Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Venturing Into Completeness of Personality

“To reach maturation, in a Jungian context, it is necessary for a man first to work through his shadow—the negative/evil aspects of chthonic and solar phallos. He then must deal with his inner femininity and its requirements for relatedness. Hidden behind these two enormous psychological tasks is the possibility of wisdom, the knowledge and stature that come only with age and long self reflection.”
~Eugene Monick
Grappling with non-Christian content in the development of personality is a challenging reality for the committed Christian. However, I have no doubt that God has called me to integrate other models of truth in order to augment the process of discipleship. A guarded openness has wisdom about it. I wonder if the Bible might never more eloquently described ‘the what’, whereas many other sources of literature and collective wisdom can help with ‘the how’ of achieving the completeness of personality—to become more Christlike. (Of course, the Bible also covers ‘the how’ of spirituality as well.)
Let us first explore this term, the completeness of personality.
A Vision of What Could Be
Self-actualisation is what the secularists call it. Discipleship is what Christians call it. These are the same processes, all be it for different outcomes. On the one hand, secular life calls the person, if they are so interested, to actualise themselves—to become all they can foreseeably be. On the other hand, the Christian is called to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. The Lord, alone, specifies the process of discipleship—through prayer, mentoring, learning, character development, and other spiritual disciplines, etc.
But surely we are talking about the same thing.
It all depends on our goal; it all depends who we do it for; it all depends on what the endgame is. For Christians, the answer to these three is simple: Christ.
The completeness of personality must be realised in wisdom—the prize awaiting all who would venture on Tremulous Road.
Being a process that is never fully realised, but one never more surely blessed, we go on and on into the development of the soul—mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
A Christian Grappling with the Jungian Context
Truth is truth and all of it is God’s. Truth and wisdom are interdependent. There is wisdom in Jungian psychology and philosophy. It can be used to enhance the process of discipleship. Eugene Monick’s quote, above, speaks from this philosophy. It speaks primarily to men, but women, equally, can draw insight as well.
A broad, and perhaps crude, summary:
We have two tasks to complete in approaching wisdom from our wounded selves. The first is to appreciate the evil in two flesh-propensities we have:
1) Solar Phallos: the desire is to magnify our best, most godly, attributes. But this is often over-achieved and we sin in pride; e.g. ambition for success, the elevation of personal power structures, etc.
2) Chthonic Phallos: the desire is to minimise our worst, darkest evils. For example, for men, it is suppressing erotic desire—some of which we are ashamed of.
Completing the first task is about letting go of the solar; giving up our neediness to want to be seen as gods. It is secondarily about coming to understand and accept that our darkest thoughts and visions come from within. Rather than suppress these, our challenge is to incorporate grace, not deal in judgment. We find ourselves having shameful thoughts—these are to be rejected, but not before we acknowledge God’s grace in knowing we are sinners; we are forgiven for such thoughts.
We do not venture with the devil into condemnation. We can agree with the devil in regard to our sinfulness—and, if we cannot be condemned, we render evil power useless. Without God we are hopeless sinners. It is power to know this. This highlights the magnificence of God’s grace never more.
It is overall about coming to a real acceptance of our innate sinfulness—acknowledging and accepting, in Jungian speak, the ongoing presence of ‘shadow’ in our psyches.
None of this first task goes against the process of discipleship. Indeed, it can be seen as picking up one’s cross and following Jesus.
The second task goes against the grain of many men, but strangely it may be easier for homosexual men. We are to embrace our inner femininity. Just as women have masculine (harder) components within their personalities, men too have soft parts within theirs. The key test may be can a man be comfortable within all facets of his sexuality? Can a man be comfortable, also, in simple relatedness—with both himself and others?
Both of these tasks are difficult; they will take us, in some degree, the passage of our lifetimes. Once we accept these tasks the gates of wisdom are opened. And all this is achieved through the processes of age and long self-reflection.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Holding the Fear at Bay

Jesus encourages and challenges his disciples on the night he was betrayed, poignantly at a time, just hours before his persecution and death, when he should have been most fearful:
“I’ve told you this so that my peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world.”
~John 16:33 (GW)
What audacious words these are. They are not simply audacious but true, too.
When we think about it, Jesus never promised any moments of fear-free living. No, many moments of our lives are loaded with fears of all varieties and to varying extremes. Fear may be so prevalent it mars our entire existence. Somehow we learn to cope.
Now, here is the thing. Fear is the opportunity.
Its presence highlights, as a trigger, the need to dwell in the courage of the Lord who has already overcome.
When we consciously undertake to face our fear, living as pleasantly as we can with it, fear itself is seen truly for what it is—painful or uncomfortable, for sure, but the evil mystique vanishes, and what we are left with is just the work.
With the work isolated all that is needed is the discipline of diligence—to remain focused beyond distraction.
Limiting the Imagination – Focusing on Context
Holding our fear at bay can be as simple, or as difficult, as keeping matters in perspective so that reality is constantly in focus. This done, the imagination is subdued and saved for more elaborate and purposeful work, like creating or sustaining vision regarding what is truly important.
Imaginations are best deployed on our finest creative works, not wasted embellishing our fears.
We need no help in being fearful, surely. As we limit our imaginations for the positive brushstrokes of the mind, we redeem hope, joy, and thankfulness, and a vehicle for faith is fully licensed and ready to run.
And it is faith that must secede fear, as we grasp the opportune time for courage to release us from torment. Importantly, there is the role of the awareness.
Becoming Aware of Fear
Many may still be completely unaware of the many disabling forms of fear that limit us. Awareness is paramount. How could we otherwise act if we are unaware? We must first become aware.
When our awareness of our fears, the admission of our anxieties, and the manifestation of our avoidance is made known then we can do something about it. Before we are aware we are sublimely ignorant.
Fear is the trigger for faith; to dwell in the courage of the Lord who has already overcome. When we face our fears the fearsome power within the fear vanishes.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Letting Go of Bodily Tensions

The deeper unconscious mind, that part of us that battles many hidden foes, instructs the body to feel, and, in that, are aches, pains, disorders, tensions, and felt anxieties.
These impress themselves on our conscious minds and we respond via many levels of conscious and unconscious concern. The bodily disorder is reinforced in a continuous loop of feeling, thinking and acting, from an intrapsychic basis—us relating with ourselves. We feel an ache or pain and we attribute it as stressful.
What all this means, in simple terms, is our bodies tell us how much stress we are under. Our bodies are the giveaway indicator of how we really feel at an unconscious level. Otherwise we might feel everything is good, when, in fact, it may not be.
If we can learn to listen to our bodies, we can discover how we need to let go in order to experience more peace. Our bodies reveal how we actually feel, at an unconscious level.
Where Soul Meets Body
This process, above, could be seen as the soul meeting the body—a marvellous concept highlighted, by phrase, by an indie rock band.
Where bodily processes are perceived, and whereby negative tensions are noticed, the condition of the soul’s need is being made known; it is calling to be freed.
The soul communicates what it wishes us to know via bodily symptoms.
We have the opportunity of letting go—of responding to the tenseness of our souls as they are ‘heard’ through our ailing bodies, psychosomatically.
So, when we learn of these tensions, aches, pains, and varying anxieties by feeling them, our bodies are communicating to us. We need to let go. But that isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Never mind, we are blessed if we persist in learning this age-old art.
Where Body Meets Soul
When we feel our bodies we have vital intelligence regarding our inner psychic health. Aches and pains, for instance, are individual status reports on the actual state of our psychological play.
We can pretend certain stresses and stressors are not affecting us, but often our bodies give us away.
When we feel tensions in the legs, stomach, upper or lower back, or we have a headache, or feel nauseous, etc, we have opportunities for identifying anxieties. These aches and pains can be reduced by consciously letting go and taking the opportunity to relax.
Our bodies are warning us to take heed and listen; to find ways of letting go.
When our bodies have met our souls we have successfully used a relaxation technique, anything that calms us, to reduce our bodily tension and therefore reduce tension at the level of the soul.
What we have done is we have admitted the truth about our anxieties, because we cannot deny our bodies, and, because of our courage, ways of letting go have been discovered and applied.
Then it is up to us to be disciplined and diligent in an ongoing way to continue doing what we can to relax.
Listening to our bodies is a key in learning to let go. Bodily tensions are vital clues. The better we respect what our bodies are saying to us, the better we can attend to our needs for relaxation, and the more inner peace we can experience.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, July 27, 2012

What If You Could Change Your World

There are several billion people every day that would change their circumstances if they could. Whilst many of these cannot do this, many also can. There is a discretionary component in many of our lives. Sure, we have to work for a living but we have a say over how we live our lives.
We don’t have to wait for a New Year to arrive to make resolutions with ourselves—covenants with God. When we are serious we can achieve anything we set our minds on.
What if changing our world was as simple as addressing the way we feel?
How would we do that? We can influence how we feel by becoming aware of and adjusting our thinking.
The Mind – Perhaps Our Greatest Gift from God
Besides the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s Presence and the essence and evidence of his Kingdom within us, the greatest gift we have, personally, is our minds. Underpinning the mind, of course, is our heart. Both these together work in unison to inspire us to decide what we do.
Again, underpinning the mind is the heart, which we are to guard (Proverbs 4:23), because our hearts influence our minds.
But, most of all, our minds decide. We can override our weaker feelings by disciplined thinking. Discipline is a habit to be developed and maintained. We are the ones who decide.
Disregarding how we feel we can decide to do the right thing; to change; to delay no longer what we know we must do. We can take counsel from our hearts, but our minds still decide. And if we pray for wisdom, God will give us direction.
Utilising this gift, the clear mind, we, in one moment, have the capacity to change our worlds. We can decide to keep going—to persist—or to change direction entirely.
We Are Personally Responsible
If we have no influence over our lives, who does? If we can’t change ourselves, who else could we expect to do it? We are the ones who can change our lives through the simple act of changing our minds—to point our minds in the direction of our purpose.
We are personally responsible for chasing down this purpose; for determining what it is. Decisions of the committed kind emerge out of our purpose.
But we have many implicit purposes beyond ‘the purpose’. We have the purpose to maintain our health, to work, to grow as persons. In each of these areas and more, we have the capacity to change our worlds every instant.
We are the ones who can change our worlds. Using the strength in our minds, we can decide to change. When we do we can expect the full support of God. God desires a spirited people.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When Fears Melt Away

When we are prepared to meet our problems and concerns from another line of thought, fears that appeared as solids and liquids morph into gases of an invisible form, and they dissipate into the ether.
And though such fears are destined to re-emerge we have the key to resolving our problems when we take not just a step back, but a step sideways as well.
But first of all we must take counsel from the truth about The Truth.
The truth is always our best advocate if we will trust God enough to seek it.
Fear keeps us from the truth and, only then, we lay exposed. If we get over our fear of aligning with the truth we stand to be blessed—to stand in the Court of Awareness.
The Court of Awareness
Courts are where truth is presented, besides allusions to justice gone wrong. When we bring our problems (presented at the feeling level as fears) before the court of our awareness we face those fears and find the fearful component of the problem falls away, because we have met the fear fearlessly in the truth.
When our truth is allowed to stand on its feet, without innuendo opposing it, the truth shines as an unopposed beacon creating awareness.
This is fundamental for our courage as we need some reason, some vote, for faith.
When we stand up from the witness dock, with all innuendo annulled, we stand with the humble confidence to face the problem without all its noisy, unhelpful bells and whistles. These present as our anxiety in the midst of our problems.
This is a court like we have never experienced before.
The judge is the Holy Spirit and the Judge will discern and not allow falsity against us. But we must see things as a third, impartial person would see them. There is no defence and no prosecution—only the truth enters this court.
In an experience of court like this we have agreed to walk with the truth, probably because we have a full faith that the truth is safe in this environment.
The Court of Awareness is a safe place where we are at one with reality in our minds. In this state we neither get too far ahead of ourselves nor do we get caught up in our pasts. We are safely present. Awareness and the truth go hand in hand. Each is necessary for the other. Each of awareness and truth provide for each other.
Fears melt away in the presence of truth. When we come to be aware of the truth about our circumstances—that besides anything, endurance will win the day—our fears melt away.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Going Merrily into Battle

“The doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
~James 1:7-8 (NRSV)
There is a discrete, yet important, connection between the above verse and the thread of this article, but that will come later. What will also come later is a model for living life valiantly in the archetype of the warrior. Perhaps we can liken the warrior in us as being the opposite of the doubter in us. The warrior can go merrily into battle; the doubter cannot.
With this article comes an image: the grounded masculine and masculine feminine warrior—one who sees life’s problems as positively inspiring pieces of stimuli for learning and eventual resolution.
Resolution is the objective.
But first I must allay the fears of women who may be reading this regarding the language of the masculine, and men who may be reading regarding the language of the feminine. What we actually need is a both-gender solution—the best of both sexes. We need both the masculine and the feminine to work as a unit. As human beings we are made of both.
The Portrait of a Unisex Warrior
The unisex warrior is a person who is disciplined enough to keep all of their panic contained in order to patiently work through it. This is not easy, as most things in life can prove harder than we want them to be.
The traits of the warrior are not overtly masculine, nor are they missing in femininity—both the masculine and feminine are involved because a meld of both gender traits is necessary for meeting all the wiles of life.
The unisex warrior we are talking about battles not with sword and spear, but with a confidence of love in a social setting. They go into their world on a daily basis prepared for a fight, not with other people, but from within themselves. They are Trojans against an enemy that resides within.
This type of warrior, and we should all want to be one, is inquisitive about how they think and feel; they are very contemplative regarding their moment-by-moment fit in the world. They don’t just observe; they act, too. They are getting to know their enemy—that enemy within. Being a warrior means we study our enemies.
Because this warrior archetype is neither male nor female, the image fits both genders. Both men and women can be warriors, and should be. What the warrior has is resolve and a passion for resolution.
Resolve and Resolution, Together – Traits to Nurture
If we rise each day with the resolve to patiently endure we will generally prevail. Furthermore, if upon every one of our problems we seek a suitable resolution we will generally find it. Both these resolve and resolution virtues are warrior virtues.
When we have patient resolve all doubt is extinguished. When we have a passion for resolution doubt cannot survive.
The warrior archetype is helpful for going merrily into battle. Life is a battle and we battle mostly with ourselves. If we wish to go merrily into our daily battles we are best to nurture resolve and a passion for resolution. If we can live this way we won’t doubt and we can expect to be blessed.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Forgiveness Wins

“It’s all about forgiveness.”
The biggest test of our lives is to forgive. And while most of life we may get to live serendipitously, there are always parts when we are tested relationally. There will always come a time when we will be required to forgive. And if we don’t, we lose.
The Nature of Losing
Oh, we don’t like losing. We hate it. It is humiliating and it exposes us in our deepest weakness. No one likes being a failure. Yet, we all get a turn.
In forgiveness, we may have the initial appearance of losing. The reality is if we don’t forgive, only then do we begin to lose.
Losing is paradoxical, so far as our lack of forgiveness is concerned. By holding on, we feel like we are asserting ourselves. The reverse actually occurs. We don’t gain control; we lose it.
Holding on to emotional material that prevents us from seeing life objectively is the sure way of losing.
Often the processes of holding on begin unconsciously. We don’t like what has occurred, but, because we are not aware of our inner disquiet, we don’t process it. It simmers and then begins to boil.
Sooner or later the holding on of unprocessed emotional material boils over the rim. When it begins to affect our relationships we suddenly become conscious that our lack of forgiveness is harmful. We become aware we are losing.
The only way to win at life, so far as relationships are concerned, which includes the relationship we have with ourselves, is to honour the truth of our hurt by acknowledging what occurred and by working on forgiving transgressions—others’ and ours (yes, self-forgiveness is crucial, too).
The Nature of Winning
This is no competitive winning. It is the essence of a communal win, but one hedged about by our own victory; one facilitated by the wisdom to take Faith at its word; to put our stubborn selfishness on the backburner.
The ancients had Faith and they implore us, down the line, to drink of its wisdom.
When we win with forgiveness we show the world how to win in the only way winning is sustainably achievable. This sort of win, to endure much pain at times, in honouring Faith, is an ever-blooming prize of a freed soul.
Forgiveness is a precipice in a non-negotiable game. The circumstances of life take us to this craggy rock face most days and we are afforded no real choice when wisdom is known.
There is no benefit in not forgiving. But, there is eventual benefit in forgiving.
But it always takes courage to forgive. If we can enlist such courage, underpinned by humility and raw intestinal fortitude, we will be able to forgive—which is simply one singular choice after another in a series of choices to issue grace, most of which is ill-deserved.
But our forgiveness strengthens us; it strengthens our loved ones; and it weakens the enemy toward the direction of love. And where the transgressor is no enemy at all, forgiveness is the ultimate second chance—not to go on transgressing, but it’s a second chance to get it right.
Besides all the foregoing, our commitment to forgive, over and over and over again, is our commitment to survival and personal growth. Why would we not be interested in these things?
Making life work is all about forgiveness. On the surface it seems a ‘doormat’ philosophy. Nothing could really be further from the truth. It takes courage and wisdom to forgive. Forgiveness is not for the fainthearted, but anyone may achieve it.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Engaging Our Eternally Personal Grief

Way back when, when colour television was still not yet mainstream, I was a little boy. I can’t remember that well about times back then, so it is useful to look at old photographs and home films. But I can’t look back at these without a significant nostalgia. I am often given to sadness, sometimes teary; sort of a nostalgic happy sadness at no longer being able to access those times when I and my family-of-origin were much younger. Still having all of my surviving family-of-origin alive, at this point, it is bizarre this sense of grief.
It proves that not all grief is bad; but all grief involves loss.
We could say that we have a huge capacity for grief, purely out of the capacity of our memories. And just because our memories fade over the years doesn’t mean we experience less grief. Sometimes we grieve because we cannot remember.
But again, this grief is not bad; but it is still a loss.
Life Is About Loss
We grieve because we have the capacity for memory, we are thinking and feeling persons, and because life changes—and attachments are developed throughout. There may be more reasons, but that is enough for now.
Because life changes and we are constantly gaining and losing things we are often betwixt between joy and sadness. And our memories are involved when we recall possessions of joy—and these possessions are not material possessions, but experiential ones—that have long disappeared from view.
At poignant times, when we allow ourselves to graze over the past, memories flood back and we allow our thinking to search each memory. Our feelings are more instinctive, apart from times when we don’t feel enough. But as we nurture these feelings we experience more of them. There is a blessing in feeling. And even if it is pain that we feel, it is good for us to give credence to what is part of us. Feeling, here, is very much about honouring our memories—the events that made up our lives. If there is pain, we felt it back then, and what happened was wrong, but it is still part of our lives.
Why would we do these things? It’s because life is about loss and one of the greatest skills we can develop is the ability, the capacity, to grieve well. There is no sense in denying the truth.
Grieving Makes Us Human
As we access our eternally personal grief we honour God by living as full a life as possible. God, out of his unparalleled love for us, saves us from none of this testimony for loss. These memories are a requiem for life experiences that mean so much.
We ought not to resent the fact that we grieve and that grief is a process that follows us from birth to death. It requires us to be courageous. And our courage reaps us a blessing of feeling.
If we would choose to deny or negate our grief we would choose to deny or negate vast numbers of pages from the volumes of our lives. It is not the true or best human experience to do that.
Grief follows us all our days. Human experience is about loss. When we can accept this, bravely venturing inward, we make the most of this strange roller-coaster life.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

From Dark Night to New Light

It comes to any man and woman the same,
Prizes of worry, anger, pity, and anxious treason,
So it is to trouble and darkness that that one came,
Before that one could appreciate the prize’s reason.
Reason changes the outlook in a flash,
Convincing of the folly of pre-judging the black,
Suddenly the mind is able to dash,
Toward fusion of purpose without a single lack.
Darkness is relevant in the passage to light,
As it signifies the discernment of poise,
And we ask how else are we to endure the night?
But to patiently listen so as to quieten evil’s inner noise.
Rising Up Beyond Fear
There is a very real sense that we cannot experience peace having not, first, ventured into our darkness. This is not darkness itself, but our darkness—those experiences where forlorn are, or were, we. These are circumstances of darkness.
How else are we to obtain a heart of intrinsic compassion?
How else is God to convert us from ignorance to curiosity?
How else are these things to occur unless we become broken in some way?
Rising up above our fear is the necessity of victory, especially where we have no choice because we are being swallowed by it. We must keep fighting.
We cannot see the purpose in the present pain, or even if we can it doesn’t help, but faith will lead us home. Faith will contend with fear. It is the only answer.
And faith is patience, courage, a tenacious spirit. We don’t think we have these until we find we do. Only in the trial do we find them. Only in the depths of depression do we find the resources to go on. It feels like we are hardly surviving at all. But the truth is we are. Survival has become our prime objective. It may feel like we have only a shell of a life. That is enough to endure the darkness time.
And as we look back, having traversed through the chasm of the former life’s annihilation, as we come to a new vision for life, we somehow appreciate the dark night we have endured. We know we are stronger. We know we are wiser. We know we are more compassionate. God has gifted us these things.
Darkness is the pre-requisite to light. Many a dark night of the soul precedes a richer love of God. Adversity makes us better, more reachable people. Don’t despise the darkness time. God is making something good of it. The new light is coming.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nourishing Healthy Outlets for Anger

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
~Ephesians 4:26 (NRSV)
Is it right to be angry, because, as it is, we cannot avoid it. As God has capacity for anger, so do we. Anger, in principle, is not inherently sinful. But what comes from anger often is. We do well to understand, however, there are myriad healthy forces for anger.
Get Angry but Be Not Consumed by the Anger
In the first part of this verse, assuming it is allowing certain anger, we are commanded to find a balance in the expression of our anger. In other words, we are told not to deny what we feel. To deny the truth would be tantamount to intrapsychic treason—a betrayal of oneself.
This is one reason why our world spirals into chaotic manifestations of crime; there is too much denial of true feeling, certainly anger.
Where a human being, one created to feel and experience feeling, denies those very feelings, they, at that point, deny their distinctive and necessary humanity.
If we cannot be angry when we need to be, to express what God has ordained us to express, we press these feelings down into a deep unconscious void that is quickly and firmly locked. This might explain, somewhat, why we struggle with further representations of anger—less helpful representations—those that implicate us in sin.
The first half of this verse above is a two-sided command. We are to be angry in accord with our God-anointed feelings, but we are also to find a balance in that anger.
But the beauty of God-anointed feelings, in terms of anger, is they don’t provoke us to sin. Only the repressed portion of anger throws us into convolutions of sin.
Bringing Swift Resolution
The second part of this verse above commends us to bring a swift resolution to the conflict. In the first part we are commended for not smoothing over potential conflict situations. If there is conflict there is conflict. We are commanded not to deny the conflict. We are to bravely confront it. But in the second part of the verse we are reminded to keep the conflict in balance with a higher imperative—the value of the relationship.
The difference between angry feelings that have spilled into unhelpful rage and simmering resentment and that which is assertively poised is how the conflict is handled.
Once we are in conflict can we facilitate a healthy resolution?
Once we are opposed can we bring a quick, mutually-satisfying end to the impasse?
When disagreement abounds, and resentment threatens to simmer, have we sufficient control over the anger to achieve recognition of the conflict, but love in all events?
Relationships actually build closer where conflict is allowed. When we trust each other enough to allow real emotions, greater levels of intimacy are forged.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.