Dragons in the Garden of Bliss

Posted December 15, 2018 by Matt
Categories: Uncategorized

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In his 2016 lecture Mythological Elements of the Life Story — and Initiation (at 58:39) Jordan Peterson speaks about the path of initiation, and more generally about improving oneself and growing up in life, and he cautions, “it’s not follow your bliss”.

This is a direct counter to another modern champion of mythology and archetypes, Joseph Campbell. From Campbell one can get the impression that if only we would “follow our bliss”, our life journey would be a fun and exciting process, a garden of delights. In other words, we’d be pursuing what inspires us, doing work that we naturally enjoy working hard at, and experiencing more aliveness and engagement in our daily life. It makes a lot of sense. So why isn’t everybody doing this?

Because, from an archetypal perspective, says Peterson, there are dragons.

There are many dragons which we dare not confront, and which confine our life to a small territory. Dragons that can devour us if we get too close. And they are not a metaphor for external obstacles. They are that which lurk within and obstruct our way. External obstacles, by contrast, merely awaken the dragons inside us. And we’re full of them. We’re full of dragons which dictate our lives, but quietly… so long as we keep a low profile. However, we become ever more viscerally aware of them when we dare to venture out of our comfortable world, toward whatever new territory our “bliss” is calling us into. And the “virgin” the dragon guards (virgin territory) will never be ours until we defeat it.

Maybe defeat isn’t the best word. Perhaps it’s more appropriate to say, as Jung might suggest, that our task is to integrate them. This makes sense. In order to have access to the whole new realm of possibilities that was guarded by the dragon, we ourselves must have a whole new way of being. That way of being is exactly what the dragon is, albeit in a repressed and pathological form. Put another way, dragons are the shadow of virtue that we have failed to realize in ourselves.

Sometimes the dragon wins. When that happens, we become the dragon, or a slave to it. We lose our identity to it (fear, addiction, lust, pride, etc.). Usually, however, we try to avoid our dragons. In which case, they will still dominates us from afar, limiting us to our small world, while also emerging from time to time to wreak havoc and remind us of their presence. But every dragon that we successfully face down is assimilated into us. Then, as part of us (and not the other way around), we become master of all its strength and territory.

Back to the typical strategy of avoidance. In general, most people can manage to get through life without facing their dragons. It’s not a great life, and yet we tolerate it. But how many unrealized dreams have perished in this manner? The earth is littered with the bones of those who never activated the bold daring visions lying dormant within; those who spent a life circling their dreams from a distance, “orbiting their bliss” perhaps, but never fully actualizing it. The dragons live unconquered, and the treasures of possibility lie unclaimed at their feet.

“Follow your bliss”, seen from this perspective, appears to be the advice of a trickster, taking us down a primrose path straight into the dark dragon filled cave of the unconscious; the underworld of our own shadow. Who knows what we’ll encounter as we venture forward into the darkness of the unknown, towards the hope of treasure? The ominous unstated requirement of “follow your bliss” is “conquer your dragons”. Because it will involve great challenge, difficulty, and fear. As it must. It has to be all these things in order to wake us up to our full potential, to make it a true hero’s journey, to transform our being, and to make the treasure real and meaningful.

The Divine Breathes

Posted August 24, 2016 by Matt
Categories: poetry, spirituality

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I walk among gentle giants
noble still beings
high wind in their hair,
in perfect communion
with earth and sky
Bodhisattvas with a hundred arms
slowly waving
now in sections,
now all at once
whispering eternal mysteries
eavesdropped through the keyholes
of civilized minds below

Ego-Defense Mechanisms

Posted March 6, 2016 by Matt
Categories: barriers, conflict, ego defense mechanisms, needs, psychology, stress

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This post is a summary of an article by Richard Von Gremmler: Ego-Defense Mechanisms

You can also listen to my daughter and I discuss the first few paragraphs of the article in this YouTube video: Ego-Defense Mechanisms Article Pt. 1


 

Egodefense mechanisms are emotional barriers that prevent us from consciously understanding most of our emotions, locking them in our unconscious. These ego-defenses “protect” us from experiencing stress beyond what we can handle.

However, each stressor that we are protected from will only get worse if not understood and resolved. This is further compounded by the guilt that results from each of these denials. Furthermore, our overall degree of stress will increase as we accumulate more and more unresolved stressors.

These accumulated stressors create tension, leading to emotional instability which can become overwhelming. And the greater the buildup of unresolved stressors, the stronger the ego-defenses must become, and the greater our emotional blindness. Navigating this situation becomes a puzzle of a “brilliantly clear blue sky”, where all the stressors are not only scrambled and distorted, but are like pieces of precisely the same color. Thus, we are unable to determine which specific stressors are responsible for which anxieties.

Furthermore, the greater our ego-defenses are, the greater our emotional needs will become. Because ego-defenses obscure our genuine emotions, it leaves us unable to experience, express and fulfill them. This creates a void, a neediness, from deep within that our disconnected conscious mind attempts to fulfill through arbitrary coping mechanisms (an example of an A influence). It makes us vulnerable to being controlled and manipulated by others in desperation to address our needs, and leads us to think and behave in ways which are in total contrast to our genuine emotions.

So, the moment we encounter a stressor (whether for the first time, or as a re-encounter) is the most critical juncture to be decisive. This is because we will either resolve it, or inhibit it through ego-defenses. And for each stressor we resolve, we will experience positive reinforcement. This provides motivational security as we move forward into accepting and working with greater stressors.

It’s a very normal fact of life in society that we experience a constant bombardment of emotional challenges and stress. But to be stabilized, these stressors must be thoroughly explored and resolved. This will then strengthen our conscious emotional environment, reduce the need for ego-defenses, and increase self-confidence for accepting and exploring future stressors.

two for one

Posted August 25, 2014 by Matt
Categories: Uncategorized

If everybody likes you, you’re doing something wrong. Whereas, the more we allow ourselves to express who we are, the more we become a lightning rod for the frustrations of negative individuals.

Furthermore, if we can experience this rejection without returning it, we leave the other person in a true dilemma. Whether to face their guilt or deny it. 

Theory #10

Posted January 10, 2014 by Matt
Categories: barriers, ego defense mechanisms, philosophy, psychology

The only real and lasting emotional harm that can befall us, is that which comes from our own barriers and ego-defense mechanisms. Our own fear. Without the presence of over-active barriers, we will grow from any emotional hurt and rejection that others give to us.

Theory #9

Posted January 24, 2013 by Matt
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , ,

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to be totally open to our feelings. To have the courage to experience any emotion without rejecting it. No matter how negative or traumatic it is. Especially when it’s about ourselves.

Theory #8

Posted January 15, 2013 by Matt
Categories: philosophy, psychology, spirituality

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There is no truth other than what is felt.  This is why myths contain more truth than facts and science.