Post-Pathology Psychological Dysfunction
The Epoch of Umbriarchy
“I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword.
I will tell the truth wherever I please.”
– Mother Jones
To those who choose to believe that there are individuals in the world whose psychopathology is inbred and unchangeable and the cause of the victimization of “the rest of us” (and who still have ears to hear that have not been deliberately shut), consider this:
Every time the US (or any nation) takes tens of thousands of average citizens and turns them into soldiers to wage the politicians’ wars, these typical, average men and women, with just a few months of training, are easily turned into functionaries and leaders who can murder, maim, pillage, destroy, imprison, and torture (and not infrequently rape and maliciously violate) other human beings and the fruits of human labor and love without remorse or apparent inhibitory conscience (with always a few notable exceptions).
These people, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands or millions, exactly fit the definition of psychopath, except perhaps that they are not acting purely for their own benefit but for some larger cause, if at least to protect their comrades. But the goal of most soldiers is to get home alive, and they are put into situations and with expectations and programming that not only allows but requires that they act in psychopathological ways in order to survive.
Then we bring them home (the ones who are still alive and walking) and release them back into civilian (civilized) society, expecting them to completely shift back to psychological normalcy with little or no deprogramming or rites of return and welcome. The result, almost always, is what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or perhaps more appropriately Post-Pathology Psychological Dysfunction.
The common symptoms that make up this syndrome include: denial, extreme anxiety, misplaced rage, paranoia, alienation from feelings, self-destructive behavior, and inability to love or trust others. This is the normal human response to forced dehumanization, serious unresolved trauma and the sudden dislocation from fields of required pathology to fields of expected normalcy. This is compounded when such returning trauma survivors are not welcomed or are shunned by society.
To a lesser degree, these are the very symptoms that we have recognized and criticized in powerful men (and increasingly women) in industry, finance and politics. Historically, men have been expected to take on the role of protector and savior, sacrificing their own psychological and physical welfare for the sake of homeland, home, wife, and children. Particularly in the last century, men have been drafted into the unrecognized and unappreciated status of civilian soldier in a constant and increasingly demanding low-level economic warfare. Men, from a young age, in school and home and peer group, learn and absorb the memes of “sucking it up”, not showing emotion, never crying, and ruthless competition in sports and classes and then in the workplace.
It is no wonder that men exhibit many of the same signs of traumatization as soldiers. Addiction and domestic violence – both forms of pathological narcissism – are the fallout. And these outcomes are not by any means exclusive to men in our society as “liberated” women take on soldiering roles as well.
We tend now to recognize our personal developmental responses to growing up in dysfunctional families as unfortunate but necessary defenses for ego-survival and viability. We must also acknowledge outworn and dysfunctional social constructs as unfortunate but necessary stages of our cultural evolution. In neither case is blaming self or other helpful or healing. Understanding, forgiving, letting go and moving on are.
War veterans deserve to be recognized as heroes for their sacrifice, though they may have engaged in reprehensible behavior while trying to survive in the inferno of war. And men (and the women who have become like them) must be acknowledged as heroic for their civilian soldiering, though many unforgivable acts might have been perpetrated in the process of ego-survival in the daily hell of a competitive and materialistic society that demanded that they kill themselves for the comfort and security of their spouses and children or for “advancement”, reputation, social status and financial security.
One of the lessons with which the non-violence and feminist movements have blessed us is that language has the power to define and limit our experience of life. Having learned that lesson, let us now refuse to label a culture which is understood in retrospect as oppressive and unfulfilling – a culture in which we all participated and were all in some way enslaved and disempowered to be fully human – in a way which defines one class as villain and another as victim. Division and dissension are tools of oppression, not of liberation.
If we are to move together into a new millennium of cooperative coexistence on the Earth, we must abandon the divisiveness inherent in our now-dysfunctional paradigm, embrace the commonality that we share, and honor the diversity that makes us whole, individually and collectively.
It is certainly true that the cultural denial of our essential connection to the Earth Mother created an unhealthy distortion of both the feminine principle of nurturance and the masculine principle of manifestation. Many have called this recent paradigm “patriarchy”. Perhaps a more accurate and less loaded term to describe our recent historical period would be “umbriarchy “– the rule of the shadow.
Now that we are all beginning to leave the cold comfort of the cave of ignorance and isolation, we must not be afraid of wielding our warrior power in a new and conscious way which serves the God/dess in us all. It is by acknowledging the balance of shadow and light within each of us that we will slay the dragons of defensiveness and denial that have too long obscured with their sulfurous fumes the true beauty and power and potential of humanity and of each human being.
We do not serve the goal of social evolution by pointing accusing fingers, or directing pent up anger, or misplaced fear, at returning veterans of a no-longer-functional cultural paradigm. Liberation and metamorphosis will not be achieved until we all undertake a rite of passage through our own inner darkness. This passage, as all transformational journeys, requires that whatever demons we encounter on the way be acknowledged as our own projections and transformed by recognizing them as divine beings calling for attention and offering us the gift of wholeness (health, integrity).
If we wish to be rainbow warriors of the new millennium, we must turn our swords from one another and stand together to face the demons we have co-created. As soon as we do, those demons will bow down to us in respect and begin to serve us in creating a new world, for they are only our unacknowledged shadows crying out to be loved.
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes
Robert Riversong has been a wilderness guide and experiential educator, a midwife for men and women in ritual initiation and personal/social transformation, and a facilitator of Vision Quest & Boys-2-Men Quest
For a more complete exposé of the evolution of Feminism from a liberation movement to a profoundly anti-male ideology, see my essay: