“We tend to be dazzled by the strength of people’s convictions and interpret recessive behaviour as simply overzealousness. But we should look at it in another light. By overidealizing a cause, a person, or object, people can give free rein to the Shadow. That is their unconscious motivation. The bullying, the manipulations, the greed that comes out of the sake of the cause or product should be taken at face value, the overly strong conviction providing simple cover for repressed emotions to play themselves out.” – Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature
WHAT PART OF US LIVES AND WHAT PART OF US DIES? Such a loaded question is often intentionally avoided by most people. It brings out an element of deep distrust in one’s own sense of self when conflicts of parts of duty, honour, loyalty, honesty, love, hate, malice, contempt, and personal values all clash like gladiators in a battle royal in the Arena of the soul. Each combatant is its own distinct part – a Parts-Gladiator if you will. We all experience such conflicts at multiple stages throughout our lives that often present themselves at times of critical change where values clash with one another. Each Parts-Gladiator is fighting for their very life, while also trying to become the dominant presence in the Arena. No matter the outcome, blood will be shed in this fight. As these play on in our consciousness, so too do the influences of the Crowd play a role in influencing their outcomes.
Crowds are the audience of the Parts-Gladiators shouting from the stands for a particular fighter, or a set of fighters they hope to see go toe-to-toe in order to be satisfied by the bloodshed of one defeating or altogether killing another. These crowds are made up of many classes as they would be in the real world. The ego, the unconscious, and the voices of the outside world scream from the stands. Each has a favourite fighter, and each has a personal agenda that is concealed behind the collective excitement of the outcome they each claim to desire. Crowds are far from harmonious in this ‘collective’ aspect.
As fighting intensifies, so does the Crowd’s divisiveness with more resentment as well as anger building among the ranks. We see this play out in modern sports areas where fans become so identified with players and teams that they are willing to break out in violence or other negative behaviour to play out the fantasy that they are a central part of the action. They identify as protectors of the players or ideas they relate to while seeing all else as a threat. The rule of law with fear of consequence is now the only thing stopping class warfare from breaking out – but even this sometimes isn’t enough. Riots at sporting events happen globally every year – providing a clear example of clan mentality as a fundamental component of identity.
In all this we have still left something of vital importance unaddressed – where is YOU in all of this?
Now we must consider the dreadful truth of what is playing out before us. We are both all, yet none of these Parts-Gladiators or members of the Crowd within our soul’s Arena. This is what it means to have a Shadow – parts of us fighting for some form of supremacy. They each implore their own set of tactics and weapons for an outcome of control. Yet the real battle is often taking place away from the combat area.
As in any arena, our soul’s Arena is also lit in such a way as to have the light fixated on the combatants (the parts at odds with each other) with the Crowd dimly lit and removed from the immediate action. Although there may be smaller Shadows in the combat area, the real Shadows are the vast darkness cast over the Crowd as they howl their desires from the distant dark. At critical moments of combat, they do so with such volume that is it forgivable to forget about the battles of identity and soul taking place in the light as we turn our attention to the shadows.
As these desires for outcomes come screaming from the stands, the Parts-Gladiators begin to hear instances of favoured outcomes either in their favour or in their damnation. Regardless of their fortitude of Will, these screams begin to influence the fighting – tipping the scales as convictions are strengthened for some and weakened for others.
Slowly, one by one, the least favoured begin to falter and the final character of our internal narrative appears – the Ruler of our conscious mind.
In the days of the Roman Empire, no gladiator could execute a foe without the approval of the Ruler who was not only a part of the Crowd but had the power to influence it profoundly. The Ruler is our conscious mind, the one who has the final say in all that happens in our soul’s Arena. As Parts-Gladiators begin to tire and fall the Ruler takes his stand to decide if a fallen Parts-Gladiator has fought hard enough to be allowed to live.
Now our metaphor has reached its climax. We have seen parts of ourselves become weakened while others have become stronger. Now wisdom must take hold of the Ruler. They have seen the battles, heard the cries of the Crowd for restitution, and they themselves have borne witness to the fierce combat. What now must be done?
The lines between right and wrong are now blurred. No matter the choice, some parts will be gratified while others vilified. Potentially worse still, a vital part may be executed on grounds of performance in that very moment rather than performance over a period of time. The Ruler must decide what must live and what must die, often to the dismay of half of their constituents. This is the inescapable reality of the psyche.
We each live in constant states of dualities multiplied exponentially where no matter the choice, we have to lose something in hopes of gaining more for our efforts. But this can’t possibly be done right every time. Not only that, but we don’t always know if the Ruler inside us is good or evil. We are the greatest mystery to ourselves above all others along with being the easiest to fool. Contemp from the Crowd and the Parts-Gladiators is inevitable.
Somewhere, sometime, there will be resistance. Take great care when it arises. Unless absolutely necessary to dethrone a tyrant, don’t let members of the Crowd or a contempt-filled Parts-Gladiator assassinate your Ruler. The result could be the end of your internal Empire.