidden inner fire and let it come out onto paper.


Learning Inner Alchemy in Orange County, CA

Discover more about our holistic mental health services program and about how our methods have transformed the lives of others who have gone through rough patches in their lives. Join us at one of our various events to get involved with our wonderful community.

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Barn life is probably one of the most amazing facilities you could ever attend when it comes to mental illness. This was the first place that popped up when I was searching for help and I’m so thankful that it did. The environment is very therapeutic, the staff is awesome, and the group discussions and activities were so helpful in me understanding what I was experiencing. Do not hesitate to be a part of this place. It’s literally a game changer. I was only there for 6 weeks but I wished I stayed at least 6 months. Ever since returning home, I’ve been much happier and my perspective has changed dramatically. I’ve done things and participated in events at my college that I never thought I would be able to do. This place is truly amazing and I’m forever grateful that I found this place.

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My daughter has been at Barn Life Recovery now for two months. It was my last resort to send her 9 hours away from me. She has been in drug and mental health rehabs in and out for two years. This was my last stitch effort to save my daughter and get her back to herself. Alyssa and I spoke multiple times before deciding. Their willingness to do everything for her and the different teams they have work with them is amazing. My daughter is happy again and clean and sober. She loves it there in their outpatient program. They restore your faith in humanity. They help restore someone who is broken in so many places to themselves. They have put the light back in my daughters eyes. They are committed to helping each person who truly wants the help. They assist in helping them get jobs and be responsible members of society. I recommend their program to anyone wanting to recover from drug, alcohol and mental health.Thank you to all the people at Barn Life who have made my daughter smile and bring the light back to her eyes. I am truly grateful.DawnaLee

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