And Considering Online Spaces

Earlier this week I was speaking to a fellow author about how the nature of online reviews has changed over the past few years. While there has always been genuine criticism, as well as a mix of opinions, the level of hatred and personal attack via review has increased.

When we are unable to handle our own emotions inwardly, we push them outwards. Often onto convenient yet “safe” targets, such as celebrities, authors, and random people online.

On a personal level, what we cannot recognize or look at inwardly we make shadow: we put it onto another person or event. We cannot feel our own despair, so we become overly despairing at a news item. We cannot feel our own anger, so we notice the anger in others, or become overly angry at others for small things.

If we become cognizant of our shadows, we can reclaim them. We can observe who and what we react to in the outer world, and question why we are reacting that way.

What we deny, repress, or wish to ignore regarding ourselves we see in another person.

Our individual suffering, and the unhealed suffering of those who came before us create a collective shadow.

In the modern world the average individual experiences suffering, large emotions, as well as a separation from reality that creates large individual shadows that cannot be resolved individually. When our pain becomes large enough, it requires connection– another human being, a group, a connection to divinity– to resolve.

Over the past decade or so there has been an increasing amount of separation between the individual and reality. This has quickened due to the pandemic.

On a spiritual level, the pandemic represents the individual who at the very ocean floor of their being feels alienated, unworthy, and unloved.

We all begin in this world feeling some type of connection: to earth, to sky, to stars, to family and community, to divinity, and to our ancestral and collective past.

For the past few decades those with sight have watched the fracturing of the world, the fracturing into individual “truth” at odds with collective truth. We require collective truths to hold our world together. We weave our reality together, and decide together what is true.

We are experiencing increased tribalism, where we are so far divided into specific labels and identities that any other identity and label or thought or idea or person outside of that “tribe” is considered a threat. They are to be “canceled”, shamed, harmed, hated.

As we become more and more dependent on the metaverse and the internet as our place of communal gathering, we become further unmoored from reality. We become fractured further into group realities that do not connect with greater or common realities.

When we are connected to our physical bodies, to the physical world, we are much more likely to see the humanity in one another.

We are also more likely to adhere to cultural and societal norms considering “truth” as well as “goodness”: to be able to look outside of our personal bubble and to see and consider other people and our effect on them.

The internet is one of the easiest places for us to place our shadows: the unhealed and untended to life, reality and emotions that we are not ready or able yet to reconcile within ourselves.

Due to the nature of the internet we can find our shadows mingling and joining with others. Similarly disconnected and wounded souls can find themselves in groups where their collective reality, fractured from the webs of greater reality, can consolidate.

Such consolidation occurs by surrounding ourselves with others in the “tribe” who think and believe similarly to how we do, while any other ideology or “tribe” is met with contempt, shaming, hatred, or some other form of “othering”.

The more time we spend with groups who do this, the more fractured we become.

To become an individual, who can think freely and can see reality with nuance, without taking part in this form of tribalism, is a remarkable thing.

With any clarity the world is a difficult place to be in. It is full of suffering and pain and ignorance and wrong use of power. It is unfair, unjust, and out of touch with its emotions.

We have created such large shadows that loom over us. World energies can some days feel so incredibly raw, the type of pain that creates such immense (and understandable) existential distress in all of us.

It is totally normal to feel a state of grief, despair, anger, pain, and any other emotion at the state of the world.

We in fact should feel these very things.

There is a difference between feeling them, of allowing for ourselves to feel them, and drowning in them.

One of the basic discernment questions I teach people is the question of is this mine? This can move on to further questioning– basically, where the energy we are feeling is coming from.

Often those of us who are sensitive will realize that we are picking up energies from the world, or a specific event occurring in the world. This may also be a sense of doom or anxiety prior to a large event, even if we do not know what that event may be.

In realizing where the energies we are feeling are coming from, we can more clearly observe them. We should feel, and feel deeply for the world.

But to process those emotions is to allow for ourselves to deeply feel, to recognize why we are deeply feeling, and to allow for them to pass through us.

So often we get hooked into world energies because they allow for us to deflect our own energies. If we are feeling angry, a large world event that creates anger can allow for us to become mired in that anger. It can allow for our own anger to come forward, to be seen and experienced in a way we might not otherwise allow ourselves.

This does not mean that we are not angry about a world event. It means that the anger we feel is triggering something within ourselves that we could stand to look at on an individual level.

In one of my courses I had people sit with the energies of several websites. One was a gossip website. Several students told me of the up and down of feelings they experienced while on that website. Along with the gloss and the glamour and the unobtainable wealth there was also hatred and shaming and coveting and fear (of death/dying/true crime and health information).

In another course I asked students to consider openly and honestly what websites that they visited the most, and to really sit with why they visited them. They discovered that they would visit particular websites when they were already feeling self-hatred and disillusionment. These websites would then consolidate those feelings.

Basically, if you already hate yourself and the world, the internet or your favorite streaming platform will be more than happy to show you more to hate and that you are righteous in your hatred.

This then causes for those emotions and expressions to gather, to become stuck within us and within our world.

Our emotions are like weather systems. If we allow for them to pass through, they will. If we continually remind ourselves of the pain and suffering of the world, they will persist.

This does not mean to ignore reality in any way. That is just as dangerous. Being stuck in the light because you refuse to acknowledge the dark is a splitting from reality that creates even larger shadows. Being too mired in the dark to the point where we cannot recognize the light is also simply not helpful.

To accept that the world is unjust, unfair, and full of suffering is a lot to ask of anyone. But in allowing ourselves to recognize this reality, we truly can accept it.

This acceptance does not mean that it is right or okay. What it does is allow for us to stop expecting the world and the people in it to be something that they are not.

It allows for us to take back the energy and time that we spend on hatred, on division, and on the type of tribalistic thinking that causes for us to shame, blame, or attempt to convince the “other” to change.

When people have their hearts and minds open to change, they will seek out what they are looking for. This is a hard truth, but one that allows for us to see people, and the world, as it is.

It is in this seeing that we can clearly utilize our time and energy to be of service, to bring light into the world, to reconnect to the world.

Our own self-realization and developing compassion for ourselves is so vital. Our collective shadow is thick with the self-hatred of so many. As cheesy as it sounds, loving ourselves is revolutionary. It dispels this darkness. Grounding and accepting our bodies and truly living our lives is revolutionary in a world that is becoming more and more disassociated.

We do have a choice of how we spend our time online. Questioning how we feel when we go onto specific websites (before and after… this will show you why you may be drawn to a specific website in the first place) can allow us to do our small part in taking back our energy and emotions from the collective shadow.

Be willing to reach out to others to help with emotions and energies that are too large to work with individually. We heal through connection.

And lastly, if you are feeling that the world is a place filled with pain and suffering and darkness, recognize that you are completely and totally right.

But it is easy to get lost in this darkness. Listen to music, learn, engage, look at art, watch the birds, do something to bring beauty into this world. To remind yourself of the beauty and love present in the world that is underneath all of the pain.

I have had multiple clients over the years tell me that someone simply texting them or calling them to say “hello” has reminded them that they are not alone. It has prevented them from a desperate and lonely act. Acts of service do not need to be large, and we never know how much they can mean to someone.

Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel regarding the world. Do not ignore it, deny it, or shove it somewhere (like back into the collective). When you do this, practice boundaries with yourself. We talk about boundaries so much regarding other people, but boundaries with ourselves is so essential.

We can feel, and give ourselves time and space to feel, and then we can move on with our day. If we do this often enough, we can recognize that our emotions do not have power over us. They are simply messengers, energies that move through us.

If you are willing, look towards your individual shadow. When you get invested in a world event, or even drawn to a particular website or game or tv show, there is a reason for that. Utilize your “body deva” and ask why.

In doing so, you will do your part in healing not only yourself, but the world.

Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual teacher and author of several books, including The Body Deva, The Shamanic Workbook series, and The Spiritual Awakening Guide.

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