“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.” – C.G. Jung
Sometimes, these newsletters work on me as I work on them. This one in particular was timely. I had just re-listened to this conversation with James Hollis before the election took place. Hollis says in this episode, “What’s wrong in the world is wrong in me as well.” Shaken to my core by the results on election night, current events proved to be a rich opportunity to look a bit closer at (it even pains me to say) my inner-Trump.
Gah. I didn’t think there could be anything more repulsive. But then again, it’s the things we have a strong negative or positive reaction to that’s a cue that shadow is lurking close. Well, shadow…it’s always close.
My first response to the election results was to be viscerally sickened. Hurt. Shock. Horrified. Even as I felt a whole range of emotions moving through me, I also felt a deeper response that moved beyond anger to wanting to do something about it. The images conjured up from that place were dark and phantasmagoric imaginings about how I could set straight those whose views were vehemently not in line with mine in ways that were particularly violent. Then I stopped.
There it is. There’s my own capacity for the same kind of absurd and real violence I wanted to rage against and stand up against.
I rallied to stand up against it all by going with the route voted unpopular by looking at my own dark spots. Exploring deeper my own dark alleys, I continued to look at all that I loathed about this one figure in the election and turned all my thoughts around until I could locate a similar vein in me, too. Am I capable of manipulation? Of saying incredibly hurtful things? How do I keep out and avoid or ignore all the views that do not coincide with mine? What are my own tendencies for bullying and narcissism? How close do I carry uncontested divisiveness between self and other inside me?
This wasn’t an easy extrapolation. I would have much rather participated in a generative creative imagination, avoiding this altogether by musing about things I love and manifesting 2017’s horse-show season. But something about going to those dark spots was essentially potent, especially the day after the election when I felt eviscerated. The process helped me to see that I have those capacities, too. It softened my stance and grounded my view in the immediate importance of the explorations of my own inner landscape as the place to start to make change–for my life, my relationships, my community, and my world.
In Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding Our Darker Selves, Hollis writes:
“It takes a strong sense of self, and no little courage, to be able to examine, and take responsibility for, these darker selves when they turn up. It is much easier to deny, blame others, project elsewhere, or bury it and just keep on rolling. It is at these moments of human frailty when we are most dangerous to ourselves, our families, and our society. Examining this material is not a form of self-indulgence; it is a way of taking responsibility for our choices and their consequences. It is an act of great moral moment, for it brings the possibility of lifting our stuff off of others, surely the most ethical and useful thing we can do for those around us.”
Not only do we lift our stuff off others but we also make conscious and recognize the very real and present shadowed aspects of own personality. And when we glimpse our shadow qualities, what do we do then? By pulling these things out of shadow, we are welcoming back parts of ourselves that we’ve kept hidden or divided ourselves from. Accepting these are part of who we are is a radical act of conscious recovery of our wholeness. It’s a way, as Jerry and Hollis discuss in this podcast, of loving yourself all the way down, all the way through, dark spots and all.
German Psychotherapist Bert Hellinger notes that this kind of peace begins in your own soul:
“All that we have previously judged, regretted, and repressed in ourselves, can now take its rightful place next to all that we have approved of. It can be recognized, even loved, for it’s significance, it’s consequences, and it’s contributions to our growth. This demands of us that we leave the ideal of innocence behind us. Innocence neither challenges, nor supports, and prefers suffering to acting; it prefers to remain a child rather than grow up.”
When we do our own ‘think globally, act locally’ effort in our inner landscape, that most immediate landscape that affects everything in our life, we free our partners, our children and our organizations from the burden of living through and acting out our unresolved issues. That, my friends, is the gift of non-violence. Of peace. Of freedom.
While looking at the shadow closest to home may not be your ego’s first pick, it will surely be the popular vote of your soul. Solely casting that vote proves to be a healing balm for many. Perhaps it is imperative as for those of us having a human experience on this planet to do this work to heal the collective psyche.
In his book, The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other, Hollis writes:
“For the individual to heal, he or she must recover a better relationship to soul. For corporate bodies to heal, they must have managers who will address the question of soul. And we cannot expect them to do this for their companies if they have not done it for themselves. As Jung repeatedly warned, the therapist cannot accompany the patient any further than the therapist has gone. Therefore, the willingness to address one’s personal healing is essential before one can contribute a measure of healing to the collective.”
I reached out to my therapist post election to share my feelings. “Periodically, the world falls apart,” he said, “and it is held together by the good, patient, steady work of people like you until the world heals again, for awhile.”
In the meantime, I find these words by Elizabeth Alexander help hold me together: “We just have to really, really, really, dust ourselves off and do our work. That’s all there is to it–love each other, do your work.”