Earlier this week, I began catching up on Planet Waves radio, starting with Eric’s interview with Jacob and Jared. Because I was crunched for time, I listened to the interview before really knowing much about the story, which is not the best way to go; but it is what happened, none-the-less.
As I listened, I was taken with how candid and honest the two men seemed to be. I was even more surprised by the ways in which they refused to let the conversation turn into one in which they came out as the victims in any way.
They spoke of the fact that they had to remain present with what they did, with the hurt and pain they caused the women they so callously and disrespectfully talked about in a public forum. I was impressed.
The next day, I decided to do my research into the actual story, and what I read made my stomach hurt. I was particularly dismayed by reports of potentially non-consensual sex with one woman while she was in a hospital and heavily drugged.
I tend to be someone who has an exceptionally high capacity for acceptance and forgiveness, if not just listening to a story without judging. I found, however, that what arose was a general distrust of the two men, despite a strong instinct that their remorse was genuine. What would have happened had they never been outed? Is it helpful to think about those kind of ‘what ifs’?
One thing I am clear about is that places exist where space can be held for sides of a dialogue that are underrepresented in the mainstream dialogue.
Conversations about these topics, whether they’re framed as being under the “rape culture theory,” “misogyny,” “fourth-wave feminism” or “having basic respect for human dignity” categories can be tremendously difficult. Our tendency towards polarization and casting issues in black-and-white terms allows us to bring really big, institutionalized and entrenched concepts down to Earth, so that we can talk about them. At the same time, however, I can’t help but notice the ways that these categories promote division into victim-perpetrator mentality.
What consistently strikes me about the conversation comes from my background in depth psychology, a philosophy that stems from Carl Jung’s ideas about the psyche. I’m currently assisting at a training for people who are studying Deep Memory Process, which is a form of cathartic past-life regression therapy. My days and nights are being filled with awareness of trauma at the level of the body, and understanding it through psychological complexes and the interplay between the conscious and the unconscious. This has me thinking a lot about the Shadow.
In depth psychology, the Shadow is essentially the field where everything that we have repressed and moved out of the light of consciousness exists. This archetype can be understood at the personal level, but also at the collective level as well.
Stripping the theory down, what comes to mind are the ways in which we have been conditioned to repress our animal instincts. In particular, I am referring to the more predatory instinct to kill as well as the instinct to procreate — to fuck. Both have, for various reasons, been repressed throughout the development of western civilization. The animal body and all of its instincts are largely thought of as sinful, shameful, primitive, uncivilized and as something to be kept hidden and repressed.
The fact of their repression does not, however, mean they don’t exist. The repression just means that for most of us, when the energies constellate or rise to the surface, we are unequipped to deal with them and therefore fling them out as projection — as anger, rage and judgment, for example — which might take the form of warfare and rape. Or perhaps the seeking out of sexual conquest or fulfillment.
The primal instinct and energetic imprint that prompts us to kill has not gone away. The instinct to fuck is even more prominent. And, of course, both of those instincts mingle together in an infinite variety of ways, creating the many entwined layers of our personalities, psychological complexes, pathologies and creative instincts.
We can clearly see, and the interviews with the Waking Life Espresso guys elucidate, the ways our society has pathologized these impulses. This creates what sometimes feels to me like a vast void of unsolvable riddles and problems. These men were acting largely based on social conditioning mixing with their inborn impulses in really harmful ways. The women were accepting their advances based on desires that were shaped by the same mixture — although likely never dreaming the exploits would be publicized.
Our tendency towards polarized thinking leads us to cast debates in terms of victim and perpetrator, right and wrong. When we see the victim-perpetrator dynamic play out in the media on the main stage, we then have a public figure onto whom we can project our own shadow material and all of the emotions associated with that material. Hitler would be a prime example of someone who carries the projections of the archetype of Evil. We each have our own personal response to that evil, however.
Reading about the stories from the ‘manosphere,’ my personal reaction was a stomachache and nausea. Someone else’s reaction might be vehement anger and hatred, and another’s might be resignation. The stories stimulate something within us, and the same actions that prompt an anger response from you might prompt a grief response from me, and so on.
Here we can see the contents of the personal shadow bubbling up. Where have I been wronged by men? Where is it that I have wronged men? Or humans for that matter? Perhaps someone else responds with envy, stemming from a long repressed urge to just have meaningless sex and be done with it.
So, where am I going with this? Well, what comes to mind here is the insidiousness of the Catholic Church’s paradigm: that there is no redemption for some, that the evil ones must be cast out of the garden. We as a society do not take well to flawed mainstream characters — hence part of the reason our politicians hide so much. Making a celebrity into a fallen angel gives us a vent for our own darkness.
In the work I do, however, there is nothing that is beyond redemption. When we follow a past-life character through their death moment, into the realm of the soul, they often express guilt, remorse and other emotions associated with their unfinished business. These emotions tend to weigh the soul down, resulting in what we might refer to as earthbound spirits or ghosts who are still attached to the material plane.
In the practice of the therapy, we provide the soul with healing allies and reunion with loved ones. We also provide the opportunity to repent and then atone if the soul needs to. We hold space for healing without judgment. No exorcisms here.
Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes the souls do have to accept that the victim cannot forgive or forget. But we still work to resolve the complex that is keeping the soul weighted down so that they can return to source, or back to the present-life person in a kind of across-space-and-time soul retrieval.
Even if you’re not inclined to believe in past life memory or soul retrieval, the basic premise is the same: perhaps the continuing cycle of casting out the perpetrator, or the impulse that we don’t like, is just perpetuating the cycle of perpetrator-victim thinking. In my experience, we each have some of both inside of us, and the tendency to cling onto either identity, whether consciously or unconsciously, causes harm. It’s in holding space for those parts to be witnessed and moved through that the healing comes.
What does that mean on the practical level? Well, it’s incredible to me that the kind of dialogue that Eric had with Jared and Jacob occurred here. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it — having safe spaces and containers in which people can process all of their stuff, whatever that means, is totally integral to our moving forward into a paradigm that is less about who was wronged and who did the wrong. Although claiming the victim identity can be a helpful step towards empowerment, it can also become an all-encompassing identity that starts to impede that same empowerment.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the container of interpersonal relationships, especially those of the intimate variety. For example, sometimes sex and violence do go together. Again, they are primitive, often unconscious impulses that are inherently linked. Bringing those impulses to awareness, understanding what they feel like when they’re being triggered, and then having the self-consciousness to act upon it from a place of knowledge, is huge.
My involvements in the kink community have been fairly limited, but are ongoing. Some of the most profound learning has come from being open to people’s fantasy lives, and then being able to act those fantasies out as consenting adults.
I once had a lover who was very open with me about his rape fantasies, which allowed me to be open about my own. Through talking and negotiation, we were able to act the fantasies out, to the great delight of both of our sex drives, in a container where trust had been established.
Both of us had talked about our own direct and indirect experiences with sexual violence, as well as our experiences dealing with these things in and out of therapy. This kind of play is not for everyone, of course, but it provides a great example of bringing that shadow to the surface, becoming as aware of it as possible, and then consciously discharging or using the energy.
The animal body is not going anywhere. It has its preferences for sensation and touch and ways of getting its own needs met. It is not inherently sinful or shameful, and undoing the thousands of years of conditioning that say differently is tough work.
The change is happening, however. Holding space for the recognition of humans as humans — the connecting ground of soul, body and spirit, in all of its complex, flawed wonder — is imperative. Sometimes we’ll come across someone or something that brings that insane, volatile level of angry reaction to the surface, and that’s OK too. Perhaps there are others who can hold the space for their witnessing and atonement.
Making people into perpetual demons that must be cast out of the garden, never to be redeemed, seems like a waste of energy to me. Not all men are rapists, not all women victims — or out to demonize men, for that matter. It is not a problem of men vs. women.
It is a problem of distortions of the masculine and the feminine within our current paradigm. Rather than constantly vilifying and somehow then popularizing specific figures, I believe it is up to us to perhaps channel the rage that stems from injustice; we can channel it into creative reconstructions of our institutions and ways of viewing the world, using a cohesive, wide-angle lens.