Probing America's Deep Past to Understand the Rising Turmoil Now
Why is there so much turmoil in America now? Or has it been there for a long time just under the surface and we have not been willing to see or feel it before?
How might an old system be in the throes of dying?
Where is the new life that we can give our attention to?
In a nation of immigrants (on the land so long the home to the indigenous), many ancestral lineages were present in participants in the room.
Swiss German, Irish, Scotch Irish, Central European Jewish, Portuguese, Russian, Romanian, Austrian, English, Welsh, Danish, French, German, Slovakian, Dutch, and Mormon
(and the natural implication that many were some form of Christian)
Given the recent presidential election and the unexpected, even shocking, results for many, we wonder what is really at work. What is the old trying to tell us? What have we not seen?
As facilitator of this constellation – knowing there would be almost endless places to start – I first asked for a representative of white working class America.
Rosie the Riveter showed up immediately. (See the following link for a bit of history.) http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/rosie-the-riveter
I was a bit taken aback. And saw that we were going to work in a time spectrum – likely to see how 60 or 70 years into the past(end of World War II) could inform us now. In retrospect I saw that in this huge transition point at the end of World War II with various tensions and adjustments at work, a lot of the same dynamics as today could be seen in how the American culture worked with significantly changing times. And in this case the roles of men and women.
While I do not remember all that was said, the following are some recollections. Rosie said she felt really strong and liberated in the sense that she now had more meaning in her life. She felt like she was doing something useful, not just a woman confined to the house. She could contribute and support her country in the war effort, and had a newfound freedom herself.
Next came a Returning Soldier from the war. He was so glad to be home; he had seen and experienced some very difficult things. He felt his service for his country was important, but now he just wanted to be home and forget. He was looking at Rosie, but could not really recognize her; her role had not existed before he left. He thanked her for helping with the war effort, but now she should go home. Not take the jobs that returning soldiers would need. They needed work and to support their families. They have served their country. The wives needed to be home now to take care of children and cook the meals. Things should go back to the way they were.
Rosie was only seeing the returning solider in her periphery, not looking directly at him. She heard him, but does not want to give up her new role. She does not want to go back to the way things were. She now has value and feels strong. As the somewhat confrontational dialogue unfolded with the soldier, she felt frustration, even anger, and at one point, was also getting tears. She did not want to be viewed as less than she is or to be put inside some small limiting box. (at some point I asked someone to come in as her resource/ally. Eventually the ally stood beside Rosie as she faced the others)
I asked for someone to come in as the American Dream. He stood slightly back but between Rosie and the Soldier. They noticed him and were curious. I do not remember all that he said. In general I think the dream was to attain a high kind of ideal, something to strive for, and yet maybe illusory. He seemed to indicate Americans had lost their way, everyone going for what each wanted, not unified.
Rosie and the returning soldier did not seem much affected by this presence. Rosie had spoken of a new freedom that she did not want to lose, so I asked for someone to represent Freedom. I was wondering what does that really mean? She stood and moved around a bit opposite the American Dream and talked of all that she experiences of freedom. She wanted everyone to just come together in a circle and be with each other. No one moved. I did not have the sense that she felt there was any freedom in this space or that she felt free. I certainly began to feel that it was a bit static or stuck. Her coming in did not seem to shift that at all.
At some point someone on the side (still seated in the circle) said he felt like he was in the constellation, but did not know what he was, and wanted to stay in his chair. As nothing much seemed to be shifting, he said there was a lot unspoken. He sensed the anger, sadness, fear, frustration, pain – not sure all, but none of it was really being expressed.
So I asked for a representative for the Unspoken. She took a solid and strong stance looking directly at Rosie. The message was basically for women to do what they are supposed to, and then there would be no problems. Unspoken was not affected by tears. Not emotional, like really being what is not spoken, but in a way challenging this new feminine role. Could not see or tolerate a woman like Rosie feeling her value and strength.
Somewhere in all this, shadow was mentioned. So I asked for a representative for Shadow. She came in and went right into the center of everyone. And said she wanted to be down (maybe out of sight?) so she sat on the floor, head down a bit. Not looking at anyone. In the de-brief she would say she just did not want to be seen. Like a thousand eyes around her and the fear of being seen. (and of course, shadow wants to stay in the dark). She also felt that when the feminine was coming in so strong, everyone would be terrified. Everything would be seen. As facilitator I asked her to say more about what was going on with her. There was not much forthcoming. She didn’t want to talk. Even sad and afraid almost. I had 2 people come in to sit on each side of her as her resources/support.
So it still felt like there was a lot in the room (the system) that was unspoken, unseen, unfelt, and could find no way to be expressed. This is also like a form of shadow – and so we keep not looking there, not feeling or seeing to know shadow, she does not invite us, and to go there is too scary.
Eventually the one sitting on the side said he would offer to pick up the garbage. He took his hat, and held it out to each one to put into this container as he seemed to represent the one who collects the garbage, all the emotions and baggage and trauma we don’t want any more, the ways we are continually held back. I don’t recall everything put in the garbage but each did deposit something. It was a very gently done and powerful movement.
Not sure of the timing, but the soldier (standing a bit farther behind Shadow) moved slowly toward her and put his hand on her back. This seemed to be a significant movement and a softening in him and her seemed to happen. It was clear something happened here. Someone seemed to acknowledge her (even though she did not want to be seen)
Eventually everyone came down to the same level as Shadow and sat with her. She seemed to feel more included and OK to be there with the others, as if she belonged.
We did not really go farther since quite some time had elapsed. Everyone de-roled and we moved in a reflection/de-brief circle. More would come through as you see here. Each is listed here in their role although this is after stepping out of role.
From Rosie, she felt the importance of the feminine, 60 or 70 years ago and how hard it was to bridge the energy and values of what was expected in those times. She didn’t feel heard or accepted, so she didn’t feel inclined to bridge the feminine and masculine. When she went to the floor to be with Shadow it felt good to be on the same level with her. As Rosie she felt lots of blocks and walls, like the last gasps of the old ways for power trying to keep her in place.
The American Dream. He felt on the emotional level he was closed off, scared.
The soldier – he felt like the archetype of the loyal blinded solder. He felt the room soften when Shadow came in. He felt he embodied the followers of Trump. He wanted to stay connected to something like service (to the country). It was a challenge to embody a softening. He also saw that the world is far more complicated than he had seen before. The feminine energy was strong and it felt strange. For him personally he felt like he wanted to take on the ownership of his own shadow; and hoped that our time here and work with shadow would radiate out.
One of the Resources for Shadow said that sitting on the floor next to Shadow was comfortable. Maybe Shadow is a positive force. She found she could sit next to Shadow and feel at home.
Freedom said Shadow was important. She became more conscious of Shadow’s feelings as they all came more together with Shadow. She said she could not be Freedom, because of everyone’s stuckness. She also said that in this recent election we elected Shadow.
Shadow felt connection when all the others could come down to her. She had had a lot of fear. Fear of being seen. There was something about the feminine coming to her. She saw that everyone was terrified, but everything will be seen.
Collector of Garbage / Disenfranchised one did not have a place until he found his place at the end as the one collecting what the others wanted to let go of. Prior he was disenfranchised as so many are. So many groups with no voice, but society is OK for them to collect garbage.
First Resource for Rosie (she had to leave early gave me this input later)
Shadow and trauma are definitely everywhere in the system and the new consciousness is shining light on it so we can heal and integrate these hidden parts. I thought the whole thing of the American Dream was very interesting. It feels like we are beginning to realize that the American Dream has only served a very small portion of America and is more of a nightmare than a dream.
Second Resource for Rosie - before she went in to replace the ally who had to leave, she was furious, so angry, that Rosie was told she just needed to find a man. It felt good to stand by Rosie. Prior to this she had been thinking of representing anger as it was so present.
The Unspoken (voice) became a masculine voice. The woman who represented said it was a place she needed to stand and understand. She is more comfortable representing a woman. That was an ‘ah hah’ moment when she realized that. She also understood now why we could not elect a woman president. The shadow in that was enlightening. She saw that when she went to stand in front of Rosie, Rosie thought she was an ally. Her role was not affected by tears, in fact it made the voice angry. If women do what they are supposed to, there are no problems.
Rosie was not triggered when she was told that she needed to find a man. She was free of having to be a possession. She felt being a single woman was empowering. The slogan “make America great again” goes back to a time when women could not vote. It’s a drive to take us back to when everyone knew their place.
Someone said that our constellation could be like an article/picture in Life Magazine in 1945. (may have also meant Norman Rockwell paintings that were portrayed in Life)
Some input the next day (from one of the participants)
The roots of this constellation go back to the suppression of the feminine in order for the masculine warriors to feel powerful and in charge. War does not really create a powerful masculine because of the shadow that resides in war. The trauma caused by war emasculates. Masculine keeps trying to bypass and not feel; so not a genuine warrior. The demise of shadow requires subjugation of women and children to feel in control. The soldier in the constellation seemed like the repressed masculine as what he said were those of a good boy, suppressing rage and trauma and likely depression as he had seen some terrible things. He just wanted to be on the beach, go back to school on the GI Bill, and have his wife at home.
It was also said that if representatives like the American Dream and Freedom could be make more personal, it would be harder for them to bypass shadow.
My additional reflections (Judy)
I have asked myself how was this constellation a reflection of all that is unfolding in the United States now?
In this constellation Shadow, although not showing up naturally, when invited came and sat right in the middle of everything, like an indicator it is time to see me. And yet she felt the fear of being seen, as would likely be true for Shadow. But her place was right in the middle as if linked to everything in this constellation and also the fact that there was one who was disenfranchised, representing the voices not heard, not spoken. The disenfranchised were good enough to pick up the garbage, but not voices that could be heard.
At the end of World War II, the slice of history that seemed to show up, there were many things still in the shadows. The changing roles of women, the expectations of the war hero/soldier, the trauma of war(s) for those who fought and even those left behind. Are there ever really any winners? And the disenfranchised who also fought without recognition (then called Negroes, I believe, as well as other non-citizen immigrants and natives) and then they came home to a life of segregation and subjugation of various kinds (many native children still in Boarding Schools, segregated schools for coloreds across the South, and more). So the American ideal of freedom and equality for all was empty for many. And yet that was supposedly why we went to war – to protect our freedoms and way of life. But for who? Maybe even then, and still now for white men. And their corporations that benefited from the production and sale of weapons and war materials (a pattern that would keep repeating itself). And the sense that we as Americans are in the right, fighting evil enemies, and really for the first time in World War II, stepping into the world in that role. We can save the world. And of course, there was the development of the bomb – and the devastation and proliferation of dangerous new weapons that would still haunt us today.
There could be lots more. For me an interesting historical slice to explore the shadow aspects of the American culture and to notice how they are still in play. Now in 2016 a perceived hero-type powerful white rich man and all who support that image (of themselves maybe) is taking charge – likely to disenfranchise many more – as fear rises further widening the inequality gap – and sending many into the shadows. Not to mention the destruction of whatever gets in the way of power and so-called efficiency, so that the corporate (and government) machine can keep growing endlessly. And now from an expanded place of consciousness some of us notice many more unspoken voices that cannot speak for themselves, that don’t get a vote – the Earth, our water, air, our very planetary home, and the declining plants and animals that live here with us, many of whom are our nourishment. And not just US land and people, but our linkage and influence with/over all living beings/places on the planet. Is this the American Dream?
Another piece not directly addressed but very present in this mostly immigrant cultural is the disconnect from the Ancestral Homeland. And whatever oppression or suffering may have caused our forebears to leave that place. And if they were victimized in some way there, how are many here perpetrating similar kinds of oppressive ideologies and practices here. Where did the pattern begin? How might be break the pattern?
Much more work to be done with Shadow and beginning to shine light into the dark corners – even if only a few rays at a time. And to see and own it in ourselves, in how we have been complicit in the larger collective repeating patterns of abuse of varying kinds, even on ourselves. And in the Shadow where is the gift - the seeds of potential – and when they are released and free to take root and grow, what might be possible then?