“To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light.”
–Carl Jung, Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology
What we fail to manifest socially, constructively, generatively, when we’re conditioned into a reductive, shrinking energy, inevitably manifests as its shadow equivalent: addiction, destructive impulse, cumulative escapism; evil. Rage instead of righteous indignation that solves a problem. Tantrums and passive aggression instead of clarity and honesty; resentment and projection instead of dignity and mutual growth. There is no way to keep energy in stasis: it will flow from you, through your behavior, into the world, making it a better or worse place, down to your most minute actions. Even the way one perceives such an idea can be determined by their current orientation: if this liberates and enlivens one to take control and generate positively, or to panic at the thought and reject it, or wish to forget it quickly. This ontological law of equal energy dispersion is first an imperative for self-care, but with that can come excruciation, as a parent would push the child into worldly novel experiences that may be unpleasant albeit of the highest necessity. Anything that should or must be done that is avoided or diverted, atrophies the individual’s development. What the organism perceives as unnecessary is pruned away, so possibly crucial areas of growth are crippled.
Our confidence derives from our manifested achievements. It is not enough to know your intrinsic potential. We must see our latent abilities actualized in the world for the true development of self-esteem. It is this that the New Age paradigm neglects, and that Aristotle recognized: that we are our actions.
I see the drive for growth as the soul’s agitation, spurring movement towards a higher state. Our potential is innately contained as an exploratory trait, the “will to power”, or “generative energy”, and discomfort with stagnation is our stern Jungian Father. His love is conditional; we are imprinted to have a disgusted sense of when we are wasting ourselves away, and when to feel bright and expansive because we’re on a positive trajectory.
If we accept biological principles as analogous to existential truths, we can see that the degree to which we expose ourselves to novel challenges, risking danger, is the degree to which we stimulate our own growth, compensating for the damage we may undertake with subsequent regeneration. With each new eustress, given the right resources, we can secure a higher baseline of capability, so our regenerative potential is exponential.
“Extent of injury is proportional to regeneration
Amount of nerve is proportional to regeneration
Extent of injury is proportional to current of injury
Amount of nerve is proportional to current of injury
Ergo: current of injury is proportional to regeneration”
–Robert O. Becker, The Body Electric
Ambiguity contains rich novelty, which is why the highest forms of art tend to be the least straightforward: authentic portrayal of life’s mysterious chaos, of unexplored, or yet unexplorable depths.
“Beat with a sharp dart of longing love upon this cloud of unknowing which is between you and your God.”
–The Cloud of Unknowing
Environmental enrichment begets physiological enrichment. Lack of appropriate stimulation is immediately degenerative, as the organism is sensing it’s own hopelessness, and in its ancient intuition, shifts to a reductive state. This is observable in neglected babies, who suffer marked brain damage, immune dysfunction, stunted growth, and death when they are deprived of touch and nurturing (Spitz, 1949). Even when these babies survive, there is long-range damage. Skin-to-skin contact with the mother influences a baby’s development for decades afterward (Feldman, et al., 2014), and neglected children show a deranged cellular imprinting even into adolescence (Moore, et al., 2017). Just as with expansion, degeneration, and the reductive state, are self-reinforcing processes (Pibri, et al., 2008; Stuller, et al., 2011). Since we are social beings, existing interdependently in a harmonious, self-organizing web that we mutually create and participate in, the organism, sensing its disconnection from this interdependent system, ceases to calibrate homeostasis efficiently (Cole, et al., 2015). We derive our purpose by how our actions and creations reflect onto the rest of the world, and our physiology is a facilitator of that purpose. Thus, it’s of vital importance to understand our part in the whole, and what that means for a philosophy conducive to physiological thriving: not a negating, phantasmic egoism, nor martyrdom through radical altruism, but a continuously enriching holism, where we add value to life, and other people, in such a way that sustains and reinforces us further, ad libitum.
“Love seeketh not Itself to please, Nor for itself hath any care; But for another gives its ease, And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”
-William Blake, The Clod and the Pebble
History Module: The Devastating Effects of Isolation on Social Behaviour, thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/capsules/histoire_bleu06.html.
Cole, Steven W., et al. “Myeloid Differentiation Architecture of Leukocyte Transcriptome Dynamics in Perceived Social Isolation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 112, no. 49, 2015, pp. 15142–15147., doi:10.1073/pnas.1514249112.
Feldman, Ruth, et al. “Maternal-Preterm Skin-to-Skin Contact Enhances Child Physiologic Organization and Cognitive Control Across the First 10 Years of Life.” Biological Psychiatry, vol. 75, no. 1, 2014, pp. 56–64., doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.08.012.
Huong, Nguyen Thi Thu, et al. “Social Isolation Stress-Induced Oxidative Damage in Mouse Brain and Its Modulation by Majonoside-R2, a Vietnamese Ginseng Saponin.” Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, vol. 28, no. 8, 2005, pp. 1389–1393., doi:10.1248/bpb.28.1389.
Pibiri, F., et al. “Decreased Corticolimbic Allopregnanolone Expression during Social Isolation Enhances Contextual Fear: A Model Relevant for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 105, no. 14, 2008, pp. 5567–5572., doi:10.1073/pnas.0801853105.
Spitz, Rene A. “The Role of Ecological Factors in Emotional Development in Infancy.” Child Development, vol. 20, no. 3, 1949, p. 145., doi:10.2307/1125870.
Sr, Moore, et al. “Epigenetic Correlates of Neonatal Contact in Humans.” Yearbook of Paediatric Endocrinology, 2018, doi:10.1530/ey.15.14.4.
Stuller, Kathleen A., et al. “Stress and Social Isolation Increase Vulnerability to Stroke.” Experimental Neurology, vol. 233, no. 1, 2012, pp. 33–39., doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2011.01.016.