Quite frequently we say the right thing because we have practiced saying the right thing beforehand, or have experience having said the right thing in our past. Milton Erickson, the great hypnotherapist, was renowned for saying the exact right phrase at entirely unexpected moments. While he surprised with his spontaneity, he admitted in his old age that when it came to using turning therapeutic phrases, what often sounded spontaneous was thoroughly considered and rehearsed beforehand — rather like a poet making revisions down to the word. But sometimes he surprised himself by his own spontaneity.
When our speech seems to have a mind of its own, we may be linked to the undercurrents of a situation. Our speech can become elevated or awkward. Freud is famous for having paid attention to the unconscious slip that communicated repressed thoughts and impulses. Jung suggested that archetypes and complexes speak through the open or unfiltered mind. In other words, Jung believed that the unconscious can speak (and we can also speak unconsciously). I call it naked speech. There are lots of reasons for naked speech. Sometimes we just like unclothing our words. But there may be times when we feel encouraged or prodded – like being egged on by a daimon.
I’ve known since about 1980 that I have a daimon, like Socrates and Jung. A daimon is an attendant spirit that may have its own agenda for one’s life activities, and may steer one toward examining the archetype of the shadow. But it is also a source of knowledge like other helping spirits. Jung sometimes complained that his daimon was demanding. When I became a shamanic practitioner in 1985 my imaginal world was enriched with opportunities to explore and integrate the daimon’s world of origins.
Mostly, conversation with my daimon has been personal, like having an internal conversation with an ambassador of Soul. But one characteristic of the daimon is that they sometimes are insistent – just a little pushy. I’m in accord with that, realizing that it’s my job to be human and to integrate unseen aspects of the world. Because I am open and reflective, I am not often caught off guard by my daimon. But from time to time I have been surprised by the sound of my own naked words.
Here’s a relatively recent example. I bought property in a new development that seemed to be selling “Nature.” The 1.5 acre lots are full of trees and set off from the township road. We are pretty isolated for being so close to the Twin Cities. Our small homeowner’s association scheduled its first meeting. I put my name in to run for one of the three officer positions, but planned to remove myself from consideration on arrival. I was held up while visiting my lot, and was late to the meeting — too late to withdraw, so I planned to be a silent participant. Then someone suggested: “Should we be considering a lawn code?” My mouth was moving before my brain. “I didn’t sign up for suburbia. This development was advertising nature!” Then I caught myself and requested other opinions. But I seemed to know the right people to encourage with my eyes. Within a short period, we all agreed our group would maintain a libertarian view that allowed for leaving things natural. What had happened, I realized later, was that I’d confronted a suburban shadow without initially realizing it. Now, a pattern had been set for our group. Nature won, and I was voted into office. It’s not what I’d planned, but perhaps I should have. Daimons like nature.
Here’s another example that no longer feels personal. Late in my career, I recall mentoring a female staff who was directly under my supervision. The task was joyful. One day, when I was speaking with her on the telephone, she said, “I think you find me attractive. I think you want me.” I replied: “I’m your supervisor, that’s not appropriate.” The words came out as if from someone else and caused not a ripple. There was no shame between us. It felt as if I had somehow erased her words and we continued our conversation without skipping a beat.
After our conversation I found the sureness of my reply to be a little surprising. I was unprepared for her forwardness, and did not have a response “on the shelf,” so to speak. On the contrary. In reflection, I realized that I did find her attractive. After all, I am human. I realized that I had been practicing ways to tell her that she was attractive, playing with the notion that I could be honest because I would be perceived as genuinely thoughtful, harmless, and out of bounds for escalation. I reasoned that it would boost her self-esteem. These wandering thoughts had not been properly examined, and on some level she probably knew that I felt some honest attraction. I realized that it would have been easy for me to have said something like: “What you say is true. I do find you very attractive. But right now I think it’s important we stay on task.”
But instead, I’d said exactly the right thing. Or perhaps my daimon said it for me. It was as if my ego was in the back seat and I was speaking from the fullness of being that had taken charge of the situation. The right thing to do in this circumstance was to be the impeccable teacher, to be clear-minded for both of us.
So why did my daimon speak for me? If we are open to it, sometimes our personal archetypes will speak to the necessary truth of a situation. “Allowing” my daimon to guide my tongue provides the opportunity for spontaneity that Spirit can provide. This second example has some associative nostalgia, because she is one of many people that I have helped that I will not see again. As I sit here and think about it, I realize that I’ve lost touch with many good men and women through the complexities of life. But here may be the point to which I am led by this example: for every honored memory I bring into focused light, my daimon speaks on my behalf (at a distance) through the mediums that life provides – like a courier spirit. Maybe a pleasant and unrehearsed sentence will grace Memory’s companion. Maybe beauty will shine through the aperture of association on behalf of gratitude. Maybe all my connections, both past and present, will gather into unrehearsed silence. It feels like the bright blue sky stretched out in homage to Life.
Image from Facebook page Shaman Tube; art by Liza Paizis.