Monsters!

 

Detail of The temptation of St. Anthony by Matthias Grünewald, 1515

There is no shortage of monsters… from those in movies, books, art, fairy tales, legends, to those in politics, religion, and different forms of cultural phobias (such as xenophobia and homophobia), to those in our dreams, nightmares, neighborhood, families, ourselves.There are lots of them… many different species, many different forms, many different qualities, many different ways they are monstrous, many apparent origins.

Yet, they are all born in the same very simple way: by making a story into a belief.

I tell myself a story is true, and right away, anything that opposes that becomes a monster. At the very least, it is somewhat monstrous, and if it is persistent and powerful, then it becomes a great deal monstrous.

I tell myself that people shouldn’t lie, so those who lie is tinged with monster qualities, and when lies surface in myself (as they do) then those impulses are tinged with monstrous qualities as well.

I tell myself that I should be healthy, so any signs that I am not becomes slightly monstrous, and any clear illness becomes quite definitely monstrous.

I tell myself it is good to be smart, so stupidity becomes monstrous, especially if it comes up right here.

I tell myself there is a separate self here, so any glimpses of anything else also becomes monstrous, something to fear.

Any story that is believed in has its shadow side, which is the truth in all its reversals, and these take on monster qualities. Similarly, any belief creates an identity, and this identity has a shadow which is anything that doesn’t fit this identity, and these too take on monstrous qualities.

Since life inherently allows all of it, what is inside and outside of our beliefs, there is no shortage of monsters. They crop up everywhere, in countless forms.

And since we know that all of it is included, there is a draw towards what is excluded through our beliefs. What terrifies us naturally also fascinates us. We are drawn to the wholeness that is split up through our beliefs and identities. Storytellers have always known that, which is why monsters are rife in popular stories. And our dreams know that too, which is why there are plenty of shadow characters in our dreams.

Life constantly invites us to get to know and befriend these shadows, but if the situations seem too real, our beliefs are activated and often get in the way. That is why stories, whether in waking or dreaming life, can be very effective in slipping in some familiarity with the shadow. We know they are not real the same way as real life (or we tell ourselves that at least), so our guard is down, and we may even find enjoyment in befriending the shadow that way. Which in turn may rub off into our daily life.

With beliefs, monsters appear monstrous, and there is rigidity, a certainty of being right, and a closed mind and heart.

But on the other side of beliefs, monsters appear simply as what they are… fictional characters, people, other species, our own qualities (which are universally human), or whatever else they may be. And we may even see that they are inherently neutral, as anything else.

There is more clarity, a more receptive mind (allowing for a more clear and differentiated view) and heart (allowing for recognition and empathy), and actions that are a little more wise and compassionate.

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