Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Do Dreams Have To Do With “Real” Life? Part II July 22, 2014

IndividuationandArchetypeLast time I shared a dream from over 20 years ago titled “Two Snakes in the Tree of Life.” So what did that dream have to do with “real” life?  Actually, dreams ARE real life.  They happen to everyone, even some animals.  They are facts.  We do not make them up.  They come from a place beyond Ego’s control: the unconscious.  Our unawareness of the unconscious does not negate its reality;  each dream proves its existence. When we trust it and explore its nightly dramas, ordinary life is transformed into the greatest adventure of all: living our own myth.

This is my all-time favorite dream and I’m still processing its message. It arrived shortly after I finished my first book about the inner life, The Bridge to Wholeness.  I had quit college teaching to follow my passion for writing, birthed my precious child, nurtured it through months of revisions, and was looking for a publisher. At a time when I was particularly vulnerable, this dream affirmed my choices and bolstered my courage to continue on my new path.

It is a mythic allegory about the psycho-spiritual initiation of my immature Ego (the little green snake) which had unconsciously identified with my culture’s masculine/Animus values.  It said that my destiny was to take the individuation (tree) journey through a dark and unknown way to integrate my Soul (brown female snake) into consciousness.

The Bridge to WholenessThe first stage of initiation was a slow awakening to Spirit through a lengthy immersion in the spiritual realm (hole).  This corresponded with the first half of my life when I escaped internal conflicts by immersing myself in church, the Bible, and masculine-oriented religious teachings.

The second stage began when the little green snake left the safe womb of conformity and ventured out on its own.  This was the right choice (right) for me, even though it opened me to the dangerous influence of the unconscious (left). The outer world equivalent to this plot development is that at age 37 I finally acknowledged my unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, overcame my inertia, and returned to college for my doctorate.

Act III featured an encounter with my earthy feminine Anima/Soul (brown female snake) who lived in the opposite, unconscious side of my psyche. Suddenly, her differing needs demanded equal time with Spirit.

In waking life I had come face to face with a moral dilemma, both sides of which were equally compelling, yet intolerable.  Fearful of making a terrible mistake that could have disastrous consequences, I tolerated the tension of their slow simmering in a Dark Night of the Soul for nine long years. Listening to the dialogues between Reason and Emotion, Conscious and Unconscious, Animus and Anima, Spirit and Soul, Ego and Self without giving in to my Ego’s desperate wish to escape was my salvation, for in the process, the alchemical vessel of my psyche was strengthened and empowered.

dreamtheatres2Fascinated by the strange image of the female snake biting down on the head of the little green snake, I looked for associations in Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Walker says that the serpent was originally identified with the Great Goddess and many ancient religions told stories about a male snake deity who was the Goddess’s consort.  Walker writes:

[This male snake]…gave himself up to be devoured by the Goddess.  The image of the male snake deity enclosed or devoured by the female gave rise to a superstitious notion about the sex life of snakes, reported by Pliny and solemnly believed in Europe even up to the 20th century:  that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head in her mouth and letting her eat him [italics mine] p. 904.

Bingo! This mythic image which I had never encountered before is an archetypal symbol of fertility, transformation and renewal! It appeared in my dream as a natural consequence of years of inner work and mirrored a life-changing transformation in my personality. This is why the last scene of the dream pointed not to death, but to new life. An apparent catastrophe was transformed into something sacred (rainbow) by the snakes’ bizarre embrace. The result was a more maturely individuated Ego and Animus (cowboy) and a deeply meaningful spirituality.

So my answer to,”What do dreams have to do with ‘real’ life?” is, “Everything that truly matters and is deeply real.”  They show us who we are: our greatest fears and deepest desires, our wounds and wishes, weaknesses and strengths.They tell us where we are and how to get where we want to go. They help us forgive our flaws and learn compassion for ourselves and others. They encourage our individuality and reward our healthy choices. They satisfy our soul’s yearning to be known and loved.

I still struggle daily to understand and accept myself, but thanks to my dreams and the writing through which I pour out my vital essence, I’m still evolving.  And beneath my ubiquitous self-doubt rests a solid foundation—laid by 25 years of recording and working on #4,552 dreams to date—of peaceful knowing.  My dreams tell me:  You are making a contribution only you can make. This is enough for me.

Your destiny is the result of the collaboration between the conscious and the unconscious. Carl Jung, Letters Volume I, p. 283.

Photos:  Ego and Archetype by Edward Edinger is one of my favorite books by a Jungian analyst. It’s a must for the library of any serious seeker. To learn more about Jungian psychology from a layperson’s point of view check out any of my books.  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.

 

What Do Dreams Have to Do with “Real” Life? Part I July 15, 2014

299px-Caduceus.svg[1]If you’ve never thought of dreams as having any relevance to your waking life, I can assure you, they do. This one which came at a pivotal time in my life convinced me beyond any doubt that some unimaginable, unconscious Mystery which dwelled both within and outside me knew what was going on in my conscious life and had something to tell me about it. I’ll share the dream in this post and comment on it in the next.

Dream #843:  Two Snakes in the Tree of Life”. 

Someone is telling a story. I watch from afar as the events unfold.

“Once upon a time a little green snake started his life in one side of a tree.”  I see the snake.  He is long and thin and his underbelly is the color of the inside of an avocado.

“On the other side of the tree lay a huge, old, brown female snake, but the little green snake did not know it.  He grew and grew until one day he decided to go on his journey and he entered the hole.”  The little green snake slithers into a hole in the tree and disappears.  I look to see if his head comes out of the hole on the other side where the big old female snake is, but it does not.  Maybe the way inside the hole is long and winding.

“It took him a long time of traveling and he was enjoying his journey, but eventually he came out on the other side.”  His head peeks out of the hole.  Will he see the big snake?  No, he turns right and takes a narrow spiral path that curves around the tree to the left, to where the big snake is waiting.

“The little green snake slid along smack into the mouth of the big snake.” The green snake’s head peeks out of the side of the big snake’s mouth.  The big snake munches down on his head twice.  Chomp. Chomp.  The little green snake’s face shows no fear or distress or pain.  Maybe this does not hurt.  Maybe he has no idea what is happening to him.  I hope so.

Now the narration breaks off.  There are other onlookers here.  One says, “Oh, well.  That’s the end of the little green snake.”

Someone else says, “Well, what if he fights back?”  I wonder how he can possibly fight back with no hands or arms or legs. There seems to be no hope.

Someone else says, “Oh, no.  He shouldn’t fight back. That would be wrong.” 

The narrator says, “Oh, is fighting the wrong answer?”

Suddenly, a rainbow streaks across the sky and lands in a different place, like a lit-up stage in a vast, darkened theatre.  It is the little green snake, who has been transformed into a young, handsome cowboy.  Triumphantly he saunters across the stage to the bar, slaps down two coins, and says to the bartender, “Set ‘em up, Joe.”

He survived!  He did not have to die and he turned into a human! This is the best possible ending to the story.

Symbols

Little Green Snake:  An archetype that has many possible meanings.  Because the snake constantly sheds its skin, it symbolizes transformation, rebirth, and perpetual renewal. The color green, the color of the annual renewal of nature, reinforces this meaning. The Kundalini serpent of Tibetan yoga, which is said to be coiled at the base of the spinal column, symbolizes the cosmic evolutionary energy that accompanies growing spiritual awareness.  In this dream, I believe the little green snake represents my masculine spiritual striving for transformation, personal empowerment, and individuation.

Tree:  An archetype of individuation;  spiritual development;  androgyny.

Brown:  The color of the ‘feminine’ earth.

Female Snake:  The ancient, earthy, natural feminine;  the archetypal Great Goddess or Great Mother, which has the power of life and death;  my feminine essence.

Hole:  An opening into the unknown, or spiritual world.  Since it is a circle, also the Self.

Right: A suggestion that the snake is headed in the ‘right’ direction;  the direction of consciousness.

Left: The unconscious.

Onlookers:  Other aspects of my personality.

Cowboy: A rugged individualist, a mature individuated animus.

These were my associations to the symbols twenty years ago when I was working on this dream for inclusion in Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dreamwork. I no longer see the cowboy as a “mature individuated animus,” but at that time my animus was still in the throes of youthful heroic swagger. I forgive myself (and him) for being so full of ‘ourselves.” My body was no longer young when I had this dream, but my ego was, and inflation always shadows a newly-empowered ego.

I’ll share what I wrote about this dream next time. Meanwhile, I welcome your associations.

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

 

What Meaning Can We Find in Numinous Encounters with Otherness? July 7, 2014

blackbearLast week I wrote about an encounter with a rattlesnake on our forested mountain property.  The day before that I found a skeleton of the head of something that looked like a baby alligator.  Friends later confirmed that it was another snake. A bigger one.  I had my third wild animal encounter in as many days the day after the live rattler appeared. This time it was a very large, very alive black bear! I had just arrived at a friend’s house to meet with my Jungian summer study group and it walked into her garden, knocked over a bird feeder she had filled only fifteen minutes earlier, and sat down to enjoy the feast. It wasn’t 30 feet away from her porch.

Humankind has always found significance in threeness.  Three fairy tale brothers set out to win a princess, a wolf terrorizes three little pigs, a little girl explores the forest home of three bears, a hero receives three wishes. Christianity has its trinity and its three wise men. If two movie stars or old friends died within a few weeks of each other, my mother always waited for the third.

We also attach spiritual meaning to animals.  Native American warriors were visited by their power animals on vision quests and in dreams.  A stray dog appears out of nowhere to bring comfort and companionship to a grieving widower. A widow whose husband loved hummingbirds has never seen a hummingbird in her garden until one taps on her kitchen window the afternoon of his funeral.  When Lawrence Anthony—a legend in South Africa who bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities—died on March 7, 2012, 31 wild elephants showed up at his home two days later to pay their respects.

Perivale BearSo I ask myself, what meaning is there for me in these three  “truly numinous encounter(s) with Other-ness?” as Jungian therapist Melissa LaFlamme said  about the rattlesnake.  She continues, “Very auspicious…. [snakes] come as Teachers of the ancients.”  Writer Elaine Mansfield agrees, “Wow, Jean. A visitation. Respect and caution needed, but what a gift to mine.”

Snakes are at home on the ground, in water, in trees. They shed their old skins (or old lives) and grow new ones to emerge reborn, transformed. Two snakes entwine the Rod of the god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicinal arts in Greek mythology. A similar image, the caduceus of the Greek god Hermes, is still a symbol for medicine and healing.

And what about bears?  I’ve written about them many times in earlier posts:  here, and here, here, here, and here.  A symbol of spiritual introversion in Native American lore and of psychological transformation and rebirth in Jungian psychology—bears hibernate in the winter, as if dead, and emerge in the spring as if reborn, often with a cub or two—Bear has been one of my two animal totems (the other is Horse) ever since it asked to be included in my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness. When we remodeled our summer home in the Smoky Mountains, a large bronze bear was installed in a place of honor. Over the years I’ve had several Big dreams about serpents and bears, (Jung saw both as symbols of the Self), but this is the first time a live rattlesnake or bear has appeared in close proximitiy to me.

Three encounters with Snake and Bear in three days.  Synchronicity. Fairy tales and myths. Vision quests—I’ve been on one since I was 17 through forest and mountain, both physical and spiritual. Jungian psychology. Animal Teachers. Writing. Healing. Teaching. Comfort. Dreams.  Spiritual introversion. Psychological transformation. Growing respect and gratitude for the gift of physical life. Home. The Self. These are my primary associations with last week’s numinous visitations.  They speak to the themes of my spiritual journey and connect my outer and inner worlds.

They say:  You are on the journey you were meant to take:  finding the meaning of your myth, living your passion, sharing what you have learned. You are a valuable part of the whole, sacred interconnected web of life. You are seen. You are known. You are loved.

And I am grateful.

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

 

What More Did I Think I Wanted? June 26, 2014

Misty MorningI’ve returned to my beloved mountain valley. After five days the stillness is starting to settle in.

This morning the eastern sky was red.  “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”  It will probably rain today.

The sun is slow to reach the west side of the house. For now the garden is shrouded in shadows and mist.

“Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest.” ~Wendell Berry

Izzy and the crowsIzzy watches attentively while I fill her bowls with food and fresh water. This is her first summer here and her interest in the smallest things is rubbing off on me. I’m unusually attentive too as I prepare my breakfast of coffee, fresh strawberries and blueberries, yogurt and walnuts while she wanders in and out of the house.  Although I intended to meditate every day, I haven’t yet.  But this morning, this stillness, this heightened awareness….it’s all a meditation.

Our walks through our 28 acres bring new wonders every day.  Izzy has been fascinated by flowers since she was a puppy.  At two and a half, she still sniffs every new one she sees.

The crows seem determined to attract our notice this summer. Or am I just more aware of them?  They wake us up in the morning, punctuate the quiet air with raucous caws throughout the day, leave their perfect black feathers on the trail. This year we brought gifts for them. Izzy approves.

“Whenever we touch nature we get clean. People who have got dirty through too much civilization take a walk in the woods, or a bath in the sea. They shake off the fetters and allow nature to touch them. It can be done within or without. Walking in the woods, lying on the grass, taking a bath in the sea, are from the outside; entering the unconscious, entering yourself through dreams, is touching nature from the inside and this is the same thing, things are put right again.” (Carl Jung, Dream Analysis: Notes on a Lecture Given in 1928-1930).

IzzyHike2Yesterday brought us a rare visitation from a beautiful timber rattler who barely moved but eyed us warily as we passed. “A truly numinous encounter with Other-ness, Jeanie. Very auspicious— just give plenty of room for her to move. Many Rattlers do not even carry venom. They come as Teachers of the ancients,” says Facebook friend,  Melissa La FlammeElaine Mansfield agrees, “Wow, Jean. A visitation. Respect and caution needed, but what a gift to mine. I imagine you writing about this soon.”  Yes, I will write about this once I’ve absorbed its message.

This morning I found a skeleton by the back steps. It looks like a baby alligator’s head, but that’s impossible! Not in the Smokeys! What could it be? What can it mean?

SkeletonOther gifts arrived this morning via Grandmother Spider’s world wide web, including the quotes and poem I’ve cited here.  Her messages speak to my immediate experience.  Such synchronicities no longer surprise me.

“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of the same thing.” (C.G. Jung, On the Nature of the Psyche, Collected Works Vol. 8, para. 418).

 

 

 

 

VII

by Wendell Berry

Again I resume the long

lesson: how small a thing

can be pleasing, how little

in this hard world it takes

to satisfy the mind

and bring it to its rest.

Within the ongoing havoc

the woods this morning is

almost unnaturally still.

Through stalled air, unshadowed

light, a few leaves fall

of their own weight.

The sky

is gray. It begins in mist

almost at the ground

and rises forever. The trees

rise in silence almost

natural, but not quite,

almost eternal, but

not quite.

What more did I

think I wanted? Here is

what has always been.

Here is what will always

be. Even in me,

the Maker of all this

returns in rest, even

to the slightest of His works,

a yellow leaf slowly

falling, and is pleased.

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

 

Why Do I Write What I Write? June 24, 2014

Recently, author and blogger, Fran Kramer, invited me to join her in a blog tour that highlights authors who write about intuitive understanding. I encourage you to visit her blog at http://www.frankramer.wordpress.com where she offers some excellent practical information on how to work with your dreams and acquire greater understanding of yourself and guidance for your life.  Fran also writes teen mystery novels that highlight  intuitive and informed dreamwork skills instead of traditional detective practices. Her latest is titled Dead Men Do Tell Tales.

For this blog tour I was asked to answer four questions about my writing.  To learn more about me and my work, visit my web site at http://www.jeanraffa.com and my blog at http://www.jeanraffa.wordpress.com.

1) What Am I Working On?

At the moment I find myself in a transitional space between life stages.  The 24 years prior to last summer were the most productive, creative and fulfilling of my life.  I wrote three books about the inner life, taught classes, led workshops,  made presentations, conducted dreamwork on myself and private clients,  and, until last June, wrote an average of two blog posts a week for over three years.  Then my inner environment underwent a mysterious change.

It was very subtle, like a wind carrying unusual scents, or a curve in the river that leaves the rushing rapids behind as it empties into a tranquil blue sea. Suddenly there were fewer mountains to climb and more depths to explore.  I had experienced two life-changing transitions before, and realized in retrospect that they were normal and healthy aspects of life, so while this new development was initially a bit unsettling, I paid attention and went where my energy wanted to go.

It was the right thing to do. The past year has been one of significant growth. Best of all, I seem, at last, to be learning how to love!  So what am I working on? Loving and living.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not really sure what my genre is.  Psychology, certainly.  Spirituality, yes.  Also some Philosophy. And of course Mythology. And Women’s Studies.  And Gender issues. And it’s a Memoir.  And there’s some Religion.  And Self-Help…..

For many years my first book, a psychologically oriented memoir titled The Bridge to Wholeness, (which is now an e-book), was used in college courses.  Yet people tell me it’s extremely readable and nothing like a textbook.  The same is true of Dream Theatres of the Soul, (also in e-book form now) which has been used at the college level as well as in private dream groups.  And Healing the Sacred Divide received the 2013 Wilbur Award which is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.  So I suppose my answer is that my work is different because it is not limited to any one genre.

3) How does my writing process work?

Self-Discovery is my passion and writing about it is pure joy. I’ve never had to force myself to write.  I wake up every morning wanting to get to my computer as soon as I can.  Writing my books has been the most fun thing I’ve ever done! The details of how each book was conceived and written are different, but the pleasure is always the same.

In 1990 I thought I might have a book in me so I quit college teaching and started with my earliest memory of being lost on the shore of Lake Michigan. Given my interest in Jungian psychology and my introverted, intuitive, and highly reflective personality, it was only natural that my focus was on how that experience had influenced my personality and my life. I had no plan, no outline, no aim other than to get it all down until I felt finished.

And so I wrote 4 or 5 days a week for about nine months until I had completed several “essays.”  Then one morning I started making up a fairy tale while sitting at my makeup mirror. I quickly wrote it down and realized it provided the framework for everything I had written until then and would write from then on.  About a year and a half after I began writing, my essays became chapters in The Bridge to Wholeness, which was published in 1992.  It opens with the fairy tale, “The Lily and the Rose.”

Dream Theatres of the Soul was conceived soon after Bridge was finished with an idea about how dreams can be organized into five categories, each an element of the psyche. I wrote an outline and finished this book in three and a half months.  It was every bit as much fun to write as Bridge.

Healing the Sacred Divide was difficult.  I began it with the intention of trying to clarify what the feminine side of God is like, and from there it went through several themes and titles before it was finally published in 2012, 19 years after it was begun.  During all that time I had no assurance that it would ever be published, but I loved every minute of it, even when I had no idea what it was supposed to be about. Which was most of the time.

4)  Why do I write what I do?

I write about self-discovery because I have to.  It’s my calling.  And frankly, it’s the only thing I’m good for. If we humans created religions to remind ourselves that we are loved and known and guided by a benevolent, magnificent, mysterious Other;  if  religions are meant to bring joy and comfort and purpose and meaning to human life;  if they are supposed to teach us humility and gratitude and compassion and understanding for ourselves and our fellow humans; if they are meant to teach us how to love… then I can honestly say that the inner work I have conducted to discover who I am, along with writing my books to help others do the same, has been a religious experience. In the truest sense of the word.

Thank you so much for reading this.  And now I’m delighted to introduce the authors and bloggers who will continue the blog tour next week with posts about their own fascinating work.  If you don’t already know them, you’ll want to check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Tzivia Gover

090114_kripalu_tziaviagover_022Tzivia Gover is a certified dream therapist, author, and educator. Her books include Learning in Mrs. Towne’s House: A Teacher, Her Students, and the Woman Who Inspired Them (Levellers Press), Mindful Moments for Stressful Days (Storey Books), and Dream House, a poetry chapbook. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications including Poets & Writers Magazine, The New York Times,  and The Boston Globe. To learn more visit http://www.tziviagover.com or http://www.thirdhousemoon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elaine Mansfield

DSC02161

Elaine Mansfield’s writing reflects over forty years as a student of philosophy, Jungian psychology, mythology, and meditation. She is a longtime student of Marion Woodman, the Dalai Lama, and spiritual teachers from many traditions and lives on 71 acres of woods, fields, and sunset views in the Finger Lakes of New York. Elaine was a nutrition, exercise, and women’s health counsellor, but after her husband’s death in 2008, her focus turned to healthy grieving and the challenges and rewards of creating a new life. She now facilitates hospice support groups for women who have lost partners or spouses, writes for the Hospicare and Palliative Care of Tompkins County newsletter and website, and helps others find the spiritual core and deeper connections available within loss.

Elaine’s book Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief will be published by Larson Publications (October 2014). Dale Borglum of the Living/Dying Project said about the book: “Not only a touching and courageous memoir about love, illness, death, and grief, Elaine Mansfield’s Leaning into Love is a manual for healing that offers us the emotional and spiritual tools needed to grow and even flourish through life’s deepest crisis.”

Elaine writes a weekly blog about life’s adventures and lessons at elainemansfield.com/blog. Her email address is elaine@elainemansfield.com

 

 

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

 

Unplugging the Dam June 16, 2014

I’d like to tell you about a particularly potent form of inner work that helped my daughter achieve her career goals. Julie was at Florida State University (Go Noles!) working on her Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy when the time came to write her dissertation. Suddenly, the psychic energy that had served her so well for so long hit a wall. The challenge before her seemed so daunting that she became immersed in a dark swamp of inertia. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t get started and it seemed as if she might never bring closure to years of hard work.

Overcoming our natural resistance to undertaking and carrying out difficult tasks requiring months or years of concentrated and directed effort is, in the words of Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding, “a positive factor leading to self-discipline and culture, and on its development civilization largely depends.” Having struggled with the same challenge in my own doctoral studies, I knew what Julie was going through and offered to help.

A process I had used successfully to understand and address the needs of both sides of my own internal conflicts is called the Voice DialoguePsychologists Hal and Sidra Stone developed this method and describe it thusly: “In using Voice Dialogue, we directly engage these subpersonalities or voices in a dialogue without the interference of a critical, embarrassed, or repressive protector/controller….The ego occupies a central physical space, and the subpersonalities play out their conflicts around it.”

Julie and I realized that the subpersonalities involved in her dilemma were her Innocent Child who wanted to relax and play instead of taking on adult responsibilities, and her Warrior who would be deeply ashamed if he didn’t fulfill his goals. Julie found two images to represent these warring energies. For her Innocent Child she chose her childhood doll, Dudgie.  For her Warrior she chose a ceramic statue of a crouching black panther. She herself, of course, spoke for her ego.

Laying out four cushions on her living room floor we took our seats. I sat opposite Julie, and Dudgie and the panther faced each the other from the remaining two cushions. After lighting a candle to designate this as sacred work in a sacred place, Julie began by describing the problem. Then, moving to Dudgie’s cushion, she held her doll in her lap while giving voice to the youthful wishes and needs her doll represented. Next, Julie occupied her panther’s space and repeated the process from his perspective.

After Julie returned to her own cushion and summarized what she had learned we formulated a compromise to meet the needs of her inner adversaries. The solution to which all agreed was that if Innocent Child would let Warrior work for a certain number of hours every weekday without complaint, he would let her relax, play, eat her favorite foods, and watch her favorite TV shows on weekends and evenings when she wasn’t in class without laying a guilt trip on her. They also decided it might help if Julie checked in with me each week for encouragement and support.

The results of this creative work were immediate and dramatic. Something in that process opened up a dam and released enormous energy. Within a few months Julie completed and submitted her dissertation. A few months later, an empowered and very happy Dr. Julie embarked on her new career. Is this amazing or what?  It’s a simple fact that each of us contains all the transforming power we need, and we can activate it by reaching across the sacred divide and befriending the otherness within.

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

 

The Authentic Hero’s Quest June 3, 2014

Here’s another favorite of mine from August, 2011.  I hope you enjoy it.

The other day I read an article on the internet about a mostly male mindset called the “culture of honor”  which places such a high value on defending one’s reputation that it results in more risk-taking and accidental deaths. Reportedly, this way of thinking is most prevalent in small towns and rural areas of the South and West in such states as South Carolina, Wyoming, and Texas. I wondered: What myth inspires these unfortunate men to take such dangerous risks that they are killing themselves?  Why do they follow it?  I found my answer in the wisdom of two of my favorite authors: Joseph Campbell and Carol S. Pearson.

Campbell tells us that classic hero myths feature powerful male warriors who slay dragons to prove themselves and become masters of the world. Instead of recognizing this as a metaphor for the ego’s heroic struggle for consciousness, patriarchal cultures have tended to take it as a literal model for external achievement, encouraging people to climb to the tops of hierarchies where they can define what the heroic ideal is and decide who is entitled to it: usually the few. We see the dark side of this interpretation in ruthless political leaders and business moguls who deliberately spread lies and foster conflict and hatred to keep their money and power rather than trust the masses enough to share with them.

Pearson describes another unhealthy consequence: “focusing only on this [interpretation of the] heroic archetype limits everyone’s options. Many…men, for example, feel ennui because they need to grow beyond the Warrior modality, yet they find themselves stuck there because it not only is defined as the heroic ideal but is also equated with masculinity.  Men consciously or unconsciously believe they cannot give up that definition of themselves without also giving up their sense of superiority to others — especially to women.” Pearson gives the example of the main character of Owen Wister’s book, The Virginian, who leaves his bride on their wedding day to fight a duel for honor’s sake. Why? Because the only other role available to him is the victim, or antihero.

An obsession with the hero-kills-the-villain-and-rescues-the-victim plot distorts healthy heroic behavior (having the courage to fight for ourselves and change our worlds for the better) into the dangerous “culture of honor” ideal we see among the young working-class and minority men who still embrace it in many parts of the world. Isolation, impoverishment, religious fanaticism, social disenfranchisement and inadequate education all feed this mentality. The only thing apt to change it is the awareness that not everyone thinks this way and there are healthier alternatives.

Pearson’s research in the 1980’s revealed that women were rediscovering the true meaning of the dragon-slaying myth. Their story in which there are no real villains or victims — just heroes who bring new life to us all — is being adopted by males and females alike. While the timing and order may be slightly different for men and women, we all go through the same basic stages of growth in claiming our heroism.  “And ultimately for both [genders], heroism is a matter of integrity, of becoming more and more themselves at each stage in their development.” This is the Jungian path of individuation.

The heroic, self-disciplined quest to avoid the inauthentic and the superficial conquers the slumbering dragon of unconsciousness and births the courage to be true to one’s inner wisdom. An individuating person knows, in Pearson’s words, that “assertion and receptivity are yang and yin — a life rhythm, not a duality.”  Freed from the tyranny of conflict between opposites, such a person names our divisiveness and promotes care, cooperation, compassion, community and unity. Do you know someone who fits this description of an authentic hero?

Art:  Rogier Van der Weyden, St. George and the Dragon

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

 

Will the Real Little Orphan Annie Please Stand Up? May 13, 2014

 

Archetypes are inborn patterns of psychological energy. They have enormous influence over our thinking and behavior whether we realize it or not. Usually we do not.  The human ego does not take easily to introspection. Some seem content to tolerate life’s sufferings without question or complaint.  Others escape through distractions and addictions. But for those who can tolerate the tension between “checking out” and “checking in” long enough, a new, third solution eventually arrives.

My solution arrived when I discovered Jungian psychology and began a regular program of study. One of the early books I read was Carol S. Pearson’s brilliant The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live ByThe Hero archetype is activated by a painful recognition that there is more to us than meets the eye, and by a powerful need to “experience oneness with other people and with the natural and spiritual worlds.” Carl Jung called this the journey of individuation.

The need to take the journey is innate in the species.  If we do not risk, if we play prescribed social roles instead of taking our journeys, we feel numb;  we experience a sense of alienation, a void, an emptiness inside…In shying away from the quest, we experience nonlife and, accordingly, we call forth less life in the culture.” C.S. Pearson

In The Hero Within, Pearson highlights six major archetypes which are influential on the hero’s journey. These are the Innocent, Orphan, Martyr, Wanderer, Warrior and Magician.

“The Innocent and the Orphan set the stage:  The Innocent lives in the prefallen state of grace;  the Orphan confronts the reality of the Fall.  The next few stages are strategies for living in a fallen world: The Wanderer begins the task of finding oneself apart from the others; the Warrior learns to fight to defend oneself and to change the world in one’s own image; and the Martyr learns to give, to commit, and to sacrifice for others.  The progression, then, is from suffering, to self-definition, to struggle, to love….the Magician learns to move with the energy of the universe and to attract what is needed by laws of synchronicity, so that the ease of the Magician’s interaction with the universe seems like magic.”  C.S.Pearson

But first, you have to get past the Orphan. When I took Pearson’s self-test to determine the strength of these archetypes, the Orphan got zero points and I gave myself a mental pat on the back. Thank goodness I’ve grown beyond that childish mentality I thoughtBut in my dreams that year, orphans kept popping up demanding my dream ego’s attention. I couldn’t imagine what these sad, needy urchins had to do with me. I was nothing like them. I had high ideals!  I was brave, optimistic, tough, competent, independent!  I never noticed that this was the socially acceptable persona of Little Orphan Annie.  Her unconscious, disowned qualities were so far from my awareness that I could only see them when I projected them outward onto others whom I saw as weak and self-pitying.  I did not know I was wearing a plucky Little Orphan Annie mask, and that beneath it lurked the Orphan archetype’s problem: despair.

“What characterizes despair is just this — that it is ignorant of being despair.” Soren Kierkegaard

The Orphan is a disappointed idealist, and the greater the ideals about the world, the worse reality appears.” C.S.Pearson

Accepting my Orphan within was my first step on the hero’s journey. Carrying The Hero Within in my backpack was one of my Wisewoman’s first choices.

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

 

 

Does Writing Suit Your Personality? May 9, 2014

Writing has always suited my personality.  One of my earliest memories is of folding pieces of paper together to make a book. When I was ten I was 30 pages into a novel before I tore it up in disgust because I had no idea what I wanted to say. As a teenager my favorite thing to do when I got home from school was to write plays.

Today I can sit down at my computer and, with only a few breaks in between, get up eight, nine, or ten hours later with little awareness of how much time has passed, feeling excited and utterly rejuvenated.  The next morning I can’t wait to get back to my computer.  When I was working on the manuscript for Healing the Sacred Divide I ran this marathon three or four days a week for almost three years with only a couple of months off in the summer.  For two of those three years, I had zero input about my writing from any living person. It was just me, my Self, and my computer.

Obviously, this way of life is not for everyone.  Our friend Howard enthralls all who know him with fascinating stories about his very unusual and interesting life.  People are always telling him he should write a book and I think he finds this idea attractive…but not enough to actually do it.

Carl Jung’s theory about personality types helps explain why one person can be very well-suited to writing while another is not. He found that two basic attitudes affect the focus of our attention. Extraverts are primarily oriented toward the outer world of people and objects; introverts toward the inner world of concepts and ideas. Jung saw these attitudes as mutually complementary and believed both were necessary for maintaining a balanced personal and social life.

In an article about the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, Wikipedia cites these major differences between the two types: 1) Extraverts are action oriented, while introverts are thought oriented; 2) Extraverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence; 3) Extraverts often prefer more frequent interaction, while introverts prefer more substantial interaction; and 4) Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.

Of course there are lots of extraverted writers and plenty of introverts with no interest whatsoever in writing. Moreover, both types struggle to complete writing projects because of myriad other issues such as education, financial limitations, attention deficits, self-confidence, self-discipline, time constraints related to work and relationships, and other personal preferences. But understanding our basic attitude toward life greatly enhances our chances for success with writing or any endeavor.

I’m a strong introvert and my friend Howard is a strong extravert.  I love what Dr. Judith Rich says about her extraversion, “We E’s live outside the cave and struggle to find our way in, while the I’s live inside the cave and struggle to find their way out.” The bottom line? I love my cave and resist leaving it. I enjoy being alone. I like sitting uninterrupted at my computer for hours. I like working in perfect, luxurious, soothing, rich-with-possibility silence:  no music, no people, no phones, nothing to distract or interrupt my thoughts.  But Howard?  Cave-dwelling doesn’t suit his personality. He likes stimulation, activity, conversation. His passion is story-telling, not story-writing.

If you’re not sure what kind of work suits your personality you might ask yourself a few questions. When I was a child, what did I want to do in my spare time?  If your answer is  “Read” or “Watch TV,” you might find a clue in the subject matter of your favorite books or programs. What was my favorite subject in school? Which did I enjoy more: playing outdoors or indoors?  With friends or alone? What would my ideal work scenario look like?  Do I work best with noise or quiet? Am I an extravert or an introvert?

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

 

Conscious Parenting May 6, 2014

Marveling at my first granddaughter.

Marveling at my first granddaughter.

I am so proud of my children: how they turned out, who they married, how well they are raising their children.  Their parenting styles are different in many ways, yet both sets of children are delightful: sweet, funny, bright, good-natured, well mannered….(I could go on, of course, but I’ll spare you more grandparental gushing!) My time with them reminds me that no matter how well-prepared we may believe we are for the role of parenting, much of what we bring to it comes from unconscious factors over which we have no control.

I loved and respected my mother. I saw her as an intelligent, well-meaning, independent woman with an unemotional personality and a hands-off parenting style. Having a full-time job, she was never involved with my brother’s or my education or social lives, trusting us to get along fine without her participation or advice.  And we did.  Get along fine.

Well, except maybe for a couple of little things…  As a child I longed for her to attend my plays and concerts at school.  How good it would have felt if she had been a room mother or attended PTA meetings, how nice to come home to a clean house and find her waiting for me, perhaps with a tray of cookies or freshly baked bread. But I understood and forgave her for having to work and vowed never to let my work interfere with my children’s happiness. Other than that I assumed raising my children with the same love and trust I had received was about all that was necessary.

As it happened, my choices, combined with a lot of good luck, an education in child development, help from a good husband, and a strong desire to be a good parent made me a good-enough mother.  But beneath the conscious aspects of my upbringing and later on, of my parenting, was an emotional undercurrent of which I was utterly unaware.

Helping my son change a diaper.

Helping my son change a diaper.

As a child I took my mother’s emotional reserve and unwillingness to discuss family problems for granted. I would never have guessed that her untaught lessons, unexpressed feelings and unrevealed truths would leave me ill-equipped to handle many psychological aspects of child-rearing.

I never heard or saw my parents argue. (Of course, that could have had something to do with the fact that Daddy was rarely home!)  Moreover, I can think of only two instances when my mother and I exchanged heated words. The time she used the word “damn,” I was shocked into silence. Intuiting her emotional fragility and wanting to spare her more pain after my parents’ divorce and Daddy’s death, I spared her the normal adolescent phase of rebellion by disowning my uncomfortable emotions.  For years I thought that was admirable. What a good girl I was!  Just like Mama.

Naturally, this influenced my parenting.  Without knowing it, I was so intimidated by conflict and anger that at the first sign of agitation my default response was, like my mother’s, avoidance.  Since my family rarely saw negative emotions from me, I believed I was very good at keeping them under control. I was, but that wasn’t a good thing!  On the rare occasion when shutting my mouth, swallowing my emotions or distancing myself didn’t work, I was quick to grow impatient, irritated and stern.  And if that didn’t shock them into silence, an angry eruption from me would. That may have been an effective way to relieve my anxiety, but it was a dismal model of emotional maturity.

Our parents’ unresolved issues flow into us through dark underground passageways, and if we don’t bring them to the light of consciousness we pass them on to our children. With every gain I’ve made in managing my anxiety,  I’ve gifted my family with one less problem to contend with. I’ll never be a perfect wife, mother, or grandmother, whatever these elusive creatures might be, but knowing I’ve lightened my family’s inherited psychological burdens gives me comfort.

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

 

 
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