Some people says it is best to be ‘positive’ all the time and others tend to be ‘negative.’ Have you ever felt divided within yourself or felt a divide in your community between wanting to leap up in carnivalesque joyful happiness and celebration and wanting to hold some of your own, your friend’s or the world’s grief? Do you feel caught between, on one hand, singing out in praise for life, and on the other, supporting people in their pain and troubles and listening to the agony and travail of the earth?
In many traditions of philosophy, contemplation and mysticism there is a tradition of ‘negativity.’ And this means something quite different to the popular culture rendition of the world where it has come to signify something like: ‘wallowing in misery’ or ‘having negative thoughts.’ Negativity in this larger sense can involve not knowing, going into the unknown and ‘negative capability’ as the poet Keats calls it: ‘being capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’ It can involve going deeply into grief and processing the ‘shadow’; that which we have most strongly suppressed and pushed aside in our collective and personal consciousness
Sometimes we encounter the ‘positivity police’ whose job it seems is to suppress grief and suppress the troubles and problems in life. Generally I feel that this superego police force that pushes down troubles and problems is even more insidious than the problems themselves. When we push our troubles down we lose access to the great gifts our problems bring. In fact, within our problems and troubles themselves, when we process them, go more deeply into them and bring tenderness and consciousness to them, there may lie solutions and vast medicine powers which we need for our individuation and for the restoration of the earth
Positive psychology and expressing gratitude can sometimes help with depression, anxiety and other difficult states of mind but also some people may need to go deeper and find the fierce inner activist that resists a state of depression. And still others may need to find the medicine power behind the turning inward or downwards of the senses that some experience in depression or behind the somatic experience of the habitual fear response that occurs in anxiety.
Should we really suppress our grief and anger at the destruction of human and non-human life that is currently happening as a result of our disconnected socio-economic system? Its understandable why we suppress this pain, but ignoring it may be unwise, as this very pain and agony may be our direct experience of the feedback mechanism of the earth’s sentient intelligence trying to redirect us towards life. It may be how we feel the crying of the earth in our own bodies. If we ignore our agony at the pain of the world, we may soon find our life support systems crumbling around us.
If we are able to fully feel, hold and process the earth’s agony as it courses, gasps and tremors through our body, new neurons may grow through our mind and body and we will no longer need to be an isolated branch, we may find ourselves reconnecting with the very trunk of all life.
Within our very anger, there may lie the power, ferocity and energy we need to stand up and create a new and better system. Within our very conflict, if we are able to learn to stand up strongly for ourselves whilst listening to another’s values and grief, there may be the key to creating deeper community. Within our very grief may lie our compassion for life and our unstoppable love for the world. Within our very despair there maybe the delicate seeds of a new vision and a more beautiful world.
And yet when we have located and processed our difficult body symptoms and found the medicine power behind them, when we have experienced some of the loving human community that comes about through listening to each other’s values and grief even in the midst of painful conflict, and when we have felt the fullness of our grief, there may be a time then for joy and rapture too. In some ways these two, grief and rapture, are inseparable; they are two chambers of the same beating heart.
Can we find even in our carnivalesque Dionysian celebration of midsummer the time to create a council of all beings and hear the grief and wisdom of the non-human world? Can we find time to process the shadow and the shared unconscious in our sacred and ecstatic relationships? Can we create modes of celebration and of expressing joy that also involve composting difficult emotions and body symptoms? As well as celebrating the rapture can we also bring awareness to power imbalances and social tensions in our communities?
When we are able to go more deeply into and bring consciousness and awareness to our most suppressed body symptoms, social power dynamics and to the myth beings that inhabit our dreams, our bodies and our communities and when we are able to feel and hold our difficult emotions supported by trusted community then there may also arise joy too. When we learn to compost all that is difficult or painful in us and in others there may arise ‘positivity’ and rapture too.
Then there may be the time for sourcing our power in our joy as well as sourcing it in transforming our pain. There may be a time for jumping up like Pan and celebrating, becoming the ever-renewing fountain of beingness which constantly dies and is reborn, the power which accepts both birth and death, the enormous riotous and loving uprising joy of life in the midsummer.
Then there may be the time for flying like an eagle and seeing with great vision and for encompassing, transforming and embodying all of the strange ferocious, aggressive forces of our psyche as if we are riding a dragon into some new world. Then there may be time for dancing like a nectarian playful hummingbird, joyous but unafraid of fear and the dark. Then we can celebrate as we support and hold each other. Then we can both dance and we can weep. Then we can both dance and we can weep. Then we can weep as we sing out in rapture and in praise.