(yes, you can outsmart it)
In my last post, I introduced the concept of a matrix of meaning. If we were fish, this is the water we’re swimming in.
It affects everything we think, feel, say, and do…yet the majority of us have positively no idea it exists.
Needless to say, this can pose some pretty significant roadblocks when we want to create change, and the more we experience frustration around our attempts at change, the more we start to believe it’s just not possible.
Today, I want to explore a very specific aspect of the matrix of meaning…
…one that plays a major role in feeling trapped by maddening, self-limiting patterns.
And then in a couple days, I’ll give you a very effective tool for stepping out of this frustrating cycle, a way that’s so deceptively simple, you might be a little suspicious at first.
I won’t ask you to take my word for it, but I will ask you to give it a try and see for yourself.
What about this matrix of meaning confounds even our sincerest efforts at change?
It’s something I call an IMP: an inner mandate or prohibition.
In my Jungian spellcasting course, Enchant, I’ll be giving you specific exercises that will uncover your unique IMPs and teach you how to heal them…
…but for now, let’s look at what I mean by an inner mandate or prohibition.
IMPs are the rules that define your matrix of meaning.
Recall in my last post the example of hearing a hard edge of contempt in your dad’s voice whenever someone was “too emotional.”
This experience can easily get translated into an IMP, like:
“Expressing emotions (or maybe even just having emotions) elicits contempt.”
And then this ensnaring cycle is initiated…
Parts of your psyche are tasked with upholding this rule or IMP of avoiding emotional expression, because these parts (understandably) want to protect you from being a target of contempt.
While this rule might not be activated 100% of the time, in certain situations, enough of the components of your matrix get triggered, and boom…
…inner parts rush in to shut down emotional expression to protect you from contempt (both inner and outer sources, btw).
When this rule is unconscious (as the majority of IMPs are), this tends to happen next…
One. We’re apt to be strongly drawn to people who are contemptuous of emotions.
And two. We’re less able to see when this is happening. We might notice we feel crappy around them, and we might even have a long list of other reasons why this is so, but the fact that they exhibit contempt toward our emotions will be much harder for us to spot.
(And even if we do spot it, refer back to point one: We’re still drawn to them.)
Remember the toxic-waste gardening example from my last post?
Well, this is similar:
When we aren’t aware of the deeper reason this person triggers and/or fascinates us, it’s really, really hard to address the issue in any meaningful way…
…and we’re more likely to spend inordinate amounts of time addressing symptoms in the relationship, like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.
Plus, inner parts will be busily initiating our own pre-scripted reactions in these situations…
…perhaps starting an argument; giving someone the silent treatment; or becoming infatuated with a disastrous love-match, despite our best efforts to resist.
We might feel powerless to stop our reactions, which can then become a source of shame.
So that’s one reason why IMPs are so damn destructive:
They’re typically unconscious.
But here’s another reason, one that we tackle head on in the spellcasting course:
99.999% of the time, you and I and everybody else have multiple IMPs that directly contradict each other.
For example, let’s say you have the following IMPs:
One. You’re only allowed to feel good about your body if you’re thin.
Two. You should feel good about your body regardless of how you look. Just love yourself!
Now imagine different inner parts, like characters in a movie, each tasked with upholding one of these rules.
Let’s name these parts the Body Shamer and the Self-Love Enforcer.
If you try to free yourself from the first rule, perhaps through punishing diets + exercise fueled by self-loathing…
…Self-Love Enforcer will eventually step in and try to force Body Shamer out of the picture with “self-love.”
For a little while, Body Shamer gets shoved into the shadows.
But in this scenario, Self-Love Enforcer is still just a part of you, it’s not the Self with a capital S.
Why does that matter?
This is super important:
And we’ll go into more detail in my next post, but the short version is that when the Self takes over, we experience healing.
But when parts take over, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, we feel fragmented.
In other words, while Self-Love Enforcer might seem like a better option than Body Shamer, it’s still not the Self, so its presence isn’t genuinely healing.
It’s more like an itchy bandaid, and before long, tiring under the inner tyranny of the Self-Love Enforcer…
…your system flip-flops back to the opposing part, Body Shamer, and the cycle continues.
Most conventional models of change are aimed at taking sides in these inner wars and helping the “better” part win.
But what this fails to take into account is that neither side will ever truly back down until:
1) they feel deeply seen and heard
2) the Self helps them release their one-size-fits-none rules
3) they’re allowed to reintegrate with the rest of your psyche
(Maybe this also sounds a teensy bit relevant to the polarizations raging at a societal level…?)
And healing this inner conflict is precisely what I’ll show you how to do in my next post. See you soon.
P.S. Working with conflicting IMPs (and healing their frustrating opposition to positive change) is a big focus of my Jungian Spellcasting course, Enchant. Sign up to get an early-bird discount here.