Some more thoughts on the inner animal.

 

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Found on theprovince.com

Stepping out on the porch and into the night I saw silhouetted at the edge of the lawn an animal all in black, its back arched high, tail erect, and ears plastered along its head. A low guttural howl rumbled from deep inside it and grew louder with each passing moment.

I scanned the yard for the object of the black beast’s ferocity and there, cowering against a low lying bush, a white cat critter lay hunkered low to the ground with its hair raised high along its spine. Both animals stalked and circled each other and issued a racket loud enough to raise the dead.

The air was heavy, and thick with fear. I was about to witness a mindless clash of titans.

“Oh for goodness sakes you two, knock it off!” I exclaimed while stepping rapidly forward. “Shoo, shoo!” said I while dismissing the combatants with a wave of my hands. They then scattered to opposite ends of their territory and slinked off into the night, living yet for another day.

I can remember as a school principal saying the same thing, minus the “shoo-shoo”, to a couple of boys squaring off on a high school campus. Cats, lizards and teenage boys sometimes have a lot in common, especially when they set whatever higher thinking skills they have to the side and begin to function from their reptilian brains. It’s the same brain that convinced me when I was thirteen to put on some old roller skates and hitch a rope tied around my waist to the back of an ice truck just before the driver headed out onto the main blvd. What was I thinking? And that’s the point, I wasn’t, nor were the two cats or the two teenage combatants. We were functioning exclusively in our reactive instinctual mode (self-preservation isn’t high on a teenage boys list, after all they’re immortal).

We seem to observe this mode more and more often these days, in our politics (a lot of lizard-brain posturing there), in our neighborhoods, and in the work place. Fear is the primary stimulus for reactive positioning and it is fear that is being exploited in governance, politicking (“he’s destroying our country!”), on the radio & T.V. (facts, who needs facts?), and commercial advertising (e.g. “kills 99.9% of all disease causing bacteria”). And when we get entangled in our fears we go out and buy guns, and begin to make any number of bone-headed decisions that ultimately make us even more fearful.

Overall, our animal natures are just barely subdued and held in check and when bombarded with messages of fear the veneer of self-control begins to wear dangerously thin. And when finally pushed into a defense mode we shut down the also thin thinking layer of our brains and begin to operate from the vast repository of the unconscious and the animal within arches its back and growls a warning.

These warnings show up in our waking lives all the time with low volume growls of “Bitch, bastard, A_ _hole!” and any number of even more vile expletives meant to demean another being as a means of defending ones own. They also show up in our dreams as dogs that bite, snakes that hiss, spiders threatening to ensnare us, and large animals that chase us down and attack.

Once caught up in the unconscious animalistic and irrational fight, or flight mode, it’s hard to get back to the rational thinking mode. However, no matter how threatening, these animals also have immense capacity for good. When observed prowling in our hearts or in our dreams we can use them as a signal to take note of what is happening around and within us. If we can stop in mid expletive and observe what’s happening we have a much better chance of functioning out of conscious rational choice rather than be reactively controlled by our unconscious animal. When we can be more conscious of our socio-political environment and our reactions to it through the monitoring of our dreams we can also be more at choice in our responses.  

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Eagle Dancer by Bud Barnes . Animals in dreams are depictions of

 

ourselves stripped of our social controls

 

and often present us with our unedited

 

feelings. They depict our drives and

 

urges for procreation, love caring and

 

nurturing. Their skins were

 

once thought by early native tribes to

 

impart the power, personality and

 

wisdom of the animal they once belonged to.

 

Animals continue to give their power

 

in our dreams. –RJ Cole (Book of Dreams)

 

 

I think we need to be able to “shoo” away our inner and outer animal and stand between our warring aspects in order to scatter them and give space for more measured and thoughtful responses. God gave us a part of the brain not given to the lizard and the cat to aid us in this endeavor and I think we better start using it a little more often if we want to survive our darker natures.

 

 

Animals in dreams

 

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Found on the side of a building in Seward, Alaska. In the Inuit Culture of the Pacific Northwest Raven is seen as a creator being. 

 

Animals frequently show up in dreams and I’ve written about a number of them but I thought that I would look at these images from another perspective i.e. how they represent the interplay between psychic opposites.

For example, in both my dreams and waking life I seem to have a positive affinity to Dragons, Phoenix, Eagles, Wolves and the occasional Raven or Crow while on the other hand I have negative reactions to snakes, spiders and sharks. On the surface this sounds reasonable at least from the perspective of the negative animal images. However, when I look more closely I notice that dragon/eagle/wolf represent, among other things, freedom (freedom of expression and being), whereas snake/spider/shark represent quite the opposite i.e. these images restrain and take me over leaving me no room to express.

But there is also a unification of both the negative and positive aspects in that the

dragon-and-phoenix-chinese-culture.jpgPhoenix or Eagle on the one hand and the snake on the other are both symbols of rebirth and transformation. There is a healing of the soul in the reconciliation of its opposites. The image of an Eagle or Phoenix grasping a snake or fighting a dragon is the symbol of confronting our shadow selves, our inner devil, in order to set free our soul.

Even the Dragon is both the positive of the East and the negative of the West and the snake can be both a sign of God’s power, as with the staff of Moses thrown down before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-10) and of the Devil as well (Rev. 12:9).

Ravens are often seen as tricksters, magicians, shaman, guides to and messengers from our deeper selves, as well as cultural heroes.

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Found in Seward, Alaska with plaque above.

Ravens and crows can also be seen as psychopompsguides to the underworld after death or as guides to the inner and unconscious self.

Within the Wolf there also lies attributes in opposition because he or she is both shadow and bright beauty, socially confident and a loner, self-confident and obsessed both in-control and out of control. The shark can be both self-empowering and an emotional threat while the spider can both threaten your well-being and yet symbolically protect you from self-destruction.

There’s no coincidence in the images one chooses to express the interplay of opposites in that the psyche is continuously working on resolving this inner conflict of personalities. This shows up in the World Psyche as well when it is noted how oppositional nations, and cultures are in their interactions with each other.

 

These animals represent different aspects of our nature, that part of us that is instinctual (animal-like) or conditioned (by parental and cultural values). If left to only our instinctual or conditioned selves we would be hell bent on our own destruction. But human beings also have a mediator, the ego-self, this part of the psyche that I’ve been talking about over the last week. This part of our psychological construct is far from perfect and is easily influenced, but it is there to act as a rational intermediary between the opposites of the desirous-self and the moralized-self. In short, it helps to keep the balance between the two extremes and could do a reasonable job if not coopted by either of the other two constructs.

Normally a healthy ego-self can withstand the onslaught but once in a while it is overcome by fear, that turns to anger and that makes it near impossible to hear the voice of the rational. Eventually the ego-self is so overwhelmed that it figuratively becomes fear, no longer just having it, but being it.

As everyone knows fear is extremely painful and the human body is designed to do whatever is necessary to reduce or eradicate pain. One of the most important ways of doing that is to find the source of the pain and get rid of it, that is to figuratively or physically kill it. The animal self comes to the foreground and shouts down the voices of morality and mediation or colludes with the morality-self so as to justify its actions and chaos erupts.

Now this process works pretty well for the other animals in the universe, but humankind has something that the other animals don’t have, the ability to kill huge numbers of others in a relatively short period of time. We also are much more interconnected with each other than the rest of the animal kingdom is. This connectedness is both our strength, because we can work together toward universal solutions, and weakness in that it can spiral out of hand quite quickly leaving our survival in disarray.

Having your fear without becoming your fear:

When we allow our animal nature and instinctual fear responses take us over the end product is never in anyone’s best interest. It may provide an immediate solution but over the long haul is no solution at all e.g. do we feel any safer because we have so many guns in our homes? Do we feel any safer with huge stockpiles of munitions and weapons of mass destruction? Do we feel any safer having built high walls and fences around ourselves? Do we feel safer because we’ve locked up so many of those people whom we fear?

We’ve rejected the vaccination of our children out of fear and our children are dying. Some parts of the world have rejected sexual contraceptives because they fear others are trying to kill them off and hundreds and thousands are dying. Some have started wars designed to kill off entire cultures because they fear they are destroying their way of life and millions have died. All because of irrational and unmitigated fear.

If our frequent and usual response to our fears is to pull the proverbial “trigger”, how long can we last? And do we really want to live like that, huddled in the dark corners of our mind or the bombed out buildings of our cities?

Perhaps we need to open up to another response strategy and to recondition our animal response to threat and develop some other tools for safety. Some are trying to do that, but they are too small a group to overcome the darkness alone. This will take all of us to make the shift from the exclusive-instinctive-individual-self to the self-aware-consciousness of the inclusive-global-self required of modern man. We need to get out of our social-emotional caves and deal with our problems as mature human beings, not reactive animals. What we need is to embrace a new evolutionary way of being distinct from that of our ancient cave dwelling selves. And we can’t wait for “them” to do it because “they” will never do it, they’re too afraid to come out of the cave.

Some have asked me, ”but how, how do we do it?” and I answer, “There are hundreds of wizards out there that have found ways of making the evolutionary shift in ourselves. I’ve also written over 500 articles, thousands of pages and referenced hundreds of links all dealing at some level of what kind of change we need to make in our individual and collective selves to make this shift in consciousness and action. Somewhere in there, there have to be some kernels of answers.

I’ll give a little hint, however, something that I learned in the Marine Corps, of all places. It is this, we all initially react with fear when we perceive or are confronted with real threats. No one is immune to this, we may ignore the fear, deny it or gloss over it, but we will have it, it’s the way we’re wired. And there are only two fundamental responses to fear once it’s triggered– we either gird for battle or run like hell. There are lots of nuance to these two responses but fundamentally we are restricted to these two basics. Often the first reaction is to look for a way out, but all too often that’s not available to us. That’s when you “have” the fear and advance anyway.

It’s scary in todays world to confront injustice and intolerance because the purveyors of it can get quite aggressive in their defense of it and they will stop at little to have you become so fearful that you’ll run away and hide, physically or psychologically. That’s when you have to stand-up and face the fear, have it, yes, but not become it, not be overwhelmed by it. It’s when you need to step outside of your animal-self and manifest your reasoned self, your loving self.