Our Name for God

We can use Jesus as our model in our relationship with God and ponder his use of  “Abba” when referring to his father.  God wants to be the same kind of parent to us as he was to Jesus.  He invites us to use whatever name to call him that will evoke for us what  “Abba” did for Jesus.

Our task is to find that name, invent that name that represents what we need God to be to us.  Then use that name in periods of quiet when we are open to experiencing God in greater depth.  We are to embrace that name as our secret with God.  We are to allow ourselves to grow into the deeper relationship that the name affords

Temperament–Our Personal Wild Card

We all know about the influence that comes to us from both heredity and environment.  But nobody talks much about temperament–the personality’s wild card.

The Greeks spoke of  humours–various phenomena that affected certain organs of the body–lungs, kidneys, liver, heart–and enabled or prevented good health.  More recently psychologists have looked at those humours in terms of temperaments.  The general consensus is that one of these four psychic energy levels dominates in each of us.

Phlegmatic is the least energetic.  Fritz Kunkel calls him the Clinging Vine who has to depend on someone else for meaning in life.  Melancholic has more energy but not enough to dominate, so when he’s overwhelmed he retreats into his shell like a Turtle.  Choleric is the Nero, spitting fire and running the show (guess which one I was!).  And Sanguine shines with creativity like a Star.  The trouble is, unlike a celestial body which needs no audience, the Star temperament needs someone constantly applauding and supporting him.

Our temperament is not inherited and may not even correspond to that of either parent or any one of our grandparents.

We move around from one temperament position to another, depending on relationships and situations.  But rather early in life one predominates and influences our personality perhaps even more than heredity or environment.

These temperaments can be seen to correspond to Carl Jung’s personality traits–feeling, sensation, thinking, and intuition and also to Northrop Frye’s literary genres of romantic, tragic, ironic, and comic.  I found these temperaments to fit with the OK positions (Thomas Harris); Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development; the four basic elements–water, earth, fire, air–and others as well.  We can gain insight into our personalities from pondering these grids, just as we can from thinking about the mottos we have adopted and the games we play.

We may by sheer will power change our mottos and games, but our predominating temperament remains the same.  All temperaments circle the inner region of the psyche, but we are not able to touch the center of the Self (the Original Goodness) without a transformation.  When we freely decide to cooperate with the transformation process by giving permission to an inner power to make us whole, we become this Original Goodness and thereafter no temperament rules our lives.

Mottos We Adopt

From a great deal  of pondering over all my previous negative behavior, I began to see some mottos I had adopted early in my life.  It was easy to find the ‘Be Strong’ that I decided would protect me from punishments like that I received from the crying incident.  And my ‘Be Strong’ also kept me from shedding tears over much sadness that warranted them.

It took a while before I saw the other mottos. ‘Be Right’ was surely the one that had kept me from ever apologizing to my family.  ‘Be Powerful’ fed my need to be in control of everything possible.

I had no idea, however, that my mottos were so evident to others outside my family.  After my Humpty Dumpty transformation experience, I had an opportunity to visit with an elderly gentleman who had been a member of the Worship Committee at my church when I had been the chair.  When I told him I felt like I was a completely different person from the one I had been for decades, he replied, “Well, I hope so.  I decided in that committee that I didn’t want to be on your train or in the way of it!.”  We both laughed at his insight and I appreciated his revelation.

My conviction is that no matter how we are perceived to the contrary, the mottos we choose for ourselves are our best attempts to improve on ourselves–make ourselves into good people–the best we can be.

My mother gave me a motto at a  young age–‘Don’t Embarrass the Family.’  It is only just now obvious to me that her embarrassment at my three-year-old crying incident was the deciding factor.  Throughout my growing up, she often reminded me of this directive.  There must be something in my personality that continued to make my family fear I would do something that reflected badly on them because one of my sons seemed at an early age to give me the same motto.  Or maybe the mottos we give others are merely projections of facets of our personality we haven’t adequately dealt with.

Paradoxically, our mottos need to be given up in order for them to be authentically incorporated into our personality.  The ‘giving up’ manifests itself in the opposite of the motto.  In my three-day crisis, there was nothing strong or powerful about me.  I experienced just the opposite.  And in my Great Confession I admitted all the ‘not rightness’ (unrighteousness?!) about myself.  Only after the crisis did I emerge with a genuine strength and sense of power that I never had before.

My motto now is simply ‘Be.’  And I think the same is intended for everyone.  Out of the essence of our authentic Being emerges a wholeness that needs no other mottos.

Fertilization

Isn’t there something deep inside us that wonders if there is more to life than the best we have experienced? If we’re honest with ourselves, I think the answer for at least some of us is yes.

There is a spiritual fertilization that must take place if we are to be able to experience life in all its fullness. Both male and female parts of our personality are required. The egg resides in the unconscious and, like all eggs, contains the essence of life, the potential of a new being. It awaits the sperm of the conscious mind. The seed. The planting of permission.

Perhaps all the duality of the external world is trying to point us to the duality within ourselves. And perhaps all the tension we see between opposites externally is pointing us to the tension within that needs to be resolved.

Tension is resolved in the world when people of opposing views meet and agree on a peaceful, creative way of dealing with each other. The same is true within. All duality needs union where, as in the Hegelian dialectic, opposites come together in a synthesis that is greater than the sum of the two parts.

This is no more true than within the individual personality. The unconscious yearns to be unified with the conscious. Our conscious ego must want something more than it can provide for itself and be willing to give of itself so that union may be achieved.

Unlike most human biological yearnings, the feminine unconscious is the more wiling of the two. Eager. Obsessed, actually. So much so that it is constantly sending up invitations. Teasers.

But the conscious is a do-it-yourself kinda guy. A take-charge ruler, decision maker, multi-tasker and paramount achiever. It fails to recognize that its most authentic joy and creativity lies beyond its control.

For many of us a crisis must occur before our masculine conscious (rational control feature) becomes desperate enough to take paper and pencil and engage the inner feminine (a.k.a. Inner Wisdom). But the Inner Wisdom is available to us at all times. We do not need to wait for a crisis.

Humpty’s Hard Shell

Humpty’s arrogance and self-confidence seem to come from his belief that his shell is durable enough to adequately protect him. And what about us? What makes our shell grow thicker and stronger? What makes us think we are adequately protected?

Life situations, where we might have felt vulnerable, might have felt hurt by someone’s penetrating criticism but where we were able to ignore or counter the attack, contribute to a thickening and strengthening of our shell. Our accomplishments help as well. Also our ability to cope and control.

Humpty convinces himself that the King will not allow harm to come to him. We, however, come to believe we don’t need a King to protect us. We have learned how to protect ourselves. We are invincible. And besides, we’ve been perched on our wall so long we’re certain we can keep ourselves from falling.

Remember, Humpty, like all eggs, if they have been fertilized, should develop into a new creature. In order to emerge from his shell, the chicken must be strong enough to force his way out. If he is not able to peck through his shell, he simply dies inside. No one comes to his aid. Another case of survival of the fittest.

And what about us? We cannot imagine wanting out of what we have worked so hard to establish. We can’t imagine destroying what we’ve worked so hard to harden. And if we did feel a yearning to peck our way out, we doubt our beaks would be strong enough to penetrate the impenetrable.

Something must happen to make us want to emerge and that same something must be the enabler as well as the catalyst. That something is found through the deep desire for something more.

Being OK

I think Humpty Dumpty’s arrogance in the Lewis Carroll classic, and our own, must come from a sense of insecurity. If we felt genuinely OK about ourselves, wouldn’t we be inclined to believe that others are basically OK as well?

Thomas Harris, in his 1967 I’m OK—You’re OK , delineates four situations of OK-ness or the lack of. I agree. Early in life (for me, it was the punishment for crying at age three and a half), something happens to propel us out of our feeling of safety and security and into one of not OK-ness. As we grow, our attitude may morph from ‘I’m Not OK, You’re OK,’ into ‘I’m Not OK and you aren’t either; or I’m OK but you’re Not’—all thinly camouflaging the continuation of our deeply-rooted feeling of Not OK-ness.

Harris also talks of the Parent-Adult-Child alive within each of us, each of which is constantly interacting with the others. My interpretation of his explanation is that our inner Parent, originally nurturing, becomes a judging Tyrant, a constant source of criticism of the Child. And the Child, the source of authentic feelings in the psyche, begins to feel like an Orphan, deprived of the nurture and love it needs to thrive. The Adult, the part that functions effectively in the environment, begins to feel l like a Victim of both inner and outer forces.

Is it any wonder then that all these inner Not-OK feelings would erupt in arrogance, anger, and projection?

In the 1970s I read an explanation of projection in human relationships, how we identify and judge in others the very faults that we have not addressed in ourselves. The idea interested me greatly, but it took nine years before I could finally see the reality of it in myself!

Our Inner Wisdom seeks to transform all our manifestations of not-Ok-ness into an OK-ness that erases negative attitudes and behaviors and makes us genuinely OK. What is needed is our engagement with an Inner voice until we come to trust that it can do what we most desire and haven’t been able to do for ourselves.

Humpty’s Tall Wall

The Humpty Dumpty metaphor continues to intrigue me. In all the cartoons I’ve collected there is a wall. Either Humpty is sitting on top of it or he has fallen off and lies in pieces at its base.

In my research I find that Humpty Dumpty is the perennial favorite rhyme among pre-schoolers and older. Perhaps it is the rhythm of the rhyme or the rhyme itself—with its too-long last line. Perhaps it is the absurdity of an egg sitting on a wall—and the obvious understanding that eventually it will roll off. Perhaps it is the fact that the egg is always pictured as if it had human characteristics and could carry on a conversation. Whatever the appeal, we can ask any random child if he knows the rhyme and he’ll probably recite it.

In psychological terms, I argue that the wall represents the inevitable precipice that our psyche is forming all the time that we are establishing ourselves as competent humans in a world where competence is required

Competence and protection are our watchwords. We work to be able to function in the world and also harden our shell to protect ourselves. This shell-hardening begins early in childhood, at the moment we feel wounded by someone or something and subconsciously resolve to try to keep that from happening again.

Mine was the incident where I cried to keep my mother from leaving me when she took me to my Sunday School class right after my younger sister was born. I was three and a half. She stayed but was embarrassed, later told my father, and I was humiliated by the punishment. Something in my little psyche resolved at that moment not to cry, and for 40 years the hard shell I manufactured honored that resolve.

But the wall grows taller under us and the danger of falling increases. We’re so busy hardening our shell that we do not notice. Then one day perhaps we look down and are amazed. And the wall continues to grow taller.

This wall and the falling off it represents the crisis whereby the new being is hatched out.