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Reply To: Changing Our Self-Perception As A Compassionate Deed,” with Kristina Dryža”


Wonderful to be here again with the COHO community, Stephen. And boy, what a tough question!

It’s a challenge to respond, especially while living in a country that’s been occupied by Russia before. I am in Vilnius this week, though my current ‘home’ is next to the Russian border (Kaliningrad). During my childhood and adolescence almost every February 16 (State Restoration Day) was spent on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide protesting for Lithuania’s independence and I can’t believe what’s unfolding in Ukraine right now.

Growing up in Australia, I didn’t have the direct experience of living under the Soviet Union, but I learnt from my grandparents who had to flee Lithuania what freedom meant. Freedom is the spirit of humanity. Freedom is harmony and peace. Freedom is the resonance of the heart. I believe in humanity’s compassion, courage and solidarity. And that humanity is one collective ‘we.’ But if we say that what is in the one is in the all, or that all life breathes together, we can’t then say that this means everyone gets to be included … but not you. That everything gets to belong … but not this … and certainly not that.

Now, within this COHO community many would be aware of Carl Jung’s work on the shadow, the unknown ‘dark’ side of the personality. It would lead us to ask ourselves, ‘Where is the Putin in me, in my psyche?’ Because a Putin character on the world stage doesn’t come out of nowhere. An event like this war doesn’t happen in isolation. We exist within a matrix of interconnections. We are not disconnected islands.

And I can already imagine some people saying, ‘Kristina, have you seen the pictures of the atrocities on TV, the bombing of innocent children, and you want us to go into our psyches and investigate our own shadow. How does this help Ukraine? We need to do something.’

But please, if you can just bear with me for a moment, and if you’re willing, ask yourselves, ‘Where am I a totalitarian? Maybe it’s in my all-or-nothing/black-and-white thinking? Where am I controlling? Where am I manipulative and coercive hoping for appeasement? Where am I greedy and power hungry, wanting more than is necessary? Which hungry ghosts can’t I satiate, no matter how hard I try? Where am I an isolationist and not open to alternative views? To which situations and people do I lack empathy?’

But let’s also ask ourselves, ‘Where is the spirit of the Ukrainian people in me? The courage, the bravery, the resistance in the face of overwhelming odds? Where is my grittiness? My selflessness? Where do I show powerful conviction in my beliefs? Where do I support the greater good? Where do I not just uphold my values, but actually live them in the trenches? How do I foster a spirit of camaraderie and boost morale? How do I display hope when a situation feels hopeless?’

Other than what we can practically do besides financially support the recommended aid groups or donate in other ways, we can also put our psyches to work. Say you have a stressful meeting coming up with an adversary, tell yourself that you will dedicate your composure to be in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Or if you find yourself often disassociating, commit to living the next 24 hours in as much as presence as you can, in honour of those Ukrainian people fleeing who need to focus on bare-bones survival. When you tweet #StandwithUkraine, what are you also standing with and for in your own local community? With honour, dedication, reverence and gratitude we have the potential to transform the wastelands of the human experience.

In Campbell’s words, can we “participate joyfully in the sorrows of life?” Let this war not close our hearts, but break us open in a way that’s never been possible before. Let’s find a way for the suffering to wake us up so that in our daily actions President Zelenskyy’s words ring true: “Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness.”

Slava Ukraini! Kristina.