Discovering Self Through Stories

Archetypes offer unique windows to our Soul

(~ 2 minute read)DT-GameOfThrones- free reuse Flykr

Archetypal psychology carries with it an approach to life that values the development of the individual soul. There are times when it is developmentally appropriate for people to be self-centered, materialistic, independent, or a warrior. We help people best by honoring the lessons they can gain from each state. Stories and folklore assist in our developmental tasks – using archetypal characters – by helping us make meaning of our lives.

As I’ve discussed in previous articles, both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell encourage us to discover our purpose in life – or to glean meaning – through the archetypes which are revealed to us in the stories we hear; the novels we read; in our dreams; and the shows that we watch. These two great thinkers suggest that human beings are biologically hardwired to understand the symbolism and expression of character archetypes. These archetypes are consistencies observed throughout the world and all times, providing meaning to otherwise individual experience. We recognize them, and we understand them.

Our reactions to the characters in these mythical dramas offer unique windows to our soul, and a chance to work with the “Shadow” side of our psyche.

Are you willing to tune in to aspects of the self that are ready to be discovered?

I’m a big fan of Game Of Thrones, for example. I typically avoid exposure to violent content – I don’t want to ‘adapt’ or accept violence in my life. But in Game Of Thrones, there is so much more. Every major archetype is explored and exposed in this drama series. There are righteous Kings, wicked Kings, altruistic Kings, and immature Kings. There are old Wise Ones, young Wise Ones, budding Wise Ones. There are Martyrs, Lovers, Jesters, Warriors and Innocents. And many more.

One of my favorite characters is Daenerys Targaryen, the young, wise Queen of Dragons, and the woman who wants to rule the seven kingdoms.

The word ‘hero’ is derived from the Greek word hērōs, which means something along the lines of ‘warrior’ and ‘defender.’  A hero is someone who is ready to sacrifice to protect the greater good.  In fact, the Hero must sacrifice in order to transform herself and the world she is attempting to save, for “the mythological hero is the champion, not of things, but of things becoming.” (Joseph Campbell)

The female hero can fit into the traditional Hero’s Journey—we prove that Daenerys’ experiences match up quite nicely here—but the lack of ancient questing female hero myths forces us to construct our archetype more from the old idea of the great goddesses. Joseph Campbell recognized this necessity.

Daenerys Targaryen and her Heroes Journey

The Hero archetype isn’t just born. They evolve through other archetypal stages. The Hero’s journey, like all journeys, begins with Innocence. The achievement at this stage is the ability to gain others’ trust and optimism because of their endearing innocence.

The next stage is the Orphan. Daenerys has no desire to join her brother’s wish for power after her parents died. But the orphan wishes to regain safety, away from King Robert’s assassins, yet they also don’t want to be exploited. Though her path was thrust upon her, she found her protector in Khal Drogo, the leader of 40,000 Dothraki warriors, in return for the use of his warriors in invading Westeros. She also eliminated her exploiter (her brother).

But when she succumbed to her destiny, she discovered her own Warrior spirit. She discovers she is the Queen Of Dragons, and is determined to fight for her new goal – To claim her title of Ruler of the seven kingdoms.

As the Warrior discovers his/her competence and power, the Caregiver emerges, moved by compassion, generosity, and selflessness to help others. She freed slaves!

But the caregiver and rescuing others, in and of themseves, weren’t enough. Daenerys took her responsibilities to the next level, embracing the archetype of the Righteous Ruler – Not the power-hungry, self-centered and entitled type of Ruler. But one who embraces all the prior journey’s wisdom, of caring, of being willing to be a warrior for what is “right”.DT-GameOfThrones-Free reuse

As her journey continues, what other archetypes will emerge? Stay tuned!

What characters do you relate to? What do these characters reveal to you, about your place in your current journey?

Article sources: Awakening The Heroes Within;  Season 1 – Game of Thrones Wiki – Wikia

Revealing the Unconscious Through Art

Do you ever feel overwhelmed but don’t know why? Or feel “odd” but can’t make sense of it?

Try drawing… nothing in particular, just let the pencil move across the page. Then do another page. Try it using your non-dominant hand – crazy… I know.

But it works! Discover what the infamous Carl Jung did –

Ahhh! Calmed and reassured.

 

Finding the SELF through Folklore

books
“Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote the bestseller “Women Who Run With the Wolves” , a collection of folktales interpreted from a woman’s perspective, revealing the archetypal wild woman. With her easy-to-grasp writing style of a storyteller, she appeals to women who want to find more meaning in life. Her interpretations help us find such meaning by getting us in touch forgotten qualities, she says, that have been dangerously tamed by a society that preaches the virtue of being “nice.”

Dr. Estes found the wolf-woman parallel while studying wildlife biology.

“Wolves and women are relational by nature: They are inquiring, possessing great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, intensely concerned with their young, their mate and their pack.” She also writes: “Yet both have been hounded, harassed and falsely imputed to be devouring and devious, overly aggressive, of less value than those who are their detractors.” ~ A Savage Creativity

She defines the wild woman archetype not as uncontrolled behavior but as a kind of savage creativity – the instinctual ability to know what tool to use and when to use it.

“All options are available to women,” she said, and adds, “Everything from quiescence to camouflaging to pulling back the ears, baring the teeth and lunging for the throat.”

Women who have always been taught to be nice do not realize they have these options. She said, “When someone tells them to stay in their place, they sit and stay quiet. But when somebody is cornering you, then the only way out is to come out kicking.”

Yet everything about nature is essentially wild, too.

“We need to see and understand that whatever stands behind nature is what God is. Nature is the manifestation. We see things about nature that are beautiful, like the blue sky, and it fills us with almost a prayerful excitement. When I look at it, I feel still. I have seen this sky every day of my life and I am still in awed by it. That is what the wild is – this intense medicinal beauty. To look at it makes you feel whole. To hear it, if it is ocean or water running in a stream, is to feel made whole again. To see a thunderstorm or a lightning storm is to somehow be energized by it. Even tornadoes and earthquakes– to be rocked to your very foundations by the power made in all these things. This wildness is in every human being, so a man or a woman would essentially be no different from one another at the very elemental core.”

Being in touch with the wild woman archetype is also about getting in touch with one’s soul. Dr. Estes says,

“The soul – just as it is – is complete. It is never doubted, it is never lost. The ego may become injured. The spirit may also become injured, but the soul remains, always. I think the soul is incredibly ineffable and you cannot really talk about it. We make pictures and tell stories, but in reality, we are reaching into a dark bag and trying to describe it in a poetic way – because we can never describe, in common words, what it is that we feel and see.

Little Red Riding Hood by Gustave Doré

Little Red Riding Hood by Gustave Doré

Yet we must have the ability, like all poets, to move through different images as we develop an idea to express the soul. And we also could move away from and develop a new idea, the more clarity we have. Jung did it all the time. If you read Jung’s works you will see him constantly contradicting himself because he is developing as he goes along. So whatever metaphors we use, it will be very interesting to see if we still believe them, or if we have not found better ones, in 10 or 20 years.”

We describe life in metaphors. Find more meaning in your life through folklore!

Stay tuned for YOUR next episode!

Article sources: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/28/weekinreview/conversations-clarissa-pinkola-estes-message-for-all-women-run-free-wild-like.html and http://www.menweb.org/estesiv.htm

More Posts

 

 

Life’s Journey(s)

 THE HEROES WITHIN

Archetypal psychology carries with it an approach to life that values the development of the individual soul. There are times when it is developmentally appropriate for people to be self-centered, materialistic, independent, or a warrior. We help people best by honoring the lessons they can gain from each state. Stories and folklore assist in our developmental tasks – using archetypal characters – by helping us make meaning of our lives.

These stories (Joseph Campbell uses the term “Myths”) reveal for us the attributes commonly seen as the good and beautiful; or the dangerous and destructive. According to Carl Jung archetypes are deep and abiding patterns in the human psyche that remain powerful and present over time, passed down through the generations through the “collective unconscious.” (Or our DNA?)

Using Carl Jung’s terminology, the ego is that part of the psyche that experiences separation. At first the young child feels little or no separation from the environment and especially none from the mother. It is only as the individual completes the task of strong ego development that his or her boundaries can expand and make way for the self. This includes the full conscious self, the personal unconscious and access to archetypal images emerging from the collective unconscious. The result is a renewed sense of wonder and oneness with the cosmos and a reclaiming and redefinition of magical thinking.

So what does the Hero’s Journey have to do with me?

Identity

Identity

Our Soul, I believe, has lessons to learn in this life. Carol Pearson wrote several amazing books which looks at twelve archetypes. These are not the only ones, but they are recognizable to most people. By learning to recognize the qualities of these archetypes throughout our varied life’s journeys, we can see where we may be stuck, and qualities to focus on so we can continue our personal growth. She groups them into three sets of four each.

The Ego relates to the preparation for the journey and includes: Innocent, Orphan, Warrior, and Caregiver.
The Soul (the unconscious) relates to the journey itself and includes: Seeker, Lover, Destroyer, and Creator.
The Self (individuation) relates to the return from the journey and includes: Ruler, Magician, Sage and Fool.

The following describes these archetypes – their respective tasks, virtues that can be attained, and where we go next. As you read them, ask yourself where you are now? Where have you been?

Innocent

Every era has myths of a golden age or of a promised land where life has been or will be perfect. The promise of the Innocent is that life need not be hard. Within each of us, the Innocent is the spontaneous, trusting child that, while a bit dependent, has the optimism to take the journey. Their greatest strength is the trust and optimism that endears them to others and so gain help and support on their quest.
Goal Remain in safety
Fear Abandonment
Dragon/Problem Deny it or seek rescue
Response to Task Fidelity, discernment
Gift/ Virtue Optimism, trust, hope, faith, simplicity
Pitfalls Naiveté, childish dependence, denial, obliviousness
Addictive Quality Denial
Addiction Consumerism/sugar/cheerfulness
Shadow Side Evidenced in a capacity for denial so that you do not let yourself know what is really going on. You may be hurting yourself and others, but you will not acknowledge it. You may also be hurt, but you will repress that knowledge as well. Or, you believe what others say even when their perspective is directly counter to your own inner knowing.
We begin with the Innocent archetype. The world provides all that we need. Then the “fall” occurs and we are faced with a loss of innocence and the Orphan archetype comes into play.

Orphan

The Orphan understands that everyone matters, just as they are. Down-home and unpretentious, it reveals a deep structure influenced by the wounded or orphaned child that expects very little from life, but that teaches us with empathy, realism, and street smarts. To fulfill their quest they must go through the agonies of the developmental stages they have missed. Their strength is the interdependence and pragmatic realism that they had to learn by being disillusioned.

Goal Regain safety
Fear Abandonment, Exploitation
Response to the Dragon/Problem Deny its existence, wishing for rescue.
Response to Task Overcome denial or identify with being a victim
Gift/ Virtue Interdependence, realism, resilience, empathy
Pitfalls wants caretakers and authorities to fix them
Addictive Quality Cynicism
Addiction Powerlessness/worrying
Shadow Side The victim, who blames his or her incompetence, irresponsibility, or even predatory behavior, on others, and expects special treatment and exemption from life because he or she has been victimized or is fragile. When this Shadow of the positive Orphan is in control of our lives, we will attack even people who are trying to help us, harming them and ourselves simultaneously. Or, we may collapse and become dysfunctional (i.e. “You can’t expect anything from me. I’m so wounded/hurt/incompetent”)
When everything seems lost, the Warrior rides over the hill and saves the day.

Warrior

Tough and courageous, this archetype helps us set and achieve goals, overcome obstacles, and persist in difficult times, although it also tends to see others as enemies and to think in either-or terms. The Warrior is relatively simple in their thought patterns; seeking simply to win whatever confronts them, including the dragons that live inside the mind and their underlying fear of weakness.

Their challenge is to bring meaning to what they do, perhaps choosing their battles wisely, which they do using courage and the warrior’s discipline.

Goal Win
Fear Weakness
Dragon/Problem Stay/confront it
Response to Task Fight only for what really matters
Gift/ Virtue Courage, discipline, determination, skill
Pitfalls Fear of impotence leading to ruthlessness, arrogance
Addictive Quality Stoicism
Addiction Achievement/success
Shadow Side The villain, who uses Warrior skills for personal gain without thought of morality, ethics, or the good of the whole group. It is also active in our lives any time we feel compelled to compromise our principles in order to compete, win, or get our own way. (For example, the shadow Warrior is rampant in the business world today.) It is also seen in a tendency to be continually embattled, so that one perceives virtually everything that happens as a slight, a threat, or a challenge to be confronted.
As the Warrior discovers his/her competence and power, the Caregiver emerges, moved by compassion, generosity, and selflessness to help others.

Caregiver

The inner Caregiver offers aid to those in need. Caregivers first seek to help others, which they do with compassion and generosity.
Goal Help others
Fear Selfishness
Dragon/Problem Take care of it or those it harms
Response to Task Give without maiming self or others
Gift/ Virtue Compassion, generosity, nurturance, community
Pitfalls Martyrdom, enabling others, codependence, guilt-tripping
Addictive Quality Rescuing
Addiction Codependence
Shadow Side Confirms itself in all manipulative or devouring behaviors, in which the individual uses caretaking to control or smother others. It is also found in codependence, a compulsive need to take care of or rescue others.
When fulfillment is not achieved with Caretaking, our journey takes us into the unknown exploration of the Seeker.

Seeker

The Seeker leaves the known to discover and explore the unknown. This inner rugged individual braves loneliness and isolation to seek out new paths. Often oppositional, this iconoclastic archetype helps us discover our uniqueness, our perspectives, and our callings. Seekers are looking for something that will improve their life in some way, but in doing so may not realize that they have much already inside themselves. They embrace learning and are ambitious in their quest and often avoid the encumbrance of support from others. Needing to ‘do it themselves’, they keep moving until they find their goal and their true self.

Goal Search for better life
Fear Conformity
Dragon/Problem Flee from it
Response to Task Be true to deeper self
Gift/ Virtue Autonomy, ambition, identity, expanded possibilities
Pitfalls Inability to commit, chronic disappointment, alienation, and loneliness
Addictive Quality Self-centeredness
Addiction Independence/perfection
Shadow Side: The Perfectionist, always striving to measure up to an impossible goal or to find the “right” solution. We see this in people whose main life activity is self-improvement, one self-improvement course to another, yet never feeling ready to commit to accomplishing anything.
When fulfillment is not achieved through self understanding, our journey begins to look Outward, to the relationship of the Lover.

Lover

The Lover archetype governs all kinds of love—from parental love, to friendship, to spiritual love—but we know it best in romance. Although it can bring all sorts of heartache and drama, it helps us experience pleasure, achieve intimacy, make commitments, and follow our bliss. The Lover seeks the bliss of true love – of the divine couple. They often show the passion that they seek in a relationship in their energy and commitment to gaining the reciprocal love of another.

Goal Bliss
Fear Loss of love
Dragon/Problem Love it
Response to Task Follow your bliss
Gift/ Virtue Passion, commitment, enthusiasm, sensual pleasure
Pitfalls Objectifying others, romance/sex addictions, out of control sexuality
Addictive Quality Intimacy problems
Addiction Relationships/sex
Shadow Side Includes the sirens (luring others from their quests), seducers (using love for conquest), sex or relationship addicts (feeling addicted to love), and anyone who is unable to say no when passion descends, or is totally destroyed when a lover leaves.
When disillusionment is realized by the Lover, our journey takes us into the chaotic lands of the Destroyer.

Destroyer

The Destroyer embodies repressed rage about structures that no longer serve life even when these structures still are supported by society or by our conscious choices. Although this archetype can be ruthless, it weeds the garden in ways that allow for new growth. The Destroyer is a paradoxical character whose destructiveness reflects the death drive and an inner fear of annihilation. Their quest is to change, to let go of whatever force drives them and return to balance, finding the life drive that will sustain them.

Goal Metamorphosis
Fear Annihilation
Dragon/Problem Allow dragon to slay it
Response to Task Let go
Gift/ Virtue Humility, metamorphosis, revolution, capacity to let go
Pitfalls Doing harm to self/others, out of control anger, terrorist tactics
Addictive Quality Self-destructiveness
Addiction Suicide/self-destructive habits
Shadow Side Includes all self-destructive behaviors—addictions, compulsions, or activities that undermine intimacy, career success, or self-esteem—and all behaviors—such as emotional or physical abuse, murder, rape—that have destructive effects on others.
Once we have learned the lesson of letting go from the destroyer, we reach outward even more, seeking meaning through a New identity

Creator

The Creator archetype fosters all imaginative endeavors, from the highest art to the smallest innovation in lifestyle or work. Adverse to stasis, it can cause us to overload our lives with constant new projects; yet, properly channeled, it helps us express ourselves in beautiful ways. Creators, fearing that all is an illusion, seek to prove reality outside of their minds. A critical part of their quest is in finding and accepting themselves, discovering their true identity in relation to the external world.
Goal Identity
Fear Inauthenticity
Dragon/Problem Claims it as part of the self
Response to Task Self-creation, self-acceptance
Gift/ Virtue Creativity, vision, individuality, aesthetics, imagination, skill, vocation
Pitfalls Self-indulgence, poverty, creating messes, prima-donna behaviors
Addictive Quality Obsessiveness
Addiction Work/creativity
Shadow Side Shows itself to be obsessive, creating so that so many possibilities are being imagined that none can be acted upon fully. We can fill our emptiness with yet another inessential project, challenge, or new thing to do. One variety of this is workaholism, in which we can always think of just one more thing to do. Creators, fearing that all is an illusion, seek to prove reality outside of their minds. A critical part of their quest is in finding and accepting themselves, discovering their true identity in relation to the external world.
Once we have discovered our uniqueness amongst others, we are ready to face life as it is and seek to make the best of our circumstances.

Ruler

The Ruler archetype inspires us to take responsibility for our own lives, in our fields of endeavor, and in the society at large. The Ruler’s quest is to create order and structure and hence an effective society in which the subjects of the Ruler can live productive and relatively happy lives.
Goal Order
Fear Chaos
Dragon/Problem Find its constructive uses
Response to Task Take full responsibility for your life
Gift/ Virtue Responsibility, control, sovereignty, system savvy
Pitfalls Rigidity, controlling behaviors, attitude of entitlement, elitism
Addictive Quality High control needs
Addiction Control/codependence
Shadow Side The ogre tyrant, insisting on his or her own way and banishing creative elements of the kingdom (or the psyche) to gain control at any price. This is the King or Queen who indulges in self-righteous rages and yells, “Off with his head.” Often people act this way when they are in positions of authority (like parenting) but do not yet know how to handle the attendant responsibility. This also includes people who are motivated by a strong sense to control.
When we learn that Ruling does not bring fulfillment, we are ready to enter the wonders of the Magician.

Magician

The Magician archetype searches out the fundamental laws of science and/or metaphysics to understand how to transform situations, influence people, and make visions into realities. Perhaps their ultimate goal is to transform themselves, achieving a higher plane of existence.
Goal Transformation
Fear Evil sorcery
Dragon/Problem Transform it
Response to Task Align self with cosmos
Gift/ Virtue Personal power, transformative, catalytic, healing power
Pitfalls Manipulation of others, disconnection with reality, cultist guru-like
Addictive Quality Dishonesty (image/illusion)
Addiction Power/hallucinogenic drugs, marijuana
Shadow Side The evil sorcerer, transforming better into lesser options. We engage in such evil sorcery anytime we belittle another, or ourselves or lessen options and possibilities, resulting in diminished self-esteem. The shadow Magician is also the part of us capable of making others and ourselves ill through negative thoughts and actions.
Satiated by our experience of power, we seek to combine our life’s experiences into an understandable state of wisdom.

Sage

The Sage archetype seeks the truths that will set us free by helping us become wise, to see the world and ourselves objectively, and to course-correct based on objective analyses of the results of our actions and choices. The Sage is a seeker after truth and enlightenment

Goal Truth
Fear Deception
Dragon/Problem Transcend it
Response to Task Attain enlightenment
Gift/ Virtue Wisdom, nonattachment, knowledge, skepticism
Pitfalls Being overly critical, pomposity, impracticality, lacking of feeling/empathy
Addictive Quality Judgmentalism
Addiction Being right/tranquilizers
Shadow Side The unfeeling judge—cold, rational, heartless, dogmatic, often pompous—evaluating us or others and saying we (or they) are not good enough or are not doing it right.

Fool/Jester

The goal of the Fool/Jester is perhaps the wisest goal of all, which is just to enjoy life as it is, with all its paradoxes and dilemmas. What causes most dread in the Fool/Jester is a lack of stimulation and being ‘not alive’. They must seek to ‘be’, perhaps as the Sage, but may not understand this.

Goal Enjoyment
Fear Non-aliveness
Dragon/Problem Play tricks on it
Response to Task Trust in the process
Gift/ Virtue Freedom, humor, life lived in the moment, exuberant joy
Pitfalls Debauchery, irresponsibility, sloth, cruel jokes, con, artistry.
Addictive Quality Inebriation
Addiction Excitement/cocaine/alcohol
Shadow Side A glutton, sloth, or lecher wholly defined by the lusts and urges of the body without any sense of dignity or self-control.

Article sources:  awakening-the-hero-within-hero-archetype-test; Awakening The Heroes Within Book;

LIFE is Described in Metaphors –

books
“Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them.”    ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote the bestseller Women Who Run With the Wolves” , where she interprets old folktales to reveal the archetypal wild woman. These qualities, she says, have today been dangerously tamed by a society that preaches the virtue of being “nice.” The book appeals to women who want to find more meaning in life.

Dr. Estes found the wolf-woman parallel while studying wildlife biology.

“Wolves and women are relational by nature: They are inquiring, possessing great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, intensely concerned with their young, their mate and their pack.” She also writes: “Yet both have been hounded, harassed and falsely imputed to be devouring and devious, overly aggressive, of less value than those who are their detractors.” ~ A Savage Creativity

She defines the wild woman archetype not as uncontrolled behavior but as a kind of savage creativity – the instinctual ability to know what tool to use and when to use it. “All options are available to women,” she said, and adds, “Everything from quiescence to camouflaging to pulling back the ears, baring the teeth and lunging for the throat.

Women who have always been taught to be nice do not realize they have these options. She said, “When someone tells them to stay in their place, they sit and stay quiet. But when somebody is cornering you, then the only way out is to come out kicking.”

Yet everything about nature is essentially wild, too.

“We need to see and understand that whatever stands behind nature is what God is. Nature is the manifestation. We see things about nature that are beautiful, like the blue sky, and it fills us with almost a prayerful excitement. When I look at it, I feel still. I have seen this sky every day of my life and I am still in awed by it. That is what the wild is – this intense medicinal beauty. To look at it makes you feel whole. To hear it, if it is ocean or water running in a stream, is to feel made whole again. To see a thunderstorm or a lightning storm is to somehow be energized by it. Even tornadoes and earthquakes– to be rocked to your very foundations by the power made in all these things. This wildness is in every human being, so a man or a woman would essentially be no different from one another at the very elemental core.”

Being in touch with the wild woman archetype is also about getting in touch with one’s soul. Dr. Estes says,

“The soul – just as it is – is complete. It is never doubted, it is never lost. The ego may become injured. The spirit may also become injured, but the soul remains, always. I think the soul is incredibly ineffable and you cannot really talk about it. We make pictures and tell stories, but in reality, we are reaching into a dark bag and trying to describe it in a poetic way – because we can never describe, in common words, what it is that we feel and see.

Yet we must have the ability, like all poets, to move through different images as we develop an idea to express the soul. And we also could move away from and develop a new idea, the more clarity we have. Jung did it all the time. If you read Jung’s works you will see him constantly contradicting himself because he is developing as he goes along. So whatever metaphors we use, it will be very interesting to see if we still believe them, or if we have not found better ones, in 10 or 20 years.”

We describe life in metaphors.

Stay tuned for YOUR next episode!

Article sources: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/28/weekinreview/conversations-clarissa-pinkola-estes-message-for-all-women-run-free-wild-like.html and http://www.menweb.org/estesiv.htm

 

More Posts

Snuggling With the Demons

(It’s good to re-cycle! …Even old articles :)

demonsnuggles

In order to truly reach our potential as unique human beings, we must face our Demons – those parts of Self that don’t feel very respectable; the parts you’d like to disown; those aspects you do not want to accept about yourself.

Carl Jung coined the term “The shadow” to describe our demons. It’s the unconscious composite of self that has been repressed, suppressed or disowned. Our shadow often has both positive and negative aspects. For instance, the shadow of someone who identifies with self as being kind may not be able to see when he or she is being harsh or unpleasant. And a person’s shadow can have hidden positive qualities that have been repressed. The shadow of a person who perceives himself to be unfeeling may not see that he or she can also be tender. Jung described the unconscious is an active part of the normal human psyche, and that “neurosis results from a disharmony between the individual’s unconsciousness and the higher Self”.

The first task on the path to your potential happens when you become aware of your inner states of being – your motives, emotional reactions, and patterns of thought – as you experience the world around you. If you look into your own life, you will notice that your beliefs and expectations, many of them formed in early childhood, skew your experience of reality. And the effects of cultural, historical, and environmental influences may be beyond our individual ability to control. But many of those influences can be challenged. It begins with awareness.

Becoming aware is enormously important in freeing you from these patterns, but awareness will not, by itself, remove them altogether. At the level of daily living, these insights do not “fix” the old patterned emotional tendencies. You still have the same difficulties in your relationships, the same tendency to confirm what you think you already know, and drudge on, wishing it would all change.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

~Albert Einstein

Only by learning to investigate and integrate our unconscious patterns of thinking and feeling can we become whole and end our imprisoned patterns that cause most of our suffering. We must stop pushing away moments of discomfort, but instead welcome them as opportunities to see into and eventually through the unexamined aspects of self that have been driving us.

Making the unconscious conscious is a radical kind of responsibility for the self, and the only true path to freedom and authenticity.

“Each time we bring the light of awareness into the corners of our psyche, it is like turning on the light in a dark room. As we get accustomed to the feelings, we find we can leave the light on. The monsters and dragons reveal themselves to be shadows. Then we don’t have to do anything to get rid of them. It’s as if they were never even there.” ~ Sally Kempton

Our supposed demons have their own gifts and challenges. But the perfect way to tame each of them is by learning to understand them, appreciate their message, and give them the simple things they need. As soon as these parts of self feel understood,  they tend to no longer threaten us. They become assets instead of liabilities.

Psychotherapy can help you learn to transform these unconscious energies into snuggly beasts. I haven’t met a client who didn’t love themselves more after meeting their demons with understanding. Maybe a therapist can help you, too.

Life is About Recycling!

10390531_765536196873454_4917734094655520840_n

The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart.

To the degree that you didn’t understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you’re given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further.”
~ Pema Chödrön ~

… The lessons will keep coming until you get the message.

 

“…There is so much beauty in the world.

Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my life…” (from the film American Beauty)

… Ahhh! The message! :D