Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dream Interview Part I: Writers and Dreamwork May 29, 2012

Writing this blog has introduced me to some wonderful people. Shirley Showalter is one whose inspiring site is filled with fascinating information and practical tips for memoir writers.  Recently she requested an interview, and what began as fodder for one post quickly grew into material for a few more! Here’s my answer to her first question.

Q: You say on your website: “My life is a dream; my dreams are my life.”Also, you’ve recorded over 4,000 dreams since 1989 if I remember correctly. I can see how helpful it would be to be guided by dreams as a writer. But many of us, myself included, do not remember our dreams very often. Can you provide suggestions on how to become more conscious?

A: As of today, the number of recorded dreams is 4,355!   I know it sounds like a mind-boggling undertaking, but really it’s just been a day-by-day, step-by-step thing that I did several times a week when I had the time and energy, or when I felt the need, or when I remembered enough of a dream to be curious about it. Of course, I didn’t work on every one of these, and I’ve had several in between that I never even recorded, plus lots more I simply couldn’t remember.

At first I was worried about not capturing them all in writing so I could keep coming back to them. But our psyches are always trying to communicate our soul’s purpose and desire to us via our dreams, and I learned to trust that if the messages were important enough, they’d return in other dreams until I “got” them.

All my books but the first, which was an outgrowth of my dissertation, are essentially memoirs, and dreamwork has been invaluable to me in this endeavor. Writing has always been a deeply satisfying means of expression for me, and when it’s combined with working on my dreams it’s my fundamental “practice” that brings enormous meaning to my life and helps me tie up all the disconnected threads of my personal history.

Especially helpful in this regard is the fact that since my college days I’ve had a habit of jotting down my day-to-day activities and appointments on calendars, and I’ve kept them all. Likewise, when I started working on my dreams I dated and numbered them. Having this dual, inner world/outer world record of my life to return to when writing my books has been invaluable.

So my first suggestion to memoir writers about how to become more conscious would be to keep some kind of written record of what’s going on with you both inside and out, including a dream whenever you remember one. It may not feel important now, but years from now having this information could add powerful layers of meaning to your writing.

Having a regular practice of some sort is also essential to becoming more conscious. You’ve simply got to take time every day to pay attention to your inner life, even if it’s only a few moments a day. The major obstacle to this, of course, is the extreme busyness of life in today’s world, so it’s imperative to carve out at least 20 or 30 minutes every day when you won’t be distracted by kids, telephones, music, computers, or television so you can write undisturbed, or do whatever else you’re drawn to: writing, of course, but also body work like dancing, massages or yoga, or regular talks with a wise friend or psychotherapist.

But as far as I’m concerned, regular meditation is the Queen of consciousness-raising. Initially, I was reluctant to take the time to meditate so I made a deal with myself.  I could only start writing if I meditated for at least 20 minutes every weekday morning first! This worked wonders and also brought more balance to my life, because I left evenings and weekends free for my husband and children.  More next time.

The photograph is of two perfect peonies from my mountain garden!

Order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at


Dreams About the Creative Instinct: Part II May 25, 2012

In my previous post I shared a dream from 22 years ago that dramatized a conflict between my career ambitions and the Self, the central archetype of my psyche that was “encouraging” me to trust my creative instinct. I didn’t understand the meaning of the dream because of my ego’s resistance to change. Like all children, I had been conditioned to conform to my tribe’s standards and God-image, and challenging these supreme authorities was terrifying to my immature ego.

Of course, I was still so psychologically ignorant that I didn’t know this either! About the only thing I did know from my Jungian studies was that if I continued to tolerate the tension of this conflict and if I persisted in working with my dreams, an answer would eventually come when the conditions were right.

So I accepted another teaching position at a nearby university.  That year I dreamed of moving to flimsy, unsuitable houses I hated. Two featured kitchens—rooms of nurturance and transformation—that had rigid rows of old-fashioned school desks nailed to the floors! Gradually I realized I was unhappy with the way I was living and at the end of the academic year I resigned from teaching to write the book that was simmering in my soul.

Three days after the term ended I dreamed another woman and I were escaping from a prison owned by her father. Her father! Patriarchy! That was when I finally understood how captive I had been to a rigid belief system so dominated by the masculine principle that it left little room for satisfying my creativity or feminine side. After a lovely summer in which I gave myself permission to rest, I began my book. Eighteen months later I signed a contract with a wonderful publisher. Never had I felt so fulfilled and happy with myself. The following dream came during the final editing.

Dream #1215: “The Beautiful Black Stallion.” I’m in the backseat of a moving car.  A dark-haired woman I know sits next to me. My wonderful, beautiful black stallion sits next to her and stretches his neck over her lap so his head is on my lap. He looks up at me adoringly and makes little kisses with his lips. I kiss him repeatedly and stroke his massive head, his ears, his nose.  It feels blissful to have him love me so much.

The black stallion, of course, was the same dark horse I had been so afraid of almost 3 years earlier. My dream showed that my ego had released control of my life and taken a backseat to the Self, trusting it to do the driving. As a result, I was enjoying a conscious relationship with my creative instinct (black stallion), who loved me because I had allowed him to manifest my soul’s creativity in ways that were exactly right for me/us. This had happened because I had befriended my ambitious, intense shadow, the dark-haired woman beside me. Accepting her was the key that provided access to my unconscious self. She was the same daughter of patriarchy with whom I had escaped from prison!  Neither of us felt compelled to drive, and we were both enjoying the ride.

When our creativity is free to make its natural contribution to our lives, it becomes a loving inner companion who travels with us wherever we go. Then we know the sacred Mystery is not separate from us, but dwells within. In the words of Brother Paul Quenon, “Creativity, as life iself, is grounded in and shares in the sacred.”

Order Jean’s newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at


Dreams About the Creative Instinct: Part I May 22, 2012

Carl Jung said we have five instincts: nurturance, activity, sex, reflection, and creativity. Sometimes our dreams contain images and activities suggesting how we feel about them or how well-developed they are in us.

In dreams, instincts are often symbolized by animals. The instinct for creativity might appear as a spider, which creates its own fibers for weaving marvelous webs, or some other animal noted for the marvelous things it creates, like a beaver or a silkworm. It might also appear as a special animal that has important significance to the dreamer, or as a fabulous or unique animal with a creative combination of characteristics that give it unusual power.

Dreams of real or mythical people known for their creativity, like artists, writers, or musicians, can also be about this instinct. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was the God of fire, the forge, craftsmen, sculptors and artisans. One of Apollo’s symbols was the lyre, and Athena, noted for her wisdom, was also known for her inventions and skill at weaving.

When a certain instinct is not well-developed in us we can remain so unconscious of its potential, or so afraid of it, that we find it extremely difficult to recognize dream references to it. Here’s a dream I had about my instinct for creativity 22 years ago, shortly after beginning dreamwork. It was a complete mystery to me.

Dream #42: “The Horse and the Desk”  I’m terrified of a powerful, dark, beautiful horse that’s chasing me. I slam a door on him, leaving him in a room with my beloved dusty desk which I don’t need any more. I’m worried he’ll hurt the desk.  Carefully I open the top of the dutch door to see what he’s doing. Then he sadly says to me, “Why are you trembling? Are you afraid of me? Did you think I would hurt you?” Suddenly I feel foolish because I know he’s always been my friend and would never hurt me; nevertheless I was afraid and had to get away from him.

When I had this dream I had just written a book that was a dry and scholarly outgrowth of my doctoral dissertation and was so tired of the subject that only a fierce determination to finish what I had started had kept me going. Moreover, I was ambitious, and I knew the chances of finding success as a writer were slim to none. Added to this was my fear of writing about my true interests: my spiritual nature, my quest for psychological awareness and wholeness, and feminine issues. Writing about things for which I had no formal training could derail my progress in the academic world where I had achieved a certain amount of success. So despite the fact that I had always loved to write, I was considering giving it up to focus on teaching.

What did the dusty desk mean? Although I always wrote at a desk, I ignored that fact and associated it with teaching.  In essence, I was trying to talk myself out of writing—to shut the beautiful horse out of my life—because I was afraid my creative instincts might damage my career aspirations. The dream’s lysis (last image) said I should trust my creative instinct, that it wouldn’t hurt me. But I didn’t understand this then. Even if I had, I doubt I would have acted on it. I simply didn’t know, trust, or like myself enough to take the risk, and it took another year of dreamwork before I did. Next time I’ll share a later dream that confirmed the meaning of this one and brought closure to the whole issue.

Order Healing the Sacred Divide at


Slipping Into Myself May 18, 2012

I began recording and working with my dreams in 1989. In those early days, many of my dreams  had to do with conflicting feelings about my career.  This is one of them.

Dream #198: “Hiding From the Enemy”

Someone desecrates my small, primitive wooden house and ransacks my possessions while I’m away teaching writing classes.  It’s a dark night and the enemy is looking for me.  I’m in danger.  I hide, lying flat on the ground, pressed against the outside wall of the classroom.  I’m afraid to breathe or make a sound.  I know my tribe values my contribution and won’t give me away.

In dreams, houses usually represent the psychological condition in which we’re living.  So right away I’m being told that my inner life is cramped and primitive.  Moreover, it is a mess. But instead of trying to fix it up, what am I doing?  Hiding in terror behind a classroom! In other words, I’m using my focus on my job (I’m a college professor) as an escape, a way to avoid conducting some inner work and confronting an unknown enemy that’s really messing with my mind.

And who or what is this enemy that has my dream ego holding its breath and cowering in the dark?  When I had this dream I couldn’t imagine what it might be; dreams are, after all, dramatizations about the unconscious self.  But now I know and the knowing makes me sad for  my cluelessness and the needless anxiety I was suffering. I was a puppet of convention and terrified of my natural, authentic self!

At that time it must have looked to others as if I had the world by the tail; but inside a battle had been raging for over nine years between two apparently irreconcilable opposites. On one side was my ego that was growing increasingly unhappy with its lack of personal meaning and spiritual fulfillment, but still preferred the familiarity and safety of the status quo to the dangers of the unknown.  On the other was the compelling new voice of Sophia whose call to freedom from conformity was deeply attractive but felt dangerously subversive. Which side was right? Which was wrong? Nothing in my life had prepared me for this excruciating dilemma. How was I to choose?  Rejecting either one would have felt like a terrible mistake.

My solution was deceptively simple and came in its own sweet time. I listened to my inner opposites and tolerated the tension between them for nine long years without shutting down or rushing to premature closure. Gradually I grew more aware of a fuller range of choices and braver about making original ones that honored my inner life as much as my outer one. Then I had a big dream in which I was going against the current in a rushing river and walking back upstream toward my true home. This dream told me that something in my psyche had shifted. Without my ego’s full awareness I had changed directions and simply slipped into myself.  Why? Because I was taking my inner life seriously and paying attention. I was just trying to stay conscious.

It seems to me that the energies of life support two basic human endeavors: to become ourselves and learn to love.  And until we get the first one right, we can’t accomplish the second. That’s why making the unconscious conscious is my career now and nothing less will ever satisfy.


How Do You Know When You’re On The Right Side? May 15, 2012

We’ve been watching an outstanding Showtime series called The Borgias about an infamous Italian family in the 1400’s and 1500’s. The plot revolves around the father, Rodrigo, who became Pope Alexander VI in 1492, his favorite son, Cesare, whom Rodrigo made a cardinal, and Cesare’s beautiful and gentle sister Lucrezia. What makes the show so fascinating is the frank exploration of the dual nature of all three. On one side, Rodrigo is a devoted family man and Christian. On the other, he is absolutely ruthless in his search for power and wealth to the point that he authorizes the elimination of many enemies, some of whom Cesare kills for him. Remember, Rodrigo is the Pope and these things really happened. Talk about the original crime family!

From a psychological perspective, we see that all three characters act from the masculine drive for self-preservation and the feminine drive for species-preservation. Let’s look at the feminine drive: the inborn need that compels us to establish intimate relationships with others. Rodrigo dearly loves his courtesan mistress and mother of his children. He loves his other mistresses. He loves his children, enjoys their company, and consults their wisdom, and when Lucrezia has a son by her husband’s stable boy, Rodrigo is filled with joy and welcomes his grandson wholeheartedly into the family.

Cesare, too, loves his parents and his sister. He also loves a beautiful woman with whom he wants to make a life. And he trusts and is even somewhat fond of the family’s sinister enforcer, Micheletto. In the early stages of Lucrezia’s marriage, despite being repeatedly brutalized by her husband, she tries to be kind to him, and she dearly loves her family, lover and son. She also involves herself in civic projects to better the lives of Rome’s poorest and most disenfranchised citizens. All these are healthy ways of expressing the drive for species-preservation.

The problem for all three is that their masculine drive for self-preservation is so obsessive that while it serves their own family well for a while, in all but Lucrezia it overshadows their feminine drive so thoroughly that they feel no compassion whatever for anyone outside their immediate family or love interests.  Even there, it shows up occasionally, for example, in Cesare’s jealousy and hatred for his brother Juan.

We all have both drives, and we all express both in healthy and unhealthy ways. This is what I mean about having dual natures. No individual is all good or all bad. The same is true of governments and religions. When religious and political leaders are obsessed with fulfilling their own unconscious, unmet needs for power and influence they, like Rodrigo and Cesare Borgia, perpetuate dysfunction; but when their compulsion to serve themselves is balanced with a sincere desire to serve others they become forces for peace, healing, and the thriving of all. The thing that makes one behavior healthy and the other unhealthy is simply this: the presence or absence of genuinely benevolent feeling…for the human family and for every form of life. 

As Gregg Braden says, “The feeling is the prayer.”  It is not our good intentions, or what we think of ourselves, or how we vote, or where we worship, or what we believe and say that proves we’re on the “right” side and connects us to the Ultimate Good. It’s the genuine caring that motivates what we say and do. It’s the compassion. It’s the love. Only when feeling and living with love is our sincere, heart-felt prayer and an equally powerful force in our behavior can we be assured we’re on the side of Right.


Birthing a Book: Part II May 11, 2012

Why does this newest book of mine, Healing the Sacred Divide, feel special?  Well, my earlier books brought me great joy, but their writing and birthing were so effortless that it was almost too easy. It seemed to me then that I was mining the deepest core of my being, but in retrospect I see I was still just digging around on the surface. I was like a fledgling archeologist who has finally been let loose on a dig site and gets giddy over every artifact she unearths with no clue about the greater treasures awaiting below.

But when you carefully and single-mindedly tend a passion for 19 years, putting all your creative energy into it day after day with few rewards other than the satisfaction of persevering and knowing you’re doing your best, it feels very much like raising a beloved child. You do it because you must, and when it finally leaves the nest to enter the world on its own, it carries your heart and soul with it.

But more than that, to use the language of Jungian psychology, I see now that the other books came mostly from my personal unconscious, but with this one I feel I’ve tapped into the richer veins of the collective unconscious. It feels like this is not just my story, it’s everyone’s story. My other books were gifts to myself.  Healing the Sacred Divide is my gift to the world.

In our time we are becoming increasingly polarized around divisive issues of faith, gender and politics. The blame for this state of affairs does not lie with any one group,  but with our own dualistic thinking. As long as we persist in assigning labels of “good” and “bad” to every pair of opposites, whether male/female,  I/you, human/divine, my religion/your religion, or our nation/their nation, we will perpetuate the problem.

The time has come to realize this way of thinking no longer serves humanity’s best interests.  Fortunately, there is an alternative.  It is typified by a committed effort to understand ourselves, forge authentic relationships with others, and try to live with compassion every moment of every day. This way of living is symbolized by the mandorla, the shape formed by the merging of two separate circles. This almond-shaped space represents the kind of integrated psychological thinking and spiritual living we’ve always associated with our wisest and most enlightened Spirit Persons.

I believe developing Mandorla Consciousness is the spiritual work of our time, a radical middle path to God.  Healing the Sacred Divide is my contribution to our understanding of how to travel this path. Open to all regardless of religion, I believe it is our soul’s purpose on Earth.

If you’re interested in meeting my newest creative child, its official birth date is scheduled for July. However, Larson Publications will soon have advance copies in stock, and ordering directly from their website will be the quickest way to get one. Plus, you’ll get a reduced price. I suggest you go directly to my page at In closing I’d like to share an amazing comment that will appear on the back cover:

“A compelling journey through the human psyche and soul, both deeply personal and universal. Jean has done a brilliant job of illuminating where we are, how we got here, and how we can transcend the polarization and loneliness of this time by reconnecting with the sacred in its fullest, richest expression.”
—Margaret J. Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science and Turning to One Another


Birthing a Book May 8, 2012

In response to queries about my new book—where I got the idea, how it’s progressing, when it will come out, if it can be pre-ordered, and so on—I’d like to share some of the process and answer your questions in this and the next post. I know you come here for the psychological content, but I assure you I’ll weave some of that in along the way. It won’t be difficult, since I always look for, and usually find, psychological meaning in everything! Plus, the book’s about psychology!

While certain basics never change, the details of the process—from the conception of a book, to the writing of it, to its publication—are as unique as each book. When I started writing my first psychological book , The Bridge to Wholeness:  A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, in the fall of 1989, I had just retired from college teaching because of a restless discontent with my work and a deep knowing that I had something to say that was vastly different from anything I had written professionally. With no expectations for what would emerge, I followed my heart and for three or four days a week wrote a series of memoir-type essays via which I searched for meaning in my life’s most interesting and puzzling experiences. Essentially, I was re-mything my life from a Jungian perspective.

I’d been recording and working on my dreams for over a year, so I was delighted to discover that my unconscious self supported my writing by providing material at night that often inspired the next day’s work.  Six months into this project I was sitting in front of my make-up mirror one morning when a fairy tale wove its way into my awareness via a spontaneous session of active imagination. This story provided the focus that pulled all the essays together and a year later I sent a proposal and three sample chapters to ten publishers. With a hint from a dream and a suggestion from a Jungian writer, one was based in California. Three days later Lura Geiger of LuraMedia called and told me she wanted it, and my new creation entered the world in 1992!

My next book, Dream Theaters of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work, underwent a very different gestation. Shortly after Bridge was launched I was again filled with restless discontent, so one day I began to explore ideas for a book to help others understand their dreams. Within a few hours I had an outline. Three months later the completed manuscript was also accepted by LuraMedia and it was published in 1994!

Encouraged by my previous successes and motivated by a powerful longing for answers to some pressing questions, in 1993 I began researching and writing the next book. Fifteen years later I had five manuscripts in my computer! Each had a different title and focus and none felt finished, but they were all related to my passion for understanding how gender and family issues, plus my religion, spiritual experiences, and psychological development had influenced my search for self-discovery and spiritual meaning.  By the summer of 2009 I had a new manuscript with a new focus that combined elements from all five. After another rewrite based on suggestions from three experts in their fields, I signed a contract with Larson Publications in March of 2011. That book will be formally launched this summer with the title, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World.

Honestly? The others were deeply satisfying, but this baby feels special! More about it next time.


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