Is reality just a soap opera we’ve made up?

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What we see of reality is often just a conditioned response and not reality.

 

Today I posted an article on the Book of Dreams Blog on Becoming Real and wanted to expand on that idea. The thought then struck me that in the Dark Knight blog I often speak to the hidden parts of ourselves and the how and why that material gets hidden in the first place. This blog posting is then an answer to those thoughts.

Most of my writings have been about reality and my relationship to it. When younger I thought that reality was pretty much created by something outside my self and that I was pretty much at the effect of it versus being at cause with it and God forbid I should be responsible for any of it.

The truth was my reality was conditioned by those around me i.e. I pretty much went for acknowledgment of any kind, negative or positive. Why? Because in a state of being separate from others, an individual entity, my only chance of feeling connected i.e. related was to seek and get acknowledgment, or approval. I would therefor do those things that achieved the goal. What I learned to do was to behave in those ways that insured approval i.e. I became something other than myself. This is called behavioral conditioning.

This is where we all begin to develop a mask because often being who we are beneath the mask is often not enough to secure the needed approval. So we fashion a mask that seems to be what people want us to be in order to give us the acknowledgment that we so crave. Note that the people we are seeking acknowledgment from are doing the same thing. So neither of us is being real, we’re all being what we think the other mask wants us to be with each desperately wanting to feel connected. But connection can only happen between real people, not their masks, so there’s no real satisfaction in the relationship.

The problem with this kind of relationship is that we never really get the approval we seek because what we get is for the fake us, not the real us. Most of us then decide that there must be something wrong with us because being ourselves isn’t enough. And the bottom line to this farce is that one cannot truly experience a joyful, happy relationship with anything or anyone because even if we’re loved it is only the mask, the “not me” that is loved. And out of that reality is created, the threat of being found out.

So here we are trying to avoid the pain of being separated by creating an avatar of ourselves so as to feel connected but by definition this isn’t the real us so we still aren’t in relationship, we still don’t feel connected and still don’t feel acknowledged. Can you see how this can become neurotic? We cannot win in this state, nor can anyone else. The masks we wear actually sustain the disconnect we’re hoping to overcome.

But what would happen if we were to support each other in being ourselves, with all the blemishes, habits, doubts and fears that make up a human being? What would happen if we could be like our much younger selves before we learned how not to be ourselves?

What would happen if we stopped enabling each other’s masks? What if we stopped using each other to support our soap operas?

Youtube: Morpheus Speaks

 

This book opens the reader to the world of the unconscious, the deeper psyche with both its lighter and darker aspects. With sections on universal dream symbols, fantasy creatures, shadow aspects, and nightmares this book provides insights to ones dreams beyond the everyday. It is an encyclopedia of over 5000 dream symbols collected from over 3500 dreamers across 140+ countries and cultures. Though it cannot cover all possible meanings it can direct both the beginner and journeyman dream interpreter to a broader insight into their unconscious mind and then lead them through the process of applying this information to their everyday life.

A Dream of Shadows

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I stepped into the night–a lonely, frigid blackness with glowing lanterns here and there. I sighed and my breath rose into the sky and a part of me became one with the stars.

Animals came out of the inky dark to greet me–raccoon, rat, and owl.

They whispered some ancient wisdom, sharing from a place that only they could bear, dancing to a rhythm that only they could hear.

I pulled the night around my shoulders like a robe to comfort me against its emptiness.

Owl, rat, raccoon, and I walking through the night, walking toward the light of home.

Down The Rabbit Hole

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Alice In Wonderland – Down The Rabbit Hole is a painting by Christopher Clark

Last May (5-7-19) I wrote about the rabbit hole as a metaphor for falling emotionally into an abyss i.e., a feeling of “emotional overwhelm, loss of control, and alienation” and thought I would look at some of the symbols that often appear in dreams that speak to this emotional theme.

Transition symbols in dreams such as a cave, hole, tunnel, or a hallway can lead one into the unconscious and a transformed state. When Alice fell down the rabbit hole she entered a period of confusion and chaos, a place of change and transformation.

“The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well. 

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next.”

­–Lewis Carroll

The word “suddenly” is often a clue to a nightmarish quality of impending doom and a feeling of having been caught off guard and made vulnerable. Falling itself has a meaning that speaks to failure, the failure to be cautious. As she fell down the hole she said to herself,

After such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house.”

The “Rabbit Hole” is an allusion to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. To go “down the rabbit hole” is to enter a period of chaos or confusion but also it’s a metaphor for both jumping into something new and stressful and a recreation of ones life from one way of being to another without any knowledge of how it will turn out. It can also have darker meanings that speak to deepening depression and sense of loss.

Let’s look at a few dream symbols frequently associated with this type of dream:

 A hole can represent the start of a change—a transformation. Where does it lead?

The cave in a dream often represents inner or hidden issues. It is a part of the underworld, your underworld—the unconscious. What do you find in your cave? What are you keeping hidden? Where does it lead?

A tunnel in a dream speaks to a pathway you may have created into your unconscious, an opening to your innermost feelings and memories. It can also be the way to a birth of something (a rebirth or resurrection of something) as in the birth canal. Where does it lead?

A hallway can reveal how various parts (aspects) of you (your house) connect. A hallway can represent a means for the outside world to enter your intimate life. Where does it lead?

The rabbit hole one enters may also represent regression—a turning inward, sometimes to escape from problems. Wasn’t this what Alice was doing?

All presuppose an entrance which is often seen as a symbol for new experiences, or the passing between of one state of being or feeling into another leading to a new realization. Where does it lead?

They also suggest transit—a symbol for change. Where, or what are you transiting toward?

The rabbit hole as an abyss can be a “symbol of great depth often signaling the profound and infinite.” (Morpheus Speaks, page 6, 2019) It can be about the fear of a loss of control or identity and it’s often a symbol for depression. Where does it lead?

Notice how all the above form their own coherence—the internal logic of your dreams also provides information. Dreams are not just meaningless chaos, unless of course you have one that is just meaningless chaos, and that too means something!

Note also the repeated question, “Where does it lead?” This is the mystery inherent in most dreams (and in life as well?) and in much of the material hidden in one’s unconscious mind that has come to the surface in a dream. What I call Rabbit Hole Dreams can reveal some of the most exciting aspects of the human condition, the human psyche, and the spirit within.

What threatens our well-being

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Jogging along a mountain path a panic stricken young man passes me in the opposite direction with a pack of howling dogs hot on his heels. As he careens around the corner a few of the dogs break off from the pursuit and begin to surround me. As I stand there petrified one creeps up behind me and menacingly begins to nip at the back of my neck. I want to run but can’t move. The others start to move in on me and panicked I will myself awake.

Yep it was a good old-fashioned nightmare. These typically come to us when we are not paying attention to something urgent or something threatening in our environment so after writing it down I went looking for what was happening in the waking world that would manifest in my dreams as these attacking dogs.

The night before I watched part of the Impeachment proceedings against the American President. The process has been very upsetting including the President’s behavior up to and including his inappropriate actions that drew the condemnation and investigation that has lead to his being held accountable. His verbal attacks and those of his political party have seemed so vile, vicious, polarizing, and demoralizing that I’ve found it too distressing to watch all that is going on so in order to stay centered in that quieter place within myself I’ve been trying to change the negative narrative in my head. Of course this never works because as with anything we try to suppress or any negative narrative we try to write over it remains waiting for a chance to make itself known like the palimpsests of ancient manuscripts where hidden writings beneath later writing can reveal new and often deeper material.

Many psychologists believe that much of the distasteful material we suppress so that we don’t have to deal with it only festers beneath the surface informing our feelings, beliefs and actions usually in a negative way. In short, this material doesn’t disappear but works its power beneath the surface until we bring it to the light and deal openly with it.

Over time I’ve learned that my dreams have access to this material and will occasionally and in the service of my health and well-being come forth in a nightmare to give me opportunity to deal with it.

Biting dogs can be about disloyalty, aggression (felt or toward another), and/or betrayal. “Biting can also represent ‘biting’ remarks your own or coming from others both of which I find I am doing and feeling. It’s hard to not take the President’s nastiness personally even though he’s not talking about me but he does represent an attack on values, things I hold dear, such as being open and working with others, being civil, empowering and not demeaning others, caring for someone other than myself, honesty, integrity and willingness to work for the greater good. These are things that I think both sides of the current civil unrest could agree upon though the finer definition of each might be negotiable.

The current unrest has been useful I think in that it clearly and keenly highlights what we really value and what can destroy or diminish the expression of that value. It also highlights the negative effects of unchecked, unmanaged, and paralyzing fear, at least in myself. My own undealt with fear has sometimes made me into a biting dog so that it is also I who visits my dreams as a pack of dogs threatening my own well being.

 

So much into my head

 

3336650116a4470024486b678380162l.jpgWhile walking along a river in the North Country I came upon a frail looking old man with long white beard and flowing grey robe leaning on a staff and gazing at the water rushing by. “Good morning” I said.

He smiled and asked, “How long you been on the trail?”

“Oh about an hour I guess.”

“Is that all? Are you sure?” He added.

“Well, how long have you?” I asked challengingly.

“All my life” he grinned.

Great, I thought, some kind of guru! I was not really in the mood to go deep this morning. I was much more interested in chewing on my private thoughts and worrying all the worries I’d collected over the week.

“You seem to be somewhere other than on a walk,” he added.

“Well I was just taking a walk to ease my mind. Then you showed up.” I said with just a little petulance.

“I haven’t really showed up yet.”

“Uh, what?” I blurted. Is this guy crazy? I wondered.

“You’re so much into your head that I’m not really here for you yet.”

“Explain,” I said becoming a little interested where he was coming from.

“You’re so much in your mind right now that you’re not meeting me, you’re meeting only your mind.”

“Ahh mindfulness, I know about that!”

“Then why aren’t you there?”

“I was trying to until I ran into you.”

“No you weren’t. You were busy listening to your own mind!”

“I was being with my thoughts, being mindful of them.” I said in defense.

“You believe that don’t you?”

“Yes!”

“Don’t believe everything you think. You know, mindfulness isn’t about making up what you want to be mindful to. It’s being with whatever is there. You were caught up in and believing what your mind was telling you. You know all that stuff in your head is bullshit don’t you?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The events in your life aren’t causing you pain it’s your mind chatter that is causing you to suffer. Your beliefs about the way things should be rather than being mindful of the way they are is causing you pain that you then devaluate and that takes you even further out of the moment.”

“I know this!” I interrupted angrily.

“No you don’t! Knowing is paying attention and you are not paying attention! You can’t see the world that’s in front of you because you aren’t looking at it you’re looking at what’s inside your head. You reject what is and because of this you find yourself not at peace. To be at peace you need to cooperate with how things are, then you can see how things need to be.”

“How do you know this?” I asked growing more interested.

“Simply by paying attention.”

“But what about my problems?”

“Most of your problems are but a side effect of not having a clear relationship with reality.”

“But I need to figure out how to make something happen. I need to solve these problems I’m thinking about.” I pleaded.

“You’ve allowed yourself to be conned into thinking that you have control of anything. Stop that. Don’t make things happen, let them happen, you can’t force life into submission. Give yourself permission to be where you’re at.”

“Somehow that feels right.” I said and he smiled and then vanished. I could hear the water washing over the rocks, the wind singing through the trees , the rustle of leaves, and birds calling to one another. It was so peaceful.

Peace be with you.

 

 

 

Death, Yours, Mine, Ours (excerpt from The Dragon’s Treasure Ch XIV)*

 

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“Tell me not, in mournful numbers, life

is but an empty dream! For the soul is

dead that slumbers, and things are

not what they seem. Life is real! Life is

earnest! And the grave is not its goal.

Dust thou art; to dust returnest was not

spoken of the soul.”

 

—HenryWadsworth Longfellow

 

 

THE EGO DIES, BUT THE SPIRIT LIVES ON

Doesn’t this vision of death that says when the ego dies

the spirit lives on reinforce the incorrect notion that they are

separate?

I like what James Hillman in The Force of Character49

had to say about death and aging. He suggested that when

we substitute “leaving for dying and …preparing for aging,

then what we go through in our last years is preparation for

departure.”

He didn’t like this idea because he thought that to focus

in this way was to distract a person from life. He wanted to

focus not on what is leaving this world and goes on to some

metaphysical reality, but on what is left behind—the character

images and “force of character” that is left in the lives of the

living. He sees these images as sometimes independent voices

that continue to inspire and advise. In this way, the death of the

body does not mean that the character of he who lived in that

body has ever left. He or she is still here in memories, and not

just the fond recall associated with the person who has died,

but the fact that memories that impact and interact with those

whose bodies are still functional.

 

“When we are dead, seek not our tomb in

the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.”

— Rumi’s tomb, the Tomb of Mavlanain

Konya, Turkey

 

I agree with Hillman when he implies that this idea of the

soul leaving the body (ego) behind only serves to reinforce the

concept that there is a dichotomy, a separation between body

and soul. Just because the body has left does not mean that ego

has left. I would go even further and say that the soul hasn’t

gone anywhere either in that, as essence, there is no other

place to go. This essence continues to advise those who are

still living. Every thought or image of them interacts with your

thoughts and has impact.

Though I may like the idea that the character images of

those who have died continue to interact with me, I miss the

physical character and my relationship with it. It’s hard to have

a dynamic relationship with a memory; it’s so one-sided. In this

idea, the influence of the dead may live on, but the soul and its

projected ego representative with all its flaws and brilliance has

moved on too, leaving a rather poor two-dimensional substitute.

Better than nothing, I guess, especially for a melancholy junkie

like me.

_____________________________________________

*I’ve explored death in dreams in a a number of postings over the years e.g.,

March 9, 2017

October 3, 2018

January 18, 2018

 

 

Whether from the sleeping dream or the waking dream guidance abounds if you just open to it

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Driving to a meeting feeling overwhelmed, burdened, thoughts racing, and more than a little resentful of having to meet in the first place I was beginning to spiral down emotionally. All my mind tricks to try and center myself were having limited success and then I glanced into the next lane. Passing me on the right was a white sedan with a license plate declaring, “BE STILL”.

It was as though the universe were guiding me toward a solution to my dilemma and the source of my unrest. BE STILL, quiet the mind and give power to the soul by quieting the ego-self. Allow for the divine to have influence.

It worked for a while and got me through the meeting but after leaving the little demons rushed in to fill the void, the stillness, with their own agenda– to destabilize and take over. It’s like having my own personal ISIS making camp in my head. I tried stuffing my feelings so as to get home in peace.

But there is little peace to be had in running from the demons and when I got home it didn’t take long for the agitators to stir up problems between my wife and I. Tempers flared over things inconsequential and we both simmered and sulked in different rooms.

As usual it was my wife who recognized the need to transform the stalemate and clear the air. I have learned to trust the process, though I have to admit when I’m stuck in the need to be “right” about something I can be pretty pigheaded.

At first I claimed to not know why I was being so contrary, but with a little patient prodding I shared what was going on with me and the fears I was having about a new assignment. I had been suppressing these fears for days and hiding from them because I thought they would overwhelm me. But as usual suppressing them only emboldened them and the result was the very sense of overwhelm that I was hiding from. Sharing those fears brought them out of the dark recesses of my mind and shined a light upon them. Magically, this simple act of shining a light reduced their hold on me and quieted their influence.

I know this, having experienced it time and again, suggesting its power to others, and having used it many times to dig myself out of the dark holes I’ve jumped into, but when I embrace the mind chatter, the inner voice of the ego-self, the knowing is shut down and allows the little devils to loudly invade and drown out the power of the stillness.

BE STILL. Great advice! Whether from the sleeping dream or the waking dream guidance abounds if you just open to it.

 

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know that I

Be still and know that

Be still and know

Be still and

Be still

Be*

 

*This slow rhythmic prayer has almost mystical qualities much as its magical cousin the Abrasax…

 

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The 7 deadly disaffectors or separators: That which separates us from our better selves and the Spirit within

 

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The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things– attributed to Hieronymus Bosch (1500)

 

 

This is another in a series of posts on developing a peace within in order to be a Peacemaker.

As a result of a nightmare my granddaughter and I were discussing, of all things, the so-called Seven Deadly Sins. First of all we had trouble naming them and then ran into the difficulty associated with the word, “Sin”. When you look at their definition you can see that they each have a little of each other in their character and a case can be made that there is a positive embedded within each as well.

Lust- desire, longing, gluttony

Greed- craving, longing, ambitious

Envy- resentment, lusting, longing, ambitious

Gluttony- greed, lust, longing, ambitious

Sloth-idleness, indifference

Pride-self-regard, ambitious

Wrath- anger, indignation, displeasure.

All are extremes of self-regard i.e. self-centeredness, and of the ego-self. When the focus is on the self it has less room for others, and one becomes exclusive rather than inclusive, disconnected rather than connected, and separated versus belonging.

She and I came to the conclusion that short of becoming an ascetic monk each in moderation would bring about greater spiritual, emotional, and psychological harmony than would be available if one were to allow any of them to take one over.

Each of us has an ego, that part of us that we identify as being our self, and each ego is dedicated to the emotional and psychological survival of the self. Notice that I don’t include the spiritual survival of the self for that is of the greater Self, that which includes everything and everyone and that which is not of the body, but transcends the body. To the degree that one walls themselves off from this greater Self through the ego-sustaining activities of the “seven deadly sins” is the degree to which one separates them from the greater Self.

We also decided that when we looked at these so-called “sins” in this way, when we defined them in moderation, that achieving their opposite character was much more attainable.

But then she asked what does one do when they notice that they have been taken over by any of the seven?

My answer comes from having worked for over 30+ years with children and families in a therapeutic environment as well as the work I’ve done on and for myself. To try and eradicate any so-called sin from your behavior only gives it more energy and thus more power over you. In short, abstinence and resistance doesn’t work in the long run because this only suppresses i.e. hides them and allows them to rise once again, usually at the least opportune time. Ultimately these behaviors are but symptoms of inadequately dealt with unmet needs.

Bottom line: Being negative with a symptom only adds to the negativity of the symptom.

The trick is to not try to eradicate them but to get through them. Looking for the motivation behind the “sin” will help you work with it. For example, if you’re feeling lonely and want to feel more connected you might experience anger or envy or greed or even lust when what you really want is to feel connected and cared for. This adds a more positive spin and uses the negative experience of the “sin” as an indicator for ones needs that need to be better met.

In short, sorting out the positives from the negatives is the best way of dealing with the darker aspects of our natures. Rather than fighting with the negatives, walk into them and explore. If the negative comes up a lot, look to see what from the past may have generated it and what from the present has triggered its return.

For example, certain people’s (male or female) will trigger great annoyance in me. “Annoyance” in this case becomes my indicator that a ‘complex’ associated with my mother’s hypercritical nature has been triggered and that I’m responding to the feeling of being unaccepted. This feeling of insufficiency or “less than” often triggers a version of one or more of the “sins”, usually pride or wrath. I suggest that the trigger for all of the sins is some experience of insufficiency and the need to bring balance or equilibrium to that.

Blessed are the Peacemakers: Be the change you want.

 

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From Deviantart.com

I had a very restless night recently. There was lots of conflict and judgment, demeaning putdowns and threats that had me waking up every couple of hours. Definitely my soul was not at peace this night and it continued into my next meeting of the morning.

“Blessed are the Peacemakers.” What is Peace? Is it something without conflict? Is it something outside ourselves that can be attained if certain actions are taken? Can you be an effective Peacemaker if you yourself are not at peace? Can there be any peace within you if you are without forgiveness? If you are conflicted with parts of yourself warring with each other, can you be at peace? Do you need to be at peace with all parts of yourself in order to be a Peace Maker?

These are pretty heady questions and came up during a recent men’s group discussing the Beatitudes of the Christian New Testament. I think that the consensus was that the degree to which one could be at peace with their own shadows, their own demons and struggles–the degree to which one has been able to reconcile with ones inner conflicts–is the degree to which one can be an effective Peace-maker.

To protest with a placard, stump for money and believe in the goal of Peace-making does not alone a Peace Maker make. One needs to work on their own shadow nature, their own inner animal.This is not to say that one cannot be a Peace Maker until they’ve handled all their issues, we wouldn’t have anybody working toward peace if that were true. It is just so much easier when we don’t have ourselves as an obstacle to peace i.e., when we are able to identify in ourselves that which keeps conflict stuck in the world.

One of the advantages of the dreamtime is that it will present our hidden shadows without protection, just the raw demon in all its scales and warts. Once one has committed to dealing honestly with these parts of themselves in a compassionate way it is surprising how their negative energy that worked against them can be integrated toward a greater personality less run by fear and more through true free-will.

My wife and I have worked with elementary school children in conflict resolution i.e., how to deal with bullies on the playgrounds of life but we don’t work with the children on how to deal with their inner bully. Failure, off-handed parental negatives, and mean comments on the playground all take their toll and help to create an inner bully that can wreak havoc on a child’s self-image.

We try to build up a child’s self-image but all children notice when one child is favored over another or that some children appear to be gifted with one talent or another. We want to reward the child who does well but doesn’t this also reinforce comparison i.e. “look at what you are not” or “You could be like Johnny or Sarah if you just worked hard enough”. But the child knows that’s not always true and another chink is gouged out of their esteem.

And what about the lie that all of us can be anything we want to be? What happens when we discover that we aren’t good enough or don’t have the requisite talents to be what we want to be and what about those who don’t live in the right neighborhood?

It’s inevitable that life will chip away at our esteem and help create an inner image of self that is less than our ideal or doesn’t stand up to the promise that society presents us. These failure images eventually take on a darkness that is hard to shine a light on so most of us won’t bother and relegate these shadows to the hidden reaches of our minds. But although hidden that doesn’t mean that they don’t continue to affect our lives.

Now I’m not suggesting that we open these cans of worms with young children but teaching them how to handle their own fears and anger and inner right and wrong conflicts, and personal failures and negatives might help them to be more at peace with themselves and perhaps be more peaceful adults. To have peace in the world requires that we work on ourselves that is, to work on where peace really resides.

A true Peace Maker I believe needs to work on being peaceful within themselves as well as doing what they can outside themselves to create a more peaceful world. This adds more meaning to the phrase, “Be the change you want”.