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.
This past weekend I attended a symposium featuring the internationally renowned poet, David Whyte. As the subtle beauty of his words and images—and even more, the silence behind them—washed through me, an intense inner resonance asked to be heard. “This is a fellow traveler,” it said. “Pay attention,” it said. “You can learn from this one,” it said.
He told stories, he recited poems, and over and over the same three threads ran through. One was “the conversational nature of reality.” This reminded me of an observation from the American Buddhist, Jack Kornfield,
“All of spiritual practice is a matter of relationship: to ourselves, to others, to life’s situations…Whether we like it or not, we are always in relationship, always interconnected.” ~Jack Kornfield
David Whyte would no doubt add, “…always having a conversation.” Everything we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, think or feel initiates a relationship, a conversation with otherness. Otherness that sparks our imagination. Otherness that provides clues, if we’re observant, to who we really are. Our ongoing conversations—sometimes between ourself and another, sometimes between Inner Ego and Inner Other—motivate us to reflect, form questions, discover new insights, and ultimately, act on what we know to be true.
Which brings me to a second thread that colors his poems: the importance of asking “beautiful questions.” Again, not just of other people, but of all hidden otherness everywhere. For example, while sharing a story about the thoughts and feelings that an ancient stone carving of a woman’s face evoked, he said, “We stand on the threshold of what has not yet occurred…a possible future. What is the invitation?” What is the invitation of this joy? These tears? That yearning?
A question like this invites us to take a new step, in a new direction, to a newer, truer reality. Toward my growth. My truth. My reality. Toward the life I was born to live.
A third thread binds the others into the artful fabric of a life: “Beauty is the harvest of presence.” It’s true. The seeds of our beauty are sown with our presence. The bud of our beauty opens petal by petal as we practice presence moment by moment, day by day, year by year.
“Start close in. Don’t take a second or third step. Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take. Take a small step you can call your own. Start with your own question.” ~David Whyte
If we’re not listening to the Other right now there will be no conversations worth having. If we’re unaware of standing on the threshold of what has not yet occurred, of a possible future, we will never ask the beautiful question, “What would it mean for me to be the ancestor of my future self?” If we don’t stay present long enough to see and take the step we don’t want to take, the fabric of our lives will never flower into a work of art.
Inspired by the beautiful poem that is David Whyte, I have a beautiful question for you: “What threads run through your life?” Or as my friend Rachelle Mayers, a gifted videographer and media consultant, asked me three months ago: “What principles do you live by?”
The ethical impeccability of the Sovereign archetype is not easily won or highly developed in everyone. A passion for justice, caring, equality, honesty, and morally responsible behavior are functions of experience, education, psychological maturity, economic security, and a “religious” attitude of reverence for the miracle and mystery of life. These qualities are rare in individuals who’ve endured persistent abuse and agonizing struggles for love, safety and survival.
The more fortunate among us undergo a natural progression from youthful immersion in the unconscious maternal matrix, to an adolescent preoccupation with self, to caring about others as much as ourselves. This development is paralleled in the story of the human race.
In the early history of our species, as in the youth of the individual, the Sovereign was often projected onto the divine Creatrix, the Great Mother of life, and reverence for her species-preserving nurturance, combined with fear of her destructive potential, was the norm in collective thinking. In many parts of the world, trust in the imminence and benevolence of her human Beloved, the god-king, reduced anxiety, fostered peaceful relations, and restrained destructive tendencies for centuries at a time.
In our adolescence, groups became more organized and attached to their unique identities, and in the manner of teen-aged gangs, some became threats to others. As the ego came to dominate the psyche, a dominator mentality co-opted entire civilizations, and fierce loyalty to a distant, partisan male God who waged war against the tribe’s enemies became the norm. Since then, the King archetype has largely ruled alone on Psyche’s throne. From there he still motivates our youthful struggles for independence and autonomy within and without.
Wherever the King’s will to power and resistance to change are obsessive, countless individuals suffer atrocities. But people who work to tame their instincts and minimize their ego’s obsession with him begin to remember and respect the Queen’s subtler virtues of love, forgiveness and relatedness.
In recent history, her passion for individual rights and shared authority has reemerged into collective consciousness in the form of various political experiments. In England, for example, monarchs had unlimited power until 1215 when the barons forced King John to sign the Magna Charta granting people certain civil and political liberties. Five hundred and fifty years later, this concept evolved into the American Constitution with its Bill of Rights.
The growth of democracy is a natural consequence of evolving consciousness. As the Queen and King archetypes mature in enough individuals, groups grow less tolerant of hatred and injustice and more intent on balancing one-sided, hierarchical systems with caring and shared authority. This is why monarchies and dictatorships are giving way to republics and democracies. We can resist inner and outer change, but the ego can no more control maturing archetypes than it can the forces of Nature. Indeed, archetypes are forces of Nature.
As Americans give thanks this holiday season for the freedoms and rights we enjoy, may we remember that we earned them by consciously integrating our inner Kings and Queens. Some may not be happy with the outcome of our recent election, but evolving archetypal forces in the collective psyche have made their priorities known and our country’s future depends on our ability to work together to heed their messages. Here is one of them:
“There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.” –Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States
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.