“‘Cause everybody knows, the things she doesn’t see…” Velvet Underground, Femme Fatale.
I woke up thinking about the Lokasenna (Loki’s Flyting), a poem from The Poetic Edda which shows Loki blowing the Johari Window wide open, busting communication protocols and social facades, outing his sex partners, exposing hypocrisy, and spilling secrets right and left, including his own. This burst of truth-telling did not end well for Loki. He was punished with barbarous cruelty.
I also find Dagulf Loptson’s book, Playing with Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson (2014, Asphodel Press) to contain an interesting perspective, setting this poem within the context of an old Icelandic-style family feud. He reminds us that the Aesir have already banished and/or tortured three of Loki’s children (those he had with Angrboda), with absolutely no provocation except prophesy, and that if Loki were to ignore such deeds, it would be seen as a fatal sign of weakness. In the section called “Loki’s Rap Battle” (pp. 164-167), Loptson describes Loki’s poetic insults as a verbal duel designed to win back his place in Aesir society by exposing the evil deeds of the other gods. Loptson writes:
“The secret actions of the Aesir as they are revealed are resetting the social standard, and Loki is arguing that there is no reason he should be considered an outcast since everyone else does the same unacceptable things.”
Loptson notes that none of the gods refute what Loki says. Yeah, they’ve done all that stuff, but had hoped to keep it in that lower left hand section of the Johari window. As for Loki, he’s fine about revealing his own secrets (especially his sexual conquests), but his propensity to damage himself through his own impulses is as probably as obvious to the others as their hypocrisy is to him. At the moment, though, Loki doesn’t see this and probably doesn’t care. He is enraged and heedless, ignoring his own capacity for cooler strategies.
We could imagine that the other gods and goddesses see that Loki is about to go way too far and will soon be in serious trouble (and they will be all too happy to oblige, since he’s left them no face-saving options at all). With their social masks torn to bits, the insulted gods and goddesses lose all pretense to honor and higher standards and give way to their own worst impulses, killing Loki’s two innocent children and then binding him with one child’s entrails. They leave him to suffer from a poison-drolling snake (which Sigyn tries to contain with a bowl).
I am not trying to comment in a scholarly way on this poem. I am trying to understand the underlying psychology or social dynamics using the Johari Window as a lens. More than that, I am trying to understand this poem’s implications and lessons for Loki devotees.
The Aesir were clueless about the depth of their own hypocrisy and when this was exposed and their public masks were shredded, their vengeful actions flowed from the lower right hand corner–revealing deep capacities for cruelty which had been previously unknown to themselves as well as to everyone else. That lower right hand corner is where our shadows live.
If in our devotions to Loki, we find ourselves in a similar situation–our public selves in tatters and our secrets exposed–how may we extract the golden potential from that lower right hand corner, instead of unconscious capacities which are hard and cruel and which may lead us to actions that will shame us even more?
I am wondering if part of what we need to do is to cultivate fearless self honesty as well as compassion for our failings. If we can do that in small ways, on a regular basis, perhaps we won’t be surprised into a massive overreaction when confronted with larger uncomfortable truths. That’s easier said than done, however, as that upper right hand corner–the stuff everyone knows about us but that we don’t see ourselves–contains the clues to our failings and negative personality quirks. (Of course we may also be unaware of good qualities and habits as well.) Communication theory tells us that we can ask for “feedback” from others in order to gain access to that upper right hand corner, but that’s not always possible or appropriate (as with white privilege, for example, where it really is not the job of people of color to provide feedback for white people on this topic).
As a Loki devotee, I assume that I’ll be in for some persona shredding of my own as I go deeper into cultivating this relationship with my “most trusted one.” And I may also have to struggle against an impulse to shred others when I feel provoked. Fortunately, I’ve had several decades of practice in curbing my own quick tongue and capacity for brewing “poison” out of anger and resentment. Not saying I’ve perfected this, but I do have a habit of diligence to fall back on. And I can always ask my gods and guides to protect me from my own worst impulses just as I ask them to shield me from the injustice of others (or provide me with tools to cope). And perhaps our trusted ones can help us to explore the unknown capacities in the lower right hand section as well?
Can’t hurt to ask. Could help. A lot.
Are you a fellow traveller? Got insights about the Lokasenna? Please comment!