Feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious this political season? If you're stymied, worried, or just plain despairing, Dr. James Gordon's new book, Unstuck (Penguin 2008) has some valuable strategies and insights for anyone who turned on the TV this week and felt like tossing the remote into the garbage.
In his book, Gordon offers a wealth of techniques and wisdom for coping with the many faces of despair, but in this blog, I'll focus on one particular insight he offers, one that seems particularly appropriate for these times-- the role of the daimon vs. the demon.
Have you ever noticed that certain people resonate with personal authenticity? It's because somehow these folks embody what Gordon calls the "daimon" in themselves. This ancient Greek concept of the "daimon," Gordon reminds us is a "life-enhancing, life-enriching force that can guide" each of us. This guide is especially important "in times of trouble and confusion."
Unfortunately, there was an historic decline in the wisdom traditions that showed ways to connect with our daimon to calibrate our destiny. Instead arose a narrower expression of daimonhood--the all too familiar "demon," which Gordon call an "evil spirit manifesting malevolent thoughts and cruel behavior."
Demons can manifest as inner tendencies, such as fear, doubt, self-undoing, low self-esteem, rage, and other disabling emotions. They can also manifest outwardly in the difficult, harsh, or oppressive people you may find yourself dealing with. Moreover, they can appear on a collective level showing their faces in public life.
The question is: how do we call forth our daimons to empower us to deal with our demons?
According to both depth psychology and ancient wisdom traditions, like Buddhism, "the demons that terrify us are (aspects) of ourselves, of our history, and of life that we have feared, hated, and denied," Gordon points out. The cure he recommends? To confront, acknowledge, and accept them, and take back the power we have yielded to them.
So as a woman, I have to ask: what is this week's snapshot of the feminine ideal trying to tell me? Is there a gun-wielding yet fecund babe/enforcer part of me that I have disowned and thereby permitted to arise on our public platforms and airwaves?
According to biblical commentary and mythological sources, before Adam and Eve, there was Lilith, Adam's first wife--not made from him, as Eve was, but made of the earth and therefore his equal. According to philosopher, Tom Jacobs, "Lilith, as the first woman, is the mother of women, and Eve is the plastic stepmother introduced as an example to women of what society will tolerate."
As we ponder the unique blend of Lilith and Eve before us this week, (Lilith--the lawless and fecund, Eve, the good girl byproduct of social structures constraining feminine instinct), Jacobs reminds us that, the Lilith myth recounts "the suppression of the basic, natural creative drive (in) each of us (male and female)... in order to be acceptable to others. (Our) animal nature ... doesn't question and doesn't conceive, it simply is (operating) without regard to anything but its impulses. It's pre-human; it's something that we have in common and (which) ties us to all of life."
On the one hand, it's very troubling to see a potential leader apparently governed by these forces, willing to (at best) sugar coat the truth, impose her beliefs on others, banish people on impulse, make her own laws. And it's undoubtedly a brilliant stroke to offer up the illusion of fecund animal nature as a cover for the same old policies and assaults on the spirit of democracy that have landed us in deep doo.
On the other hand, as Gordon indicates, the cure is summoning up our own daimon--the wild, creative, fecund aspects of ourselves--and allow those to flourish.
How to do that? Gordon advises that, "recognizing and accepting the fear that our demons provoke is (the) beginning." He recommends "meet(ing) the demon and treat(ing) it with respect you would offer a friend, to move into communication, even communion with it."
So whether you fear your fear, your wild side, your Republican neighbor, born-again women, or people of color, instead of letting your fear run you, get to know the enemy within and without. And if it's too much of a strain to be nicey-nice about it, first (privately) let your daimon out to play. Pound your pillow, dance an energy dance to your favorite music, open up those emails asking for support, act on them--whatever it is, find your passion and let it speak to and through you--do it now. This is not the time for indifference. Embrace your unborn daimonic creativity--no matter how young, primitive or ill-formed it is, let it speak, dance, cry, and spit up.