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.

 

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.

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*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

 

 

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.