When I started writing this post, I wasn’t clear on the title, though when I listened to Russell Brand’s struggle with addiction and compulsion (perhaps one and the same?), I had one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments. The old tendencies and easy, knee-jerk reactions we automatically default to is what I’m talking about here, those unconscious ticks and qwerks we all develop to varying degrees. It’s part of being human, after all.
Part of Brand’s talk was about what he described as the ‘inner pantheon’, and what this means. Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis and friend of Carl Jung, had something to say about this, and referred to these inner personalised tendencies as sub-personalities. He was talking about these inner figures in the way the Greeks and Romans referred to their gods and goddesses of myth. He went as far to say that we ignore ‘their’ influence at our personal and transpersonal (ie. collective) peril.
These are ancient patterns of being and doing that are pretty much hard-wired into us all, though conscious awareness, coupled with self-restraint, can change the path we take. A useful example to illustrate is the universal experience of anger, assertiveness, will-to-act and ‘fighting your own corner’ are all part of that universal pattern we might refer to as ‘Mars’, the god of war. These psychological patterns can play out on an individual level, and can be distorted in their expression. Clear thinking and objectivity go out the window if we are not present with our experience, and so we unconsciously ‘act out’. We might call that collection of martial, yang, masculine qualities ‘the Tough One’.
Each of the parts of us has a ‘story’, an inner narrative we might hear on occasion, when we’re angry, sad, excited – any emotion we care to mention can be associated in some way with a sub-personality. So the more awareness in the moment we have of how these unconscious patterns of habit influence our thoughts, what we feel and how we behave, the more opportunity for choice we can have to make different choices. It’s worth remembering that we inherit those patterns through our biological inheritance, our family, through our family the culture we are members of, and our individual experiences, based on this conditioning. There are no short cuts to awareness, no ‘quick fix’, as a teacher of mine once said.
That same conditioning may act as psychological shackles that bind us to compulsively experiencing reality in distorted unrealistic ways, and we unlock through an expanding awareness of our true situation. Challenging habitual ways of how we experience ourselves internally – our thoughts, emotions, impulses and so on – changes what we experience of external reality, ‘out there’.
We might begin to witness ourselves in a new light, a light that could be both humbling yet enriching, where our deeper motives become clearer through the light of conscious awareness. The light of our own inner Sun shines into the darker areas of our inner landscape, from the peaks to valleys, and so to the caves beneath.