Early this morning I was considering how my career as a spiritual worker, teacher, and author has caused for me to interface with some rather difficult energies projected onto me.

Reviews, emails, working with clients and students, and simply being a human being have created situations in which horrible things have been said to me, I have been accused of varying things, dragged into conflict, the subject of delusions, and have been a convenient target for individuals in pain.

This is not going where you may believe this is going, however. I am no victim and am very human, meaning that I make plenty of mistakes of my own. But such individuals have ended up teaching me more about myself than any glowing accolades or attempts to elevate me to some inhuman sage ever have done.

Such pain is never easy: it is not something to wish upon oneself, or to think that every hate-filled, ignorant, or in pain individual is a gift.

To treat this world as if it were constant lessons or an endless homework assignment assumes that all lessons we learn are beneficial or strengthen us. We so often deny pain in ourselves and others by assuming benefit. Some things simply break us, and the reparations cost much more than the benefits of the lesson ever will.

But we can utilize the outer world, and the people in it, as a mirror, reflecting back to us our pain. How we react and what we see in others show us our shadows, that which we have not rectified or reclaimed within.

I was thinking about this topic this morning because I work so often with individuals who have learned to become small, to shut themselves down, to be invisible and unheard.

This is a primary defense mechanism; a way to ensure survival. When our thoughts and ideas and even our mere presence may create difficulty for others, or retribution of some sort, we learn to make ourselves invisible.

To allow ourselves to expect nothing, to want nothing, and to be nothing, so as to not disturb others. To learn to become mute, rather than express what is on the heart and in the mind, so as to not experience shaming.

The best defense mechanism would be to simply leave a threatening situation, but we often cannot do that, especially in childhood. So we learn to freeze, to shut down, to energetically separate and disappear to the extent that we are able to (while still being physically present).

In a healthy system we would learn to enact this primal defense at-will. In times of danger and distress, we would engage our ability to freeze, to go into trance, to energetically separate ourselves. 

If we are being eaten by a lion, going limp and into a state of trance to the extent that much of our energy is elsewhere is the best option.

More practically, if we are continually told that we are a nuisance, are made to feel unwanted and unloved and are shamed for what we say and who we are, becoming invisible is a defense strategy that we learn to use to survive both family and school systems.

Being unseen and unheard is the better option to being harmed, physically and emotionally, and dealing with the deep wound of being shamed or feeling wrong (or experiencing the possibility of retribution) for expressing our authentic self.

Individuals working with this wound can learn that it is not wrong to engage this defense mechanism of invisibility. It was needed and necessary at the time, and for perhaps a long time. What can be reckoned with is that it doesn’t need to be permanently engaged. It can be called upon when needed.

Many of the individuals who are working through this pattern are extremely talented, artistic, interesting, and sensitive individuals who have a unique outlook on the world.

Their voices and presence in this world is very much needed. We need individuals who can bring consciousness and evolution on a spiritual level– through deep introspection, through deep feeling, and through unique perspectives.

So much of what is rewarded in this world is mediocrity. That may seem harsh, but consider that collectively and individually we have a spiritual immune system.

This immune system likes sameness. It likes what is known, and rejects what is unknown (functioning similarly to our physical immune system). This is yet another primitive survival mechanism, and it ensures that our conditioned layers of reality (what we collectively agree upon as reality, see my book The Spiritual Awakening Guide) remain intact.

So those who are on a different wavelength than others, who think and whose very being crosses or is an irritant to those boundaries, will be shamed, rejected, abandoned, and told that they are wrong continually until they fit into those boundaries.

Until we learn to shut up, to shut down, and to act within the confines of spiritual immunity of the system we are operating under. The consequence for not shutting down or becoming invisible is shaming, rejection, and abuse to allow for the the system (as well as the individual seeking comfort, safety, and survival through spiritual immunity acting as an agent of that system), to reject anything outside of its known so it can return to “healthy” normality or operating.

This type of spiritual immunity is present in family systems, in which a specific way of being is celebrated or considered normal. It also occurs in school systems, in organizations, in clubs, in social circles, in communities, and in the world at large.

Much of the work these clients do is to realize that as an adult that they can have a voice, to take up space, and to inhabit the wavelength that they do.

This is done with a realization of clear reality– a seeing that spiritual immunity will cause for others to reject, vilify, ignore, or shame them for thinking or being different or for having a different life than what is deemed normal.

There often is a reckoning in which we must decide if we want others to have the power to make us small. If the opinions and condemnation and shaming of others have the power to make us invisible, unheard, or to feel unworthy.

We give so much of our energy away to others in hopes of seeing ourselves reflected. We offer our self-worth, our ability to be seen, our ability to shine, our capacity to be who we are, our essence and soul away to others in hopes that what is reflected back to us is that we are worthy and that we are lovable.

Much of the later process of self-realization is to take back the energy we have given to the outer world and to the people in it. To no longer need to project outwards, to see our inner conflicts mirrored outwardly in the world (through people and our interactions with them).

To resolve this, to take back our power and internalize all of that energy we have given away, is not a reality in which people will all love us, or deem us worthy.

It is to resolve the heartbreak of others not approving of us, or loving us, for who we are. It is the ability to deem inwardly what our own self-worth is composed of, what our own standards for ourselves are, and to develop those internal boundaries within ourselves so that we can fully blossom.

We can fully inhabit who we are without apologies. To love ourselves and to clearly see that the spiritual immunity in the system that we are operating under is unhealthy. Spiritual immunity desires sameness– it does not encourage growth, revelation, creativity, or new ways of thinking and being. It encourages mediocrity, control, and the comfortable confines of what is already known and believed to be true.

But in order to evolve, we require new ways of being and new ways of thinking. Those who are willing to take up space, to allow for their unique essence and way of being to come into the world. 

This cannot happen if we do not allow ourselves to be who we are. If we are so in fear of the consequences of spiritual immunity, of others having power over us to the extent that we do not share our energy and essence with the world.

Those who do so will always be rejected by some; they will be loved and respected by others. Those who express sameness will generally be rewarded for fitting in within spiritual immunity: what has already been expressed and considered safe. 

If what we are doing is from a place of realness, of embodiment, and of expressing who we are into the world fully, we can learn that being of service through this place of realness is incredibly fulfilling. It is the souls’ path, the path in which we learn that our soul being of service to others is how we feel complete as humans.  

We can reckon with a reality in which we clearly see this type of spiritual immunity, understanding that ignorance and hatred mean that others are reflecting their pain, their Otherness, their inner divisions, onto us and onto the world because they cannot rectify them within. 

Self-realization is not a state of perfection. If anything, it is a state where we know the boundaries of our knowledge, what we do and do not know. Where we still need work, and how we can continue to grow.

The outer world can reflect this back to us. 

In my case, being in my position has allowed for me to be on the receiving end of sometimes ridiculous accusations, rejection, and toxicity.

This has allowed for me to clearly see those who have offered me helpful criticism, to see when individuals have something helpful to show me that I may not yet see within myself. Such individuals have shown me disowned aspects of myself, places to heal, where I could soften, and how to improve. 

It has allowed for me to see when people are attacking, rejecting me and my work because to consider something beyond their capacity, beyond spiritual immunity, would be too threatening for them.

We can learn that individuals who are attacking out of spiritual immunity (and a desire to remain in ignorance) will do it with hatred and with violence, projecting their own unhealed pain, emotions, and issues onto the Other (person, situation, book, movie, etc). This is much different than individuals who can respond thoughtfully, critically, and from a healthy adult place of engagement and responsiveness.

The latter means that the person still sees the humanity in the Other. Someone attacking out of a denial of their inner pain will not be able to see shared humanity, as it is an attempt to disown and reject aspects of themselves that would threaten them or be too painful for them to consider.

Differentiating the two, and the varying shades between, is all about clear seeing and moving out from our own unhealed material to the extent that we can clearly see beyond our own projections, our need for acceptance, and our own blind emotive responses to situations and people.

We can realize that people are in pain, and unless we are willing to take responsibility for our pain and to look towards our ignorance, that we will project that pain out into the world, and onto others. We do not need to accept the disowned pain and ignorance of others.

Such acknowledgement and clear seeing can show us the world mirrored to us. I am in a profession in which this is quite loudly shown to me at times, but we all have the opportunity to consider our shadows. To see in one another ourselves mirrored, and to realize our unhealed parts reflected in the outer world and the people who surround us.

Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual teacher and author. Her books include The Shamanic Workbook 1 and 2, The Body Deva and Managing Psychic Abilities.