Confronting the Shadow Self: My response to recent events

Though I never claimed to be a patriot, especially in its current disgusting and violent iteration, I have always respected the individuals who did join the military* and wanted to aid in the protection of the people and way of life of this country.

I find it intolerable how many of the very same people in the military are protecting hold so little regard for that service, especially for those who are black or brown. I am white, so I cannot even imagine what the nonwhite experience is like, but I find myself moved to anger at those who, without thinking, will denigrate a nonwhite at the drop of a hat and justify it with ignorant and irrational excuses biblical quotes out of context and some twisted understanding of individual constitutional rights. Over time my anger at my white male brethren has made me cautious and suspicious of people in general, mainly white people. I find that I have slowly become demeaning of my whiteness as though I belong to a sick group of humans that seem incapable of redeeming themselves, though, at a deeper level, I know this not to be true.

Over the years, I have personally known maybe a handful of black people, men, and women all of whom exhibited a remarkable commitment to their lives and the lives of others. One, a close friend when I was in the Marines, was killed when we were in Vietnam. Others whom I worked closely with in various capacities also gave of themselves in very profound ways. I hate that their contributions were denigrated every time the whites decide that they are better than the black population in general. I’m embarrassed by general white behavior and constantly wonder what can be done to turn around this negative ground between white people and black people. 

I know the only one who I can change is myself. To that end, I have looked at my prejudices, i.e., prejudgments toward black people specifically and all people in general, and worked on changing my internal narrative. It’s a slow process because most of these prejudices are unconscious and only float to consciousness on a piecemeal basis. Not all lend themselves to a quick resolution because of long-held conditioning, but I’m dedicated to doing what I can in the name of becoming more whole and more supportive to myself and others. This doesn’t make me better than others; goodness knows I am as flawed as anybody, but I also know that these flaws will be dealt with within the open light of day instead of keeping them hidden in the caves of my unconscious. It’s an ongoing process that I’m pretty sure will not become anywhere near complete during my lifetime.

This process of becoming conscious of my unconscious motivators and shadow aspects is a prolonged process fraught with pitfalls and social-emotional landmines. It can often undermine my sense of self-esteem. I’m a trained psychologist who prides himself in his willingness to become vulnerable as a way of opening to reality and ferreting out where I need to change. I am also quite clear that this is not for everyone, especially those who have sought out like minds to justify their points of view and feel like they belong and are accepted by their peers. How do I know this? Because I do it too. Belonging and acceptance and the love of those around us are potent motivators in forming our beliefs and behaviors that are empowering and those that denigrate. 

Carrot and stick diplomacy meted out fairly and consistently seems to me to be the best way of beginning the process of collective attitude change, i.e., rewarding the desired behavior while punishing the undesired. The Chauvin case is an example of a fairly applied “stick” consequence to someone who didn’t seem to believe in the sanctity of all life, and if this were consistently used across the board might help to shift the collective point of view but will only do so if there is an equal shift in how we reward the desired behavior of treating all people as equal under the law that I believe is the real meaning behind the phrase and declaration that all men are created equal.

Of course, no effort, no matter how well-intentioned, will ever be embraced by everyone, but those who just can’t see their way to treating others with respect need to be treated consistently and held accountable for their actions regarding their treatment of others. 

Hate and mistreatment should not be a matter of opinion or a sanctioned right by any ruling, legislative, or law supporting body. Hate and mistreatment are wrong and should never be tolerated or endorsed in any form, nor should philosophies or points of view support hate, mistreatment, disenfranchisement, the demeaning of others, and sanctioned division and polarization. That’s how humankind throughout history has dealt with those who were different. But that is caveman mentality, and I would hope that along with our technology and political systems, we would have matured beyond the neanderthal mentality of domination, disenfranchisement, banishment, humiliation, and death as a means of controlling a point of view. I think we have. There’s so much of the opposite being played out across the world so that the positive changes get lost in all the sound and fury of the fearful minds that want to close off the march toward equality and justice for all because it threatens its sense of dominance and power which they have for generations construed wrongly as leading to safety and security. It doesn’t and never has over the long run.

Free speech, independence, and so-called “state’s rights” that lead to the disenfranchisement of people should never be accepted at any level. We will never become the country of our Declaration of Independence if we accept hate and disenfranchisement of any of its people.

We ultimately must learn how to confront our shadow side and deal with it honestly and openly.

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*In the interest of full disclosure I was a Marine and served 13 months in Vietnam between Nov 1967 and Dec 1968.

Dreams and hypnosis

Not too long ago someone asked about the relationship between dreams and hypnosis.

Did you know that dreaming and hypnosis have a lot in common? Both tap into what the subconscious is observing and has stored. Both place the conscious mind in a state that allows for access to the unconscious. Neurologically these frequency wave states are called alpha and theta (8-13 Hz and 4-7 Hz respectively. A Hz being a “Hertz,” which is the name for a cycle per second).

Sometimes hypnosis can help you to recall a forgotten dream, or it can be used to go back into a favorite dream so that you can finish it up (don’t you hate it when you’re in a great dream and you wake up in the middle of it?).

Hypnosis can also be used to generate dreams (dream incubation) or be used in the technique called “Active Imagining” when you take a dream theme and imagine it evolving beyond the reality of the actual dream. For example, one can take an image or a person from the dream and imagine it into the room during a meditation and then interact with it by asking questions of it to get greater insight as to its meaning. This is sort of like Gestalt therapy when the client imagines a theme or an outcome or places themselves in another’s shoes by acting it out.

There are several states of consciousness with the mind crossing in an out of all three–Beta, Alpha, Theta and even a fourth, Delta, though this last one would be very momentary for this is the state of deep sleep. Each state has its own breadth and depth of consciousness and unconsciousness. Thoughts (what we laughingly call consciousness) is quite broad, but has very little depth, whereas the dream state isn’t very broad in that it is more focused but is very deep and then there’s hypnosis which has a lot of focused consciousness and a much larger depth of unconsciousness.

To incubate a dream, or to set the stage for what is known as a “Lucid Dream” (one where you are aware that you are dreaming when in the dream, which allows you to orchestrate it), suggestions are placed during a hypnosis session. These sessions can use cultural ideas, values, or behavior patterns (called memes) in the form of suggestions that are “planted” into the unconscious and which can be brought to consciousness by attaching a cue to them in the form of a word, phrase, sound, or visual stimulus that when expressed will activate the meme. For example, “When you see your hand in the dream you will become lucid.” These are good for the short term, so are effective in dream incubation and recall. 

The mind is a fascinating and often mysterious thing!

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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The Chaos Dark: A Waking Dream alchemy of the deeper psyche

 

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The gate with many locks

On my walk I met an old man sitting cross-legged in his stall and stirring some concoction in an iron pot.

“What ho?” I inquired but he did not answer and continued to stir.

“Can I see what is in your pot?” I asked as he continued to stir.

Not waiting for an answer I leaned forward to gain a glimpse of what was stirring and all went black. Indiscriminate images whirled and whorled about taking and losing form as I tried to focus upon them. All moved like thickened liquid and climbed the sides of the pot only to be pulled back into its muck.

“What is this place so dark and of undefined form?” I moaned as I was being drawn into its depths.

It was then that the old man spoke. “It is of thee, the hidden thee, the thee of many generations and many worlds.”

“Why do you speak in riddles old man?” I gasped.

“Because your kind cannot understand when confronted directly with the truth.” He said bluntly. “You seek an answer to a question you have not fully understood. Because of this its answer will sit in secret at your core until you are ready to open the gate with its many locks. Meanwhile the secret lies within the chaos dark. Understand your question and the key that will open all the locks will reveal itself to you and of the chaos you will know and the darkness will be no more.”

“Tell me Alchemist about this key of which you speak.” I demanded gently.

“Learn the true secret of the three that are one and dispel the myth of the priests who know not any secrets and the key will be revealed.” Intoned the old man as he very deliberately kept stirring the pot.

“But once I have it how will I know which lock it fits for it cannot fit all of them can it?”

“There is but one lock for all. It is for you to look truly and it will reveal. You cannot distill what is needed while you live in the above ground. You must enter the chaos of the darkness to do that. The answer is not to be found in the nonsense of your wakened state for it only comes in the dark to be then congealed and carried into the light. You must dissolve the hardness of the waking mind through the softness of the darkness only then will the question become clear enough for you to see the key and the lock it opens. Only then can you pass through the gate and find the stone of eternity promised by the divine philosophers.”

My mind began to swim like the stirring liquid of his pot and I swam desperately for its surface. Breaking free of his spell I stood wetted and dripping there before him and his pot but before I could yet speak he smiled and dissolved before me and I awoke. Had I been sleeping? I had not been in my bed for I was sure that I had been walking and yet my eyes seemed opened to something new and I could see then that I needed to find and enter this chaos dark with the question, “What is in there that is for me to find?”

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The phrase”Chaos Dark” comes from the 1652 book by Elias Ashmole, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. My copy is in the original Middle English and was published by Ouroboros Press in 2011. It’s definition of the phrase was found between pages 318 and 341 and was an apt description for the Unconscious Mind and generated this waking dream.