February, 25th, 2016

'The Chameleon'

If you’ve seen ‘The Matrix’ then you will remember the character who betrays Morpheus and his crew – a twitchy guy named Cypher. 

Cypher sells out Morpheus to the evil Agent Smith when he makes a deal to have himself re-inserted back into a system of mental imprisonment (known as the matrix) so long as he can be somebody important and rich in the dream world – even though it’s all an illusion.  All Cypher has to do is turn over the whereabouts of Morpheus who has the key to the front door of Zion - the last human city and humanitys’ last hope for defeating the machines.  Of course, Agent Smith and the machines who run the matrix are thrilled by this plan because they hate human beings and want to keep them asleep so they can be used as energy sources for powering up the machines.

Now why would Cypher want to do such a thing?

In one of the last scenes of the movie Cypher tells a female hero named Trinity that he betrayed them because ‘the war [between the humans and the machines] is over and we lost!’  This statement gives us the answer to why Cypher does what Cypher does.  Deep down, on the inside, Cypher has given up.  He believes that he cannot win, that he cannot overcome the machines and so he chooses instead to see if he can benefit from the system which imprisons him.  In other words, Cypher trades his humanity for the illusion of personal gain. 

Ultimately, the reason why this situation is an illusory one for Cypher is because he’s forgotten that he is now begging for scraps at the table where he once sat king.  Instead of insisting on his God given right to exist unthreatened on planet earth [like humans had done before the machines arrived] he behaves like he is less than and in need of a master.  Isn’t that sad? I’m sure you know people like Cypher.  The Cyphers of the world seem to be allowing fear-based thinking to motivate their behavior.

In daily life you can recognize a Cypher when you see one because they ‘just want to be friends with everyone.’  Cyphers are very skilled at hiding in plain sight – they blend in with everybody in the room by watching what everyone else is doing and making sure that they don’t say or do anything that might demonstrate individuality or self-directedness.  Cyphers like to stay on the surface during conversations; they want to talk about things that the majority of people in the dominant culture would approve of; they’ll talk about how they cooked some good food, or went to a movie, or had a glass of wine, but they definitely don’t want to talk about anything that might make waves – and sadly, in oppressive social environments even individuality is seen as ‘deviant.’

So, you could say that Cyphers habitually attempt to conform with the ‘dominant’ culture (at home, at school, at work, or at church) – and by dominant I mean the person or group of people that is bullying, abusing, or exploiting others.

What does this mean for you heroic types out there? Don’t look to the Cyphers of the world to support your efforts to create and protect healthy social environments and don’t look to the Cyphers of the world to support your efforts to advance progress toward personal goals.  Cyphers don’t care if you lose your job, your friends, or even your life.  Cyphers are out for one thing – blind conformity in trade for the illusion of personal gain.

Don’t be a Cypher – at least not if your goal in life is to succeed – at life, because selling out your own individuality and betraying the trust of others will destroy your ability to get your basic human mental health needs met and to create and sustain a positive change in your own daily life circumstances.

Other Cyphers you may have heard of;

Judas Iscariot from The Bible. He believed himself to be ‘one of the good guys’ right up until he was offered 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.  He took the money rather than stand up against ‘the man.’

Mystique in X-Men.  She felt powerless as a child when she was bullied and abused by ‘non-mutants’ and so now she has joined the dominant pro-villain culture by using her shape-shifting power to harm others while hiding in plain sight.  By doing this she maintains an illusion of personal power while really just being used as a tool by people who are exploiting her for their own ill-purposes.

How can you get out of the chameleon role?

Practice being transparent about what you really think and feel – even if it goes against the grain, and rather than trying to not make waves just make sure your boat is sea-worthy[make rational arguments, etc].  Be true to yourself and others by telling the truth and by making a commitment to do that which is good for all living beings, in general, rather than just doing what seems to be good [in the short-term] for the people who offer you money or the illusion of social status.
Because in the long-run, by enabling bullying, abuse, and exploitation to continue you’ll be teaching villainous and sabotaging others to keep acting in ways that will never lead them to life success.  You especially shouldn’t be doing this if you advertise yourself as a pro-helper.

Finally, don’t forget that you are not a role.  When you see someone responding the same way in different situations to the same kind of event (like bullying at home, at work, at school, or at church) recognize that they are ‘stuck’ in a repetitive behavioral loop and that the only way for them to succeed – at life is to un-stuck themselves!

You can help others to get un-stuck from the chameleon role by only giving them attention when they are being true to the human in themself and to the human in others.

To contact Shawn Furey send an e-mail to:

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