Imagine a Dreamer March 3, 2015
Tags: Archetype in Action, dreamers, Imagine, John Lennon, Jungian psychology, Skip Conover, social activism, societal change
Why Should Society Promote Self-Knowledge? February 10, 2012
Tags: blogging, consciousness, creating healthy change, inner work, introspection, Jungian psychology, Krishnamurti, psychological awareness, responsibility of media, Self knowledge, social activism, the media, the shadow
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.
Making a Difference November 2, 2010
Tags: inner work, interconnectedness, psychological awareness, social activism
From a human perspective, life is unjust. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, fires, landslides and tsunamis wipe out people, homes, animals and vegetation. Corporations pollute water and air, rape land, annihilate species, and deplete natural resources without conscience. The greedy and cruel abuse the innocent and helpless. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We lose our jobs. Accidents happen. Politicians lie. Ads lie. Big business lies. Religious authorities lie. Friends and lovers lie. How are we to handle the injustices of life?
Some escape through optimism, utopian fantasies, or denial. Some through addictions to work, food, exercise, drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex, television, religion, the internet, or video games. Some grow bitter, cynical, or deeply depressed. A few commit suicide. Others dive into activism and take stands, stand in picket lines, join humanitarian missions, lead movements, raise funds, build houses, endow foundations, make donations, or volunteer in schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, nursing homes and political campaigns.
Obviously, addressing injustice directly is far more beneficial than ignoring it, but even social activism has a down side. One danger is that our cause can become a way of escaping our shadows. Have you ever known someone who can cry about the starving children in Africa but ignores her inner child who is starved for kindness and affection? Another danger is becoming so obsessed that we neglect our loved ones and responsibilities. Or we can experience physical burnout and a weakened immune system. Some sensitive souls absorb too much trauma and become overwhelmed with morbid fear and crippling anxiety or apathy. Others grow increasingly rude, hostile, and abusive. Where is the line between taking a stand and standing down? Here are a few thoughts. I invite you to add some of your own.
When we experience injustice I believe the most important thing we can do is allow ourselves to feel the normal emotions of rage, grief, helplessness, fear, frustration, or revenge without immediately acting on them. It takes enormous awareness and self-restraint to tolerate the pain and tension of injustice for very long, but if we act too quickly we risk hurting or taking advantage of others. Our first goal is to see the beliefs, attitudes and choices that led us into our situation because these are things we can change. For this we need time to rest and reflect until we feel clear-headed and emotionally stable enough to be objective. Only then will we be able to create a practical, ethical plan that serves self and other, justice and compassion.
If we observe injustice we need to find ways of helping that suit our gifts without betraying our conscience, trampling on anyone’s rights, or needlessly causing others pain. And unless we feel drawn to martyrdom, (and very few are genuinely called to go down that self-destructive road), we need to use methods that do not jeopardize our own lives, families, or livelihood. We need to listen to our bodies, know our limits and protect our boundaries; and we need to center ourselves in a meaningful practice that renews our energy and generates a loving, peaceful attitude.
May you trust the life around and within you to lead you to the unique contribution only you can make to righting the world’s wrongs, and may we all be part of the solution to injustice everywhere. Namaste.