27 August 2009

Integrated Circuits

I like the sound of this title. My first thought, when "integrated circuits" popped into my head, was of my time working in the Navy Submarine Corps (1973-75). Few systems are more complicated than a modern ballistic missle submarine; yet, even in the mid-1970s, technology supported a tightly integreted series of systems that could interact, produce "fail-safes," activate auxiliary components and provide immediate information to a variety of stations. This meant that, to be submarine qualified, every person on a boat had to know how to function in all areas.

We tend to think of the human body as a collection of systems. Classic anatomy used to teach based upon separate investigations of digestive, endocrinal, neurological, orthopaedic, etc. systems. While there are specialists in each of the "systems," We have long known that the whole human body is hardwired with a complex interdependency. But, that's not all.

The mind and body have other layers of reality besides those known as anatomical. There is the division of conscious and unconscious. Conscious data relies upon sensory data which creates unconscious memories and patterns for future recognition. The unconscious not only processes memories, it houses the components that create the unique characteristics that we know as uniquely human and define "self." Carl Jung subdivided the components of self into archetypes and subtypes that interact in a complex manner to manifest what others see through our actions, ideas, emotions and characterizations. It is all way too much for a blog, but one can see where I might be going.

Carl Jung, Thomas Moore, Morton Kelsey,Robert Bly and others (psychologists, theologians, and those whom we call "internal sojourners) speak of the Presenting Self and the Shadow Self. The novel, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is a dramatization of these two components. The Presenting Self is what the world gets to see...or what we want the world to see. The Shadow Self is one we tend to keep hidden -- even from ourselves most of the time. Our close friends, family members and bathroom mirror may be subjected to this component. Otherwise we lock it down -- in the shadows.

Here is the problem. If these two components remain separated, all hell can break loose...literally. In a moment of distraction, someone may say or do something that will ignite the Shadow Self, and elements of it will spring forth before we can suppress it. Painful memories can be triggered in ways to unleash Shadow material. The emotions of rage, anger, fear, intense anxiety, saddness and feeling overwhelmed are examples of the release of Shadow material into conscious reality. I don't mean the "slow boil" stuff. I'm speaking about the sudden, intense and sometimes crippling kinds of emotions. Psychologists and theologians alike teach that a truly healthy, whole person is one who has integrated these components. Jesus taught that gaining the whole world at the cost of the True Self (in Greek) defines hell. One loses integrity -- which is integration.

One might rightly ask what the process of integration entails. Many myths and stories explore the process. Any story that includes a quest for a treasure is a story of the process of integration. The quest for the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend is the hero's quest for wholeness and integration. In Christianity, being Christ-like is achieving the integration of Self to reflect the wholeness God created us to be (Original Sin is the fracturing of Self -- good/evil, light/shadow).

Recently, I went to a workshop in which I was given the rare opportunity to be guided deep within myself by very skilled practitioners. After preparation with tools of meditation and guided imagery, the mentors in this very safe place guided me inward. I have almost no memory of what took place. Those who were observers and guides told me what happened. It was somewhat frightening to hear and try to comprehend. The rational mind can't be part of the functions of Presenting Self and Shadow Self, when they engage in struggle with each other. It's messy, ugly and dark. The conscious mind introduces a kind of neurological anesthesia that blocks conscious manipulation and memory. A highly skilled clinical person is very nearby. At the end, as I came to myself, I was out of breath, sweating profusely yet feeling almost lighter than air. I was gently encouraged and tenderly treated as I gained sensory balance and attunement.

I later described this to another psychotherapist/theologian, whom I thought would be horrified by what I had experienced. Instead, he calmly reflected, "a classic....intense, but classic....battle with your Shadow. Now I know why you appear as you do, you've achieved a level of integration. You've started a new journey. Congratulations!"

For one to claim total integration is nothing less than hubris (false pride...a deep sin in Christian theology). It is, indeed, a journey. I started one in a new and big way on this recent weekend. The circuitry is being meshed. It is a slow but real process. How do I know it's happening? I feel far less anxious about stuff that normally keeps me awake at night. I'm less afraid to speak my truth aloud and take a principled stand. I seem able to speak up and out more readily (read: less intimidated). My routine of contemplative prayer is more intense and fruitful. There are little things each day that I simply find amusing for funny...things I used to take rather seriously. I love better.

Jesus said, "where your treasure is, there also is your heart." Myths tell us that 'where there is treasure, there be dragons.' Yep. Engage the dragons with a loving heart, and you have the treasure. The True Self. The One God created, or, as a friend of mine calls it, "the God cell."


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