4-1 The Passionate Heart
and Its Pathology

Finding the magic, losing it, and questing once more

More questions than answers?

There is something magical about 'following your bliss', as Joseph Campbell put it. In the context of a self-help organization, our 'bliss', our passion pushes us to create something outside of ourselves. It is about creating a vision, and doing the hard-work of manifesting that vision. That vision is of course constructed on our personal belief system, i.e. 'this is wrong and I'm going to change it' or 'something needs to be done to help…', and then we take up the challenge, investing a large part of who we are in the changes we are trying to bring about.

Psychologically, this strikes very deep into our psyches - this could be a life cause, even a reason for being here, in this body, having this existence, as we may judge for ourselves. That attitude is at one end of the spectrum. At the other end it is perhaps only an idea that we loosely attach ourselves to; much more important are the daily chores of life, and we gave some time as we can to the self-help organization, it might even just be a hobby, with little more significance.

Within this range of approaches and attitudes, we can try to create space for all to make a contribution. If over time we could take a look at the bigger picture, we would probably see people coming and going and be able to consider with hindsight the value of the contribution they made. Some will arrive in a whirlwind, shake us up and may leave in a thunderous storm. Some will arrive quietly, and leave quietly. Are we able to make a space for these two opposites to work together? Are we skilled enough to find common ground? What is the ethos of our organization? Whose philosophy, whose prejudices are we allowing to guide us, and why? Who do we value, who do we discount, and why? How much heat does passion have to burn with, in order to be recognized?

Beyond the rules

This handbook has attempted to lay out a template, a guide to assist in the formation of a self-help organization. I've also touched on some issues of group dynamics, and organizational ethos - things that we will all grapple with from day one, yet may lie beneath the surface of understanding, until we name them and shine the light of rationality on them. BUT, beyond the formulas, beyond the suggestions and the techniques, are very real human beings, with passion, heart, and yes, with pathologies.

Magic is magic precisely because it emanates from a place beyond reason; it is hidden, mysterious, unexpected. It will arrive and dissolve away unbidden. Yet it can transport us to new horizons, and inspire transformation, to evoke a new perspective, a new world view. Perhaps we all yearn for this magical transformation, perhaps this yearning lies in our unrevealed expectations; perhaps these lie even deeper, hidden in our subconscious minds, and we dare not reveal them even to ourselves. This whole process - of holding an intention - creating a vision - working for social change - can be a wonderful journey of personal growth. It can be a journey of seemingly unremitting effort and exhaustion, if we fail to find healthy boundaries, and a place of renewal that we can visit as required. At the worst, we could be confronted even with a pathology that exhibits itself as destructive and damaging - destructive to the organization and our intended purpose, and damaging to our friendships and personal interactions. Sometimes these pathologies will emerge when other stuff is going on in our lives, sometimes when our expectations and plans are thwarted; we may even watch them emerge from within ourselves with shock and surprise at their energy and vehemence. When we see them in someone else, they may seem (at the least) to be vastly over-reacting to a small issue, and possibly to have lost all balance and even rationality. This is part of the human experience too. This can happen when an individual is deeply invested in a particular outcome, their plan for 'the way it's supposed to be'. It's scary when it happens, because it's like your close friend that you've worked with for months, years even - they just spontaneously combusted right before your eyes.

There is treasure in the cave, guarded by a fierce and deadly dragon

The treasure is of course a metaphor for our personal healing, and for the gift we are trying to manifest in our work - the two are inextricably linked. This pathology that has just emerged is the dragon that might kill us. We can run screaming from the cave, or we can try to face our fears, dig within for hidden resources of courage and understanding and attempt to fight this overwhelming foe.

This is where formulas and rules are inadequate; this is where we need magic. Sometimes we will create magic, sometimes we won't, and we will die a metaphoric death in the cave - killed by our own fear.

Beneath this pathology, our metaphorical dragon, is a wound, guarded by fear. This is where our hearts have to grow to encompass and contain and heal this explosive dragon-energy that might 'kill' us. This is magic. It's about seeing fear beneath the issue, and woundedness beneath that, and knowing it will only be conquered by love. Not to blame a man, or condescend, or judge - but to wrestle with vigour the actuality of the event, to find the healing of love that pushes you past your own fear, and allows your gift of magic. This too is not a formula, and can only be created in the moment, by those who choose a higher purpose, and seek to build, and not destroy. We win or lose in our hearts, before it happens anywhere else - at the beginning -and at the end.

When you write a mission statement, it is so much more - it is you revealing your deepest self-identity to yourself. The intensity of that connection can lead to pathology if your expectations, wants, goals are thwarted. It can be deeply disturbing if your deepest self 'cannot be', or circumstances/individuals seem to be saying 'you are wrong', or 'you must change'; if you 'cannot be' your deepest self, then you may be left with 'who am I?', and your highest purest intention may precipitate a crisis of confidence, that others may even exploit, and the dragon eats us up…

The tempering heat of the earth, and our souls, lies further within, where dragons abound, and where we may be loath to go, for death lies in that place, but so does rebirth. So many of us lose our way on this journey, but that is why self-help organizations exist, to help us move through the trials of transformation, to allow a metaphorical death to happen, so that the new can be born, and we emerge with a new vigour, a new perspective and the wisdom of our own journey that we may even yet bestow as a gift on others. Problems and difficulties aren't meant to defeat us, but to inspire us to greater awareness and greater accomplishments. Compassion is a wonderful human quality that will never change, as you and I reach out to each other, to allow us to be more than we seemingly can be alone, to support each other and to heal that place within that cries out for understanding and the touch of another human soul.

Another perspective, the mythopoetic idea, is that 'from the wound comes the gift'. Further we might say that our 'wounds', our difficulties, the pain we experience, and even life tragedies, can be transformed into a positive outcome. An even deeper spiritual perspective is that there are no accidents, and these events are meant to transform us, not destroy us, but we have to dare do the work of transformation. This idea runs deep in the collective psyche, and is frequently exemplified in our fairy stories and myths. But it is also very real. For example - a group of women who had lost children in accidents caused by drunk drivers, started an organization "Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (M.A.D.D.)". This helped transform their grief and life tragedy into a positive outcome, by helping to reduce the carnage of drunk drivers on the roads, so that others might not experience the same tragedy in their lives.

It all comes down to the magical mix of men and women who show up to do the work, and those who dare to face the dragons along the way. There is no enemy, except that which lies within. For our pathology belongs to no-one else except ourselves - and it stokes the fires of our passionate hearts. Whatever else we might do or accomplish, this will always be a journey of personal awakening, and personal transformation. If we've had a 'bad' experience, consider that malice is rarely intended, and that it is our 'woundedness' and its attendant pathology that has gotten in the way - can we avoid blaming and holding onto resentment? - and answer the call to even deeper self-healing? Good journey, good heart, and a blessing.