Mind Matters — Opposites Attract

Opposites attract, so it is said. But to look at our culture with all the polarizing opposites, that maxim may not apply. Or if it does, it is not an attractice picture.

How is it that a six-year-old boy is disciplined harshly when he brings his cub scout camping utensil—knife, fork, spoon combination—to show off at lunch, yet “adults” can be in the vicinity of the President with massive weaponry in hand, with no consequences?

Our opposite ways of being seem to be based on fear. Draconian rules are cemented into place in our schools after such tragic killings as Columbine. We think we are protecting ourselves and our children by such extreme measures. In fact, we are doing the opposite. We are not acting judiciously but reacting out of fear. Maybe it is high time to ask ourselves what is at the root of all this? What are we doing? What are we thinking? Or maybe we’re not thinking?

I remember myself as a six-year-old in first grade, standing in line at dismissal and subvocalizing (that is, whispering to myself under my breath), “I could hit Sister—for giving us so much homework!” Little Gracie, in front of me, hears me and runs up to the teacher, “Sister, Sister, Kathy wants to cut your head off!” Misquoted even at this early age, I am dragged to the principal’s office whereupon Sister Prudentia pulls out a knife from her desk drawer and places it at my throat, saying, “How would you like your head cut off?” By this point, I am sobbing and so I am further warned to “stop crying”. Swallow your tears, I am advised.

Because I was so afraid and felt so shamed, when I got home I did not report to my parents what happened. Instead, I kept choking on my feelings and had terrible nightmares for awhile. Fortunately, my mother somehow sleuthed out what had occurred and confronted the perverted principal in no uncertain tears. My “reward” for having undergone this trama was to be allowed to wear a gown in the May procession that honored the Blessed Mother.

Ah, yes, please note that Sister Prudentia was extremely devout—she exuded the picture of piety. In psychological terms, that’s defined as splitting. We see it all the time in famous people—politicians and religious celebrities. When the tension of the opposites that is innate in all of us is not integrated, held together, the parts of the self get split off, dis-owned. We then live out the story of Dr Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.

Trouble is we live in a Jekyll-Hyde culture that is split off, dis-owned also. And so innocent six-year-olds are punished and adult wannabees brandish weapons.