The lizard in the Fire Chapter 04 The wildman version

Chapter 04 Living in the forest depending on your own skills.

What we need to understand by the phrase

 “to live in the forest on his own depending on his skills alone.”

We need to understand how Ego is formed, Ego’s relation to Soul, and Shadow.


As the narrative states, it takes time for us to learn the ways of this forest and to be able to navigate its winding pathways and the delights it offers. Ego being time-bound is sometimes a slow learner, sometimes resists instruction from the biological father. Sometimes Ego doesn’t see the forest for the trees.

. It came time for the son to live in the forest on his own depending on his skills alone.

To sit in the forest, to learn its ways, and to be able to survive depending on your own skills is no small task. It is akin to stealing the key from underneath the mother’s pillow in the Iron John story and letting the Wildman out of the Cage.

In order to survive in this forest, we have to see the construct of our Ego existence for what it is. A construct that is an agreed reality. A construct ruled by the status quo. A persecution of Soul, and individualism.  Wow, that a sweeping generalisation I hear objectors saying. So, let’s unpack that a bit and see how far from reality I am.

So, in order to do that we first have to define our terms: Ego. Ego is a while in its creation. Ego’s creation begins mainly after birth but as Stan Groff shows us the in Utero and birth experience can shape the Ego’s life expectations and way of being in the world.

If the in-utero experience was supportive and a pleasant experience and the birth was natural and easy the child’s disposition to the world is that the world is a safe place and will support, it in life.

If the in-utero experience was toxic. The mother didn’t want the child, or external circumstances were threatening to the mother or to the child. Or the birth experience was difficult, or intervention was required then the child’s disposition to the world is that the world is a scary place, and maybe the child needs authority figures to rescue it and tell it what to do.

The next step is that the helpless infant meets “mother”, the midwife of the status quo. The driving force here in the development of the Ego is acceptance. Acceptance by what or whom? t’s our mother who wants above all a nice boy. Boys turn themselves inside out to please mother, to defend her against insults, and to get that mother’s smile from her.

The infant is totally dependent on mother for everything the child needs to sustain life, in order to survive. This means as a matter of survival, the child will learn what pleases mum and what does not. This pattern of learning to please is carried on in life, and for most of us until death.

I called our mother the Midwife of the status quo. Our mother knows what it takes to survive in our environment and teaches us the ways of being in her world, both physically and emotionally. What does it take for our mother to be successful in her world? She knows how to please the status quo, whatever that may be.

In the Jack and the beanstalk story, our mother had to make promises to the giants of the status quo for our very life. Promised not to tell us who our father really was and why she was living a desperate life. This is still more or less true today.

In our world, the young Ego’s life is driven by acceptance. Wow, another wild statement but think about it. The need for acceptance drives behavior, determines friends, who is in and who is out, what jobs are acceptable as well as professions. Who is acceptable as a life partner, how many children might be the right amount, and so on? ALL driven by acceptance.

If the culture you live in looks even partially like the list below:

  • Government control.
  • Environmental destruction.
  • Technological control.
  • Loss of individualism.

To the extent, we are living in the world described above is the extent that our life is ruled by the status quo. The status quo is a nebulous concept a bit like a bowl of jelly never actually solid enough to say this is it, this is why we have Lawyers’ who argue adroitly and endlessly over what is meant by the law. The status quo is never one thing, and trends within it, come and go. It also changes slowly over time and is slightly different in different places. What is solid though, is the need for acceptance and the need to comply in exchange for the promise of happiness, and safety from everything except death, which of course we won’t talk about.

There is much more that could be said about the status quo. Why would I choose such a difficult concept to define our culture? Because it is easier to understand the creation of Shadow as a reaction or a defense of the individual from the dictates of the status quo.

The status quo demands that we all believe or accept a shared reality of the world we find ourselves in. That life ends at death. That soul does not exist and is dangerous to talk about. Shadow is the domain of psychotherapy, and as the status quo needs compliant (well adjusted) citizens psychology is tolerated despite the word psyche meaning soul in Greek. When psychotherapy has delivered its client successfully back into the world of the status quo it has done its job and once more the client is pronounced normal and accepted back into the fold.

The Humpty Dumpty effect.

A crisis of Soul. So, what within the individual caused this upset in the first place? Often, it’s a crisis of one sort or another. Soul is always talking to us mostly through the crisis it creates in our lives. It is the Humpty dumpty effect. “When all the Kings horses and all the Kings men couldn’t put Humpty dumpty together again”. (King’s horses and King’s men read status quo.)

The Shadow is created when we cut off bits of ourselves in order to be accepted. As Robert Bly said, “Mother wants a nice boy” The other way shadow is formed is through trauma both psychological and physical. The creation of Shadow is the Ego’s defence mechanism against being overwhelmed by the domination of ideas and events. If we can accept Shadow as a reality in our lives, then where do the split-off parts of ourselves go?

These split-off parts go and live within the Great self, The enormous forest of this story, and the Iron John story.

Ego in our culture is created at the expense of Soul and the payment for that is the creation of Shadow. Excluding trauma. This three-lagged-stool of Ego, Soul, and Shadow I have attempted to unpack at the following links to lengthy for here.

Ego:         Iron John Chapter 003 The Journey from the enormous forest to the Castle Quo (Ego)

Soul :       Iron John Chapter 001 Towards an understanding of Soul

Shadow: Iron John Chapter 006 Towards an understanding of Shadow. 

I did want to give the first-time reader a glimpse into this triad and how mostly it runs our lives. And how difficult it is then to live in the Wilderness or this forest.

 It came time for the son to live in the forest on his own depending on his skills alone.

To live in the forest alone means having successfully shed his/our/my obedience to the status quo and replaced that obedience, that desire for acceptance with a recognition of who he is, who I am, to stand at the centre of his own self sometimes called the axis Mundi.  He must also separate psychologically from his need to be his mother’s nice boy. Only then can we live in the forest on our own depending on his/our skills alone.

Continued in Chapter 05. Running with the Wildman. 

Previous Chapter 03

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