“In the silence that his life now is, let a community of care remember him by taking care of the living and building an alternative to what contributed to his degradation and destruction. There is no other world. There is just another way to live.” – Brother Michael
I can’t remember a time when suicide seemed so popular.
I know so many good people who are seriously bummed out right now. They look at the hate being spewed on the Internet and on the TV talk shows, at the violence being perpetrated on minorities, women, children, the LGBT community, and condoned by their fellow citizens.
And they feel despair. They feel the whole thing is hopeless.
I was thinking about some of the emails I received this week and about conversations I’ve had recently with good-hearted, sincere people out who are feeling weighed down by despair. Some of them to the point of seriously considering ending their own lives. Others just feeling depressed and resigned, trudging onward with little energy and less hope.
And I got to thinking about the famous excerpt from David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea in which he recounts an evening with the irrepressible gratitude monk, Brother David. I recalled Brother David’s words:
“You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest? The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”
I thought about these people with a strong spiritual practice and a sincere desire to make the world a better place who have just been overwhelmed by the negativity, anger and fear swirling in the collective psyche.
I reread Whyte’s story and I paid a little more attention to the details than in previous readings. I thought of myself and my own struggles to always “do the right thing” and I thought of how often that sense of duty has led me go against my own spirit, to betray my heart. And I thought of how radically unsafe it has often felt when I have trusted my heart.
The fact is, in our soul-sick society, the choice to follow your dream and live as the person you know yourself to be, is often treated as an act of treason by those who are supposed to love us the most.
The Shame-Blame Game
Rule 3. Blame: “Whenever things don’t turn out as planned, blame yourself or others. Blame is another defensive cover-up for shame. Blame maintains the balance in a dysfunctional system when control has broken down.” – ‘Dysfunctional Family Rules,’ from John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You
We live in what Bradshaw would call a shame-bound society. Among the soul ailments Bradshaw attributes to toxic shame are: addiction, violence, cruelty, prejudice, criminal behavior, and war.
He underlines ‘religious addiction’ as one of the most pernicious forms of addiction. “Condemning others as bad or sinful is a way to feel righteous,” he says. “Such a feeling is a powerful mood alteration and can become highly addictive.”
Our current president certainly did not invent the blame game. But his compulsive need to publicly mock and/or blame all who dare to disagree with him has helped create an environment in which the most shame-based members of our society now feel legitimized in airing their own hatred and prejudice.
The Shadow of Toxic Masculinity
Much has been written about the effects of electing a leader who embodies the worst attributes of white, patriarchal privilege. A lot of the discourse centers on the fallout experienced by women, the LGBT community, and non-white members of society.
But the exaltation of the toxic masculine exerts an equally devastating effect on men. I thought of my friend whose brother recently committed suicide. He had been going through an extended personal crisis. He had lost his business, his wife had left him, and he was about to lose the house he’d lived in for many years.
He was a writer, a musician, an artist, a man of many skills, and a father. “He was such a sensitive soul,” my friend said, bursting into tears. “He could do so many things. Everybody loved him. But he was never good at the one thing he was supposed to be good at as a man. He was never a good provider.”
My friend said people came from all over the world to attend her brother’s funeral. “He was so loved,” she said. And then she asked, “But if he was so loved, where were all those people when he needed help?”
In the commemoration written for my friend’s brother, his godfather spoke of how, at the end, he couldn’t reach out and ask for help. He couldn’t let people into his circle of darkness to help him.
My friend grew angry thinking of how many people had reacted to her brother’s suicide with blame. Chiding him for his selfishness. Telling my friend how disappointed they were in him.
My Dark Night of the Soul
When I went through my own dark night of the soul (the darkest one of several), I experienced this shadow of toxic masculinity firsthand.
I had been making reasonably good money as a multimedia writer and editor in the corporate world. But my soul was sick. I was drinking a fifth of Jim Beam (and often 4-6 beers on top of that) every night after work, just trying to burn out whatever soul sickness I’d picked up during the course of my day. I didn’t know I was an empath back then. I don’t know if I’d even heard the word. But I felt the sadness, the anger, the despair of the people in my building in downtown Detroit. I saw it in the obesity, in the eyes of the people I’d pass in the hallway.
I was also smoking at least two packs of Winstons a day. I have a strong family history of depression. I knew the clock was ticking on me. For years I’d been pushing myself to “do the right thing” and keep a steady job. But this was not my life and I knew it. I didn’t see any realistic alternatives on the horizon, but I knew if I didn’t make a major change I’d be dead before too long.
So I quit. And I went on a search for the purpose of my life. That search would eventually lead me to become an astrologer, hypnotherapist, shamanic practitioner, and develop the many other tools I use in my coaching and personal development work with people today.
Shortly after dropping out, I had a spiritual experience on an airplane after a particularly vicious weekend of drinking. I got home and I quit booze and cigarettes cold turkey. And I plunged into the books on meditation, shamanism, and astrology I’d been dragging around with me. I read and journaled and prayed and wrote affirmations and searched so hard for the answer…
But I didn’t find it before the money ran out.
I was never technically homeless, thank the goddesses. A couple whom I knew from open mic night at xhedos cafe in Ferndale heard about my situation and let me move into their unheated garage. Ben and Lisa were really amazingly kind to me as I sat outside their garage watching the tomato plants grow in the garden that spring. Or walked around the neighborhood like some kind of shellshocked veteran, talking to trees and bending over on the sidewalk to gaze at a flower in a neighbor’s garden.
But the response from a lot of the people who would have showed up at my funeral and talked about how much they loved me was the same response my friend’s brother received as he spiraled deeper into depression: “Why don’t you just get a job?”
Because that’s what you’re supposed to do as a man. Get a job. But I couldn’t. By that point I had gone so deep into the sadness and shame and sorrow I’d been carrying in my soul I could hardly stand for someone to look at me. Stripped of the defenses that booze and smoking provided I was raw. I felt like I had no skin, nothing to protect me from the emotions I felt pouring out of people, swirling through the city, through the world.
Couldn’t they understand by looking at me that I was not fit to hold a job?
Of course they could. But my ‘shameful’ condition – my having the nerve to have a breakdown – triggered their own shame. And it was easier for them to blame me than to face the hideous, gnawing darkness of the shame inside of them.
The Healing Crisis
The USA will experience its first-ever Pluto return in 2021, only four short years away. Between now and then Pluto opposes the USA’s natal Mercury and squares our natal Chiron. That’s a lot of heavy outer planet astrology going down at the same time, my friend.
The anger, violence, alienation, division and rampant shadow projection happening in our society are very likely a necessary part of the cure. You can’t heal it if you don’t admit it exists. Pluto transits always demand that we go within and face the demons we’ve repressed into the unconscious. One of the biggest demons Pluto forces us to confront is our toxic shame.¹
To the extent we are willing to do this work, we are cleansed and rejuvenated. Once the Pluto transit has ended we are, in shamanic terms, reborn into a new experience of our human potential.
So, on our good days, we can look at all of the hatred as – perhaps not a good thing – but a necessary step in healing our society. As I hypothesized in my recent video, I believe President Trump is being used by the powers of good in the cosmos to illuminate the shadows of our society and to flush the parasites out from their hiding places so they can be purged.
We Must Care for the Living
But we still have to live in this world.I can’t remember a time when suicide seemed so popular.Now more than ever, society needs the gifts of the soul that the sensitives, the artists, the creatives, and the healers bring. Yet these are the very ones who are most likely to be ‘degraded and destroyed’ in this increasingly toxic and aggressive emotional environment.
We must care for ourselves and we must care for one another.
A commitment to self-care is no longer optional. Especially if you’re an empath or highly sensitive person. But the same goes for artists, teachers, conscious parents, business owners, healers, and thought leaders. If you’re shining your light, sooner or later you’re going to come under psychic attack. The parasitic entities that control the massive political and economic structures in the world do not want you to be healthy and happy.
The attacks seem to be coming on more and more swiftly and unexpectedly. I’ve talked to so many people who are cruising along, doing just fine considering the current state of the world, and then ‘out of the blue’ – BAM! They’re crippled by an overwhelming wave of sadness, despair, grief, or anxiety.
The waves don’t usually seem to last that long and if you’ve got the spiritual tools, you can usually work your way through them in a day or two at most. But the fact they can hit you so suddenly and with so much force makes them dangerous. I suggest making a short list of at least three different people you can text or call for a lifeline – friends or family members you can trust, your coach, therapist, or healer, etc.
We need to take care of our community. If you’re feeling strong and someone’s name or image or voice keeps popping into your mind, take a moment to reach out. Send a text: “Hey – thinking about you. You doing OK?”
Sometimes one kind word or thought received by someone who is sliding down into darkness and despair is all it takes to tip the balance and get them back into the light.
1 -This is shame that was implanted in us by our parents, teachers, family members, peers and others. It is ‘toxic’ precisely because it does not belong to us, yet we feel guilty and responsible for it and we try to cover it up and hide it from others. Toxic shame is like an invasive virus or a parasitic infection of the soul. It weakens us morally, physically, and emotionally.