I have an unfinished half-basement in my house. I guess I would actually call it more of a cellar. In Seattle a lot of the basements are what are called daylight basements where one side is actually above ground. That isn’t the case with my basement, it is all underground. The walls are all cement, and the top of the wall on the interior is open to the dirt crawl space beneath the rest of the house. It’s dark and a little creepy.
In this basement there is a sump pump. When I am in the kitchen or my bedroom, which are above the basement, I can often hear when the sump pump turns on.
A couple of years ago I became anxious that the sump pump would stop working and my basement would be flooded. At the time I had lived in the house for 8 or 9 years, so I don’t know why out of the blue this worry should strike me, but it did. I called a plumbing place to find out about having someone check it out and do maintenance, but they asked me if I had a reason to think there was a problem, and when I said “no” they said that I didn’t need to do anything.
I was pretty uncomfortable with the idea that I just had to wait until it failed and my basement was flooded, and that there was no preventative route to take. I stressed and obsessed about it for a month or two, making sure that I could hear the pump going whenever it rained, and then forgot about it. Until…
…about a month ago I had a dream about the sump pump and woke up with a start. I realized that I hadn’t heard it going for quite a while. In fact I couldn’t remember the last time I had heard it. This made me pretty nervous, but it was very early in the morning and still dark outside and I was uncomfortable going down into the basement, so I decided to wait until it got light.
Later in the morning, once it was light, I ventured down the steep wooden stairs, taking care not to bump my head on the overhang. The stairs are in the middle, with space to each side. The sump pump is in the far right corner.
From the top I could see there was no water on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. This was a good sign, but I couldn’t yet see the area where the sump pump was. Once I got to the bottom I could see there was no water on the floor at all. Whew.
I went over to where the sump pump was installed in the ground and took a look. There was water fairly high in the “well” (for lack of a better word), partially covering the pump. I wondered why it wasn’t pumping, but I wasn’t really sure how it worked. There was no flooding, so I guessed it must be okay.
I have had dreams in the past that were prophetic, or at least reminded me of something I needed to do or to look in to, so I still wasn’t convinced that everything was okay. Over the next several days I kept checking the basement, and it was always okay. In fact the water level in the well was lower than the first time I had checked.
Since then, I’ve gone down about once a week to check, and it has always been fine.
Yesterday morning I was lying in bed awake, but not yet ready to get up. I was semi-meditating when I had a thought come to me: this fear of flooding in the basement was a metaphor for being flooded by my subconscious fears.
I know that in hypnosis and guided imagery we use going down stairs, or going into a cave or cavern or hole in the earth, to access the subconscious. I have been doing a lot of internal work over the past several months. I haven’t really been fearful of what I will find for the most part, I would say I was more curious.
But I also have a history of “stuffing” emotions, and I do still have some discomfort with allowing those emotions to surface. Which I guess is pretty much the same thing as trying to keep them in the basement.
I have been actively working on feeling these disowned feelings, anger in particular. I can see now that part of my fear has been that I will be flooded with emotions I don’t want to feel or believe I am unprepared to deal with.
I can use the idea that the sump pump in the basement keeps working even though I’m no longer hearing it do its job, to trust that my internal sump pump will be able to handle whatever emotions arise and pump them away properly.
Along these same lines, I did have flooding in my basement last fall. My water heater sprung a leak and I ended up with water on the basement floor. Fortunately it was discovered early enough that there was no damage done.
I feel very fortunate that it was discovered early on, because I rarely go in the basement and it literally could have been months before I discovered the leak. I had scheduled for annual maintenance on my furnace, which is in the basement next to the water heater. The furnace maintenance guy noticed the water on the floor and discovered the leak.
Looking at this piece metaphorically I see that I need to be checking my basement (my subconscious) on a regular basis to prevent flooding. And this, too, makes perfect sense. If I let these disowned emotions build up, then there will be a flood. I need to regularly access and express these emotions.
Once I became aware of this metaphor, I actually found it to be a fun way to look at the internal work I have been doing. It perfectly expresses the consequences of not doing regular emotional maintenance.