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Sacred Psychology of Change
Life as a Voyage of Transformation
by Marilyn C. Barrick, Ph.D.
Awakening the Gifts of Our Inner Hero
We take our shape, it is true, within and against that cage of reality bequeathed to us at our birth; and yet it is precisely through our dependence on this reality that we are most endlessly betrayed.
Each of us has an inner hero who may be sleeping yet needs to awaken and come alive for our self-transformation. And for every heroic aspect of ourself there is a negative “shadow” side—archetypal base instincts that may undo the hero until he brings those hidden aspects into conscious awareness. Just as we are poised to claim our heroic nature, we may find ourselves caught in unconscious shadow patterns.
How? We mean to be honest but find ourselves not telling the truth. We want to be courageous yet allow ourselves to be overcome with fear. We desire to love others and find ourselves dwelling on what we do not like about them. And the more we try to repress our negative feelings, the more they seem to rule us.
We can outwit our shadow side by exposing it to the light of self-awareness. What does that mean? It means to be fully aware that we don’t want to tell the truth, that we are fearful, that we do not like something or someone. Once we are aware of our flaws, we can choose to tell the truth even if it brings repercussions, to claim our courage in the very face of fear, to behave lovingly to difficult people.
Redeeming Our “Puppet-Like” Shadow Nature through Conscious Awareness
Our shadow aspects may be redeemed when we bring them to conscious awareness. Their power is in their hidden nature. Once we choose to be fully aware and face the shadow head on, it no longer has power over us. And its negative aspects may be transformed.
If we remain unaware, we are likely to move through life repeating patterns established in our childhood, youth or even, perhaps, previous lifetimes. We can become so used to these patterns that we lose track of who we really are
as men and women who have a unique identity, as souls who have come to earth for a special purpose. Instead, we identify with our habitual ways of thinking, our typical emotional reactions, our routine behaviors and ways of interacting with others.
When caught in our world of habit, we move through life as wooden puppetsone foot in front of the other, in lockstep with other people who are also entrapped in old mind-sets, automated feelings and engrained behavior patterns. We may not even realize that we are out of touch with our Higher Mind and true feelings, that we have closed down our heart, and our head is marching along on its own.
Some of us are like walking, talking encyclopedias of information, with schedules to keep, meetings to attend, reports to makeonly dimly aware of the missing elements of open-heartedness, intuitive awareness, creative genius and inspired action. Others of us are puppets to the emotionsgiven a problematic situation we, as if on cue, can be counted on to flame into anger, burst into tears or retreat into tight-lipped silence.
Perhaps you aren’t one of the marching band of puppets, or perhaps you are and have not realized it. Do you sometimes unthinkingly follow rules to the letter of the law at the expense of your own ethics or creative ideas? Or do you unthinkingly rebel against rules simply because you can’t stand to be controlled? Do you stuff your real feelings at the slightest hint of uncomfortability? Or try to cover them up with a diversionary tactic, such as a show of power or outrage?
Do you find yourself trying to please at all costs whether at the office, with friends or family? Or do you pretend it doesn’t matter when someone gives you that raised eyebrow look? Are you a more withdrawn person at work than you know yourself to be when you are on your own time? Does your streak of creativity seem to elude you when you need it most?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have found your inner puppet. Pulled by the strings of other people’s rules, opinions, needs, and reactions, as well as by your own inner puppeteer, you become the conglomerate of habitual ways you think, feel and act in the presence of discomfiting circumstances. Locked into automatic reactivity, we often function more like a puppet than the person we really are.
The story of Pinocchio is very apt here. While the original nineteenth-century literary classic was the creation of Italian author Carlo Collodi, most of us are more familiar with the twentieth-century Walt Disney adaptation, released as a movie and children’s book. The drama of Pinocchio’s transformation from a puppet into a “real boy” brings out heroic principles useful for us to understand as we seek to become our own real person.
The Story of Pinocchio as a Lesson in the Negative “Shadow”
As you may remember, the wood carver, Geppetto, gazes out his window at the starry heavens above and wishes upon a star that the puppet, Pinocchio, he has carved and painted might be a real boy. His words have been echoed by children ever since, “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”
I remember, as a child, eagerly watching for the first star in the night sky over Arizona and doing the very same thing. Have you? Have your wishes come true? Collodi must have known that angels listen and respond to the hopes and dreams of parents and children. And, of course, fairies are a classical way of describing angels, especially in children’s stories.
Thus, the beautiful Blue Fairy answers Geppetto’s wish and brings his puppet, Pinnochio, to life with a touch of her magic wand. However, he is not yet a real boy, for he has yet to face the challenge of his naďve instinctual character. At the onset of the tale, Pinnochio pretty much represents a bundle of unconscious impulses, the good and the not-so-good—his shadow side, as Carl Jung described it.
We will see how Pinocchio’s “shadow” sets the stage for his troubles and almost does him in. We will also come to understand his opportunity to redeem his negative shadow patterns when he chooses to follow his heart, listen to his conscience and take courageous, right action. We will look at our own process of shadow redemption as we learn from Pinocchio.
The Blue Fairy tells him that for Geppetto’s wish to come totally true, Pinocchio must prove himself to be brave, truthful and unselfish. He must learn to choose correctly between right and wrong. She tells Pinocchio, “Be a good boy and always let your conscience be your guide.”
We may ask ourselves, Do I honor my conscience, my inner sense of right and wrong, as my inner mentor, my daily guide?
Pinocchio is very happy that the Blue Fairy has brought him to life to be Geppetto’s little puppet-boy. He really loves his father, Geppetto. He definitely wants to be a good boy. But he hasn’t been tested yet. He has to learn a lot of lessons in the school of hard knocks before he earns his right to be a real boy.
As a curious and adventurous puppet-boy, he is often off track exploring in the wrong places or empty-mindedly having a good time with the wrong people. Also, naďve, instinctual puppet that he is, he lets nearly everyone pull his invisible strings.
We may ask, Has naďveté, curiosity or empty-mindedness ever led me into problematic situations? Have I mastered those shadow parts of myself?
As our story continues, quite forgetting the Blue Fairy’s admonishments, when Pinocchio gets himself in trouble and gets caught, he tries to get out of it by telling a lie. Almost every time he faces temptation, he gives into it. And he is an absolute dope when someone offers him a chance for adventure. He doesn’t think ahead because he is just a puppet, you know. As a puppet he can’t be expected to know right from wrongor can he?
For example, let’s take one of Pinocchio’s major faults, lying to keep from getting into trouble. The Blue Fairy has given him a very physical reminder when he doesn’t choose to be truthful. Every time he tells a lie, his nose grows longer. As we shall see, his nose grows very, very long when he tells lie upon lie about his misadventures.
I wonder how each one of us might change if we were to discover that every time we told a lie, big or small, our nose grew longerespecially if we realize that when we are not honest with ourselves, we may not even know if we are being truthful to others.
Listening To Our Own Jiminy Cricket Conscience
Now the Blue Fairy knows that Pinocchio is going to need help to make right choices. That’s why she dubs friendly Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio’s “Conscience,” to help him along.
Of course, Jiminy has to earn his stripes, too. He is a bit scatterbrained and isn’t always in the right place at the right time. However, he is good-hearted and usually catches up with Pinocchio in time to bail him outif Pinocchio chooses to listen.
The biggest problem is that Pinocchio only listens to Jiminy when nothing exciting is going on or he’s in very hot water. The promise of mischief or adventure pulls his invisible strings to the point that he nearly always “forgets” or ignores his father’s or Jiminy’s advice and ends up in a peck of trouble.
Ask yourself, Do I listen to my conscience when something fun and exciting that goes against my deeper values is pulling on me? What is my vulnerability?
Instead of going to school, Pinocchio ignores Jiminy Cricket’s advice and goes off with “Honest John,” the Fox, and his sidekick, the Cat. He buys the crafty fox’s lie that there’s “an easy road to success” and gets himself sold to Stromboli, the gypsy caravan man, as the star of the marionette show.
Since Pinocchio has such a propensity to tell whoppers himself, it’s not too surprising that he can’t tell a liar when he meets one. The Fox and the Cat are laughing all the way as Pinocchio heads down the road of fame and disaster.
Now ask, Do I recognize Fox and Cat as that crafty mind (mine or someone else’s) that is out to get something for nothing? Do I ever get fooled?
Stromboli bills Pinocchio as “the puppet without strings.” He is a great success, to his much greater sorrow. For when Pinocchio belatedly decides it’s time to go home and tell his father, Geppetto, the great news of his puppet stardom, Stromboli locks him in a cage, laughs at his pleas to let him go, and starts driving his caravan wagon to the next village.
Let’s check it out. Have I ever let success go to my head, left behind responsibilities to family or friends and been locked into a situation I later regretted? Do I recognize this happening as a blessing in disguiseif I choose to learn the lessons of humility, responsibility and discernment?
Now Jiminy Cricket as Conscience has failed as well because he bought the lie of Pinocchio’s “success.” When good-hearted Jiminy decides to catch up with the wagon to tell Pinocchio goodbye and good luck, he finds him locked in the cage overcome with grief and shame. Try as he might, Jiminy can’t get the cage open.
Since neither pleading puppet nor belated Conscience can get Pinocchio out of his self-created disaster, the Blue Fairy comes to the rescue. In this way, our guardian angels will always help us when we are truly penitent.
Of course, Pinocchio at once proceeds to spin a tall story about why he’s in this predicament instead of being safely in school. As he goes on and on, his nose grows longer and longer!
When he begs for mercy, the Blue Fairy warns him that she can help him only this once. She also takes advantage of the moment to admonish him: “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face!” Finally, she kindly shrinks his nose, admonishes him to be a good boy and frees him from the cage. Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket jump out of the wagon and head for home to Geppetto.
Let’s ask ourselves, Has my quest for adventure or self-importance led to disaster because I acted on impulse and didn’t listen to my inner conscience or the prompting of my guardian angel? Have I ever told a lie that came back to haunt me? What did I learn? How may I apply this lesson to my life today?
Pleasure Island: Where All Our Dreams Come True—or Do They?
Enter once again the Fox and the Cat with a new scheme. They have just met the coachman who collects “stupid, disobedient little boys” and takes them to Pleasure Island where all their dreams of rollicking fun and destructive naughtiness come true. The coachman shows the Fox and Cat a sack of gold coins and offers to pay them well for Pinocchio.
As Jiminy and Pinocchio are racing each other home to Geppetto, Honest John and Sidekick Cat intercept Pinocchio. They examine him with great concern and convincingly argue that because he looks so sickly he needs to go
to Pleasure Island for a vacationwhich, unfortunately, sounds pretty good to Pinocchio. Out the window goes his resolve to be a good, obedient boy to his father, Geppetto. Once again he falls for a lie and hops aboard the coach to Pleasure Island.
We might ask, How many times have I fallen for a promise of something for nothing, fun and games with no responsibility, or a need for a so-called “vacation” when it’s actually avoiding some kind of responsibility?
On the coach Pinocchio meets a boy, Lampwick, who is full of strut and bravado. When they get to Pleasure Island, they go about having fun being bad. It’s pretty easy to see that Pinocchio is being a puppet all the way. Even though he has no visible strings, you might say he follows whoever strings him along.
Ask yourself, Do I have an inner Lampwick? Does his strut and bravado express the real me? Does he give me a sense of true inner strength? If not, what do I want to do about it?
Once at Pleasure Island, Pinocchio and Lampwick cut a destructive swath of uproarious fun, gluttony and disaster and end up playing pool and smoking cigars. When Jiminy catches up with Pinocchio in the pool hall, he is totally disgusted with him. He gives him a cricket tongue-lashing, quits his job as Conscience and walks out on Pinocchio.
Have we ever behaved so badly that our conscience took a vacation? Did we get in so deep that we decided we might as well be “hung for a sheep as a lamb”? What is our lesson here?
Moments afterwards, Pinocchio, to his horror, sees Lampwick turning into a donkey, which is the fate of all bad boys who come to Pleasure Island. Pinocchio is further terrified as he himself begins to grow donkey ears and a tail. Quite appropriate since he has been behaving like a jackass!
Pinocchio escapes from Pleasure Island just in time with the help of faithful Jiminy Cricket who, seeing the fate of the other boys, has a change of heart and comes back to help him after all.
Have we ever played the “jackass” by an irresponsible pursuit of our desires? What did we learn? How are we applying that lesson in our life today?
The Search for Geppetto and Pinocchio’s Redemption
When Pinocchio and Jiminy finally get back home, they discover that Geppetto is gone. Worried about his puppet son, Geppetto had set out to find him and ended up being swallowed by Monstro the whale.
We see how repentant Pinocchio is when he finally realizes how he has let everyone down and put his father in jeopardy. He is also sadly aware that all of these misadventures have been his own doing. He has donkey ears and a donkey tail to prove it.
We might say, “It’s three strikes and you’re out, Pinocchio!” Strike one: He didn’t heed the instructions of the Blue Fairy. Strike two: He didn’t follow the fatherly advice of good Geppetto. Strike three: He ignored the voice of Conscience, Jiminy Cricket. Now he’s out of a home, a father, and his opportunity to become a real boy.
At this point, even though his life seems hopeless, Pinocchio has the opportunity to redeem himselfas we all do. Have we ever found ourselves in the depths of despair, done a complete turn-around, asked God and those we have hurt to forgive us, and determined to make up for our mistakes?
When we take an honest look at our intentions, thoughts, feelings and actions, we can act on the good and transform the rest. Of course, this requires owning up to our character flaws, our unthinking mistakes and our emotional misadventures. It also means making amends to people we have hurt or let down in some way.
Pinocchio does exactly that as he finally sees the error of his wayward ways. He immediately sets out to find Geppetto, and with the help of Jiminy Cricket (to whom he is listening these days), to try to rescue him. They search for Monstro, who is sleeping on the ocean floor. Pinocchio comes upon the huge whale as he is taking in fish and water—Pinocchio is swept in, too. To his joy and relief, he finds Geppetto with his cat Figaro and goldfish Cleo living in their boat in the whale’s belly.
Pinocchio builds a big fire inside the whale to make him sneeze. The whale does just that, and the contents of his stomach, including Geppetto, Pinocchio, Figaro, Cleo and the boat roll out of Monstro’s mouth. Maddened by the fire, the whale chases them and smashes their boat to pieces with his tail.
Pinocchio, hanging on to Geppetto and swimming as fast as he can, gets to the shore just in time to escape Monstro’s full vengeance. Figaro and Cleo are also washed ashore, and Jiminy Cricket finally catches up with all of them, late as usual but faithful as always. Pinocchio is lying face down in a pool of water, water soaked and lifeless, having given his life to rescue his father.
Geppetto sadly takes his lifeless puppet home and lays him out on the bed. Exhausted and grieving, he falls asleepnot realizing that Pinocchio’s redemptive process is finally coming to fruition.
Now that Pinocchio has shown the heart of a real boy by risking his life for his father, the Blue Fairy returns and touches him with her wand. Even as Geppetto mourns his loss, Pinocchio is transformed into a real, live, breathing boy. Jiminy Cricket receives a gold medal with Official Conscience engraved upon it. Both have learned their lessons and accomplished the seemingly impossible through strength of heart.
In the words of the song that completes the movie, “When your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme. When you wish upon a star, your dream comes true.”
Transforming Our Inner Pinocchio into a Hero
We transform our inner Pinocchio into a hero when we determine to have heart, to stop our “puppet-like” pretending to be someone we are not, to be very honest with ourselves and to be true to the inner prompting of our conscience and our guardian angel.
We may choose to ask ourselves daily, What right step do I need to take today so that I will feel good about it tomorrow? Step by step, as we recognize and regret our errors, ask and receive forgiveness and make recompense, our consciousness is redeemed. In the light of God’s forgiveness, we are transformed.
Whatever the outer outcome, we are going to feel pretty good because we are leading from the heart and taking the “high road” in the situation. We are no longer allowing ourselves to be pulled by circumstances, other people or our own outworn habits. With each right decision and opening of our heart to love and truth, we become more one with our Higher Self.
Fairy tales of all kinds are really all about human nature. The redemptive process begins within ourselves when we recognize and choose to redeem the shadow side of each inner character. Talk about change! Internal change is perhaps the most challenging and rewarding of all. And transformation of our inner shadow characters allows us to meet external change from a point of peace and equanimity because we are no longer at odds with ourselves.
Instead of being swept away by the powerful currents of change, we steady ourselves and keep moving forward on our life’s journey. And who knows? One day when we have returned to the heaven-world, we may look back on our adventures on earth and understand that we lived our own heroic story of becoming realjust like Pinocchio. For, as we have seen, our misadventures on planet Earth are not unlike Pinocchio’s. Ultimately, we too can become our Real Self.
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