When we look at our past, many of the wars we fought were against people who we perceived as not being very dissimilar from us. We fought out our differences about land or possessions and often there was an outcome of one being the winner and the other the loser. Peace treaties were then negotiate and depending on the ability to negotiate a fair treaty we were then mostly able to move on.
However we have entered a different time, a different age, when our wars are not against people we see as similar to us but against people we perceive as being very different from us – our shadows. Our shadows are the people we see as being wholly dissimilar from us and we believe that if we wipe them out then our world would be peaceful, just and right. We would never ever be like our Shadow: evil, dark and inhuman. Our first impulse is to distance ourselves as far away as possible or, failing that, to obliterate them, wipe them from the face of the earth believing in doing so we will remove this evil from our world. We hear that in the rhetoric of many of our present leaders, “we will combine to totally destroy IS.”
We are making the massive mistake of going to war with our Shadow figure. Last night I saw a short, striking and harrowing documentary on Mexico on Channel 4, Watch Here. It showed the almost total destruction of the fabric of the lives of ordinary Mexicans, 23,000 of whom were murdered last year. The country lives in fear as the drug gangs spiral out of control in ever increasing levels of violence, corruption and poverty. All this in the name of a war on drugs which the USA has conducted for decades now and even with its massive resources has not made one step forward. Instead this war has destabilised and corrupted countries starting in Columbia and then travelling up the drug route through Central America and now so evident in Mexico.
We never win a war against a Shadow figure because, in truth, we are fighting ourselves!
We went to war with Saddam Hussein, the mother of all Shadow figures, and now we face a phalanx of Shadow figures presently headed by IS. True, they are brutal but who brutalised them? Of course we believed we were doing the right thing, we did what had to be done but the way we did it brutalised them. And we did it because of our repressed brutality and viciousness. Naturally most of us will claim we are nothing like them, but notice the strong emotional reaction to how they act; that is the indicator that deep, deep down we do believe we are like them. They are now our Shadow figures and if we fight them we will not win, we certainly will not destroy them.
This then takes us down a track to two further truths. Firstly, what you fight you give power to and, secondly, if you persist in fighting you will become what you fight. There are leaders in the world who have fought oppression and now are oppressive; in the same way if we fight terrorism we will become the terrorists. We will bomb civilians, we will use drones and the people on the ground will be terrorised and brutalised and then that will be how they act.
In my experience of working with the innumerable shadow figures many of us have there is an upside if we are willing to have the courage to resist the fight and go for the transformation. Because when a shadow figure shows up in our lives, if we have the eyes to see it, there is also an opportunity to leap forward. It is as if the universe says, here is the next step for humanity; but to be successful at that step we first need to integrate a Shadow figure because we need the energy encased in the shadow figure to be successful at the leap we are being offered. However if we don’t integrate the Shadow and we continue to fight we will squander our chances of a massive shift and get bogged down in an unwinnable war.
We are facing a crisis in our world and every crisis is a crossroads, a place of making a new choice. So which path will we choose, starting today in the only arena we truly have dominion over – our own heart and mind?