“Fantasy is the mechanism by which we attempt to suppress and avoid our emotions.”
“I’m sad not just because the ocean reclaimed my sandcastle, but because it showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was a construct of hope and fantasy.
“And I can cry about the loss of the sandcastle itself, but the more mature thing to do seems to be lamenting that I was building sandcastles at all.”
I long believed that, sooner or later, my position as Superman-among-the-clouds would be formally acknowledged and applauded.
As it turns out there is a deep and abiding (so far) peace, a profound filling up and out, in assuming the mantle of my imperfect, fated, vulnerable humanity.
I feared that unless I offered everything to everyone, I would be worth nothing to anyone. I never believed for a second that it might be enough to be not a boy superhero, but simply a man.
A man. Rare, imperfect, fallible.
And then to collapse the angels and demons of the world into the rare, imperfect, fallible beings we are, and accept us all as splinters of the human condition.
I love you guys. It’s all that’s left, and the only thing that makes any sense whatsoever.
I am reading Facing the Dragon by Robert L. Moore. It is about confronting personal and spiritual grandiosity, and it is blowing my mind. But I’m not going to give you a book report. I’m going to talk about me – which is fitting because the book is all about narcissism.
I have learned some things about myself during my intense study since things went south with my ex wife. One of them has been emerging in the last month around my own narcissistic drives and what my moment-to-moment motivation is. This book is blowing the doors wide open on it. Here we go.
We all have a God complex. We are all narcissistic. In contemporary Western culture, God is dead and we have a grey sludge of piss-weak, new age spiritual nonsense in lieu of a wonderful, terrifying, omnipotent transpersonal other.
And it is fucking killing us.
We seek the soap box, our time in the sun, to be inflated by adoration and, really, deification. We deify each other, too. Put our partners on pedestals. Our priests. Our friends. Here’s the rub: humans cannot reliably or sustainably hold this sort of energy. We know we’re not God (no matter how much we’re told, or would like to believe it) and so have a secret shame that causes us to act out pathologically when we are over-inflated with God energy. Or we develop depression to anchor us to the ground so we don’t float away. Or (Moore’s words) we engage in masturbation marathons to remember our humanity. Or, if we don’t get enough energy, we circle the drain in apathy. This God energy is the breath of life. We do need a constant and reliable supply to live to our fullest potential. The amount we can hold and manage is personal to the individual, but if we hold our optimal then we live as awesome beings, Moore says.
The only way to achieve a balanced supply, posits Moore, the only way, is to engineer and maintain an optimised, strong connection to a transpersonal divinity (aka God), and give all glory to him. We take the adoration and pass it up the chain. It’s his anyway.
Personally, I have realised that to offset my crippling human condition (abject fear and denial that one day I will die, low self esteem, poor self image, etc. – nothing unique to me) I have capitalised on my God-given gifts of intelligence and sensitivity, and optimised my methods of attaining adoration from other humans. Particularly women – I’m better at this with women, having chased their approval and adoration for much longer given men haven’t made a lot of sense to me with my father dying when I was 10. I have then been inflated to the point where I struggle to hold the energy and because I can’t manage the inflation, I act poorly. Unpredictably. I withdraw, because the energy is too great. And then I crash. It’s like Icarus learning to fly. I’m up in the clouds then a trainwreck in a tree in quick succession, repeat, repeat.
And I’m going to say it. While I truly believe in God and his splendour and awesome potency, I have also spent many years drinking the Koolade. I have felt at times not just that I am simply a shard of the divine (like everyone else) but rather that I am “more” God than the next person. It has helped mask my pathologies and shadow. It has played its part in destroying all of my previous relationships, and numerous friendships.
So, I am dusting off the cobwebs and starting to relearn how to pray. And it’s highlighting that I lack humility. I struggle to speak to God with the respect and awe befitting our relative positions. I am overfamiliar. It’s awkward. It feels strange. He is humouring me (I haven’t been hit by a lightning bolt yet) as I pass along my thanks for everything I have and am in unfamiliar phrases with fraudulent forelock-tugging while I ask for the strength and guidance to be truly humbled to his splendour.
It might just be that I have found religion again, against all odds.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot
Fuck me but protracted celibacy coupled with a long night of raunch dreams makes for a heady brew over breakfast.
The situation would be highly comical, if only I didn’t take the absence of a sexual other so damn seriously.
Nah fuck that its pretty funny. We’re generally a funny breed, we humans. This whole drama becomes ridiculous to the point of hilarity when I remember it’s just cheek-to-cheek dancing with the hurricane.
“Ashes work,” Roberts Bly calls it in Iron John. Ashes work. And so it is. As a society we have lost our appreciation of the vital importance and value of ashes work. I’m slowly coming around to the understanding that (wait for it, big reveal…) I’m just the same as everyone else. No more special. No less a manifestation of the divine spark. And this spiritual-/ developmental-/ psychological-/ status-derived-/ materialism that I have (subtly or overtly) used to elevate myself over others, or elevate others over me, are just flip sides of the same coin of fabricated nonsense the exact shape and size of my internal imbalance, projected onto life’s geography.
I believe I have lived in fear that if I wasn’t special then beneath that veneer would be nothing, nothing at all. As it turns out, I was wrong. Beneath it is the primordial soup of God’s love, made manifest by the hair and skin and teeth of organic biology. The muck we have strived our entire history to abstract ourselves from is actually ambrosia.
This is not a call to pre-developed hedonism. Rather it’s a transcendent, expanded moral horizon where hedonism is understood as a pathology born of unconscious drives, and when owned in this way allows you to relate deeply without compromise. “Know thyself” said JC (and every other guru). I have been labouring under the misapprehension that this meant to know my quirks and foibles, values and psychological tics. That’s like trying to memorise every book ever written. Existence is far more elegant than that. Rather it’s a reading of every book you encounter until you realise, having consumed “enough” theory, that the answer is something deeper. Like trying to find an elephant with a microscope, our true nature is the context of our experience.
We are being, lived as humans. Not humans being or human beings.
Well, shit. I didn’t expect a couple of fuck dreams to get me to that. See how funny all this is? I can’t help but laugh. Still horny though 😉
I knew this girl, beautiful as heroin.
I loved her like gravity. I feared her like cruelty. I desired her like Aztec gold. I miss her like oxygen, and she is gone, gone, gone. And I feel like I am more for having known her, and hollow for her absence. I left her dead on the battlefield last week: the idealised childhood notion of my perfect mate. And now I see unfiltered the entropic chaos of biology and energy, and wonder at the alien splendour of God’s true perfection everywhere I rest my gaze. Foreign like a sheep farmer lost in Tokyo, but also richer and more grotesquely beautiful than my tiny, fevered mind could ever have imagined.
Hmmm. How to tell this story without sounding overly dramatic. Eh fuck it, I’ll just dive right in. This Wednesday past I hit a bereft-of-hope, nothing-left-to-do-but-check-out moment. Let’s just point out that clearly I’m still breathing so there’s no need for any of us to get carried away.
The few people I’ve told about this pleaded with me to call them, admonished me for not calling them, checked and rechecked that I was Ok. I’ve been struggling to put it into words, but its nothing they could have helped with. It was deeply personal. During it, I vaguely acknowledged all my responsibilities: my son (and the miserable understanding that he would be Ok without me); my friends; the option and rejection of short term pleasure (i.e. make a shitty decision) to appease this unbearable pain; the experiences not yet experienced. I knew then and I know now that nobody could have eased my path that night, and nor would I have wanted them to. Its a funny thing, that sincerity of purpose to exit. My focus narrowed to a point where I couldn’t see a way out, couldn’t see anything in the future worth living for. All the rich complexity and wonder of life had collapsed into a singularity of anguish. Some part of me did die that night. And it fucking hurt as it died. As it was dying I implored the creator for help – the last and only hope – while my head and heart split with sorrow. And then I slept. Since then I have been living in a confused daze, occasionally catching myself reflecting on how it could be that I was still walking around.
Every time I close my eyes since then I see a bare concrete construction site. Whatever had died had left behind a tabula rasa. I know it is my privilege now to adorn this mental space with whatever new artefacts I find pleasing, fitting, that will better serve me than the old. I’m in no rush. I’m enjoying the peace of oblivion.
A huge part of my crisis moment this week was the hopelessness felt in recognition of my seemingly inescapable romantic attachment patterns. I choose inappropriate women as partners. Or I choose appropriate women and end up turning them into shit partners, perhaps (if I listen to my own philosophy) it’s because that’s where I believe it will end up. Manifestation 101. Wherever you go, there you are. Or perhaps it’s due to unconscious recognition of, and attachment to, abusive, neglectful women like my mother – my primary, foundational romantic relationship (Jungian psych, not the creepy variety, though it’s a fucking grey area, looking back).
I don’t know what the new world order will look like for me when it comes to women. But I know it’s not going to work like it used to. That part of me is now dead. Oh sure, I’ll no doubt fuck up and make bad choices from time to time in the future – that’s my right as a human. But I’m going to go in with my signature heart-open, loving honesty. And this time I’ll ensure that I clearly communicate my needs and get them met, while also blow her fucking doors down and hold the space so that she can simply be the spark of the divine dance that she is. Where there is a mismatch in ideals we will work it out or we will walk away with love. I refuse to believe relationships need to be as hard as they have been, especially for a man like me. I do believe a huge part of all this shit I’ve been through this time around has been a wake-up call to hold more tenaciously to my ideals and not settle. I give so much. I love so earnestly. I build so fervently. I deserve a reflection of the focused, deep, loyal passionate connection that I give. And I know I will get it, because I will settle for nothing less. The next girl is going to love me with unbridled ferocity. She will drop a boundary around us and defend it fiercely. She will want me, us, over everything else out of the recognition that our sum is far greater than our parts. And I will honour all this by never expecting it, and never calling on it. And we won’t worry anymore, because we will both relax in love-as-action. We’ll be free to simply love, and build, and nurture, and greet God through each other’s manifest form.
I’m not sure if I’ve said this before but it’s something I’ve known for a long time. Typically people contract, close their hearts, when they are hurting. It makes sense, right? You don’t want to be hurt again. But I’ve found the secret. The key to living a beautiful life is to open your heart more through the pain. Only love can heal. Only love can set us free. Contraction is a natural part of the tidal sway of relationships and personal disposition, so honour it if that’s where you’re at. But for me I’m going to focus on continuing to amplify love, express and connect, push outward and upward in all things as much as I possibly can, even if my heart is covered in scar tissue.
Every moment of every day we’re making choices. Christ. I can’t believe I just opened with that. Sorry. But it’s important to say it so I can take it further: we are making choices not only on which burger to have for lunch, but how our reality takes shape. Moment to moment. Do I buy into “the world is a terrifying, lonely place” and so that guy sitting on the street corner is a threat; or “love is all you need”, such that he is just another beautiful soul (complete with endearing quirks and imperfections), open to a chat and a few shared fries? What we believe shapes our reality. This precedes and provides the space and framework for physics and science and the manifest realm. The more of us that believe a thing, the more that thing enters our shared reality.
I have had a concept floating around in my mind for almost 10 years. It’s called “Positive Intent” (+i) and its like gofundme but once a cause is posted, instead of money, people offer positive intention to the outcome of the cause through prayer, meditation, good vibes, whatever. It tracks the contributions in units of, perhaps, time, and also reports the status of the cause over time. My argument (and belief) is if we got, say, a million people sending one positive minute of “John’s cancer is healed”, then Johnnyboy would be healed. Perhaps not instantaneously (though there are numerous reports of spontaneous healing), but in a way where John’s environment and circumstances would shift to allow the healing to take place. Don’t get me started but ultimately I believe John’s cancer is an expression of an internal conflict anyway – and so is his responsibility to heal himself (check out Dr David R. Hawkins’s work on this) – but with that much positive intention heading his way, he may just make the mental leap required to do it. It’s kind of like crowd-funding enlightenment. I’ll get back to building it one of these days and use it as a platform to prove or disprove these theories.
The Dark Side
Outcomes are assured by the nature and scope of the choice-intention. If you clear your decks and make positive choices from a place of love, the outcome will be an increase in love and positivity. If you are in crisis and make a choice based on fear (it all comes back to fear, the spectrum not going from love to hate, but rather love to fear), then the outcome will reinforce and culminate that fear. Ok, less abstract, more examples:
- My sister took a job a long way from home in a poor area out of desperation because she was in a negative, beaten-down mindset. The place she was working was negative and beaten down, at least for her (who can say how it was for everyone else? There are as many realities as there are conscious witnesses).
- I hit exhaustion-unbalanced-suffocation crisis with my ex wife and, in desperation, called her family to come and help. In hindsight it was the death knell for our relationship. Not only had I proved that I “couldn’t support her in sickness and in health” (validated her dysfunctional narrative), but I brought in the most deeply dysfunctional pit crew you could imagine. I am only just starting to get glimpses of how deep and creepy their shit is.
The Good News
Citing Hawkins again, the power of a loving thought is many orders of magnitude greater than that of a negative thought. He reckons one truly loving thought per day undoes the rest of the day’s negative thoughts. My personal experience with this is that it is best to simply ride the convulsions of negative overwhelm in a crisis. These convulsions are shit. My current circumstances are horrible (it’s all relative, I appreciate my situation is absolutely nothing next to the horror stories you hear as soon as you mention to anyone who has been through it “I am getting a divorce”), yet I have found that by riding the convulsions and practicing letting go (accept the emotion, let it express without trying to influence, stop or change it in any way, shift your focus to something else once it has expressed), and NOT ACTING on the emotions present in the overwhelm, they fairly rapidly pass. Until the next wave.
Perhaps they’re more like contractions than convulsions and during these highly emotional events like divorce, we’re birthing something. A new psyche, perhaps. More mature, more loving, if we catalyse the pain to fuel our growth. Or maybe they actually are convulsions and we’re spewing back up the accumulated darkness we have suppressed and stored to get to the long dark night of the soul we are suffering through. In any event, riding out the waves without allowing them to overtake us or hiding from them and then, as soon as we’re able, to begin offering loving thoughts again (the universe provides constant opportunities to fall back in love with life), allows a “stepping up”. I don’t know how else to describe it, but the pain lessens, joy returns, energy is reclaimed, peace is approximated or gained, and you’re able to face the next convulsion with greater ease, grace and skill. Note that this is vastly different to suppression or “faking it til you make it”.
Less abstract, more examples:
- About 8 years ago, I was at the point of financial collapse. I had a bucketload of money walking out the door each month, and at this particular point in time I had about a week left before I had to pay next month’s bills, no money in my bank account, no work in my pipeline and nothing invoiced and awaiting payment. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to work, I had simply hit the doldrums. Without being conscious of the process I described above, I sat with it all for a minute, accepted that I was in this position (as in I saw that I was truly screwed, and had no idea how to get out of it); let the feeling be there; then said “you know what? Fuck it. It has always worked out, it will be fine”. The next day I got a call from my old boss whom I hadn’t talked to in years, with a wicked project that paid good money. I have not had any money problems or real fear about money since.
- Damien Rice, the singer, said something similar at a gig once. He struggled constantly with writing songs until he finally surrendered it, then he never worried about it again and never struggled again.
The Bad News: Unconscious Octopus Brain
Ok so why doesn’t this good intention choice stuff work for all of us all the time? We’re setting intentions all over the place and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. I believe this is for two reasons:
- We have a number of parallel mental substates each with their own agenda and intention, all are learned and retained in an effort to “keep us safe” and get our needs met. Many are self sabotaging, simply because of the tricksy nature of human social interaction and confirmation bias. These are the octopus tentacles (if an octopus had a lot of tentacles).
- Depending on how much shadow work/development/expression/consciousness work we have done, we are unconscious of most of these tentacles, most of the time.
The whole octopus represents our psyche/ego. So imagine one, or even several, tentacles have a great idea to manifest a new job through positive intention or even just good old fashioned hard work. Why is it such a long, arduous process? I argue it’s because we think we have the whole octopus convinced to jump in a particular direction, we gee it up, we rally support from all the tentacles, and then we say “jump on three!”. 1, 2, 3: we gather all our strength and roar into action! And don’t move. Or, often the case, perhaps we move the slightest bit toward our goal. What the fuck, octopus? If we’re very aware, we might see: most of the tentacles didn’t listen. They jumped in their own direction. Because they’re tricksy and have their own agenda and are not subject to conscious control. And we might see with disappointment that there were way more tentacles than we realised and we hadn’t rallied them to our cause (shadow/unconscious aspects).
Subsequently, we are all subject to our unconscious intent, which is divided. As I say to people all the time: what we don’t own (read: take responsibility for, bring into the light, make friends with, integrate, etc.), owns us. Whether you’re faintingly beautiful or Quasimodo, unless you own your appearance, make peace with it, it will own you. Beauty, if bought into, results in vanity, which simply exposes low self worth, an exploitable weakness. Ugliness, if bought into, also exposes diminished self worth. Either way if we believe we need to be something (other than the unfolding perfection that is our true and immutable nature) to receive the love we want and get our needs met, then we are compromised and susceptible to being used and abused. We all do this, all of the time, to a greater or lesser extent.
Bringing It On Home
When we’re in crisis it’s because events have unfolded that have tapped into our unconscious drives. We feel we are at the whim of fate and out of control. The hidden tentacles are thrashing about, vying for primacy. It is at these times our rational thinking is compromised but, due to our various cognitive biases, we cannot see it. We are in a fear state, fight or flight. Our focus narrows to what we believe will best assure survival. Back in the day this was a very effective way of dodging the real tiger in the bushes. Today life is far more complex and nuanced, we have social and legal contracts that have far-reaching consequences. We live longer and have to deal long-term with the psychology we establish through our thoughts, beliefs and actions.
So what to do? Unless there is a clear and present danger (abuse, for example), it seems best to sit with it. Downregulate. Do the necessary work to bring all those unconscious tentacles into consciousness – when in crisis they are the most visible they will ever be. Or do these things as best we can while making the moves necessary for survival. When considering a decision, bring as many perspectives of which we are capable to bear and aim for the highest good, while always (in and out of crisis) aiming to increase the perspectives we are able to apply. Honour relative truth: that everything for everyone is true, but partial. Most of the time in our society these crises do not necessitate bold, brash action. Be as certain as we can before jumping. And when we jump, do so with and from love, not fear.
Then, after we jump, know that this is when the crisis REALLY hits, because it is now that we are forced to process (expose and integrate) or suppress (obscure) the thrashing tentacles of the unconscious octopus brain. Hint: don’t suppress.
Unconscious shit in our heads owns us and sabotages our peace and happiness if we let it. During crisis is when it owns us most, but also when it is most exposed and able to be reintegrated. Take responsibility, do the work, and bring it into the light so that we can live more from love, and amplify the love in the world.
This feels familiar: Male Empaths and Romantic Relationships with Women.
For the first time in my adult life I find myself grateful to not be in a relationship. It has become apparent through her behaviour that my ex – who, the poor thing, suffered greatly through anxiety and general being-fucking-crazy – is trying desperately to reverse our roles. She got a job, shirking her responsibility as “primary caregiver” to our son (a title she has been beating me over the head with for years, despite him being in care for four days of the week) and for no good reason, as I left the money tap on full tilt. And while we’re talking about money, she is trying to take all of ours for herself. In fact, all my contributions to the family she is trying to claim or steal now. While she attempts to take my roles and contributions on, one by one, she is handing hers over to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no idiot – I’m taking them on consciously as it serves the highest good. My boy will get better care with me and be happier once he adjusts. I believe she is doing this because she is very lost, very jealous, very hurt and actually holds me in remarkably high regard. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all. She also wants me to suffer, I believe. To walk in her shoes so that I can truly understand her pain.
The funny thing is that all these roles I’ve assumed that were apparently “so difficult” that I “don’t understand” are either so easy that I can do them in amongst my normal (normal! Ha!) life with zero disruption (even though I’m presently of no fixed address), or are joyous, or both: like playing zany instruments with my boy until he tells me sincerely “remember to love your heart daddy!” Or dancing hard with him to Head That I Hold by Electric Guest until everything fades but our ecstasy of movement and music and he beams at me and flings himself into my arms saying “you make me happy, daddy!” I’ve never witnessed it as clearly as I have in the last couple of months what a little mirror/sponge he is. He perfectly reflects back what he sees. And he sees very clearly.
Now the dichotomy. Despite “the dreaded ex” and this whole situation being so horrible that I feel like I never want a relationship again, there’s this deep heart ache and this trench-weary exhaustion. I’m so tired of being attacked, being under threat, I just want to rest and melt in some gentle, loving arms. To hold and be held. To give and receive the nonverbal message “everything is ok” that only a loving opposite can provide. But I can’t. And that is fucking hard.