Tag Archives: Scott Stossel

Chuck’s Place: Screens & Screams

What might we experience if we were to turn off our screens? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
What might we experience if we were to turn off our screens?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Brilliantly conceived, chillingly real, Her is a movie that captures the virtual world we are rapidly opting to evolve into. This modern day anthropomorphism of the machine takes us beyond the malevolent antagonists of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix into the essence of relationship itself, albeit between a human being and a computer operating system.

An astute observer pointed out to me that the evolutionary challenge presented to the central human character by the computer operating system in this movie was identical to the challenge Jeanne posed to me when she left this world: Could I stay connected to a being whose fullness far transcended the confines of our relationship in this world? Was I prepared to let go of familiarity and possession? This challenge indeed cuts to the heart of our evolutionary readiness, however, there are far more basic challenges that must be addressed before we are ready for that giant leap.

Having paid homage to our virtual brinksmanship with screens, we must not ignore the screams of our abandoned primordial selves. Scott Stossel, in his article about his lifelong anxiety in the current issue of The Atlantic, reveals the screams of his own two million-year-old being who, Jung pointed out, resides within each member of the human race. This ancient being has no interest in screens and hardly feels at home in this world of modernity. This ancient being rejects crowds, to say nothing of speaking before them. This being is terrified of the dark, well aware of the dangers that lurk in the night. This being is deeply affected by nature’s moods, be they storms, cold, or absence of sunlight. This being likes to hibernate.

This ancient being is full of passion that seeks expression, but feels imprisoned by reason and shame. This being seeks to establish its true place in the world, based on personal power beyond the dictates of democracy and political correctness. This being seeks physical warmth and closeness with flesh and blood human beings; damn those screens!

This two million-year-old being learned much in the way of transforming primal energies to fit the needs of all stages of the life cycle through rituals and rites of passage. In our insatiable lust for screens we have lost access to the wisdom of our two million-year-old selves, but hardly have we lost our deepest of human needs.

What might we discover if we were to go down into our darkness? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
What might we discover if we were to go down into our darkness?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The I Ching, in hexagram #48, The Well, sagely advises: “We must go down to the very foundations of life. For any merely superficial ordering of life that leaves its deepest needs unsatisfied is as ineffectual as if no attempt at order had ever been made.”

The screams of our deepest needs call us to turn off our screens and face the true needs and true fears of our primordial selves without judgment. We are asked to accept our truths with humility, to not cover poverty with empty pretense. Acceptance with humility of the truths of our most vulnerable selves links us with the support and wisdom of our two million-year-old being, our real operating system.

In true relationship with this rich self, we are sure to be able to let go of our human desire for familiarity and possessiveness—as Jeanne challenged me with—free to take our own journey in infinity, in fulfillment, wherever we land.

From my two million-year-old self,

Chuck’s Place: Anxiety—The Curtain Call To Mythic Encounter

What form does your mythic encounter take? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
What form does your mythic encounter take?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

I was energetically drawn to read Scott Stossel’s article, My Anxious, Twitchy, Phobic (Somehow Successful) Life, in the January/February issue of The Atlantic. Though totally appreciative of his full personal disclosure, I was disappointed in the outcome of his lifelong journey to lift this pervasive, crippling symptom from his life; his seemingly best cure—a combination of Xanax, Inderal, and either scotch or vodka—necessary prior to a speaking engagement in order to pull it off. It’s pretty clear that the subject of anxiety needs revisioning beyond the failed rational therapies of our time if we are to truly tackle this mythic giant.

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell spent much of their lives demonstrating the relevance of myths to modern life. Carl Jung insisted that analsands discover the myth that governed their own lives that they might effectively find the path to their individuation. I propose that we treat anxiety as the curtain call to our personal myths, that is, that when anxiety calls, we treat ourselves to a mythic encounter, a mere mortal summoned to interact with the gods.

When anxiety calls we become helpless children, shuddering before a world of giants—adults—who have total power over our life and death. How will we fare in the encounter? Will we survive, be cared for, tossed aside, punished, welcomed, accepted? These are the fears and hopes we harbor in our smallness when we enter into our mythic encounters.

What will his/her mood be when he/she enters the room? I shudder.

Will my work be acceptable? I shudder.

Will I get promoted? I shudder.

Will I be expected to have sex? I shudder.

Will I be capable of having sex? I shudder.

Will the plane fall from the sky? I shudder.

Will I be able to perform? I shudder.

Will I lose it? I shudder.

Will I be attacked? I shudder.

Behind each of these anxious anticipations lies a mythic encounter, whether it be with a goddess, a good witch, a bad witch, an ogre, a wise god, or some other permutation of power that we feel inadequate in the face of. Our challenge, in this life, is to become the hero that takes the journey to secure our rightful place and find fulfillment. That journey, like all heros’ journeys, is filled with adventures into mythical realms; encounters with dragons, tricksters, witches and helpers that challenge and support our growing ability to hold our own as we follow the yellow brick road.

Anxiety is the necessary alarm that summons us to our challenge and ultimately asks us to turn off its shrill call. The tasks are formidable; all myths are epic and lifetime adventures. Sometimes the challenge is to unmask the larger-than-life wizard, like in Oz, to subdue a projection that generates anxiety. Sometimes the challenge is to marry into the gods, to experience the numinous and ecstatic without disintegration. Sometimes the challenge is to wrestle the giant to the ground, overcoming our fear that we are not enough, that we have no power. Turning off the anxiety alarm might also mean challenging ourselves to consciously learn to deeply relax and regulate the nervous system; the mythic encounter here being with the body itself.

Don't worry… be happy! - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Don’t worry… be happy!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

In revisioning our lives in this world as, ultimately, anxious encounters with the mythic realm, we offer ourselves the opportunity to hone our beings to continue as mythical, magical beings in infinity beyond the human form. Thank you anxiety for waking us to our magical selves! May we all be heroes that accept where we are, our starting points of fear and trembling pointing out our immediate challenges.

Heroes come in all forms and each must face their own unique challenges. If we are here in this world, we are already heroes, even if reluctantly so. We all made it through the dark canal, cut the cord, and became adventurers in a new world. Don’t stop now!

On the mythic adventure,