Thursday, December 28, 2006

Heroes and Monsters

"It is only when we have the courage to face things
exactly as they are,
without any self-deception or illusion,
that a light will develop out of events,
by which the path to success may be recognized."
The I Ching

I am more and more convinced that before anything will change on any level - personal, community, nationally (in my case the US), and globally - we must first face our own shadow. The task of realizing the shadow, what Jung called the "apprentice work," is an individual problem with cultural consequences. We start with ourselves.

I recently became aware of an aspect of my own shadow, a particularly masculine version known as "the hero."

The word "hero" comes from Heracles in Greek mythology, and in Greek Hero means a man who is sacrificed to Hera, and even today the myth is deeply ingrained into our culture. The invincible "heroes" are depicted in movies and played by actors such as Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Steven Seagall, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and Charles Bronson, where the male hero defeats a seemingly superior opponent against all odds.

There's nothing wrong with being a hero, but for many men, they feel they must always be heroes.

In many ancient tales, the hero is sacrificed to the goddess. The martyrdom of Christ embodies the idea that the ultimate goodness of a man is his willingness to die for others. This belief has led countless generations of men to heedlessly march off to slaughter in wars. Today, men who suggest that the time for peace has come are still called cowardly.

More of us are realizing that, while there may be a time to fight, there is also the danger of becoming trapped in the guise of the hero, unable to remove the hard protective armor that covers our exteriors, and our more relational side.

The split archetype of the hero is The Monster. Almost always male, he is ruthless, cold-blooded, devoid of feeling, and preys on women. the Monster lives in the shadow of the Hero.

My own realization of this came when I remembered, and owned, a particularly nasty event in my life where I acted as the monster instead of the hero.

Today, we can see The Monster shadow of a leader, worshipped as a hero by many, and we see him pointing at others when, all along and in spite of his blindness, we recognize that he's talking about himself, because that's all he can see.

Note: Much of the information here is from the book "The Shadow in America: Reclaiming the Soul of a Nation." from "the Gender Wars" by Aaron Kipnis and Elizabeth Herron

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