Ok, so there are five helens and a cat living in the house of helens:
- little helen, a young girl who is probably about 6 who likes playing outside and getting dirty. she is the youngest member of the house but she has her own voice and is listened to and respected by all.
- hennie and charlie cat come as a duo most of the time these days, she is older than little helen. she’s had a tough life and is quiet and is slowly learning to identify her needs and try to meet them. she loves reading and writing and is slowly gaining in confidence.
- chariot, the warrior of the house, is confident and sure of herself and is the activist, the campaigner, the advocate and the fighter.
- big sister is, as you might expect, a big sister type figure. she first made herself known when little helen was dealing with some big and intense and painful stuff. she is there in hard times and there for fun times. she has a maternal nature and does a lot of the tea making and cake baking in the house. she loves nature and has a lovely herb garden.
- mana, the grandmother of the house for want of a better term. often she is quietly going about her business in the background, helping things run smoothly with a kind word here and there and a hug or a kiss. she first came to me in a dream and was the archetypal ancestor as angel type figure.
So that’s a quick run down of the gang. I wanted to share that to make it easier to talk about how I work with the house of helens.
One of the main things I do with my house of helens is check in with them. I aim for once a week but sometimes more, sometimes less. To do this, I close my eyes, take three deep breaths and as I take them I visualise walking through the gate, up to the house and through the front door.
When I haven’t been to see them for a while, there is a part of me which gets scared no one will be there. But so far, its never happened. That said, when I didn’t check in for quite a while, I did have to deal with the fallout and the hurt feelings that caused.
So I go in through the door and I don’t know what I’m going to find. Quite often there is someone in the kitchen and I might have a cup of tea with them and a chat. If there is something in particular on my mind, I might seek out a particular helen and see how they can help me.
Sometimes I turn up and they’re all in the garden. Other times I’ve arrived only to find them in the attic. One occasion they were in the middle of a film night (their time zone does not run in sync with ours!).
When I was being sick a while back (I hate being sick), I went in and curled up by the fireplace in the kitchen. Little helen gave me a little hug before going back to whatever she was doing. Mana wrapped me in a blanket and stroked my hair. Big sister went and got some herbs and made me a healing tea. Hennie hung round the edges, afraid but not sure why. We managed to chat a little and she was scared something was going to happen to me even though she knew I just had a bug or something.
What the helens do is not guided by my consciousness and that is what I find most powerful and helpful about this practice. It taps into my unconscious which has a much better idea about what might be bothering me and how best to remedy the matter.
One to one
Recently I’ve been doing some one to one work with my helens. This is where I intentionally seek out a particular helen and we talk and get tot know each other better and look at their strengths and weaknesses and their skills and interests.
With most of them, this is currently being guideded by Jailbreaking the Goddess by Lasara Firefox Allen. The book shifts goddess work from the traditional trinty- maiden, mother and crone – to a five pronged version which isn’t build around maternal status. Helpfully for me, there are five helens and they fit quite neatly into her five faces of the goddess!
Before doing this work, we had a house meeting and talked about whether people wanted to take part or not and what their hopes and fears were. Big sister went first, mostly so she could see how appropriate it would be for little helen. Hennie is not currently ready but was worried about missing out.
With Hennie, instead of jailbreaking the goddess, we are working through some stuff around attachment. I went on an afternoon course about it a while back and she found it really interesting and relevant to understanding herself better. This is intense work and although we are both tempted to rush through the material we’re using as a guide, we know that is not the best approach.
The same is true for jailbreaking the goddess. It’s a great book and I want to read it all now but I need to work at the right pace for the helen in question. And we need breathing space and reflection time. And I need a gap between each helen so that I can honour them better.
Asking for help
The other main way I work with my helens is to draw on their strengths for certain things in my life. The most potent example I have is when I went to my ill health retirement interview. This was going to assess how much of my pension I was entitled to based on whether the assessor thought I stood a chance of working again.
This was intense, life changing stuff and I knew I had to be strong and clear about my illness. Which is hard because we tend to spend our whole life minimising its impact. I had to give the assessor an accurate and detailed picture of my life, down to intimate details. I had to explain to a stranger, coherently and persuasively, that I will never work again. Despite only just starting to come to terms with the idea myself.
So, the night before, I sat down with the chariot and we talked about how we wanted the interview to go, what strengths I needed to use and what approach we wanted to take.
I went into the interview more confident because of that and when I came home afterwards, I went into my house of helens and collapsed at the kitchen table. The chariot was no longer the helen I needed most and big sister took over with tea and little helen danced and revitalised me a bit.
I have also done tarot readings with them, as a group and individually. I have done a couple of pieces of art with them. I use them as a means of talking to my carers about stuff in a way which feels less vulnerable (most of them know about the house of helens). They are slowly revealing their own birthdays to me so that will be something we will celebrate in the future. This year we shared a birthday and I lit a specific candle for each of them and we had cake.
As I said in my last post on the house of helens, I’d love to know if anyone else does anything similar. I know a lot of people do inner child work and it’s sort of related but also not…