The nightmare within the collective psyche

It is said that nightmares in our dreams come to us as a means of gaining our attention to things that we are paying little or no attention to but that threaten our well-being. However, because all dreams negative or otherwise come in service of our health and well-being our nightmares are actually there to help us.

I believe that this is also true on a collective or societal level and that to some degree our everyday lives are lived as a dream and symbolically represent what is happening within the collective psyche of a culture.

As a culture we have ignored the effects that our willful ignorance has had on our lives individual, societal, and political. We deny what we don’t want to think about and gloss over the negatives so as to focus on the positives. In short, we have learned to be ostriches and hide our heads in the sand. To do this we deny our short comings, ignore the political complexities of modern life and shoot for as much immediate gratification as possible even if that gratification is just a sustaining of our pride and need to be right about our position and points of view.

But the collective has its own psyche that when overstressed by not being dealt with adequately will break free of its suppression and create crises of nightmare conditions that demand that we pay attention and do something to correct the problems. This is what nightmares in our dreams are doing and it is what the triplet crises of the Corona Virus, #metoo, and #blacklivesmatter nightmare is doing as well.

The people we vote for and the issues we ignore or refuse to deal with adequately because we think they are too complex or because we just don’t want to be bothered so we leave it up to the person who promises us to handle it regardless of whether they know how to or not has in many cases helped to produce the current nightmare. Also, our refusal to take a hard look at our biases, prejudices, and beliefs and how they serve or don’t serve us have also combined to create the perfect storm that has resulted in the nightmare we are all experiencing.

For many the answer is to continue to deny the problems, ignore any complicity and/or to be indifferent to the issues because that’s easier. In fact, those who are most complicit are those who attack anything or anyone who tries to make them face their complicity.

But the shadow side or dark side of our collective personality will not be suppressed forever and if it is it will eventually wreak havoc upon the body politic much as it would the body/mind of the individual. Empires have dissolved because its leaders and citizenry have ignored its ills. As a culture we as Americans have much to be proud of, but our continued suppression of our darker aspects will be our downfall as it has for all those empires and societies before us.

Our salvation is to be found in how we deal with and not hide from our darker aspects. It is time to vote intelligently for that which supports healing and unity amongst our disparate parts and not that which divides. It is time to confront the beliefs that enable the hurting and demeaning of others and not give them power. It is time to face the facts of what we have done and are continuing to do to our society and our environment. It is time for America to wake up and grow up.

What’s exciting, however is that there is a glimmer of hope still left and Leonard Cohen summed it up for me in his song, “Democracy is coming to the USA”

“It’s coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It’s here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst
It’s here the family’s broken
And it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA”

The Zodiac: Is Astrology real or unreal?

 

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As an undergrad I remember studying the research of Jean Piaget who observed children of all ages and came up with a comprehensive theory of cognitive and physical development in children. Though his conclusions were a little too rigid he did show the value of systematic observation.

The careful observations of Jung and Freud lead to a whole new way of looking at the psychology of human beings, therapeutic techniques and the interpretation of our often-enigmatic dreams. Though many of Freud’s ideas have not held up under close scrutiny and some of the claims of Jung have not been verifiable their scientific technique for exploring the human psyche has been very useful to the fields of psychotherapy and analytical psychology.

In grad school we learned a systematic technique for looking at classrooms and individuals to ascertain the etiology of problematic behaviors that could then be remediated through the development of a behavioral intervention strategy.

To a great degree the technique of careful, systematic observation leads to many interesting theories that can then be tested in the laboratory or in the field of the everyday.

So it should be no surprise that a field that’s been discredited by the scientific community in general may have had its ancient roots in observational strategy. Astrology was said to have begun somewhere in and around the 2nd millennium BCE (Before the Common Era) and practiced as a means of determining not only ones personality, but also their future and that all of this was determined by the location of the stars at the person’s birth.

So how did they come up with this? Well, probably through systematic observation. However, the belief that stars affect ones future has no scientific support though it has been researched from a number of different angles. Interestingly personality traits based on the time of year one was born has proven to have some validity. One can actually be influenced by the time of year they were born. This is especially true for whether we tend to be introverted or extroverted in nature. Large groups have been studied and found to have common personality traits within a certain birth time e.g. seasonal effects do seem to affect personality depending on when born. For example, people born between December and March seem to show high creativity and show up at a higher level in those who have been deemed celebrities *.

According to Psychology Today there have been a number of studies done that show possible connections between the time of year someone is born and certain personality traits and even to some small but statistically significant degree of certain metal health issues such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders **.

Jung though most likely not a believer in Astrology per se would probably agree that all the aspects and meaning given to the various symbols of the Zodiac are projections from the Psyche of humankind and therefor would have meaning regarding that Psyche. Jung also believed that we are lead by psychological motives, many unconscious but when the Astrologers reigned no one knew of psychology so they projected this idea onto the stars and their positions in time.

So there may be some partial and limited validity to the Zodiac and at least the seasonal aspects of that system on personality traits. Like other discoveries through systematic observation interesting correlations can present themselves, but frequently people carry them a little too far based on their cognitive biases.

Some people who have interests in the Zodiac will dream of certain signs and images of the Zodiac. These images are likely symbolic of certain aspects of the dreamer’s personality being revealed to them or certain wishes or desires for the waking world that are being projected into the dream. Though no connection has been found between the Zodiac and future events there seems to be an apparent connection experienced by many people, I believe this to be more on the order of an expectation effect, conscious or unconscious.

So what about the Moon and its effect? Seems as though no study supports any psychological connection though there is a little evidence that in the pre-light bulb era women’s menstrual cycle may have been affected by the full moon as well as the prevalence of male or female births depending on when the full moon presented itself. This possible connection doesn’t seem a factor any more, at least in developed countries, but during the eras when this connection was thought to be true it might have had some validity ***.

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*Deluca, GC, Disanto, G, et al. Seasonal Distribution of Psychiatric Births in England, PLOS One, 2012.

Adel, MM, et al. Favored Zodiac for Celebrity Babies, Journal of Social Sciences, 2014.

**Hayden, B.Y. (2011) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-decision-tree/201107/science-confirms-astrology

***http://hormonehoroscope.com/2014/08/hormone-horoscope-does-the-moon-affect-your-menstrual-cycle/

Crises can have silver linings. They can open you up to yourself.

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Because the human psyche is designed to respond to any kind of threat with an either/or response of confront or flee better known as fight or flight we have a tendency to avoid upsetting input e.g. bad news, negative thoughts and negative feelings such as upsets, worry, anxiety, sadness, grief, desire, even hate or anger. But sometimes we get stuck and perseverate in one or more of the negatives and then we try to handle them (think get rid of or avoid or fight them) by essentially stuffing them, “I won’t watch the news”, “I will think only positive thoughts”, “I’ll meditate, or yoga or exercise the feelings into calmness, Aum” or some such variation. This is not to say that these techniques should not be used because sometimes we need to calm down in order to hit the pause button. If these exercises are part of your regular routine then you’re already well positioned for what comes next.

But for most of us the sporadic use of centering techniques is a kind of hiding from the negative and is not very effective or only temporarily effective. Why? Well, just because you’ve stuffed something out of sight doesn’t mean it’s gone it’s just waiting for another trigger to bring it out again. As most who practice regular centering know, life happens regardless of how centered, wise or enlightened you think you are.

Next time instead of trying to flee the feeling as though it were something to avoid or despise try holding your feelings with respect and compassion after all they are a part of you and the reason they are there at all is the psyche’s attempt to care for and protect you.

Next time you might just “feel” them without trying to figure them out or to dismiss or demean. Try not to diminish their reality by stuffing or explaining them away just accept them as they are without judgment or condemnation. Look at them and actually feel them. They are real and they are a part of you and just as real and necessary as any other part. Don’t engage them or go into agreement with them, just have the feeling, observe it, observe where in the body it is located, how vivid it is. Does it have a color? Does it have a shape? Is there a sound to it? Observe all aspects of the feeling.

When you are able to do this, it tends to reset your consciousness about feelings and their service to you toward your health and well-being. You may also notice that when you are just able to have a feeling without it having you, you become more present in your life and when you become more present life becomes more magical.

Who is dreaming?

 

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Wise men and women have for millennia wondered if what we have assumed was objective reality was only a dream.

Edgar Allen Poe who once queried, “Is life but a dream within a dream?” What a curious question! Is he questioning whether we can distinguish between what is fantasy or reality? Isn’t this inability to distinguish fantasy from reality part of the very definition of what is considered magical thinking and a component of an obsessive-compulsive thinking disorder?

As I looked into this question I found that the Australian Aborigine thinks that we are continuously within a dream that creates what we call reality.

“I do not believe that I am now dreaming, but I cannot prove that I am not.” Exclaimed the 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell.

The Toltecs believed that we are the dream of God. They suggested that God is dreaming the world into existence. This seems very much like the Australian Aboriginal world-view and not too different in essence to the book of Genesis.

But what happens when God awakens from the dream?

A Taoist philosopher, Chuang Tzu, Relates that he had a dream of being a butterfly and when he awoke he asks whether he was Chuang Tzu dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Tzu?

He went on to say,

“Someday comes the great awakening when we realize that this life is no more than a dream. Yet the foolish go on thinking they are awake: Surveying the panorama of life with such clarity, they call this one a prince and that one a peasant—What delusion! The great Confucius and you are both a dream. And I, who say all this is a dream, I, too, am a dream.”

 So which is the illusion, the sleeping dream or my waking life? And where does truth lie, in the every day or in the fantasies of my dreams?

The psychotherapist Carl Jung posited the idea of complexes i.e., a core pattern of emotions, images and ideas that influence everything we see or think or feel. Along with these mostly unrecognized complexes there are also ancient archetypes we all share and that are mostly unseen factors that determine our vision of reality as well as our responses to it. These psychic features of human beings show up in both our sleeping dreams and the waking dream we call life.

Many scientists, philosophers, and cosmologists wonder if what we see around us may not actually exist. What we are seeing may only be projections from our psyches. That’s not to say that there is not an object out there to be perceived, but that our relationship to and understanding of it is subjective. The philosopher Schopenhauer stated that there could be “No object without subject.”

 

“There is no one who hears, there is just hearing. There is no one who sees, there is just seeing.”

–C. Beck, Everyday Zen (1989)

 

If I were to carry the idea in the above quote further I might add, that there may be no “I” who is dreaming, there is just dreaming.

When I am dreaming, who is creating the dream and who is observing it? When I talk to myself who is listening? And what about the dreams where I am dreaming that I dream of seeing myself? Is there more than one “I” in there? How many?

Are our dreams like a book that our soul is writing about us? Am I really awake when I climb out of bed and into the waiting day? Is it as Jung once quipped, “Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”

 

“The awakening of consciousness is the next step for mankind.”

–Eckhart Tolle

Spending time with the shadow

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Found on silenthillmemories 

I just spent an interesting, stressful, scary and embarrassing week with my shadow.

Recently I wrote an article promoting an alternate view to our current politics and deliberately posted it to those regions in the country that I was pretty sure had the opposite view. I was expecting pushback and thought that the dialog might prove interesting maybe even transforming. Though to be honest there was also a need to make them wrong for what I perceived was a very dangerous politic.

What I got was the most negative vitriol I’ve ever read. The things I was called and likened to couldn’t possibly exist in one person even if I were as evil and worthless as my detractors believed me to be.

Eventually the negative rhetoric got to me and I took down the posting.

After some thought I tried to apologize for what I’d done to stir up so much emotion. One detractor however, noted, correctly, that I was still attacking others points-of-view even with the apology. How embarrassing to be called out like that. It was a very negative experience.

The whole episode did have some positive for me in that it forced me to look at my original motivation for the article i.e., an ill disguised and dishonest put down of a very different point of view. The rejection that came my way was immediate and hostile.

Though embarrassment is often a shadow that follows me wherever I go, rejection is my greatest bogeyman and threat to my sense of well-being and yet I am continually rejecting myself or putting myself in the space of rejection.

When threatened or when not feeling safe for whatever reason I bellow, flail, reject and dominate. When I hurt I withdraw. When at peace and feeling safe I am open and accepting. When feeling accepted and at peace I am able to give of myself instead of trying to hurt others.

I suspect that this reaction to my shadow is not uncommon with others though it may take different forms in different folks.

So what’s the name of this particular shadow? Why do I react so strongly to something when I feel it’s trying to make me feel less than? Why is it I get so frightened and angry at being rejected?

In asking this shadow those questions it reminds me that I have always been angry at myself for not being better than I am. And yet what is this “better” that I am comparing myself to? How is it I know of it if it’s not already in me? And if it’s in me, why am I not accessing it? What do I put in the way of being this better version? Why all the clutter around the better me and why did I put it there? What do I gain?

As I muse on these questions it occurs to me that the question of what am I gaining might be better put as, “What do I stand to lose?” At that exact point I realize what is the “me” I’m operating out of, it’s the “me” that’s asking the questions, and the “me” who’s been reactive all along and at this point a new answer to the revised question makes itself known.

It’s the ego-‘me’ the ‘me’ I so often think of as the real me that stands to lose. It stands to lose power and control. It is the pretender to the real me, the deeper me, the soul and deeper Self who fears loss of control and its belief that it should be the heir to the throne of my life. Loss of this control through domination looks like death. No wonder it fights so hard to keep me in the dark. From it’s limited perspective it’s about survival i.e., life and death.

In short, when not being me the shadow me takes over.

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For more on the Shadow read the Archetypes section in the book Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting.

 

 

 

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

Loss of the feminine, the rise of the Phoenix and in search of the androgynous.

 

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Found on https://cgsociety.org/

As many of you know I have written a great deal on the need for balance within us and within our societies. Many psychologists and philosophers also subscribe to the idea that we are all developing psychosocially toward wholeness i.e. to be a fully individuated human being one needs to deal with their inner and outer opposites by learning to integrate them. For those individuals and those societies who ignore or actively suppress part of themselves an imbalance occurs that affects negatively all relationships and retards the growth process.

There are probably an infinite number of aspects reflected in the human personality but I’m choosing to focus on what I see is probably the most destructive to the concept of wholeness, not only to the individual, but to all societies as well.

Each of us was born with dual gender personality aspects. In each of us is a feminine and masculine set of traits that affect virtually everything we do, think, and feel or at the least how we express our doing-ness, thoughts, and feelings. Simply put, these are the feminine and masculine traits.

For example, a feminine trait might be intuitiveness, compassion, accepting, sharing, surrendering, and patient. The masculine traits might include assertiveness, decisiveness, strength, powerful, forceful, focused, and independent.

A male or society that has denied to any degree the feminine aspect tends to be oppressive, overpowering, aggressive, un-nurturing, loses touch with their emotions, uncompassionate, and concrete in thought. The female or society that ignores its masculine nature tends to compromise their integrity, independence, self-confidence, focus, and freedom.

Of course, all of us with varying degrees share these traits, it’s only when a person or society allows one or the other trait to dominate its cultural, or political, or personal ethic and activity that an imbalance is created and out of that imbalance certain levels of dysfunctionality begin to grow.

Over time many cultural traditions have denied full and equal spiritual and social equality to females. And these oppressions aren’t restricted to females either, because most societies also define what it is to be male and that definition almost always excludes the feminine aspects as the feminine definition usually excludes the male. Most of these differentiations and definitions have not only been codified in religions but in local and national politics and legal systems as well.

Essentially by separating the masculine from the feminine not only have we fragmented and compromised our ability to positively impact our relationships and society, we have also severely limited our ability to live life to its fullest.

By separating themselves from the positive feminine1 males have handicapped themselves emotionally, spiritually, and politically. Females who don’t claim their positive masculine traits contribute to their oppression as well. It is one thing to be accepting, patient, and gentle but it’s quite another to become a doormat and a second-class human being. A man without his feminine becomes spiritually rigid in thought and experience and has great difficulty understanding where and when emotions affect behavior. Probably the most destructive aspect of sexism other than the denial of fully half of what we are and what we’re capable of is the loss for both the male and female of their vast spiritual potential.

We also have an inborn creativity, but our oppressive nature has seriously compromised and debilitated this God given gift. It is this creativity that defines our experience of life. It’s what inspires and motivates us.

Ask yourself why we have done this to ourselves? Is it fear, fear of what, loss, self-control, survivability? Or is it the fear of death, the death of what, a belief, control, self-image, and/or status?

In our dreams the archetypes, inbred images, of our masculine and feminine natures show up as our opposite gender, females for the male and males for the female. Pay attention to them, what they’re doing, saying, or feeling, If you know them or know of them, what about their personality or behavior reflects something desired or rejected in your own life, or way of being?

Dream people often bring symbolic messages to aide the dreamer with personal growth issues as well as solutions to vexing problems and it is the opposite gender people who more often than not have the most important information to give.

In our dreams both waking and sleeping the Phoenix bird is often symbolic of the feminine aspect as the dragon can be a representative of the masculine. Note closely their relationship and what each may be trying to tell you. It is the feminine that is and needs to rise from the ashes created by the fire spitting dragons of the world. It is the dragon who needs to withhold his fire so as to be open to his other aspect.

 

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.         –Albert Einstein

 

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1 We all have both positive and negative aspects of either gender in us as well e.g. the negative female might be passive but without the masculine assertive trait it might then become passive aggressive, or overly manipulative.

The negative male can show up when the individual or society dismisses the value of the emotional, or compassionate and thus becomes dispassionate and overly aggressive.

The negative gender aspect is always there but only comes forward when denying equal validity and expression for either trait disrupts the gender balance in either the individual or society.

Readers may also be interested in the following link:

https://www.facebook.com/DivineFeminineSisterSacreds?filter=3

The Wind in my life part 2

 

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“Floating to the surface of an impenetrable water a pulsating mandala whose rings appear and disappear when a disembodied voice exclaims, “Where’s the wind?” and is the last thing I hear before I wake up.”

Excerpt from April 8, 2019 posting from The Book of Dreams Blog

 

Yesterday I wrote down a poem generated by a dream the night before and titled it, “The wind in my life.”

Now normally I think of the wind in a dream as symbolizing ones soul, life source or energy but it also reflects the changes in one’s life and it was these changes that floated to the surface and demanded my attention.

But change has always been attached to people so that every change event came with a person or persons introducing it or acting as the co-navigator(s) for the ship of my life.

It’s not too far off course then to think of the people in my life as the souls of the winds of my dreams. It’s people who for whatever reason have blown me in directions I didn’t know I wanted but perhaps needed to go.

In looking back across my life I see moments where people entered my life at precisely the right time to help steer me into a new direction. As I wrote in yesterday’s poem, “…I don’t know where I’m going!” So it’s a good thing these navigators keep showing up or I’d be foundering in some uncharted sea or held fast on some unseen shoal.

How these souls find me when I most need them is a curiosity. It’s as though we are somehow attached at some as yet unseen level. I wonder if our souls communicate with each other though we aren’t always open to their message or willing to let go of the illusion of thinking we know something and allow ourselves to follow one who does?

In the poem I curse the winds that never stay put like a pulsating mandala whose circles of completion and new beginnings forever seem to appear and disappear but it may be the wisdom of these symbols of the psyche to forever be changing for the change is the pulse of the universe within itself continually individuating and transforming the separate into the whole. 

Because I really don’t know where I’m going I will sometimes curse the wind and the curse itself will become part of the whole for which I search and the pulsating mandala that is my life will sometimes float to the surface of a dream and add light to the journey.

The wind in my life

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Floating to the surface of an impenetrable water a pulsating mandala whose rings appear and disappear when a disembodied voice exclaims, “Where’s the wind?” and is the last thing I hear before I wake up.

This was another night’s dream that stayed with me as I awoke but this night’s dream brought with it one of those rare delights, a poem that I share with you now.

 

 

 

It was so very long ago,

just yesterday I think

We set sail and followed the wind

Into this very dark and unknown sea

with only a promise fore and aft.

Born in opposition

An incomplete whole

A compromised mandala

Searching for a self

Here not there

A there in potential only

and forever becoming.

Like the wind Psyche’s rings won’t stay put

With the rhythm of the heart

They rise and fall

Rise and fall with every beat

Never solidly there.

Like an on-shore beacon

Of a home not seen

For oh so long.

A Guide-on that gives light

To the there

We set out to find.

Arrived!

No?

Not here?

Maybe there?

And we tack into the wind once again

And run once more toward home

Are we lost?

“Where’s that damn chart?” I say

“What chart?” You say.

“The one you were following.” I say

“There’s never been a chart

I was following you.” You say.

“But I don’t know where I’m going!” I say.

And we tack back out to search for that

damnable wind that will never stay put.

The Warrior in me

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This post is a continuation of my exploration into the masculine and feminine psyches.

A comment from a reader the other day to my query about how I might work with other men in developing their inner awareness through the work with dreams nudged me into taking another look at the mythopoeic work of Robert Bly and reminded me of his book Iron John and the concept of the warrior and wild man who was at the center of the men’s movement back in the 90’s. At the time of his heyday I was still resisting aspects of the male in me that I deemed negative and unwanted but I found myself attending his workshops anyway. Something in me at that time said that I needed to explore a little more of what I was resisting but I had not done that much justice until this most recent communiqué.

I believe that in every man exists an aspect of the warrior. It’s something that every one of us have to deal with in our jobs, our neighborhoods and with other people usually but not exclusively in the form of other men. Many of us have worked on our own aggressiveness so as to moderate it or in some cases to suppress it. As boys it’s what our mothers worked the hardest on to civilize. Some of us had to be worked on more than others. Eventually Robby became a “Good Boy” and relatively civilized. Relatively being the operative word and the warrior became pacified.

The warrior in me came to the fore while in the Marine Corps and especially when I found myself in a combat zone in Vietnam. But I can also say without any internal conflict that we did not belong over there doing what we were doing. I thought that then and think that now. Not that I didn’t think that hurting others was wrong but those thoughts were just abstractions to me at the time and could be easily dismissed. It wasn’t until confronted with the realities of death, grief, self-preservation, camaraderie, and hardship that I was able to see that this was all wrong that we had no right to be involved in the Vietnamese civil war or to kill those who had different ideas than we had. Also while on the ground I began to see that we were not welcome by the everyday people. There also seemed to be an organized resistance underground where the women who did our laundry on the base during the day were directing rocket fire onto us at night. Over time I began to feel as though I was the jackboot Nazi invader.

Was I not a patriot? Yes I was, but I was also becoming a more conscious patriot and I had lost my America Love it or Leave it mentality after a few short months in country. I began to think we had all been lied to. Over time I became more and more suspicious of our politicians and leaders and that eventually grew into a general distrust of government.

Defending my country against communism wasn’t part of my patriotism either because that too was a little too abstract and as it turned out it was wrong because it was a fabrication for going to war in 1965 as much as WMDs were for invading Iraq in 2003.

When I came home I was yelled at, accused of having killed babies, and spat at on one occasion. I observed some protests where our troops were booed and weekly statistics about American deaths were applauded. But I understood where they were coming from so I tried to help people separate the war from the warrior, the politician from the pawn, and the generals from the fodder.

We lost that war because it was all too abstract to those not actually engaged in it and neither the politicians nor most of the people had their heart in it.

After the war I worked hard at putting the awakened warrior to rest.

Today my thinking is along the lines that 1) War should be the very last recourse and only as a defense. 2) That evil should never be met with evil. 3) That aggressive domination of any kind is of the negative male attribute and needs to moderated. 4) That the people of any nation have the right to form their own version of the perfect union and to do so without intervening force. And 5) If you find that all other choices are gone and war is the only choice left then engage in it like you mean it as with everything without heart their can be no win and people’s lives are given for nothing.

After my war I came to the conclusion that if young men were to say no to war the generals and politicians would be hard pressed to start any. To that end I began to do presentations to 8th grade classrooms in Santa Clara Valley that were decidedly anti military and anti-war in theme. These were matched with representatives from the military recruitment offices so as to bring some reality to their romanticized version of the military. Anecdotally these seemed to have some effect.

After having watched people in Vietnam literally starving while pulling up weeds in the rice paddies and having heard some of the stories about how joining the Marines was the only way to escape poverty and hunger for some of the guys I also came to the conclusion that undealt with hunger contributed to mankind’s aggressiveness and so I eventually joined an organization dedicated to ending hunger and became the chairman of the Santa Clara County program presenting and recruiting donations from Palo Alto to Gilroy and then into San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin and Monterey counties.

I also discovered that I had some intuitive skill in listening to the grief and fears of other Marines in my squadron and this awareness helped me to move toward a career in psychology.

I resist the warrior less these days because having discovered that I can never fully outrun him I have over time learned and am still learning to work with the warrior and to enlist his power for good when it is needed.

In short, my experiences in Vietnam literally set the stage for the rest of my life. It opened my eyes and brought purpose to my life. As part of my journey I do not regret the experience because it’s clear to me now that this path is the one that God wanted me on.