FROM THE WARRIOR SPIRIT TO THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR
Each of us developed a warrior spirit soon after our birth. Your first anger development occurred after the first few months of your life, coming to a head around the age of two, which is how the idea of the “terrible two’s” developed.
In this chapter, we will look at the process that took you from your birth as an innocent child to the development of the warrior spirit as protector of the child. We will then explore the development of the warrior’s “sword” and “shield” and discuss how they show up in your body and in your actions. This will lead to an understanding of how illness, aggression and violence relate to the sword and shield, and how the warrior spirit disconnected from love and intelligence becomes a “destructive protector” Finally, we will explore how this destructive part of your personality can be transformed into a “loving protector” and ultimately into a Spiritual Warrior.
THE BIRTH OF THE SWORD AND SHIELD
The warrior spirit in general develops because the child self within needs protection. The child and the warrior both represent examples of Jungian archetypes, which are well illuminated in the work of Carol S. Pearson’s Awakening the Heroes Within. The child is innocent, open and vulnerable; and needs the protective energy of the warrior for its safety in the world.
A useful way of understanding the development of your warrior spirit is by working with the imagery and energy of the sword and shield. The sword projects, penetrates, pierces and protects against anything that threatens or opposes you. The shield deflects, conceals, separates and distances you from the perceived threat or opposition. Both are natural and highly useful.
You can see that the sword and shield are metaphors for the defense mechanisms of anger and withdrawal, which we have thoroughly explored in this book. The metaphor and mythology of the warrior’s sword and shield will ground your understanding and take you further into the healthy power of these natural processes.
This world does not respond well to the warrior’s sword. The piercing, penetrating energy of your anger was most likely punished, overpowered or ignored, causing you to withhold your sword and put it somewhere that it could not be seen or heard. Or you may have been raised in a family where there were “sword fights” going on all of the time, and you had no choice but to join in the fray as best you could. So you either became withdrawn and quiet never showing anger, or you became aggressive and outspoken for your own survival. Your sword is either hidden inside you, or it’s out for the world to see, hear and feel. No matter what, it didn’t go away completely.
· The sword in action. If you use the sword of your anger openly and have not learned to temper its steel and carefully direct its focus, it has both protected you and caused you and others harm.
· The sword in the body. If the sword of your anger was punished, overpowered or ignored, you had to put it away. There was nowhere to put it but in your body.
We have no choice but to develop our warrior’s shield, whether we learned to fight with our swords or keep them concealed. There have always been and will always be other warriors with their swords out, and we would literally die without out shielding.
· The shield in action. Hiding, pretending, closing off and numbing out are all aspects of the shield in action. When you learned to be “seen and not heard,” to form a frozen facemask that conceals your emotion and vulnerability, to grit your teeth and tense your muscles to keep from crying, you were putting your shield into action.
· The shield in the body. The shield shows up in our bodies in many different forms. Muscular tension and occasional spasms, restricted breathing, digestive problems, circulation and/or heart problems, slumped shoulders and excessive weight can all be seen as manifestations of the warrior’s shield showing up in the physical body.
THE DISCONNECTED WARRIOR SPIRIT
The original purpose of the warrior spirit, its very “raison d’etre” is to protect the child. As life and relationships become complicated and the sword and shield are not honored or cultivated, the warrior spirit becomes distracted and desperate, choosing destructive forms of protection that actually do more harm than good.
The fiery temper that you originally developed to give you some power and control in the world becomes a weapon that harms you and the ones you love the most. The aggression and forcefulness that you developed in order to make a place for yourself in an unsafe world becomes a handicap that causes others to fear and avoid you. The fierce determination to protect yourself by “winning no matter what” becomes your nemesis as you abandon your integrity in order to “come out on top.” The sword that once worked so well for you now seems to have a mind of its own, and you can’t seem to stop its self-destructive course.
The skill of being invisible that once made you safe from negative attention is now a curse that keeps you from being seen and heard by those whose attention you want. The wall of stoic silence that you developed to survive in a home where vulnerability was punished now becomes a prison from which you cannot escape. The protective barriers of numbness, detachment and dissociation that allowed you to survive abuse are now an impenetrable fortress that prevents you from knowing yourself and letting others know you. The shield that once served only to protect now threatens your connections with yourself and your loved ones, and even threatens your life itself.
Clearly, the sword and shield of the warrior spirit are necessary and important. Yet when your world failed to educate you on their use and function, you were on your own to figure out how to use them. The development of your sword and shield was therefore unconscious, without the guidance of wisdom and experience.
The warrior spirit in most of us can thus be seen as lost, primitive, wild, unfocused and beast-like. Beast-like because it had to retreat into our bodies without the education of our minds, and our animal nature is alive and well in our physical bodies.
Your warrior spirit can only develop into the noble and powerful Spiritual Warrior with the help and participation of your brilliant mind and your open heart. Most of us have not had the opportunity for that development, but it lies before you right now. You can retrieve your sword and shield from the shadows of your being and bring them into the conscious light of day. Then, combining them with your love and wisdom, you can shine them until they reflect the pure light of health and beauty for the fulfillment of your true spiritual purpose.
First, let’s assess the damage they’ve done while operating in the unconscious shadows of the soul and society.
ILLNESS, VIOLENCE AND THE WARRIOR GONE AWRY
· The sword in our bodies. The American Heart Association has sponsored research that indicates, “people who are highly anger-prone are nearly three times more likely to have heart attacks than those who aren’t.” Metaphorically, we might conclude that when your sword is out of control, it might just pierce your own heart. Other ways that the misguided sword can injure us are reflected in this quote from a health care professional with the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness program. “Anger impacts us physiologically, making itself known to us through muscle tension, headaches, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, stomach distress, elevated blood pressure and even flushing of the skin.”
· The shield in our bodies. The effects of shielding, or complex unconscious psychophysiological defense mechanisms are diffuse and multi-faceted. It is clear that chronic tension in large and small muscle groups throughout the body can lead to a variety of acute and long-term physical ailments. Gastro-intestinal disorders, upper respiratory illness, and cardio-vascular problems are all related to and effected by hypertension. We are looking at interactions between emotional and physical processes here, not implying specific cause and effect relationships.
When we look at the problems in the world, the warrior’s sword and shield are not hard to find.
· The sword in the world. The piercing, penetrating energies of angry words, sarcastic cuts, racial slurs, bullets, missiles and bombs are all too prevalent in today’s early twenty-first century world. With war, terrorism, hate crimes, workplace violence, school shootings, domestic disputes, rape and child abuse occurring on an ongoing basis in various locales across the planet, we don’t have to wonder about the seriousness of this problem. The unconscious, unclaimed warrior of the human soul is on the loose in our world, at times intimidating and at times claiming our minds, hearts and homes.
· The shield in the world. Stoic faces, no eye contact, awkward silences, cold flat voices, uncaring responses and miles of distance between people inches from each other are but a few of the manifestations of the warrior’s shield in the world. Children with thoughts of violence and suicide who are not speaking to their parents, parents who don’t know how to talk to their children, husbands and wives who don’t communicate, the woman afraid to set foot outside her front door and people everywhere with unexpressed love in their hearts show us examples of the walls that separate us painfully from each other.
THE DESTRUCTIVE PROTECTOR
The warrior spirit who is disconnected from love and wisdom becomes the destructive protector. Still making a misguided effort to protect her inner child from pain and suffering, the woman continues to drink too much, harming herself and her family in the process. Driven by his will to win approval through being successful and making lots of money, the man continues to work sixty hours a week against his doctor’s recommendations and at the expense of intimacy in his marriage.
All of the compulsive-addictive disorders can be seen as the destructive protector at work. These behavior patterns create a “high” or “rush” or reward that gives temporary relief (protection) from pain, and yet create far more pain than they ever relieve. In the effort to protect, they become destructive.
Other forms the destructive protector may take include:
· The inner critic. That voice in your head telling you what is wrong with you, reminding you of your limitations and flaws, is actually trying to protect you from harm. Dialogues with inner critics consistently reveal that their original purpose was to prevent pain, suffering and loss. The more frustrated their efforts became, the louder and more desperate they became, until they were far more destructive than protective.
· The inner critic. That voice in your head telling you what is wrong with you, reminding you of your limitations and flaws, is actually trying to protect you from harm.
· The inner tyrant. Also known as the taskmaster, this aspect of the destructive protector will never let up on you until all of the work is done. And all of the work is never done.
· The cynic. That voice in your head that tells you what is wrong with the world and everyone in it was originally developed in an effort to keep you safe. Yet if allowed to run its course and have its way, it will cause you to become isolated, withdrawn and non-functioning.
· The fear mind. This aspect of the destructive protector will convince you that it is just not safe out there. In a misguided effort to protect, the fear mind can create absolute paralysis.
· The angry victim. Constantly convincing you that your problems are those other people’s fault, the destructive protector in this form can actually lead you into abusive and violent behavior.
We can see the sword and shield of the disconnected warrior in each of the above examples of the destructive protector. All of these can exist in one person, feeding off each other’s fear and anger until catastrophe strikes. The destructive protector’s ace in the hole is death. Homicide and suicide are the last-ditch efforts of a misguided, disconnected destructive protector warrior spirit. Our job here is to prevent any of us from ever going near such tragic outcomes, by reconnecting the warrior spirit with its original purpose of protection.
RECONNECTING THE WARRIOR WITH LOVE AND WISDOM
The healing of the warrior spirit requires a return to the pure innocent child whose protection was its original purpose. As this happens in the therapeutic process through imagery, journaling, voice dialogue and experiential release work, the destructive protector shifts her focus from destruction to protection. As the connection with the child grows through continued processes such as those described in this book, the protector becomes a loving protector. This is the beginning of the birth of the spiritual warrior, and gives us a metaphorical context for exploring healthy anger.
THE LOVING PROTECTOR
When your anger becomes healthy, your warrior spirit is intimately connected with the power of love. The protection of your precious inner child is therefore always a matter of love more than fear-based anger. With the spiritual power of love as an ally and empowering force, your warrior is now far more capable of providing effective protection for your child self without sacrifice or loss.
The development of your sense of faith and optimism are a natural and essential part of this process. A belief in positive outcomes and an overall attitude that “things are going to be okay” will bring stress relief and comfort to your inner child. In extensive research conducted over many years, Herbert Benson, M.D. found that individuals with a strong sense of faith and optimism recovered more quickly when they became ill, and were less likely to get sick in the first place.
Thomas Moore said, “The only real change occurs in the imagination.” Right now, imagine a positive outcome in some situation that concerns you. Believe it. Feel it. You may notice your body relaxing a little. You might even experience a sigh of relief. If this happened for you, you just got healthier and improved the functioning of your immune system. Your loving protector wants you to have faith and hope, because of the wonderful benefits it brings to your body, mind and soul.
Here are some ideas to consider about your loving protector:
· The loving protector focuses inward, while the spiritual warrior’s focus is external.
· The loving protector is completely devoted to caring for the inner child and all of the inner aspects of your being.
· The loving protector accesses and utilizes more brain capacity than the destructive protector.
· The loving protector sees all that you are and embraces you in your totality.
· The loving protector is like a guardian angel in your own mind, heart and body.
· The loving protector is equipped with a magnificent sword and shield that shine with a spiritual light that radiates from within you.
· The loving protector rarely if ever needs anger or aggression to protect you.
· The loving protector accesses your brilliance and wisdom, the depths of your love and the power of your spirit.
· The loving protector is your spiritual warrior focused internally on you.
THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR
So how does this look to the world outside us? As the loving protector develops within, the spiritual warrior begins to develop in our relationship with the outer world. To get a sense of what a spiritual warrior is, think of the people you admire the most. You can use historical figures, celebrities, fictional characters or someone from your own life experience. What do these people have in common, and what sets them apart from others? Here are some of the qualities that come to mind:
· They are comfortable with who they are and where they stand.
· They are humble souls, always learning and growing.
· They go their own way, led by an inner knowing of their purpose and mission.
· They enjoy life and all of its little daily pleasures.
· They are at home in nature, and have an abiding love of animals and the outdoors.
· Music, art and poetry are important to them.
· They are creative, in their own unique way.
· Children are naturally drawn to them.
· They love and honor the elders on the planet.
· They laugh heartily, often.
· They have a vision of their own place in life and the unfolding of their future.
· They manage their finances well and successfully.
· They are aware of the beauty in other human beings, and treat each one with respect.
· Their physical health is robust.
· They are aging beautifully and gracefully.
· They have a strong relationship with the God of their choosing, and impose their views on no one.
· They realize their own greatness and insignificance.
The spiritual warrior has the courage to be creative and to express abundant positive emotion. This is not easy by any means. It is much easier to “stick with what you know” and adopt the “safer” negative attitude of “expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.” The problem is, that approach may literally make you sick. A research project that has come to be known as “the nun study” suggests that individuals who are the most creative in their thought processes and who express the most positive emotion are the least likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. It has also been found that expressing love and appreciation helps the human heart to function better. Clearly it is possible that the effort you make to develop the spiritual warrior within you will greatly benefit your physical, mental and emotional health and well being.
Set your vision of the spiritual warrior you choose to become. See yourself already there, as you go about your daily activities. Feel it happening. Know that it is so, and act accordingly.
So what does anger look like when it’s healthy? Effective action. Healthy anger may not look, sound or feel like anger as we have come to know it. It is purely and simply the raw energy of emotion channeled into action to accomplish the desired outcome. It shows up as determination, enthusiasm, clarity, focus, energy, drive, consistency, fortitude, guts, courage, commitment, persistence, and resilience. Healthy anger necessarily works in conjunction with humor and love, wisdom and intelligence.
Healthy anger grabs the store clerk’s attention so that you get better service. All it takes is an enthusiastic, “Excuse me, could I get some help here?” with a smile, a clear voice tone and a lot of good energy.
Use your healthy anger to say “No!” to the messages you have received about aging. See yourself right now aging like you would like to. See yourself strong, fit, vibrant and well ten, twenty, thirty or more years into your future. Make up your mind you’re going to fulfill that vision. Write out a plan to make it happen. Use the healthy power of your anger to stick to your program and don’t let anything stand in your way.
Embrace the aspects of the spiritual warrior, the healthy man or the healthy woman that work best for you, and make it happen. Read Henriette Anne Klauser’s book Write it Down Make it Happen, and do what the title suggests. This is your life, and no one can or will live it for you. No one is going to come and make everything okay for you. But you can. And there are many people willing and able to support you when you do.
You can live the life you have always dreamed of, and the pure, powerful energy of your healthy anger can help you get there.
This article is an excerpt from the best-selling book entitled, Anger: Deal With It, Heal With It, Stop It From Killing You.