When I was an adolescent ballet student, our teacher taught us how to maintain our balance while doing spins across the floor. If you focus your eyes on one particular spot every time you turn your head around, you won’t get dizzy. Throughout adulthood, this memory has come back to me in times when I’ve felt overwhelmed by change. Or when I’ve had to make personal decisions and carry on in the midst of situations I could not control.
The still point I focus on is a higher principle that has demonstrated itself, time and time again, to be not only spiritually true, but practically sound. This helps me find my inner balance of intuition and logic. It moves me from the immobilization, confusion and fear that characterize my shadow self to the confidence and clarity of my wiser, stronger self. It allows me to move forward and navigate whatever challenges may present themselves with sure feet and a clear mind.
We now find ourselves in a situation in which the collective shadow seems to be projecting itself all around us. It can seem like we’re being asked to spin across a room that is itself spinning. Our most basic societal norms appear to be dramatically overturned. The social justice progress that we, as lightworkers, counted on as real progress — hard fought by generations of people of courage and conscience who came before us, and progress we hoped to continue to move forward — appears to be being undone. It really does seem like we’re in the Upside Down.
How do we find our balance individually and as a community? How can we move across the ground we’ll need to cover to prevent our society from devolution and protect our survivability on the planet?
These queries invite us to examine the nature of the shadow itself as it operates within us, in our relationships, and in our world.
Several years ago I began to look at this, after ending a relationship with someone who turned out to not to be the “Nice Guy” he presented. As my initial shock wore off, a need to understand took over. Intellectual curiosity about why someone would create a false persona prompted research. I realized there was a parallel between malignant patriarchy and a malignant narcissist, that this archetype also resided within all of us as an inner bully, and it has its counterpart as a victim/martyr archetype.
I began to explore Mr. Malicious in all his manifestations: the person, the archetype (not all Misters Malicious are misters), the inner bully, and culturally enforced malignant patriarchy. This exploration included his dance partner, Miss Powerless. Of course, she too can manifest as a person, an archetype (not all are misses), inner victim, and culturally tolerated malignant patriarchy.
One way to look at balance or imbalance, health or toxicity that may occur within us and around us is to consider these as a form of yin/yang. If we, as individuals, are healthy and balanced, we are in touch with both our empathetic, transcendent part and the part of us that carries our logic and gives us agency. This balance characterizes a healthy, happy and whole human being. It also characterizes a harmonious culture.
In the present cultural Upside Down, there is an effort being made to normalize such rigid gender roles in which men are shamed for having a connection to their compassion and creativity and women are shamed for having a connection to their intellect, ability, power and agency.
Shame is very much the operational word here, both in emotionally abusive relationships, in which shame is projected on “the other” and in abusive culture, in which shame is projected on whole groups of “others.” In both the micro- and macro-cosmic versions of this, everybody loses — even the perpetrators, who by harming others, keep themselves separated from real happiness and continue to amass terrible karmic debt. Conversely, when we acknowledge both sides of ourselves and integrate them, we gain access to our full human and cultural potential and our ability to work together.
In finding balance when everything is Upside Down, we participate in the Rightside Upping of our world.