Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Conquer Your Fears with Apollo and Spock



When I was a little girl, I used to be afraid of the dark.

Well, I guess that’s not really accurate. It wasn’t the dark I was afraid of, but what the dark might be concealing. And what it did to my life-sized “Kid Sister” doll that was propped in a chair in my corner. I swear, the longer the lights were out the more evil that thing turned.

If I had to go to the bathroom, I’d gear up for it for a long time. Then I’d leap out of bed, making sure my feet hit the floor as far away from the creepy gap between my bed and the floor as possible, and run like hell for the bathroom. On my way back, I’d leap onto my bed as soon as I could, again avoiding that terrible under-the-bed gap, and scramble desperately under the covers with my eyes squeezed shut.

It was too dark to see anything, but somehow I was convinced that if I opened my eyes, I would see something. Like demon creatures lurking in the shadows behind my toys.

Later, I learned to reason my way through the fear. I was still afraid, but I could not take a few mental steps back and remind myself that my room was still my room. My toys were not alive (or evil), turning off the light did not suddenly create alligators under my bed, and everything in my environment was still familiar regardless of whether I could see it. If I had to go to the bathroom, I made myself leave the light off and walk at a normal pace, knowing that my heart would only calm down as soon as I learned everything was really okay.

Most kids go through this phase, when they learn to use logic to self-soothe. Eventually the logic overpowers the fear.

This use of rationality is part of the Apollo archetype.

Apollo is clear headed, unemotional, ultra-rational, logical, and scientific. He has a very linear, cause-and-effect way of thinking that can clear everything up and reach solutions to just about any problem. He’s also the god of the sun, and can shine the light of reason into dark places. It’s like he’s saying, “Look, see? I told you, there’s no alligators under the bed. That doesn’t even make any sense.”

When we use logic to overpower fear, we’re calling on the Apollo archetype within us. We’re using intellect to override sheer animal anxiety. It’s kind of an achievement among the animal kingdom.

Our society doesn’t have much use for Apollo the god anymore. We don’t worship him, or even think about him much.

But Apollo the archetype is still very much present and active in us, our society, and our stories.

He shows up in the character Spock, for example. (Also in characters like Sherlock Holmes and Temperance Brennan in the show “Bones.”)

Spock is logical, rational, scientific, mathematical, and precise. But all this comes hand-in-hand with a deep vein of mysticism that shows up in Vulcan meditation practices. (The Vulcans even have spirituality down to a science.) It reflects the spirituality of Apollo’s followers and his ever-potent advice, Know Thyself. Apollo’s cult was deeply mystical, with the Oracle at Delphi claiming the top spot as the most famous oracle of the ancient world.

Part of how Spock keeps order in his mind is by mastering his emotions. He also seeks and destroys irrational fears within himself. He is not guided by unconscious terrors, usually because he’s done the work of making the unconscious conscious. If there’s something going on within him, he wants to bring it into the light. That’s The Vulcan Way.

It’s kind of the same thing that’s going on when Apollo shines his own light into dark places.

So the rationality is only one way Apollo and Spock banish fears. Another is taking the time to know themselves, and this goes deeper than rationality. They take the time to acquaint themselves with their own darkness, fear, and desire—which are often things they’d rather not deal with at all, or even look at, really. This archetype is adept at facing his own shadow, and at reasoning his way to victory over it. It’s pretty impressive. And instructive.

So even though we’re not worshipping Apollo today, he’s still with us. However, Spock is just a character—a damn ass popular one, but still just a character. If you’re living in ancient times and a god tells you to Know Yourself, it’s a good idea to do it. But a character doesn’t hold the same sway as a god. We don’t treat Spock’s meditation practice as some kind of divine advice. So in a way, we’ve kept the god but taken away his power.

I think we should give it back to him. I’m not saying we should worship Spock or anything, but we should hold the archetype in a kind of reverence, and realize that it has a lot to teach us when it comes to facing fear. We can use it as an example for developing a spiritual practice that susses out the darkness within us, and helps us turn on the light.

We’re responsible for becoming our brightest, best selves. Spock can totally help.


© Leslie Hedrick 2015. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact me to request usage.



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