Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Who Was Eve: Wanton or Warrior? September 30, 2011

Adam and Eve had everything in the Garden of Eden, didn’t they?  Well, almost everything.  They didn’t know the difference between good and evil, but we are told that Eve and the snake changed all that.  God had given Adam and Eve only one rule: Do not eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  For a while, Adam and Eve found it easy to honor this rule, for there was much to discover in the beautiful garden and each other.

But eventually temptation came in the form of a snake who suggested they break God’s rule. Eve must have resisted at first, but gradually she began to question God and wonder about the forbidden fruit. How does it taste? she must have asked herself. Why shouldn’t we eat it?  “C’mon, Eve. Just one bite,” we can imagine the tiny voice in her mind saying. And so the first rule was broken and Adam and Eve were forced to leave the beautiful walled garden and lose their blissful, childlike innocence forever.

The sacred stories from every religion represent psycho-spiritual truths. This one is about the birth of human consciousness, and it is as relevant today as it was to our earliest ancestors. Like Adam and Eve, during our youth most of us focus on the rules and expectations of our outer, omnipotent gods: religious, familial or otherwise. Responding appropriately to the collective awareness of our time is normal and desirable, not just because we need the support and protection of our groups to survive, but also because we need their approval to validate our worth.

But when it comes to our inner lives, as long as we do not challenge the standards of our gods we live mostly in a state of foggy unknowing, never suspecting that the rules we feel compelled to keep might not be in the best interest of ourselves or others. We might be vehement in our support of them, but at bottom, it is not their rightness that makes keeping them so appealing, but the sense of security they provide. The illusion of safety protects us from the confusion, terror, and loneliness of following our own mysterious inner impulses.

The miracle of life is about growth and change, and human life is no exception. Whether we like it or not, the very fact of being alive compels us to evolve beyond outdated and incomplete forms. Eve is a symbol of this sacred energy which shows up in a powerful need to honor formerly forbidden behaviors or thoughts and questions deemed “heretical” by our groups. Like her, every ego resists this urge because breaking from conformity involves great suffering and risk. But if we take enough little risks along the way, we can grow strong and conscious enough to listen to our inner voice and tolerate the tension of making conscious choices.

An ego with this kind of strength will eventually challenge repressive rules and wander alone on a dark wilderness path with only its unknown self for company. Eve’s inner opposite is symbolized by Adam, her undeveloped masculine side. Working together, our inner partners will follow a path defined not by conforming or rebelling, but by cooperating to fulfill our unique purpose in creative new ways that benefit all.

If God is Love and Life, then God/Love/Life wants us to become conscious of our potential for good and evil so we can grow out of blind ignorance and slavery into moral responsibility. As for me, I think Eve was the first Warrior and I’m glad she took that bite!

 

Hera Possession September 27, 2011

When we were in our thirties my husband and I were invited to a party at the home of a couple we’d recently met.  Halfway through the evening I was sitting on the stairs when a man I didn’t know sat beside me. As we made small talk I began to realize he was flirting with me. I’m not great at flirting so I was a bit uncomfortable, but he wasn’t saying anything the least bit offensive or inappropriate so I remained open and friendly.

After a time three women walked to the foot of the stairs, sat in a semicircle on the floor, and stared coldly and silently up at me. The hostility emanating from them was visible. I tried to include them in the conversation, but they simply sat and glared. I felt awful. I realized they must be friends of this man’s wife — perhaps one of them was his wife — who were banding together to intimidate this new female whom they saw as a threat. I had done nothing provocative, yet these women were obviously furious at me for attracting his attention.

This seemed so strange. They were not mad at the man, even though their behavior suggested he might have had an unsavory track record.  They were mad at me, a woman they didn’t even know. It didn’t seem to occur to them that they had probably been in similar situations.  They seemed to feel no kinship with me whatsoever. Our femaleness was not a basis of understanding and compassion, but grounds for suspicion and hatred.

In Greek mythology, Hera, the long-suffering, loyal wife of the powerful, philandering Zeus, was like the women at the foot of the stairs.  When Zeus deceived and seduced the innocent maiden Callisto, Hera in her jealous rage turned Callisto into a Bear which she then plotted to have Callisto’s son kill.  Zeus got off scot-free. This sort of thing happens again and again in the Greek myths. Why? Because Zeus and Hera represent archetypal patterns.

Of the seven major Greek goddesses that represent feminine archetypes, Hera is the one I’ve always liked least. Her fidelity and commitment to her husband were admirable, but she was so darned jealous and spiteful and their relationship was so filled with hostility and tension that they had no real intimacy. Moreover, her single-minded devotion to her role of wife and her power struggle with her more dominant partner in that one-sided relationship blinded her to the innocence of any woman who might unwittingly capture his notice.

“Hera possession” is a shadow of the Queen archetype. Our healthy Queen represents our potential to be sovereign over our own lives, understanding and caring partners, and cultural leaders who nurture healthy growth in others. But as long as our ego’s fragility and outward focus compel us to conform to society’s level of awareness, we will, like Hera, sacrifice everything — including opportunities for growth, relationships with friends and loved ones, and the most precious truths of our souls — to remain in the dark womb of inertia and unknowing where we can maintain our illusion of safety and status.  Like Hera, we may not be very happy there, but we will defend our position to our last breath.

And who will pay for our fearful need to conform?  Whoever happens to be in the line of fire.

 

Unplugging the Dam September 23, 2011

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, represented 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 she 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.

 

Toppling a House of Cards, Building Strong Relationships September 20, 2011

In my last post I said that understanding and compassion can heal dysfunctional relationships. While I know this is true, I also know that some relationships are not worth saving. The problem is how to tell the difference between those with healing potential and those that are truly toxic.  Some relationships are vehicles to higher consciousness; others are accidents waiting to happen.

Evolving into beings who can protect ourselves from negative influences and live in loving intimacy with our true selves and others is extremely difficult, partly because of our natural inertia, and partly because our need to preserve our ego edifice is so strong that we automatically see whatever challenges it as the enemy. The stronger the challenge, the greater our resistance. This stalemate can be prolonged indefinitely until we are pushed to our limits and either give up and drop out or begin a search for a newer, healthier edifice.

The in-between time of escalating conflict which inevitably shows up somewhere between the first-blush attraction and final solution to relationship problems is a danger zone filled with daunting obstacles. The good news is that they can usually be overcome with perseverance and inner work. The bad news is that inner work entails more suffering than some egos can endure and those who cannot tolerate the tension will put an end to it one way or another.

In her brilliant book, Psychic Energy, Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding has written, “The individual with adequately developed ego is competent not only to overcome obstacles in the outer world and so to make a satisfactory work and social adjustment, but also to rouse himself from the inertia that saps his energy even before he makes the attempt to tackle the external problem. For the ego is the function that man has developed to deal with this primary inertia.”

Our inner and outer relationships do not grow stronger by resisting, repressing and pretending, but by overcoming our inertia and cultivating self-understanding and compassion. Aspiring to these qualities is one thing;  actually possessing them is quite another. A goal is a detached mental construction, like a house of cards built by a growing ego. But using our energy to act on our goals brings ego strength and maturity. Until we acquire the self-discipline to rein in the conditioned reflexes of our raw instincts and emotions, our high ideals have no practical value. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up!”

The compulsion to evolve from unknowing to knowledge and from passive indifference to active love is the motivation behind every seeker and every authentic religion. Likewise, the goal of all psycho-spiritual practices is to acquire enough self-restraint to set aside our ego’s desirousness and inertia so that we can grow, unite with, and lovingly serve the miracle of Life in all its manifestations.

In writing this post I realized the time has come to share some special news that illustrates the rewards of persevering in psycho-spiritual practices.  In midlife my discomfort grew so strong that I redirected my focus from the outer to the inner world. Years of strengthening the relationship between these two parts of myself gave me the knowledge and courage to follow my true passions. As a result, I became a published writer. Today I’m thrilled to announce that my newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other and the World, will be issued from Larson Publications in June of 2012! Without inner work, this dream of mine would never have been realized.

 

Working On A Dream About Individuation: Part III September 9, 2011

I’d like to begin by saying a huge thank-you to Joseph, Jerry and Jane (what’s with all the J’s?) for their comments (Jane’s came via e-mail) about Dream #4337.  Their thoughtful associations were enormously helpful as I pondered this dream.

Dreams express things essentially unknown to the ego. Most believe, however, that they are primarily about emotions, which are charges of energy that influence our thoughts and behavior. Sometimes they create so much anxiety that stopping to reflect on what we are feeling before responding does not come easily to us. We find it far easier to either ignore them or act immediately, often with disastrous consequences. Emotional awareness is the stairway between the archaic being at the deeper levels of our psyche and higher consciousness, and dreamwork builds this stairway.

Dream #4337 (see previous two posts) is like a 3-act play.  Act I takes place in a social setting. Emotion is introduced by the thirsty woman who wants to fill her plastic cup with water. The energy of her wanting compels her to leave the collective and set out on a solitary journey. As Jerry noted, this seems to express discomfort with aspects of my positioning in society which are too plastic and unfulfilling to quench my thirst for personal meaning and self-knowledge — i.e. individuation.

Act II introduces Ms X (as Jane calls this shadow of mine) with her warning of potential danger. The meeting of these two streams of emotional energy sets up a conflict: Thirsty Woman’s determination vs. Ms X’s fear. Joseph sees Ms X as one so involved in her work that she has stopped along the way. Jane, too, sees her as one who has made it over the first railing but then stopped: perhaps because she got tired or frightened. Because she’s in my dream, there is a part of me like her. One association I have for the waking-life Ms X is that she resists facing her shadow emotions and appears to rechannel their energy into hard work. Whereas 22 years of dreamwork have emboldened me to face my shadow, I obviously still have some sublimated, unredeemed fear.

In Act III my thirsty woman dream ego experiences three new emotions: receptivity to Ms X’s fears, willingness to stop and examine the road ahead, and conscious concern for her safety. I had no idea what this had to do with my waking life until I read Jerry’s question about my involvement with social media: “Could this dream be addressing the issues that go with these instruments of social communication?” This brought a huge “Aha!” My shadow has an important message for me and my ego is listening.

Two weeks before this dream a few communications on Twitter shook me up and stopped me in my tracks. As Jerry suggested, “The use of these media devices can become [so] ego influenced it threatens the fabric of someone like yourself who is ‘spiritual to the bone’. It can be a great outlet for expression but when dealing with the release of emotions {by others} there is always a danger. I sense the dream is focused on these issues. I also sense from the last part of the dream [the bathroom as a place of elimination, cleansing and refreshment] it is something you can control. There will always be challenges to the spiritual self when participating in a world full [of] ego.” Bingo!

And so the question remains: Shall I continue in this direction? Jerry’s words could be mine: “…the answer is yes. It is just too great a way to ‘get out the message’, to share what we have learned so others discover a path to wholeness.” But I’ll be listening to my shadow and watching the way ahead.

 

Working On A Dream About Individuation: Part II September 6, 2011

This is the continuation of the last post about my most recent dream.

Summary of Paragraph II: I find myself on a narrow (12 foot wide) runway bordered by silver metal railings. The ramp rises higher into the sky and farther away from the platform I’ve left behind. The woman to the right who is absorbed in her creative work warns me against continuing but I’m determined to find the fountain. Here are my associations:

Narrow runway: the term “narrow way” is a reference to spiritual seeking. I’d feel better about this path if it were connected to the ground. To me this would suggest more balance between the physical and metaphysical realms.

Twelve: cosmic order and salvation; another reference to the spiritual journey.

Silver metal railings: “As a shiny white metal, [silver] is a symbol of purity…In Christian symbolic usage, silver obtained through refining ore symbolizes the purification of the soul.” (Herder) Railings are light protective structures which, unlike walls, are open enough to see through and easy to move beyond.

The working woman: In waking life, X is a highly motivated, hard-working, task-oriented woman I know. We both channel our passion for social change in creative ways. She is working alone in this high place. As part of me, her warning indicates unconscious doubts I have about my current path. My dream ego’s confidence and determination to continue reflects my conscious attitude.

Fountain: associated with water, deep secrets, and access to unconscious springs and sources of esoteric knowledge that bring blessing and the living water of life.

Summary of Paragraph III: There is no fountain at the end of the narrowing runway, but only a small, enclosed, all-white bathroom with an open door, a toilet, and a sink at the back wall. I worry about the water quality and my safety and consider not continuing. Associations:

Narrowing runway with lower rails: The way ahead is narrower, less predictable, and less safe than where I am now.

White: light, purity and perfection.

Bathroom:  Herder says of the bath: “… it is a place of cleansing, renewal, and rebirth, as well as — in alchemy — a place of mystical union.”

Enclosed room: I imagine I’ll feel safe inside the walls of the bathroom. Cirlot says, “…the wall seen from within as an enclosure [implies] protection…Psychoanalysts frequently regard it…as a mother-symbol.” Does this suggest an unconscious regressive tendency to retreat to my womb-like writer’s aerie where I can observe from afar without risking painful personal involvement?

Open door: Herder says a door is “a symbol of transition from one realm to a new one (e.g., from this world to the next, from the profane to the holy)…[and an open door] presents a challenge to pass through…”

Toilet: a container for bodily wastes. Its presence in my dream suggests a need to eliminate some unwanted emotions.

Sink: The fact that the water comes out of a tap instead of a fountain could suggest a certain “civilized” ability to modify and control aspects of my instinctual, emotional self. Its height and remoteness could suggest emotional detachment from down-to-earth everyday realities.

Worries about water quality and safety: Will this way bring spiritual nourishment?  Is it balanced and stable? Do I want to proceed or should I reflect and reconsider?

I’ll finish this dream and share my conclusions in the next post. Meanwhile, please weigh in about any aspect of this process that interests you.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: