Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fighting Dragons

This is a very well-known sculpture in the world of Anthroposophy, by Rudolf Steiner.
 It is the Christ gesture of man, where his left arm holds the forces that represent Lucifer at bay, and where his right arm holds the forces that represent Ahriman at bay. Briefly, luciferic forces are overly chaotic, overly idealistic, and selfishly disregarding others. Ahriman has a darker, more evil overtone; being overly controlled, overly sparse, letter-of-the-law, and void of empathy or emotion.  These are the extremes: hot/cold, male/female, love/hate, etc. This duality and even multiplicity  of our nature is recognized plenty among different religions and in culture.I
In the middle of the sculpture though, Steiner depicts the Christ gesture of embodying balancing these two forces. We need a little warmth of chaos, and we need a little order and lawfulness...just not too much of either or we lose the light if love. Even the Buddha spoke to his followers in a sermon of Buddhism's middle way: "Monks, these two extremes should not be followed   by   one   who   has   gone   forth as a   wanderer.  What   two?   Devotion   to the  pleasures  of  sense . . .  [and]  devotion  of self-mortification,  which  is  painful, unworthy and unprofitable . . . . By avoiding these two extremes the [Buddha] has gained knowledge of the middle path which giveth vision, which giveth knowledge, enlightenment [nirvana]. "
Fall 2013 Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly  39
In the context of today, though, in the light of what is happening in the world, I believe these dualities in every way represent our innate fight or flight response to trauma.
One phrase I frequently quote on this blog is from Bessel VanDer Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score.  He points out that trauma "inevitably involves not being seen, not being heard, and not being taken into account." When one considers all the marginalized groups, and the scapegoating either through blatant sexism and racism, or exploitation, it makes sense that we have a culture of traumatized people. And some argue that neoliberalism in culture is traumatizing. I believe it is.
Tomorrow is Michaelmas...the festival of finding our inner light. For me, it is about finding the middle way. It is about acknowledging my own inner dragons attached to fight or flight behaviors, and the outer dragons I am forced to fight.
My dragons of flight involve giving up, avoiding, putting my head in the sand, not wanting to see, molding silence, cultivating apathy, taking on a stance of "let's all be happy", hiding behind all sorts of distractions, betraying myself to the core, complete submission, martyrdom. Dragons of fight are less familiar to me and include hot anger, retaliation, denial, self-justification, contempt, judgement, intention to harm, pleasure in bringing about the suffering of another human being, cold indifference, and enacting revenge.
Trauma, fight or flight, not being seen or heard- inevitably involves an oppressor/oppressed situation. That's what neoliberalism creates and tucks into so many pockets of our country's Big Daddy overcoat. But before even tackling the situation of being oppressed, and hopefully an oppressor or two would give up their cushy position to join the ranks of the less entitled, before that is even thought about, one must find deep courage. In order to do that, one must go through the forces of flight and fight, to acknowledge the value of one's own humanity.
There is a middle way, beyond dragons of sloth and chaos, there is a balance to be held within in order to deal with the larger dragons of the world in which we live. In bringing into balance our own dragons, we gain the courage and strength to bring to the world at large and really tackle larger issues.
Walter Wink, in Engaging the Powers, writes about  "Jesus's Third Way":
Jesus's Third Way
-seize the moral initiative
-find a creative alternative to violence
-assert your own humanity and dignity as a person
-meet force with ridicule or humor
-break the cycle of humiliation
-refuse to submit or accept the inferior position
-expose the injustice of the system
-take control of the power dynamic
-shame the oppressor into repentance
-stand your ground
-make the Powers make decisions for which they are not prepared
-recognize your own power
-be willing to suffer rather than retaliate
-force the oppressor to see you in a new light
-deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective
-be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws
-die to fear of the old order and its rules
-seek the oppressor's transformation
Flight: submission, passivity, withdrawal, surrender
Fight: armed revolt, violent rebellion, direct retaliation, revenge

Gandhi insisted that no one join him who was not willing to take up arms and fight for independence. They could not freely renounce what they had not entertained. One cannot pass directly from "flight" to "Jesus's Third Way". One needs to pass through the "fight" stage, if only to discover one's own inner strength and capacity for violence. One need not actually become violent, but one does need to own one's fury at injustice and care enough to be willing to fight, and if necessary, die for its eradication. Only then can a person freely renounce violence and embrace active nonviolence."
-again, that is all found in Walter Wink's "Engaging the Powers"

Martin Luther King said there can be no justice without equality. There can be no justice where there is a bully. There can be no justice when there is an oppressor. Justice comes when people join as equals. And justice comes when one finds the heat of courage, the flaming truth, the heart arching forward towards inner freedom.
It then becomes about more than inner freedom. It becomes focused on your power to enact the freedom of another. It becomes courage in do the right thing even when it seems impossible. To really look at one's own dark step say what needs to be dragon was ever conquered without having courageous souls muster up their duty to protect and stop stop oppression of any kind.
"Seek the oppressor's transformation." Oh, I do, I prayerfully do.
Here's to a courageous Michaelmas. The divine is found when we clearly live without oppressing, and where we speak up against oppression, even our own.  May we all find our middle way. May we all honor each other's humanity.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Raising a Narcissist Part 2

Last year, I wrote a post in response to a rash of articles online about raising a narcissist, or I should say, how NOT to raise a narcissist. My beef with some of these articles is that they were shallow fluff, and didn't really understand what narcissism as a personality disorder is, or how abusive narcissists really are. I was thinking about how many articles with lists there are on the internet, and how they direct you to do change look at something more closely. This is not going to be another list. DOING something is good. But I want to look deeper, into how we are BEING with each other.
Narcissism is operating from the one-up position of grandiosity with a heaping dose of exploitation. It is possessing a sixth sense that allows all forms of manipulation and emotional blackmail to flourish. Underlying these, the bedrock of narcissism, is entitlement. It is a fierce conviction that one is entitled not just to use others to gain advantage, but to never have to account for how that affects those who are used. It's a deliberate blindness, a moral emptiness. For morality, happiness, and integrity all rest on an ability to consider others. Altruism is the way to happiness. A rightful morality would never allow you to feel guiltless for causing suffering. And basing your integrity on using others is crushing your ever having integrity.
Karen Horney describes narcissists as "moving against others”, “being unpleasant to others in pursuit of one’s own goals” and  having a “tendency to pursue their own goals regardless of others’ needs.” This is inclusive of all a narcissist's trademarks: contempt, judgment, projection, blame, and an unyielding inability to apologize or be responsible for their own behavior.

I believe interpersonal narcissism thrives in a culture where the larger power, the System, Neoliberalism, has informed how we relate to each other. Rarely do we stop to consider that there are other possibilities than the pursuit of material goods, made possible by companies we are dependent on for paychecks and products. In “The Dream of God”, Borg describes this as “systemic evil. He says, “Systemic evil is an important notion; it refers to the injustice built into the structures of the system itself. Embedded in oppressive and exploitative social structures, systemic evil is a major source...of human suffering.” And systemic evil is basically any structure that allows one or more people to be exploited for another's gain. It's interpersonal abuse, and does not just involve physical abuse. We have to broaden our notions of what abuse is. We, as a culture, tend to only give credence to certain well-worn narratives of abuse, and do not look at how financial, emotional, and mental abuse creates persistent, low-level suffering. In other words, narcissists create trauma victims. Narcissistic abuse can even cause PTSD because of the gaslighting, lies, constant drip-drips of crazymaking, and verbal attacks.
Narcissism is, therefore, in my opinion, a social justice issue. Social justice is about unfair distribution of advantages, and narcissism is all about unfairly securing the upper hand with regard to advantages, personally and professionally. Not only are therapists, workplaces, and courtrooms ill equipped and under educated about this disordered way of being, but our whole culture is sadly mistaken about narcissism. Sure, everyone knows a narcissist at work, or in their family. But no one REALLY cares how this affects  anyone. And no one really knows what to look for.
I know a man who was so abusive, his wife was given a gun permit and told by a judge to move far, far away. She moved, but I could not help but thinking how fucked up that was. Had there been social consequences in place, that man may not have gotten off scot free while his wife had to completely move house out of fear for her life. Legally.
This kind of allowing creates huge cracks for people to fall into. It's legal to be an asshole, or an abuser. Abusers have rights to their children, rights to harass, rights to abuse. They often gain the right to shut you up if you tell the truth about them. They reserve the right to hurt you, take from you, lie about you, and look like a saint while doing it. Your rights to being, to being a human, are summarily dismissed.
Altruism is more possible in a culture that embraces nonviolence as a way to address its problems. Nonviolence naturally calls for having empathy and thinking about the good of the group, and then acting on their behalf. Altruism, expressed as nonviolence, is anti-narcissism. It does not create scapegoats, it is not afraid of using conflict for social renewal, and it is not afraid to deal with the truth. In fact, it does not tolerate lies. 
 There is much to be said about how our culture structurally supports narcissism, but I think the crux of my message today is simply to think for yourself. Narcissists don't think FOR themselves, they think ABOUT themselves. They unquestioningly hold to their entitlement track, their judgments impaired by a compulsion to control rather than to truly think, and in this culture, they get plenty of reinforcement for their incongruent, inconsistent, and dishonest behavior. If you are moving against others, you are moving against yourself, for our social life is paramount to our happiness and good feelings about ourselves. Treating our fellow man with compassion, altruism as a way of life, and questioning structures in order to become more community minded and relationally oriented are all anti-narcissism.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My life in pictures lately

Sometimes no words are needed. Them:
 to me:

Me on the inside:

Me on the outside:

And reading Martin Luther King, Gandhi, others; and learning all about nonviolent protest. Who knew I've actually already been practicing this. 
"Noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is the cooperation with good" -Martin Luther King

"Law never made men a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice." -Henry David Thoreau

"No sane person seeks a world divided between billions of people living in absolute deprivation and a tiny elite guarding their wealth and luxury behind fortress walls. No one rejoices at the prospect of life in a world of collapsing social and ecological systems. Yet we continue to place human civilization and even our species’ survival at risk mainly to allow a few million people to accumulate money beyond any conceivable need. We continue to go boldly where no one wants to go." David Korten, "When Corporations Rule the World"