7 Keys to Courageous Self-Expression | Integrity (Part 1 of 2)

Integrity is so much more than ‘walking your talk’ in active demonstration of your values. It is integration with ALL that life has to offer. In this episode, we explore integrity as an internal compass and pluralistic embodiment of connection. When we are willing to step outside of our personal identities, we mature emotionally and grow into trans-rational understanding - a worldview that is connective and universally accepting. Candice shares more personal stories, sharing about some times in her life when stepping into integrity meant risking security and belonging in favor of the gravitas within. This episode will help you reconnect with grittiness, grace, and your very own center of gravity. Explore how to better navigate dissonance and find the answer to the question: Is this a growth edge or a story I can no longer fit inside? Change is humbling and shedding identities can feel wildly unsettling, especially when you choose to express wholeness rather than play a part in a divisive norm. In the end, there is no greater service to the whole of life than an integral way of being. Integrity is an active acceptance that enables you to love (and live) more freely. 

0:48 - Legless (story)
5:18 - A star is born
10:43 - Integrity vs. identity
16:38 - Campus Payphone (story)
24:00 - Integral theory
32:15 - 2 types of dissonance
33:53 - Let It Stand (story)
35:44 - The empty husk
37:18 - Tragic optimism

#14 | Grit & Gravitas

Hello, and welcome back to The Deeper Pulse. This is Candice Schutter. We are coming to the end of our journey through the 7 keys of courageous self-expression. We've only got two keys left. And lemme tell you, today, we're in for the deepest dive yet. Key #6 is integrity, and this is where the rubber meets the road.

This episode will drive your thinking in bold new directions. We're going to take a wholehearted look at what it means to step outside of our well-worn identities and into the glorious and gritty weight of deeper truths.

So let's dig in.

I was seated on a toilet in a public restroom pulling at the heavy roll of paper-thin tissue, looping it around my hand and wondering if the tears would ever stop. The sobs just kept coming and coming... over and over again. My diaphragm was shaking something loose within.

It made very little sense, really. I'd been more than fine when I arrived at the theater just two hours before. The movie had been good, but it hardly warranted all this. And yet here I was sitting in a movie theater bathroom, trying like hell to pull my shit together.

Chris and I had come to see a new release, A Star Is Born, the 2018 remake of an old classic starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

It was a well-done film. The couple had an honest chemistry. There was good writing, great music, and creative cinematography. It offered an honest peak into the hefty costs of fame and addiction. But I wasn't crying because of any of that.

It was one line of dialogue. A phrase that kept playing on repeat in my mind. It had landed like an answer to a question I didn't even know I'd been asking.

Lady Gaga's character, Ally, had become a music megastar overnight. And midway through the film, Ally, and Jackson, her love interest played by Bradley Cooper, were standing alone on a balcony stealing a moment of togetherness before she stepped onto another impossibly large stage.

He cradled her body from behind and during a pause in the conversation, he said to her:

" If I don't say this, then I'll never forgive myself. "If you don't dig deep into your fuckin' soul, you won't have legs."

He continued to speak, but those words, they landed like an anvil in my chest. While I'd failed to admit it to myself, I'd been feeling a bit lost... a bit legless. And it was ironic because I'd finally structured my life according to my vision. I was living with a loving partner in a big, beautiful home. No longer waiting tables, my business was building, thanks in part to a networking group I had joined. Every Thursday morning at roughly 7:15 AM. I would stand and offer up yet another creative spin on my elevator speech. I was the star of my own 30-second commercial; one in which I did my best to convey depth and the merits of mental health through snazzy little soundbites.

I was also teaching four dance fitness classes a week. I'd recently moved to an upscale health club, closer to our new side of town. I had taken the new position because proximity and pay raise. But I'd left behind a community of joyous and eager students. This new gig was frankly, less satisfying and two decades into teaching I was struggling to build a student base all over again.

Everything about my work life had me feeling ambivalent. And I was tired. Even though I got plenty of sleep each night, I was feeling chronically exhausted by the grind of everyday existence. It was like I was going through the motions, hovering above it all... longing for something unnameable. If you don't dig deep into your soul, you won't have legs. We know the truth when we hear it.

Six months later, my partner and I sold our house, defied the dream, shook the Etch-a-Sketch, and began to reimagine our daily existence in a whole new way.

To be perfectly clear, I had no idea where any of all the letting go was leading me. It can be difficult to understand how it would feel to have legs, when you're still learning how to crawl. It's only now that I fully understand the impact of that moment, seated on that bathroom toilet.

But sometimes the path toward greater integrity isn't about clarity or understanding. Sometimes it's all about having enough courage to embrace the uncertainty. Sometimes the only certainty we know can be summed up in two short words:

Not this.

What really happens when a star is born? A star of the celestial sort. According to astrophysicists, stars are born slowly over time. I'm talking tens of millions of years or more. As clouds and dust particles band together, they become dense and slowly heat up squeezing closer and closer together until a vacuous center is formed. That core begins to collapse inward due to an abundance of gravity, continually squeezing in on itself until eventually it becomes so dense with matter, that energy and light begins to emerge, radiating outward. It's quite paradoxical if you think about it. A star develops the ability to shine and radiate out by gathering strength internally.

It's been argued that we humans are made of stardust. And yet we often misplace our own center of gravity. Rather than gravitating toward the pull at our core, we become magnetised towards something out there. We gravitate towards the intoxication of identities... of other people, better places, more resources. Accolades, Instagram followers, boxes checked, you name it... We often fixate our attention on someone else's definition of center in order to secure security and belonging. And then we wonder at the emptiness we feel when the roles we continually play fail to satisfy us at our core.

It's no wonder we feel anxious, ungrounded without legs to stand on.

Gravity is from the word gravitas, which means 'weight, heaviness, or depth.' The soul is the gravitas of your one precious life. It's the solid ground you stand on. Unique to you, and yet inextricably connected to the whole.

Most of us long for meaning. We want our lives to matter. Quite literally, to become material. We long for our expression of life to in some way, become evident in the physical world. Be it through our hands, our hearts, a kindness expressed, or a legacy of love poured into the next generation. We long to express our significance because deep down we know that we are an essential sliver of the wholeness of life. And perhaps it is because we are unable to adequately articulate our place in this world, we long to embody our reason for being in ways that are meaningful.

And so what if much like the celestial bodies above, we also grow in our radiance when our center of gravity lies within?

As a child, I was terrified of the dark. I mean, I was really scared of it. Some of the fear centered around my vivid imagination, some of it around early childhood trauma. Whatever the reason, my fear was always loudest after dark.

But, I can say now... at 46... that I love bedtime. I mean, I really love it. Sometimes they turn to Chris and squeal with delight before leaving him on the couch with the apple TV remote. Now, keep in mind, this happens well before 9:00 PM each night. Even if I'm not tired yet I crawl into bed and stare into the darkness until sleepiness descends.

I love sleep because it always helps me to restore my center of gravity. Which is why I have zero shame when it comes to my nightly rest. I sleep for as long as it takes, usually eight or nine hours. Every single day.

I'm a highly functioning individual. The kind of person who gets shit done and is unrelenting when it comes to her to-do list. And I love it. I love all that I do, all that I create and share.

And at the same time, the truth is, I find the whole humaning thing to be very strange, like an odd dream I'm wandering through. Which is why it makes perfect sense for me to fall asleep, because in many ways it is my waking up. To me sleep is an opportunity to leave the dream for a bit, just long enough to restore the inner connection to self.

It's like a daily staycation. I get to leave the body behind... the labor of being alive, engaged in all that flesh and bone interaction. I get to take a break from emotional attachments, social responsibility, and the drama of the daily news cycle. It's like I'm unplugging from the matrix. I'm all about it. Because when my eyes open in the morning... that's when I feel the most rested, the most sane, the most sure. Life is fragmenting by nature... the choices we make, the roles we play, the spaces we occupy. It's reasonable to feel scattered and dispersed at the end of the day.

My love of sleep... it's not a despairing admission. I don't sleep because I want to escape. I'm blessed that each night, I leave behind a life that I love waking up to in the morning. I love sleep because it reminds me that I must at times separate in order to become whole again.

At its root integrity means just that... intact, whole, complete. The dualities that define a material existence converge when we express ourselves with integrity. By definition, integrity includes the too muchness of life. Integrity is our ability to remain whole and grounded as we face the tension of opposites, it relies on our ability to embrace a both-and existence. Gratitude and terror, ambivalence and uncertainty, enoughness and the desire for something more. Integrity holds all of it. It is a wholeness we naturally possess, an allness we can learn to rest into.

Integrity relaxes us. Because when we embrace wholeness, we understand that we are both more and less than the stories we each tell about ourselves. More in the sense that we're so much bigger than our desires and our disappointments. So much more than our hopes and habits combined. And less in that.. Well, all the daily drama out there... It's temporary. And as much as we fret and fuss about it, it will in time be forgotten. Our expression in this life is both infinite and insignificant. Marinate on that for a bit. If you're brave enough to sit in the ambiguity and beauty of this seeming contradiction, you will uncover both liberation and laughter.

The word 'grit' is right there, plain as day. And grit has two meanings. Sand or dirt, or courage and resolve. The courage to take all those fragmented little pieces and shape them into something honest, a singular expression of universal life.

And yet, when we say someone has integrity, we usually mean said-person walks their talk and moves through the world in active demonstration of their values.

The trouble is, if we imagine integrity to be all about perfect character alignment or the ideal embodiment of life's highest values... well, we might in some ways lose our integrity because of the parts of us that we leave behind.

It can be a little tricky because when we've done a good job of living up to our values, it's easy to confuse our identity with the deeper self.

Identity is essential to ego development. There's nothing wrong about it, per se. But keep in mind that identity literally translated is about 'being identical to.' It's a conception that stems from an imitation of selfhood.

The other day I heard Glennon Doyle cleverly call gender identity "a mandatory performance." She was speaking about gender and sexuality norms and the courage of this next generation as they dismantle identities one brick at a time. Gen Z is opting out of the need to conform. Maybe they're about to flip the script. It's long been said that the first half of life is all about collecting identities. Well, the second half is about unraveling them. Discovering who we are outside of who we've been conditioned to be. Identity is really the number one thing that gets in the way of integrity of expression.

A healthy ego is able to name and see personal identities and in doing so, restore a sense of integrity. Because to bear witness is to stand outside of the story. Like the yin yang symbol, we understand whatever we are expressing is simply one small aspect of a greater whole.

This is what we mean when we speak of heightened consciousness. It's not about how long we can meditate or how receptive we are to prophetic visions. It's about the witness within. The soulular lens we look through that helps us to see above and below the roles we play in life.

Ego development is actually self development. Our ability to hold ourself as separate is essential to restoring union. To say that someone has a healthy ego... this isn't exactly an insult.

Often when we speak of immaturity, we blame the ego. But in fact, a mature ego is an embodiment of cultural values that have been translated into an identity that engages in actionable endeavors that positively impact the whole.

When it comes to restoring mental health, it is the ego that needs to be fortified in its capacity to become a detached witness of itself.

It is a fragmented ego that causes harm. When the ego is tethered to wholeness, it can inspire hearts and drive social movements. But when the ego is fragmented, parts of the self are disowned and they tend to come out sideways through unfathomable behaviors of darkness and destruction.

When our ego is weak, we are unable to bear the weight of self-examination. We lose access to the deeper self and our significance outside of the roles we play.

This is why cancel culture is a bit dangerous. We must be mindful not to treat people as if they are the sum total of their worst moments. Our choice to cancel someone says less about them and more about us.

Hafiz once wrote: "Dear Ones, beware of the tiny gods frightened men create to bring anesthetic relief to their sad days."

You may wonder what is a tiny god? I will never know what Hafiz had in mind, but to me a tiny god is any conception of the divine that is fragmented projection of the truth or a well-rehearsed denial of the wholeness of our humanity.

It was my junior year of college. That morning in sociology class, we watched a documentary on Jonestown. A handful of Jim Jones' followers sat on the floor surrounding him. The camera man panned the faces in the crowd and, for obvious reasons, his lens fixed itself on one woman. She sat still as a portrait, upright on the floor, knees bent, weight resting back on her heels. She gazed up at Jones, listening intently as he spoke. Her eyes were glazed over empty yet full with a doe-eyed vacancy that sent chills up and down my spine. The camera man zoomed in closer and closer... I had to look away. Her expression would stay forever etched in my mind.

I let myself into my apartment and headed to the kitchen to make myself a PB and J. Then I landed on the couch with a thud and flipped on the TV. Exhaling, as light and sound blotted out the memory of that woman's face.

Hungrier than usual. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a bag of chips. I ate every meal like it was my last and within ten minutes I had polished off my lunch and a can of soda.

Then the phone rang. I was surprised when I heard my friend, Alex, on the other end of the line. He was calling from a campus payphone.

Alex was an art major and, after a brief struggle with his mental health, he'd left town. No one had heard from him for months.

Alex and I had been friends for a couple of years. We both suffered from insomnia and shared an interest in philosophy. So we'd stayed up many a late night together, waxing existential and listening to Smashing Pumpkin's Siamese Dream on repeat.

After a quick chat, I gave him my address and soon enough there he was... standing at my door.

He looked different. Much thinner, now with long hair and a full beard. I pretended to ignore the faint yet pungent stench that rose from his soiled clothes. A small knapsack hung diagonally across his body.

Alex had soulful eyes and his gaze had always been penetrating. But now his eyes met mine directly in a way that I wasn't used to.

I smiled and invited him inside.

He seemed strangely content to just stand there in silence, and the air between us had shifted somehow. I couldn't quite read the weather. So I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my hoodie and asked, " What do you wanna do?" The words stringing together much faster than I would've liked.

"Let's take a walk," he suggested.

I grabbed my keys and we headed out the door.

Alex had always towered over me, but he seemed to walk even taller now. His head seemed to hover above his body.

He asked me about my life and I caught him up on the recent goings on and we chatted a while about this and that. Conversation flowed, felt familiar and warm. Yet soon enough, the awkward silence returned and stretched like a taut rubber band between us.

Finally, I became brave enough to ask "Alex, where have you been?"

He tells me he flew overseas, spent some time living in a monastery and that since he'd returned to the states, he'd been roaming the country. He shared stories of hitchhiking, meditating, roadside, and long days and nights without food or a place to sleep. He tells me there were many times when he had no money and he felt he might go mad from desperation and hunger. Then, and often, right then the kindness of a stranger would sweep and to provide for him. A few coins to cover a meal. Shelter from the elements. Just a sliver of light in the dark.

Then he says to me, " Candice, it's amazing. I live everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Giving up everything I thought I needed has made me happier than I ever thought I could be."

I couldn't help but ponder the inherent dangers of such a simple existence, and quite literally couldn't fathom living without the security of food, water, and the simple pleasure of a shower. And yet what was perhaps even more unsettling was that I also felt a profound sense of envy.

What would it be like to no longer be held captive by the urgency of my ambition? To not have to turn in papers or show up for work, to be free from rent, tuition, and the pointless insistence of my credit card's monthly minimum payment?

Alex continued to gaze forward as he walked. His stride seemed measured and steady, soothing like a metronome.

I scurried alongside him turning to look at him from time to time. I wasn't sure how I felt about all this. I was trying to decide if he'd found the secret to life or if he'd lost his mind entirely.

Sensing my ambivalence, he turned to me and smiled. His eyes danced with an invitation.

"You're welcome to come with me."

As soon as he spoke the words, I felt myself losing ground. It was like I was standing at the edge of an ocean fighting to stay upright as a current pulled at my feet.

Some part of me wanted to. But a larger part of me couldn't imagine a life where I didn't want more or less of something. Where I wasn't consumed by a promise lying on a distant horizon.

So I laughed and gave his arm a quick squeeze, thanking him for the invitation before suggesting we circle back to my apartment. After hugging him goodbye, I closed the door with relief. Seeing him had unearth something in me and I still felt a bit nauseous from all that pointed eye contact.

Taking a deep breath, I shook my head and chuckled at the absurdity of his invitation and repacked my bag for the afternoon's classes.

Integrity can be unsettling, when we come face-to-face with an identity that challenges what we've come to believe about life and our place in it.

Alex was the first person I'd ever known who had consciously shed an identity in favor of a largeness he couldn't yet name. I cannot possibly describe to you how nervous I felt that afternoon, walking alongside the peace he'd found.

As contemporary philosopher and scholar, Ken Wilber writes "where there is identification, there is fear." I was afraid because Alex's choice to walk his own path in his own way, it challenged my own sense of identity. It took a certain amount of privilege upon launch, to be sure. And yet In the end, he'd shed everything I was so busy clinging to. Belonging, security, social validation. He'd let it all go in favor of something that moved him from within. It was a choice that had liberated him.

For most of us, soulular self-possession arises slowly over time, more organically.

Let's take a closer look. Let's circle back to the work of Ken Wilber. I mentioned him a few moments ago. He's known for his groundbreaking, and somewhat mind-bending, work in transpersonal psychology, particularly as it relates to what he calls integral theory.

Integral theory is not easy to sum up. There are many, many facets to it. But today I want to talk about three phases of human development; three threads that when braided together help us to understand integrity better.

Integral theory describes phases of human consciousness that result in integrated understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

These sequential phases build upon one another and each phase has stages with it. As Wilbur describes it when we get to an integral framework, we understand that "Everybody is right. Every perspective ever offered has an important piece of the puzzle."

It is often said of this developmental framework that each phase, or stage within a phase, is said to 'transcend and include' the former. We don't ever grow out of earlier phases. It is through our growing consciousness and ability to witness that we disidentify with a phase and move on to the next.

The first phase of conscious development is known as pre-rational.

The pre-rational worldview is where we all begin. You can think of this as the childhood of psychosocial development. To the pre-rational mind, the truth is a feeling. Our center of gravity is the emotional body. And authority is 'out there.' It relies on a largely egocentric framework wherein the self lies at the center of all understanding. There's nothing inherently wrong with this phase. It's essential to a child's development and also the creation of social order. We must learn to differentiate and come to know who we are if we are to shape a unique personality and understand our place in the world.

By definition, pre-rational is just that 'before reason.' So feelings of helplessness and uncertainty are commonly dealt with through magical thinking or subjugation to an outside authority. Needs are negotiated by appeasing... parents, the gods, a romantic partner, or a charismatic leader. We learn our place and the social order of things through adherence to prescribed identities, by knowing our place in the hierarchy. An external authority, be it religious or political, dictates the rules that govern our lives and keeps us safe from harm.

If you look around the world, you'll see pre-rational civilization everywhere. In cultural or religious environments where 'the truth' is built around a shared story. Myths that have become literal and internalized. People seemingly behaving in a manner that appears devoid of all reason. Misinformation thrives in social echo chambers, and the majority of individuals are resistant to rational evidence, not only because of challenges the narrative, but primarily because their sense of self relies almost entirely on the part that they play. Asking them to critique their environment is a painful notion. It requires a level of self-awareness and emotional maturity that they do not yet possess. The pre-rational headspace is highly susceptible to confirmation bias. Hypocrisy is common, and relational blind spots are often ignored.

Integrity is hard to come by because wholeness is out of reach. The me-and-my identity cannot see outside of itself.

As I've said, there are many stages within each one of these phases, but as the ego is strengthened and the ability to witness grows, we move into the second phase of human consciousness. The rational phase.

To the rational mind, the truth is evidenced. Our center of gravity is what can be proven. And science is the ultimate authority. A rational worldview relies on our ability to see patterns and to critically examine our environment and how things work. It is a shift in authority away from blind allegiance toward healthy skepticism and a quest for knowledge. Because the ego is less identified with the information that surrounds it, it possesses a more mindful distance from subjects of inquiry. Critical thinking kicks in, and 'the truth' becomes something more tangible. To the rational mind, it is true if it can be proven as fact.

Now the rational phase is, to be sure, and improvement on pre-rational understanding. Yet the trouble with relying on reason alone is that we live in a largely mysterious and uncertain world. If the only thing we trust is what we can see and know and explain, we might also become easily unsettled by ambiguity.

A great many individuals are suffering as they seek to make sense of a global pandemic, unlike anything any of us have seen in this lifetime. Just as the pre-rational mind can become mired in denial or delusion, the rational mind can become dogmatic and self-righteous. When facts become the only religion we rely on, it's possible to become fanatical in our insistence upon a singular truth. Nuance is often lost to the shortsightedness of so-called experts.

When there are no explanations, no easy answers. It is then that our consciousness reaches into the third phase... transrational consciousness.

Trans-rational means to go beyond reason, to move in the direction of a more paradoxical understanding that is able to zoom out and in simultaneously. Transrational understanding is often called integral, or integral, because it is an all-inclusive point of view that integrates, making room for it all.

Remember, each phase transcends and includes the former. So one of the ways we know we are embracing transrational understanding is that we are able to 'carry the consciousness' of someone who is in a previous phase.

It's also important to note that the opposite is true. People who are in the rational phase are often suspicious of transrational consciousness, not only because it can not be measured, but because it is often presumed to be pre-rational. Ken Wilber describes this as the pre-trans fallacy. The way we humans have a tendency to scramble these categories according to our own level of consciousness and our given argument or agenda.

For example, a story of spiritual transcendence might be prematurely dismissed by a rational skeptic without second thought because to the rational mind, a story that lacks material evidence is by default pre rational. The rational creates a false dichotomy in which everything is either rational or non-rational.

But transrational understanding is the pulse at the heart of so many spiritual traditions, some of whom have gotten a bad rap because of pre rational applications.

When we grow in integrity, we're able to hold space for people in pre rational states who are building autonomy and differentiation... for those who are shedding identities and questioning authority in the face of rational understanding... And also for a more mystical understanding that in an unknowable world experiences exist that defy our comprehension, beyond the limitations of reason.

James Hollis wrote, "Life seeks to expand in an unknown direction, for unknown reasons."

This is at the heart of transrational understanding. We may not ever find answers to the questions of why and how... but we know that movement is at the heart of life and that evolution is moving us ever forward.

So let's talk about how this looks... how integrity evolves and reshapes us into something more whole, and true over time.

Cognitive dissonance is the tension we feel when we are unable to reconcile two different seemingly discordant beliefs and attitudes. It's a discomfort that invites self-reflection. Oftentimes it shows up when our sense of self is challenged by a new, more expansive and holistic world order. For example, gender fluidity is becoming the new norm. The first time you interact with somebody who identifies as non-binary, you may feel flustered or confused while learning to use new pronouns like 'they and them.' Integrity requires we embrace discomfort of this sort in order to learn and grow into greater wholeness and a more unified understanding.

And yet there is another kind of dissonance for us to be aware of. Depth psychologists call it mythic dissonance. While cognitive dissonance invites us to stretch beyond our identities, to widen and embrace broader understanding, mythic dissonance feels more like shrinking to fit. Mythic dissonance is what happens when it feels like the story is too small for you to fit inside. It's that feeling of being a square peg attempting to squeeze into a round hole. It's a painful sort of dissonance because it has self-abandonment at its core, and it puts us face to face with a seemingly impossible choice.

Do I stay put in this ill-fitting dynamic to sustain a sense of belonging? Or do I rewrite the narrative and risk losing connection as I shed an identity I can no longer fit myself inside?

Allow me to give you an example.

I was attending a women's retreat a few years ago. It was hosted by a friend and colleague who I loved and hadn't seen for some years. She'd been generous enough to invite me to attend the retreat for free as her guest and as I sat in a circle with six or seven other women, she led an exercise of self-reflection. When it was my turn, I spoke of a challenge that I had been facing. I was vulnerable and I shared from the depths of my heart. It was raw, honest, uncensored, and real.

There was a longer silence than usual after I spoke. My particular share was divergent from the norm. I knew it was a risk. She and I used to teach together and I knew she would find my choice of language antithetical to her love and light approach, a bit negative for her taste.

We all sat there. I could sense the silence was an invitation, but I said nothing. So she smiled at me warmly and asked if I would like to reframe my words.

I knew exactly what she wanted. I'd spent years running from my shadowy depths through affirmations, and promises of levity. At first it had helped to soothe my aching heart, but eventually, perpetually translating my dark feelings into lighter language had become disingenuous... a rejection of the deeper self, a denial of a darker truth.

I shook my head and said, "No, thank you. Not this time. I'm letting it stand."

I felt a little bit like a plant that had outgrown its pot. My roots were not able to spread and reach deeper and it was time to lift myself vertically up and out so that I could ground into new, more expansive soils.

In episode 3, I spoke about the numinous. The experience of being mystically summoned by a force that feels personally magnetic, divinely inspired even. It takes maturity to differentiate between a numinous transrational yearning for soul expression and shiny object distractions. Hunger for a new pair of shoes or a fleeting infatuation, this is qualitatively different than a deep soul yearning that calls us toward a greater expression of ourselves. One way to tell the difference is there's typically far more risk involved when it comes to the numinous summons.

Life is speaking to us and through us. We must pay close attention if we want to heed the call of the numinous. If we want to learn to trust and move and integrity with life as it unfolds through us.

And move we must. The numinous is never static. It is like a river alive and directive. It is the water that is often confused with the cup. We cling to old vessels long after we've drained them dry. When we become fixated on the space that holds the this-is-itness inspiration often moves on.

James Hollis calls this 'the empty husk'... moments when the numinous has moved on yet we ourselves have not. It makes sense we cling. This is a crisis of identity. Letting go requires courage and realignment with a new vitality and perspective.

Early on, I needed the practice of positivity to help me reorient my thinking from a fixed to growth mindset. Positive psychology helped me to take back personal power and see outside of the victim narrative that had defined me for much of my early twenties. But as you know, we can have too much of a good thing. Just as too much sugar will wreak havoc on the body, too much levity can toxify the mind. Toxic positivity, as it is often called, is a premature insistence on a positive spin no matter what is happening. There's nothing wrong with the shift in perspective, but as we've already learned, it's not about the tool per se, it's about... what is it in service to?

Is my positivity an attempt to create a more expansive understanding? Or is it a way to spiritually bypass honest conflict and difficult dialogue?

Is a positive reframe helping me shift into greater depths of acceptance? Or am I sidestepping legitimate concerns, leaving them unaddressed?

It is not 'negativity' to acknowledge injustice, pain and suffering, the laws of nature, and the limitations of human consciousness.

And as we know, integrity is about union and positivity's too muchness can create disconnection. In truth, there is no such thing as a bad or good emotion. The shadow self has as much, if not more, to teach us than the lighter identities we've learned to embody in the everyday world.

I was working on the content for this very episode and one of my soul sisters, Mira, pinged a group thread with an article entitled: The Opposite of Toxic Positivity. Scott Barry Kaufman is the author of this article, and he writes about something called tragic optimism, a phrase coined by psychologist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl.

Tragic optimism is the reach for meaning in the face of the inevitable tragedies of life.

Kaufman writes, "Researchers who study post-traumatic growth have found that people can grow in many ways from difficult times, including having a greater appreciation of one's life and relationships, as well as increased compassion, altruism, purpose, utilization of personal strengths, spiritual development, and creativity."

The article is inviting transrational understanding when it comes to the paradox of hopefulness. Being optimistic doesn't mean we put up blinders to the suffering in the world, nor does it mean that we do nothing in the face of social injustice. Tragic optimism is our ability to be present and responsive to life while also placing life's dark directives in a larger context.

I can say with a hundred percent certainty that it is my suffering that has most shaped me in life. And that if I am to walk in the world with integrity, I must embrace my whole story and make room for that which defies my comprehension. I must be tragically optimistic, rising above, dropping below the pendulum of dualities. Holding the both-and-ness of life with equanimity and grace.

When we feel jealous or envious of someone, they are simply reminding us of a part of ourself that we have disowned or disavowed. And when we stand in judgment, when we hold the false dichotomy of good and evil, ignorant and woke, right and wrong... we've lost touch with integrity and the very wholeness that will allow us to take constructive action in favor of that, which we stand for.

And if you feel like a move toward greater integrity is like a disintegration of sorts... you're on the right track. Like the caterpillar metamorphosizing in the cocoon, death and rebirth again and again.

There's much more to say about the subject of integrity, particularly how it connects us to the world as a whole. In the next episode, we're going to begin shifting our focal point from personal development to social impact. When we do the inner work, and we restore our connection to wholeness, we can be the change we have long desire to see.

Thank you for tuning in.

I love you. Keep moving toward what moves you.

And I'll see you next time.


© The Deeper Pulse, Candice Schutter