Keeping your lid from flipping

Sometimes we feel like a pot on a stove that's about to blow it's top. We allude to a seething cauldron that needs to let off some steam. Our insides may be churning with anxieties, resentments, or regrets that cannot be contained much longer. We feel like we''re holding back a lot of pressure from leaking, bubbling over or spilling out. We know from much experience that flipping our lid does not make friends, create mutual understanding or deepen rapport with others. What shows up when we lose our grip is half of our emotional baggage on display. The lid we keep in place is the other half of our baggage. We act out our unresolved issues when we flip our lid or when we keep a snug lid on them.

The lid that we try not to flip is part of the problem. It's no more capable of working through the unresolved issues, dire predictions and unchanging past history -- than the issues can themselves. The lid is a positional stance against the other half of our baggage. It assumes the hang-ups from our painful past are entirely wrong and it's totally right to oppose them. It handles the complexity of these dynamics in black & white categories. It assumes there is no good in our dark side and no bad in our light side. This lid has been given many names by different, groundbreaking psychologists:
  • super-ego - Sigmund Freud's model of ego, super-ego and id
  • idealized self - Karen Horney's model of the idealized, disgraced and realized self
  • parent ego state - Eric Berne's games between Parent, Adult and Child states in each other
  • embodied false self - R.D. Laing's model of a disembodied true self divided against an embodied false self
  • persona - Carl Jung's model of a persona contradicted by a personal shadow before individuating into one's true Self

We keep a lid on our dark side by using many different tactics which give rise to so many different characterizations by these different psychologists. Here's some of the ways we seek to repress, inhibit and stifle the hidden half of our baggage:
  • Guilt tripping our dark side as totally wrong, bad, stupid, immature, uncivilized, irrational, unacceptable or intolerable
  • Imprisoning our dark side as some kind of inner enemy, raging beast or demon that possesses us
  • Disgracing our dark side as completely contradictory to what has been idealized, put on a pedestal, held up as a shining example and framed as the "one right answer"
  • Dissociating our dark side as unthinkable, terrifying to consider, overwhelming if it gets unleashed and best kept in denial
  • Disidentifying with our dark side while clinging to who we are trying to be, how we are successfully kidding ourselves and what pretenses we're hiding behind

When we're getting over our hang-ups, we get turned upside down in the process. The first thing we we're trying to be to impress others becomes last thing we aspire to be. The last thing we wanted to be then becomes first thing to work on, cultivate deeply and bring to full fruition. We let go of the lid we were clinging to in order to find a new life free of inner torment. Our pride in being perfect gets taken down in our fall into disgrace. Our bubble gets burst and our new life begins walking away from those over-ambitious ideals.

When we get turned around, we find lots of good in our dark side. Our repressed passions can now be expressed as compassion for others. Our stifled gifts can give us ways to make ourselves into gifts to the world. Our forgotten talents can give us a sense of purpose and direction in this unfamiliar opportunity space. We look back on the lid we kept from flipping as part of the problem all along.

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