Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Psychology of Creativity November 25, 2014

1024px-Macarons_Marcolini_04“From the living fountain of instinct flows everything that is creative; hence the unconscious is not merely conditioned by history, but is the very source of the creative impulse.” (Carl Gustav Jung)

I’m feeling inspired to write poetry these days, and this has me thinking about creativity.  Jung says creativity originates in our instincts.  In other words, our body, with its physical needs and functions, is the matter (L. Mater), or mother, of our urge to create.  And the psyche governs our responses to our instinctual urges.

Jung said we have five basic instincts:

“Whatever creativity is, it is in part a solution to a problem.” (Brian W. Aldiss)

Nurturance: Our bodies need fuel, and we get hungry, irritable and desperate when we don’t get it. They also need protection from the dangerous and uncontrollable forces of nature.  A bit of creature comfort doesn’t hurt either. So if we, our loved ones and our tribe are to survive and prosper, our basic needs for nurturing and being nurtured must be met.  Thus, creativity originally arose in the marshalling of conscious thought and focused behavior to create the necessary tools, weapons, strategies, rules and codes of conduct that would satisfy this instinct.

1280px-Paul_Gauguin_104“The essential ingredient for creativity is wasting time.” (Anonymous)

“I have always regarded manual labour as creative and looked with respect – and, yes, wonder – at people who work with their hands. It seems to me that their creativity is no less than that of a violinist or painter.” (Pablo Casals)

Activity:  Food and water don’t just automatically show up in edible and potable form when we need it, so we have to get off the couch and do something to procure them!  And once we have thoroughly stuffed ourselves it feels good to celebrate with other creative activities such as walking dinner off, participating in games and athletic competitions, and cleaning and fixing up the cave.

“The emotional mind creates, and the rational mind explains it. Another way of saying this is, your ‘heart’ perceives it and your ‘head’ translates it.” (Alvaro Castagnet)

Reflection:  If, after all this eating and fooling around we have a spare moment or two, and if we still feel comfortable and secure, our thoughts move into new areas. For example, we might reflect on how beautiful the sunset is;  figure out how not to starve or freeze to death next winter; wonder why the kids are so cranky!  So we ask questions and try to solve problems. We devise strategies and make plans. We create religious rituals to thank the earth, the animals, the plants and the gods for meeting our needs and to make sure the sun will rise in the morning, spring will return, and a saber toothed-tiger won’t have us for dinner.

Hermann-Paul_-_Les_Danseuses“The creative process is a cocktail of instinct, skill, culture and a highly creative feverishness. It is not like a drug; it is a particular state when everything happens very quickly, a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, of fear and pleasure; it’s a little like making love, the physical act of love.” (Francis Bacon)

Sex:  Every living creature is born with the instinct to preserve the species. Plus, humans and other complex animal forms have an instinctive need for love and intimacy with others. And it feels good! So we use our creativity to attract partners and be appealing to them.

“I believed that I wanted to be a poet,
but deep down I just wanted to be a poem.” ~ Jaime Gil de Biedma

Creativity:  So the instincts activate our creativity and creativity is itself an instinct, an urge that satisfies our souls and enriches our lives in numerous ways and forms.  Stories told around the fire.  Figurines of animals and gods.  Vessels for food and flowers, gathering and gifting.  Music:  songs, dances symphonies and the instruments to play them.  Painted images from myths and dreams.  Delicious foods.  Ornaments for our bodies, fabrics to wear and beautify our homes, poems to enlighten and inspire us, to make works of art of our very lives.

NPG 1899,Elizabeth Barrett Browning,by Michele GordigianiAnd in the process, to make life worth living.

“Creative activity is more than a mere cultural frill, it is a crucial factor of human experience, the means of self-revelation, the basis of empathy with others; it inspires both individualism and responsibility, the giving and the sharing of experience.” (Tom Hudson)

“If I didn’t have my films as an outlet for all the different sides of me, I would probably be locked up.” (Angelina Jolie)

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.  Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” (Pearl S. Buck)

“When I can no longer create anything, I’ll be done for.” (Coco Chanel)

I’m with you, Coco.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

All quotes except the one from Jaime Gil de Biedma are from the website Art Quotes.  That one comes from my friend Jenna Farr Ludwig’s Facebook page.

Images: Macarons, Marcolini, Wikimedia Commons.  Paul Gauguin, Wikimedia Commons.  Hermann Paul, Les Danseuses, Wikimedia Commons. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Michele Gordigiani, 1858, Wikimedia Commons.

 

And the Beat Goes On November 17, 2014

In September I had a particularly meaningful dream about my remodeled childhood home.  When I shared it in The Interior Designer Within, the feedback was so fascinating and the discussion so provocative that I wrote two more posts about it: Viewing Your Life Through Mythic Eyes, and Written in the Stars.  Meanwhile, nine nights after that dream my unconscious gave me another “house” dream:

#4570:  The Remodeled Hall. I’m standing with my back to the back porch of my childhood home. In front of me is the hall that leads to the kitchen.  What used to be a narrow, musty passage between the two, with a bathroom on one side and my parents’ room on the other, is now a large spacious gallery, perhaps 18 feet wide, with a ceiling so high I can’t even see it. It’s filled with light and the walls are painted a bright, glossy white. I think someone is painting the last coat on it now.  I think this would make a beautiful art gallery and imagine a huge square painting on one side. The dominant color should be red and other fiery colors. Yes, I’ll use this room for art, but not too much. I don’t want it to be cluttered or distracting.  Just simple and beautiful. I wake up planning where ceiling lights should go.

Although the two dreams occurred several days apart, they felt connected.  The first said that the living room, dining room and kitchen—symbolically, areas of my psyche related to my conscious living—had been dramatically remodeled over the years.  The second one said that remodeling was also underway in the hall at the back of the house—symbolically, my personal unconscious.  Whereas the front of the house was occupied with the more public and practical aspects of my life, this central part in the back was becoming a space for light, art, and creativity.

I loved these dreams.  I loved my childhood home and my life there. And I love the growth I’ve undergone since then. Perhaps that’s why all my dreams of that house leave me with good feelings that last for days. It also makes sense that this recent series of house dreams came at a time when I was feeling particularly good about my life, my work, and myself.

The beat goes on, beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Charleston was once the rage, uh huh
History has turned the page, uh huh
The miniskirt’s the current thing, uh huh
Teenybopper is our newborn king, uh huh

And the beat goes on, beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

My two most recent dreams, 7 days apart, speak to a different experience of life. Both feature stressful situations in unknown public places where I’m looking for my husband, my car, and my cell phone. Here’s a brief summary of the latest.

#4587:  Stressed and Unprepared I wake up from a nap in a public place. I realize it’s 3:30 in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day! I have 20 people coming for dinner in two-and-a half hours and I forgot to put the turkey in the oven and peel the potatoes! I start searching through a crowd of hurried passers-by for my purse, my cell phone, my car keys, my husband. I see my husband and send him to Costco in his car for the potatoes and green beans.  As I head for the parking lot I worry: How will I have time to do everything?  How will I even get home?  I can’t find the keys to my car and I can’t call for a cab because I don’t have my phone!

I was frowning and feeling frustrated when I awoke from this dream Monday morning, and the mood lasted half the day! So what’s my issue? Have I been doing too much or too little?  Are my priorities out of whack?  Am I wasting time on things I love which are not that important in the bigger picture?  Should I give more attention to my outer life and less to the inner? Do I feel guilty for loafing all day Sunday?  Am I afraid of being unprepared for Thanksgiving dinner?  For the book I’m starting to write?  For my keynote speech next summer? Am I having trouble communicating my concerns to Fred and/or my animus and asking for their help?  These are all things I’ve wondered lately.

My “childhood home” dreams tell me what I’m doing well.  They remind me to be grateful.  They affirm my growth and encourage me to keep going.  Stress dreams tell me when things are out of balance. They set up possible scenarios and rehearse strategies I might want to consider. And though they may bring me down for a time, I usually bounce back before long.

Neither state of mind is a constant and this is as it should be.  The psyche needs balance, just as Nature’s seasons.  And the opposites of life deserve their due.  Yet, regardless of which phase we’re in, we can be assured that the beat goes on. Like my two favorite kinds of jazz, sometimes the pace is frenetic, sometimes it’s slow and easy. But it goes on.

And the beat goes on, beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Songwriters
PRINI, ROSSANO / SANDRINI, PAOLO / NARAINE, WILLIAM / ULIVI, VITO / BARATTA, MARCO / SUDANO, RICCARDO

Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

 Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Birth of a Poet? November 5, 2014

SearchingforHummingbirdsI’ve been feeling a bit estranged from myself for awhile.  This might seem odd coming from one who’s made a profession of self-discovery. Yet, the fact is that since my last book came out, I’ve been beset by a restless discomfort and confounding dreams.

A part of me is not surprised.  I can’t count the times I’ve undergone similar transitions after leaving an outworn psychological house behind. And I know I’ll experience more as long as I’m alive and growing. But another part of me expected this move to be shorter and easier.  Shouldn’t I be getting better at adjusting to change?

Actually, I am getting better.  I trust the processes of my psyche. I know my yearning for closure comes from an impatient ego longing for an end to the questions:  What’s going on with me?  What next?  And I know closure will come when I’ve stayed present with the questions for as long as it takes.

Nonetheless, to give my unconscious a little nudge, last year during a ritual at Maeve’s tomb on the summit of a limestone hill in Ireland I asked the Celtic Queen of the fairies for a clearer understanding of the recurring symbolism of excrement in my dreams.  Then last month in Greece, after a year of numerous dreams featuring the color orange, new babies, and feelings of being helpless and overwhelmed, I asked the Oracle at Delphi for direction in my life and writing.

So yesterday morning I wrote what may be my first real poem!

I’ve tried poetry off and on for years, but even the published few wouldn’t get air time on Amateur Hour.  This is not false humility but an honest assessment of my limitations. I’m wordy. I tend to ramble. I have lacked a proper appreciation for subtlety; a true understanding of the power of imagery;  and the patience to condense wimpy words and loose thoughts into a coherent idea with emotional impact.

This summer I received a book of poetry titled “Searching for Hummingbirds” from Betsy Holleman. I met her years ago at a writing conference led by novelist Rosellen Brown and poetess Dorianne Laux.  I hadn’t written any poems since the conference, but Betsy’s book inspired me to write a memorial poem for my mother.  I’m not happy with the result, but the process filled several enormously pleasurable hours.

SkinfulofDustI think that’s what motivated me to order “A Skinful of Dust” by Brian Carlin, an award-winning poet from Glasgow.  We’ve followed and commented on each other’s blog posts for a few years and often find inspiration in each others’ writing.  His book is a treasury of sturdy words and startling images that sparked a deeper resonance with poetry than I’ve ever felt before. And a book he recommended, Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space,” is opening my mind to creative depths I never knew existed.

Then yesterday morning I was blown away by the latest post from poet/artist Steven McCabe.  His post “Autumn Morning,” is based on a poem by Pablo Neruda and complemented with original art and a vintage-looking video. It evoked such an unusually rich reverie that I set aside my morning Sudoku ritual to write a poem about it.

I’m not prepared to share it here yet.  The poem is too fresh, my emotions are too raw, and my baby is too vulnerable for mass exposure.  But I feel like I’m standing at the threshold of an exciting new adventure in creativity and I wanted to celebrate with you.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Three Things I’ve Learned about Psychological Suffering October 28, 2014

Magician

Magician

“Every psychic advance of man arises from the suffering of the soul.”

Carl Jung, CW 11, Par. 497

As it often happens when I write about a painful or controversial issue, I lost two e-mail subscribers after WordPress published my last post on death.  Yet within five days four new ones signed on! I won’t pretend I don’t suffer when a subscriber leaves.  I do.  (By the way, I never know their names. I only know when the numbers on my stats change.)  But it’s getting easier; partly because I almost always gain new subscribers after the same posts.

Plus, my grandchildren are giving me a new perspective on this kind of suffering.  Since the current school year started last month I’ve watched their struggles to adjust to new classes that separate them from old friends.  Yet they’re already making new ones. What I’m realizing is that their experiences parallel mine.  Losses are inevitable for every growing thing.

So I won’t apologize for writing about suffering. I’m not equipped to comment on physical suffering or clinical depression, so these are my thoughts about the normal psychological suffering everyone experiences. The young adult’s post-school struggles to find him/herself, connect with a life partner, and find satisfying, meaningful work. The unforeseen accidents or losses of a home, job, friend, partner, child or other beloved family member. The existential angst some souls suffer at midlife. The daunting challenges of aging.

Here’s what personal experience has taught me about everyday psychological suffering.

First, it comes to all of us.  Many people’s first response to serious suffering is to think something like, “Why me?  What did I do to deserve this?  Why is God punishing me?” But, as a believer in the omnipotence of Love,  I don’t see suffering coming from a judgmental, vengeful God.  I see it as a natural consequence of being alive!  You live; you die.  You win;  you lose.  Good things happen;  bad things happen. Sometimes you’re happy; sometimes you’re sad.  Life comes with a full range of emotions:  not just pleasure, but pain too. That’s just the way Life is, and wishful thinking cannot change it.

For the Tibetans of northern India who are taught at an early age to accept the fact of suffering (as my friend, Elaine Mansfield, tells me), this knowledge is liberating.  It means I don’t have to take suffering personally. This frees me from misplaced guilt and self-blame.  Nor do I have to conform to my tribe’s or religion’s restrictive standards and beliefs.  If I’m going to suffer anyway, I might as well do it in service to fueling my light instead of hiding it.

Second, suffering can be our worst enemy. Like a devil who promises eternal happiness, it whispers, “Run away!  Escape!  You don’t need to put up with this.” The problem with escape mechanisms is that they only compound our suffering.  Immature egos don’t know that the only way to avoid future suffering is to deal with current suffering, so most of us are extremely vulnerable to this kind of dead-end thinking.

And suffering whispers, “This is intolerable. Do something. Quick!”  But impulsive behavior erodes the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  It diminishes our ability to accept responsibility for our part in our suffering, and causes unnecessary pain for us and those we blame.

The third thing I’ve learned is that psychological suffering can also be our best friend.  Like a good teacher it gives us many opportunities to learn more about ourselves, and self-knowledge always leads to wisdom.

Like a loving inner Magician who sees the bigger picture of our life and passionately wants to help us thrive, suffering offers us a magic wand:  the power of choice!  But this gift comes with a stipulation:  We are the only ones who can choose to transform our intolerable situation, and the only way we can make this happen is by tolerating the tension until the solution arrives in its own time.  When it does, it is accompanied by a deepened spirituality, an expanding awareness of the purpose and meaning of our lives, and a strengthened ego with the power to make healthier choices.

Life comes with realities an immature ego can’t understand. But trusting Life to guide us through our suffering without attempting to escape or control it can transform us into maturing conscious beings.

How have you experienced this truth?

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Dream Symbols: Houses September 30, 2014

Note: You’ve shown a lot of interest in my recent posts about my”house” dream so I thought I’d share this post from a few years ago. It shares a bit more information about the house dreams I used to have. I hope you enjoy it!

Throughout the 80’s I had recurring dreams about preparing to move into new houses I didn’t like. Here’s one I had in 1988, three months after I began recording my dreams.

#54 The Unsuitable New House.  We’ve sold the house I love and I’m walking through a rickety plywood house we’ll soon move into. I’m appalled by everything I see. The tiny kitchen has huge, old-fashioned appliances and a turquoise and pink wringer washing machine. The window air conditioner unit rattles noisily. The dining room floor isn’t level, the flimsy table has a rotting corner, and the ceiling fixture is made of the shoulders, head, and antlers of a deer! Worst of all, there’s no room for my beloved books: no library, no shelves, no desk. I hate everything about this incredibly tacky house. Why did I design it this way? How could I have ordered these hideous things? I am filled with remorse. I think I should try to like this house but cannot convince myself I ever will.

I went back to school for my doctorate in the late 70’s and spent the 80’s teaching university students. The unsuitable new houses in my dreams depicted my unhappiness with myself and my life. It took another year of dreamwork before I trusted my dreams enough to leave a profession that wasn’t right for me. Two days after I left for good I dreamed I was escaping from a prison!  That fall I began to write my first book about the inner life. That was when I had a dream about touring an exquisite house that was perfect for me. At the end of the dream the woman writer who owned it hinted that it would someday belong to me!

When I was five we moved to Florida and lived in a trailer until Daddy bought the dear crumbling old wooden cottage where I grew up. After he died my mother struggled to support us on a nurse’s meager income. I would not have attended college had I not miraculously earned a scholarship. By mid-life I knew I had not developed my true interests and talents and entered a long and difficult struggle to discover my true self. At the age of 45 I found Jungian psychology and began studying my dreams. Since then my house dreams have depicted my progress. Here’s the one I had last weekend.

#4253 Revisiting My Childhood Home.  I’m in my childhood home standing in a spacious kitchen that used to be tiny, dark, and dingy. Filled with light, it has gorgeous new hand-made cabinets and polished stone counters. A young woman is kneeling on the floor painting the cabinets a creamy white. A man in the adjoining dining room is painting trim around the open doorway. I stand back to look at the remodeled kitchen and am so astonished at its beauty and suitability that I begin to weep in gratitude.

This emotional dream depicts exactly how I was feeling the evening before. My husband and I were driving along a beautiful mountain road to join dear friends for dinner when I was suddenly overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I love the way I’m traveling through life! I love my family. I love my work, my friends, my lifestyle. I feel loved and am learning to love myself. I am so grateful, feel so incredibly fortunate. The houses are my psyche. Their kitchens and dining rooms are places of transformation and nourishment. The remodeling work I’ve been doing for 22 years is making them more suitable for me. I’m becoming the woman I always wanted to be, and it feels so good!

How do Dream Mother’s houses depict your feelings about yourself and the way you’re living your life?

Art Credit:  I found this picture in Google Images but cannot locate the original source.  The artist appears to be “Rubal.”  If anyone knows where I can find his/her website, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Metaphoric Meaning of Dreams August 26, 2014

Dreams symbolically represent underlying truths of which we are unaware. Dream events, like those in fairy tales, fables, myths and films have allegorical, metaphorical meanings. Rarely are they meant to be taken literally.

For example, in my early years of dreamwork I had many dreams about touring an unsuitable new house we were building. In waking reality I had designed the house we lived in and never wanted to leave, so I knew these dreams didn’t mean we would move into a new house I would hate. Then what did they mean?

Houses are a common symbol for the psyche of the person who dreams about them. These dreams were showing me how I was feeling about my current psychological reality. I was living in a “place” that was unacceptable to me. In utter ignorance of who I really was and what was truly important to me, I had worked hard to design and build a profession for myself that was deeply unsatisfying at many levels.

The ego is very good at repressing uncomfortable truths. Despite numerous dreams that dramatized the same issue from a variety of perspectives, eight months after my first dream of an unsuitable new house I still didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I didn’t know because my ego didn’t want to know. Then came the following dream:

#209: Running Out of Gas. It’s a dark night and my car runs out of gas. An old woman pulls up behind me and pushes my car to a doctor’s house. As she walks me to the door I ask her what kind of doctor it is. She says he is a psychiatrist. I was hoping she would say that. We go into the living room. In the center of the floor is a large open book. A young girl in a ballet costume flutters across the room on toe shoes as the doctor tells her how lovely she is. An intense young Russian man expresses a desire to stay in the United States. When the others tell him to stay, he says he can’t disappoint his father; he has to go back to Russia to pay him back for his education. A woman in a cowboy hat sits quietly on the floor in front of me with her back to me.

This dream wasn’t warning me to check my gas tank, see a psychiatrist, take ballet lessons, or travel to Russia. These would be literal interpretations. The metaphoric meaning was that I was “in the dark” (confused) about my life’s journey, and “running out of gas” (energy), but had access to the guidance of a wise old woman (Sophia) who indwelt my psyche and wanted to help me. The people in the house (the inner world of my psyche) were unknown aspects of my personality gathered in the living room (the place where I was “living” my life.) The doctor was my wise inner healer who was helping me with my inner work. The lovely ballet dancer symbolized my desire and potential to return to the graceful, innocent state of my childhood when I felt free to pursue my real interests. The intense Russian (he came from an “alien land” far from my conscious awareness) was the unconscious part of me that felt indebted to the Father (the patriarchal system I grew up in) for its investment in my education.

The Russian student was the key to the meaning of my dream. Pursuing a job I disliked was sapping my energy. I longed for meaningful, creative work but my ego believed it would be wrong and ungrateful to disappoint the teachers, mentors and system which had supported my efforts to become a college professor. In truth, this was the rationalization of an ego which would rather be unhappy than leave a job that brought it the status and prestige it craved.

And the peaceful woman in the cowboy hat who was featured in the lysis, or last image of the dream? She was the me I was yet to become if I continued to pursue self-knowledge: a woman who would quit her unsuitable job, learn to meditate, write her own books, buy her own horse, and wear a cowboy hat with glee! Two months later I quit college teaching for good and stepped into my real life, the one for which I was born, the one I’m living now.

Do dreams really have meaning? You bet!  But try telling that to a fearful and stubborn ego that thinks it runs the whole show and believes it knows best!

Can dreams really foretell your future?  Absolutely! Next time I’ll tell you a story about the unexpected way the woman in the cowboy hat showed up in my waking life many years later.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Animal Healers August 6, 2014

A couple of years ago I babysat a precious golden retriever puppy for three days so my son and his wife could surprise their sons with her on Christmas morning. During that time she developed some digestive issues and by Christmas day she was in obvious distress, needing to be let out of the house every fifteen minutes or so. Was it my fault? Had she eaten a poisonous plant in our yard or swallowed something she couldn’t pass? The thought that I might be responsible was agonizing and I wondered for the umpteenth time why we get so attached to animals and experience some of our greatest joys and deepest sorrows because of them.

Certainly mammals have body structures, nervous systems, organs, instinctual needs, and even DNA very similar to ours. So when they’re sick, wounded or in pain, we know how they feel. Moreover, although most animals can try to flee from danger, there are always forces—including humans and Nature herself—that are far more powerful. Knowing our own fears and vulnerability, we can relate to that aspect of animals too.

Then there’s the unconditional love some animals give us. It’s so comforting when your dog follows you around, your cat purrs contentedly in your lap, or your horse comes running at your approach. You feel known, appreciated, valued. A happy, thriving pet reminds you that you can be loving, nurturing and morally responsible. We crave these good feelings and love the animals who elicit them, so it’s only natural that we get emotional when they suffer or die.

Repression and projection have something to do with the magical relationship we have with animals too. All of us deny some of our unwanted qualities and project them onto people and animals.  For example, I once knew a tough-minded woman who showed no emotion when  talking about her own difficult circumstances, yet she cried easily at the thought of abused animals. To her it felt safe to sympathize with the pain and helplessness of a dog or cat, but she was unwilling to feel her own pain.

At the time I didn’t know if anyone else noticed this about her, but it was painfully obvious to me.  From where did this insight come?  Personal experience. When my parents divorced I cried my heart out. But when my father died three months later I didn’t shed a tear. I was so traumatized that I shut down emotionally so I wouldn’t hurt any more. Denying pain became so important to me that I even refused novocaine when I went to the dentist! For years I couldn’t cry for myself but I could use up a box of tissues watching an animal movie. I still can!

Animals mirror our unconscious, instinctual selves.   This is why we love our pets so much. As they are vulnerable, so are we.  As they suffer, so do we. We know how they feel, they seem to know how we feel. We think we understand them; they seem to understand who we really are. We know we have unlovable shadows, yet they love us anyway. We see their instinctual shadows, and we love them anyway. Because they  trust and depend on us we do not take their devotion or suffering lightly.  We deal with it as best we can, and we know we are better for having made the effort. In the process of learning compassion for them, we discover that we are as deserving of love as they are.

Over the years Miss Lottie, a sensuous Siamese cat; Peri, a perky little chihuahua/terrier mix; Shadow, an elegant, high-strung thoroughbred gelding; and Bear, a handsome and gentle golden retriever, have been my teachers, therapists and healers. Training and caring for them taught me patience and respect for the ways of others. Their simple joy in being alive taught me greater awareness and appreciation for my body and the life in it. Their love and devotion to me helped me feel and express more tenderness and love to everyone, including myself. And the copious tears I shed at their deaths softened my heart and taught me more compassion for others who suffer loss.

By the way, Isabella, or Izzy as Matt’s family called their new puppy, was fine the next day. Apparently her problem was caused by the rawhide puppy treats I gave her to keep her from chewing on my kitchen cabinets. I felt terrible about it, but she kept loving me anyway. And now that she’s come to live with me for the summer,  I remember something I forgot after Bear died.  Being with her makes me feel better about myself. It’s a mysterious thing, this healing power of animals, but it’s real.  And I’m deeply grateful for it.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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