In today’s New York Times, Richard M. Ryan and William S. Ryan write, “At least some who oppose homosexuality are likely to be individuals struggling against parts of themselves…” (Opinion: Homophobic? Maybe You’re Gay)
Fear of others is always at least in part a projection of our own shadows, fear of our own full human potential, who we might be if we relax the armor of identity that presumably protects us from the threat of Otherness.
The impulse to condemn–be it as a subtle judgment or more overt and extreme forms of attack–contains a kernel of intrigue, something about someone’s life or choices or behaviors or presentation that catches our eye or ignites some neglected, buried, or denied aspect of ourselves. On a simplistic level, it’s like the woman who denies her children sugar yet binges on hidden Snickers bars once they’re asleep at night. On a more insidious and dangerous one, we see this playing out every day on a political stage bloated with hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, and double standards.
I’m reminded of the oft-quoted words of Carl Jung: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Last week, I met up with a friend I had not seen in probably ten years, a beautiful yoga teacher. And as we sat and talked in Muddy Waters, she told me about a part of the metamorphosis process I had not known about before. When the caterpillar dissolves into goo, essentially dies in the cocoon, imaginal cells begin to grow. Researchers do not know where these come from, but they contain blueprints for the butterfly-to-be. As they multiply, the former caterpillar cells attack them, threatened by their existence, the old attempting to destroy the new. But the imaginal cells group together, eventually forming a bond too strong for the old cells to withstand.
(Or something like that; if you are some kind of biologist and have a better description of this process, please feel free to share it with us!)
Perhaps all phobias and “isms” are projections, each ugly attempt to take away the rights of others a distorted refusal of self-acceptance, a frantic clinging to the status quo. All of this plays out in our legal system, in our daily lives, and within each and every one of our bodies, psyches and souls.
I’m interested in what happens when we learn both to love the shadows and let them die. When we begin to recognize that what we’re attacking could actually be the cells of our own transformations.
And I’m especially curious to hear your thoughts and ideas about this. Please comment and share.