2.1 Mainstream and shadow

Chapter 2. I and You: Authentic Relationship

2.1 Mainstream and shadow

We were sitting at the table in my living room and Johannes – my teacher in Systemic Constellation Work – stood up and walked to a corner of the room. He was going to show me daylight consciousness. He pointed right in front of him and said “this is my goal and I shall go towards it.” Then he moved forward, eyes open and focused on the point he had just indicated. Next he showed me night consciousness. He returned to the corner, turned his back to me, covered his eyes with his hand and walked backwards, slowly but steady, sensing where to place each next step. This, he explained, is night consciousness: sensing where to go, without seeing where you are going or even knowing what is your real destination or purpose. You can’t believe how recognised I felt by this explanation! He had described exactly how I had living my life during recent years. This whole scene unfolded as a possible response to a particular issue in my life that, as far as he could tell, I could deal with only through night consciousness. He related it to the feminine aspect, the moon, darkness, etc. There was nothing I could really ‘do’ about my issue. “When you look at somebody with day consciousness, ” he said, “you see who you encounter. With the feminine, you approach them with your back, not with your eyes open.”

Years later, in a systemic constellation I had asked for, there was ‘something’ I had to face, before I could go on with my leadership work. I knew it related to Johannes’ comments. In that constellation I looked it in the eyes and welcomed it into my life. To this day I still don’t know what it was/is really about. Many times my body has a clue that something is going on, while my mind as yet knows nothing. Often when I go to training events or gatherings, I’m not clear in my mind about what I want to learn or why I am exactly going. I’m there because I sense I need to be there. I go there ‘with my eyes closed’; I go to learn something and to contribute to the inquiry. My analytical mind doesn’t know what, but my subtle intelligence knows more.

It took me a number of years to get to real clarity and inner balance regarding these differences. The daylight mode of consciousness is much more widespread, and if your natural preference works the other way and you have a preference for night consciousness, you can end up feeling excluded, ignored, shamed. It is important to recognise that different people have different ways of knowing, different perspectives on the whole that forms what we call reality. One is not bad, the other is not good; they are just different and we can learn to respect them all, and maybe even understand them.

Regarding preferences and differences (in people born in the West) here are some quotes and stories from other authors:

Figure and Ground

In his book In Over Our Heads, in the chapter on Dealing with Difference, Robert Kegan says:

“I have been told that when American POWs from the Vietnam era were first released, nearly all performed the same two first acts after being flown to Wiesbaden, Germany; they took showers and called loved ones. But the men were far more likely to shower fist and then to call loved ones. The women were more likely to call loved ones first and then to shower. The difference is not necessarily that the men are more selfish and care more about their own bodily comfort than about their loved ones. The men could well have felt what was most important to them was to talk to their loved ones, but they couldn’t do what they most wanted until they had cleansed, or psychologically restored, a self that could even be reconnected to their loved ones. The difference is not between ‘selfish’ and ‘altruistic’ – both groups may have been doing first what they needed to do to restore the self, and both, in that sense, could be said to be ‘selfish’. The difference is in how the self is made whole. For some, the self is restored by itself and is not until then capable or fit for precious connection. For others, the self is restored in and through connection.

“Once again I would repeat that this is not a normative or hierarchic difference. It is a difference in fundamental ‘orientation’, or what I am here calling ‘style’. …. it is important to see that this is not a matter of dichotomy or polarity, as if people favor either separateness or connection, but one of figure and ground.”


Reason and Feeling

In his book Radical Knowing, Understanding Consciousness through Relationship (p.12), philosopher Christian de Quincey says: “As these women explained it to me, they felt most comfortable relating to the world through their feelings, whereas the men in their lives typically used reason as a basis for communication. Many of these women had spent years in relationships where they felt that their husband, boss, teacher, father, or brother had used the power of intellect to invalidate their feelings and in so doing, dominated them; these men and women were experiencing a clash of worldviews.” And he adds: “It’s not that one way of knowing is right or better than the other – we need both reason and feeling for getting on with the complicated business of living.” (p13)

And I fully agree when he states: “We should be careful not to generalize or to stereotype genders. Not all women use feeling as their primary mode of consciousness or communication. And, of course, women can be just as rational and intellectual as men. Similarly, not all men are unskilled in the ‘arts’ of feeling, either. Furthermore, feeling-based consciousness is not always so gentle or nurturing.” (p13) And he goes on to tell a story demonstrating this point.


Justice and Care

Carol Gilligan, in her research and book In a Different Voice, found that girls are not inferior in their personal or moral development. Rather, they are different to the ‘normal’ male standard. They develop in a way that focuses on connections among people (rather than separation) and with an ethic of care for those people (rather than an ethic of justice). She writes: “… the moral problem arises from conflicting responsibilities rather than from competing rights and requires for its resolution a mode of thinking that is contextual and narrative rather than formal and abstract. This conception of morality as concerned with the activity of care centers moral development around the understanding of responsibility and relationships, just as the conception of morality as fairness ties moral development to the understanding of rights and rules.” (p.19 my italics)

wildemanskruid htb

Different spiritual paths

Angela Fisher, interviewed by Hillary Hart in The Unknown She. Eight Faces of an Emerging Consciousness, says : “Men’s journeys are of course towards themselves, but at the same time they seem to journey away from themselves, leaving their bodies behind. They master their instinctual nature – which is an expression of the body in the world – and transform these energies. Most of the practices given in all kinds of traditions are designed to assist this process. They are easy to recognize, emphasizing ascetic trials like fasting, physical endurance, and controlling sexuality. And we consider these as general spiritual practices, not recognizing that they might be inappropriate for women. Women often don’t need these practices, because they stay where they are; their connections within life, within the created world, provide the ground for their transformation. ….

Working with men, you can push them… You cannot do it with women like that. Women lose connection to life and their physical body. They need the container of being connected to life. And in this container the whole transformation process takes place.” (p28-29)

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a master in a certain Sufi path, writes in The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul: “For example, the masculine mind thinks linearly. It’s goal oriented – there’s a problem, we figure out how to solve it. Masculine consciousness is quite focused. The feminine consciousness, on the other hand, is relational. It looks around and it asks, is nature focused? Is a squirrel, say completely focused on being a squirrel? No. The squirrel makes a relationship to everything around it and in the midst of all those patterns of relationship it knows where the nut is, and it knows how to leap from brand to branch to get the nut. And feminine consciousness, by its very nature, works in the same way; it feels all these different patterns of relationship and how they work together.” (p40)


Two types evolving

You might wonder why I write here about feminine and masculine, or even gender differences. Many of the practices and distinctions that I am going to make further down the road somehow have to do with these differences. My intention is not to point out differences between genders, but to show how some energies, patterns, or ways of knowing have taken centre stage in our society, while other energies or capacities have been more hidden or not (or less) developed.

One of the themes running through this book is the rediscovery of those qualities, energies, competences that do not receive enough attention or recognition in mainstream western society. The goal is to re-integrate and fuse them all in order to live life more fully and enjoy our full potential. Co-creating the new, or living in the generative space is only possible once we have fully integrated what is more mainstream with what is needed to complement it (what is in the shadow). That’s all that is needed; not more. What is more in the shadow, what is more in our awareness? Let’s bring it all centre stage: we need it all.

Next: 2.2 Companioning
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