Have you ever taken a look at your self?
And I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way, or even a dismissive way, but I truly and seriously mean it.
Imagine this, you’re driving down the highway, minding your own business, then some jerk cuts you off, then takes a quick left turn. You have to brake fast in order to avoid an accident, and the offending driver speeds off while you curse them and simultaneously extend your middle finger towards them.
Not hard to imagine this scenario, right? Chances are, you’ve probably lived out this exact situation before, too.
Now, have you ever had those people who do that little thought experiment where they tell you to imagine that same exact situation, but this time, imagine that it was a mother whose baby was choking, and she needed to get him to the hospital as quickly as possible because every second counts. She cuts off every single person because this time it’s a matter or life or death.
You don’t feel so bad now, do you? You realize slowing down a little bit, and getting to work or where ever you were heading ten seconds later wasn’t a big deal, especially if it saves the life of another human being.
That’s when the presenter who goes through this little thought game, he or she tells you something about how we need to be more compassionate about each other, or something of that nature.
I say, let’s take it in a different direction. Let’s take it much further.
That’s what I mean here. In that situation, instead of imagining it was a baby choking, why not ask yourself, why did I respond with aggression first? Let’s be honest, the choking baby scenario, that’s pretty unlikely, and often times, we can see the other driver who cuts us off. He or she is not rushing to the hospital, they’re just a normal person who happened to cut you off. That’s when you feel it’s unfair.
That leads me back to the question, why do we respond with aggression and hostility first when someone does something as meaningless as cut us off in traffic? Even small things, too. When someone doesn’t rinse their plate after dinner, and expects the next person to do it for them, and that next person is you, you feel angry. When someone skips in line after you’d been waiting for 5, 10 minutes or longer, it’s easy to wish suffering upon them in that very moment.
We get angry. We get hostile. Some of us react with violence. Some of us wish dark and terrible thoughts upon those who committed these small crimes against us.
It isn’t until later, when we’ve had time to think, to “cool off”, we realize, I was wrong. I got mad over nothing. We tell ourselves we won’t think irrationally next time. We’ll be more compassionate, like that speaker says, but sure enough, when we’re put back in the same situation, we act aggressive first.
I want to find out why.
I was reading a book. It was the autobiography of Carl Jung, a 19th and early 20th century psychologist and philosopher. He was influential beyond imaginable. He took the concept Freud had brought to light, that we have repressed thoughts (an unconscious) and articulated it even better. Unlike Freud, he didn’t believe that our failures in life, or our mental breakdowns, that they came from repressed sexual thoughts, but it came from something much deeper. It came from our “Shadow”.
He describes the way we interact with our shadow as personality one, and personality two. He says, most of the time, when we act out in a manner that may see odd or unusual to what we’d normally act out, especially after self reflection, it was our personality two, our shadow, who influenced our thoughts and actions.
He says, when we don’t pay attention to ourselves, we can travel down a road that is dark, malevolent, and selfish. It is when we ask ourselves, “Who did that? That wasn’t me,” we have no one else to blame, so we blame our self. So we feel bad, we feel we have committed a sin that can’t be forgiven. We begin to hate ourselves.
Here’s the thing. As Jung suggests, that action you did, hostile and aggressive as it was, impulsive and self-serving as it seems, it wasn’t you who did it. It was your shadow. Your shadow took over.
That doesn’t mean you get a free pass though. You’re still to blame. But, you do have a chance to redeem yourself, though it’s not easy. In many ways, I would say it’s far more difficult.
What is it?
It’s what the Buddhists believe, and how meditation can help you find peace.
It’s what the Christians believe when they say “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
It’s what the Daoists believe when they tell you to find the balance between Yin & Yang.
It’s what every religion is saying in its core message.
You must recognize the evil within you.
We are all evil creatures. When the Bible says, we are born bearing the sins of our ancestors, it means, we are born in a state of evil, in a state of chaos. We are impulsive. We act out our shadow. We listen to our carnal instincts. We are selfish.
That’s why the common theme of “brought into the light” is so well associated with religions. Religions are there to “wake us up”, to show us the good to balance the evil.
I’m going to make another post about this, because I have an idea to where our “consciousness” comes from. It would take far too long write this in one post.
My final words are this. The next time you find yourself in a situation, say, like the one above, where someone cuts you off in traffic, or skips ahead in line, and you become hostile, ask yourself, where did those thoughts come from? Are they my own?
If you think thorough enough, and deep enough, keeping in mind your shadow personality, you’ll realize that all your anger is impulsive and not your own, but it’s still up to you to let them take over or to not.
So let’s face our shadows, and let’s win.
thanks for reading,