My shadow

In good times and bad you are always there. You’re not a fair-weather friend like Mr. Good Guy Feeling Good About Himself because when I start to feel like I’m him you’re always there to remind me of why I shouldn’t but when the going gets rough Mr. Good Guy will often throw me under the bus and run and hide.

When I start to think that I may actually have a talent you’re always there to tell me that I don’t really at least not any more than most others.

I used to think that you were not very helpful that I’d just as soon you were gone, dead, and buried but you never take a hint because you’re always in the shadows and waiting to pounce.

I’ve read once that you are a part of me and that I cannot ever get rid of you or even train you to behave yourself and that in order to lessen your power over me I need to bring you out into the light because as everyone knows shadows can’t exist in the light. But you and I know that’s not true because just as light needs the darkness the darkness needs the light. To have one is to have both.

So, because you’re always going to be there, how do I accept you in all your warty glory?

How if I cannot get rid of you do I learn to hold you as a friend because I’d much rather have an agreeable relationship than one that is not.

I suppose that if it were not for you I would not know where it is that I would need to grow to be a better person, like where I need to be less arrogant, more accepting of differing points of view, less reactionary to fear and hurt, more giving, more understanding, more open, more loving, and less judgmental.

I also need you to point out that I am no different to those people I hate and judge to be less than and that my attitude about THEM also contributes to what is not working in the world.

You can also help me get my needs met by pointing out what they are through their absence like belonging, being accepted as I am, being useful to others, and being acknowledged. It’s as though I’m always trying to BE that is, to exist and to have me be acknowledged for that. Somehow acknowledgement makes me feel real and you in all your incessant critique makes me at least feel real. You are always there to tell me that I leave a lot to be desired but that I am at least here making that negative difference. 

I really do need you because you seem to care that I am here and care what it is that I do and don’t do while I am here. How can you not love something that cares that much about you and something that is constantly kicking you in the pants to be better and more than you are being?

Okay, I guess you can stay because I think that after all this time I don’t really know what I would do without you because you really are an important part of me, the part of me that makes me strive to learn, to accept, to act outside of my safety zone, to challenge my inherent laziness, to identify and strengthen my weaknesses and to care for others. You do all that by never letting me rest on my laurels or by never really letting me have any to rest on. So, the Good Me reluctantly accepts your friendship but don’t get all mushy about it.

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*For more on the shadow self type in the word shadow in the search box near the bottom of this page.

“well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand departed friends.”

By– Gray winter day liga klavina

There’s a line from an old set of books owned by my father and his father before him that goes like this, “And then did we, the seven, start from our seats in horror, and stand trembling, and shuddering, and aghast, for the tones in the voice of the shadow were not the tones of any one being, but of a multitude of beings, and, varying in their cadences from syllable to syllable fell duskly upon our ears in the well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand departed friends.” It is from Shadow.– A Parable by Edgar Allen Poe.

I was struck by the image of the shadows of many “departed friends”.  As I say goodbye to some contemporary friends I’m also reminded of the many who have passed before, family and comrades– people who contributed to and enriched my life in many significant ways. There’s hardly a day that goes by without a recollection of at least one of them being pulled from the Library of Memories. 

This could also be read as a memorial for the over 316, 000 who have died from the Covid 19 virus pandemic in the United States and the over 1.7 million who have died worldwide and the shadows that each cast upon those who are still living.

What makes them shadows for me is that even though I’m grateful for the remembrances of those I’ve loved and of those who I do not know I don’t want to look too closely at the feelings of loss, best to give a rueful smile at their thought and return the book to its place than to turn the pages toward the grief that still lurks deep within. Best not to look at death too closely because in its blackness I can see myself reflected.

But as with all dark shadows they do not rest peacefully and conspire to darken my present, our present that robs us of hope for the future. The prospect of Death seems to steal one’s energy like one of the ‘Dementors” in the Harry Potter series. But it also, or at least it used to, give at least me impetus to live life as fully as possible while I could. That seemed much easier when I was young and the future seemed infinitely far away. But as close friends begin to leave and the daily climb of statistical graphs make so painfully obvious what was kept at a cosmic arms length is now lurking beyond the next corner.

This feeling is not new to me for I felt it before every morning as I shuffled through the dark to pick up my weapon and a few ammo boxes and climbed aboard the helicopter I was assigned to for that day. There was a heavy air of resignation that weighed on me then that I find returning to me now. But then the point for my life had narrowed to surviving the day so that I could reclaim a future. I was younger then, 22, with a prospect for an infinite future if I could survive the present but now with a very much more restricted future I find that I’m having trouble with all those pesky hidden shadows and that any point to it all is beginning to fade.

Clearly these shadows need to be invited to the party and a new dialog needs to happen. Today I begin to dust off the old tomes stuffed into the lower shelves of the library.

With a slight shift and the world seems right again

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”

–William Butler Yeats

“On my meditation walks I am often moved by the life going on about me– boys with hockey sticks battling in the streets at dusk, flocks of screeching Crows nesting in trees, the smile of the crescent moon with the brightly seductive Venus off her bow. And on a warm night there’s crickets and barking dogs, but on a cold and crisp one there’s nothing but silence and the sound of my own footsteps. Sometimes a breeze whips through the branches and rustles the leaves and I hear the raucous laughter of a dinner party just seen through the picture window of the house across the street.

And the world seems right.

But on other nights my mind is disturbed with its thoughts that whirl like a demented vortex and I hear nothing but my own voice. It’s a boring voice droning on and on about inane this’s and that’s and burying the peace of the night in rubble.

And nothing in the world seems right.

I long for the magic I’ve so often felt on so many earlier sojourns through the dark, but on this night it’s not to be. This is when I cry out to the dark denizens of the otherworld, “Come oh magic creatures of the imaginal and entertain me. Bring to me your mystery, your awe, your wonder, and your hidden treasure– make it better than it is.”

That night’s dreams brought me headstones and skulls, darkness and gray empty fields– a reflection of the mood carried back from the earlier journey. And then I ran across the poem by Yeats and I thought, ‘It’s not the fairies of the land he is calling to, but those of the inner soul who are entreated to crawl out from the rubbish and dance with me once again’. And I remember yet again that it is I, it is I who can summon the magic from within.

And the world seems right again.”

Standing at the edge of the Abyss

“There I stood at the edge of a cliff high above a dark and forbidding abyss. The earth beneath my feet began to shake and as I peered over the edge I could just make out something huge crawling out of the blackness. In terror I tried to step back fearing that I would lose my footing and fall into the blackness and the cavernous maw of the creature below. And then I awoke.”

Yep, a good old-fashioned nightmare had gripped me and shook me to the bone, rattling my soul until I awoke to save myself. 

Sound familiar?

Apparently a lot of us have these dreamtime ‘cliff hangers’ that grab our attention from time to time, but what’s the message?

Lets look at the images for some clues. The cliff could be about being on the edge of an understanding, a solution, or an “ah ha” awareness. Perhaps it’s a critical point in life where you can’t afford to make any errors i.e. lose your footing. Falling itself in this case could be about failure or at least the fear of it. 

We have expectations for ourselves and others have expectations for us as well. This can put the pressure on us to succeed or at least not to fail. There’s also the fear of not being who you are by trying to measure up to some standard /goal that’s not your own. This is the stuff neuroses are made of. Stuffing these fears as a way of dealing with the pressures can eventually create the kind of nightmare I shared above.

How you got to the top of the cliff could speak to your ambitions and drive the risks you took or are taking. At the edge in this case might indicate that you are at your limit. If you were to stand tall against the fears it might suggest that you need to stand up to your fears.

Looking down into any abyss can be like staring into the unknown. This in itself can create great anxiety and the dream reflects that. This dream may also reflect an obstacle to your ambitions but can also suggest that you may be afraid of “taking the plunge or the leap of faith” into the unknown that often needs to happen in order to succeed at something.

But the abyss or void can also represent the depths of your unconscious mind and your uncertainty of what lies below. This unknown can also represent change, or the need for change stalking you. Clearly something is stalking this dreamer and it may very well be a shadow creature, a part of their rejected self that they have pushed down into their subconscious, but that is crawling menacingly out of its hiding place and forcing the dreamer to confront and deal with it directly. These shadows can also represent one raw ambition that needs to be confronted and tamed.

There is of course danger afoot, perhaps decisions are to be made, risks to be taken, barriers to be overcome, but in confronting these perhaps there is wisdom down there as well.

In short, even the scariest dreams come to us with our health and well being in mind and shouldn’t be rejected out of hand. 

Shadow work: Taking responsibility for the Waking Dream

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I’ve been rereading Diane Kennedy Pike’s book “Life as a waking dream” (Riverhead Books, 1997) and thought I’d tackle the concept in a little different way. I decided to look at critical events in my life lately and treat them as dream material and using the dream interpreting book “Morpheus Speaks” (iUniverse, 2019) as a guide to their possible meanings.

Incompetence: I tend to become really upset with what I perceive to be incompetence in anything such as with a person or government or the law, teaching or in the building of something, etc. This probably reflects some of my own worries about my own competence and lack of forgiveness toward myself whenever I deem I’ve been less than competent in some action. Why? Because I hate to be wrong! I mean, being wrong is wrong! I see it as a failing, a less than ideal quality and something broken and God forbid, unfixable. So, I deny the experience, demean it, reject it, and put it down (for purposes of word economics use this last sentence in all the rest of my symbolic meanings).

Injustice: This is another upsetting experience within my everyday waking dream symbols. It is probably connected to incompetence because at one level to be incompetent is unjust or just wrong (are we seeing a theme yet?).

Accused, attacked (especially wrongly): When I or someone I identify with is being wrongfully accused I get upset. Sometimes this may be reflecting my own guilt about something or my doubts about myself. To cover up a wrongdoing e.g., such as a doubt about what you are doing and acting as though you know what you are doing is wrong. Recently I’ve had some doubts about my competence in some action and some project that I’ve taken on and acted as though I knew what I was doing when I wasn’t sure that I did and then the waking world presented me with an unrelated and false accusation that I had to deal with. It was only when I didn’t make it personal such as taking it as a personal wrongdoing that I was able to overcome and solve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction.

Fakery: Pretending to be something you’re not. I do this sometimes to make myself seem better than I am. Of course, I only do this when I feel as though I am not very good. I see this a lot in politics and politicians these days.

Lying: I lie to hide my actions and I do this to not look bad or to look good or to look better than I am. I don’t like the fact that I on occasion do this and find that I rail at those who do it publicly and rail in proportion to my rejection of my own lies.

Well, that’s enough for now. The theme seems pretty obvious to me right now in that all of these fall within my biggest bogeyman that of being “WRONG” or “Less than” which shows up as incompetence, injustice, fakery, or lying. Needless to say, that these days I’m spending a lot of time railing at virtually everything that I see on TV or read in the newspaper or the newsfeeds I get on-line.

Ultimately what I’m seeing and railing against are my own shadows i.e., what I deem the darker parts of myself. 

The outside world is but a mirror to my own inner self. Calling these reflections out for what they are and who is responsible for them and for who needs to deal with them is probably the next step in this process of working with the waking dream. I cannot change the outside world but when I take responsibility for the inside world change can happen.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”.

–C.G. Jung

The shadows that bring light

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Below is an excerpt from a story about a young man whose life was opened up to him in a very mysterious way. This part of the story speaks of an aspect of all of us that seems very dark but can have the most enlightening affect if one knows how to work with it.

 

“There is an ancient invocation that goes ‘As it is above, so it is below, as within, so without’” he said as he once again patted the green book next to him. “This is more a reminder than an invocation really because it tells us that we can find out what is inside by looking closely at the outside. This is because we are always projecting ourselves onto the outside world. For example, if we want to see our shadow, look to see what or whom disturbs us, or what we reject. This is easier to do if you can place yourself somewhere between the two worlds of the conscious and unconscious that are both reflections of the one world.

 It is like a tree that has its roots in the underworld and its branches in the heavens. To do this you must accept that you do not know what you do not know. You do this by not letting what you think you know get in the way of what there is to know. This will place you between the known and unknown, the conscious and unconscious and allow you to be open to discovery.

 Shadows can be your fears, disgust, rejections, feelings of abandonment, prejudices, judgments, repressions of memories, biases, negative thoughts and all your personal madness that can then be projected onto others that you meet or onto objects and events. You can see yourself, see your shadows, madness, and level of enlightenment through what you see in others. Even the goodness in others can point to that unconscious aspect in yourself. What is inside is inextricably connected to what is outside in a very profound way. When not separated from the rest of reality you become all of it, what is labeled good and what is labeled bad. The turbulent winds out there in the world that buffet you are the winds generated from within you.”

Every person and every event in the world speaks to us if we have the ears to listen. Everything is a guide into our deeper and most essential self if we are willing to take the journey.

 

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A broken hallelujah

This poem came to me out of a nightmare that I had a couple of nights ago.

 

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No one behind the mask

Open him up and there’s no one there.

No one to love

No one to care.

 

Something is missing

No one to come home to when alone

Where did he go?

When did he leave?

 

Born a hallelujah

But the mask lost him early on

Early on, early on the mask he did don

And he disappeared.

 

He cannot help you

Because he can’t even help himself

Do not go looking for he isn’t there

He isn’t there, he just isn’t there.

 

No one to laugh, no one to cry

But with every word you can hear him scream

Hear his pain

Hear him lie about what he could have been.

 

But he is asleep to this world

And asleep to himself.

He doesn’t even see us, you and I

For the eyes of his mask are empty.

 

Empty because there’s no one behind

No one behind

Behind the mask he wears

But just another broken hallelujah.

 

Lost at sea

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A sad and very dark dream filled my sleeping space not too many nights ago. When I awoke I jotted down the essence of its feeling, the images having become but wisps in the light of day.

Water, symbolic of my emotional state. When I just stuff my unhappiness under the rug or down deep into my hidden psyche because I feel helpless to it the unconscious will only let me get away with it for just so long then it bursts forth in an unsettling dream, demanding to be heard.

 

The dream (often my dreams read like a poem):

 

There’s a Sadness like dead matter floating down through the water deep

I’m enveloped by panic and struggling to regain the surface

Thrashing about but only treading

Until the weight of it all drags me under

 

 I can only distract for acceptance is not yet here

When will I know? Will happiness ever return or

Is all I’m doing is just giving in? Trying to let go brings depression

Is letting go just giving up?

 

 I wonder if there’s a bottom?

Maybe it’s like a black hole, never ending

Until you’re crushed beyond recognition.

Or will I just sit at the bottom and be eaten up by the darkness?

 

 How did I fall off the boat?

Was I pushed, did I jump?

Was I careless or too awkward?

When did I realize that I was never going to get home?

 

Home, I don’t know what it looks like anymore.

It’s been so long I don’t really remember it.

Was it peaceful? Was it happy?

Did I love? Was I loved? Did it matter?

 

I really want to go home!

Maybe if I just stopped struggling

and let it

sink…

 

 

 

 

We are each other. What does that really mean?

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One of my dreams of this new year ended with these words, “We are each other”. This seemed profound of course, but then I have a tendency to make everything significant.

Okay, it’s a nice sentiment but physical and observational evidence suggests that I’m me and you’re you, I’m over here and you’re over there. We have individual bodies and personalities and I identify with mine and you identify with yours. When I refer to “me”, “mine” and “Bob” I’m pretty sure whom I’m referencing this body as I’m sure you are with regard to your self. Each of us holds the self as separate from other selves i.e. our reference point is located within ourselves.

And I will defend that reference point, its ideas, beliefs, points-of-view and the body that contains it all from anything and everything that is another reference point. In short, I will do whatever is needed to maintain the integrity of the separation between us.

This defense, both conscious and unconscious, uses up a lot of psychic and even physical energy. I spend a lot of time and energy trying to control the image that I have of myself and my world. There’s also the need for approval and maintaining a sense of importance. Most of the time I’m using up so much of what I call my ‘attentional energy’ on my own illusory grandeur that I have little awareness of the grandeur that resides in others or the rest of the universe that’s ‘not Bob”.

What keeps this in place are my judgments i.e. I either look at people in terms of how they are better or how they are worse than me. I also judge all events, situations and circumstances as either being “good” or “bad”. Instead of just accepting people and circumstances for what they are, for what they are being, I judge them and thus maintain the separation between us or I miss the value of the diversity by projecting my beliefs upon them.

Most of the time I do not see that people and moments are exactly as they should be and then I fret and worry and try to change them into my own vision. In short, I am always struggling against the moment. Actually I’m struggling against all existence i.e. the whole universe.

When I react to my feelings about who you are, I separate myself from you. In order to reconnect I need to take responsibility for the feelings that I project upon you.

When I let go of the projection as though it were reality and just let you be I get a glimpse of who you really are. When I also do that with myself, I get a glimpse of who I am as well and at that moment I get to see that at the level beyond our egos and beyond our bodies, we are each other.

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?