A marriage of our disparate aspects

 

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This morning I received a comment from a reader who identified as being non-binary and was musing as to whether women in the current gender equalization movement were suppressing their feminine aspect in favor of their more powerful masculine.

The following is my answer to those comments:

I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said. I too believe that women are suppressing their feminine aspect in lieu of strengthening their masculine. I don’t see this as unusual for any time an entrenched behavior is shifted it takes time for the new behavior to become more balanced, though I also don’t see a call for this balance coming from the movement.

I also believe we are seeing the effects of a gender change in roles that have rendered some males feeling emasculated and others becoming over masculinized as a compensatory effect. However, there is also a small minority that are empowered to seek out and reinforce their feminine aspects so as to be more balanced and effective in their lives. These are all to be expected as well.

Not sure what you mean by non-binary because this can encompass those that see themselves as neither male nor female, while others see themselves as both and still others who might want to be categorized as transgender. As for myself I identify as male but find a lot of shadow aspects to that identity and spend a lot of time learning to strengthen my more feminine aspects e.g., compassion, inclusiveness, intuition. I’m trying to include all sides of my personality and only move one or the other to dominance when occasions arise that may require it.

The concept of non-binary is as I understand it been around for millennia. A form of this can be found in many Native American tribes as an individual called a “berdache” or “two-spirit” person who was allowed to switch gender roles within the tribe and was considered normal and embraced. It should be noted that this was allowing another expression of the soul and spirit of the individual and perhaps even of the tribe and not necessarily a sexual expression.

Interestingly my spirit guides are feminine e.g., A she wolf, a woman, and an eagle. These dream beings usually come to me in when I am in a transition or high anxiety state in my waking life. I reveal all this to say that I don’t want to use a term such as non-binary when describing my inner self. I am looking toward a marriage of the disparate, and sometimes conflicted, parts of myself i.e., what Jung might have called a coniunctio or a synthesized polarity or culminating non-duality. The tension between these dualities is in my mind necessary in order to function as a whole being so I’m not looking to create an undifferentiated oneness even if that were possible while a living human. Another of the aspects that are by definition highly related to this marriage of aspects is that of the intellect and feeling. These can coexist but if one or the other is allowed to dominate a person can become behaviorally skewed.

The attempt to bring into harmony all aspects of the psyche is not unlike what the alchemists were really up to with all their experiments.

 

“It is the moral task of alchemy to bring the feminine, maternal background of the masculine psyche, seething with passions, into harmony with the principle of the spirit, truly a labor of Hercules!” –C.G. Jung

Unlocking the unconscious

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Why do I draw a distinction between the unconscious and the conscious self?

The short answer is because it’s a convenient way to talk about them. Actually all is consciousness. The unconscious is just the unaware part of the conscious mind i.e. the conscious is unconscious of the unconscious. Get it?

We perceive a lot of things during the day, but we are not necessarily aware of them. Some of this unconscious material affects the meaning we consciously give to the things that we perceive e.g., for someone who lives in Montana, or in the middle of Europe or in Russia the word “Palm” elicits a different meaning than it might for someone living in Hawaii, the Philippines, or California. This is because the word has been biased through ones experience.

In reality our past perceptions of our experiences and the decisions we’ve made about those experiences bias everything that we see in the present and often into the future. It’s a bias, or a conditioning, that has served humankind well over the millennia where we had to learn a set of responses to a set of experiences in such a way that it made our survival more likely.

But conditioned responses have a down-side because they remove us from the events of the moment. This might be good if we find ourselves in an emergency where we need to act quickly, but in any event where we need to act more thoughtfully it can have disastrous effects. This is especially true if we come to depend on a set of conditioned responses without thinking before reacting.

Old material stored in the unconscious can be stimulated if the conditions are right and then used as a means of responding to new situations. Sometimes this is appropriate, but much of the time it is not especially in the modern world where the response patterns required are significantly different than those needed by the cave man.

Ever notice how some things just seem to happen to you, over and over again i.e., choosing the wrong mate (girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife), or you make the same kind of bad decision over and over again, or negative things just seem to happen to you more frequently than to others? Why are you stuck in a dead-end job, you’re just as smart and talented as the next fellow? It may be because of conditioned and unconscious material buried in the unconscious mind.

This is why some folks go to therapy, or counselors, or special self-development seminars and workshops–to find out what is tripping them up. Others seek answers through meditation or their dreams. Dreams tap into the unconscious on a regular basis and provide a means to make the material conscious again. But the unconscious mind functions differently and not as rationally and more chaotically than the arguably more ordered and linear conscious mind so it takes a bit of work to decipher the meaning of its images.

All the world’s a stage, but at a profound level, it’s as you like it

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My wife and I have spent many a happy moment with William Shakespeare at the Ashland Shakespearean Festival in Oregon, something we have been doing for over 35 years now. As always I was drawn into to his wild and fanciful stories and coming back into my own reality only when the actors bid ado and exited the stage. Where I go when they begin, I do not know for it seems as though I’m always there even though the “there” seems to be somewhere else– a secret dream-like place.

I’ve also found that there’s a secret place deep inside each of us that speaks in images, not words, and in sounds that aren’t really heard. It is a knowing unlearned from the pages of a book or the ministrations of a teacher that never gets old for it is always discovered anew. It is a mystery place, an inner school, and library of wisdom.

Some mistakenly imagine it to be a result of past experience interacting with present events, but look closely and you will see that this is not so. For this mysterious part of our self speaks from more than just the debris of our past or the confusing chaos’s of our present or some previously scripted story from some offstage deity. This is the almost soundless voice of our true-self whispering its guidance while we sleep– asleep as we walk through our days, asleep as we lay our heads upon our beds.

We are “Sleepers” you and I and for a brief moment in time we disappear into the mystery story that we call life. We become transfixed with the images conjured through its living text and forget it is but a story.

And oh what a story! We create fantastical tales full of intrigue, emotion, and plot twists with multiple beginnings and ends that we’ve stitched into a Dream Book of ideas that arc towards a promised resolution and an ending that never really materializes. We ache with the main character as they rush headlong into the plot searching for the promised grail– the answers that will bring them to the stories’ monumental and mind-expanding conclusion.

Then we wake up and leave the stage.

 

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The power of the inner feminine: Click your heals three times and you’re on your way

 

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There are things going on inside of us to be felt or grieved or communicated, things that affect all that we do or think and all that we see or hear. Within us are the nutrients for psycho-spiritual growth and also the poisons for its death.

But the vast majority of people are imprisoned by the rational, concrete patriarchal world and unreceptive to guidance of the inner world. The world that most people live in is a severely contracted, emotionally, and spiritually stunted reality that leaves them unfulfilled and pining away from the promises of their childhood where everything was possible and potential could be experienced as real.

The world of the symbolic, the worlds of myth, fables and dreams can provide doors to what is missing in our lives but the patriarchal system that we have given our practical allegiance to has severed our connection with the imagination, the nurturing, caring, loving and compassionate aspect of the feminine.

 

“Only the symbolic life can express the needs of the soul” 

–CG Jung

 

The dominant masculine thinks concretely and demeans the symbolic world as being silly, touchy-feely, soft-headed, and impractical. Just do as your told, work hard, be practical and it will all work out, only all too often it doesn’t. Oh, we may make a lot of money, drive nice cars, have nice houses, a TV in every bedroom, good schools and summers in the Hamptons and it all looks good and very successful, but inside we’re not happy– it’s one big so-what, one big lie, because now we know this ain’t it. Of course we could reject all that “goodness” as being superficial and posh and live the middle class life of proud struggle, or better yet forsake most everything and live with barely nothing, but that ain’t it either. We don’t feel any more fulfilled with everything or with nothing. Why? Because that’s not where fulfillment lies!

In most of our societies we try to nurture only the material i.e. the ego world. We forget about our core being, our soul. So we try to fill this void with more materiality by reading and memorizing and practicing the aphorisms of our holy books usually without the understanding that their messages are symbolic in nature because it is that that feeds the soul not the literal meaning of words.

Or we turn on the radio or TV and listen to so-called talk shows as though the talking heads of these shows know something we don’t. But they only bring sensations to our banal lives and provide nothing of any meaning to the soul. Other shows provide us with even more sensationalism through murder and violence, promiscuity, and empty, meaningless competitions. They are ego generated and ego directed, bound to the superficial and as Shakespeare would have said, “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

But a few people, alas very few, leave the physical safety of the material patriarchy to search for something deeper, not something different, for that’s only more ego, but something beyond the outer experience of reality, something found only inside ones self.

This is a hard journey fraught with fearsome and difficult trial because in the inner world the concrete language of the outer world is of little to no use. This is because the inner world, the world of the soul, is a symbolic world and speaks in the tongue of the myth, the fairy tale and the dream. It is a world where the feminine rules and can guide one to their real potential. The masculine can only enter if it is willing to share its power with the feminine.

I remember that in graduate school we used to dissect fairy tales as a way of understanding the inner psyche the inner psychology of the mind. I always chose the story of the Wizard of Oz because I felt that its symbolism best reflected my outer journey and the effects that that had on my inner life. You see the four characters, the tin woodsman with no heart (self-compassion), the scarecrow without a brain (doubtful intellectual prowess), the cowardly lion (who could not stand up for himself) and Dorothy Gale who was lost and just wanted to go back home (to the nurturing safety of the inner feminine) were all facets of myself and my own journey through life.

The Great and Wonderful OZ was the hollow promise of the patriarchal society I grew up in that turned out to be a fraud who could give nothing but what you already had had you just looked within. Each of these characters were played by my parents and modeled the way in which I viewed myself. It wasn’t until I told the story as my own that I was able to confront the story and begin to deal with its results.

The Great Oz is the society within which we all live but when we deliberately or accidentally look behind the curtain and discover that it’s all a fraud, it’s all made up, we lose trust in the wisdom we were told was inviolable. I lost trust in my inner OZ for a number of reasons 1) because the father image was weak and 2) the patriarchy of the society never really delivered and still isn’t.

Emotionally abandoned it lead to my trying to find my way home by looking outside myself for something that looked like home. But like Dorothy I couldn’t find my way because I was looking in the wrong place. It was the inner feminine i.e. the Good Mother archetype in the symbolic form of Glinda the Good Witch who was able to guide Dorothy to where she had been all along had she known that she had the power.

Want to go home? What’s your inner fairy tale, the myth that tells your story? What are the symbols of your dreams trying to tell you? You may have been let down by the outer feminine, but she of the inner world can guide you to what you’re missing out here but only if you’ll listen to her and learn to read her message.

Why interpret your dreams? It’s about waking up!

 

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I’ve had a number of people ask what the real purpose of dreams are and one even suggested that they were only artifacts of a brain-clearing process and of no value at all. It was this last reader who comes the closest in naming the dream process though he should lose the “no value” component.

Research has shown that dreaming is the brain’s way of dumping all the stored data of the day, all the tens of thousands of input that we don’t even notice consciously, but that the subconscious picks up on, and then sorts through this material for what’s important for the conscious mind to retain and what’s not. Then it takes the saved material and stores it into the long-term memory files to be accessed when necessary. What’s left just degrades. Pretty simple, huh? So what’s all this ‘meaning’ mumbo jumbo that dream analysts apply to this data processing system?

Firstly, and I think most importantly, one might ask what is the filter through which the material is screened, what decides what is saved and what is dumped? Certainly it’s not the conscious mind, the part of the mind that most of us are aware of, the part that we identify as being ourselves. Something, then, is making the decision for me and where’s the free will in that?

And if this is the data that I then depend on to help inform my actions, shouldn’t I have some idea of its veracity? If there’s something unconscious that’s determining the material I will use to live my life, I certainly want to know where it comes from and I’d also like to have some say on what gets in there. I mean, I have a choice as to what media I listen to in my waking life e.g. my neighbor, my church, the local paper, the National Enquirer, radio talk show hosts, TV news, or internet media. Why do I abdicate that choice to some unseen force in the unconscious part of the psyche? I want to decide what’s of value to my life.

This process of sifting through our experiences is happening when we are awake as well and informs us with data that is categorized as being similar in nature to whatever it is we are experiencing in the here and now. Which is why we can take an instant dislike to someone, or some place when we haven’t had the time to consciously assess them.

Remembering your dreams and then discerning their meaning, or consciously assessing something, or someone, in real time, brings some of that choice back to you.

Secondly, the unseen force to which I allude to above is often a product of all the scary, messy, distasteful and unwanted aspects of ourselves, or in our experience, that we have actively stuffed away so as to not have to deal with them. Also, hidden in there are the unconscious beliefs that our families placed in us, and those hurts and fears as perceived by the child and the decisions about life that that child made about those experiences. And beneath all that is a collection of human archetypes built into the DNA that have been developed over eons of evolution and designed as part of an instinctual response system to threat, only the threats are much more complex and subtle today than merely running from a saber-toothed tiger.

This is the system that filters your experience and provides the foundation for all your decisions and all of your responses and thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Of course if you were living in caves in the wild you may not need anything more than your built-in instincts to survive, but most of us now live in much more complex environments, but are still dependent on a system developed for living in something simpler and more straight forward e.g. throw a rock, or spear, or run like hell (though some would say that’s a pretty good skill-set for the streets of New York, or Los Angeles). Not that these instinctual responses aren’t still helpful at times, but they aren’t helpful in determining who to vote for, or how to deal with an idiot boss, or how to respond to an angry neighbor, or what kind of car is a responsible purchase environmentally, etc.

We can continue to let sleeping dogs lay and just ignore this arbiter of our lives, or we can take the revolutionary, and perhaps evolutionary, step of taking back full control of our lives. We can only do this when we know what it is that is making the decisions for us and what those decisions are. The access to that information lays in the unconscious mind, what some researchers have suggested makes up to 70% of who we are and the door to that hidden place is through the dream (there are other doors such as meditation, but I don’t want to get into that now).

However, even this 70% figure is challenged by Dr. Wayne Dyer who suggests that the unconscious may very well comprise up to 97% of who we are. That definitely suggests that we are mostly unconscious i.e. asleep. This suggests that the unconscious mind is the director of our lives. How do we get free of that? Perhaps the answer to that lies in our acknowledging things as they really are.

Lastly, all that data that’s being dumped is interesting and may hold many of the answers I’ve been searching for in my life. It is precisely this data that the artist, the poet, the writer, the inventor, the musician, the scientist, and the intuitive CEO tap into as they create. How much has been lost because we have not paid attention? I, for one, intend to pay attention.

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