Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Name the Pain
Name the Pain,” theologian Matthew Fox says.
By naming our demons we diminish their power over us. We reform them from demons back to diamons. Daimons were the origin of demons. They were divine spirits, demi-gods, intermediaries who passed notes back and forth between gods and humans. The Latin translation of daimons is soul. As such, they can be either creative or destructive, depending entirely on whether we receive them or reject them. By negating them, we turn them into angry spooks, consigning them to what poet John Milton called Panadaemonium, the capital of hell, and an apt decription of what happens in the human psyche when our guides are driven underground, when a force as powerful as the shadow is scorned.
Since shadow is largely what is unloved in us, and in some cases with good reason, reintegrating these parts will mean attempting to love them as if they are strangers who might be gods-but it’s still critical to keep our wits about us. Loving our own cruelty, rage, or vengefulness or narcissism is different from identifying with it or giving it license. Treating the devil with respect is not the same as worshipping the devil. Dealing with the shadow demands the ability to deal with paradox. Shadow must be love and transformed. It is intolerable and it is in us.
Novelist Isabel Allende says “A scary cellar accts as a stimulus to the imagination,” which is why she hides, in her own basement, “sinister surprises” for her grandchildren: a plastic skeleton, treasure maps, trunks filled with pirate disguises. Myth is also full of dualistic nature of the diamonic:
Pluto the Roman name for Hades, god of the Underworld, is also the god of Wealth.
We need to acquaint ourselves with our shadows and past in which it leaves it’s tracks, however, in order to become aware of as much of our experience as we can, to have as much information as possible to draw on for our own journey. We need to go bodily down through activities such a journaling, active imagination, bodywork and have spend some time just mucking around and getting to know the place. We really are meant to stick our noses in our deep strata. Annie Dillard once wrote. “When you move in, you try to learn the neighborhood.”
Danger lies not in the shadow itself but in the panic; in the acute anxiety that grips some people when confronted by some of the material there; in the fear of losing their footing in the conscious world because of what they find in the unconscious; in the fright of what they truly feel.
Above all, says Thomas Merton, take it easy. “The shadow is a frightening reality, and anyone who talks blithely about integrating it as if you could chum up to the shadow the way you learn a foreign language, doesn’t know the darkness that always qualifies a shadow.”
Not all suffering, to be sure is redeemed with gifts and talents-some times people grow up in sick families are just crippled by it – but the cold truth about turning a wound into a gift, if that is its nature, is that first you must FEEL it. You’ve got to be willing to go back and re-encounter the grief of it, starting with the brute fact that you got a bum deal, that justice is beside the point, and no one is going to make it up to you. The past cannot be changes only our attitude to it can be.
The past shapes us, but by following the deep calling to heal ourselves and throw off old curses, we may be able to reshape our response to the past and perhaps even the way in which we remember it. Sometime we are called to move backward so we can move forward with a greater sense of ourselves, and with a greater confidence.