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1May/090

Differentiating the Shadow: Demon, Development, and Individuation

Why the Demon?

One other thing that occurred to me to question further in this construct of the Demon is what it is about us (humans) that makes us susceptible to this Demon and its possession of personality.  It's easy for this construction to sound very mythopoetic (using a term like "Demon", and all).  But I don't want this to be an abstraction that one must either believe or disbelieve.  It needs to be understood and understandable.  When I speak of Demonic "possession", I'm being colorful.  This is how it feels or seems to an observer (and to a sufferer who has begun differentiating the Demon).  But what really does Demonic possession mean . . . and how does it happen?  My guess is that this will make better and better sense the more we learn about the brain from neuroscientific studies.  The Demon is not only facilitated by our susceptibility to "mimetic" cultural indoctrination (which I don't see as innately insidious).  The introjection of the Demon must also be dependent on a psychic structure prone to rather hypertrophic self-protection.  What is it then about human personality that is so fragile and vulnerable that it would fairly easily give itself over to terroristic "protection"?

Infants and Affect

Of course, among all other animals our species is perhaps the one that produces the most helpless young.  Our babies are born essentially before they have finished developing in utero (compared to many other mammals).  For many years after birth, we are not very capable of survival or self-sustenance.  Even as adults, despite our ingenuity, we need others to help facilitate our survivability and confirm our validity and social contributions in a very powerful and tangible way.  That is, we can't just be parented for a few years and then released into the wild.  Throughout our whole lives we must rely on and relate to numerous others if we want to satisfy our self-interested needs.  The more we can successfully socialize with others, forming bonds and alliances and relationships of one kind or another, the more likely we are to be successful at "perpetuating ourselves" (both genetically and culturally).  The human ideal toward which our evolutionary process has driven us is one in which we are highly connected and related.  I think it is fairly likely and logical that our culture or the patterns of our sociality have co-evolved along with our genetics.

In other words, we have evolved a separated, non-material organ in our culture.  And as that organ has evolved and emerged, it has fed back into our biological evolution.  It is this co-developed environment in which we have adapted.  It is not in us like Platonic/Kantian/Jungian "pure forms", but we are biologically shaped as if we were meant to fit perfectly with this cultural/informational environment.  At least, mentally, we are . . .  (and when I speak of culture here, I mean something like original culture or tribal culture, not modern culture).  I don't know how this compares to other social or herd mammals, but our newborns take at least three years for their brains to "wire-up" and their synapses to be pruned to what is perhaps a most efficient state of functionality.  In that time, a massive environmental influence helps establish the individual structures of our brains.  That we would have vast and extensive "introjects" should not come as any surprise and would seem to be highly compatible with our scientific understanding of the brain.

The Demon seems to function like a program ("computer virus", perhaps) that hijacks the inevitable sense of helplessness and vulnerability which the ego forms around during our extensive childhoods.  That is, strategic self-protection and self-facilitation are the stuff from which the ego is made.  And so much of our personalities, our relationalities, are constructed during a period of severe disempowerment.  We learn so well what it is like to be weak and small and dependent on other, more powerful people . . . and therefore we learn first to develop a kind of empowerment that it based in this position of weakness, perhaps a kind of manipulation of others out of self-protection and self-enablement . . . or we fortify ourselves by flocking into more empowering identity groups.

But self-enabling, especially in infants and children, is also infused with Self-enabling or Self-facilitation.  The Self, I believe, represents a natural complex system that seeks to flourish and to flow into life, others, environment.  It is dynamic, adaptive and it genuinely requires access to connections, outlets, Eros.  The connectedness of a social/relational Eros provides avenues for the Self to be facilitated.  The ideal, I suppose, is for every individual to be engaged in a complex two-way (or multi-way) relationship with others and with the group or tribe.  The Self system in each individual does not want to be disenfranchised or cut off from others.  It needs to give and receive, to be a part of a greater whole as well as its own microcosmic whole.  That is the nature of our species.  It's a somewhat poetic, even slightly spiritualistic language to express it in . . . but there is a very legitimate and easily observed biological reality to this need to contribute to the group, to influence and be influence, to share one's sense of self and purpose with an adaptive survival task.  The dated, abstract term "libido", although it has fallen out of favor scientifically, is a metaphor for something complex ("quantum" or made of of unobservably small parts that by themselves do not add up to the whole they are part of) in the nature of dynamic, adaptive living that seeks (with a sense of "energy" or desire or drive) a functional state of organization that facilitates adaptive fitness for a group or genetic pool.  We don't understand what this is, but we can observe its effects (much like other complex, quantum behaviors in matter).  Psychologically, we need to call it something, even if that placeholder term is a poeticism.

The emerging ego personality mediates between the dynamic, "libidinous" Self-system (or principle of organization) and the environment and is co-constructed by these two powers.  The Demon is the introjected personality/attitude/intelligence/agent that represents environmental constructionism that is opposed to the Self's principle of organization (much environmental constructionism is necessary for the functional development and facilitation of the Self-system).  This is the major disagreement I have with Kalsched and numerous other Jungians and psychoanalysts.  The Demon is not of the Self, but is a kind of Anti-Self derived from the difficulties the Self has imprinting with the environment the individual lives in.  I think it is a terrible mistake to imagine that this Anti-Self is the "dark half of the Self" and has some kind of inherited existence in the human individual's psyche.  I see no cause to propose some kind of theological/metaphysical dualism as Jung does.  I also don't see the psychopathic evil that the Demon exhibits in some people as any kind of primal infantile rage or unchecked id (that strikes me as a prejudiced projection onto infant behavior that serves as a common component of the developmentalist/psychoanalytic fantasy of the infant).  That is, the actual infant's personality and affective-psychic existence does not innately give birth to the Demon.  The Demon does exhibit infantile qualities . . . but this kind of infantilism is abstracted from the more complex and systemic affect responses in an actual infant.  Those genuine infant affects are connected to a Self system that has other and more complex motivations.  in other words, I do not see infant emotions and desires as inherently self-damaging to the psyche or Self system.

Genuine infant rage, hunger, need, and other vulnerabilities cannot destroy or wound the Self system.  It is the imprinting or association with malicious environmental forces that makes the desires and hungers of the infant resound with Demonic, destructive presence.  I think it is a fallacy to see the obvious emotionality expressed by infants through the lens of adult emotional expression.  When an infant is hungry, cold, lonely, or scared and cries (even rages) terribly, I think this is merely the only languaging the Self system has available to the expression of its needs.  It is not trauma.  As adults, we have more "civilized" ways of languaging our desires and delaying their gratification.  Some of that linguistic filtering of pure affect can be championed by the Demon . . . the Demon can use shame and terror at times to bully the ego into repressing the expression of affect (affect is an expression of dynamic ordering in the psyche).  Our modern sense of adult, "civilized", affect-control is, I would argue, severely perverted.  We like to pretend that affect isn't there behind our expressions and actions, but it is just as present as it is in the wailing infant . . . and as Jung said, it will come out in diseases and neurotic complexes if it is not given a suitable language of expression (and the expression couched within these diseases is just as "divine" as it is infantile and "animal").  The lack of such a suitable language (resulting in symptoms of disease) is a sure sign that the Demon is clogging up the works of the Self system.

I do agree with the developmentalists and psychoanalysts that we have a kind of "infantility" in our psyches . . . or a more or less vague impression of an "inner Child".  I disagree, though, with the tendency of these analysts to reduce the psyche to this construct (which is as much fantasy projection as valid).  Instead, I would suggest that we have a culturally skewed lens with which we regard our own affect.  That lens encourages us to look at affect as if it were "infantile" (as it is easy for adults to associate pure affective response to infants).  But this characterization cannot be seen as scientifically valid.  It is only a metaphor.  Our affect, I think, remains foundationally the same throughout our lives (only a very small portion of which we spend as infants).  The so-called "infantile" affect is fundamentally the same in infants, children, adolescents, and adults . . . the same whether the adult is "individuated" and "psychologically mature/healthy" or extremely dysfunctional and "childish".  I think we have to stop thinking of affect in this reductive and prejudicial way . . . as inherently bad, problematic, or immature.  Affect is not a mistake, nor is it an expression of an "animalistic id".  It is simply what drives and organizes behavior.  If the affective Self is allowed to imprint with functional environmental factors, affect will be functional and adaptive and motivate both individual survivability and tribal Eros and ethics.  If the affective Self cannot imprint functionally with the environment, the Self system will be contaminated and perhaps dissociated (compartmentalized).  When affect is poisoned in this way (by Demonic determination and static introjection), we will experience a confusion between the sense of impulse and the functional achievement of the goal the impulse is directed at.  It is as if we disrupt our own functionality and survival success with our "neediness" . . . . behaving self-destructively when all we want to do is be and to function effectively.

The Demon will exhibit infantile rage and aggression as it is abstracted to an adult personality construct.  We could perhaps understand the infantility of the Demon as though it was derived from a construct of infantile vulnerability.  It is vulnerability looked at through a very long and distorting scope . . . a kind of telescope turned backwards, making the object seem much more distant and indistinct.  The Demon can never and will never approach its distanced sense of vulnerability.  It is constructed with the sole purpose of defending against this vulnerability.  But in the effort to differentiate the Demon from the Self, we must question whether this vulnerability is really as terrible as the Demon thinks it is.  I believe that the Demon's take on this abstracted vulnerability is severely paranoid.  It is hard to see this when looking at a person in the grip of their Demon (or when looking at our own Demon when it is highly empowered).  But one of the conventional experiences of individuation is the revelation that the things we are morbidly terrified of are not as horrendous as they seem from a distance.  Typically, many aspects of the functional Self-system (like the affect discussed above) are viewed by the socialized, adult ego with extreme prejudice.  The entire 19th century style conception of the Freudian id is a study in unscientific paranoia and cultural prejudice.  The hundreds of years of Christianized belief that we are creatures of "original sin" that must purify themselves by right faith and belief (or in later, more-humanistic materialism, right civilization) is not biologically sound.  Not only Freudian id constructs are subject to this cultural distortion, but Jungian theological dualism (polarization of archetypes), as well.

Individuation and the Demon

During the individuation process, many instinctual forces and patterns of organization are valuated, and valuated at the expense of the Demon and of tribal affiliations.  Much of this work requires making difficult ethical decisions and even some sacrifices of various social and relational benefits and protections.  These changes and sacrifices are made by "de-programming" constructions in the ego that are destructive to the functional operation of the Self system.  The constructed "agent" behind those Self-destructive ego programs is the Demon.  It is the force that resists individuaton's de-programming . . . and it can drive this resistance both by force of habit and by accentuating the fear we feel of change and transformation, fear of the new and the Other.  The newly adopted "ways of the Self" often seem very foreign and "irrational" to the ego.  But despite this sense of their irrationality, these Self-facilitating ego positions actually have a very strong sense of logic and purpose . . . one that is distinctly biological, material, instinctual, and dynamic.

We experience the process of individuation as an ongoing, revisionary, never-static valuation of Self principles.  This valuation not only unearths and integrates Self principles into egoic functioning, it increasingly languages them with an evolving language that is structured to best facilitate the Self.  We might experience this as going through transformations of attitude in which it seems like first the Self needs one things and later something completely different.  But it is our language (or Logos) that is transforming, not the Self, per se.  The Self changes and evolves as we continuously re-language it, but there is always a sense that on some level, the Self-system is much the same in infancy as it is in old age and every step in between (we might experience this is a shift from an unrealized potential to an ability to actualize that potential to a realization that the actualized potential is not really what we most need . . . and therefore the potential or Goal associated with the Self is redefined, the Self can be continuously re-conceptualized through the developing Logos).  It is the same, yet it is never static (like the Demon).  Of course, here we are talking about the construct of the Self that is personified as an archetypal agent.  If we look at the Self as a more detached principle, it evolves as the ego evolves.  Still, there is the sense that the Self always represents the same set of potentials and structures that we were born with (thus the feeling of materiality and biological substance to the Self).  I do not think there is a "True Self" to become.  Our selfhood is always a factor of our environment, memories, and choices.  But we work with a fixed set of inherent potentials, the "quantum" elements of personality.  There are always numerous possibilities for the expression and actualization of these potentials (which are not inherently "good" or transcendent, but merely morally and valuatively neutral ways of being which can be collectively constructed and reconstructed to various purposes).

The attitude promoted by the Self during progressive individuation is one in which the "horrors" of change/dynamism are not treated as very significant (at least not negatively).  The urging from the Self for the ego's reconstruction (including its initial dissolution) can be perceived as "demonic" or threatening to stability (and certainly the Demon will seize onto such fears and accelerate them).  And there is a very real danger to succumbing to dissolution urges . . . namely, that the Demon will find a way to take even more extensive control of the personality . . . and also that our social and relational lives will be damaged due to the introversion of libido (which is like stealing or killing a tribal/totemic god from the collective) and reorientation that dissolution demands.  But as many analysts have noted, there can be a surprising "answer to prayer" from the Self in dissolution's "darkest hours".  This "answer to prayer" is not likely to be anything like "salvation" or divine mana.  More commonly, the grace of the Self is delivered as an increased definition of the Syzygy.  That is, the hero and animi pair.  The hero is the thing that can survive the dissolution experience by devoting itself to the Self system's principles.  The animi is a prefiguration of the personified Self as it seems especially and numinously attractive to the heroic ego.  In other words, the grace the Self gives in the dissolution is the retooled erotic desire for the partner-Other (and the partner-Other's mirrored love for what is heroic and potential in the ego) . . . which stands absolutely against the Demonic force of stasis in the ("old") personality.  The young hero doesn't care so much about the deceptions and abuses of the Demon, because it loves the animi so devotedly that it (the hero) would gladly suffer and even die for that love.  As the Syzygy is potentiated, the Demon is depotentiated until it can seem (at least until the conclusion of the animi work) like no serious threat at all.  Of course, this heroic attitude toward the Demon is often short lived, as the Demon still has many resources and devices at its beck and call.  One of the mysterious patternings of the individuation process is the eventual union and depotentiation of the Syzygy (if the instinctual drive they represent is engaged with and facilitated), allowing the Demon to reestablish some control in the personality.  This is something the alchemists seem to have understood and captured symbolically in their Art (that Jungians have not yet managed to adequately understand, although they borrow and frequently misuse the alchemical language).  In alchemy, this is often called the Coniunctio, and it is followed by a Nigredo or Blackening . . . not (immediately) by any kind of redemption or resurrection in the psyche.

We can say of this post-Coniunctio Nigredo period that, as there is no viable Syzygy to counteract the Demon, the Demon will get its second chance at control of the personality.  The individual may experience this Demonic resurgence more poignantly than the original Demonic possession, not because it is more "severe", but because it is more acutely observed and consciously opposed.  Despite this consciousness and opposition, the individual is inclined to feel more or less helpless during the Nigredo to fend off the assaults of the Demon.  What felt like a "God-given" holy weapon against the Demon during the animi work has dissolved back into the abysses of the psyche, ungraspable by egoic hands.  I have written about this process elsewhere and won't revisit it in detail again here.  But my general theory as to why this "mythopoetic" development occurs is that the entire process is subject to the constrictions of the reorganization of a complex system.  A system that experiences a state change (symbolically, a kind of "birth-death") is not immediately capable of high level functionality.  All of its organizational resources were expended (as in birthing labor) in the process of bringing on the state change.  After this, a period of reinforcing the conditions of the new systemic state, a building up or re-toning of "muscle and durability", must take place.

The Coniunctio of the animi work functions as a kind of jump start of the instinctual Self system, and a surge of valuation for the Self spurts through the egoic attitudinal structure.  But there is much, much more work to do to dissociate the Self-system's dynamic instincts from the blackening they have long suffered under (even if that blackening was just recently recognized).  Essentially, the instinctual Self's principles of organization will need to be thoroughly (and continuously) re-storied in order for the ego to invest them with functional value and find a way to actualize them in the process of living in the world.  This newly discovered "ignorance" and "weakness" is an opportunity for the Demon to set up a competing firm on the other side of the street.  Generally, the Demonic wares for sale will not be so seductive as to throw the personality back to a pre-Coniunctio state . . . but they can easily continue to thwart full facilitation of the Self system indefinitely.

Moreover, as the heroic attitude is gradually rekindled and re-potentiated post-Coniunctio, the heroic ego will have to come to terms with the fact that it cannot reestablish its "youthful" task of fighting romantically against the Demon or for the redemption of its "true love" (the animi).  The Demon can now only be tolerated and relatively depotentiated.  To imagine that it can be conquered by the spiritual heroism that was activated during the animi work would be equivalent to imagining the ego could conquer the world/environment, subduing it and conforming it entirely to its narcissistic plan.  Such an attitude would be megalomaniacal . . . and would constitute a re-possession of the ego by the Demon (in hero's garb).  Such megalomaniacal inflation is actually common throughout the animi work as well as after . . . and represents the Demon's best effort to keep the personality static and under a severe super-egoic imprisonment.  I will discuss this problem more extensively when I have a chance to start working on the article about differentiating the true from the conquering hero.