Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Love Letter to the Unknown June 4, 2013

87175589My dear friends and followers,

Three and-a-quarter years ago, on March 10, 2010, my spirit stepped out on a new adventure. With a minimum of technical expertise and a maximum of self-doubt, I published my first blog post. The idea came from my agent and editor, Paul Cash, who thought a blog would be a good venue for my writing and a place where potential publishers could see samples of my work.

At his suggestion, a few months earlier I had hired a social media trainer. With infinite patience and remarkable skill, Dawn Jensen gently nudged me into the new and exciting world of the internet, the vast potential of which I was previously barely aware. Initially, the challenges of writing and publishing two posts a week, (which seemed doable at that time), plus learning and navigating the intricacies of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, were enormous.

Obstacles presented by my personality were equally daunting. A major hurdle was my distaste for self-promotion. But since publishers are rarely attracted to writers who hide their lights under bushels, I knew this was something I needed to overcome. Another problem was that, conditioned from youth to keep my most meaningful truths to myself, I rarely expressed them in public lest I be misunderstood, ridiculed or criticized. Of course, it was initially daunting to share them in my books, but I soon realized that when it comes to avoiding immediacy and intimacy, a book works even better than a persona because it gives you much more time to think before you “speak.” However, two appearances a week can severely test the vigilance of even the most scrupulous mask-wearer.

Fortunately, in matters of real import to my soul, my self-doubting Orphan rarely bests my intrepid Warrior and he pushed on. Had he not, I would have missed one of the most soul-satisfying experiences of my life. I’ve said this before, but to be sure you’ve heard me I need to say it one last time:  my relationships with the people I’ve met through this blog have become, like my grandchildren, the love affair of my old age.

Nonetheless, for several months now, Changing Woman has been eroding the boundaries of my routine and nudging me into new terrain. I can’t see the path yet, but I can read the signs: Warrior needs a rest and Wisewoman wants to move on. Neither will be left behind because both have more work to do, but for now, more balance is required.

As this chapter ends I don’t yet know what the next one will bring, so in this time of transition I ask for your forbearance. Traveling alone used to be enough for me but now I cannot imagine continuing without the companionship of fellow travelers. Perhaps we will meet only once a week for a while, perhaps less often. But I’ll still be here and I hope you’ll still want to connect. Your kind and timely thoughts, like the call I synchronistically received from my dear friends Sam and Eleanor as I was finishing this just moments ago, have made a profound difference in my life.  For all who have shared your journey with me here, I send this blessing:

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the grey promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

   John O’Donohue

                              Benedictus:  A Book of Blessings

 

Feasting at Women’s Tables April 2, 2013

feast1Since I left my job to write in 1989 I’ve always been part of at least one women’s circle with sometimes as many as four ongoing groups at the same time. My Jungian study group was formed in 1989 and our weekly meetings lasted for ten years. The Purple Pro’s, my writing group, has met monthly since 1990 and usually shared home-cooked lunches. This year is the first we haven’t had a meeting because of changes in our lives that make it too difficult.

In 1997 a few women and I founded The Matrix, an organization dedicated to identifying and meeting the sometimes physical, but always psycho-spiritual needs of women in Central Florida. Until we passed the torch along a few years ago, my monthly meetings with five unusually wise and gifted women were deeply growth-inducing and soul-sustaining. 1997 was also the year I started teaching classes and leading dream groups at the Winter Park Jung Center. When it closed, our dream groups met in private homes until my latest book demanded too much time and energy.

For over 20 years I have regularly shared meetings, study groups, planning sessions, classes, programs, volunteer projects, weekend workshops, retreats, dream groups, and food with circles of women. We opened and closed most occasions with rituals. Some, like the five minute deep-breathing meditation before dream groups, became traditions. Others were tailored for specific occasions like Matrix meetings, classes, holiday gatherings, and individual life passages such as birthdays, weddings, new babies, transitions into crone-hood, house-blessings, illnesses and deaths.

The defining feeling running through all these groups was abundant nurturing. This is nothing to scoff at, I assure you! Think about it. When’s the last time you were with a group of people who wanted to nourish each other more than they wanted to grab all the goodies? I’m not saying there were no hurts, disagreements or misunderstandings, but there were only two occasions when differences were not resolved with emotional restraint born from growing fullness and caring. In both instances, the unforgiving women who left were deeply wounded neophytes in self-reflection.

A climate of abundance is rare among both genders in social institutions where an attitude of scarcity prevails. Not even religions are immune. Think about the usual office and board meetings, gatherings around the water cooler, times off in the break room, holiday office parties. How many have you attended where you didn’t hear a single snide remark or juicy bit of gossip? I’ve sat in faculty meetings where scorn for other professors, departments or colleges was palpable. Served on boards, chaired committees, and attended church functions where petty gossip, misogyny, exclusivity, and competition to impress hid behind the thinnest of pious veils.

I know some women prefer the company of men. I’m sorry for those who’ve never experienced the deep sustenance offered by mature and generous-spirited women, who’ve been poisoned by the spiteful gossip of miserable, mean-spirited women. I’ve shared tables with a few of the latter type when they’ve joined one of my classes or tried to befriend me. But ever since I excused myself from the company of rigid institutions and started communing with like-minded sisters, women like that have never hung around for long. I think their wounds have left them feeling so empty that they crave a constant diet of discord and drama, and I have no appetite for this.

There are some desperately unsatisfied and spiritually starved women out there, and it hurts knowing they can’t digest the kind of food that would help them discover their inherent beauty and capacity for love. But there are also many generous-spirited Queens, Mothers, Wisewomen and Beloveds, and sharing my journey with some of them, including you who join me at this table, has been a major blessing in my life.

You can find my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at Amazon.com and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Partnership Between the Scholar and Wisewoman October 19, 2012

In my last post I wrote about the Warrior and Mother archetypes. This time we’ll look at the Scholar and Wisewoman. The instinct for reflection is about the basic human “end” to be released from delusion.  There is something in all of us that wants to know and understand. Children want to see, feel, touch, taste, and smell everything.  As we grow older, if our curiosity is not stifled by too many rules and inhibitions, we want to understand why and how things work. Later still our curiosity about the world extends to the inner universe.  We just naturally feel good about ourselves when we acquire helpful new insights into our behavior because self-knowledge is its own fine reward.

The instinct for reflection is symbolized by the archetypes of Scholar and Wisewoman. The clear, piercing focus of the Scholar is motivated by the drive for self-preservation. He believes the key to our survival and self-fulfillment is the ability to reflect on life, study, acquire knowledge, and learn the secrets that will release us from our delusions. In the mandorla symbol of interlocked circles, our Scholar is the circle representing the left hemisphere of the brain, the logos that primarily processes information with focused consciousness and logical thinking by means of linear, rational, verbal thoughts and ideas. With his preference for clear discrimination and knowledge of objective phenomena, the Scholar’s specialty is the thinking of science and technology.

His archetypal partner, the part of us motivated by the drive for species-preservation, is the Wisewoman, our all-knowing mistress of the hidden arts.  Her specialties are the brain’s poorly understood right-hemisphere qualities of mythos.  The primary functions of mythos are diffuse awareness and analogical thinking. These spawn several ways of knowing: body awareness, spiritual awareness (knowledge of, and connection with, the Other), the ability to synthesize paradoxical messages from diverse sources, and the ability to create meaning from subjective experience, emotions, relationships,  intuition, gnosis, imagination, and symbols.

When the Scholar’s focus, clarity and objectivity are intentionally employed in service to exploring our unconscious depths, the Wisewoman’s intuitive connectedness, self-awareness and openness to otherness are unearthed and activated. Empowering both of these poles of the instinct for reflection strengthens our mindfulness and leads to expanding consciousness. This is a mental state of heightened awareness and receptivity to information coming to us from both the exterior and interior worlds.  Being open to both is the hallmark of partnership in the mental domain. The result of this inner marriage is the activation of the Sage archetype. Other names for this energy include mage, magician, philosopher, prophet/ess, sorcerer/ess, shaman, wizard, medicine woman/man, and wise old woman/man.

This form of archetypal energy can be identified by several specific skills. They include truth-seeker, mental juggler, light-bearer, lifelong learner, wall-wrecker (breaking through our resistance to otherness), chain-breaker (losing old habits and releasing attachments to outcomes), choice-maker, namer (of truth and reality), clown (or life-changing trickster), connector, and problem-solver.

Archetypal psychologist Carol S. Pearson says Sages have little or no need to control or change the world; they just want to understand it.  The Sage’s path is the journey to find out the truth—about ourselves, our world, and the universe.  At its highest levels, it is not simply about finding knowledge, but about becoming wise.  It is our Sage within who, like Wisdom People from every tradition in every age, resonates to the adages, “Know thyself,” “To thine own self be true,” and “That ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

The more free you feel to seek the truth, regardless of societal consequences, the more mature your Sage will be.  How badly do you want to know the truth? How powerful is your Sage?

Find Healing the Sacred Divide at www.amazon.com and http://www.larsonpublications.com

 

For the Crones October 9, 2012

The powers most capable of halting the escalation of hatred and chaos are not political.  They are psychological and spiritual. These powers are activated in individuals whose minds are committed to seeking justice for all, whose hearts are filled with caring and compassion, and whose behavior is directed toward connecting and healing. When everything we say and do originates from that core of love, it spreads through Indra’s diamond net and quickens the sacred spark that lives in every soul. Each of us can make this contribution to healing the separations within and between the peoples of the world.

Throughout history mothers and grandmothers have dedicated most of their energy, and often their lives, to nurturing and preserving life. Of course, many fathers and grandfathers have done the same. But women’s contributions have been educationally, financially, politically and spiritually restricted, vastly underrated, and largely taken for granted except for occasional lip service.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In a world splitting apart to birth a more evolved consciousness, the most important work we can do is to consciously respect and courageously share the blessings we’ve received from the other side of the Divide.  To that end I offer these questions for reflection: “How have my female ancestors enriched and improved my life?  Am I as caring toward others as the benevolent women in my life were and are to me? How can I use my unique skills in original and authentic ways that will justify their belief in me and benefit all beings?”

One of my responses to these questions is this song to the elder women who’ve made a difference in my life.  I dedicate it to crones everywhere.

THE YOUNG WOMEN AND MEN ADDRESS THE CRONES

To the Queens:

Sovereign and brave, you stand firm against those who would abuse power

and labor tirelessly to bring justice to the voiceless and downtrodden.

You protect all that is vulnerable and foster culture and creativity.

You nourish seeds of hope and new life in our hearts.

Help me lead with caring and integrity.

To the Mothers:

Wild and free-spirited, you have raced the wind like Horse.

Like Lioness you have fearlessly forged new trails to feed your children.

Like Bear you bear your solitude by boldly entering the dark winter wilderness,

yet you always return to the world in Spring with love honed fierce by sacrifice and birthing.

Great Mother of all that exists, teach us to love our bodies and trust the cycles of our lives.

To the Wisewomen:

Understanding, intuitive and trusting, you have aided birth and befriended death.

You have borne and survived intolerable suffering on paths of deep descending;

yet, aware, authentic, and free, here you are! Still dancing among the living.

You release your attachments to desire as you weave strands of meaning.

Show me how to joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world.

To the Beloveds:

Attractive and magnetic, you receive your lovers passionately

and share the truths of your souls with honesty and intimacy.

Your acceptance and encouragement inspire heroic striving.

Your beauty and endless generosity inspire artful living.

Bless me with gracious hospitality to otherness.

To all the Crones:

You are the Wisdom Women.

We are watching you.

Please help!

 

Meeting the Mistress of the Forest July 10, 2012

Once I read about a horse that lived in the same pasture for over 30 years, eating the same old tired grass, trying to find shade in the noonday heat under the same scrawny tree. After many years of neglect, the fence that separated this pasture from a lush, grassy meadow studded with beautiful leafy trees crumbled and eventually fell. Stepping over the fallen wood would have been a very simple matter for the horse, yet it stood at the border where it had always stood, looking longingly over at the grass as it had always looked.

I feel so sorry for that horse. It had become so accustomed to its old boundaries that it never noticed when they were outworn. I wish someone from the other side had called it over so it could have spent its final years grazing in a greener, fresher, infinitely more satisfying space.

Many of us have felt our spirits quicken through glimpses of something ineffable in the mist beyond normal awareness and longed to pursue it. But habitual assumptions are not easy to overcome. Moreover, the daily demands of life are so compelling that we usually defer our journey into the deeply alluring recesses of the forest until another day.

What are we to do if we do not want to end up like that horse? Luckily we humans have a special someone who beckons to us from beyond our outworn boundaries: she is the wisdom of the Deep Feminine traditionally called Sophia. But to hear her call we need to turn off the constant flow of words and listen with our hearts and bodies.

Her voice is very soft; her call, though compelling, is quiet. She speaks to us in urges, needs, wishes, emotions, feelings, synchronicities, yearnings, physical symptoms, accidents, instincts, nature, meaningful insights, joyful experiences, bursts of unexpected pleasure, creative ideas, images, symbols, dreams: all the things we have learned to ignore so we can perform with utmost efficiency in the rat race of daily life.

The message in her communiques seems so subversive that we have learned to ignore it too. Do not fear the unknown, she says when we are tempted to risk exploring the wilderness of our souls. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be content with the half life that comes from avoiding your fears. Feel your fears, follow your passions, experience your life with all your being. Open yourself and go deeper, for great treasures lie buried in your depths.

Following Sophia does not result in a quick fix, but if we will go boldly and persevere, the mansion doors to the eternal sacred that lies within will open unto us. The inhabitant of that mansion is the Self, our inner Beloved. Made of equal parts masculine and feminine energy, the Self is often symbolized by the King and Queen. Here in the West we project our King onto the distant Sky God and remain relatively ignorant of his feminine partner, Sophia, the Mistress of the Forest who is as close to us as our own breath and blood. Thus do we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from her wisdom and cross over into her sacred space.

So how, exactly, are we different from that old horse?

How has the Mistress of the Forest been speaking to you lately? What is she saying?

 

Which Feminine Archetypes Are Strongest In You? April 24, 2012

In my system, the feminine archetypes are the Queen, Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved. These images of our basic instincts serve our “feminine” drive for species-preservation and relationship. The ways we see and use their energies are transformed over time as our egos mature through three “feminine” phases: the innocent Maiden, the life-giving Mother, and the wise Crone.

In the first phase we unconsciously serve the drive to preserve our species; in the second the cycles of life force us us to become more aware of our individual needs; in the third, honoring our inner, spiritual selves becomes as important as meeting the needs of others.

Our Queen is a culture mother and the feminine sovereign of the psyche. Like the goddess Hera, a Queen in the Maiden phase automatically honors her duty to society without reflection. Her growth is usually instigated by some sort of crisis —rape or love, parenthood, illness, divorce, or loss of a loved one—which destroys the Maiden’s virgin innocence and instigates the Mother’s suffering. If she develops a conscience and learns moral responsibility she becomes a caring Crone/Queen of personal sovereignty, moral virtue, and social leadership.

The Mother archetype represents our instinct for physically serving the birth/death/rebirth life cycle.  In our unreflective Maiden phase our Mother is, like the warrior goddess Artemis and Mother Nature herself, as capable of destroying life as mothering it. In our Mother phase our Mother archetype struggles to understand and serve the needs of individuals as much as the activity of the impersonal Great Mother who gives and takes all  life. As our egos mature, the Crone Mother helps us value the life in our bodies and souls as much as life outside ourselves.

The Wisewoman is diffusely aware of, and deeply sensitive to, the maternal depths of the unconscious.  In our unreflective phase she is like Greece’s Persephone, Stephen King’s Carrie, and Walt Disnery’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Because we lack the experience and logical thought to handle the vast unknown, our Maiden can get us into trouble with archetypal powers we don’t understand and can’t control. Our transformation into the Mother phase begins when our mistakes force us to distinguish between objective facts and subjective symbols in the inner and outer worlds. Our Crone Wisewoman integrates logos with mythos to see the big picture, understand how the parts connect, and create personal meaning.

The Beloved is the magnetic principle in relationships. Our Maiden Beloved is like Aphrodite: an innocent, unconscious seductress driven to attract sexual, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment by attracting and pleasing others. Our Mother phase begins when we suffer the conflict between wanting to please our lovers and wanting to discard them when they no longer please us. Our Crone Beloved is like a hospitable, emotionally authentic hostess who lives in beauty, inspires others, and gives what we could only hint at in our youthful phase: full sensory and emotional intimacy with fully respected and loved otherness.

Whereas shadow masculinity destroys otherness, shadow femininity is self-destructive. A compulsive Queen can burn us out if we give too much of ourselves. Our Mother can sabotage our relationships by being too receptive/or smothering. An obsessive Wisewoman can cause us to be depressed and overwhelmed by the unconscious. And if our egos obsess over the outer appearance of beauty, our Beloved can compel us to sacrifice the true beauty of our souls. But as we accept our feminine sides and partner them with our masculine sides, their union can give birth to a Spirit Warrior of perfected selfhood and completed relationships.

What does your attitude toward the feminine archetypes say about your ego’s maturity? How are your relationships and service to our species evolving in ways that benefit all?

 

Remything Our Lives With Our Own Symbols April 10, 2012

The symbols and themes of dreams, legends, fairy tales and myths address realities that the soul understands, even if the conscious mind does not. For example, the legend of King Arthur features a walled city. We might be tempted to think that Camelot’s walls are nothing more than an incidental detail. So what if Camelot was surrounded by walls?  Lots of ancient cities were fortified by walls.  But as I’ve said before: Everything has meaning. Our symbols are clues to sacred mysteries.

If we look at the walled city as an important clue, we find the underlying meaning of Arthur’s story as it applied to the souls of those who lived in the place and time when it was written.  Cirlot’s Dictionary of symbols says, “Jung sees the city as a mother symbol and as a symbol of the feminine principle in general:  that is, he interprets the City as a woman who shelters her inhabitants as if they were her children…”

In the Old Testament of the Bible, cities are often spoken of as women, and in the Middle Ages, a city was one way of representing the Virgin Mary in art and architecture.  The walls that encircled cities were seen to have magical powers to protect the citizens in the same way that a mother’s womb protects her child or the enfolding branches of a tree protect a baby bear.

The walled city is no mere incidental detail in King Arthur’s story, and it ended in the only way it could.  The destruction of Camelot’s protective walls was inevitable given that this story emerged within a culture which, after a few hundred years of Roman rule, had begun to fear and scorn the Great Mother. Here is the symbolic message of this story: Not even the wisest and most benevolent King that any story teller could ever imagine could save a civilization that was systematically demolishing its feminine spiritual roots!

The negative elements of public and private myths speak to negative realities within the collective and individual psyche. What is the antidote to these powerful poisons? In his book The Mythic Imagination, psychotherapist Stephen Larsen says that conscious mythmaking is healthy and healing because it helps our egos relate to unconscious aspects of ourselves.

I think of the Wisewoman archetype as the part of us who knows when old stories that once worked for us have gone on too long, and who sends us new symbols that can ease us through the transition of change. But all the symbols in the world cannot help us if we will not help ourselves. It is up to us to notice symbols and themes that resonate, and to reshape them into new myths that will support and sustain the necessary changes. As theologian Matthew Fox has said: “Healthy people base their lives on healing, authentic stories.  Empowerment comes through the process of telling those stories.”

We cannot live the fullest meaning of our life by basing it on someone else’s story about who we are or what we should be.  Only our experiences, only our choices, only our own imagination and symbols have transforming power for us. To that end you might ask yourself these questions:  What stories have I lived by? How have they had a negative influence on me?  How have they been positive? What new symbols and themes is the Wisewoman sending my way? What emerging strengths would I want to feature in my new myth? What images might best symbolize these strengths?

 

Freedom to Feel February 3, 2012

As a young married woman I was utterly captivated by the film, Blume in Love, for reasons I didn’t understand. The same thing had happened three years earlier when I read my all-time favorite book: The Magus, by John Fowles. Why did I find it so incredibly fascinating? Did it have anything in common with Blume in Love, or were these just random coincidences? I didn’t know then. Forty years later, I do.

The Magus, published in 1966, was an instant success and is considered one of the top 100 best novels of the 20th century. The film which came out two years later is another story. This from Wikipedia: “The film was a critical disaster…Michael Caine himself has said that it was one of the worst films he had been involved in…because no one knew what it was all about. Woody Allen has made the comment that if he could live his life over again, he would do everything the same except for seeing The Magus.”

Who understood the message of The Magus in 1968? Certainly not the general public.  Even Fowles kept working on it until 1977 when he brought out a final version. Interest in psychoanalysis and mystical philosophy was growing in the West, but most of us, including women and some truly bad guys, still had the ego-driven mentality of a teenaged boy who wears the persona of a tough, white-hatted cowboy who defends the weak and is always on the side of right — even when it’s obvious to everyone else that he couldn’t be more wrong.

But the 100th monkey had hopped into a sinking canoe and we were in for a tumultuous ride down a raging river. The denizens of our collective unconscious had gained so much power that they were erupting in shocking phenomena: racial unrest, the Beatles with their Eastern religion and psychodelic drugs, the assassinations of our leaders, college sit-ins, the peace symbols and flower power of Haight-Ashbury’s hippies, the dissolving of the sexual double standard, violent protests against the Viet Nam War, and the charismatic and feminist movements.

Here’s my psychological explanation. Humanity had spent about 5,000 years developing and fine-tuning the ego, left-brained logos, and our masculine sides. All of this was a necessary part of our evolution, but then, in the first half of the 20th century, we experienced two devastating world wars, several smaller ones, and a new invention called “television.” Seeing his dark side reflected on the nightly news finally woke macho Old King Ego up. So he climbed down from his high horse and kissed Sophia, the sleeping Queen and High Priestess of the psyche who symbolizes feeling wisdom that comes from experience. We were evolving, getting back in touch with Eros, our feminine, caring, relationship-oriented side, and chaos always precedes times of great change.

So what does all hell breaking loose in Western society have to do with The Magus, Blume in Love, and me? Nicholas Urfe is near suicide due to an unauthentic life marked by unfeeling treatment of women. He’s drawn into the spell of a mysterious, magician-like man who uses a beautiful woman and an unconventional method to teach him how to feel again. Blume gets back in touch with his feelings when his desperate love for his Sophia-like divorced wife rekindles his feminine side. Like them and my society, I too was having unusual experiences that were arousing my inner feminine. Few from our generation knew what was happening, and many misused their new freedom to feel with disastrous results, but those who seized it and survived underwent life-changing initiations. Could it be that the dark Age of Unfeeling Reason is finally taking its place among the other dinosaurs of Earth’s chequered history?

 

Fear of Retribution December 6, 2011

The fear of God’s retribution has haunted me most of my life. I believe it arrived at the age of 11 when my father died of his third heart attack. Since he had divorced my mother three months earlier to marry another woman, I must have concluded that death was God’s punishment for betraying Mama and leaving us. Of course, I received a little help from my religious training on that assumption; after all, the Old Testament god was a punishing god.

Soon I began to ask the big questions about the meaning of life and gravitated toward religion which appeared to have some answers. By 17 I was hooked, and over the next ten years I read the New Testament of the Christian Bible three times. Its words were very comforting, and gradually my god-image of retribution morphed into one of love. Consciously, that is.

But here’s the thing: It’s not just about what you see; it’s also what you don’t see. My conscious belief that God was about love, not punishment, did not convince the wounded child whose fear of retribution never went away. In fact, the more I sided with a gentle, forgiving god-image and disowned its opposite, the more power my punishing, masculine god-image acquired until it became an overly scrupulous spiritual bully whose job was to criticize and repress me. And this hidden character in my inner cast of players began to influence me in equal measure to his opposite with one important difference: he did it without my awareness!

Psychological realities have energy. When we deny them honest expression they become like weeds that find their way out through cracks in the foundations of our personalities. My father’s death created a crack in my psyche and my bully took advantage of it. Instead of focusing on my good qualities and reminding me of my worth and lovableness, he’s the part of me that delights in emphasizing my mistakes and flaws.

He thinks he’s doing me a favor. After all, you know the saying, “Pride goeth before a fall.” He believes self-criticism is good for me and constant awareness of how “bad” I am will keep me humble! And therefore safe from God’s retribution.   But thinking we’re bad, hiding our light, and squelching our soul’s truths lest we attract God’s wrath or upset others are not good uses of our precious time on Earth. Might as well crawl into bed and pull the covers over our head.

Our soul’s reason for being is to live fully, love wastefully, and become all we have the potential to be.  That’s hard to do when we’re being pushed around by a spiritual bully. So how do we handle that negative inner voice? I choose to believe my Wisewoman, who, after 22 years of dreamwork, I can now hear in waking life. She’s the alpha mare who says to my spiritual bully stallion when he gets too inflated, “I hear you, buddy, but I’m not buying what you’re selling. I think it’s time you got a new job. How about helping me follow my bliss instead of criticizing me for being human?”

Taking our inner characters and disowned realities seriously is a choice to live our life fully instead of trying to kill it. What was Wisdom’s response when I finally saw my bully and started challenging his authority? Failure? A bolt of lightning? Loss of love? Abandonment? No. Actually, it was more like, “You go, girl!”

 

The Authentic Hero’s Quest August 26, 2011

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?

 

 
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