Ideally, every child, individual and society evolves through structural stages of development easily, smoothly, without any problem. If we use the chakra system to look at the evolution of consciousness, the movement occurs from the 1st chakra, the Root, to the 2nd, the Sacral, then to the 3rd, the Solar Plexus, and so on.
Structure stages can be looked at as rungs on a ladder. Evolution occurs through enfoldment (transcendence and inclusion) of the junior stages. No stage can be skipped. You cannot evolve, say, from the food and survival focused Root chakra directly to the self and Power focused Solar Plexus, without evolving through the emotional sex focused Sacral chakra first. You can’t skip rungs. As consciousness evolves, it embraces the structure levels of the lower chakras. As the Self climbs the ladder, it keeps all the rungs below; what constantly changes at each rung, is the view. For example, even if someone has evolved to the Third Eye stage - the higher mind, vision-logic stage- they still eat, have the ability to have sex, connect with community, etc.
The process of evolving from one structure level (or stage: we use stages and levels interchangeably) to the next, consists of a healthy differentiation from the lower level, identification with the next level, and integration of the elements of the next level.
Let’s look at the Root chakra: food and survival. This is the stage of looking at the world and seeing it as food, made of things you can, or cannot eat. Identification with this stage finds expression through 1st person statements: “I am hungry”. Evolution to the next stage involves a differentiation between the subject, “I”, and the object, “it”. The individual dis-identifies with the lower level, which becomes the object, “it” (I am aware of hunger – “I” being the subject, and “hunger” being the object). The new, higher, level of development becomes the subject.
Because we don’t live in an ideal world (did you notice?), things don’t really unfold all that smoothly during the developmental processes: at each level of development something can go wrong. There are three ways in which problems can occur:
1 – Failure to fully differentiate from the previous stage, expressed as addictions
2 – Repression of elements from the previous stage, in other words, developing allergies to those elements, and
3 – The inability or unwillingness to move on to the next level, and becoming stuck at the present level, causing fixations on the current level.
The pathologies occurring at each level of development can appear as neurosis or psychosis. The material which is repressed, suppressed, or not fully integrated into the psyche of the Self, is disowned by the Self, stored in the shadow in the unconscious mind, and gets a life of its own. This means that the shadow elements are still part of the psyche, but they are banned from expressing themselves through the Self’s awareness. The Self ceases to access the disowned traits, emotions and impulses in 1st person I and it first projects it upon the 2nd person you, then further estranges itself from them by objectifying the disowned parts into the 3rd person: it. The self becomes fragmented, and problems start arising. It takes a vast amount of energy to maintain parts of the Self in the Shadow, under the radar of the conscious mind. A part of the Self’s energy is hijacked away from creative self-expression, and is engaged instead in maintaining the shadow…well, in the shadow.
Disowned parts of the psyche, now banned from the awareness of Conscious Mind, develop a life and a mind of their own, and find alternative ways of expression: through symptoms of illness, through relationships, and finances. The cure is simple, and not always easy: the Self must re-own, embrace and integrate all the disowned parts of the psyche. Therapeutic intervention consists in facing the shadow elements, talking to it, and then become it.
Not all Shadow is dark: some traits, emotions, impulses and qualities are rated as unacceptable, and when disowned, they are referred to as The Dark Shadow. Other traits and qualities are admirable, but they haven’t been expressed yet by the Self. However, the Self is capable of recognizing these positive traits as they appear in 2nd (you) and 3rd person (that great person over there, her, him, it or them.) This is referred to as the Golden Shadow, since it contains all your unfulfilled potential and possibilities.
Briefly put, everything that upsets you or attracts you in another, is yours as well, but you have disowned it. You can’t identify anger in another, if you don’t know what anger is within yourself. You cannot admire integrity in another, if you don’t have integrity, at least imminently (in potential), in yourself. The shadow elements are either imminent, or eminent. But the Self doesn’t see those elements in herself. Everybody else can see the disowned parts in the person, except the person herself.
Everything that the Self deems as “I am not like that, but others are” is part of your Shadow. Language such as: “I used to be like that, but not anymore”; “I could never do this or be that, like he does”; or “Such a pity I am not more like she is”, is fingers pointing towards the Shadow.
For example: the Self moves from an ego-centric, narcissistic, pre-conventional, self-absorbed stage of development, to an ethnocentric, conventional stage. At the conventional stage, the Self learns to adopt and follow societal conventions of right and wrong, and identifies itself with the group she or he is part of. If the Self has developed an allergy to elements from the pre-conventional stages, let’s say- personal care habits, he will become highly irritable with people who go to the Spa every week. A person at conventional level, who has an allergy to pre-conventional elements, could neglect, for example, taking care of their body in favor of taking care for their family. Or, a person who has not completely differentiated from the self-absorbed, narcissistic stage of development, might take an obsessive attitude towards self care, and, let’s say, sneak away from the family to the gym every single night of the week. Both examples show pathology: an unhealthy relationship with personal self-care, and they pose problems for the Self as well as for their relationships and environment.
The challenge is to accurately identify the shadow elements, and to successfully re-own them in healthy re-association, using appropriate therapy according to what went wrong and how, and at what level of development.
Resources: Ken Wilber: “Integral Spirituality”; “Integral Psychology”; (with Terry Patten, Adam Leonard and Marco Morelli) “Integral Life Practice”Also, visit www.integrallife.com for further reading and listening. Or join us in Ottawa at www.ottawaintegrallife.com