Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Power of Your Creative Force July 29, 2014

“Did you not see that when your creative force turned to the world, how the dead things moved under it and through it, how they grew and prospered, and how your thoughts flowed in rich rivers?  If your creative force now turns to the place of the soul, you will see how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit.” ~ Carl Jung. The Red Book. Page 236.

When Lewis LaFontaine posted this quote on his Jung site the other day I was inspired to write about it, but unsure how to explain its importance to readers unfamiliar with this language. I knew some would wonder:  What is the power of the creative force? What did Jung mean by turning it to the world and then to the soul?  And why should I care?  What does this have to do with me and my life?

I know some people wonder about these things because there was a time when I did too.  One of the first books I read on Jungian psychology  25 years ago was The Kingdom Within by John Sanford.  I was enormously excited about the new insights I gained from it, but couldn’t understand why Sanford treated the release of creativity as a major accomplishment.  Why would I care about being creative? I just wanted to understand myself and make the pain go away. It took years of inner work to realize that creative imagination was what unlocked my true self and made the pain go away!

To create is to bring new life with exciting potential into your world.  Creative imagination eases your load and enriches your days. It makes you feel better and inspires you to be a better human being. Most amazing of all, it frees you from the prisons of fear and time and lifts you to eternity:  the sacred “zone” of the gods.

The creative force is, like the imagination which activates it, a natural capacity of every psyche. Tapping into it transforms our inner and outer lives by helping us find and express our individuality in ways that are unique to us and benefit others.

To turn our creative force “to the world” is to manifest a new idea or unique body of work that will prove our worth and improve the human condition. People with this drive become artists, designers, actors, composers, musicians, dancers, architects, inventors, photographers, poets, playwrights, writers, chefs, and anyone who loves and engages in creative work of any kind.

But Jung’s quote suggests that while turning the creative force to the world has enormous value, there comes a time when a new focus is called for. Indeed, the inability to release our attachment to the outer world and redirect our creativity toward the inner is the psychological basis for the stereotype of the tortured artist who has sold his soul to the devil for a lifetime of worldly acclaim.

Jung is saying that if we can “see” (i.e. become consciously aware of) how well the proper use of our creative force serves us during the first half of life, and if we can trust it not to abandon us if we redirect it in service to the inner life during the second, our whole life, youth and age, inside and out, can be transformed into a work of art.

To turn your creative force to the soul means to take the gift of your life seriously and make the search for healing, self-knowledge and meaning the primary focus of your creativity.  This entails three main tasks.

First, approach your physical and mental life with the attention an artist gives to her art. Immerse yourself in the details of your body’s subtle sensations, your mind’s thoughts, emotions, values, attitudes and recurring issues,  and your dreams, wishes, fantasies and intuitions—especially the ones you don’t like to admit to—until you can see them through the eyes of a lover.

Second, look beneath the surface of every form of art, especially myths, fairy tales, religions, literature and film to find the underlying similarities between these creative reflections of the human soul and the processes of your individual soul.

Third, accept all the insights you acquire, both the “bad” and the “good,” and find creative ways to integrate them into your awareness. You can do this alone, in a group, or with the help of a teacher, mentor or therapist. The important thing is to engage in healthy activities that absorb your attention, help you understand yourself, and alleviate your pain.

You probably won’t receive cultural acclaim for redirecting your creative force to your soul, but the world will benefit anyway. The creative force has the power not only to transform you into a work of art, but also to bring a healing new level of consciousness to everyone whose life is touched by your magnum opus. This is “how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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 

 

Mothering New Life April 29, 2014

Most of us are familiar with the religious practices of prayer, fasting, good works, scripture study, service, regular attendance, tithing, and so on. While their merits cannot be denied, unfortunately traditional religious practices do not automatically lead to lasting healthy changes in personality, behavior, relationships or quality of life. Nor do they signify spiritual maturity.

In contrast, regular practices that connect our inner and outer lives and have self-discovery as their goal bring about positive growth in every area of our lives. Some examples are meditation, active imagination, psychological studies, creative expression, symbol work, dreamwork, body work, breath work, art, depth analysis, remything our lives to honor the feminine unconscious, journaling, and ritual.

Knowing this, many religious groups today sponsor ongoing dream groups.  I have discussed the value of dreams and conducted dream workshops for Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Unitarian Universalists. Jeremy Taylor, a Unitarian Universalist minister, has written books about understanding dreams from a psychological perspective. And John Sanford, author of Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language, was both a Jungian analyst and Episcopal priest.  These religious leaders understand that the aims of religion are compatible with those of psychology.  They know that we need not fear our dreams, for they come to bring compassion, healing and wholeness.  Aren’t these the goals of every authentic religion?

For many years I helped the Rev. Greer McBryde, an Episcopal priest, work with her dreams. Like many intelligent and ambitious women, over time she had developed a more conscious and accepting relationship with her masculine side than her feminine. But when she began to experience health problems and have disturbing dreams that seemed to warn of disastrous consequences if she continued to pursue her single-minded Warrior attitude and lifestyle, she realized she needed to give more time to her Mother. So she took an early retirement to rest, rediscover her center, and devote her energies to her relationships with herself and her family. Some time later she sent me this dream:

I am having a baby and the full-term child is born.  It is a big baby with a full head of hair and eyes wide open.  It is full of energy and ready for life.  A nurse takes the baby from my body to clean her.  When she hands the baby back to me she is small, hairless, and very delicate with almost transparent skin.  She is so small that she fits in the palms of my hands.

Greer says of her dream, “I believe that I have given birth to a new me, and it was time for that to happen (the baby is full term).  This was not premature nor was the child in any way not ready for life.  When my nurse (the part of me that is a caretaker) returned her to me, I saw and felt how small and fragile this new life really was.  I would have to handle her very carefully and nurture her with gentleness.  That new life has been put into hands that are capable of allowing her to grow.”

As Mother’s Day approaches, Greer’s dream reminds me that tending new life, whether in the form of personal growth or societal reforms, is the province of our feminine, nurturing sides.  Everyone has one.  Yet many seemingly mature  religious and political leaders are still so deeply suspicious of femininity and their own feminine sides that they would rather perpetuate blatantly dysfunctional masculine attitudes than support the fragile feminine growth that is full of energy and ready for life in ourselves and the world.

Fortunately, Dream Mother’s nightly guidance is available to all.  Each of us can, like Greer, learn how to listen,  receive, and mother new feminine life in gentle hands that are capable of allowing her to grow.

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 Positive Side of Depression April 22, 2014

In her brilliant book, “Psychic Energy,” Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding writes: “When life presents us with a new problem, a new chapter of experience for which the old adaptation is inadequate, it is usual to experience a withdrawal of the libido. For one phase of life has come to an end, and that which is needed for the new is not immediately at hand. This withdrawal will be experienced in consciousness as a feeling of emptiness, often of depression, and certainly of inertia, with an overtone of self-rebuke because of what seems like laziness or sloth.”

Have you ever been there? I have. Many times. And each time it happens it takes a while before I remember that this is simply another step in the journey. The road may be leading downhill for now, but it’s still there, and as long as I can place one foot in front of the other the story isn’t over yet. But what are we to do while we’re in the abyss of emptiness? The depths of depression? The islands of inertia? The swamps of self-rebuke?

First of all, we need to remember that when our libido, or psychological energy, withdraws, it is not gone forever. The laws of physics tell us that energy can be transformed but not destroyed. When we feel a loss of energy it simply means that the energy which was formerly available to our ego has sunk into the unconscious. Once it gets there, forces over which our egos have no control will have to be mobilized before the energy can return to consciousness. The ego usually feels to blame, but it is not, because it has no control over unconscious forces.

Second, in the words of Harding, “When the light of life dims and one is left in the darkness of depression, it is much more effective to turn for the moment from the objective task and to concentrate attention on what is going forward within, instead of forcing oneself to continue by a compulsive effort of the will.” Once the libido is no longer available to our ego, will power can only be used effectively to “follow the lost energy into the hidden places of the psyche by means of creative introversion.”

Creative introversion means working with our fantasies and dreams in creative ways that feel meaningful. These products of our unconscious speak to the hidden forces which have sucked our libido down into the dark belly of the whale, and their images can give us clues not only to the nature of the difficulty, but also to the solution.

For example, many years ago toward the end of an extended period of libido loss I kept imagining myself as a baby chick still inside an egg, pecking at the shell. I knew I felt trapped, but I didn’t know what was trapping me or how to get out. Exploring this and other waking and dreaming images through art, journaling and dreamwork highlighted features of my persona that had initially protected the new life in me but were beginning to smother it. As I kept pecking away, cracks appeared in my shell until it finally collapsed and I stepped out of my self-imposed prison. The extraordinary infusion of new life I’ve experienced since then has taught me to see libido loss and depression not as obstacles or enemies, but as helpful guides along the way.

My thanks to Dr. Judith Rich for the inspiration for this post. Check out her article on the Huffington Post to see her wonderful take on a related topic.

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 

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,744 other followers

%d bloggers like this: