My last post was about how resisting growth and change perpetuates disorder and chaos. The result is entropy, the inevitable decline of life and civilization. Here I’d like to explore how conscious individuals can reverse this trend and support forward movement. It can happen if we understand The Law of Change.
5. The Law of Change: Energies in both universes (inner and outer) are constantly circulating. Change toward stasis and polarization increases disorder and chaos. Change toward communication and integration increases movement toward perfection and completion.
Your psyche is a universe of unimaginable potential. Like the outer universe in which moons circle planets, planets circle stars, and stars circulate around each other in galaxies, so the energies of your inner universe interact constantly. Nothing remains fixed. The ongoing cooperation between all Mother Nature’s elements creates changes in your psyche and the world.
You see it in your outer life every day. Neighborhoods decay, houses are torn down. Condominiums, parking lots, and strip malls fill the empty spaces. Nations and governments rise and fall. Toxic leaders are voted out and new ones replace them. All life is in constant flux. It’s a basic law of nature.
You can observe this flow in yourself. Your emotions and moods constantly change. One moment you’re exuding hope and energy, the next you’re sinking under the shame of something somebody said, a painful memory, or bad news. Your opinions and values change depending on your education, health, relationships, and current events. Your family system changes: children are born and grow up, adults fall ill and die, couples marry, new babies are born.
Overall, your ego is aware of only a very small portion of your psyche. Most of your potential sleeps in the darkness Jung called the unconscious. You notice a few changes now and then, ignore others. Approve of some, fight others. Sometimes you fight changes that conflict with your values. Sometimes unfamiliar people and challenging ideas make you uncomfortable. Sometimes you fight change out of habit, or because you fear the unknown.
Psychological change doesn’t end when your ego switches off the light of awareness and sinks into sleep. Your unconscious is a dark and vast ocean beneath your ego awareness. Like the earth’s oceans, its elements move with the winds and tides of change. Since they are nature and therefore not subject to your ego’s will, some elements come unbidden to you in dreams where they appear and disappear at will, morph into expected and sometimes terrifying forms, behave in unpredictable ways, and perform beautiful, shocking and mystifying acts. Like all natural events, some dreams are easily forgotten. Others leave lingering effects. Occasionally an unusually powerful dream influences change in your thoughts and behavior.
Whether or not your ego is aware of this oceanic change, there are forces in your unconscious that resist and fight it. Some are instinctual and archetypal, some are functions of your DNA, and some are aspects of your personality which was shaped by physical trauma and family and social experiences. You can reduce the toxic effects of these forces by noting their consequences. You can accept their presence in you and everyone. You can remove yourself from situations in which they are apt to create problems that are not in anyone’s best interest.
Regardless of where your resistance originates, it takes enormous energy to maintain it. In fact, you can waste so much libido — psychological energy — by fighting change, that you have little left to explore and enjoy your life, your fuller potential, and your loved ones. Your resistance makes your waking life more problematic and your dreams reflect your struggles in terrifying and depressing nightmares. When this happens, you need to get proactive if you want to save your soul. Because it’s telling you it’s time for change.
You can refresh your soul and retrieve libido when you step toward positive change. For example, you might take your dreams seriously enough to study them. You might seek advice from your partner or friends. You might watch a different news channel to see what the opposite political party is saying and seek intersections of agreement. You might see a therapist, body worker, health practitioner, or spiritual guide. None of these things will kill you, and all of them will open your mind to healthy change.
Here are five guidelines for moving forward:
engage in open and honest dialogue with others
listen closely to inner and outer realities you have rejected
challenge habitual responses and consider healthier new options
free your libido to integrate the opposite, yes/no, either/or opinions that have ruled your life into a middle space of dialogue they can share
step toward experiences and values that have the potential to perfect and complete you
Image credits: Google free images: Cornerstoneccs.com, Michael Nichols; The Wheel of Change, Michael Goldsmith, visual, http://www.discoveryinaction.com.du; Change, Managements Models, lucid chart.com.
Lately, an internet acquaintance who is an ardent social activist has been looking through my archives for inspiration about how to make Jungian psychology more relevant to the general public. After reading my April 8, 2010 post titled Elephant in The Cave he commented:
“Why is it important to society for humanity to get these unconscious contents dredged up? If people understood why they should do it, then it seems there would be more seekers — i.e. not just those attracted to Jung, Campbell, or a therapist for answers. I know when I was painting a lot, things seemed to go better in my business life. When I didn’t paint for a month, things got stuck. Perhaps opening the door to my creative core helped … But I’d like to know your thoughts on the question Why? Here’s sort of the question: Why should the mainstream media highlight a story about connecting with the subconscious every night on the evening news?”
My personal answer to why learning more about our shadows should be important to society is simple: because knowing and accepting my shadow has transformed the way I experience myself and live my life. It feels like I’ve gone from wanting to hide from a raging tornado in a dark cellar, (“Auntie Em! Auntie Em! Let me in!”) to splashing around with my horse, free and unencumbered, in an enchanted forest pool. Oh, and my golden retriever is there too! (“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto!”)
I know, I’m making this sound like a B movie remake of a fairy tale, (Wait! Is that a huntsman behind that tree?), but I can’t think of a better way to describe how I feel. I don’t mean all the time, but often enough that my growing freedom from fear, anxiety and the need to control my life to feel safe and good enough predisposes me to greater tolerance and compassion.
But why would the mainstream media highlight stories about understanding our shadows on the evening news? Well, they wouldn’t unless they cared more about furthering peace and human welfare than ratings. But if they did, and if people responded, I believe conditions would improve dramatically for everyone. Why? In the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti: “Because the individual does not know his purpose, he is in a state of uncertainty and chaos. Because the individual has not solved his own problem, the problem of the world has not been solved. The individual problem is the world problem. If an individual is unhappy, discontented, dissatisfied, then the world around him is in sorrow, discontent and ignorance.”
Here’s another: “To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves; and what is important in beginning with ourselves is the intention. The intention must be to understand ourselves and not to leave it to others to transform themselves or to bring about a modified change through revolution, either of the left or of the right. It is important to understand that this is our responsibility, yours and mine…”
Many of us get it. But how do we help society understand the need for self-knowlege? I don’t know. Krishnamurti believed that a revolution in the psyche cannot be brought about by any external entity. This was true in my case. My inner tornado kicked up such a fuss that in desperation I finally gave up waiting for the weatherman to do something about it and started working on myself. But is waiting for a crisis to force us off our complacent couches the only way? If you can think of others I hope you’ll write. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.