On Monday 20th March 2017, it was the Spring Equinox. A time of balance within the natural world, when the hours of light and dark are of equal length.
This balance is symbolised in the archetype of the Spiritual Warrior – the part of us that becomes active when we bring the light and dark aspects of our Self into union, the conscious with the unconscious, through a process which Carl Jung termed ‘Individuation’.
Two days after the Spring Equinox, on Wednesday 22 March 2017, London suffered another terrorist attack. This time at the Houses of Parliament, the very heart of our democracy, in which a heroic defender of our freedom, PC Keith Palmer, and three other innocent people were killed, along with fifty wounded, some critically.
It is easy to feel a sense of overwhelm and despair in response to global acts of terror. Unless we’re in a position of political power and involved directly in making the decisions that govern our societies, we can feel powerless as to how to respond.
People-led campaign organisations like avaaz.org, change.org and 38degrees.org.uk play a vital role, but apart from signing and sharing their campaigns, and donating to them, what can we as individuals actually do to bring about change in society?
The first step is to bring our focus back to the individual level where it doesn’t feel so overwhelming and where we can start to make a real difference.
This involves working with our own unconscious shadow behaviour. When a wounded part of us is not given a voice, not honoured nor respected, not healed nor integrated, it shouts louder and louder to get our attention, sometimes instigating aggressive acts either against ourselves (internalised) or against others (externalised).
So how do we get this rogue part of us on board? Firstly, we notice it. Secondly, we ask it questions. And thirdly, we listen to it. We respect what it has to say and we reason with it. We give it firm boundaries around what’s acceptable or not acceptable behaviour, but we find a way to reach a compromise. We accept, forgive and love it. We reassure and integrate it so that it feels a part of us. Not excluded, ostracised, neglected, unloved, unheard or unappreciated – the shadow feelings that can lead to internalised or externalised aggression.
We need to start listening to these wounded parts of ourselves, especially those that use ‘isms’ to make themselves feel bigger and better. We can’t afford to stay in denial. Yes, the majority of us hopefully have an adult Self who knows it is not acceptable to be racist, sexist, ageist, fatist, classist etc…and we feel disgusted and ashamed when we hear those voices within us.
However, the truth is that the majority of us have these thoughts and feelings ingrained deeply within our unconscious from the patriarchal culture in which we have been born and raised. A culture that is driven by the insecure need for self-validation from being bigger and better than the other.
These thoughts and feelings, which we would rather pretend don’t exist, have come to us through a myriad of routes including the collective unconscious, our parenting, our ancestral heritage, our social conditioning, our culture, our social history, our schooling and the media, among others.
If we deny these voices exist, then we force them deeper into our unconscious where they fester in the dark, becoming more and more angry, judgemental and separatist.
We have to be brave in our own way. We have to be the Spiritual Warriors we were born to be. And we have to look at those shadow thoughts and feelings, bring them into the light of awareness and consciousness, acknowledge where they come from, understand what wounding is at the core of them, and then work with them, healing and transforming them until they no longer need to criticise and judge others.
When I hear my Inner Critic, I use the following technique, which I also teach to all my clients:
- I turn to that wounded part of me by literally turning my head to the side
- I say to her “Hey, I heard what you just said. I’m guessing you’re feeling vulnerable. What’s going on?”
- Typically, I hear a child-like voice inside my head explaining why she’s feeling vulnerable
- To which I say something like “I hear you, I understand and I’m sorry you feel like that, but I’m going to help you to feel better about yourself now and then you won’t need to judge others.”
- This wounded part of me then relaxes and over time as I keep working with her, those critical and judgemental thoughts stop
We can use this technique with all those different voices inside each of us which judge others according to their race, gender, sexuality, social class, age, etc…until we integrate all of them.
The battle of the Spiritual Warrior is an internal one. It’s about getting all of our shadow parts on board through listening to their pain and anger, healing their wounding, forgiving them and those who have harmed them, and working with them until they no longer feel the need to project their shadow feelings onto others through judgemental, separatist or aggressive thoughts or behaviour.
When we do this work, we start to change ourselves and how we relate to others, and when we start relating to each other differently, we start to change our communities, and when our communities start to relate to each other differently, we start to change society, and when all our societies start to relate to each other differently, that’s when we’ll change on a global level.
And it all starts with listening. Not ignoring or denying but with noticing the other’s shadow behaviour, asking questions, listening and finding a positive way to walk forward together in union. This is the path of the Spiritual Warrior. And this is the path that will lead us to peace.
With my love & blessings