Bringing Down the Wall


Conflict and criticism have always made me anxious and my natural tendency is to avoid them. While this strategy has protected me from some discomfort, it never completely eliminated it. Crouching behind a wall makes you hyper sensitive to possible encroachment and it’s easy to mistake friendly missives for enemy fire. You can miss out on a lot of help and healing that way.
So when Joseph Rogers-Petro, one of the most loving souls I’ve encountered on the internet, wrote that my post “The Bridge to Wholeness” was the first he’d read that disturbed him, my first thought was “Oh, oh!” and my first instinct was to dive for cover. But years of shadow work have lowered my wall of resistence considerably, and I listened with a receptive mind. With his full permission, I’ll share some of his thoughts:
“I can’t be so sure our beliefs about the Divine originate in us—in me. If I choose to believe they do, is that not a belief similar to those who believe the opposite? They’re both thoughts (theories) …and try as I might I have not conclusively figured out—beyond all doubts and with proof— where my thoughts come from. Perhaps they come from the Divine. Perhaps all holy books are inspired. Perhaps everything is inspired. Perhaps my thoughts come from what I ate last night.”

“I was not offended by your post, only surprised by its tone and mode of expression. I guess I did hear within the words the same type of energy as the fundamentalists of organized religion…just a little though…but it was so uncharacteristic in your posts that, for me, it stuck out…”
“I was just a bit taken aback by not so much the sentence about where the Sacred Mysteries originate, but the exclamation point at the end of it. That set a tone, in my way of looking at it, that is final, leaving no room for question marks…The realm of the spirit (and mind/soul/body) is so open…so…different for everyone…and I have come to love the questions…”
“Spirituality can be about believing…in the sense of weaving our thoughts to a set of ideas that we love or find helpful. Belief isn’t the problem…It’s trying to make others wrong for their beliefs that’s the problem.”

There’s nothing here with which I disagree. I truly believe there are as many paths to the Sacred as there are souls, which is why I emphasize the importance of taking our needs seriously and conducting inner work. But Joseph’s right. My spirituality is guided by beliefs too, and behind every conscious belief there’s a shadow reality. I fear I may have emphasized my own path to the point of unduly discounting others, and I see that my unresolved shadow issues with organized religion gave this post a negative tone I did not consciously intend. I feel badly about that and have made a few revisions to soften the tone a bit.
Did Joseph’s observations make me uncomfortable? Sure they did, but his willingness to share his honest reactions in a loving spirit was a true gift. He concluded: “Maybe you and I are saying the same things…I dearly, dearly, dearly hope I have not offended you…please know that I am sharing these words to help me sort it out within me, and to simply suggest a few questions and possibilities. Namaste to you, dear Jeanie, Namaste.”
Like Joseph, I’m still sorting, questioning, and trying to come from compassion and understanding. Now  if I can just get over my ducking reflex…
Namaste, dear Joseph.

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0 Responses

  1. Hi Jeanie,
    How gracious to open up and share yourself this way. I had to go back and review the previous post because I just couldn’t make a connection.
    I find the word “belief” to be problematic in just about every context. I think about the interview where Jung was asked about his “belief” in God. He replied, “I do not have to believe, I know.” This wasn’t about any kind of righteous certitude, but an explanation regarding his subjective experience of the Divine. When we speak from the position of our own experience, issues of “right” and “wrong” don’t really have a platform.
    Thanks for the post. Like Joseph, I’m still trying to sort things out. Like how to remain respectful and conscious when experiencing oppression insisting to be tolerated as “religious belief.” You know, all those middle-aged and old guys obsessed with young women’s reproductive choices & sexuality… and other stuff, too.
    Namaste, y’all!

    1. Hi Therese,
      Thank you for the kind words. Yes, I totally agree that from a position of spiritual experience, there can be no right or wrong: just “what is.” The issue, of course, is how to express my “what is” in a way that doesn’t imply that your “what is” doesn’t count. As Joseph said, “It’s trying to make others wrong for their beliefs that’s the problem.” This, of course, is when dialogues break down and polarization begins.
      What I so loved about Joseph’s comments was that he never claimed that his feelings or reactions to what I wrote were “right.” They simply were what they were. In his letter to me he also communicated other examples of how he experiences spirituality, all in the same loving, non-judgmental way, and it was beautiful. To me, this is a wonderful example of a healthy way to share one’s differences because it enables the dialogue to continue instead of breaking down. That’s why I wanted to share it in this post.
      I too struggle to stay respectful and conscious when experiencing oppression in the name of religion. Religious differences are especially difficult to dialogue about because they’re usually “contaminated” with shadow emotions that we don’t recognize in ourselves but easily see in others. It’s so much easier to point out the mote in another person’s eye than see the log in one’s own. I find that no matter how logical a person’s argument might be, or how “right” they might appear to be from some sort of all-knowing cosmic perspective, if it is offered with mean-spiritedness and rigidity the person loses credibility with me because there’s no room for my position. That’s not dialogue: it’s diatribe.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  2. I am really touched this morning by your honesty in your blog.
    I am unsure why, but knowing that we open ourselves up to share our views and opinions with the world does put us in a vulnerable position.
    I am impressed at how you spoke about your feelings and views on the issue.

    1. Thank you, Caroline,
      It’s very kind of you to share these reactions with me. Yes, speaking our truths openly always puts us in a vulnerable position. What bothers me most about the internet is the people who use anonymity as an opportunity to vent their shadows in deeply hostile and hurtful ways. Luckily, I seem to have attracted a group of unusually kind-hearted and generous-spirited readers. It’s easy for me to be open and honest with people like this because they never take advantage of my vulnerability.

  3. Hello Jean
    Thank you for this post, Just yesterday I had my own duck for cover/knee jerk reflex, and it seem to come totally out of nowhere. I realize the gift of shadow work in the respect that shortly after the incident occurred I became distinctly aware that the issue was on my side of the fence.
    These moments are becoming for me porticoes toward personal growth and transformation.
    Bless you

    1. Hi Andre,
      Thanks for sharing your wonderful example of the value of shadow work. I love your phrase, “porticoes toward personal growth and transformation.” Isn’t it amazing how healing and freeing these moments of self-awareness are?
      Blessing you back,

    1. Dear Victor,
      Your comments always leave me smiling. This one is particularly validating because ever since I discovered Jungian psychology one of my conscious goals has been to become transparent: to let my soul shine through all the shadow and persona and ego stuff. Thank you for letting me know that, for a brief moment at least, I succeeded.

  4. Jeanie,
    It is truly an honor to know you. The way you conduct yourself on your blog–from your posts to your replies to comments is inspirational to me. I really try hard to emulate your kind, measured wisdom. I know I’ve said this before but I want to say it again: Your work–your shadow work, inner work, and writing–and how you share the fruits of that work in generous portions with us has helped me move towards healing many painful memories and experiences. Your work has inspired a plethora of short stories and you have taken the time to read them all. You are truly a treasure. Thank you for saying such kind things about me…I was very moved…and with all that’s going on in my life right now, I need the encouragement. So again, thank you. And as I read your post the thought came to me that in discussions of spirit, religion, spirituality, inner work, shadow work–that the word “only” needs to be deleted from all such conversations. So when someone says: “The only way to get to heaven…” or “the only way to grow spiritually…” or “the only method that works to get to know yourself…” If those “onlys” were instantly changed to “one of the ways…” the world would be a better place…Especially because people attach their shadows to their “onlys,” their fears and prejudices to their “onlys”…and well, all hell breaks loose. For me, the realm of the spirit is both broad and welcoming…and that’s one of the things I appreciate about you and your blog. The more we can build on the successes of religion and psychology, science, and medicine, the more we can celebrate the good and intelligent people in those fields, the more we will blossom as one people. The more we celebrate the commonalities and forget about the differences the more we will blossom. Everyone’s blood runs red, and everyone wants peace and salvation, if not here, in the hereafter. Together let us build bridges–with smiles, handshakes, hugs, songs, poetry, dances–and words of encouragement and praise. Oh goodness, I sound like a preacher and my mentor was just warning me about that…Oh well, how many neo-Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan preachers are there? Thank you again Jeanie, and a big Namaste to you, your lovely blog with its lovely readers. I am so blessed to be sharing the journey with you. Joseph

    1. Joseph, The blessing goes both ways. Connecting with your kind and generous spirit has been a huge blessing to me as well. I agree about getting rid of the “onlys.” Thank you very much for your sincere and thoughtful response. Sending encouragement to you as you deal with your current challenges! Jeanie

  5. I’ve neglected your blog for a couple of weeks Jean — busy, busy I persuade myself. But the dialogue between yourself and Joseph filled me with such heart that I’m unlikely to desert you so foolishly again.
    It is a rare thing to breach the layers of our defensiveness — and to do it as you have done: with honesty and courage; before the walls coarsen into an impenetrable mass of hostility, or pain, or self delusion, or — and here’s my favourite– righteousness.
    Thank you, I will enjoy reading in reverse order all the blogs I missed.

    1. Thank you, Qestra. Your kind words warm my heart.
      I struggle with all the layers of defensiveness you mention, as does practically everyone I know. But having learned to see and accept them as normal aspects of flawed humanity, I can usually see through and beyond them to the greater vision of unity to which I aspire! Not always….but I’m getting there.
      Here’s to the journey!

  6. Every time I read your posts it’s like you know what thoughts I’ve been going through during the day.
    Just today I was faced with a situation where I had done something unethical. I unconsciously gave a student a better grade than he deserved on his art project just because I like his personality. When my directing teacher (I’m an intern) approached me about it, I tried to rationalize and justify my grading decision to her and to myself. However, after a few minutes of squirming around in my head and insisting that my decision was just, I decided to step back from my ego and remove my self concept from the situation. This is difficult for me because I am a very proud, self oriented person. I also put a lot of emphasis on being a moral person.
    After I stopped trying to protect my ego (behind the wall), I was finally able to admit my error and see things for how they really are. I don’t think I will make that mistake again.
    I think if we all brought down the wall more often we would live in a more efficient as well as a more understanding society.

    1. Hello animusnow,
      Thank you for letting me know my posts help you see yourself more clearly. And for sharing your wonderful example here.
      The ability to stop hiding from our true selves, in other words, to acknowledge our shadow, is the most important part of the individuation process. It changes everything because it softens and humbles us, makes us less defensive, opens us up to learning from others. If we won’t lower our walls we won’t grow. Congratulations on knocking a huge chunk out of your wall!

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