Tag Archives: instinct

The Killer Inside Me

I am about nine years old. It’s summertime. I go outside to ride my bike, which is parked in the front yard of our house in the bucolic, rural area in New York State where I live. Just as I reach out to the handlebars I pull back in utter disgust and fear. Some unknown green creature with long legs and wings and a fiercesome looking face is perched on the right handlebar. I almost touched it! What is that!

The strangest creature I had ever seen!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

It looks prehistoric, something I’ve never seen before in my life. I am overcome with fear and nausea. I whack it to the ground and step on it. Shaking, I stand there and look at its crushed body lying on the ground, oozing out disgusting slime, more sickening to look at than when it was alive. I can only feel that I had just saved my life!

At the same time that I feel this I also know that I have just killed a fellow creature and I feel really bad about that. I tell myself I was frightened by it. It looked prehistoric, like a scary small dinosaur, and I couldn’t help myself, which is true, I just reacted and killed it. Instinctual fear drove me to kill.

Years later I read about the praying mantis being an endangered species. It was then that I realized what I had killed that day. To my nine-year-old eyes what I saw was much larger and more frightening to behold than a real praying mantis ever was. At the time I had never seen such a thing and so I could not place it. It frightened me so much that I had to kill it. This was a reaction to the unknown. Sometimes an instinctual reaction crushes the harmless and the innocent in a primitive instinctual projection based on unfamiliarity.

A few years after this incident, when I was about fourteen, I was out with friends. We had come upon some wild grapes. Reaching into the tangle of vines to pick a nice bunch I suddenly felt something clinging to my face. I could not pull it off. I thought is was just a grape vine caught in my hair or something. I asked my friends to help get it off me. They pulled back in horror and screamed!

None of them came to the rescue so I grabbed hold of it, a sticky something clinging tightly, and pulled it off my face with all my might. I held it up and found myself staring at the weirdest creature I had ever seen, even weirder than that praying mantis—a walking stick! It was big enough to cover my entire face. It had straddled my nose and mouth and eyes, stretching from forehead to chin. It must have looked like I was wearing some kind of strange mask.

This time I held the strange creature in my hands long enough to get a good look at it. I’d heard of walking sticks before but had never actually seen a live one. This was huge! I stared at it, freaky though it was, and then placed it carefully back onto the grape vine. Now every time I see a walking stick I am reminded of this experience and I once again remember how I held in my fear and disgust and just looked at this curious creature who shares the world with us. He got to live because I did not let my fear kill him.

In the first scenario I encountered my killer instinct in an automatic reaction to the unknown in the guise of the praying mantis. In the second scenario, although I was equally terrified, I did not react instinctively but instead paused long enough to allow consciousness to work with instinct to mediate and calm my fear, saying, “take a look at what this is and then decide the proper action/reaction.”

I do not judge my nine-year-old self for killing the praying mantis, it’s just where I was at the time. Now I try to live with consciousness as much as possible, pausing, like my fourteen-year-old self did with the walking stick, asking myself pertinent questions: What is the right thing to do in this situation? What is the right thing to feel? What is the right action to take?

We all have killed something at some point in our lives. How many mosquitoes, flies, and pesky bugs I’ve swatted at over my 65 years I don’t know, but I have certainly whacked quite a number of them to death out of sheer annoyance.

At the same time that I admit to that kind of killing, there is another part of me that would never knowingly harm another living thing, but sometimes she’s just not available when I need her. Sometimes the fearful me still steps in and just takes care of business.

A blog by J. E. Ketchel, author of The Recapitulation Diaries.

Chuck’s Place: Psychic Hygiene

The body works feverishly to protect us from outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses. The psyche, the mental self, is similarly challenged to protect us from disturbing thoughts, feelings, and anxieties that originate within the mind, as well as those that stream into us from the outside world.

Experience the calmness of nature within and without…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

We humans are extremely suggestible beings, quick to be influenced or rattled by inner thoughts and outer events. Behind it all we are well protected by our ancient natural defenses that unconsciously take over to defend and preserve our sanity in the face of real danger. Evidence of this ancient archetypal defense system is staggering, as the powerful psychic mechanisms that take control during trauma reveal.

In countless examples, trauma victims have been served by ancient inner programs that encapsulate their trauma, keeping it unknown to the fledgling ego that strives, while under attack, to maintain its tentative hold on reality and its cohesive identity while being overwhelmed by shattering assault. The decision to “forget” in trauma is not a conscious one; it is a function of a far more instinctive self that knows what is needed for survival. Sometimes we need to forget for a while, sometimes for a long while.

Human beings are additionally equipped with ego consciousness, which can supplement nature’s deeper defenses and greatly improve psychic hygiene. As we live now in a world in the very early stages of major transformation, with instability in governance and terror daily breaking through its unstable seams, we must take conscious responsibility to stabilize our own psychic balance, that is, we must do our conscious best to supplement the defenses of our ancient self.

With respect to potential psychic infection from the outside world, the ego really does have vast control over the influx of outside energy. In a nutshell, where we put our attention largely decides what comes into us.

In our time, social media is a huge raging river of collective energy that greatly excites and equally exhausts our psychic energy but also can vastly impact moods—highs and lows—as well as our ability to process objectively all that barrages us. The decision to limit exposure to social media promotes psychic balance; it offers as well the opportunity to step back and begin to think for oneself. Collective energy can usurp one’s identity. We can be swept into a tribal identity, losing the boundaries of our “individual” self, losing also the ability to think for ourselves.

The partisan divide currently infecting the whole world can, as well, seduce us into one polarized corner or another. We are in an either/or state right now that does not see resolution in a reconciliation with the opposites but calls for unity through divisiveness. Divisiveness in the psyche sets the stage for psychic disunity, as the disenfranchised parts of the psyche will rebel, usually through disturbing symptoms of anxiety, dread, panic, fear or rage.

Suspending judgment toward all groups in the world, regardless of their political persuasion, with an eye toward understanding the why of differences, can create greater empathy and inclusiveness for all points of view and all peoples. This in turn promotes inner calmness within the self and reflects greater inner acceptance of even the most recalcitrant aspects of the self!

Inwardly, the attitude of ego consciousness toward the vaster unconscious self is a critical determinant of psychic health. For instance, if the ego rules daily life through a narcissistic self-centered lens, it is likely to alienate itself from the rest of  the self, with the result again being far-reaching symptoms, even perhaps the manifestation of bodily disease in an attempt to physically communicate the reactions of the deeper self toward the ego’s non-inclusive leadership in the affairs of daily life.

If the ego can see its role as ascertaining and caring for the true needs of the overall self versus its narrow special interests, then the unconscious will be grateful and better poised to support its ego partner. This can be established through remembering, recording and contemplating the dreams dreamed each night. Dreams remain the royal road to the unconscious, they are a latent golden portal to the deeper self, awaiting just a little attention.

As well, a willingness to calm frantic energy through meditation and a practice such as pranayama breathing can allow for a still heart that communicates objective truths, perhaps even suggesting actions for the ego to follow. This inner relationship with different parts of the self can lead to an inner harmony, greatly promoting psychic hygiene.

An overall willingness to introvert daily—that is, to pull attention away from outside energy, to be calm in nature for instance, or simply content within the confines of the self—is perhaps the most important ego practice to counter the overpowering extroverted draw of our time and restore psychic balance.

There are still rocky seas before us, but good psychic hygiene can provide the necessary ark of awareness to safely maintain our balance through the troubled waters of our times.

Sailing versus assailing,


The Monogamy Dialogues: Sacred Sex

Why is sex so unsatisfying?

At its animal core, sex is an instinct, a biological urgency that comes and goes at nature’s prompting, on nature’s time, toward nature’s end. Most sex in nature appears particularly fast and violent and rarely results in a lasting relationship, in fact, for most animals it results in no postcoital connection.

Create sacred time… consciously…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

In contrast, the human animal, freed from its purely instinctual promptings can choose to engage in sex at will. Consciousness, what we refer to as spirit, introduces the possibility of choice as to when one might engage in sex.  For instance we might say, “I love you all the time, but sex is sacred. It needs its own time and space, sacred time.” Animals never have this choice.

Additionally, consciousness, when applied to sexual energy, enables it to be elaborated into a union within the self in the merging of physical and energy bodies—the two distinct human components: matter and spirit—as well as the possibility of a profound union with another human being, as well as a complete merger into the experience of cosmic oneness.

The word sacred means to set apart, to make holy, to consecrate. The decision to set apart, to regulate the sexual instinct for the holy purpose of consecration, that is, a transformation into a numinous experience of oneness with self  or with self and another being, is the intent of sacred sex.

To set aside a definite time for sexual union separates sex from its biological dominance, raising it to an honored, holy status. Hormones have their own timetables, but deciding the day of union is completely spirit based. Spirit says to body, “I invite you to be fully present, fully engaged, at this time and place. I am fully prepared to receive and join with you, this is my solemn commitment.”

Much of life can be dominated by the biological pressure and mental preoccupation with sex. That pressure in an individual may encourage frequent masturbation, in couples an ever-present expectation or burden. Setting aside a definite day within which sacred sex will occur relieves, ultimately, the individual or couple of this animal dominance of being.

At first, of course, the animal will resist. What horse or dog willingly allows itself to be tamed and trained? However, once the instinct sees that this is how it is, that it must wait, patiently, but that ultimately it will be rewarded with deep union and release, it will get on board.

Getting on board means accepting the set-apart time as the time, the only time, the sacred time of sex. All other time is not the time, hence, sexual thoughts, feelings and sensations must be stored to allow for mastery and refinement of formerly unbridled instinct.

And then, when it is time, it is time, sacred time. The commitment is to show up at the agreed upon, set-apart time, body and spirit. Just as the body had to submit to waiting, the spirit must submit to fully showing up, regardless of inner resistance. In the case of partner sex this is not about fulfilling an obligation to another, this is about honoring a sacred commitment to self. Marital duty, for instance, has no place in sacred sex.

Of course, the quality of each meeting is unique. Each partner must be extremely sensitive to the being it seeks to join with. Body has its definite needs, wants and desires, but spirit has its own intentions. To bring the two together in deep union requires a genuine meeting of both these bodies, physical and spiritual. The depth of each meeting depends upon how deeply each of these bodies is connected with, within and without. True connection requires deep knowing of self and other.

The practice of sacred sex is always unique, the growing closeness cumulative. The utter freedom and playfulness, in its sacred, set-apart time and space, allows for a merging with the divine that lives completely outside of time and space.

The rules are simple: deep respect, no coercion, plan with sincerity and openness, show up, see what happens. Obviously, sex needn’t be sacred sex to be right, but sacred sex is offered as a potential mature practice. Have fun with the planning too, make it special, allow no interferences in your sacred time and sacred space; keep it holy.

Even Reni Murez, a direct apprentice of Carlos Castaneda, Carol Tiggs, Florinda Donner-Grau, and Taisha Abelar, acknowledges that although shamans store and use their sexual energy for conscious dreaming and out-of-body travel they also must balance their humanness. After all, they are currently here in human animal form just like the rest of us. Reni agrees that setting apart a special time for sex, be it once weekly, monthly, yearly, or once a decade, provides a sacred opportunity for human union, but also allows for sexual energy to be used at other times for other spiritual work.

No partner? No problem! Either save sexual energy for future union, with the intention that the right relationship will come to pass and that the stored energy will not be taken or squandered but used as planned, or engage in sacred sexual union with self alone, merging spirit and physical body in love.

Physical limitations? With spirit involved nothing is impossible! Perhaps the playing field might move over into dreaming where energy body and physical body can experience the deepest sexual union. Here sacred sex asks the dreaming intent to take over and arrange the magical, sacred meeting outside of time and space.

To get back to the question with which we opened this blog—why is sex so unsatisfying?—we propose the following: it simply isn’t sacred enough! We offer the path of sacred sex as a path of heart.

Of course, if one is in the midst of traumatic recapitulation or a spiritual practice that requires sexual abstinence, the practice of sacred sex is one of sacrifice and abstinence, as the energy of union is deployed toward healing and spiritual transformation instead. Nonetheless, such deployment can be understood as sacred sex employed to the needs and intent of self for the highest good. Indeed a path of heart!

Keeping it holy,

Chuck & Jan

Chuck’s Place: Kill The Messenger?

Who is responsible for this death? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Who is responsible for this death? – Photo by Jan Ketchel

“$8 Million Bail for Kidnapping Suspect” read the New York Times headline on May 9, 2013. Once again the headlines shout out the most aberrant, deviant, chillingly evil of human beings. In this case Ariel Castro, the man accused of kidnapping, raping, chaining and beating three young women for a decade, now exposed and in captivity. A sentiment arises in reaction: Execute him by the cruelest of means, avenge the lost innocence, protect future innocence!

Though I hold no sympathy for the devil, I know this devil is but a symptom of our current human condition, a sign that must be fully read and owned if our species is to advance beyond our current rut. To simply kill the messenger is to fail to comprehend the real message.

I’ve spent the lion’s share of my professional life, almost 35 years, penetrating PTSD, journeying with survivors of abuse to retrieve their lost wings and ultimately fly with sheer abandon, finally freed of their trauma. Consistently, throughout the years, the question presents itself: Why? Why are there predators? Why do brothers rape sisters and brothers? Why do fathers rape daughters and sons, mothers their sons and daughters? Why do uncles rape their nieces and nephews, grandparents their grandchildren? Why do neighbors rape neighbors, men rape women, priests their brethren? The list touches every social construction, every relationship in our world.

The myth of our origin is a crime, our hubris—the Catholics call it original sin—our original decision to evolve on our own terms outside the laws of nature. Humankind decided to take nature and further it in its own way. This was the birth of consciousness, of ego at the control, alienated from its god—nature as it had evolved and run for eons based on what worked best, based on its own laws of balance. Then along came man.

Humankind quickly generated its own rule books to regulate and further itself, leaving nature to the animal world. Humankind developed taboos like incest, and instituted rites of passage to regulate and transform the powerful instincts of sex, hunger, and protection. Eventually religions arose to regulate those instincts. Religions were also charged with regulating and guiding the evolving spirit self, checking the tendency of ego self to proclaim itself a god.

Today, we have a world where religions largely do lip service to uphold the norm and support a social identity. Today, the human race has completely lost its real identity. The human race has forgotten that it is an animal. The human sees itself as a supercomputer, a technical wizard-god, capable of creating its own universe. The human being has long forgotten its animal roots. It has completely underestimated the power of its instinctive core.

For most of us, finding a healthy pathway to the instincts is barred. We human beings are either terrified of the disintegrating impact instincts have upon consciousness, or we have completely lost the ability to feel a deeper connection to those instinctive energies. If those instincts do emerge, there is little to guide and help regulate their flow and integration. At best we have a bunch of rules. Few can talk openly about their passionate needs. They stay hidden in the shadows. We are a species dissociated and in opposition to our instincts. They manifest as the sick and maimed ferocious animals of our dreams—our boxed up, imprisoned, disowned instinctive selves.

Under the guise of “civilization” lies the belief that we are an advanced species, and that we are in superior control. Not so! Our instinctive selves have become the predators that lurk within and without. They are the Ariel Castors, the disowned ones, freed to roam and prey outside of us because we refuse to take seriously the power of our dissociated animal selves. The Ariel Castors among us are not separate from us. They are our disowned instincts driven to deviance by our silence and refusal to speak about our sexual nature.

It’s not the animal that’s the problem. Animals DON’T rape. It’s the failure of the human animal to properly acknowledge and wisely integrate its own instinctive nature. That’s what causes the animal in us to become rabid; neglect and disownment are the culprits. The sexual predator lives in the shadow side of a species that has disowned its animal self.

If we squarely faced the animal within ourselves, we’d have no illusions about the predatory potential all around and inside us. We’d have no illusions about the predatory potential of every human being—including our so civilized selves—to do harm to others.

I do not mean to stir up paranoia—although I would warn to be extremely thoughtful before leaving young children alone with older siblings or relatives or a neighbor. Instinctual energies that have not been properly encountered are prone to be acted out in a deviant way where opportunity arises, most often against the innocent and powerless. Our challenge is to face more squarely the sexual instinct inside the self, inside growing children, inside everyone, not to underestimate its power or impact, but to talk about it, regulate it, normalize it, transform it, warn and protect against its excesses. I’m proposing that it’s time to step up to the truth of the monstrous predicament we have gotten ourselves into by our failure to address the topic of our own instinctive selves, now turned deviant due to neglect, an imbalance caused by a failure to address and take responsibility for all sides of our human nature.

In the case I cited to begin this blog with, that of Ariel Castro, this predator must be held accountable and properly sentenced for the crimes he committed against those young women, but the real message for all of us is not to kill the messenger, but to heed his most alarming message. This is what we have become! To kill the messenger is a micro management solution to a macro problem. Let’s get to the broader view of an endangered species that has lost its way. It’s a problem that effects all of us. It’s time to go straight to the management and complain, because if we simply scapegoat the messenger, the sacrifice offered by the innocent ones is lost and we don’t advance our human species, but simply remain entrenched in our current “civilized” illusion.

Who do we, as a species, want to be? Yes, we are spirit beings, but we are first and foremost animals. We will never realize our fuller spirit potential if we do not successfully integrate our animal natures.


A Day in a Life: Instinctual Fear & Learned Fear

In the channeled message on Monday, Jeanne and I discussed fear as the culprit that sets up blockages inhibiting access to the fuller self, as a hindrance on a path of inner growth. After my channeling I began to think about instinctual fear. I know it is necessary and must be utilized and I realized that perhaps it may not have been clear that Jeanne was really only talking about fear that has become habit. Fear that has become habit is something quite different from instinctual fear.

We have a very elderly dog. She is rather large, a shepherd-husky mix, with thick fur, big ears, a long furry tail and severe hip dysplasia, a condition not uncommon in those breeds. She has grown afraid in her old age; in human years she is 119 years old and counting. In the old days nothing would have stopped her from bounding out of the house early in the morning; she would have pounded her way through even the highest of snowdrifts to roll around and do her business. Now she hesitates at the door, looks outside, assesses the situation and if it feels slippery to the first timid touch of her paw on the flagstone porch she will turn around and go back into the house, not at all interested.

This is learned fear. This is fear that is the result of falling on the ice, slipping in the snow, and not being able to get up. When she has fallen she has probably also hurt herself, though she will rarely ever complain or make a sound. This is the natural tendency of an animal to not let it be known that it is weak, for fear of attack from predators—instinctual fear. As we have observed this new behavior over the winter we have noticed that the fear of falling now almost rules her every activity. Even inside the house she hesitates before walking across a stretch of wood floor—preferring to suffer the odds, she often takes it at a run rather than simply walk across it to follow us. We have devised methods of helping her get beyond this very real fear, by putting a leash on and urging her out the door, making a path for her in the high snow, running out ahead of her and urging her forward, laying rugs over the ice and throughout the house. With our help she has, sometimes, been able to conquer her fear.

I like to look to nature for instruction. I think about animal fear, the instinct mechanism that says: Uh-oh, I’m in danger. I see a deer standing stricken with fear before the headlights of my car, before it leaps out of the way, instinctually knowing that it had better move. I see the scared rabbit shivering in the snow as it is approached by a predator, before it too bounds off to safety. I hear the birds instinctively shrieking, sending up distress calls, flying out into the trees to distract hungry predators from their nests.

We humans also have these natural instincts. When a situation arouses this kind of instinctual fear, we tune into our natural state of being and without forethought we act, we use it to protect ourselves or others. Would we not run out of the road if a car were approaching or save our child from being run over? Would we not leap out of the way of a hungry predator? However, we too, just like our old dog, have learned behaviors, learned fears. We all have new fears that we have adopted as we have navigated through life, and these new fears may interfere with our natural inclination to experience life, with the instinctual drive to live full lives, exploring our greater meaning and purpose. These learned fears might actually suppress that instinctual mechanism lying at our core to the point where we cannot even act to save ourselves from danger.

The impact of learned fear must also be taken into consideration as we investigate our willingness and capacity to take a spiritual journey. What fears do we have that prohibit us from taking the journey that our spirit invites us on, showing us almost daily what it wants us to learn about ourselves so that we are not held back any longer from more fully integrating our natural selves into our lives? Personally, I used fear, instinctual and learned fears, my whole life, to protect myself; this is fairly common, most people do this. But also, I knowingly used those fears to keep myself from having experiences that made me uncomfortable. Here the unconscious came into play; though unaware of its aid at the time, it kept me from experiences that might trigger other unconscious, repressed experiences that would have surely interfered in my growth into adulthood. Thus, in using fear, I also perpetuated fear as an integral part of my life. What eventually happened was that by living safely protected within the confines of that fear, I also became controlled by it. As a result, I became increasingly restless, angry, depressed, and felt that I had no life of my own. I saw only death in the future. Underneath it all, however, I was being pushed into alignment with something new by my ancient instinctual spirit self, and yes, a death of sorts, but only a death of that which was not mine to carry. I was being urged into taking a shamanic journey of recapitulation.

In recapitulation we are invited by our ancient instinctual selves to face our fears. As the process of recapitulation naturally unfolds our unconscious opens its doors, kept so tightly locked by our fears, and allows us to see just what it was that taught us those debilitating fears in the first place. In recapitulation we also reunite with our ancient instinct, understanding how it has worked to protect us in the past and how it can be brought out into a more fully integrated new life. Sometimes there may be a fine line between what is instinctual fear and what is learned fear, but that’s okay if we understand that we use them both when necessary, and if we can accept that there is always some aspect of ourselves that will come forth to protect us when we most need it.

In recapitulation we learn to distinguish between fears placed on us by others, fears learned through our experiences, and innate fears, but really what we learn is that our fears have controlled us, no matter where they came from. We gain a clearer understanding of our true inner desires to live differently. We more clearly hear the calls of our ancient spirit self, wishing that we could do and experience life from a different perspective.

And, as we recapitulate, we learn how we used to do things and we learn that we can choose to do things differently. We can change our habits and behaviors for no other reason than that it is good for us to do so. When we dare ourselves to move beyond the old fears we allow the true self to more fully live, confident that we have all we need inside us, instinct and nature more finely tuned to guide us now away from the old and into the new.

Our old dog lies at my feet as I write this blog, sighing occasionally, snoring, her fears at rest for the moment; and that is how our fears work. We can send them away, go about our usual activities, sleep them off, but that is only a temporary reprieve from the demands of the fearful self. Soon enough we have to get up again and face that self that won’t let us live from the ancient heart-centered spirit, that only tells us to live by the predilections of a society that tells us we must fear everything. We know those trappings of fear so well. We may even be bored with them, bored with how they control us, keep us caught doing the same things over and over again, keep us from running out the door and leaping into life, to roll around in the energy of new experiences. If we are as timid as our old dog, our lives become pretty limited, routine and boring, as if we were 119 years old.

Personally, I elected a long time ago to go over to another life, even before this one was over. I elected to err on the side of heart-inspired energy, to grab onto what I always knew lay just beyond this world. I just had to put myself in alignment with it, to see beyond the fear and face a different life, a heart-centered life. That was really what I did during my recapitulation. I put myself in alignment with the teachings of my own heart and I will not ever leave it again.

Of course, I have to face the choices I made. As I go out into the world and meet people who once knew me in a certain way, I have to face the fear that immediately arises like a shield between us when I tell them that I took a shamanic journey and that I am in a new world now. “Literally,” I say, “I am literally living in a different world, and I love it!” There is fear in their eyes when I say this, and that is a fear that I come up against quite often these days, and it is not fear of something harmful, but fear of something beautiful! Why are we so afraid of that which is so good for us, naturally so, our ancient heart-centered intent?

So, perhaps this blog may help in understanding the difference between fear and fear, between true instinctual fear and learned fear, between electing fear and electing something beyond fear. Life is really a good roll in the snow; it really is beautiful. I encourage everyone to reach for the inspiration of the ancient heart-centered self and find out!

If you wish, feel free to share or comment in the Post Comment section below.

Thanks for reading! Sending you all love and good wishes,