Victor MacGill Chaos and Complexity
Magic and Mystery
Victor MacGill's website
Mandelbrot Set

My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, Myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line

My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

Mandelbrot Set

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Spirituality
Line

Short previews
of all talks

Line

My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line

My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

Mandelbrot Set

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Spirituality
Line

Short previews
of all talks

Line

Other pages on my site.....

Line

Theosophical Soc logo

The Dunedin Theosophical Society

Line

Evolve logo

The Evolve Holistic Development Trust

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Spirituality
Line

Short previews
of all talks

Line

Other pages on my site.....

Line

Theosophical Soc logo

The Dunedin Theosophical Society

Line

Evolve logo

The Evolve Holistic Development Trust

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
Line

LineMandelbrot Set      

The Courage to be Compassionate

Jellyfish have no sense of fear. When a fish comes along to eat them they just happily keep on swimming until they are gobbled up. Eventually some hundreds of thousands of years ago our pre-human ancestors developed a bodily sense through the release of chemicals like adrenaline that told us we were in danger and set us in a super alert state ready to respond. The response is called fear. We also developed a bodily reaction that gave us extra energy and strength to respond to a threat to our security. It is called anger.

Anger is therefore very useful. It gives us a message and tells us we do not like what is happening in our world and if we use the energy it gives us wisely, we can use it to motivate ourselves to find a solution.

Today, we still react to threatening situations with anger, but it operates in a far more sophisticated way. Our anger is altered by many cultural, mental and emotional factors that were not a part of our pre-human ancestors’ world. The threat today is not usually a sabre-tooth tiger about to pounce and devour us. It is more likely to be our boss, partner, bank manager, some imagined event or something in the past. Anger is very complex, so we often don’t know what to do with it.

We can try to express our anger in a constructive, positive way. First of all, feeling anger tells us there is something wrong with the world about us. We can use it to get the problem out in the open so it can be resolved. Anger shows other people that we have strong feelings about the issue involved. It gives us the motivation to want to change whatever angers us.

Being angry does not usually feel nice and so we tend to try and avoid feeling angry and when we do it tends to come out in forms that are not as helpful.

First we can try and ignore it and suppress it, but suppressed anger doesn’t go away.  From the outside it can seem like a calm and peaceful response, but in fact, it is a form of anger and is just as destructive as an outburst of directed anger but turned inward against ourselves. It goes underground and it reappears even stronger as rage or surprisingly, depression. We can hold it back for a while, but sooner or later it will be triggered and re-emerge and when it does it tends to be destructive.

Secondly we can project out anger out into the world to act out our anger which often means violence. We can attack people break things, storm and rage. The violence that can be expressed is not only physical, it can include emotional, intellectual, spiritual, even financial violence; anything that intends harm against somebody or something else.

Obviously such violence can have many negative impacts from harm to relationships through to court processes and imprisonment. Using violence may feel good at the time, but it creates many unhelpful consequences.

When we are angry at someone, we threaten their picture of themselves, their self-esteem and that often generates anger towards us. We must now not only resolve the initial conflict, but also resolve the resentment and anger we have added to the situation. 

Secondly, and more importantly, anger separates us from what we are angry at. We say, “I am angry at you” or “I am angry at what you did” or “I am angry at myself”. If you think about it carefully, you will realise that we have already made a judgement that “I” am right and “you” are wrong. I have already assumed that “I” am separate from the cause of the problem. This is true even if we are angry with ourselves. This part of “I” is angry at that part of “I” that has caused the problem. We are now unable to look at any solution that does not mean I win and you lose.

Our actions are then based on proving that I am right and you are wrong. This judgment comes from our ego. The role of the ego is to sit between how we actually are in the world and how we would like to be and to manage the difference. The ego generates and image of who it thinks we are and this becomes our identity. We need this identity so we know how to act in all the situations we find ourselves in the world and the people we must interact with. The image also needs to be a positive image so we have self esteem. We like to think of ourselves as good people, so when our actions do not match our perceptions of ourselves, the ego tends to ignore, blame justify and minimise aspects of our world it does not want to accept.

The ego is made up of all our past experiences and judgements we have made about those experiences. Particularly as a child we did not have the ability to make those decisions in the best way and so over time our sense of ourselves becomes a distortion of who we really are. 

When our ego drives our behaviour, the image we have of reality becomes more important than reality itself. It becomes more important to justify being right to ourselves than it is to perceive the world as it really is. It becomes more important to be "RIGHT" than REAL. The image becomes more important than the reality.

The ego often uses anger as a tool to help it maintain its distorted view of reality. Anger separates us from what threatens us, so the ego often generates anger to justify Itself and distance ourself from the threat. 

We cannot solve the problem by killing off the ego, because without an image of ourself as an individual, we have no identity and no existence. We must slowly work to allow the ego to see the world as it really is and change its image to match the reality it lives in.

When our ego image is exposed as not matching reality, the ego usually sees it as a direct threat to its existence. For the ego such a threat is a death  threat.

Instead we must work with the ego and build its willingness to let go of some of its preconceptions and allow it to see there are other acceptable way of being; better ways of being that enables us to better meet our needs. The ego needs to be comfortable to "die" so something better can emerge.

As a child the world is all about us. Adults meet all our needs and the skills of being aware of others is not present. As we do become aware of others we find that also have needs and desires and they are different from our own and life increasingly becomes a place of conflict and fitting in with an outside world. We struggle against accepting others and being just as valid and real as we are. If we can develop te ability to accpet that others have the same rights as us, the same fears, the same desires, we can move towards accepting living in a world that is full of conflict. We do not need to react so strongly.

Empathy is that ability to see the world through other people's eyes. We build the ability to see not only our simialrities, but also our differences and notice that men and women inhabit the same world but perceived it somewhat differently, have different values and priorities. We can accept that different cultures and religions see the world differntly, but in ways that are real and valid for them.

Compassion is being aware of our connectedness even though we are different and so we must overcome the ego's fear that it will die. It takes courage to be willing to stand back from our self centred view of our ourselves and see ourselves rather as a part of a wider interconnected web.

We usually think of courage as doing something in the world which was not easy and required a lot of determination and most people would have been afraid of doing. We need that same level of courage, perhaps more, to do our inner work. Confronting our fears and limitations in a good way to become more whole, more compassionate and more loving in our world.

It is easier to see that connectedness to those closest to us and those we care about. The journey of compassion is a journey of feeling connected to and loving towards less and less close to us. We start building love and compassion for ourselves and then we can think of those close to us then people who are more and more distant and different: from our neighbourhood to our city to our country to the globe, from those with similar beliefs and cultures to those who are different, from human to animal to the whole world and universe in which we live.