Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dream Symbols: Houses July 31, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dreams: Pictures of Emotions July 27, 2010

In the early years of working with my dreams my focus was almost entirely on head work: thinking, reading, discriminating, clarifying, understanding, analyzing symbols, and so on. I had heard that dreams were pictures of emotions and I enjoyed dreams that left me feeling happy or good about myself, but others that left me feeling bothered after I woke up were deeply puzzling.

As a child I learned to ignore uncomfortable emotions, or ones which, if I expressed them, would earn the disapproval of my family. By the time I entered junior high school, instead of responding authentically to each situation as it came, I automatically — and completely unconsciously — processed my reactions through a filter of how I thought I was supposed to act, which was calm, nice, reasonable, and, above all, unemotional. I assumed — again, I was not aware of this assumption at a conscious level — that what my mind thought and how I appeared to others was more important than what my heart felt. I thought if I was tough enough to take whatever was handed to me and didn’t let it get to me, it simply wasn’t a problem. I thought it was just a function of mind over matter, and I was rather proud of my will power.

The habit of being emotionally stoic was so deeply ingrained that I was almost completely unconscious of it as I was doing it, although I could sometimes see it after the fact. It wasn’t until about twelve years ago that I finally began to see it as it was happening. The catalyst was a dear friend and gifted dreamworker, Justina Lasley. After I related a dream to her, Justina focused in on a part where some men were treating me unkindly and asked me how that made me feel.

“Oh, fine. It’s no big deal,” I said offhandedly. Justina just sat there looking at me. “Really,” I said. “That’s just the way some men are; I understand that.” She just looked at me. I squirmed a bit under her penetrating gaze, and then the lightbulb went on. “Oh,” I said. “You mean, how do I really feel about this down deep? Oh, I get it! Well, I guess there’s a part of me that feels… sad? Hurt? Maybe…a little angry?”

I was stunned at this revelation. For the first time, I really got it in my gut that my automatic denial of strong feeling was part of my persona, the social mask I had built around my inner self to cover up my vulnerability. (Like the ego, the persona is neither good nor bad; we all have a social personality that helps us adapt to the requirements of everyday living.) This was a huge breakthrough for me. I had always assumed I was doing the right thing, the noble and spiritually desirable thing, in wearing this mask. But I was wrong.

Why? Because our emotional realities are as important to our well-being as mental ones, and repressing them saps the life out of us. When we lose touch with our feelings we lose touch with our souls. Indeed, in our compulsion to elevate logos over mythos/eros we’ve lost our souls. This is a major reason for the epidemic of anxiety in Western society today. The path to wholeness lies in accepting the whole truth about ourselves, including all our emotions, and not just the socially acceptable ones! Allowing ourselves to feel them without having to act on them is one of the best ways I know of to become who we are.

This is something I’m still working on! How about you?


Food for the Soul July 24, 2010

When I started this blog over four months ago I had no idea how much my soul hungered for the psychological and spiritual companionship of like-minded travelers, so was somewhat surprised to see how avidly I’ve been lapping up the warmth, wisdom, and compassion revealed in the comments of readers. Making your acquaintance has been a true blessing to me, and I offer you a gift in return: the recommendation of one of the wisest, most soul-satisfying books I’ve ever read written by one of my favorite new internet friends: William Douglas Horden.

Once in a while a book appears that is exactly what the spirit of the times cries out for. The Toltec I Ching, a reworking of an ancient oracle by a contemporary sage, is one of those books. The use of oracles was common in many civilizations of antiquity including the Greeks, Norse, and Egyptians. The most well-known is the Chinese I Ching, or ‘Book of Changes’, a collection of linear signs originating in the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). Oracles have long had an important role in Tibet and the Dalai Lama still consults one. The Yucatec Mayas consulted the writings of an oracle priest who correctly predicted the disastrous coming of the Spaniards.

Horden’s Toltec I Ching combines the ancient wisdom of the Chinese and Toltecs with the intellect and sensibility of a modern-day spirit person. For example, at the beginning of the 20th century Carl Jung said we each have a masculine and feminine side and repressing either creates psychological, cultural, and spiritual imbalance. Is there anything new about this message? No, spirit persons from every culture have always intuited this truth and devised wonderful teachings to convey it, but advancing civilization keeps forgetting and digging itself into ever-deeper holes. So just when we are waking up to the frightening darkness and depth of our current hole — featuring, among other things, terrorism, economic crises, worldwide violations of human rights, and environmental disasters on a global scale — along comes the Toltec I Ching.

This brilliant and beautiful oracle is written in a series of 64 brief chapters that reads almost like a novel. The main character is the authentic Spirit Warrior. The setting is the dual inner and outer worlds of the would-be warrior’s awakening soul. The plot describes the warrior’s journey through a series of psycho-spiritual tests which develop his/her masculine and feminine sides, strengthen intention, motivate action, guide direction, and create growing awareness. And the theme is the exact same one found in this blog: how to free oneself from ignorance and transcend duality to become a conscious, responsible, enlightened being capable of making healing choices of benefit to the world.

William Douglas Horden’s writing style is clear and masterfully organized logos artfully combined with imaginative, symbolic mythos. And the format? Simply gorgeous! Martha Ramirez-Oropeza has painted 64 extraordinary full-color illustrations in a style as simple as it is profound; the print is plenty large for aging eyes; each page has a sense-satisfying heft; and the cover is as sturdy as a non-hardback book could possibly be.

In short, the team of writer, painter, and Larson Publications has created a work of art worthy to sit on the shelf with the world’s spiritual classics. The only books I’ve underlined more are my King James Bible and the complete works of Carl Jung. If you have not yet added The Toltec I Ching to your spiritual library you’re missing a key to the mystery, and mastery, of your soul.


Taming Dream Dragons July 20, 2010

When my emotional climate gets too hot for comfort or the gap between my inner and outer lives grows too wide, everything in me demands congruence. At times like this I consult my dreams like other people consult therapists. Is digging in my inner darkness hard work? Is it scary? Painful? Difficult to learn? It used to be but not any more. Now it’s fun; the self-validation and self-affirmation accompanying each insight are just so rewarding.

Last time I said my dreams from the year 2005 brought some of my shadow issues to center stage. Three were particularly troublesome. To get a better handle on them I gave them names: Orphan, Spiritual Bully, and Heroine (with an “e”) Addict.

As a child I tried not to mind my father’s long absences or bother my hardworking, emotionally exhausted mother. When I was 11 my father died. For years my dreams were dotted with needy little orphan girls whom my dream ego tried to ignore. Then in 2005 I saw how certain emotions I didn’t like — particularly loneliness, self-pity and sadness — signaled my Orphan’s presence in my waking life. As I got better at admitting to these feelings their influence waned and Orphan stopped bugging my dream ego. Since then, most of the little girls in my dreams have had mothers. Two weeks after my mother died, a forlorn teen-aged girl showed up. When my dream ego embraced her, she left, comforted. I guess Orphan is growing up.  Is Cinderella becoming a Queen?

Recognizing Spiritual Bully with his excessive perfectionism was an especially significant breakthrough. For a long time I admired this grand inquisitor’s high-minded scrupulousness. Now I see it as a sad supplication for mercy from a judgmental deity whose retribution he fears. How can I allay the dread that drives this pitiful puppet? What new, healing job would bring more warmth to such a callous fellow who believes it’s in my best interest to keep criticizing me and making me feel guilty? These questions shape my struggles to accept him as part of myself.

I was both thrilled and appalled at the discovery of my Heroine Addict. I now realize she is a product of personal trauma (the early death of my father) and cultural conditioning (hero myths and stories of saints). How could I have overlooked the unauthentic martyrdom of this Joan of Arc wannabe after so many years of dreamwork? What will bring surcease to her compulsive need to save the day with noble self-sacrifice in every situation? Each step I take toward replacing her anxiety-ridden, self-important goodness with relaxed authenticity excites me.

Integrating these shadow figures has been huge for me. Self-knowledge is balancing the extremes of my inner world, reducing my anxiety, and bringing the sense of moving a bit closer to the centered, non-reactive state of receptivity, spontaneity, and peace to which I aspire.

Carl Jung said, “. . . today most people cannot see the beam in their own eye but are all too well aware of the mote in their brother’s. Political propaganda exploits this primitivity and conquers the naive with their own defect. The only defence (sic) against this overwhelming danger is recognition of the shadow.”

Politicians take note: Killing dragons in the outer world will never free us from psychological, political, or global tyranny. The lasting solution is to make peace with our inner dragons.


Dreams and the Holy Dark July 17, 2010

As I look back through my dream journals I discover that 2005 was a particularly difficult year featuring five painful traumas. Nothing out of the ordinary; just things we all eventually experience: serious illness of a loved one, loss, disappointment, death of a beloved animal friend. During the day I tried to stay calm, reasonable and balanced. At night, in a striking visual and emotional language, my dreams dramatized the rest of the story beneath my ordinary awareness: uncomfortable emotions like resentment, guilt and self-pity, ignoble thoughts like judgment and blame, and my old nemesis: soul-killing self-criticism.

Of course, there were times when my perception of the meaning of a dream added briefly to my discomfort;  but, overall, knowing what was going on in my unconscious made me feel markedly better. Seeing a disowned quality in a dream enabled me to choose not to act on it in waking life, and the seeing and choosing were enormously self-validating. As I watched myself behaving with more self-awareness, acceptance, and self-control my heart swelled with pleasure. Unlike addictive substances which dull our pain, self-knowledge does not help us escape the reality of suffering, but simply expands our capacity for fully experiencing our lives so we can feel hope and joy even in the midst of grief. This is the blessing side of the double-edged sword of consciousness:  joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.

The Western world does not recognize the shadow (everything we disown about ourselves) as being a natural part of every individual. Most of us are willing to admit to certain flaws, but for every one we bring to the light there are others of which we have no conscious knowledge. We can easily see our most despised qualities in others, and are usually only too happy to point them out, but rarely can we admit to their presence in ourselves.

This is not just psychologically ignorant, but dangerous. Our inability to understand and accept our personal and cultural shadows is the reason for our prejudices, hypocrisy, thoughtless and cruel behavior, broken relationships, crime, genocide, imperialism, war, and wanton pillaging and destruction of our precious Mother Earth. The only lasting contribution I as an individual can make to world health and planetary peace is to know my own shadow well enough to restrain it without projecting more darkness into a world that already has enough to destroy us all.

Carl Jung taught that a whole person is one who sees and accepts full responsibility for both the light and the dark within. He said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”

And as one of my mentors, Jungian Robert Johnson , has written in his brilliant little book, Owning Your Own Shadow, “To own one’s own shadow is to reach a holy place — an inner center — not attainable in any other way. To fail this is to fail one’s own sainthood and to miss the purpose of life.”

To help you understand why this is so, in future posts I will occasionally share insights my dreams have provided about my shadow. I hope my willingness to face and discuss uncomfortable issues about myself will encourage you to be more courageous and compassionate with yourself as you conduct your own self-explorations.

Owning our shadows is a spiritual practice, an initiatory rite that activates compassion, ethical behavior, psychological wholeness and enlightened consciousness.  Our dreams are our guides on this healing, holy Way. It is no accident they occur at night. One cannot move into the light without first passing through darkness.


Dreamtime: A Time to Heal July 13, 2010

A while back I wrote about a dream in which my dream ego was determined to kill some weeds. I couldn’t tell if this was a good thing or not. It was the words killer and poison that got to me. I was used to thinking of killing as wrong, so how should I decode this perplexing message? This is an important question that needs to be asked. You can’t just go around willy-nilly believing everything your ego wants to believe about your dreams. Most egos are deluded; some dangerously so.  So here are some things to consider when working with your dreams.

First, look at the symbols. Everything in a dream has meaning for you: objects, words, people, colors, sounds, animals, trees,shapes, the setting, weather, who’s driving the car, who’s walking. Even the absence of something you would expect to be present means something.

Symbols have three levels of meaning: archetypal (the universal meaning expressed in myths and fairy tales throughout the world); cultural (the meanings your family and society assign to them); and personal (your own likes, dislikes, and personal history). Consult a good symbol book for archetypal meanings. Look for cultural clues in the films, books, plays, art, television shows and music you grew up with. I understood the meaning of the weeds when I realized my culture sees weeds as undesirable and I usually do too. They must have represented something about myself I didn’t like.

People and animals show you aspects of yourself. How or when are you like that admired teacher or controlling relative? What part of you is a wounded puppy, soaring eagle, Nazi guard, wise elder, vampire, priest, intense perfectionist, helpful taxi driver, seducer/seductress, artist, singer, lonely child?

Emotions in dreams are very important clues to your unconscious emotions. What is your dream ego feeling? Is it hurt, angry, happy, worried, embarrassed, self-pitying? What event in your dream instigated this feeling?  When was the last time you felt like this in waking life? 

Dream events are usually metaphors about the way you’re living. Running from something suggests you’re trying to escape an aspect of yourself. A fear? A disowned quality? If your car runs out of gas or you’re frantically trying to find food for your guests, in what ways are you depleting your energy? If you’re trying to find a clean bathroom to use in private, what inner feelings are you trying to find an appropriate outlet for? If you’re mortified to discover yourself naked in public, when in waking life did you recently expose the “naked” truth about yourself? If you’re enjoying levitating or flying, what’s making you feel so wonderful, light and “high?”

Finally, consider what’s been happening in your life and look for connections with the dream’s feelings and imagery. Then wait for an internal “Aha!” It may not come, but if it does, you know you’ve hit pay dirt, regardless of what your ego or anyone else thinks. You may not always be able to trust your ego, but you can trust the wisdom of Sophia. She speaks to us still, across the ages, from out of the depths. Hear her timeless words from the Wisdom book of Ecclesiastes:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven; A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal.”


Relationships: Duality vs. Reality July 10, 2010

After my recent post, “Animal Medicine: Acquiring Power and Success,” I received two comments that I found very interesting. William Horden cited the differing energies of the stallion and mare to illustrate the need for integrating our masculine and feminine sides. Ram0singhal distinguished the difference between our attitudes about what is positive and negative, or good and evil, and life’s actual underlying Oneness. What these two comments have in common is their emphasis on the importance of transcending dualistic thinking.

Dualistic thinking? What does that have to do with me and my life? you might be wondering. Well, everything, actually. The way we think influences the way we live and relate to others. If there’s anything about yourself, your relationships, your life, or the world you’re not happy with, you can change it with greater awareness of the way you think about it. Really. Believe it or not, our thought processes are at the root of our problems, and the worst culprit is dualistic thinking. Essentially, dualistic thinking is perceiving the world in terms of “black and white” opposites in which there is only one correct answer.

There’s nothing right or wrong about classifying things in terms of opposites; in fact, this is the ego’s natural mode of perception. For example, our senses constantly highlight the differences between day and night, sun and moon, north pole and south pole, east and west, male and female, light and dark, self and other, fire and water, hot and cold, hard and soft. Likewise, there are vast differences between our inner and outer worlds, our thoughts and emotions, our life styles and the life styles of others, and so on. Distinguishing differences is the way we come to understand our world.

The problem with dualistic thinking is our tendency to make moral judgments about opposites. When we see one side as “right” and the other as “wrong” and get all charged up about defending our side and rejecting the other, we stop communicating and start fighting. But think about it. Is either side in any of the above examples objectively better than the other? No. We might prefer one over the other, but essentially both are naturally occurring, morally neutral aspects of life.

For example, my husband processes life’s input by logically evaluating physically observable phenomena. I am more attuned to my intuition, feelings and values. The difference between his objectivity and my subjectivity used to create real problems for us, and there were times when we were both certain the other was not only wrong but bad in some indefinable way. But as we got clearer about how we were thinking and what we were feeling and started communicating our truths honestly instead of quibbling about who was right and who was wrong, we discovered that, at bottom, our conflicts were based on our lack of understanding about the natural processes of our own souls and our inability to accept the validity of each other’s.

Changing the way we think has made all the difference in our relationship. With each step we take toward transcending opposites that threaten to separate us, we grow more understanding, forgiving, and compassionate, and more intimate with ourselves, each other, and the benevolent, underlying Oneness of reality.

How does dualistic thinking create problems in your life? How are you doing at overcoming it?


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