Shadows

Question of the Day, August 7-8, 2015, Me and my Shadow

In the Chapter Shadow School of Rob Breszny humorously inspiring book PRONOIA is the Antidote for Paranoia he expresses our relationship with shadow playfully and inspiring.
“You’re a gorgeous mystery with a wild heart and lofty purpose. But like all of us, you also have a dark side – a part of your psyche that snarls and bites, that’s unconscious and irrational, that is motivated by ill will or twisted passions or instinctual fears…
Carl Jung referred to it as shadow. He regarded it as the lead that the authentic alchemist of the Middle Ages sought to transmute gold.”

How have you transmuted your shadow into gold?
Or discuss your experience with you dance with Shadow.

Thank you for all the sharing – particularly from FOS, Nancee and Lulu.

It is for me a strange experience.
I certainly have had many experiences that are easily interpreted through that framework, and I am loath to use that framework.

And why I am so loath is encapsulated in the very notion of alchemy.
Alchemy was the search for a way of changing a common metal (lead) into a rare metal (gold). They were trying chemical methods of doing so (though without the distinction “chemistry”).
We now understand much more about the structure of atoms and the nature of chemistry.
We can now transmute lead into gold, but it takes vast amounts of energy to do so, and simply isn’t worth it.
So alchemy was a search founded on invalid premises.

The whole question seems to be founded on invalid premises.

I both agree and strongly disagree with the question, at the same time.

In that we are all complex beyond any hope of conscious comprehension, yes we are each a “gorgeous mystery”.
In that we are each capable of rejecting conformity in any domain, yes we are each “wild heart”, in this sense. And we are also “wild heart” in other senses, in the sense of having ancient patterns from our deep evolutionary past that have aided the survival of our ancestors on average over time. These come in genetic and cultural forms, they come as feelings and dispositions to action, they come as anger, as senses of injustice, jealousy, betrayal, and many others.
History is replete with examples of situations getting very dangerous, where competition for very meagre resources has been intense. All of our ancestors have survived many thousands of such situations, over all manner of deep time.

So yes – we all have survival strategies that are appropriate to times of extreme competition, we would not be here else-wise.

And we are also primed by deep evolution to be cooperative.
We are capable of cooperation at ever greater recursive scales.

Which sets of strategies get triggered depend entirely on the contexts the various subsystems of our brain recognise.
Some of these deep systems within us have deep power to upscale their voting power in certain situations. So we can be strongly influenced by certain feelings in certain situations.
To the extent that we can consciously choose context, we can attain some degree of mastery.

And learning about ourselves, learning about those systems, and about the contexts and strategies (at ever more recursive levels) that trigger them, is an important part of the growth of self awareness and self control.

And none of us can control all things. We are far too complex for that. All we can do is choose where we are going to put the focus of our attention, and what we each judge as the costs and benefits to putting in the time and resources required to modify those systems. Putting focus in one area necessarily prevents it being applied to other areas.

So even the most advanced masters of self control in some areas, will necessarily be as children when viewed by advanced masters in other areas.

This is a necessary part of the human condition.

So yes we are all extremely complex, in ways that will always elude our comprehension.

Yes we all bring shadows of behaviours and feeling from the deep past of our genetic and cultural histories that will not be optimal solutions to anything in some modern contexts.

Yes to working on these “shadows” as and when judgement and opportunity allows, and let’s not ever fool ourselves that anyone is ever capable of complete mastery of such things.
To be human is to have less than rational moments, less than rational passions and fears, from time to time. Part of mastery is minimising those times, which first entails learning to recognise them as such (which is rarely good news).

And it seems clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that such things are neither right nor wrong, they are just how it is, and how it must be. There simply does not appear to be any evolutionary path to get to anything even closely approximating a human being, that does not cast such shadows.

And as to “lofty purpose”.
It seems clear to me that we are each capable of choosing a lofty purpose (to the highest and best of our individual abilities).
And the notion that we are born to a purpose, that existence has some purpose for us, seems beyond any shadow of doubt in my mind to be a bankrupt notion.

The notion of “purpose” within existence itself seems to be a notion that was common enough in history, and given the paucity of historical understanding of the nature of the chemistry and biology that makes us what we are, and the levels of systems and complexity present within us, made a certain amount of sense. And in the light of a modern understanding of what a human being is, that notion seems to have been invalidated, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt. That it continues so strongly, seems to be more about control and keeping individuals from discovering their own deep creative potential, than it does anything else.

So I am a yes to each and every one of us choosing our own “lofty purposes”, to the best of our necessarily limited abilities; and I am a strong no to any such purpose being imposed from without or implicit in existence.

So I am a yes to learning about ourselves.
Like others here and everywhere, I have had and continue to have my “battles”, my wins and losses; and provided I am still breathing the “war” continues.
I have battled with my own suicidal thoughts.
I have battled with my own judgements of my own lack of value.
I have battled with the pleasure that comes from domination and control of people and situations, as I have battled with rejecting all foods that were a joy to my tastes – in order to survive.

So yes, we all have our shadows, and we all reach such accommodations with them as we do.
And some lessons are more costly and more painful than others.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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