Have you asked yourself why there is so much personal development going on and if there is a deeper need beyond a desire for success in life?
We are inundated with personal development teachers, programs, and techniques all designed to help us become smarter, healthier, richer, sexier, and more successful. These are all wonderful things to have in life, but it is worth asking why so much effort. Is something preventing us from naturally claiming our intelligence, health, wealth, sexuality, and success? If so, what is it?
That is what we are going to talk about today so we can release the hold of that which is outmoded in our lives and our inner being.
The famous author of Women Who Run With Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, coined the phrase “predatory overculture”. She (among others)wrote eloquently about the predator, which is a force we all experience when we are young and which is also a natural part of us. In other words, we internalize the predator energy which we discover early in life.
The predator is a killer, obviously. Killing is its objective. It only needs prey to do so. It does not need anything else. That predator shows up as our inner critic, the part of us shamed and attacked for various reasons, including just being ourselves.
It also shows up in culture as resistance to all sorts of change. We are seeing a lot of resistance right now because although it is obvious that we need change to save the planet, it is also true that there are significant forces that are blocking that change since they do not want to lose whatever advantages they have.
Human Predators And Culture
All cultural systems encourage some behaviors and discourage others. We internalize these norms, so what is not approved of becomes food for the internalized predator we acquire. We then beat up on ourselves, often mercilessly, to be what is expected of us and keep ourselves safe. Sometimes, this is lifesaving if predatory values (including violence) are prominent in our familial and community environments.
What complicates this is that cultural norms may be predatory, and we may internalize the norms as being about right and wrong, and often, they can be framed that way when they are not. Our desire to be seen as good and approved of can set us up to be harmed. This dynamic can put us in a bind because our true selves may have a different understanding of what is true and real while we get cultural campaigns promoting different ideas. What do we do with that?
Discouragement Can Be Predatory
What we call discouragement is often the internalization of cultural norms. As more and more norms are called into question, we have to ask ourselves about our own ideas about ourselves and the values we live by. We have a lot of serious problems confronting us at this moment, which invites the question: which norms serve our health and well-being as a culture and as individuals, and which ones do not.
We are justified in questioning the discouragement that is hindering us from solving the crucial problems demanding our attention. The resistance can show up as mild disapproval to extremes of rejection, withholding, and violence. None of this is helpful.
So if this predatory energy is a natural part of us and nature is there a way for us to get a handle on it so we are less hampered by the fear of predatory energies, inner and outer. Let’s take a look and see if we can get a handle on it and consider some options.
Definition Of A Predator
The Britannica dictionary definition of PREDATOR.
1 : an animal that lives by killing and eating other animals : an animal that preys on other animals
- predators like bears and wolves
- The population of rabbits is controlled by natural predators.
2 : a person who looks for other people in order to use, control, or harm them in some way
- a sexual predator [=a person who commits sexual crimes against other people]
- a corporate predator acquiring business rivals.
So, a predator lives off other beings. In nature, predators take advantage of situations where an imbalance of one kind or another creates a feeding opportunity. When there are too many of one kind of animal, a predator can reduce the numbers of that animal more in line with natural conditions. So, there is a balancing mechanism in nature that gives an important function to the predator. Of course, the predator does not know about these natural balances or imbalances and simply takes advantage of them. In the human world, we have more knowledge and awareness and are not let off the hook so easily.
Predators in the human world can create more imbalances rather than fewer by taking advantage of those who are devalued or marginalized in some way. Therefore, they can be considered parasitic in their behavior and not necessarily balancing. It is important to note that those who function in a predatory way serve themselves, and this is where a lot of cultural conflict gets amplified when the levers of control serve more predatory members of society to the disadvantage of others – when the cultural system serves the predator and not the well-being of citizens or the common good. However, understanding and working with energy can be useful, and predator energy, when it arises, can provide us with information. It can tell us when something or someone is destructive rather than constructive, and that is useful information.
So let’s look at what we can do.
How A Joy Practice Helps Us
Predator energy has been the source of countless books and films. At a personal and cultural level, is there something we can do to recognize the balancing capabilities of a predator without activating the worst manifestations of this energy? Can we take the predator every and let it become constructive?
I believe that a joy practice does that for us for various reasons. A joy practice makes creating joy its intention. Therefore, that which does not create joy or reduce it becomes questionable. By virtue of this intention, a joy practice serves the common good. That alone neutralizes opportunities for a predator to gain a foothold in society. The balancing mechanisms of a joy practice will not make for an attractive environment for a predator. A society built to promote and maintain a common good creates and fosters trust and goodwill, which means that predatory energies not only stand out but will not be supported. Everything requires support, and there has to be support for predatory energies to flourish. So, a joy practice, by its nature, purpose, and intention, supports a common good, which is a balanced and thriving society that protects us all.
Predator Protection Skills
Dr. Estes and others talk about inviting the brothers as a way to defend against and protect us from predators. In her version of the Bluebeard story, Bluebeard flattered, indulged, and wooed young women and their families with gifts of all kinds and attention so they would feel special. He married one such young woman and took her to his castle, where she was isolated from her family and forbade her from entering one room. She was able to explore all the other rooms in the castle, which were filled with many treasures, but expected to stay out of the one that would expose his falseness. When she did, she discovered that he killed the women who disobeyed him, and Bluebeard, on discovering her disobedience, set out to kill her. She called her brothers, who came and killed and dismembered Bluebeard and saved their sister. So what is it that the young woman was meant to learn that she had not? For starters, she needed to cultivate her true self, wisdom, and notice what was true. It was knowledge and wisdom that she was expected to give up to get along with the Bluebeard predator.
The brothers represent groundedness, wisdom, and maturity. These are capabilities in ourselves we cultivate with a joy practice where we seek to be grounded, in touch with reality, the good in ourselves, others, nature, and the world. It is naturally protective against predatory forces at the individual and the social level.
Wisdom Is Your Ally
Throughout history, predator energy has been depicted as male, although we all can be predatory. Most of us are not so inclined but nonetheless bump into these difficult energies in our lives. We need to make education and wisdom central to our efforts to cultivate the best in us and make life good for ourselves and others. This is why a joy practice is not only healing, but it is also self-protective while inviting the best that is possible in life. A joy practice uncomplicates our lives while bringing out the best and is a wonderful antidote to hostile inner critics and other predatory energies. It is self-cherishing and life-cherishing, and I recommend it to make your life beautiful.
Cultivating these energies silences the inner critic and helps you develop a natural and well-derived self-respect. By virtue of its intention and attention, it minimizes self-doubt and discouragement. It has space for so much that is beautiful in us that Bluebeard would not like. It is time for us to show the Bluebeards, inner and outer, in our lives the door.