Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sometimes You Need Your Dark Side

Dr. Sanity writes about the consequences of denial: "The denier will feel justified in acting out against those who threaten the peacefulness of their fantasy (check out the "peacefulness" and "reasonable" slogans chanted at most antiwar rallies these days).

"Problem solving and decision making will deteriorate as the entire focus of energy becomes the maintenance of the denial. In place of rational alternatives, excessive emotionality in general; and specifically anger and rage escalate toward those who are "blamed" for the reality that does not conform to the denier's worldview. "

Once upon a time there was a Star Trek (Original Series) episode where the transporter malfunctioned and Capt. Kirk was split into two personalities. One personality was kind and compassionate. The other was ruthless and aggressive. The "evil" Capt. Kirk plotted to kill the "good" Capt. Kirk and the "good" Captain was helpless to fight back. The "good" Captain couldn't make a decision because every decision carried the risk that someone would be hurt.

Mr. Spock was finally able to convince the "good" Captain that he needed his "evil" twin in order to be an effective leader. Mr. Scott was able to fix the transporter and the two Capt. Kirks were rejoined into one body.

I was 13 or 14 when I saw that episode and the idea that we humans need our dark side was an intriguing one, especially in the context of the time. Opposition to the war in Vietnam was heating up, the Civil Rights movement was intensifying, and the Summer of Love had come to San Francisco. Everything was about "peace" and "luv." Being "child-like" was a virtue; adults were seen as the cause of all the misery in the world (just listen to the folksongs of the era).

Here was a T.V. show that challenged that view. We need to be strong. We need to make hard decisions in order to protect our crew, our ship, our family. And once we've made those decisions we have to move ahead.

It took me a long time to learn that sometimes just making a decision is more important than whether that decision is the absolute right or correct one. It's easier to correct course if you're already moving than if you're standing still.

I was in college when the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam and when the government in Saigon fell. I was in the dorm at U.C. Berkeley and I could hear the celebration going on at Peoples' Park. I wrote a letter to my high school history teacher, a classic liberal, that night wondering why I was crying. I couldn't bring myself to celebrate; I felt my country had reneged on the promise they made to the South Vietnamese.

My former teacher agreed with me. He wasn't celebrating, either.

I see much of the same mindset in the current crop of war protestors. A mindset that claims that we did something to deserve this and if we just "think happy thots" then we'll all be able to fly away to Neverland (forgetting, of course, that Neverland is full of conflict itself). If we can just ignore our dark side, our aggressive side, our mean, cruel side, if we can eliminate it totally, then we'll live in peace and happiness.

Life doesn't work that way. Sometimes we do have fight for our families, for our values. Sometimes people hate us just because. We don't always make the right decisions, but we do the best we can, accept responsibility, and learn from our mistakes.