“In the instant when our ego is conscious of our shadow we are lifted by grace from the dark realm of blind reaction into the enlightened realm of original choice.”
The above is from my last post about the shadow. Around 22 years ago I read a quote about original choice that instantly switched on some long-unused lights. I think Emerson wrote it. It was something like, “Nothing is so rare as an original choice.” I was just emerging from a lengthy dark night experience and knew that if I’d read it a decade earlier I would have blown right past it, uncomprehending.
Until I saw those words I hadn’t known how blinded I’d been by collective thinking. I’d been so busy being a good girl and pleasing all the important people and looking up to famous authorities and being so proud of myself for doing everything right that it simply hadn’t occurred to me that following outer examples while repressing inner realities is not the way to become who you are meant to be. This is what it means to be unconscious.
It seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t until mid-life. And it took a whopper of an inner crisis for me to get it. Luckily, I refrained from doing anything foolish during that time. I was very good at being a stoic little soldier, so I just tolerated the pain. Doing so was another message I had unconsciously absorbed. So much so that around the age of 12 when the dentist said I needed several fillings, I refused Novocain. I still remember the odd way he looked at me after drilling a particularly bad tooth. I had no idea what it meant, but now I think this kind man was feeling a mixture of compassion and pity. He must have wondered why in the world a little girl like me would make such a choice. I had no idea. Such is the power of cultural conditioning.
Wait! I made that decision by myself! Wasn’t that an original choice? Not really. I was proud of myself for choosing to be so brave, but unconsciously I was just following an example. No-excuses, non-complaining, unemotional stoicism was my mother’s drug of choice. Or at least, that’s how it seemed to me. In my mind I had to be like her. It made me feel safe. Special. Worthy. Such is the power of cultural conditioning.
A truly original choice would have been to listen to my feelings and say, “Hell yes, I’ll take Novocain! And anything else you’ve got! I’m tired of pretending! Conforming! Not feeling! Proving something! To whom? For what?” But I didn’t know I had that option. Most children don’t. We teach our kids good manners and appropriate social behavior, but how many of us teach them to trust their inner promptings, especially those that make us acutely uncomfortable? For most children, it’s far easier to conform than risk parental disapproval of their deepest, truest selves.
How do we make an original choice? First, by learning to listen to the murmurings of the pure and loving soul we were born with; a soul whose purpose in life is to bless the world with its unique gifts simply by loving what it loves. Second, when the time is right and we’re strong enough to accept the rejection that some will gleefully heap upon us, by singing our own song. Making our own contribution to the healing of the world is the greatest power and purest joy we will ever know.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau
Such is the power of cultural conditioning. When’s the last time you made an original choice?
My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
What a wonderful, illuminating post. The photo is perfect, again. Much appreciated.
Thank you! And I really appreciate your encouraging affirming words! Hearing from readers is a big part of what makes this so much fun for me!
“by singing our own song” and by “making our own contribution to the healing of the world”, thank you Jean for another uplifting and insightful post. Even after years of reading and re-reading Jung and Alice Millar, it is really only recently that I am beginning to grasp that the shadow has both a light and a dark side, both of which we must embrace and love as part of ourselves, at the same time dispelling the destructive potential of an unconscious and projecting shadow archetype. Thank you for your recent informative posts about all this, I wonder if you have come across the book by Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and Debbie Ford on working with the shadow? I heard of it but havent seen it yet – however it’s second on my list of ‘next books’, yours is first, and I am really looking forward to getting stuck into it! Thanks again and all the best, Roberta.
Thank you, Roberta. You’re not alone in terms of how long it takes to understand the shadow, but congratulations for persisting. That’s really key. I haven’t read Chopra’s book on shadow, but it has to be good with those authors. I so appreciate you putting Healing the Sacred Divide on your list too!! I sincerely hope it doesn’t disappoint! Jeanie
Your book came yesterday and it certainly is well done. I am so looking forward to diving into it.
Thanks so much for letting me know this. I’m thrilled! I do hope you enjoy your swim. And I hope you’ll let me know if/how it helped when you come up for air!
Where did you find that amazing photo? I love it!
Me too! I found it on Google Images. I may have entered the term “original choice”, but I’m not quite sure. I tried several terms before I found the picture I wanted! Thanks for stopping by. It’s good to hear from you. Jeanie
You were perhaps a little masochistic as a child? Or stubborn. Due to braces as an early age I spent a good amount of time with the dentist. Despite a fear to this day of needles, I always accepted the “numbing”. I’ve had enough pain from other sources to not accept help on the rare occasion it came around.
Thanks for the laugh! Actually, I was probably those things, plus proud, plus I probably had a bit of a heroine/martyr complex. I think I thought I had to be Jeanne d’ Arc. After all I was named after her. Sort of…. I had braces too, and early on I fainted in the orthodontist’s chair. But I wasn’t about to cry or show fear! Your use of the word “numbing” resonates. I guess I wanted to make myself numb to both physical and emotional pain. This was shortly after my father died. By then I knew how dangerous life was, and it made me feel safe to think I could be like my mother and take whatever happened to me, no matter how torturous, without crying or breaking down. So I was practicing up for later! It’s truly amazing how early trauma can mess with a child’s mind! But on the positive side, I’m sure the uncomfortable consequences of trying so hard to repress pain had something to do with why I developed a passion for self-knowledge. And that’s been an extraordinary gift. Jeanie
Thank you so much Jean for sharing your gifts with us. You are a blessing to humanity. ^_^
Bless your heart! That’s a wonderful thing for you to say and me to hear! Thanks.
Reblogged this on bobbieslife and commented:
Another wonderful gift from Jean, a beautiful soul overflowing with honesty, wisdom, humor and love. Enjoy! =)
Thanks for this great teaching story–and for your other blogs about psyche, spirit, shadow, active imagination, and so much more. I also love the image–the touch of the Soul and the Death Mother. The indecision about choices can drive me nuts, but I’m slowly getting better at trying what I have no idea how to do when I have no idea how it will turn out. I will move through this day remembering to “sing my song.”
Wow, you were a tough little one. Reminds me of my husband Vic. Nurses and I begged him to take a small dose of anti-anxiety medication during a stem cell transplant. He wanted to tough it out while the medicine killed every white blood cell in his body, I didn’t get the point. He finally relented, making everyone happier.
Sending love and gratitude for the inspiration you share,
I love the image too. I had thought of the mechanical hand as our repressed originality, but it surely is the Death Mother, too, that part in us that wants to numb out instead of becoming conscious and making our own choices. I know one of your mentors and mine, Marion Woodman, has had a lot to say about her!
Though you are a woman who is already singing your song, sometimes it does help to have a reminder. I’m glad if this post does that for you.
Yes, I was a tough little kid, but I’ve softened up quite a bit over the years. Learning that softness and feelings were not flaws but feminine strengths was a major turning point for me.
Sending love and gratitude back to you,
Thanks for reposting this!