THOUGHTS ON THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ROOTS OF EVIL AND VIOLENCE
Part 1: An Overview of Our Dual Nature: A Prep for Future Letters
Bear with me, this letter might be a little more serious than usual but it’s intended to describe a few concepts to let us understand the upheavals in our world. In weeks to come, I want to talk about how a society can become psychically infected, the underpinnings of terrorism and fascist states, how the creative person can use imagination and conscious work to stay calm and well organized and contribute to restoring balance. The recorded tales and myths I plan to pass along here seem mild and sweet. But do not be deceived, a little sugar makes a bitter truth a little bit easier to swallow.
In The Red Book, CG Jung describes evil as an appetite that cannot and will not be satisfied. It pursues beauty to spoil it, devour it. And beauty is not a thing and does not live in things. It is the cause of aesthetic play where all seriousness vanishes and unlimited possibility opens. Beauty is a feeling of delight that we project onto an object.
Evil and beauty, the urges to destroy and create, are unconscious drives that react to each other. Each harbors a little bit of the other’s vitality that keeps them in eternal partnership. They belong to the original nature of human beings and they will exist as long as we have bodies.
Why? It’s how we are built. All this is factory installed. Everything in Nature is an interrelated system of coexisting opposites. One side of Nature needs the other for the whole of Nature to support itself. The negotiation for dominance between any two energies animates existence. Power and love. Life and death. Day and Night. Up and Down. You and Me. Everything in Nature has dual aspects– including our selves, bodies and feelings, intellects and spirits…our consciousness. We are dual-patterned beings that are part of Nature’s dualist system.
The urge to destroy or create can become magnified, swing out of balance. When evil’s appetite spoils beauty’s play or when beauty overdoes its play, and threatens to smother evil, we experience a highly charged contact with something frighteningly archaic under the shadows of our unconscious. Doors open to something feral. Until the need to destroy in either respect is replaced by an equivalent intensity, we will continue to blindly follow an awful urge to dominate and control.
Broadening our range of consciousness redirects this raw energy and that is a taxing achievement. It is painful because observing the destructive urges that lie in the depths of our unconscious are not welcome sights– at first. However, when we put our egos aside, that is, fears or thoughts about ourselves that glorify or demean, the journey becomes very interesting indeed.
First, we need to discover how to enter our unconscious mind. Our psyche relaxes and slowly admits us to the inner sanctum when we are respectful and curious about the truth of ourselves. Second, as we explore the shadows, insight comes in and the urge to harm is understood and thus loses its hold. Our brain automatically corrects the error in thinking that domination and harm are alright. Our body relaxes. The adrenal energy of fight, flight, or paralysis dissolves. An attentive psychotherapist is an invaluable navigator in this process.
Since the penchant for destruction is inborn, it will not actually go away. Instead, with conscious observation of this impulse, our perception of its value transforms. We see clearly the part that evil plays in the whole pattern of psychic processes. Because we understand it we can harness its dynamic energy to produce verve, humor, exuberance, decisiveness, willful and wise energy, and the courage to accept our natural being as it is. The urge to dominate, control, and harm may still rise but now we grasp its potential deadliness yet choose not to use it.
To Be Continued…
Your loving friend, –Peggy
The following is a story of Shiva and his wife, Parvati. It makes the point that both Shiva, lord and god of all creation and destruction, and Parvati (also known as (Shiva’), his partner imbued with love, playfulness and beauty, meet their comeuppance, see their failings, and stand down.