There’s an alternative approach to enlightenment, spirituality, transcending the ego, becoming one with a greater power, and the light-focused approaches to personal growth such as always following your bliss and thinking positively that doesn’t lead to the suffering experienced by so many on those paths. A different kind of process exists that allows you to bask in the light without the burn.
P eople pursue enlightenment and are attracted to light-focused approaches to personal growth for many reasons, but at the heart of the desire is wanting to embrace ‘light’ and to turn away from ‘the dark’ – whatever ‘dark’ may be for a particular person. The problem in doing so is that by ignoring or pushing away or disowning the dark, you give it more power. And then it comes back to burn you.
The Voice Dialogue approach to consciousness offers a different kind of process, one that enables you to embrace light but also enables you to enjoy other aspects of human consciousness. It is an approach that is truly holistic because it allows us to accept all aspects of our humanity.
When you’ve done a bit of Voice Dialogue, you realise – in fact you experience – that there is always an opposite to any state or belief or viewpoint.
For example, if I am identified with being active – with doing, then if I unhook from that identification I will find an opposite energy within me wanting to be acknowledged, such as a being energy or a lazy self.
If I am usually serious and responsible then there will be an irresponsible and light-hearted part of me wanting to have expression.
If I am always taking care of others, then I will have disowned that part of myself who wants to be taken care of, and that disowned part will be longing for acknowledgement even if I am not aware of its pain.
And when I realise that I am identified with an enlightenment-seeking self, and I separate from it, I find an opposite self who is as real and as valid a part of me as my enlightenment-seeking self.
This is not only a theory but has been proven in countless hours of Voice Dialgoue work, with thousands of facilitators and many more clients, all over the world.
The experience those people have had is of being able to separate from the dominant part of their psyche to find a space in their consciousness which is able to stand between opposite parts – or selves – and to embrace both. It is called the Aware Ego Process.
The Aware Ego Process
This is a place where you can feel and accept the contradictory truths of both sides of a pair of opposites. It is a place where you can be aware of your Inner Seeker or Spiritual Self and also of other selves.
It is a place where you are not identified with the perspective and desires of one aspect of the psyche – which for most enlightenment seekers is the Inner Seeker or Spiritual Self – but where you can honour that self and the spiritual experiences it is able to have, and where you can also honour the more earth-based selves and the kinds of experiences they are capable of.
What this work reveals is that whenever a person is identified with only a part of who they are, then everything that part judges becomes disowned for that person.
And when an aspect of the psyche is disowned, which means it is not acknowledged and respected and given a place in the system, then, over time, it distorts and becomes destructive.
That’s why so many people identified wholly with a spiritual self have problems with opposite selves – such as sexuality – becoming demonic.
Consequences of Disowning Non-Spiritual Energies
1. Anger in relationships
If you are in a relationship and your partner (or friend, or parent, or teacher) does something that makes you angry, if you push aside your natural anger response and act as if their behaviour hasn’t affected you and that everything is fine, you will either infuriate the other person, or they will see you as being weak and will continue with the behaviour, or their behaviour will get worse.
At some point, maybe even after a relatively trivial event, you will release all that pent-up anger and could cause some serious damage. For no matter how long you keep your anger at bay, it will still be there, under the surface, affecting you and how you relate with others. It also affects your physical body and emotional system as various symptoms, ranging from the relatively benign such as a rigidity in posture to the more serious.
Now there is nothing wrong with being pleasant and trying to maintain peace. Most of us want our interactions with others to go smoothly and for all parties in a relationship to show respect towards one another. But if you always bury your natural responses and don’t allow yourself to express them or even to feel them, and/or you believe that your responses are not acceptable or valid, then you are not respecting your own truth and your pleasantness is no longer a conscious choice but a compulsion.
This doesn’t mean that expressing your real feelings means you ought to yell and scream at the other person or to become violent. If you are at the point where you feel anger so strongly, then it’s a good sign that you haven’t been dealing with your responses to events as they have come up and that you have in fact repressed anger over time and need to work on resolving it.
It is also likely that you and the other person involved are in a bonding pattern and you both would benefit from working on that pattern.
2. Not allowing yourself to think negative thoughts when you are seriously ill
Often when people are diagnosed with a serious health condition they are encouraged to think only positively about it. But if you don’t allow yourself to express any negative emotions about your condition or to think through all the possible negative consequences of it, not only might you deny yourself helpful medical attention but your inability to deal with your reactions could lead to your condition worsening.
And if you haven’t thought through all the negative possibilities, you will be knocked off your feet if something does eventuate, leaving you unprepared for dealing with it. Planning for possible future outcomes, especially if you have responsibilities such as children, involves considering those possible outcomes and then preparing yourself for them. That way your life becomes less stressful and less traumatic, and so do the lives of those close to you.
With health conditions, you might actually exacerbate your condition by not paying attention to any negative thoughts and feelings that arise within you. By letting them come to the surface, gaining an awareness and understanding about them, and then either unhooking from them so that you are not dominated by them or even letting them go could lead to a more positive outcome than if you had ignored them. Often our negative thoughts (and also our dreams) are clues as to where we are blind, to where we can look in order to find healing.
3. Hoping for the best when another person is intentionally sabotaging you or someone else
Another example is if you work in an organisation and there is a problem with another staff member sabotaging relationships or procedures. By thinking only positively and hoping for the best, you will be blindsided by what might eventuate. You essentially place yourself at the mercy of the person involved by not addressing their behaviour. Unless you look at the negative behaviour and deal with it, it will continue to occur and will probably become worse.
This involves you focusing on the negative and working out a solution – you can then work out a positive solution but for it to work you will have to deal with the possible negative things that could occur and be prepared for them.
Such a situation will probably involve you becoming conscious of the very qualities you dislike in the person, such as manipulative or secretive behaviour. It obviously depends of the unique situation but whichever attributes the ‘problem person’ is exhibiting, are attributes that are also likely to be disowned in yourself and in anyone else in the organisation who judges or finds the ‘problem person’ problematic.
So again, you need to pay attention to what you consider as negative in order to gain a positive outcome.
Focusing Only on the Light Makes the Dark Darker
No one can escape having negative thoughts and feelings, and those thoughts and feelings need to be processed. This is not a bad thing – it is a human thing.
It is completely normal and totally healthy to feel negative at various times. In fact, it would be dangerous and helps no-one if we didn’t allow ourselves to feel negative emotions nor to think negative thoughts, especially when you consider the kinds of horrific things that go on in our world and which need a reaction. It is precisely the refusal to look at the dark – and at those things considered as dark by some spiritual, light-focused people, such as sexuality – that has allowed the widespread abuse to occur in religious and other spiritual institutions worldwide.
If you focus only on the light, you push underneath your conscious self all that you consider to be dark. And the more you disown something, the darker it actually becomes. Instead of making the world a better place, this makes it worse.
Transcendental States of Consciousness
When enlightenment seekers achieve states of consciousness where they feel ‘one with god’, where the individual ego/personal identity (or primary self in the Voice Dialogue system) is transcended and the person merges with a greater Self, they have temporarily separated from their usual self.
Such experiences are awesome, transcendental, transpersonal experiences – but they are not enlightenment.
They are spiritual experiences.
And spiritual energy has its opposites! These opposite energies are no less valid parts of creation, of ‘what is’, than spiritual energies. They are of a different type, they are more ordinary, they are of the earth.
Many people who claim to have achieved a permanent state of enlightenment say that they now exist beyond duality, beyond the mind, beyond judgment, beyond language, beyond everything. But I suspect if you scrutinised them, you would find that not one of those ‘enlightened’ people was beyond anything. You would discover prejudices, biases, feelings, desires, judgments. I have met a so-called enlightened being with millions of followers who wouldn’t touch me because I was female and he claimed I might cause the arousal of desire in him. It doesn’t even make sense that such a thing would occur to someone apparently enlightened. And there are countless people who have followed gurus and other spiritual leaders who have experienced similar situations. You need only do a search on google to find examples of apparently enlightened people who have been ‘tempted’ by earthly desires.
But that’s the point. No one can exist beyond their humanness while they are in a human body. It is impossible to become enlightened if your idea of enlightenment is one that involves being beyond human desires and concerns.
A Different Kind of Enlightenment
I would like to suggest that real enlightenment is not about denying our humanity and blaming others for triggering human feelings in ourselves. It is not about identifying with spiritual experiences and rejecting earthly experiences.
You can certainly have the most intense and amazing spiritual experiences if you wish to but at some point you will have to pee! You can’t escape your body or life here on earth if you are a human being.
People who are totally identified with the spiritual seeking part of themselves have disowned those parts of themselves who are not at all interested in spirituality. We all have them, no matter how spiritually focused we become. When we deny them our attention and respect they fester, just as any disowned part does in anyone, and they cause havoc in our lives and in the lives of others.
Instead, why not embrace those wonderful heavenly spiritual experiences and also the equally wonderful earthly ones? That means engaging with life on earth, in your body, and with other people. It means learning about and to use the vast array of energies/selves we have available to us. They all have their place in our Universe.
For more on enlightenment, you may be interested in my piece on Why I wrote Enlightenment Through Motherhood.