In other words, we are taught from an early age that dishonesty is a worthy virtue. We are taught that the self-respect that comes from being honest with ourselves and others is an ugly sin. Better to suppress it deep and let the wounds fester.
This long-entrenched tradition, naturally enough, is the progenitor of innumerable vicious cycles, knots in the cord of wyrd that just get more and more complicated, dense, unbreakable. The more I deny my weaknesses, the more power they come to hold over me. The more I worry about them. The more their shadow haunts my every waking moment. Soon that which could have been dissolved in the sunlight of open and frank admission becomes instead a dreadful specter, a force which dictates the terms of my life more and more.
Caught in the pain and panic of our denial, our terrible fear of admitting that I, too, am human, we find our self-made devils begin to leak out the sides of our personalities. These weaknesses begin to calcify, to harden, to metastasize. Where at first was, perhaps, a little fear, a little self-doubt, a little trauma – soon it becomes a depression, a trigger temper, anxious paralysis. It becomes an addiction to this or that drug, or the adoption of this or that irrational and dogmatic belief.
As these layers of psychic (and sometimes physical) scar tissue build up around our festering wounds, they cease to serve their purpose of assuaging our misery. They begin to take on the character of failed solutions, and it is evident that many of the problems one can create for oneself originate as attempts to solve other problems. Over time our adaptive solutions can become maladaptive as conditions change; or perhaps they were never good solutions to begin.
So now, on the foundation of our denial of weakness, we not only have created unhealed, festering problems, but we have created new problems from the loose ends of the original flaws. And still we heed that ancient, ubiquitous teaching: never admit to weakness. At some point in this process we lose even the right to call ourselves victims, since in time we have taken over the task of self-destruction for ourselves. And no doubt, our pain leads us to perpetrate harm against others, usually our own loved ones.
All this, for the sake of preventing the accusation of weakness! What a sorry, weary, weakened state that fear of weakness leads us into. A state where even our strengths become yoked to the wagon of strife and misery. The irony! The tragedy!
Naturally, this same pattern replicates itself at larger scales. So long as a culture lives in denial of the harm it has inflicted to either its own members or to members of other cultures, it condemns itself to continually replay the same injustices, violences, omissions. Curious how often the partisans of bigotry are also the first to play down the history of their own culture’s past (and present) misdeeds. This is a thin veneer, drawn with trembling hands across feelings of profound inadequacy. Surely a strong culture has no need to vent endless self-contempt upon any group less materially intimidating.
Unto this comes Loki. Who fears Loki? Who reviles Loki? Those who have gotten themselves into a fix of the kind I have described here. Those who have dug themselves so deeply into the pits of denial that they cannot bear to be confronted with Loki’s awful, truthful mirror. Oh no – to these he is the worst sort of enemy, the infiltrator, the spy, the underminer, the traitor. A figure both inside and outside, conscious and unconscious, as much “us” as he is “them.” Loki violates carefully constructed lines of abstraction, denial, control, definition.
Thus the sick individual or culture reaches its endgame. For it cannot overcome Loki. The more it fights Loki, the stronger he becomes. Having only ever learned brute force, our anti-Loki figure cannot comprehend that in some cases less is more. Loki feeds on the hubris, the paranoia, the self-disgust that drives the fight against him.
And in this sense, Loki is a god of peace. The only way to end the terrible conflict is – to stop fighting it. The only way to defeat the unbeatable foe is to allow him in. Anathema! Thus the sick soul cries, unable to understand that it has made itself into the terrible enemy, and did so the moment it adopted the dishonest denial of its own weaknesses.
For this is the truth: we create Loki ourselves. We birth him in our hearts, guts, and minds, weave him from strands of fear, projection, and humorlessness. We take his fluid, pulsing, ecstatic life force and impose the interpretation of anxiety upon it. And then we complain of our anxious imprisonment.
Loki is irrepressible, flowing life and joy. This is ultimately what his critics make to be their enemy – love of life itself, life lived, the riches of being a fleshy, inspired being. No wonder he cannot be overcome – for the only way to destroy the influence of Loki would be to destroy ourselves. And many people are willing to do just that, so cleft is their consciousness.
So embrace the courage of admitting your weaknesses. Acknowledge where you are uncertain, lost, useless. Celebrate the all-too-narrow bounds of your understanding, your knowledge, your wisdom. Smash the easy habit of self-satisfaction where you find it, and replace it with the kind of loving acceptance that grows the self into its depths rather than ripping up even its most shallow roots the moment they find purchase in the earth.
Alan Watts believed that Jung’s power came not from being better than anyone else, but from his ability to accept his own flaws, limitations, and evils. Loki wants you to embrace the terror you feel at the prospect of self-love. Embrace the terror and discover what flawless flowers might grow from the bone and blood of its fertile ground.