Archive for the ‘shadow’ tag
Being a psychotherapist doesn’t make one immune to the descents into the dark side of one’s being. Doctors get sick and priests have crises of faith. So it is for therapists who wrestle with the demons of the psyche. Much of the issues that come from crises of faith and descents into the darkness of the psyche have to do with transference. Listening to, being attuned to, engaging with, and simply being with parishioners and clients-patients activates something in both parties.
As the professional opens doors, the contents of those they work with often serve as triggers and at times find themselves hooking into the psych of the professional. For a while, the priest becomes the father, the god-like being he stands in place of as mediator. The same is true for therapists who become either father or mother, again becoming a saviour, god-like for their patients. The professional holds the contents as if they are sacred (which they indeed are) taking some of the weight from their parishioners and patients. Taking the weight, they allow space for breathing and with that breathing, an opportunity to find some healthy release and with that release, an opportunity to heal.
But there is a cost to the therapist and to the priest – that cost must be paid. There is a need for the healers to find someone to whom they can turn to work through their personal stuff that get activated in holding and dealing with the stuff of their parishioners and patients. I have found myself bending almost too far and so needed to find the resources that I needed to recharge my batteries. But in the space in between holding too much and release from that too much, I have my own crisis of faith, of psyche, of self. The healer must take his or her turn at being healed again, and again, and again. To be a good priest in being able to handle the crises of his parishioners, the priest must have lived and survived his own crises – only then can he be in tune with and thus serve as a healer. The same is true for a therapist – in order to heal, one must have been broken and then gone through the process of being healed.
In today’s professional world of psychotherapy there is no guarantee that the therapist has been there and done that. The only guarantee (usually) is that the therapist has attended classes and achieved certification. The have learned well from books and have practised using the appropriate skills. And as consumers of therapy, there is a tendency to look at the certificates and hope for the best. Who would trust an older man or woman without the certificate?
In my career as a school principal at various schools, I found that some of my best staff, being able to work with students and help them learn, to relate, to connect – were not trained teachers. Some were parent volunteers, some were trained to assist with special needs students (or at least be willing to work with these students as an aid). Some of the worst people I have had in my schools had good education, high marks on their transcripts, and had attended very reputable colleges of education at high calibre universities. I learned as a principal that needed to look beyond the certificate and find the person standing behind the certificate.
As a therapist in need, I, like my clients, need to find someone to trust so that I may work in a safe containing relationship to heal myself. It isn’t enough just to download onto a different healer, to transfer my stuff onto a guru or analyst or bishop or . . . There is an apt expression that comes to mind – “Physician heal thyself“ -
“The phrase alludes to the readiness and ability of physicians to heal sickness in others while sometimes not being able or willing to heal themselves. This suggests something of ‘the cobbler always wears the worst shoes’, i.e. cobblers are too poor and busy to attend to their own footwear. It also suggests that physicians, while often being able to help the sick, cannot always do so and, when sick themselves, are no better placed than anyone else.” [The Phrase Finder]
“One has no right to talk about the last stage until he has accomplished the second one. One has no right to talk about the oneness of the universe until he is aware of its separateness and duality.” [Johnson, He, p. 8]
The second stage, the “imperfection of middle life” stage is where most of us get stuck and stuck hard. I have met a number of people holding all manner of belief systems that claim they are well into the third stage of enlightenment, people for the most part much younger than I am. I don’t mean to be judgemental, but most of these people are grasping and squeezing the rituals and the status of “enlightenment” that is awarded by participation in a particular belief system such as Ascendant Masters, Scientologists, Mystics, and so on. The New Age movement is rife with all sorts of esoteric belief systems that promise a way out of the messiness and discomfort of the imperfection of middle life.
To be honest, I can’t lay this all on the New Age movement for fundamentalist religious participation promises the same thing, promises enlightenment if one suspends all critical thinking and accepts the theology of the particular religion as the “Word of God.” And if one begins to doubt, the community of faith will rally around and pray for one to regain certainty, total and complete trust in the faith. One learns to deny one’s inner doubts, one’s own questions and even the stirrings of one’s own body. One learns to deny self, to deny the authority of self, to deny the evidence of the senses. And in that embracing of denial, one becomes a fanatic claiming enlightenment through faith and with that enlightenment, power. Men who gravitate to fundamentalism become blind to themselves as they cast their shadow and the shadow of their chosen people onto others who have not embraced their faith.
Our human history is a sordid, violent and angry history made by men who step into the role of the enlightened without having dealt with their personal imperfections. We have fought wars with God on our side, feeling justified in committing any and all dark behaviours on the heathens, on those who by definition of not being enlightened, are the mindless peasants and minions of the devil, of Satan.
For a man, even in our modern and more liberal societies, becoming aware of the dual nature of being a man, the dual nature of the universe as he sees and senses; and then accepting that dual nature which in turn changes his behaviour, even his manner of being present in the world – life becomes more problematical in relation to these fundamentalist groups be they religions or New Age movements. As a man becomes aware of his inner feminine, his manner of relating to the world is altered. He becomes a bit softer and gentler. Now a soft and gentle man becomes a target for those who feel threatened. Men feel their own masculinity being threatened, often seeing that softness and gentleness as signs of homosexuality. Women who are in relationships with these soft and gentle men feel their space being invaded and even their security being threatened – who will then protect and provide for them if their man stops being manly?
Yet, as Johnson points out, there is no way to enlightenment that does not cross completely through the messiness and complexity of middle life. One must abandon the blind obedience to dogma, to any given philosophy in order to be able to wrestle the demons of his inner darkness to a draw, to find balance between the darkness and light, to find that space between breaths – the field of true enlightenment.
As I continue this study of my gender and what it is to be a man, what it is to be masculine, I realise that while I am immersed in this journey of psyche, an inner world journey that is surrounded by an outer world in which I continue to exist as well. While search, I must continue to be a man with my partner, within the community I find myself in for the present here in Corozal which has a number of sub-communities embedded within it. I find myself in a community of expats, Americans and Canadians who have chosen to come here to make a new home or are searching for a new home base; as well as these expats, I have begun to interact with a few local men at the various shops, and on the street. Being a man is assumed by all I meet as I am obviously a senior, adult male. No one questions my identity as a man. That said, at the same time, I am digging deep into my head and heart trying to find answers to questions that are hard to put into words, questions about my identity as a man in this modern world.
“Jung insists that individuation is above all a dialogue with the unconscious psyche. The ego needs to maintain its essential connection with social reality as it attempts to ‘have it out’ with the unconscious forces. As the ego makes its ‘descent’ for the sake of renewal, it must resist the ‘inertia’ of the unconscious, and the forces that would paralyse it, and maintain human integrity at all costs.” [Tacey, Remaking Men, p. 19]
I have been there, finding myself so immersed in the psyche chasing down the shadows that I forgot about connecting with others. For a long time, I self-isolated and spent all my time on reading every depth psychology article I could find, recording and the plumbing the depths of my dreams, using meditation as a diving tool to take me further into the depths, only taking time out to connect with my analyst. My ego inflated as I saw myself as an authority, as a misunderstood and ignored wise man. I forgot that I was a human that was flawed deeply and needing the connection to others, to life, to my body.
“When we make contact with the unconscious, and so become privy to some of the collective secrets of the ages, we must compensate for this ‘dialogue with the Gods’ by increased amounts of humour and humility: two of the best antidotes to spiritual arrogance and inflation.” [ibid]
I know that I am not the only one who gets caught in the dialogue with the unconscious. If anything, when one approaches this dialogue without intention, the danger is even greater. One of my new friends here in Corozal is an American who is searching for property and a home here. He came with his wife and we have been together a number of times, two couples in Belize. His wife has no intention of moving to Belize. He hears her words but is so captured by his need that he can’t respond to her pain that is growing with his obsession with moving. His response is simply “I have been taking care of others all my life, I need to take care of myself, now.” Yet, he doesn’t know what that means or how to accomplish this need. I have learned that it is not achieved by changing addresses. One must wade in the unconscious keeping a line open to the conscious world at the same time. It is the only way to see the ripples that flow from the changes in oneself on others. We need to address these ripples and make conscious decisions based on reasoned outcomes. Will one truly be serving the self living alone in a foreign country when a wife of many decades, children and grandchildren are left behind?
I don’t have the answers to these questions though I do know they need to be faced, questions of one’s participation in the outer world of place, things and relationships. It is hard enough to be a man without getting lost in the shadow land of the unconscious.
Shadows and light, it’s another way to view awareness and insight – out of darkness emerges awareness; out of awareness comes insight into the depths of the human psyche. As I sat enjoying my morning coffee, the sun began to emerge from behind the dark clouds on the horizon. It reminded me of how one “turns on the light” in order to see. The scene became one of my “ah-ha” moments that needed to be captured as an image.
I often wonder about what I am doing here in Belize. Most of my time is spent doing very little. I read a bit and most of that reading is fiction that doesn’t stretch me in any way at all. I surf the net a bit, and even resort to playing cards on the computer as a means of filling time. Hours are spent each day sitting in the sunshine “working on a tan.” If anyone was watching and making notes of the way I am spending my time, it would tell as story of an uneventful and likely boring existence. But, that would be an untrue representation.
I am stewing in the rays of the sun, ripening, or as they say in Jungian terms, I am holding the tension waiting for something to emerge from the fires and forge, something transformed. This imagery is vital to understand what is happening to me this winter in the tropics. I appear to be doing almost nothing, but I am wide awake, watching, observing, weighing, filtering . . .
“The Magician energy is the archetype of awareness and of insight, primarily, but also of knowledge of anything that is not immediately apparent or commonsensical. It is the archetype that governs what is called in psychology, “the observing Ego.” [Moore & Gillette, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, p. 106]
Hmm? Magician energy, a masculine energy. I need to read more.
“The observing Ego is detached from the ordinary flow of daily events, feelings and experiences. In a sense, it doesn’t live life. It watches life, and it pushes the right buttons at the right times to access the energy flows when they are needed.” [p. 107]
This is a description of myself that my wife often comments on, a version of myself that speaks of distance rather than engagement. Now, I am understanding that I was, and am, often wrapped up in the observing Ego, as much an apprentice to the psyche as a shaman, as a magician, as a psychotherapist, as I am a participant in life as a husband and father. Yes, the light did turn on this morning, somewhere between the appearance of the sun and the reading of these few words from King, Warrior, Magician, Lover.
I found this image somewhere on the Internet a while ago. Where? I don’t remember. It is taken from some work of art painted when there was no need to conceal the truth for some particular agenda. Maybe I shouldn’t use the word truth as I begin to doubt that there are any truths other that the swirling mass of thought within one’s head, a swirling mass that is rarely based on reality. All is illusion. Yet, if we are to have histories as a people, then we must be able to hold some of that history as being valid. Was there a Jesus Christ? Was he the son of God if he did exist? Personally, I do think that there was a man who was the person we call Jesus Christ. Was he a son of God? I would have to say yes as I truly believe that we are all sons and daughters, all the offspring of the initial creator.
He was a man and he was a godling just like you are a godling. Like you and me, he was born naked out of the womb of a woman. Like you and me, he was a child, saw things children should never see, and suffered for it. Like you and me, he wrestled with his demons and resisted his singular path. For some reason, he was able to hold his singular path, a feat not many are able to accomplish because of fear, because of the cruel weight of community opinion. And like all others who dare to hold to their destiny, he was crucified by his community for daring to go against the collective shadow. The Romans crucified him in fact, but it was his community that forced the hand of the Romans to administer the death penalty for daring to challenge the status quo. The Romans crucified him in the Roman way – hanging him on a cross, naked so as to induce shame.
But for one who dares to follow the individual path that opens into light even as one goes forward seemingly into darkness, there is no shame, just a sadness for others, and a burning question – Why?
I have long struggled with this why and still have yet to find the answer. Perhaps there are no words that can serve as an answer. Perhaps the only answer that can emerge is the experience, step by step, that one passes through along the journey of one, a psychological and physical journey that Jung called individuation. Perhaps it is a conceit on my part, but as I dare my own journey, sometimes at costs that I am loathe to pay, I find myself learning to forgive myself for my own darkness. And in forgiving myself, one dark shadow at a time, I am finding that the path ahead of me is beginning to be bathed in a faint light.
As I inch my way down this individual path, I wonder if it is all worth it. It seems to be costing too much in terms of relationships with others. I find myself wondering if this is far enough along the path. A voice within tells me, I have gone far enough, further than most others travel as if that pat on the back will be enough. Yet, I am in turmoil wondering if I am a coward. I know that I can’t turn around and run back to the past and the certainties of that past, even if there was suffering and pain in that pain - better the devil one knows - is a folk saying that I am tempted to adopt rather than pay the price that is required to go further along the path, a path that I know ends in my own crucifixion, and a resurrection.
I was able to get close enough to this not so small snake as I neared the end of a small group tour at the Lamanai Mayan ruins. It is called fer de lance, although it’s more correctly called Bothrops Asper, a member of the viper family. This snake is very dangerous. Still, I left the safety of the raised path I was on in order to get down to his level and get this photo, not a great photo, but good enough as I didn’t want to get too much closer. Apparently the lance de fer is commonly found around Mayan ruins and it has been suggested that the choice of location for a Mayan site was dependent upon the presence of poisonous snakes as a protective barrier. Of course, that sent me in search of more information which took me to Och Chan, or God K of the Mayan religion.
I don’t want to tell too much here but perhaps save a bigger tale after I have been to Hell (Xibalba) and back a trip that will occur in the near future. For now, it is enough to know that the snake again figures in the original story of creation and again involves a woman. There, I hope that either sends you searching for more or whets your appetite for when I return to this topic sometime next week.
Another sunrise photo taken in Corozal, Belize, however this time the photo was taken by my wife while I was meditating in the garden just a few metres away. I decided to bring this photo here for a few reasons. First, there are shadows in this image that contrast to the light of the rising sun. Second, my meditating au naturel only a few feet away was in a way, an act that was prompted by shadow. Why do I say prompted by shadow? Well, meditating in full view of passers-by is something I would never have consciously done in the past. Always it was something to be done in an isolated situation, usually behind closed doors and closed drapes – even when it was done fully clothed. To meditate in full view of passers-by wearing nothing but the rays of the sun would have never even been considered let alone attempted. Of course, meditation in the tropics is vastly different from meditation back in my home community. There, the context of community has me retreat from public awareness. Few know that I meditate, none have seen me meditate, and perhaps even fewer would accept the notion of meditation skyclad. That I have become aware of this has shifted the behaviour from shadow to consciousness. That is, I have integrated that denied aspect of myself and now live it as fully and honestly as I can. I could have chosen not to integrate this aspect of self, a shadow face of myself, pushed it back. But I have learned that to do so would only end up in some eruption of negative behaviour, that would shock not only others, but myself as well.
In preparation for today’s post on the shadow, I came across these words written by Megge Hill Fitz-Randolph at Suite 101
“There is, indeed, an actual shadow-like energy that exists hidden from conscious mind yet contributing to the overall shape of the personality. This is what in psychological terms is meant by the shadow. It has become so popular in the lexicon it is worth understanding in more depth.
What Is Hidden
According to Carl Jung, the shadow is that part of the personality one chooses not to see. Usually of a vulgar, shameful, or corrupt nature, the shadow is comprised of whatever one cannot uphold in one’s idea of oneself. Not being integrated or even acknowledged by conscious mind, the shadow sits and waits in the unconscious.” [Fitz-Randolph "What is the Shadow in Jungian Psychology," July 2008]
When the shadow is not honoured, recognized, the self suffers. I know for myself, that suffering has often taken the form of depression and a brooding, quiet, resentful anger. At times I would find myself acting out inappropriately only to then become shamed by what I might have said or done or of doing. My dreams tortured me by showing me what I was capable of in terms of behaviour and attitudes that seemed antithetical to my very being. In waking life, I am a prude, but in dreams I end up doing things that would make pimps and whores blanche. These dreams tortured and left me doubting my sanity. I felt fully unworthy of my life partner, unworthy even to be father to my children. Rather than continue to deny these eruptions of shadow, I took them to my analyst, shared them with my partner and hoped for the best in terms of my children.
Today, the pressure of the shadow has lessened because of this work. Stalking the shadow, my shadow, has allowed me to return to life as a more conscious person. There is a long way to go but at least I am on the right road, the path of individuation.
Each morning I rise early hoping to catch the dawn. Several of the mornings have been cloud-filled delaying the appearance of the sun. When and if the sun appears, there is an up-welling of joy within me. And when the sun hides, I am patient for I know that another morning will be coming and with that new morning, another opportunity to participate in a spiritual ritual that in more about being alive, being aware and conscious of myself in the universe.I become part of the drama enacted with the rising of the sun as though I was some ancient priest of the sun, a magician, a wizard, a shaman. At moments like this I find myself reconnecting to ancestors that trace their roots through bloodlines of the Iroquois, Mohawk and Ojibway; ancestors that wandered the holy forests of Europe, Celtic and Gaelic bards and druids; ancestors that wandered through Persia and Egypt. I consciously bid the sun welcome into the world anew.
“The Magician energy is the archetype of awareness and of insight, primarily, but also of anything that is not immediately apparent or commonsensical. It is the archetype that governs what is called psychology “the observing Ego.” [Moore & Gillette, King Warrior Magician Lover, p. 106]
I understand this participation is as much conscious as it is unconscious. I don’t pretend that I really am a shaman or wizard or magician. I don’t believe that I am any of these as well for to believe that I was would only put my conscious self in peril.
It is fatal for the ego to fuse with any one of the archetypes, and those who encourage such fusions must be counted as the enemies of humanity.” [Tacey, Remaking Men, p. 19]
I sense the presence of archetypal forces at the edges of perception and acknowledge them with respect and wariness. To deny them would also be dangerous for ego for denial leads only to eruptions of shadow that would make me a victim of my own unconsciousness.
So, with a day begin honouring the spirits I sense but can never see, I can then move on to participate more fully in my daily life, aware of even the small things that make their way into my life.
“As no popular culture has built itself upon the idea of romance more than twentieth-century [and 21st] America has, so no one has founded itself on more shifting ground. A necessary corollary, then, is that no culture has more set itself up for disappointment than the one which seeks its affirmation in projection, illusion and delusion.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 45]
As I have said a number of times before, Romantic love for a man is projected love, a love based on one’s response to one’s personal mother and to the activated anima archetype that represents the feminine, the archetypal lover and mother and whore. Beneath this gossamer web of projection lies a real woman who either accepts and joins in the fantasy of Romantic love, or rejects it and walks on in her life in search of her Magical Other. When all aligns as it will and should, two souls are joined as one, similar to the images of sun and moon together or the yin-yang which has the two in a perpetual dance always reaching and retreating at the same time.
This image has blurred edges that face each other, barely discernible faces in dialogue with each other while the self lives oblivious to the presences of shadow and anima, the unknown masculine and feminine archetypes that pull and push. With time, the pushing and pulling forces a man to begin to question himself and his Magical Other who is also suffering the tidal forces of her shadow and her animus. First one, then the other feels betrayed as their Magical Other becomes less magical and more human.
”the public face that hides a thousand cuts. For how many couples grow roughly in the same direction at roughly the same pace? Seldom do both perceive life at the same level of consciousness or possess equal capacity to process difficult matters. More often, one partner has outgrown the unconscious premises of the relationship while the other clings to the original implicit bargain. The former feels frustrated, depressed; the other feels anxious and controlling. My experience has been that most often it is the woman who seeks change and growth.” [Hollis, pp 44-45]
And whether it is the man or the woman, the sense of being alone again, like this young palm tree above, is brings the pain of loss; a loss of the Magical Other and often a corresponding loss of the marital partner. When the marriage holds together in spite of the loss, the face of the marriage rarely betrays that loss. Rarely does the public face of a marriage match the psychic reality beneath that surface when projections fall away revealing the scarred, scared and complexed individuals that have been joined in the marriage.
This morning I went walking with my camera as usual to the centre of Corozal in order to buy some fresh vegetables and fruit as it was supposed to be the busiest of farmer market days. According to the gringos I have met so far, the best day to do such shopping because the Mennonites set up their stalls at the market and when they were at the market, they were the competition in terms of quality of produce and for some, even price. Once I had taken my photos of the area, I then wandered through a number of the surrounding grocery stores which are all owned and operated by Chinese merchants. At two of these stores I saw Mennonites were making deliveries to these stores as well. At their market stalls, and in the stores, the Mennonites were easy to identify because of their clothing. Another thing I noted, all of the Mennonites to be seen in Corozal were men.
There is a hardness to these Belizean Mennonite men, a hardness of purpose that doesn’t allow for waffling about what it is to be a man. Their approach to life is all about business and a very conservative fundamentalism. And like all fundamentalists, there are problems when it comes to toleration and respect for others, and even the environment. The last thing that would be welcome is the idea that all are individuals with individual needs and life journeys. For them, it is about foregoing the individual in favour of the collective. All questions that haunt, all urgings from the personal and collective shadow are denied.
“If individuation or confrontation with the unconscious, is courted, men will have to face whatever actually does emerge from the unconscious – whether or not it fits in with . . . ‘spiritual’ ideology or popular expectations and tastes.” [Tacey, Remaking Men, p. 13]
Perhaps then, the benefit of identifying with a group is worth much for a man who never wants to deal with his own shadow. But of course, even for fundamentalists which must include Mennonites, denying the personal shadow causes a bigger problem, the shadow being lived out by the community in relation to others outside the fundamentalist collective and with the earth. When one looks to the fundamental beliefs of fundamentalist Christians including Mennonites, or those who are still waiting for the Messiah such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, one can understand their unwavering hardness in relation to the earth and all on it – after all God said that man was to rule over all of it:
“26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.
27 So God created mankind in his own image in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.” [Genesis 1:26-30]
And with the fundamentalism come the roots and seeds of patriarchal abuse.