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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Aggression?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Aggression

Aggression Against Ourselves

All of these projections are examples of the obstacle of aggression. We normally think that aggression is about people killing or hurting other people. But for people who are on the inner journey, that’s only a very small part of it. The primary form of aggression for those on the path is their aggression toward themselves. We don’t allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable, to be where we are, because whatever we find as primary in that experience of vulnerability is often connected to a feeling of deficiency, and we might attack the hell out of ourselves for it: “You’re no good. You’re not enough. You’ll never amount to anything.” Right away, we become afraid that somebody is going to think those things about us. But why do you always believe that no matter what, somebody’s going to think you’re not good enough? Why can’t you imagine that they might think something else? Is it likely that everyone on Earth is thinking the same thought—that you’re not good enough? Why doesn’t it occur to you that some of them will just think you’re weird? And that others will think you’re naive? No, you believe they will all think you’re not good enough.

Aggression of the Animal Soul

When we experience our animal potential fully, we do not necessarily experience ourselves as a person who is feeling intense lust and desire. When we experience the sense of the animal soul itself, it appears as a primitive mass. Experiencing the animal soul in itself, one feels oneself to be either a shapeless instinctual organism, with no human form, or animal one, or sometimes as a primitive organism with a minimum of structure. The animal soul is a blob of a creature, full of lust and desire, hunger and aggression. The amorphousness of the animal soul has remained so because normal ego development tends not to deal adequately with this dimension of our soul. This is a reflection of the inability of our civilization to harmoniously integrate the animal soul. It is usually repressed or split off from our conscious experience of ourselves, except for minor surges that we have learned to manage.

Exploring the Energy of Aggression

To explore an example of working on psychodynamic issues, we can look at one of the presenting issues of the strength aspect. The issue might present itself as a difficulty with anger and aggression, as a stance of passivity and weakness. Exploring this issue may reveal a fear of aggression, which then may remind the soul of the anger she encountered in her early environment, in the person of her father or mother. Making the fear conscious and remembering its source will help the soul to access her own anger, since she is in reality no longer a child who must be passive in the face of the anger of the more powerful adult. Exploring the energy of this emotion can reveal its connection to strength. Anger turns out to be a distortion of essential strength, that is the quality of strength becomes caught up in the emotion of anger, which is itself caught up in the self-image of being a child in relation to the parents. In this example, the soul was afraid to own up to her strength because of fear of her parents' anger. So she abandoned and repressed her strength, and its resultant distortion, anger. Working through this issue opens the quality of strength in the soul.

Forms of the Animal Soul

During the spiritual journey one may experience some of these forms of the animal soul, depending on the degree of structure one is dealing with. When we are dealing and working with more structured parts of our soul we tend to experience animal forms high on the phylogenetic ladder. This happens, for instance, when we are investigating feelings and states of irrational and extreme aggression and destructiveness. By seeing through the distortions that have twisted our soul, the dissociation and splitting of our aggression, power, and strength, and coming to a place of acceptance, resolution, and understanding of these elements of our potential, the forms we experience may move from that of a heartless and primitive animal form that embodies hatred and vengeance, like a hissing black snake, into the more evolved, graceful, and beautiful form of a black panther, at peace with its vitality and power. We experience then our essential power and vitality, but in the animal form of a panther that is in harmony with its nature but also in a contented and peaceful state.

Instinctual Manifestation of Aggression

One way that the instincts manifest themselves is in aggression. When getting what we want is blocked or frustrated, we often feel anger, hatred, and revenge. These feelings and our desire to express them can become powerful forces against our love of truth. We're more interested in getting angry than in recognizing the truth, more interested in making somebody suffer than in inquiring into what's going on. These tendencies are driven by an instinctual force. Of course, fears are also involved because we are anxious about survival and anticipated losses. So the level of the instincts, the animal level, looks at the world in terms of objects of gratification—going after things that will make us feel good, gratify us, and help us survive. These are real needs for human beings; they are not made up.

Opening of the Soul to Her Aggression

We return to our example of working through the issues regarding the strength essence to illustrate the structural level of issues that expose the barriers to the soul's liberation. As the soul begins to be open to her aggression and anger, and allows herself to feel strong, she may encounter new difficulties. Now she finds new and deeper barriers to experiencing the essential quality of strength, even though she can be somewhat open to anger and aggression. Continuing her exploration, the soul becomes aware of a sense of weakness, which actually feels like an identification with weakness that the soul is not able to transcend. Further inquiry reveals an image of being a weak person that has become part of the soul's identity. This identification is not a matter of repression; rather, it is character and structure. Inquiring into this image, the soul may find that as a child she disowned her strength not only because of fear of others' anger, but because if she had felt strong she would have felt able to stand up to her mother, and even to be separate from her. This insight might reveal conflicts around separation from her mother, a separation that is appropriate at a certain stage of ego development.

Strength Essence Fuels the Instinct for Self-preservation

It seems to us that the concepts of neutralized aggression and aggressivity are closely related to the Strength aspect of Essence. It is seen as the energy powering the process of separation-individuation. We are not aware of any energy having this function besides that of the Strength Essence. It is our understanding, also, that the Strength Essence is the force behind what is often called the instinct for self-preservation. This idea is developed in our article "Essence and Sexuality" (Energy and Character, volume 14). So we do not really have to look to biology to find the true aggressive energy for the organism; it is one of the aspects of Essence. It is interesting, however, that psychoanalysis considers the aggressive energy, or drive, as negative in nature, or at least instinctual; and that it needs to go through the process of neutralization to be utilizable for developmental purposes. Our perception is the opposite. The aggressive energy is, from the beginning, and, in fact, innately and always, "neutralized." It is the Strength of Being, and hence it is the prototype or archetype of all capacities of strength at all levels. When present it infuses the organism with an innate strength that affects all levels of functioning. It gives the organism the sense of capacity, of the ability to exercise any of its functions. Its effect is to expand the capacity of the organism so that all its functions, at all levels, the physical, emotional and Being -- are strengthened. Thus it aids the process of separation and of essential development. It is the fire for it, the fuel that keeps it going. It is energetic, like fire. It is expansive, so it naturally leads to greater expansion of the organism, which is fundamentally what development is. Above all, it is an innate potential of the human being, an aspect of Essence, indestructible and inexhaustible.

The Particular Aggression Used by the Superego

Therefore it is the aggression of the instinct of self-preservation that the superego directs towards the ego. (This aggression is actually a distorted expression of the vitality of the life force, which has the essential aspect of Strength as its primary element.

Use of Aggression by the Superego

As it is a suppressive agent, the superego uses the energy of aggression in its control of the ego. Most of this aggressive energy is nothing but the aggression that the child experienced toward the coercive agencies in childhood. Now this aggression is used by the superego to punish the ego; that is, it is retroflected.

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