The Myth, the Hero and the Lie
by Tom Kenyon
The concept of a living myth has intrigued me for many years, ever since I discovered Dr. Carl Jung’s work with archetypes during my undergraduate training. The idea of a living myth is alien to many in our materialistic society. For most people, myths are imaginary stories from another time, seeming to have little modern relevance. But a living myth is forged in the depths of our psyches, and it is both alive and potent with psychological power. Although living myths exist only in the subterranean passages of our unconscious, they nevertheless affect our outer world in very direct ways.
These mythological realms live unseen for the most part in the shadowy mists of our underworld. But occasionally they push through the veil of self-forgetfulness and land splat in our conscious everyday world. The young man rushing for the last touchdown of a football game, the crowd driven to their feet by mass hysteria, has suddenly been thrust into the myth of the hero. The mother who rescues her child from danger becomes, for a moment, the heroine.
There is power in myth, and every society instinctively knows this. In times of national crisis (i.e., war) societies quickly cast themselves as the Hero within their own minds. Anyone who opposes them becomes villainous. And when a culture begins to turn fascist, people are viewed as villainous just for asking intelligent questions about national policy and cultural attitudes. This pattern has been clearly repeated, ad nauseam, throughout all history, our current global crisis being no exception.
But no matter how unwieldy the global situation appears, it is fundamentally fueled by individual spiritual, psychological and economic choices. As individuals change their personal choice making, we will see an immediate shift in global affairs. And so it is to the individual that I wish to turn my attention in this discussion.
It is a long strange road we will take together here. We shall travel through lands of psychosis, mental illness, creative brilliance and spiritual illumination. Hopefully, we will gain some insights, along the way, that will help us in our own lives. And perhaps we will find, in the experience of others, some insight to help us in the extraordinary psychological and spiritual challenges we are facing at this time.
And so let us begin.
One day, about fifteen years ago, I received a desperate phone call from a colleague in California. He virtually begged me to see a student of his who had had a psychotic break after attending one of his nine-day intensives. She lived in southern Florida with her husband, and both of them wished to see me. She had not been “quite right” according to her husband ever since the incident. And her family had hinted, not so subtly, that if she didn’t improve soon, they would take legal action against my colleague and his institute.
I arranged to see the couple over a weekend, and they arrived at my office in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, early one Saturday morning. In the first two hours, all I did was to take down the history of what happened.
They say truth is stranger than fiction, and I would say, in this case at least, that it is definitely true.
Midge (not her real name), had attended my associate’s nine-day personal growth intensive. As a result of intensive psychoacoustic brain stimulation, she had a major mystical experience.
Around the eighth day, she felt the distinct presence of Mary, the Mother of Jesus enfolding her in love. Then, on the last day, as she felt herself expand into this loving field of energy, Midge dissolved, and Mary, the Madonna, took her place.
While in this blissful state of being, she went about blessing people. And some people actually experienced healings in her presence. This was later verified by my colleague in California.
Still in an ecstatic state of bliss, Midge a.k.a. the Madonna, was taken by cab to the airport for her return trip. While in the terminal she stopped at a newsstand to find something to read for the long flight home. The eyes of Madonna looked up at her from off the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Seeing her name in print, she purchased the rag and read the article on Madonna in the waiting area. Of course, Madonna, the queen of rock, is a very different order of being than the Madonna.
In her highly suggestive state of mind, Midge shifted her self-identity from the Mother of Jesus to the queen of rock n roll. She was no longer the mother of Jesus; she was now a rock star traveling incognito.
She boarded the plane without incident. But at about 30,000 feet she saw demons on the wing. Taking off her spiked heels, she started banging on the window, trying to break it. Flight attendants restrained her, and she cursed at them, yelling that she had to get out onto the wing to save the plane from demons.
When the plane landed she was escorted by police to the nearest psychiatric hospital where she remained for a few weeks until medication brought an end to her delusions.
By the time she saw me, she had been symptom free for about a month, but her husband reported that she seemed edgy and not quite herself.
On the third visit, Midge seemed highly agitated. I asked her what was going on, and she proceeded to confess an act she had committed over ten years earlier. It seemed that her husband’s family had owned a furniture store, and she was expected to work as an employee. She hated the job as well as the other employees, all of which were members of the extended family. One night, she snuck back to the store and set it on fire. The thing burned to the ground, and the family decided not to rebuild. She had found a way out of her situation, but the guilt had been eating at her for a decade. I remember her husband sitting there with his mouth hanging open. Amazingly, he did not seem to be too upset.
On our final visit, Midge seemed very relaxed, and both she and her husband seemed to have reconciled the arson. Checking up on her several months later, Midge had no further episodes or delusions. As far as she was concerned, the whole thing was behind her.
The Power of Myth
From a transpersonal standpoint, we could say that at the beginning stages of her experience, Midge entered the mythic or archetypal realms of consciousness. Indeed, it is not uncommon for persons involved in personal growth to have mystical experiences. I believe that part of this is created to the context in which such work takes place. And I think much of it is due to brain chemistry. A cursory glance at mystical experiences reported by saints and mystics from all over the world reveals distinct commonalities, despite vast differences in culture and tradition. Many of these commonalities have to do with changes in perceived time and space as well as other shifts in perception including high states of ecstasy and bliss. These changes all point to distinct alterations in brain chemistry and physiology. Brain physiology is like a mirror of the mind. It reflects what is occurring. And vice versa, when changes take place in physiology there must be corresponding changes in perception and experience. From this perspective, many ancient spiritual practices can be viewed as low-tech ways of altering brain physiology and thus perception and experience.
Finally, I believe that the mythic realm is an inherent part of our being. If a person goes deep enough into the inner terrain of his or her own mind, he or she will eventually encounter mythic or archetypal beings. Certain types of inner work as well as some kinds of brain stimulation unveil this interior mythic realm of being. I believe this is what happened for Midge.
Her contact with the Madonna, the mother of Jesus, was an authentic contact with the mythic realm of being (i.e., a loving universal feminine presence). However, because Midge had a weak sense of herself (i.e., a poorly maintained ego), she was not able to sustain contact with the mythic realm, but instead was engulfed by it. This is a real danger when approaching the mythic dimensions. Because they are larger than life and often have a highly potent energy or presence, it is easy to be engulfed by them. Indeed, when making contact with the mythic realm, it is advisable to keep both feet on the ground, so to speak.
To further complicate things, Midge had a dark secret that had been eating at her for over ten years. The guilt and psychological conflict around the arson had rushed to the surface like a breeching whale once her personal identity had dissolved.
The fact that Midge again changed identities when reading an article about Madonna, the rock star, points to her general psychological instability and her lack of a strong egoic identity.
The term ego has a different connotation in psychology than it does in many spiritual circles. The ego, from a psychological perspective, is simply one’s sense of self. It is a center point of reference, and it is critical to psychological wellness.
As a psychotherapist, I find it highly destructive and down right dangerous to involve oneself in ego-bashing in the name of spirituality. I see this kind of thing all the time, and in every case there is a compromise of one’s psychological health.
The problem is not with the ego, per se. The ego is just a sense of one’s identity. Had Midge possessed an intact ego, I suspect she would have never needed to be institutionalized. But she did not have a strong sense of self, and so she was fertile ground for absorption by the mythic. For her, the shifting of identify was a release from her psychological prison, but the problem was that she hadn’t earned being released from jail, or even paroled. She had not, after all, come to terms with her fiery secret. And the psyche demands a type of internal justice. Only when she admitted the act to her husband, and only when he forgave her was she able to reconstruct her life.
But you see her difficulties weren’t caused by her ego anymore than the temperature gauge on your car is to be faulted for warning that you are running hot. They’re both mechanisms. And the ego is a mechanism of consciousness (or Mind) that has one sole purpose–to navigate with a sense of personal identity through the myriad experiences of life.
Had Midge possessed a strong egoic identity, her encounter with Mary would have been different. She could have received the blessings that encounters with such beings bring without the distortions of her personal conflicts. Had she a strong ego, it would have ensured that she came back to a sense of herself when the experience with Mary ended. But she did not have this, and so there was nothing to bring her back to her psychological center.
A look at the psychological states of mystics during their ecstatic encounters shows this quite clearly. Read the accounts of St. Theresa Avignon, as well as other mystics, and you will see that she experienced being completely absorbed by her mystical encounters. Her sense of self vanished for the duration of her sojourns into the heavenly realms. It was only as she began to return to earth that a sense of self returned.
Compare this with reports of samadhi (yogic trance) by yogis and yoginis (female yogis), and you will see the same thing. In the more intense forms of samadhi there is a complete loss of self. There is only pure consciousness without an object (i.e., nothing to experience other than itself) accompanied by feelings of ecstasy and bliss. In Sanskrit this is called satchitannanda, sat, meaning existence, chit, meaning consciousness and annanda, meaning bliss. From the yogic perspective, the nature of existence is both consciousness and bliss.
In my twenties, I conducted a series of personal experiments in which I explored the mystical technologies of numerous religious traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and esoteric Christianity. These experiments all produced the same result: a temporary loss of self, or expansion of self into a field of ecstasy and bliss.
But even though awareness and bliss are parts of our nature, so are the psychological conflicts we have inherited and/or created for ourselves. Midge’s psyche had been disturbed all these years, haunted, as she was, by her previous acts of arson and cowardice. After her contact with the mythic realm in which her self-identity was dissolved, the conflicts came to the surface in the form of imagined demons. After she confessed her actions to her husband, and as a result of his forgiveness, she was able to come back to a place of psychological stability and continue on with her life.
King Arthur and Sir Lancelot
His mother called me at the Wellness Center where I worked, and asked if I would consent to seeing her twenty-year-old son. He was at a psychiatric facility where, according to her, nothing was being done to help him. He had been diagnosed as having had a psychotic break and was not sleeping well despite strong medications. I said I would see him only if I could bring in other health professionals as needed. His mother agreed.
When I saw Don (not his real name), he was still having tremendous trouble sleeping. His sleep was short, averaging about an hour to two hours. This meant that he never entered the deep cycles of rest needed for physical and mental wellness. Neither he nor his mother wanted him on medication, so I had a staff acupuncturist brought on board. Before each daily session, Don (not his name) would have an acupuncture session. Sometimes I would reverse the order, but in every session the task was the same, relax him.
After a few sessions, his sleep started to improve. And after a few weeks, he was getting about six hours without medication. Many of his symptoms predictably receded with this improvement in sleep patterns.
The content of his therapy, however, is what I find most interesting, even after these many years.
Don’s problems evidently started when he took some speed mixed with a hallucinogen. He tapped into a manic state in which he was hyper-alert and extremely creative. This period of high creativity (he was an artist) lasted for several weeks, long after the effects of the drugs had worn off. Then, he started having delusions coupled with antisocial behavior. He stopped bathing and became a hazard to himself.
But Don’s internal experience was far different than what he showed the world. For in his mind, Don had stumbled into the mythic realm and been transformed into King Arthur. He was on a most noble quest, though no one around him knew this. He was, you see, searching for his lost knights. They had been scattered to all ends of the earth, and his task was to find them and bring them back to Round Table; then, and only, then would he be able to rest.
When we met for the first time, he spoke in a very stilted and stylized way, much like a bad Shakespearean actor. And it became clear to me from our very first encounter that he truly thought himself to be the legendary King Arthur.
I remember, quite clearly, the moment. By the moment, I mean that moment in therapy when a client realizes or accepts you as an ally. I had been listening to Don go on and on about his distress at not being able to find his knights, when I took a chance. I leaned forward in my chair and using a similar style of speech he had been using, said that I was there for him. Specifically, I said, “I am here for you, my liege.” He looked directly into my eyes, and said “Sir Lancelot… it is you… it is you!”, whereupon he broke down and cried.
I told him that I was, indeed, there to protect him, and that I would find a way to guide him out of danger. We shook hands and forged a relationship between us, he, a younger man lost in the mythic sea and I, an older ally, rooted in the world of human relationships, but with a hand extended to him in the mythic storm. From that moment on, the work took on a deeply archetypal aspect. And I learned more in those six weeks with Don than I ever imagined learning in college about the power of the archetypal realm.
I actually looked forward to our sessions together because, for one thing, he was so damn witty and clever. Puns would roll of his tongue as he paced about the therapy room like warm wax drips from a hot candle. His complex explanations of the workings of consciousness and the universe bordered on brilliant. I was intrigued.
But there were problems. He was, for all his brilliance, still in deep pain, and his countenance showed the strain of his daily and nightly battles.
Don was caught up in the classic mythic struggle in which a prince becomes the rightful ruler (King) to his own psychological kingdom. With most people this mythic conflict takes place solely within the unconscious and rarely gets acted out except in rare instances, as when a son says no to his mother or father.
Don, however, had fully entered the mythic realm, and the conflict was acted out in his conscious awareness and behavior. At a symbolic level, Don’s quest for his lost knights was actually a search for the lost parts of himself, parts or aspects of self that got suppressed during his childhood. Part of the task in Don’s therapy was to resolve some of the parental conflicts with his overbearing and demanding father. As these issues were addressed, Don slowly came out of his mythic reality and became part of the human world once again. There were some trade-offs, however.
His extreme astuteness and alertness had diminished. He wasn’t quite as clever as he had been during his mythic encounter. But he was sleeping and eating. He could work again, and he wasn’t driving those around him crazy.
I have worked with many others since Don who were likewise caught up in the disorienting and sometimes exhilarating effects of the mythic realm.
I believe that those of us who enter the mythic realm intentionally (i.e., through spiritual practices, or unintentionally, as in spiritual emergencies) all share a similar task.
The goal is not to remain in the mythic realm although it is highly seductive to do so. Rather it is to bring back into the human realm those insights and energies that are of benefit to us and to our sangha (spiritual community). Then we are balanced. One foot in heaven, one foot on the ground, my Taoist teacher would always say to me.
By the way, Don re-entered the art world, never having another episode and has been quite successful.
The Myth and The Hero
Most of us will never have intense psychological conflicts like Midge or Don, but all of us are affected by how we deal with the mythic aspect of our being.
This is especially true in spiritual circles where there can be subtle or not so subtle pressure to view the world and to act in the world in certain ways. Many persons striving to live a spiritual life try, for instance, to be peaceful at all costs. Their entire lifestyle is centered on ahimsa, or nonviolence to another being. As they embrace this ethic there is an inevitable psychic tension that arises within.
For one thing, we are all mixtures of many conflicting psychological forces. In the course of human relationships, natural aggression is bound to arise. By natural aggression, I mean simply an appropriate response to having one’s boundaries violated. If someone practicing ahimsa discovers that another person has stolen something or spread a vicious rumor, the thought or impulse of anger will naturally arise. There is nothing wrong with anger. It is what we choose to do with it that determines whether it is destructive or not.
However, for the one practicing ahimsa (nonviolence) this can be problematic if he or she is attached to the mythic identity of nonviolence (i.e., a spiritual being who never does harm). To admit to oneself that one would like to break the neck of another being, or at the very least, bad mouth him or her, can be quite disconcerting. However, the acceptance of one’s own violence (even if only in thought) is a prerequisite to spiritual maturity and authentic spiritual growth.
Nevertheless, some people choose not to recognize the natural arising of aggression in themselves. They try to sweep it under the rug, so to speak. They pretend that they are not having these feelings. They cling to the mythic ideal of a spiritual person untouched by human delusions and always loving.
I doubt that such a person actually exists, outside of our fantasies, but that is beside the point. The point is that denying feelings (under the guise of spirituality) is both delusional and destructive to authentic spiritual attainment, not to mention just basic psychological health.
Striving to attain spiritual mastery and attitudes such as ahimsa are indeed commendable. But when one uses this ideal to deny parts of oneself (i.e., one’s own natural aggression or even one’s “negative thoughts”) one is in a very sticky situation. The reason for this sticky wicket, as my British cricket friends say, has to do with the paradox of the hero or the heroine.
You see, the mythic realm is bigger than life. It is the abode of the gods and goddesses. It is the residing place of titans and vast energies that dwarf human kind. When we make contact with a vibrant being from the archetypal or mythic realm, we are often filled with energy.
This dose of spiritual potency can be both invigorating and inspiring, and it is actually indispensable for those on the spiritual path of self-evolution. However, if we over identify with the mythic, to the exclusion of other parts of ourselves, then we are in a kind of denial and this can be disastrous.
It’s really ironic. Let’s say that someone becomes inspired by the spiritual presence and power of a great teacher, like a Christ or a Buddha. To make the decision to live upward in consciousness, like a Christ or a Buddha, is essentially a heroic act.
And through the act of choice, one becomes transformed into a spiritual hero or heroine.
To feel heroic is one thing. To live it in the world is another. And this is precisely where trouble can arise. If one overly identifies with the hero or heroine, one will be disturbed by those thoughts and feelings that are less than heroic.
We are all a mixture of many thoughts and feelings, as I said earlier. But if a person is invested in being the spiritual hero or heroine at all times (no matter what) then that person will be forced to deny thoughts and feelings that are not spiritual (whatever that is).
So let’s be more concrete here. Many years ago, when I first consciously entered spiritual work, I met a Tibetan lama. Someone told me that it was customary to give such a person a gift of some kind. Filled with spiritual feelings I went out and purchased a beautiful basket and filled it with exotic fruits and colored silk. As my moment came to present him with my gifts, my heart was filled with immense love and bliss.
I handed him the gift and he looked at it. He nodded and then proceeded to cut up the fruit and hand pieces out to the small group that had gathered. I was horrified. My warm fuzzy feelings evaporated, and the hot air balloon of my bliss deflated. What did he mean giving my gifts away? And what did he mean only giving me a nod? Didn’t he recognize me? Surely there was some kind of mistake. As the pieces of fruit made its way around to me, I took a tiny piece of mango and looked at it in my hand. It was only then that I could recognize my delusion.
I gave the gifts, not with an attitude of reverence and appreciation, but with pride and expectation. My identification with the ideal of a spiritual disciple overclouded my awareness. I had not spotted my spiritual narcissism until all the fruit had been handed out. Spiritual narcissism, for those unfamiliar with the term, is when we think we are hot shit, and consider ourselves to be more significant and important than other beings.
It was also about this time, that I had a sudden awakening instituted not by a spiritual teacher, but by a friend. I lived in an old dilapidated house with a bunch of other students, and each of us had taken a room. Somehow I wound up with the giant dining room or maybe it was the ballroom. Anyway, it was huge with tall ceilings. In one corner of the massive room I had placed a small altar complete with pictures of Christian, Buddhist and Hindu saints. On the floor in front of it was a small prayer rug where I meditated and did yoga. The area was spotlessly clean and orderly.
In the other corner, of the same room, I had placed my mattress. Stacks of books, plates of half-eaten food and a pile of unwashed clothes littered the floor. Dust balls hovered about like low-lying cumulus clouds.
One day a friend of mine, also at the University, dropped by to pick me up for a concert. There was a knock at the door. I opened it and motioned him in. He didn’t know my living situation and for a moment looked about the room. He said only said only three words: “Who’s your roommate?”
I was stunned. I looked at my room with new eyes. In one corner a young aspiring saint had made a home. In the other corner, a slob had made his. Both of them were inside of me, and I suppose, that in some ways, the next twenty years of my life were an attempt to bring the two together.
Now I mention this story because one, I thought it might make you laugh and two, I think this is a beautiful (though embarrassing) example of how denial works. I had set up two areas in my room and my psyche–one was sacred and one was mundane. When I was in the sacred area I had spiritual feelings, and I did not notice the slob on the floor across the way. In fact, there were many battles between the slob and the would-be-saint. The spiritual dude wanted to get up at 5 a.m., because he read somewhere that that was the best time for yogis to meditate. The slob, however, could barely get up for his 9 a.m. classes. This tug of war went on for years. Now, for the record, I get up when I get up, and I meditate when I meditate. The war between the dudes has pretty much stopped. Partly I think, because eventually I gave up and canonized the slob.
My point in all of this is that when we set up spiritual ideals (no matter how lofty) there is a real danger. And the precarious thing is–we might try to separate ourselves from bad thoughts and feelings (bad, of course, meaning anything not in keeping with the spiritual ideal). If we make this fatal mistake, then we have polarized ourselves.
Then a very weird thing happens. We begin to live a lie.
We didn’t set out to live a lie. We were pursuing truth. We had decided to live a spiritual life, to be a spiritual hero or heroine. But we made the fatal mistake of identifying with the image or ideal of the spiritual hero/heroine.
As a result of this unfortunate choice, we are no longer living the spiritual life. We are living an image of the spiritual life–two very different things.
We become disturbed by the arising of negative thoughts and feelings. This is a real bummer because negative thoughts and feelings continually manifest themselves in our minds. Like dark clouds, they also pass away and dissolve into emptiness (like everything for that matter). But instead of accepting these feelings as natural, and allowing them to pass through the mind, we become upset whenever less than spiritual thoughts and feelings arise. Then the ground is ripe for a most difficult kind of psychological situation–the shadow.
The shadow is that part of our unconscious that we keep out of awareness. We pretend it isn’t there–usually because what we have put there is too difficult for us to accept. However, something more insidious can happen here. If we refuse to accept the arising of our own negativity (anything not in keeping with our spiritual image) we might very well choose to do battle against it.
We have demonized what we cannot accept. We will then do everything possible to hide and suppress the negativity. If the psychological conflict becomes strong enough, we will begin to attack others whom we deem not in keeping with our chosen spiritual ideal. We will have birthed a Spiritual fascism, the very stuff of witch hunts and Inquisitions.
Think, not for a moment, that we are immune to such cultural madness here in the 21st century. The evening news is full of clues that another wave of cultural, political and spiritual fascism is growing in the world. How each of us deals with each other, as well as the mythic inside us, will determine how large and destructive this wave ultimately turns out to be.
Shortly before he died, Carl Jung said that mankind would have to come face to face with its shadow and come to peace with it. If we cannot accomplish this immense psychological and spiritual task, our shadows will destroy us.
I think, maybe, we all need to be like Gene Kelly, “Me and my shadow… walking down the avenue.” I say this because to be aware of something is far better than to pretend it doesn’t exist.
And maybe it’s time we all rose to a broader spiritual view of ourselves and the world. Our future may very well depend on it.
A Short Practicum: Embracing the Shadow
I hope, here, to give you a quick and easy way to integrate shadow material into your conscious self through something called the Self-Integrating Process. The reasons to do such a thing are multi-faceted. For one, it allows you to avoid the snare of polarization within yourself (wherein you fight battles with yourself). For another, it removes you from the collective wave of Spiritual Fascism (a very good thing, indeed). Thirdly, it actually increases your energy levels because it frees up trapped parts of yourself. Remember, it takes energy to keep something down psychologically.
In addition, there are a few points I would like to introduce before we look at the Process itself.
First of all, suppressed shadow material often coalesces into a state that resembles a being or an entity. It is possible to communicate with one’s shadow material as if it were a conscious being.
Secondly, accepting one’s shadow does not necessarily mean accepting its behavior (i.e., if you want to stop smoking, accepting your own shadow material responsible for the abuse of tobacco does not mean that you accept smoking). It does mean, however, that you accept the part of you that wants to smoke.
Just as an example, people smoke for many reasons. Some use it as a ritualistic offering to spirit, as in Native American ceremonies. Others use it to suppress feelings. It all has to do with your intention. For those wanting to suppress anger or agitation, tobacco is sometimes used because it causes the capillaries to constrict. With decreased blood flow, there can be a temporary cessation or decrease of agitation. So let’s say you are one of these folks. There are two things here: a) the behavior of actually lighting up and b) the desire to light up. The desire to light up is coming from a part of you that is uncomfortable with the arising of certain feelings. This part is trying its best to keep these feelings in your shadow realm, outside the light of self-awareness. And it is doing this because you have chosen at some level to deny these feelings. The part responsible for acting this out (i.e., grabbing a cig) is not the culprit. It is simply trying to do what you want it to do. In other words, no matter how bizarre a behavior is, the part responsible for that behavior is trying to take care of you in some way.
These parts have a kind of autonomous psychological life of their own. Their desire is to be accepted as an aspect of us, yet their fear is that we will reject them. There is good reason for this paranoia on their part. We tend to find them repugnant even though they are only doing what we asked them to do (suppress).
There is an innate fear in us that if we accept a psychological part, we will be bound to its actions. The truth is that when we accept a part as an aspect of ourselves, there is a release of psychological energy which expands awareness. This increases the likelihood that we will be able to make better and more creative choices for ourselves. When we re-member (rejoin with) a psychological part through the act of self-acceptance there is presumably a spontaneous release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters associated with wellness. Note: This is a theoretical observation I have made over the years in regards to the Self-integrating Process. As yet I know of no studies that demonstrate this, but people always report a feeling of increased wellness and wholeness after completing the process. I presume therefore, that there are corresponding physiological changes. Future research will prove or disprove this hypothesis, but whatever the cause, people feel better and more connected to themselves after going through the process.
The Self-Integrating Process
When an uncomfortable feeling arises, this is the ideal time to do the Process since the material is right at the surface of awareness. But it can also be done whenever one wishes to change a behavior.
There are several steps to this.
What is different about this process from many other self-therapeutic exercises is the lack of content. We really aren’t interested in the story of why we are doing “It,” nor are we interested in the history of “It.” We are simply acknowledging the part (responsible for “It”) as an aspect of ourselves. The sole purpose for this is to build a bridge of awareness between the subconscious and conscious levels of awareness, in other words, so that we can become psychologically more conscious.
1. First of all, when you feel upset, locate where in your body the part seems to be located. This may seem odd, but the part will be centered somewhere in your body. Sometimes, though much less often, the part may be in the energy field around your body. This area will feel different than the rest of your body. It may feel radically different if there is a lot of emotional energy around the part, or it may feel subtle if there is less stuff around it. But there will always be some kind of physical sensation where the part resides.
2. Next, simply focus on this area of your body and tell the part (silently in your mind) that you accept it as an aspect of yourself. That’s it. There will be a response from the part in the language of sensation; in other words you will feel something relax, let go or integrate if the part believes you. You have to mean it. You can’t bullshit a part and get away with it. Parts know if you are lying or trying to pull a fast one, and they don’t like it. To review an important point: you are not telling the part that you accept its behavior. You are simply saying that you accept it. It exists (whether you like it or not). And you are simply acknowledging that it exists, and that it is a part of you.
3. Sometimes there are other parts that don’t like it when you accept a particular part that you are having trouble with. These objecting parts usually have their own agendas to keep things in status quo. Some parts just plain don’t like for things to change. Others might not like for you to get psychologically healthier, for instance. Is it beginning to sound like you have a circus in there? Well… you do! And so does everyone else. What makes the difference between a good show, in which all the parts work, more or less together, and chaos, is the Ringmaster. And you are, of course, the Ringmaster of your own circus. Some of our parts are clowns; some are daring trapeze artists; some train wild animals; some are pickpockets slinking in the shadows behind the bleachers. There is a whole menagerie in there. And once you acknowledge one of the circus members, you may have to contend with others. The strategy is actually quite simple. Whatever arises in yourself, tell it that you accept it as an aspect of yourself. I have known people to need to work with up to nine parts to get a final feeling of resolution or integration.
This process creates a greater feeling of personal wholeness through the acceptance of parts that heretofore were rejected. It also increases psychological energy and awareness, as I said earlier.
This process does not usually resolve problems, but with increased psychological energy and awareness the problems become less problematic.
To make ourselves more whole by retrieving parts of ourselves from the shadows of our unconscious is a holy act. The root of the word holy, for instance, means to make whole.
I agree with Carl Jung that coming to terms with our collective shadows is imperative. And this type of psychological endeavor may be some of the most sacred work we can do at this time. May the light of your own illumination and the compassion of your own heart guide you in your quest for wholeness.