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

A Cabinet of Wonder: Museum for the Soul

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Cabinets of Wonder, Cabinets of Curiosity, Wunderkammer, and Chambers of Art were sort of the first museums and often served their owners as a place for retreat and reflection, which is how I use my section of the Den where I do my writing and have my own cabinet.

They’ve been around in one form or the other (as whole rooms, warehouses, or in a piece of furniture) since about the 16th century. Click on this Wikipedia link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_curiosities ) and you can scroll through a number of different Cabinets and read a little background on the subject.

I also include this link to the Idols of the Cave that as it says in its introduction is, “a site devoted to the experience of Wonder, cultivated according to Renaissance rite and custom.” http://idolsofthecave.com/about-this-site/

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Over the years I’ve collected objects that move my imagination in some way and have placed many of them on display that I frequently just gaze at and let whatever thoughts, memories, or feelings surface as a result. They also seem to serve as food for the soul and help me enter into the imaginal realm. To that end I have collected poems and quotes that inspire and transport me into this realm as well.

The cabinet includes such items as Bismuth (the modern Philosophers Stone), Merlinite, Galena, Aragonite, Lapis, Amethyst, Ruby, Hematite, and translucent slices of agate. Fossils of Ammonites, trilobites, and orthoceras share the dishes of a brass apothecary scale with old compasses, sundials, antique pocket watches and a bronze hourglass crowding the corners.

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There’s a Theodolite surveyors instrument, an 1890s microscope, an armillary and orrerary (planetary models), a brass scale and assorted dragons including a bat skeleton that I’ve relabeled as “Draco Infantia (Latin for ‘baby dragon’). North American butterflies, dragonflies. Bats, a flying Dragon Lizard, and shells from the deepest regions of the ocean adorn the walls while some vintage laboratory glassware sits on a bookcase full of old books and artifacts that have caught my imagination over the years. A taxidermist’s black crow stands watch over a sculpture of old magnifying glasses that serves to remind me that it is the realm of the hardly noticed that can open a whole new world if one were to look more closely at life.

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I believe that anything that opens a link between our soul and us is worth exploring and experimenting with and our own expression of that can be immensely fulfilling.

Books that I’ve collected include the research of alchemists, psychotherapists, shaman, mystics, artists, poets, mythologists, physicists, theologians, fantasists, and holy books, collected dreams, and journals also share the crowded space along the wall and stacked upon the floor all representing a lifetime of interests.

 

 

 

A book that opened a door and led me to a path for my life

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When asked one time what book had the biggest impact on me in terms of offering a path to follow in life I thought briefly and came up with the following. Louisa May Alcott’s, “Little Women”.
One of the main characters if not the main character, Jo March, had much to say to me. When I first read of her in the book I was intrigued and a little infatuated. I was only ten years old. Not your usual fare for a little boy though I was also reading Moby Dick at the same time.
Her boldness, outside the box thinking, and steadfast honest behavior was such a breath of fresh air. Though a female in a world dominated by males she represented freedom and independence from what seemed like a very restrictive society even for males. To me she represented a way out of the cultural box.
All the male hero’s of my early years seemed to be of the same cloth and color, i.e. various shades and textures of emotionally restricted John Wayne’s, Clint Eastwood’s,and James Bond’s. None of them could show a lonely, sensitive, intuitive, inner-directed and compassionate boy how to express his soul in a healthy way.
Then along came Jo who should have been much more restricted and oppressed than this young white male of the suburbs and yet her joi devivre and drive to own her life gave power to this little boy and offered hope that he too could break out of the box that culture and family had put him in.
“You can be lonely in a crowd, if it’s the wrong crowd” Jo said to her sisters and putting into words how I had been feeling for all of my short life.
Though it took me several more years to fight my way out of the box and to find a crowd where I felt accepted and included this one book set me on a path toward my own expression of a self I’ve come to appreciate more and more as I grow older. Also like Jo I’ve found that the union of both my masculine and feminine aspects e.g. the rational, assertive, decisive masculine and the inclusive, compassionate and intuitive feminine has made me stronger and more useful to others. From her I have learned to own my own being and resist what others wanted me to be. Thanks, Jo.
It is often said that we have the power to choose the path we walk but like the book I read at 10 years of age more often than not if we look closely enough we are chosen for the path from a place deep within us and it is from there that experiences come into our life and have the power to transform us.
As a boy I knew I was different and those differences were not accepted by many of those around me. This presented me with my first known crisis, are those differences wrong and thus need to be corrected toward some definition and expectation of ‘normal’ or can I continue being different? Though we all have to make some changes to accommodate the world we find ourselves in the question becomes by how much and of what kind? This has always been a balancing act for me i.e. shall I give in to living a life with little or no mistakes or do I engage it as fully as I can, mistakes and all, and do it without condemning myself for them or alienating others to the point where I get totally ignored and/or rejected?
The decision to be as much of myself as I can has gotten me into trouble sometimes (maybe a lot) but has driven me down a path with very little boredom and where sometimes I’ve been of some value to others. Outside the box living has become my norm over the years and continues to inform many of my actions right or wrong.

How to forgive and let go

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“How do we forgive” was the question one reader posed as a comment at the end of a blog on letting go. I thought it a great question and realized that I had not really answered it in any of my ramblings on letting go of what binds us. Here’s my answer to this blog follower’s question, hopefully others will find some value in it as well:

M.,

Great question that really gets at the heart of the healing process. Firstly we need to look honestly at our own hurt our own pain our own sense of trust that has been damaged by someone’s actions. There’s a very strong desire to exact retribution, to even the score, and to make yourself right again by making the other person wrong and punishing them. When hurt it can often feel as though you have been made less than and that somehow you matter less than others.

If this sense of betrayal and denial of your worth becomes so intense that it drives you in an inherently negative and self-defeating direction it can harder to let go. So first of all look at your emotions and own them. Notice that when holding on to your anger, resentment and hurt you are a different person than you were before the affront you are feeling like someone you don’t really want to be.

So you must own your feelings around this and don’t give power to the offender by making them responsible for your feelings. The process is about changing something in you not in them because you can’t change them. You can only change you. If you’re waiting for them to say or do something to make right whatever wrong has been done then you’re handing them the power over your life. This goes for resentment too. Holding onto it also gives the power to the perpetrator. Hanging onto resentment just keeps the pot boiling inside of you. Resentment is a poison that keeps you stuck and unhappy and makes it imminently more difficult to move on. Essentially it makes you a prisoner to the situation.

Remember that to forgive doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to maintain a relationship with the perpetrator(s) i.e. to those who have been disloyal. Forgiveness is a way of setting you free. It’s about altering the mindset of “poor me” or “why me?” It also opens the door to learning from the experience which will open a channel to your own inner wisdom and will allow for healthier perspectives and possibilities to move forward.

I don’t know your circumstances but often those who have hurt others are hurting within themselves and this causes them to lash out. Here’s the tough part because it requires you to move outside your own wounded ego and your damaged sense of self to look deeper into what may be causing them to hurt you. Try, without any expectation on your part of them accepting their wrongdoing, to give them the opportunity to look into their own behavior. This requires an act of caring for another human being and takes you out of your wounded self. Often to see that it was another wounded self that caused you harm can have a healing effect for you. And that’s what forgiveness is mostly about, the healing of you.

It takes confidence, bravery and strength to forgive and allows us to adapt and makes us more resilient so as to help the next time we are wronged (and there will be many next times). In so many ways the process of forgiveness is an act of love for yourself. it’s a way of standing up for yourself and saying that “I don’t deserve this” and that “I am strong enough to own what has happened and then take control of where I am going from here”.

Remember also, M., that you do not have to do this alone. There are many trained facilitators and counselors who can help you with the process of forgiveness. If you want help with your process try Googling “therapists who can help with the forgiveness process” and research what you get.

The healing of the anima/animus: So how do you step outside the trap of the box you’ve gotten yourself into?

 

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I’ve been talking in class about the rational, concrete and patriarchal world we live in i.e. the cultural-emotional “box” we live in– the myth that informs and directs how we live our lives and react to our environment.

The question that came up for me when I first realized that the box even existed was, “Okay, how do I get outside it?” which is a typical male response to any problem. I’ve been working on that for over 35 years now. At first all my efforts were for naught because I didn’t really understand the parameters of the box (didn’t know where the walls began and ended) so everything I did was within the context of the box i.e. more box stuff. When I realized that it was I who was creating the box, albeit in partnership with the society I was living in, I began the task of tracking down what I was doing and why, in other words, “what purpose did my behaviors have for the life I was living?”

In my case it was about maintaining and protecting the persona (my presentation to myself and to the world of who I was or at least wanted to think I was) and not dealing with the hurts in my life– most of them gained during the experience of being parented either by my mother and father or the other authority figures in my life, that was pretty much all adults, though there were certain children I gave that power to as well e.g. some bullies, girls I was in love with and who demeaned it, boys I looked up to who ignored me or taunted me with their arrogance.

These hurts are real, though the patriarchal society might say, “Snap out of it you wuss* and get on with it!” To the degree that I didn’t honor the reality of the feelings, of the emotions, is the degree to which they went underground into the subconscious and then grew until they began to effect not only how I viewed myself, but my world perspective and how I reacted to my experiences, in other words, how the material I shoved into the subconscious took over the running of my life.

So how do we begin stepping outside the box we’ve built for ourselves?

Here are a few suggestions that have helped me along the way:

  • Do something you thought that you couldn’t do– perhaps even something you were afraid to do.
  • Read poetry, fantasy, fairytales, ancient mythology**. Step outside the rational, concrete and patriarchal world and into the symbolic and mythic.
  • Become more conscious of your own myth, the story of your own life.
  • Become more receptive to your own inner environment.
  • When you see someone and you’re finding yourself judging them don’t make that judgment real, just notice that you’re judging. Chances are the judgment has nothing to do with them and far more to do with you.
  • Have your feelings, don’t let them have you i.e. don’t become them. Notice them without doing anything with them, don’t resist them***just experience them without judging them.
  • Notice what the circumstances are associated with your feelings. For example, what’s happening when they show up? Remember to just notice.
  • When you reflect upon an early emotional injury (usually recalled when a similar circumstance shows up in your current life) what do you do with the hurt e.g. do you automatically let the ‘perpetrator’ off the hook by taking some or all of the blame? Try letting the emotional experience play out without doing anything with it, don’t even analyze it, just have it. Don’t make it any more solid than it is by either agreeing with it or resisting it.
  • When having a feeling or emotion notice what’s happening in your body. Do you feel tightness anywhere? Has anything happened to your breathing? Are your hands clenched? How do your arms feel? Check your neck, back, chest and face, anything happening there?
  • Keeping our emotional injuries bottled up regardless of their level of trauma i.e. their degree of severity, allows them to fester and grow. Frequently they will find a form of outward expression through the body i.e. through over or under weight, migraine headaches, debilitating pains, nightmares, or stomach ailments– to which the patriarchal medical response is to prescribe a pill, or to tell you it’s “all in your head” and not real.

When I was working full time as an administrator the level of stress that had to be dealt with and endured on a regular basis made life very difficult over time. Eventually I developed pain in my right shoulder that became so painful that it could not be endured and totally incapacitated my use of that arm and severely affected my ability to do my job.

Medically I was sent to physical therapists, chiropractors and eventually was given cortisone shots to reduce the pain and inflammation. The shots worked for a while but eventually the pain returned and sometimes moved to another part of my body such as the neck or lower back. Basically I was ignoring the messages of my body and soldiering on like the Great Patriarch said I must.

For the last two years before I permanently retired I was in and out of the hospital and doctor’s office. Within a month after I retired and I was able to reflect upon all the emotional material that I couldn’t see my way through while in the trenches, the pains disappeared, never to return.

As with all myths there are ‘turning points’, those shifts in personal awareness and perspectives of the hero (in this case, you). Those who take the mythic journey within themselves will also experience these shifts and over time become less dominated by their subconscious and more able to live a life of true conscious ‘free-will’.

It is a fact of life that when all seems the most hopeless and becomes like wandering a wasteland that the stage is set for transformation. Up until then the ego, the center of who we think we are, sustains the lie that all is well and that material success and rational living are the only goals in life.

So what to do?

Women in this society need to acknowledge their inner strength through the development of their animus (inner masculine) so as to forge their own voice and identity. Men on the other hand need to nurture their anima, or inner feminine, so as to polish the sharp edges of their voice and to ensure that it is their voice and not that of another who is speaking for them.

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*a very patriarchal colloquialism implying that anyone who looks too closely at their emotions and inner self is being too girly, i.e. not rational and manly.

**a symbolic, non rational, non concrete activity

resisting is the best way to keep something stuck and growing into something bigger.