Deconstructing the Myths (Part II): Examining The Inner Landscape
The root of all conflict - whether existential, psychological, spiritual, or any other way we examine conflict - is the etheric split from the other. We are in a constant search for that missing other - be it the mother, the lover, the next best job, the coveted material possession, or the union with the divine. The birth of consciousness, of culture, of history is hardwired to seek that which we do not have and for which we yearn. The second a child arrives into this earthly realm, it is forced to bear the unconscious reality of survival in the absence of the other. The child is forced to desperately learn what it can in order to reattach to the other if possible, or to at least survive if that lifeline eludes it. It begins to read the world around it to decipher its messages, to learn the skills to survive and to figure out what the world demands. This process is phenomenological, creating the child’s base for its landscape of sensible discernment, leading to character structure, survival strategies, myths and personal narrative. So how do these early complexes develop our sense of self that we carry through life? How is the inner landscape woven into place and how does the split phenomenon play into our life scenario?
The Adaptive Persona
With the permeability of the young psyche, the child is always at the mercy of powerful external forces. The behaviors and emotions of the trusted adults in the child’s life invade the boundaries of the child. The complexity of the parent-child dynamic does not end here. Not only are the parental behavior patterns influential in the child’s formation of his/her sense of self, so are all the unresolved parental wounds that are active unconsciously. Carl Jung explains this strong parental pull as the “original sin”, in reference to the neglect of the soul that originates from a family history whose consequences ripple down through the generations.
What usually has the strongest psychic effect on the child is the life that the parents have not lived. Children are driven unconsciously in a direction that is intended to compensate for everything that was left unfulfilled in the lives of their parents. So from an early age, with an underdeveloped capacity to reflect on what is perceived, the child is compelled to take in everything that is thrown its way and learns to internalize all these perceptions. Children are so embedded in the psychological attitudes of their parents, to the extent that Jung attributes all the early disturbances in childhood to a disturbed psychic atmosphere in the household. With such an intimate and overwhelming child-adult dynamic, the child has no choice but to feel powerless in the face of the other. The internalized template of this dynamic has as its core the feeling of being powerless in an overwhelming world. The powerlessness is re-enacted later in life in the child’s connection with the world. The depth of the programmed powerlessness supersedes the child’s need to free itself from the pains of being powerless. The child internalizes the powerlessness that is felt in the pervasive presence of the other; but in the struggle for survival, the child’s psyche will generate adaptive strategies that are instinctively based on survival and self-protection. The child will learn to conspire with powerlessness as a world-view and as a reflexive strategy for the persona – the split self that is presented to the world.
We survive in this world by adaptation. We learn from the world around us- our families, our culture, our teachers, world events, and other sources - who we are, what is acceptable, and what we are expected to do in order to fit in, gain approval and succeed in this life. We became serving agents of our environment to fulfill the endless search for acceptance and approval. As we continue into our adult lives, the powers of the unconscious adaptive strategies continue to guide our ego consciousness – who we think we are, or what we believe to be real. Our world-view is projected through a distorted lens that allows us to see only the light refracted through it with no conscious access to what lies outside its frame (Hollis, 2018).
It is only when we have reframed our lives by becoming aware of the unconscious influences at work in our inner landscapes that we can gain control of the choices we make. At the juncture of questioning the trajectory of our lives, we begin the discernment process of assessing whether the values, expectations and practices that govern our daily lives are aligned with our own experiences, whether these lead us deeper into life, and in accord with the deepest movements of the soul, and whether we are the real custodians of our lives, our choices and our relationships to self and other. When we finally show up in the script of our lives and become the central players in the game of conscious awareness, we realize that something has to change. Something inside of our being shifts, and we begin to experience our life more fully than ever before. We realize that we are no longer bound by our fears and our need to adapt and fit in; we become aware of the fact that we have always had a choice; that we do have a choice; and that we are our co-creators of our life script. In the end, we arrive back at the point of entry, where we can acknowledge that the choices are ours, and that the self has waited all along for us to show up and to reclaim that which wishes to be expressed through us.
I am the central character in my life drama, and I am making choices, consciously and unconsciously, to live my life in full expression of my true self.
What would need to change in your life if you were to take have more control over the decisions you make? Can you identify 3 underlying fears that always surface when you need to make a decision? How do these fears manifest (anger, retreat, accommodation, distraction, numbing, etc.). Journal.