There is a natural human tendency towards valence. In psychology, this is a reference to what we believe the intrinsic attractiveness or aversion is to a specific idea, event or situation; the notion of good vs bad. There are many ideas and concepts which we, as humans, carry in our collective conscious as good or bad. One need only look to the 7 deadly sins or the prayer of St. Francis, or a list of virtues to see examples. We believe that these ideas come from God, but perhaps they are simply man-made constructs created out of our need for order and our aversion to pain and suffering.
Marc stated in the Mystery of the Dream Revealed class recently that if we are to progress in the work, then we must drop the notion of good and bad, right or wrong. But it seemed he spoke specifically to good vs bad as it relates to what we feel in the dreams. Marc talked about the idea of the Antihero embodying emotions that are generally considered less desirable such as anger (bad) vs feelings of love and joy (good). My understanding of what he said is that, sometimes, the feelings of the Antihero are necessary in that we must experience them to move through some particular trauma or suffering. What a tricky thing to understand the fine line between where process anger turns self righteous or pathological or, finally, nihilistic, and anger necessary to move in the work.
I have to say, I have always loved a good Antihero, especially if (s)he embodies a set of values that goes against mainstream. A good Antihero is grittier and more real to me in his human cloak of frailty and flaws than the knight in shining armor or woman of virtue that prevails in so many fairy tales. I always understood the draw to the dark side and why the antihero became that way. I often identify with the antiheros of my time in books and movies.
But this has never changed my inherent belief that anger is bad. I grew up with a very angry mother. I vowed never to be like her in that way and in fact, I decided never to have children because I was afraid I would abuse them. As a young person, I had read or heard somewhere that abuse was an unavoidable cycle. Our aversion toward anger brings us to nihilism, as Marc described it: anger turned on itself, if we do not have the help or the tools to process valid anger. I experienced this several years ago when anger first came on the scene for me when I was about 41. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I was confronted with my worst fear, my demon, my reason for never having children. It was violent. I had no capacity to understand it and so it became a projection onto everything. I certainly did (and do) have valid reasons to be angry, but I immediately decided my anger was bad and so tried to control it. When I found I couldn’t, I became angry with myself for being angry. The anger turned onto me, each episode became like a horrible relapse for which I felt guilty and ashamed. It is a terrible cycle. The deep inner work required to acknowledge, accept and move through anger is very difficult because there is such an aversion to anger.
But, one person’s poison is another person’s cure. The great thing about participating in the NOE classes & retreats is that I see others in their work. It has made me realize how very personal this journey is for me. I also realize that without the help of a skilled therapist, I would be lost. I do not know when a particular experience or feeling from the dream is “good” or “bad” for me. The unique combination of events and experiences in my life (and perhaps past lives) and my reactions to them dictate this. For my therapist to work effectively with me, I need only to be open, honest and willing. It is a process of revealing, a peeling back of the veil. It is terrifying and exhilarating.