You’re all on the internet. You all know the creed. Don’t feed the trolls. Good advice huh? Because, let’s face it, if you starve something it usually dies. Not always, but usually. But…before you go off cold-shouldering and starving, just two thingies…
Thingy One. Not all trolls are trolls and not all trolls are created equal. You kinda need to know your troll. Some contrary Internet presences are Loki characters, tricksters. Every mythology, every folk tale has them and they have a job, a very useful job. They stir things up; they challenge the status quo; they give the contrast. If all is light all the time, it can get dull and boring. The Trickster doesn’t follow the usual conventional behaviour; the Trickster flouts the rules; the Trickster says what polite society doesn’t say (but sometimes needs to hear).
The Trickster can be cunning, a sneak, a thief. But also – and often – he can be funny, a Joker of course, (and yes, often the joke is scandalous or rude or goes too far). But the task of the Trickster is a sacred task, by playing games and tricks and telling jokes and poking fun, the Trickster provides the contrast, raises awareness, acts as equalizer, shows up our blind spots, holds up the mirror, pokes us in the eye.
I’m fascinated by the Trickster archetype and have danced with him (interestingly, the Trickster is pretty well always male) in many forms, in many places. How can I name him, he whose names are legion? I cannot tell them all but I have called him Anansi, Awakkule, Amaguq, Azeban. Sinbad, Sosruko, Shango, Samedi. Coyote, Kokopelli, Crow. Reynard, Raven, Jobo, Puck.
When someone comes up against me on the Internet (or indeed in real life) I kinda welcome it. Cos so often you end up learning something about yourself. Sometimes the Trickster will tell you the truth, unvarnished, unpleasant but incontrovertible. And it can take your breath away and hurt like seven shades of hell. But then…you think and feel and, okay so there may be a point there. Or it shows you a different perspective and I do think it’s good to try to see every witch way around something (it’s one of the reasons I love yoga – all those different ways of seeing the world – seriously, if you turn yourself upside down you do see differently – try it).
Sometimes, of course, as MaSte points out, the mirror is cracked and you see exactly and clearly what you are not.
Thingy Two. Sometimes a troll is just a troll. Just a troll? Why would anyone be a troll, you have to ask yourself...why? Why is this person shouting, splurging, spilling, splurting, spewing all over the place? Why? And, if you scrape a little beneath the surface, the answer is nearly always the same. Trolls hurt. Trolls bleed. Every true troll I’ve ever met has acted out of fear, deep hurt and intense self-dislike. So I feel sad for trolls. Poor troll, squatting under a beautiful bridge, watching people trip-trapping across while he or she is mired in mud. So, what do you do? I dunno, it’s up to you. I still tend to ignore trolls. Unless I am in the mood for a bit of a game. Just for the craic, of course. J But, even when I ignore them, and even if I play with them, one thing I always do is send them a big hefty dose of Love.
Cos if you fight negativity with negativity, everyone loses. If you counter negativity with positivity, Hate with Love, the charge dissipates.
Years back I met this fabulous woman called Sue Weston who teaches qi gong and stuff. She showed me how to use a form of meditation called Tonglen which comes from Tibetan Buddhism. Follow the link here for a good description of the full practice.
Sue recognized that it was darn tough to move straight to that level of altruism and compassion so she recommended starting like this…
Sit comfortably either on a chair or on the floor with your back straight.
- Allow yourself to become aware of your breathing. Just observe your breath for about five minutes or try counting twenty-one out breaths.
- Now visualize someone you love dearly in front of you. As you breathe in, breathe into yourself any pain, upset and anger they might be feeling. Allow yourself to open up to them totally and without stinting.
- As you breathe out, breathe all that is good in you into them. Imagine their pain and suffering becoming transformed inside you into healing light - you are not holding their suffering, merely transforming it.
- Repeat this for around five minutes.
- You can repeat this with as many people as you like. Keep practicing until you are really proficient and can feel the healing energy inside you at will.
When you have perfected this you are ready for the next step. Now, instead of someone you love, imagine someone you dislike or even hate in front of you. Now transform their pain and anger and give them back the pure healing light of Love.
It’s not just good for them; it’s great for us. As Pema Chödrön, a Tibetan Buddhist nun says : “In particular, to care about other people who are fearful, angry, jealous, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, arrogant, proud, miserly, selfish, mean —you name it— to have compassion and to care for these people, means not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves. In fact, one's whole attitude toward pain can change. Instead of fending it off and hiding from it, one could open one's heart and allow oneself to feel that pain, feel it as something that will soften and purify us and make us far more loving and kind...”
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.”
Do I do it all the time? Nah. I’m no angel. Does my anti-guru? Nah. He loses his rag sometimes too. J But I try…and really, that’s all any of us can do. Right?