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The Lover's Journey Through the Shadowlands

An Interview with Roger Easterbrooks

Copyright © 1996 by Roger Easterbrooks and George A. Parks

This article appeared in the March 1996 issue of M.E.N. Magazine


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Roger Easterbrooks is a registered counselor, registered movement therapist, shadow dancer, and creator of the Heart of the Samurai Training, based in part on Dan Millman's work on the Peaceful Warrior. George A. Parks is a therapist in private practice who teaches seminars on love, gender relations, and men's soul work. Roger and George are both former facilitators of the Seattle Men's Wisdom Council. The following conversation took place in George's office around Valentine's Day 1996.

George: Let's speak about our intentions and the place from which you and I are going to talk about the lover's journey through the shadowlands.

Roger: What I want is for this interview to be a search for truth. I want to acknowledge that our discussion is starting from some known point and, in our dialogue, we will get to a larger truth than we walked in the door with. I believe that is the main premise for working with the shadow, because when you're working with the shadow, you're always moving in the unknown.

George: And when someone like you evokes the notion of the shadow or the unconscious, it's like the Plato's cave analogy. You know, these guys in the cave think the darkness is reality and when one of them who has seen the light comes in and says, "You know, this isn't the only reality," they all think he's insane. In your work, it's just the opposite. Most of us think about, or want to live, only in the light. You or anyone who works in the shadows is taking a great risk of being rejected or labeled, because you're saying there is a reality to the darkness or the shadow too.

Roger: Yes, everyone is shadow dancing all the time. Everyone can be a shadow worker. Whatever is going on out in the world is a mirror for what is going on in us. Some of us desire exploring the shadow and some of us don't, for whatever reason. Sometimes fear comes up. I have those moments myself. You probably do too. What's needed is a willingness to be in the unknown long enough to give ourselves a chance to feel and experience a deeper truth. In some places in our lives we have more courage to do that than in other places. So it's really a question of degree.

George: It seems that one's willingness to be in the unknown is greater when someone like you can provide a container and some guidance about how to explore the shadow.

Roger: Let's see where our unconscious leads us in our conversation about the shadowlands. What does that mean? You have given many talks about the lover, which must mean you know about the shadow.

George: It better mean that because when you evoke love, all that is in opposition to love also arises. One of the things I noticed when I began teaching about love is that whatever one teaches brings a mirror to them. In that mirror, one may see something gracious and wonderful, or one may see something ugly, scary, and painful. Love certainly has both sides. If one doesn't acknowledge the shadow of love, then one will either project it on the beloved, act it out toward the beloved, or both.

Roger: I think what you're speaking about is the subtlety of the shadow world, which very rarely jumps out at you and says, "Here I am, brother. I'm your shadow. I'm the part of you, the part of the world that you don't know about, and don't even know you don't know about. And I'm going to show myself to you, so that you don't trip and fall in a hole." Actually, I believe what happens is that the shadow just is, like a mountain. I know rock climbers find that if they slip, the mountain is there for them to fall into and mirrors back to them the truth of exactly how they're climbing. The mountain doesn't say, "I'm sorry." The mountain doesn't say, "I don't love you." Nor does the mountain say, "I love you." It is just being. It is being truth. It provides instant feedback.

George: We're in a culture where most of what's in the lover's shadow is seen as negative and harmful, but I am becoming more aware that some of the joy and beauty of the lover is also in the shadow.

Roger: Yes, the word "shadow" needs to be expanded to include so much more than just a negative piece of ourselves. It also includes all of what is hidden from our conscious awareness. I want to speak about shadow work as a way of loving oneself and, by loving oneself, to know that we are all on a journey for truth and wholeness. The work I do is about that. I am the "lover." And when I'm the lover to myself, then I can be a lover with you, no matter what sex, race, creed, age or size you are. And that does not change how I might speak to you. I might have to say things to you that, in some respects, do not seem like lover words. But if I open my heart to myself and to you, then I can speak to you however I need to, which may be a "no" as well as a "yes." Which may be "go away" as well as "come forward."

George: It reminds me of a Rumi poem, where he says, "If you are here unfaithfully with us, you're causing terrible damage. If you've opened your loving to God's love, you're helping people you don't know and have never seen."

Roger: So that word "unfaithfulness" is great, George. It's a perfect word, because what I have found for myself is that at times I have moved in the world as a predator. I have encountered my brothers and sisters as the "lover," yet behind the "lover" is the predator waiting to spring out to take what it wants. By giving that predator focus and life, I am supporting predator energy in the world. I'm supporting the soldiers of the world, the armies of the world, which are here to take what they want because they believe it's their right-that territorial thing.

So after we go into ritual space or sacred groups and commune as brothers and sisters, when we walk out into the world, we return to the usual "buyer beware" mentality.

George: Tell me more about predator energy.

Roger: We have all heard a lot about the energy of the victim or the prey. We have seen the extreme expression of the predator in the violent crimes that take place each day in our cities and homes, but what I want to speak about here are the more subtle forms of this predator energy. The predator wants to be fed and looks for ways to get its meal without being seen. Sexual seduction, for example, is a great way for the predator to get some juice into its belly. Look at all the ways we can steal energy from each other to feed our self-importance. This dance of energy can be seen as harmless flirtation and it is well-accepted in the world mind-no harm here. I would ask each of us to look in our shadows for what is our true intention. At such moments we may be acting out the predator, but there is a greater integrity.

George: How does that greater integrity differ from the predator energy?

Roger: It is possible that out of the energy of the predator, we can move forward towards a greater truth. I have my perspective and you have yours, yet if either one or both of us are coming to the relationship unconsciously as the predator or as the prey, we must work to set that dance aside. So, if we were to join arms and take the next step together toward that greater integrity that is willing to acknowledge both your truth and mine, then alignment is possible. That would be moving forward, rather than taking a step back into contraction, protection, and holding on.

George: Well, if I'm in that kind of situation and I'm the one feeling more like prey, I may think that to step forward with you is submission, not cooperation.

Roger: Yes, and that, for me, says that your heart is closed and you are coming from fear. It would be grand if we could stop and say, "Let's open up to something new. Let's open up to what we don't know." For if I feel like the prey, I'm seeing you as the predator. I need to check that out. You may not be; it may be an old program I'm running. If you see yourself as the predator and me as the prey, that dance is going on. It's time to stop the dance and turn off the music until we know what we're dancing to, because if we don't know the tune and we're still dancing, then that's where distortions, hurt, and harm can happen.

George: I've noticed that when I believe someone is coming at me as a predator or as prey, they seem to be able to draw out of me one or the other of those roles. I have an opening in me where the other person's unconscious energy can enter without my awareness. I think most of us do. Then, it may be a long while before I even notice that this dance is going on. I may feel that my pride is involved. I don't want to admit to this other person that something's going on between us. My wounded lover comes in here, because there's a kind of denial or hesitancy to be intimately involved.

Roger: Yes. That's the key. We're terrified of intimacy with others. We're terrified of intimacy with ourselves. We may be so attached to protecting our image that our deeper feelings cannot surface to be seen or felt consciously. Events happen for the purpose of showing us another way. It may take me a day, or a week, or even longer to come back and to say, "Brother, sister, this is where I am now. I want to open up to this." It's wonderful if we can do it in the moment, if both people can. But doing that in the moment is probably more the exception than the rule, especially if we're out in the world and we're dealing with the world mind.

There's the spirit world and then there's the material (ego) world. The material world, this three-dimensional plane of materiality, wealth, pleasure, and so on, there's nothing wrong with that world. It exists. Yet there is a container around it that's called the spirit world. We can have a worldly relationship; we can have a spiritual relationship. It doesn't mean in a spiritual relationship that we won't have all that's in the material world. But when it's only worldly, there's a potential for lack of heart, for territorial contests. Look at how many territorial contests we have each day. "Mine, no, that's mine. As in my parking space, my land, my money, my woman." Look at how many territorial contests we have within ourselves. We lose heartfulness with ourselves long before we lose heartfulness with anyone else.

George: One of the ways I can lose heartfulness with myself is by not recognizing the shadow of my lover. I say to myself and to my beloved, "I only love you and I only intend good for you. You know, I only have good feelings for you." Somewhere inside I know the predator is still there and I am lying.

Roger: Is this what the lover is really saying?

George: No, this is what the ego of the deluded lover would say.

Roger: That's what I call the cover-up. The act. So, underneath the cover-up, what is the lover "really" saying?

George: Well, if I'm not aware of my shadow, I don't know. I could be terrified that if I don't show only loving intentions, you won't fulfill my needs. For example, I may be needy or I might want to dominate you in some way. So, my professed love for you is a way to get you to somehow do what I want you to do.

Roger: If I collude with you and support you feeling self-important, you'll like me because I give you what you want. So I'll scratch your back, if you'll scratch mine. We keep our shadows in their place, and in reality we're no longer intimate, we're living the illusion of intimacy.

George: So love's shadow is something that can threaten to break up a love relationship?

Roger: It does if it is unexpressed. I notice with my beloved that each time we get to a place of tension and do what I call "mental jousting," we become separate and act out of our ego-minds. If we step back, and take a moment to look at what's underneath the joust, what's in the background, even though we may not know it all, then it may be possible to say the truth, such as, "I feel angry," or "I feel hurt," or "I feel scared." Then your beloved has a chance to say where they are-hearts can open. In that possibility, great things can happen. A great coming together can occur. I think we believe that if we withhold from our beloved, or if we don't go deeper, we will be safe. We're not safe, if we're doing the cover-up, even when we don't know we're doing it. It's all separation-shadow stuff.

George: But I might want to protect you. I don't want to hurt your feelings. I think a lot of times, for myself, it's safer for us to disagree without really saying it. "If you don't call me on mine, then I won't call you on yours." We may not get any more intimate, but we'll be safe.

Roger: Yes, and that's part of what we've been talking about-a collusion. A great disservice one can do to another is to protect them from what they need to feel. And many times we do that out of feeling "pity" for them.

George: Absolutely. But it's what often passes for love.

Roger: Yes.

George: And often it appears to be the status quo, the norm.

Roger: I would say love in the material world does not look like love in the spirit world.

George: Talk about how you see the differences.

Roger: Relationships in the material world are about getting our needs met and feeling self-important. Relationships in the spirit world are about searching for truth, and at times that can be a grand challenge. But the grand challenge is not about how I can get something from you. It's not about how you can get something from me. It's not about competition. The grand challenge is like swimming upriver in the rapids to get to the spawning ground. You know the truth of your life is in the spawning ground. If I was a salmon looking across at my beloved, as we were swimming in the ocean together, I'd need to recognize that now the challenge is to go home. Going home is a metaphor for what we're calling love in the spirit world.

I might feel challenged and see her being challenged, and I might project that we're being challenged by each other, which would be the material world view. As soon as I project that the challenge is with her or she projects that the challenge is with me, we stop swimming upstream. We go into an eddy and joust it out. That's a worldly relationship. We have moved from being challenged by life into struggling and suffering with life. And any time I do that, I'm in the material world, in the ego-mind. If we're to move out of the jousting with each other, we can look at ourselves and laugh and realize, "Oh, look at us, we've stopped seeking truth. We're now trying to win. I'm trying to be right, you're trying to be right."

George: Or maintain the status quo?

Roger: You're quite correct. Then, I've lost my way home. And this is all about going home for each of us. Going home to God, to spirit, to wholeness, to our true nature. That's why we're here on the planet, to keep swimming upstream to get to that truth.

George: Well, I think it will be a struggle, because within my unconscious or my shadow is both what I fear is the worst of me and what I can't own as the best of me. My experience is that one of these two fears is usually being projected on my beloved. I spend a lot of time in that eddy you spoke about, either jousting it out or just lying there on the bottom feeling sorry for myself. Either way, I'm not swimming upstream at all.

Roger: Right. When I look at those times that I was in the eddy, I might have not known it for awhile and that's okay. When I realize that I'm not going toward truth, will I then go toward the truth or will I stay in the ego-mind, dancing the shadow dance? That's the biggest choice I believe each of us has around working with our shadows. When we notice that we've gone unconscious, we've lost ourselves, we've lost our center, will we go and take the time to get it back? Without it, we are lost forever.

So, when I'm in that eddy with my beloved, whoever that beloved may be-either myself or someone else, because the metaphor works either way-how long will I stay there and how hard will I be on myself after I wake up? Will I beat myself up because that's the only way I have learned to treat myself, or will I find a way to love myself despite the possible feelings of shame and get back in the current to the truth? That's the challenge.

George: Or rather than leave the eddy and get back in the current of truth, we may go back downstream in some addiction or some other kind of unconsciousness.

Roger: Downstream seems easier. Downstream seems to feel great and that's the illusion. It will lead us away from our true nature, back out to the ocean. We must be careful of what pictures we hold about what moving toward truth and wholeness looks and feels like.

George: It seems more natural somehow. If this relationship takes all this work, all this struggle, then you're probably not right for me or we shouldn't be partners or lovers.

Roger: I was told a therapist said to two of my friends who were in a relationship, that "You're having too much struggle. This is just the beginning. This is too much struggle for this early in a relationship." It didn't matter whether that was true or not. I just wondered, "Isn't that an interesting picture to have about what the beginning of a relationship is supposed to look and feel like?" The metaphor of the fish swimming downriver-isn't that going with the flow? But the flow in this case will not lead them to their truth. The truth of their existence is to go upriver and spawn, not to go back to the ocean and die unfulfilled, even though that's the way of least resistance.

George: Working with the shadow is not taking the path of least resistance. It takes a great deal of energy to face the shadow, or in a sense to eat the shadow, because a lot of what we're talking about here is to re-incorporate something that in a way is already ours-even though we don't want it, don't want to accept it, or don't want to see it. In any love relationship there's going to be, if you pay attention, plenty of opportunities to work with your shadows if you are open to it.

Roger: Do I come to a relationship to get something for myself? Do I come to a relationship to get fed, to get my needs met? Or do I come to a relationship from another direction, to go toward truth, to be with spirit? Many people come to a relationship just to get their physical, emotional and mental needs met. That's not the kind of union that I look for. There's something about coming to a relationship, whether with myself or another, and saying, "Let's go towards spirit. Let's go toward whatever that looks like…and I'll call it truth in the moment…so that we can be open-hearted and feel that connection that is in and all around us."

George: You mentioned the contrast between a need-based relationship and a spirit-based relationship. At the same time though, I do have these sexual, emotional, and physical needs, but I want to be in a relationship whose context is also that spiritual journey toward truth. How, then, do I deal with my needs? Because I really do want some of my needs met. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

Roger: No.

George: How do I do that with integrity? That's the question.

Roger: First of all, the way I do that is by saying what I need, and not by trying to manipulate or trick someone to get what I need. It's risky. because in saying what I need, my partner may say "no." I may have a reaction to that "no." I can have my reaction, whatever it is. I can throw my grandest tantrum, but I must realize that the tantrum is about me, not about them. I also want to take responsibility for how I express these feelings so that I don't dump them on anyone. The second thing is, "Am I in the relationship for an equal exchange of energy?" It's not about me coming to take something from you and you to take something from me. Meeting our needs is about an equal exchange of energy. That's why if I'm going to hire you to be my therapist, I'm going to exchange something with you. And we're going to come to an equal agreement about what that is. The same with my beloved.

George: So there's "right relationship" at the need level, which involves honesty and the ability to exchange energy in an equal way. That relationship can continue all the way up to the greater and more open level of spirit, where the aim is not so much to fulfill needs, but to somehow help each other seek truth, to swim side-by-side up that stream. It's so wonderful to have a companion, whether it be a friend or a lover who's committed to that greater truth. Even with such a companion, we're probably going to spend some time in that eddy and when we do, we can practice what a good friend of ours, Robert A. Carlson, calls "processing and clearing" of any unfinished business between us.

Roger: Yes. And then move on.

George: Before we can move on in that swimming toward truth, we may need to air our differences, share our hurt feelings, our anger, or whatever it may be. Let's process and clear it. Let's get to that point where we meet in truth. It's very fruitful when that happens, because when we can get past what separates us, then the energy flows again.

Roger: Not just in the personal relationship, but in the energy that moves in the whole world, because when I'm out of contact with the world-the spiritual world-then I'm truly out of contact with myself and with you. So it's in bringing us together in this exchange, it's this honesty between us that reconnects us with the world. Then, I have my needs, but it's not about you filling my needs and me filling your needs. That's more in the world of separation, and that language of separation is very prevalent in our society. When I'm making love with my beloved (and this includes more than being sexual), it's about being in contact. I don't think about where we're going or who's going to get what. When I'm there to be in contact, anything that happens takes on a different meaning. There's nothing wrong with getting our needs met. It's not about right or wrong. It's more about what is my deepest intention and where is that intention coming from. In moving from the worldly relationship to the spiritual relationship, there is a shift in my intention from getting needs met to being in contact. In this spiritual container, sexual love is about being in contact, not about orgasm. And that's the whole perspective: am I making love with you for "orgasm" and to get something, or making love with you to be in contact? Then out of that contact, orgasm may happen, or it may not. It doesn't matter.

George: Because the process has been rich in and of itself.

Roger: The process is rich. And there are so many ways to make love and to exchange energy. We do it all day long, and yet we have names for each one of them. George, you and I are exchanging energy now; in a sense we're making love. It's not the kind of lovemaking that's sexual, but we are definitely exchanging energy. We'll be exchanging energy with each person who reads this interview. In that way, we'll all be intimate. People will have their reactions. They may like what we say; they may not. It's all about journeying and opening up. My intention is to evoke curiosity and to stimulate activity-in myself, in you, and in whoever comes in contact with this particular interview around the shadow, the lover, and the spirit quest.

George: Well, I think we've done that. Shall we bring it to a close with that remark?

Roger: Yes, and we both know that the dance continues.

Roger Easterbrooks can be reached at (206) 516-2909 for information about private therapy sessions and about his Heart of the Samurai Trainings. George A. Parks can be reached at (206) 364-1995 for information about private therapy sessions and about his Climbing Mount Eros Seminar on the stages of love.

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