Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Lessons Learned From the Flu April 19, 2011

A note to subscribers:  Some of you received this post last Friday when I wrote it and, due to “lingering flu fogginess,” (which ought to be a recognized condition) accidentally published it ahead of the intended date. I hope you won’t mind reading it again. 

As I write this I’m in the ninth day of a bout with a nasty, feverish flu. I use the word “bout” deliberately. At first I fought it, insisting on attending a social event, doing a little writing, flying to North Carolina, preparing a meal for beloved relatives, and flying back to Florida. Thanks to a highly developed Warrior archetype, living in my head and ignoring my body, pushing forward, and toughing it out has always been my normal mode of operation.

But I’ve surrendered to the bug. I’ve canceled three workouts and three engagements, stayed in bed, and written zilch. This is decidedly abnormal. I rarely get sick, never nap or watch television during the day, always show up, and, above all, am almost always attracted to writing. Not this time! Thinking made my head hurt and the last thing I wanted to do was write.

Now that I’m feeling better my passion for thinking and writing is returning. And since I look for meaning and psychological reasons for everything, I find myself wondering what this enforced time-off has been all about. Here are a few random conclusions. (I don’t intend to sit here all day perfecting this piece. I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before the bed starts calling.)

Lesson #1: Giving myself permission to relax and let go of my agenda frees me from a burden of anxiety of which I’m usually unaware.

Lesson #2: My anxiety is nobody’s fault but my own.

Lesson #3: Missing a special grandparents’ breakfast at my 3-year-old grandson’s school will not devastate him or mean I’m a terrible grandparent.

Lesson #4: Daytime television is not a complete wasteland and allowing myself to enjoy it is not a character flaw. I watched some cool movies. I enjoyed them. Enjoyment is good.

Lesson #5: I tend to be a tad obsessive. (This is an understatement.) My head knows this but some largely unconscious needs still haven’t received the message. This morning I awoke from a dream in which I was trying to clean up some messes outside and within my house in preparation for an anticipated event. I was feeling guilty for not having addressed them sooner and annoyed that nobody else seemed to notice or care but me. I think that pretty much speaks for itself! Being sick for nine days hasn’t cured me of my perfectionism, anxiety, or tendency to live in the future.

Lesson #6: I’ve known this stuff for years, yet despite my inner work some issues remain unresolved. Still, I am making progress and this is a very good thing.

Lesson #7: I am human and flawed but my friends and family love me anyway and I am grateful for their love. I knew that too, but I must have needed a reminder.

Lesson #8: I don’t always have to be prepared several days in advance. I wrote this blog post in three hours!

Lesson #9: There are times when surrendering is the correct choice. This was one of them. Bye. I’m off to bed!


Boys Behaving Badly April 5, 2010

I recently wrote about the obsessive warriors in Avatar and Star Wars from a psychological perspective and suggested their behavior was rooted in the rigidity of a one-sided, self-serving ego. Lest anyone misunderstand, I hasten to add that the ego’s problem is not one of gender, but lack of self-awareness. Surely it goes without saying that girls behave badly too. Snow White’s Evil Stepmother, 101 Dalmations’ Cruella DeVille, and Fatal Attraction’s Alex Forrest are merely images of self-centered egos with wombs, dresses, and long hair!

Many of us think of the ego as being “bad” by definition, and I know people who have trouble with the very idea of warriors, but every psyche is furnished with an ego and Warrior (and several other archetypes as well) at birth, and we all need both to get through life with a measure of success. This is why Jungian psychology does not judge the ego as good or bad but simply sees it as the center of consciousness. A healthy ego with mature awareness nurtures a noble, heroic Warrior; an immature and minimally conscious ego can create a destructive one. The point is to become conscious of our ego’s destructive tendencies and learn how to control them. And what are these tendencies?

Consider Colonel Quaritch and Darth Vader:  Self preservation is more important to them than species-preservation.  They want to prove themselves by acquiring worldly power and authority.  The more power and authority they have, the more resistant they are to giving it up.  They are so full of themselves (pride and hubris are two words that immediately come to mind) that they believe they are entitled and infallible.  They sincerely believe their way is RIGHT and are closed to alternative views.  They insist on having their way regardless of who they hurt.  They are totally unaware of the powerful tool – repression – they unconsciously use to ignore their true motives and justify their behavior and the damage they do.

These are the basic inclinations of every ego and it’s extraordinarily difficult to transcend them. Think about it. Don’t babies start out being utterly self-centered little tyrants? Doesn’t it require enormous effort to civilize them? Don’t we adults still struggle with these tendencies in ourselves? Isn’t this why we create laws and rules and schools and moral codes and social standards and religions? The human animal is trying to contain its instinctual willfulness, trying to respect the significance of others, trying to grow more conscious. But we are still incomplete.

Legal systems and religions can help an ego acquire good intentions and a veneer (persona) of balance and maturity, but by themselves they cannot soften a hard heart. To be able to love others we first have to love ourselves, and we can’t love ourselves until we can see and forgive our self-serving motivations and self-defeating tendencies.

This is why even the most well-intentioned religions and political regimes have difficulty containing the Colonel Quaritches and Darth Vaders of the world. There is only one force powerful enough to transform an immature ego and that is consciousness.

May the Force be with you.


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