The Unconscious is Savage.
How sensitivity to what is “appropriate” hampers our ability for self-discovery.
The unconscious isn’t concerned with morality, sensitivities, or being politically correct.
It’s a realm of instinct and intuition, conditioned and educated in the simple yet vital lessons of survival.
Yes, there are elements and archetypes that concern themselves with morality, comfort, and public appearance; salvationary figures, moral kings, queens, judges, but they are only pieces of a vast ecosystem built on the need to adapt and survive.
When we are attached to our concept of self as a moral or civilized person we banish the rest of our human experiences into the Shadow of the unconscious.
The problem is that things in the Shadow don’t just go away, they simply operate unseen.
These are the odd moods we can’t understand. The small ways we act out. The obsessions that possess us and the things others observe in us that we just can’t see.
At the personal level, the repressed side of the Shadow can lead to anything from passive aggressive behavior to angry outbursts, addiction, anxiety, depression, the failure of relationships.
On a larger scale the Shadows of the collective lead to dictators, wars, and class conflicts, and xenophobia.
If we’re too self-conscious to explore the darker spaces within we’ll never learn how to work with them. How to truly master them and learn the insights our instincts have to teach.
Instead, we’ll be ruled by their least developed aspect. Ruled by our own blindness.
The inner world is more than peace gardens and serenity pools, it’s f&*#ing savage.
I went for a walk today in the rain. I wanted to feel it on my skin, let it wash away the groggy, somewhat sick feeling I’ve been experiencing.
In a matter of minutes, my skin started itching. A rash broke out in places exposed to the rain.
Bali’s pollution isn’t terribly bad but pollution blows in from the rest of Indonesia and even India depending on the weather.
Not even rain in paradise is clean anymore.
For a moment, I was consumed with rage.
I had to check myself, be mindful, find my bird's eye view of the world within. From here I can simply observe the rage rather than become it.
This isn’t the same as blocking it out. I wasn’t seeking to escape it. Wasn’t judging “this emotion is bad or uncomfortable.”
I didn’t try to get rid of it.
Instead, I was giving it space to be observed. Often times when I do this there is a man screaming or someone weeping. I can sit with this aspect of self and ask its story.
What I saw today was a woman, wide-eyed and furious.
She looked much like Kali and she hated what we’ve done to this world.
Her teeth were pointed like many of the statues here and she wanted blood. The fall of the systems that poisoned the world.
People talk about their inner child. Say to hug it, promise that its safe, bring it imaginary ice cream, tuck it in at night.
But what about the inner savage?
Not the racist description of another culture, not the noun, but the verb, the adjective. This archetype that moves, that plays shadow game of mask and hunt. This archetype that wants to tear everything down so it can run through the woods again.
We may have no conscious memories of hunting gazelle on the planes or boar in the jungles but our bodies do. And from what I can tell, they’re pissed at what we’ve done with the place.
My vision of a gorilla.
When we check into our dreams and active imagination we are often shown sights of the wild lands within.
The following is a dream sequence from my journal nearly two years ago. Like most dreams, it didn’t make a lot of sense at first.
In fact, the sensations of anger and jealousy almost turned me off from ever exploring the dream. It was comfortable, not right.
But when I sat with the dream and did the work a deep insight was revealed about my mental state. A mental state that had been becoming more and more frustrated, quicker to anger, quicker to lash out.
A mental state that wasn’t able to summon the energy I needed to get ahead in life, to run my business. Do what needed doing. Life was going south until working with my dream gave me new insight.
The dream goes as follows:
i wanted to grow a garden. i am at my house in portland and we are renting like we do. the backyard is different. there are planters for flowers and the back fence is lined with pots and perfectly trimmed bushes. the pots are glazed, they are almost fanciful but not quite and the bushes are cut square.
i want to grow vegetables and grain but i know the landlord won’t let me. she has people coming to see the backyard. i don’t know why, but it’s a crux date. i feel like whatever happens on that date cements things. it is linked somehow to the shed beside the house, one that doesn’t exist in real life.
the landlord in the dream is a client.
i block off the day people are coming. somehow it is as if they will make the backyard permanent, i am preparing to argue for tearing everything up and growing food. my landlord emails me and says that i don’t need to take off from work since i’m not involved. she seems upset.
shadra shows up with two guys. i think she is seeing one of them. he is handsome. we sit in the backyard and they talk about all the free beer they got when going out. i’m a little jealous and also annoyed, the conversation is childish. i think of free stuff i’ve gotten but then i shift my focus, i start talking about wanting to dig everything up and plant crops.
i point out that the theme of the backyward is weird, it’s as if it’s supposed to be an alice in wonderland theme but it falls short. it’s not fanciful enough.
as i move the conversation to the garden i can feel myself having more power in the situation. i no longer feel like they’re trespassing and i’m uncomfortable, instead i feel like there is a numinous power or tide beneath everything and i am directing it by speaking of a worthy goal.
as i write about this dream i almost remember another. i think grandpa was in it, and there was a plane. my parents were on a plane and it was lost. we were told they died.
I then journaled about the dream and was able to invoke an active imagination session.
after reflecting on the dream i tried to step into it. suddenly i felt like a beast, like a gorilla but huge and more monstrous. i tore the backyard in half. it came up like that, as if two slabs of concrete or asphalt, the planters, bushes, and pots, the whole yard split down the middle and i threw it to the two sides.
when i looked down i was surprised that there wasn’t just soil to plant. instead there was darkness. so i jumped in and fell, this ape like beast. until i landed on an object i knew was floating in this space of darkness, here beneath the earth. i then pushed my bestial arms against the object and poured in reiki, as the object started to sprout and grow, lush fields spread out all around me with plants and abundance. with the plants come light. that’s when the object began to beat and i realized it was the heart in my chest.
i want to grow abundantly. i want to do what should be a simple right, grow my own food, but i can’t. i’m constrained. there is a system of land ownership and it prevents me. i feel oppressed. this is linked to my work with clients, because the only way to interact with this system is through charging money.
clients are linked to my ability to navigate this restrictive world that runs on money. shadra’s two male friends are bragging about their free beers. the focus is on the money “we got it for free,” it was the claim to value, someone valued us enough to work outside of the system.
i am upset until i can turn the conversation and share a vision of being able to do what i must do, what i know i must do, without feeling constrained or oppressed.
when i enter into the dream the situation makes me angry. i enter back into a state of pure nature, a beast. i rail against the system and i try to destroy it so that i can plant my fields. what i find beneath it though is the space in my chest. it’s dark, there is no light, that doesn’t come until things grow. suddenly the heart is awakened to its own abundance.
it takes some tenacity, some animal spirit to do this work. to awake the heart.
what about the motif of the plane crash? it is odd, my childhood fantasies always linked winning the lotto to the death of my family, as if the universe would demand a balance for monetary success and abundance by claiming my family.
why is abundance linked to death of family?
i hear, “because you must be in a different world.”
to open up to the abundance i must leave behind my family’s beliefs. they saw suffering as a sign of good work, it meant God was testing you or the devil was after you because you were doing good work.
that has to die in me, this belief that endless struggle is how we are weighed by God.
i have to awaken that animal part of me that simply acts and brings the abundance, doesn’t ask if we’re worthy. the animal knows it is worthy. it is worthy of survival. it is worthy of the fruit of the land. it is worthy of freedom and having the ability to do what it must without oppression.
it is a true son of God, and it acts as such, doing what it must.
This dream turned out to be a powerful one and the insight it brought up helped me transform my relationship to myself, my business, the life I was creating.
I started charging a healthier price for my services.
I switched from the attitude of “I work at my business so I can do what I really love which is to work with clients” to “I love the work I do, it creates freedom and healing in clients and provides for my own needs and freedom.”
These realizations would not have been possible if my mind had drawn back from the anger and the jealousies listed in the dream or having to really look at the fantasies my mind used to play out about wealth and death.
Through working with the dream and gaining insight from this more savage part of self I was able to summon up the passion to change.
I had more energy to work, to grow my business. I had new insights as to what was stirring beneath.
The anger was transformed into energy and motivation.
When our consciousness is overly sensitive to what's “appropriate” it cuts us off from our deeper instincts.
The problem with trying to filter our human experience through the tiny filter of the “civil” is that the world is a lot more than what is civil or appropriate.
If we’re too uncomfortable to see anything beyond what we deem to be “right” we can’t keep our eyes open in the world.
The same goes for the world inside.
This isn’t an argument against morality.
Morality is necessary for human interaction, to be our greatest selves but a morality that blinds us to uncomfortable truths only perpetuates moral abuse.
There are many drives and instincts in the unconscious that have a natural function; anger, sex, competition, the need to separate and make space, the need to merge and connect.
All of these can be healthy and all of these can be twisted when we don’t have a healthy relationship to them.
The only way to build that relationship is by observing and interacting with the many parts of self.
Everyone has their Shadow side. The parts of self that clash with how we perceive ourselves.
In her book “Dreamworlds of Shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism” Prof. Angela Samegi notes that even the Dali Lamas have dreams of violence and dark aspects of self.
They portray ritual implements and magical charms, wild animals, fearful birds of prey, effigies of tormented human figures bound and shackled; they are images dedicated to the exercise of spiritual and political power, the exorcism of evil spirits, and the defeat of enemy forces…
Dreams like this go hand in hand with Tibetan Buddhist meditations on the wrathful deities as well as death and even tantric coitus.
Wisdom traditions the world over ask us to explore the more uncomfortable aspects of the human condition in order to better understand ourselves and the world.
These dreams and images of the inner world can act as warnings, insights, or initiation.
Sometimes they warn us about what can lie beneath. Unconscious motivations, fears, obsessions. The roots of the odd emotions we may be experiencing.
In this way, they shed light on our instincts. Parts of self we may not realize are active in us. By exploring the less than civilized parts of self we’re actually better equipped to realize when we’re being uncivil.
Other times the exploration of our uncivil parts of self-allow for a transformative experience.
For instance, dreams and visions of death, pain, and fighting are common themes of shamanic initiations. After working with these experiences the person often feels healthier, stronger, both physically and morally.
A conflict within is settled, the person is able to move forward.
The Dali Lama mentioned above had this experience:
Fifth Dalai Lama’s secret biography resonates with shamanic themes of struggle with disease, death, and malefic spirits. In one dream, he sees a large scorpion penetrating his body and devouring him from the inside; then, emitting flames, it burns away all remaining body parts. The Dalai Lama observes that he was suffering from an illness but felt better after this dream and shortly thereafter recovered completely.
Our inner savage isn't an excuse to be an ass.
The realms within may be uncivil but that isn’t an excuse for us to be.
We’re more than the unconscious, we can use our consciousness to explore the inner realms and to transform the rougher parts of self.
Channeling them for the greater good.
For example, today when I witnessed the inner raging Kali, I didn’t allow that rage to consume me.
I went around and treated people like beautiful humans.
I don’t sit and stew in rage but I also don’t pretend like it’s not there.
Instead, I observe. I plan. I act.
My question is always, how do I change the world for the better?
I let myself dream big but then I narrow the scope for the first step.
No money or resources?
Share tools with people. Help people heal, transform their trauma, balance their mental health.
From what I understand of the research on educating people, the healthier and less stressed a person is the more they are open to new information.
I’m not going to convince people to give up their cars by yelling data at them. (If I could, you’d find me on the corner screaming.)
Instead, I help people heal and transform and when they’re in a better place and are open to talking to me I share my concern about the environment.
That’s just step one though.
I have plans for every unit of scale beyond this.
It takes resources and networks to have larger effects on the world so I’m actively building those and have plans for the future process.
I know that wherever I am in life I have the vision to apply my passion, the insights born of this raging Kali, of my own inner beast who tears up yards, and the other parts of self.
The rage and instincts of the unconscious are nothing more than whimpering if we do not give it structure and the means to create change through conscious planning and execution.
This isn’t a rant against society.
The bit about gorillas and Kali tearing apart the system may sound like a call to anarchy but it isn’t.
It’s the observation of the tensions that arise in the world within when we come together to create complicated systems.
The existence of tension doesn’t make the systems wrong. (Though ours can use some massive changes.)
The inner world is filled with polarities, there will always be tension because something inside is bound to be activated by the world without.
(Unless you’re a monk and have removed yourself from those interactions.)
The experience of the inner beast isn’t a call to be able to do whatever I want.
We f*&^d the world up too much for that, no, this is a rant against our blindness.
The chaining of Prometheus and the complications of our unconscious ambition.
This is a prayer of the dark, the scream of the savage, the divine rage that drowned one world and burned another.
If we can’t bear to see it, to hear it, to think it, we’ll never be able to feel into the complete depths of who we are.
And if we can’t become whole in ourselves, to truly know ourselves, how will we ever have the strength to reverse the millennia of unconscious blindness that has created the world around us?
Do you shy away from the images and experiences of your inner realm?
Do you leave dreams untouched because they make you uncomfortable?
Do you try to filter everything through “love and light or what’s comfortable?”
If so, perhaps challenge yourself to be a nonattached observer of the inner realms? Let yourself feel what arises without judgment.
You may find there is wisdom to be found in the uncomfortable spaces.
Love and share.
I’m starting something new. Writing every day as I put my random thoughts on binary paper.
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