Monday, April 11, 2016

Live Long and Prosper

William Shatner, Captain Kirk, James T Kirk, Star Trek

I admit to being something of a Star Trek snob. It is my personal belief that the only true Star Trek was the first TV series with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The rest were just copy cats. Not only was it decades ahead of its time, but it opened up the discussion about the human condition with all of its frailties for the first time on national television at a time when such things were rarely spoken of outside of a therapist's office. Such was the case with one of my very favorite episodes. 

During one of the many malfunctions with the machine that made "Beam me up, Scotty" a part of our everyday speech, Capt. Kirk, played brilliantly by William Shatner, has his personality split in two. One half is kind and gentle, but also weak and easily frightened. The other side is strong, forceful, decisive and also capable of violence. This second side is what we would come to define in later years, according to the work of the great psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung, as our Shadow Self. This is the side of our personalities that we tend to hide from the world, the self that houses our darkest desires and impulses, the place where our ego resides. However in this instance, Capt. Kirk was unable to lead and command with only his kind but fragile self in charge because it was those very qualities of his Shadow Self, the strength, courage and dynamic forcefulness. that, combined with the other half, made him who he truly was, a capable, brave, yet compassionate leader.

We don't like to admit to ourselves that we occasionally lose control of our Shadow Self when it pops out in stressful situations. I have been made uncomfortably aware of my own "other side" recently. There is once again major construction going on in the house where I rent a ground floor apartment. There has been constant, heavy duty noise over my head, sporadic internet interruption that puts my work schedule into a tailspin, freaked out cats (mine) who, like their owner prefers the peace and quiet of country life, and a crying dog (my landlord's) who doesn't understand why she can't come out and play with the construction workers. There have been moments when my Shadow Self not only popped out under duress, but refused to leave ... for days ... causing me headaches and a pattern of whining to anyone who would listen that was definitely not my most attractive side. The fact that this construction work is expected to go on for some time did nothing to lift the dark cloud hanging over my head. So I did what I have been trained to do by my most trusted teachers: I meditated on it.

What came out of several heavy-duty meditation sessions, plus some wise advice from my meditation teacher (whose new video just "happened" to be all about handling a grudge or difficult situations), was to acknowledge that what was going on was not all about me, that it was not personal, and that I could choose how I reacted to it, knowing full well that a negative reaction would just produce more negativity - and more headaches - while a positive, affirming response would open up other possibilities for growth and understanding. I was led to remember how many times I had thrown a hissy fit whenever I would try to grow roses and failed miserably, only to discover that my talents did not lie with roses but with other varieties of plants that proved to be some of my favorite success stories. The point is that I needed both sides of my personality, my kind, gentle, lover-of-nature self, plus my determined, persevering, driven self, to find positive solutions to my everyday challenges without making enemies with myself or others. It is a daily practice to keep the two in balance but when we do, our lives are richer, less stressful, and more rewarding.

As Spock would say: "Live long and prosper." And so it is.