Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

If All the World’s a Stage, Are You a Passable Pretender or Potent Performer? September 28, 2012

So after my last post, my best friend Ann, a Jungian therapist who now lives in Texas, called to chat.  As usual, it took only a few moments of touch-ins before we got into Jungian psychology. We’ve been known to go at this for hours with no sense of passing time. It’s our particular “zone.” This time our topic was the Actress archetype. Actually, I’m not sure if anyone has ever formally named or written about this as an archetype. If you know of someone who has, I hope you’ll let me know.

Anyway, as we see it, the Actress/Actor is an aspect of the fundamental archetype of the psyche that Jung called the Persona. Beginning in childhood, every Ego automatically creates a Persona. This is a filter or mask we wear to hide the socially undesirable parts of ourselves while revealing those deemed acceptable. A persona is like our wardrobe: by the time we’re adults most of us have a collection of different clothes for different occasions. We wear one outfit for our siblings, another for our parents, a third when visiting our extended family, a fourth for our friends, a fifth at school, a sixth at work, a seventh with co-worshippers, an eighth when with the “other” political party, a ninth in very formal settings.

The Actress/Actor aspect of our Persona can be a positive or negative thing depending on how much we’re hiding and pretending, what we’re revealing, and whether our major concern is to please, impress or be real. Hiding and pretending saps our energy; telling the truth fills our tank and fuels our inner light. Yet, being authentic and transparent can be problematic if we say exactly what we think when our thoughts are critical, our emotions are hostile, or our concern for the feelings of others is nonexistent.

The ideal is to communicate who we really are and what we truly care about with clarity, effectiveness, compassion, and respect for our audience. And here’s the kicker: our underlying motive must not come primarily from our Ego’s need to bolster its self-image, but from the Self’s desire to be of benefit. I doubt if we can ever completely erase our Ego’s needs, but we can subdue and redirect them in service to the Self. Finding this balance is tricky, of course, but when we  do, activating our Actress or Actor is powerful and beneficial. As Ann said, “It’s not losing strength, it’s gaining strength.”

I discovered my Actress around the age of 10 when I sang “How Much is That Doggy in the Window? ” punctuated with barks, in a church camp talent show. I loved the laughter and applause. After that I rushed onstage at every opportunity:  in classes, plays, as a teacher, president of the PTA, church leader, chairman of the board. It wasn’t until my mid-40’s that I noticed how little I really enjoyed these activities and how draining most of them were. That’s when I realized I was pretending.

Within a year, and with great relief and no guilt, I reduced the number of my obligations to causes outside my immediate family from ten to two. The two I kept were women’s groups in which no one starred and leadership was shared. Since then, my only ongoing social commitments and leadership roles have been related to my soul’s passions.

My dreams of panicking before going onstage because I can’t find my costume or haven’t learned my lines have steadily diminished. A few years ago I dreamed I was singing my own songs in an intimate nightclub with no stage and a receptive audience. I haven’t lost my Actress; I’ve gained a valuable ally in my life’s work of learning to be true to myself.

There’s more about this in my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

What I Expected: What I Got September 25, 2012

Now that my new book is formally launched, I’m starting to promote it. I’ve just returned home after being away for four days during which I had three book-signings. I had two others the week before.  These were amazing learning experiences. Here are some early examples.

What I expected:  That after a few days my dominant introverted side would rebel against a tight schedule involving much extraverted speaking and intense interaction with people, combined with very little solitary down time.

What I got:  A big surprise! I was energized by the speaking and loved talking with everyone! People were really nice and it was lots of fun. In fact, I got a sort of high from it, and I was extremely grateful to have friends with me three out of those five times with whom to talk about it afterwards! It’s true that initially after a couple of hours of this I got a headache, but I quickly figured out the antidote:  take an extra-strength Excedrin an hour ahead of time! I think the headaches were more about eye-strain (from wearing my contacts for longer periods than usual) than mental strain. In fact, the only thing that tired me out was the stress of traveling! In the two legs of flight between the Leon, Mexico airport, the Dallas airport, and Orlando we had three gate changes, one time change, and a two-hour delay.  All this with no dinner until 10 p.m. That was a real Bear!

Conclusions:  I’m not as much of an introvert as I thought. In fact, my dear cousin Hugh who attended my two Atlanta signings told me he sees me as very much of an extravert! But I think this only applies when I’m in the company of generous-spirited people who like me and are truly interested in what I have to say!

What I expected:  That someone might challenge my unorthodox views, especially about religion, and that my conflict-anxiety would kick in to the point that I’d lose my confidence and come off as a babbling idiot.

What I got:  No one exhibited any resistance to anything I said. To the contrary, a bunch of people came up afterwards and told me how grateful they were! One woman thanked me with tears in her eyes for what I said about dysfunctional God-images. A physics professor told me she resonated powerfully with everything I said. Her very words:  “You have your finger exactly on the pulse of our times!”  This time I was the one in tears.  Two middle-aged men thanked me for sharing my Kundalini experience. A middle-aged woman said my reference to my nine-year “Dark Night” had emboldened her to be more open about sharing her similar experience with people who might be relieved to know they’re not alone and that Dark Nights are survivable! And a friend told me that a mutual friend leaned over and whispered, “She has real courage!”

Astonished Conclusions:  I’m helping, even if only a tiny bit!  And I have courage!!! And all this time I’ve been afraid I was a yellow-bellied coward. When did courage sneak in and stand alongside my copious fears and self-doubt?  I don’t know.  I never saw it coming.

The past two weeks reinforced something I’ve known in my gut for quite a while but rarely heard about from others:  no matter how damaged the soul, the rewards of committed inner work are powerful, permanent, and a blessing to all. A sincere thank-you to the kind souls who are reminding me that my struggles have not been in vain.  So now I”m wondering: what benefits have your inner work brought?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

Learning From 9-11, Envisioning a Better Future September 21, 2012

Last time I examined the symbols of the 9-11 terrorist attack from a symbolic and psychological perspective. Is this just so much airy-fairy hooey, or is it reasonable to consider that tragic event a portent of things to come in ourselves and the world? Are our most revered institutions not only endangered, but crumbling like the twin towers because of humanity’s ego-centric, upward-striving, linear mindset? Are we being challenged to expand our thinking and adapt to a very different world than any that has ever existed before?

Let’s look at some facts. Since 9-11, long-term financial institutions like Wachovia, Lehman Brothers, and Washington Mutual have gone bankrupt. The stock market crash of 2008 and the ensuing worldwide recession has caused significant declines in retirement portfolios, some of the largest decreases in the history of the Dow-Jones average, the failure of long-respected major corporations like General Motors, and the second highest unemployment rate since 1948.

Change is also underway in organized religion. In 1975 a Gallup poll showed that 68 percent of Americans had a great deal of confidence in the church. That began to change in the mid- to late 1980s when confidence in organized religion first fell below 60%, possibly because of  scandals involving televangelist preachers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. By 2001, our confidence in religion had returned to 60%, but when charges of widespread child molestation by Catholic priests and cover-ups by some in the church were revealed the following year, it dropped to 45%. Today it stands at 44%.

In college and professional sports, too, hierarchical structures are tumbling down. Just this year Penn States’s football program was severely damaged by the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and last month the world of professional cycling was rocked by revelations of illegal drug use, most notably by superstar Lance Armstrong. Both programs also saw cover-ups at the highest levels.

Finally, education and the media are likewise losing our trust. In fact, the latest results from Gallup’s June 7-10 update of its annual “Confidence in Institutions” question show that Americans’ confidence in public schools, banks, and television news is at its all-time lowest.

Politicians misuse these facts by blaming the opposite party in hopes of winning the next election instead of recognizing that both sides contain men and women with the same psychological characteristics. These are a dominant ego whose highest priority is to bolster its self-image with power and acclaim; a powerful resistance to seeing our own shadows or opening to perspectives different from our own; a strong bias against otherness; and willful blindness to the true cause of our problems: our own psychological ignorance and immaturity.

Nobody knows for certain if these trends point to a temporary pendulum swing or permanent changes in our thinking. But what I do know is that over the years my awareness has, like collective awareness, continued to expand beyond limiting perspectives once considered sacrosanct. Rigid and frightened egos will always respond to changing circumstances by burying their heads deeper in the sand, but the healthier and more flexible among us will recognize the signs and take steps to replace inadequate systems, including the habitual functioning of our  brains, with new ones that promote greater compassion, peace, prosperity, health and healing for all.

There’s more on this topic in my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

A Lesson from September 11: Is Our Dualistic Thinking Doing Us In? September 18, 2012

Eleven years ago this month people around the world witnessed a tragedy that etched indelible images onto collective consciousness. The most iconic are the fiery explosions as the airplanes hit the Twin Towers and the skyscrapers crumbling amidst billowing clouds of black smoke.

A famous adage from sages of antiquity is “As above, so below.” A corollary saying is “As without, so within.” These ideas arose from the intuition that the universe is one whole, living entity in which every pair of opposites is inextricably connected. Thus, whatever happens in the “spiritual heights” of Heaven is likewise replicated on the physical Earth. Likewise, images and events in the physical world relate to and reflect the contents of our minds.

While this might seem to imply a magical thinking cause-and-effect relationship in which, for example, we do something bad and God punishes us, or a child believes that his wanting something bad to happen to his brother is what made it happen, this is not the case. Rather, as recent discoveries in quantum physics have shown, it simply means that because of the connectedness between everything that is, inner mental and outer physical changes automatically occur together.

This is the explanation for what Carl Jung called “synchronicities,” or meaningful coincidences: when a symbol or event in the physical world parallels an inner state of being. For example, you dream about a person you haven’t seen in years and bump into him the next day. When things like this happen we grow in wisdom by recognizing their significance and asking, “What does this person mean to me? Why have we reconnected today?” Or at the global level, “What does this tragedy mean for humanity?” From this perspective, we can learn from the events of 9-11.

Look at the symbolism. A skyscraper is a hierarchical structure. In the towers of banks, hotels, condominiums and corporations, the most prestigious level is the top. Thus, like the Egyptian pyramids, the Biblical Tower of Babylon or the towers that wealthy citizens of San Gimignano, Italy built during the Middle Ages, skyscrapers represent the way our minds are structured. So far the ego has a history of creating impossibly high ideals and working obsessively to show the world that we have successfully attained the heights: of knowledge, understanding and perfection (scientific, psychological and spiritual). Of order and virtue. Of power and success. Unfortunately, our testaments to our heroic upward striving are usually accomplished at great expense to our psycho-spiritual depths as well as to the people at the bottom of the hierarchy.

So what does this terrorist attack on U.S. soil and the leveling of its two highest towers say about humanity’s collective mindset? That our dualistic thinking is doing us in. That our one-sided obsession with the hierarchical dominator model of striving, competing and proving ourselves at the expense of otherness—a model which has dominated civilized man’s thinking for about 5,000 years and triggered history’s countless wars—is no longer viable. That the seemingly impervious structures of our most beloved institutions are crumbling. And that the human psyche has evolved to the point where if we want to avoid more of the same, we must learn how to integrate otherness and heal the divides that separate us from ourselves and each other.

It is my hope that one day history will look back on 9-11 and know that its victims did not die in vain.  That the images of their ashes that were broadcast around the world that day introduced a new vision into the collective psyche in which of all of us are one united and interconnected whole. “As without, so within.”

Have events since 9-11 borne out my hope of wider acceptance of this vision? I’ll write about that next time.

There’s more on this topic in my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

Flexing Our Mythos Muscles September 14, 2012

The imaginative and symbolic way I perceive dreams and ordinary life is somewhat different from the way we are normally taught to think in school. I assure you this is not just sloppy thinking, but a conscious choice I’ve made to use more of my brain’s potential.

Plato was the first great thinker in Western history to define the two modes of thinking that are the specialties of the two hemispheres of the brain. He called them logos and mimesis. Following the lead of psychologist Gisela Labouvie-Vief I call the latter mythos. It is generally accepted that while there is some overlap, the left hemisphere of the brain is primarily oriented to logos and the right, to mythos.

Mythos thinking is symbolic, metaphoric, instinctive, imaginative, visual, intuitive, emotional, and subjective. Receptive to chaos, mystery, newness, and change, mythos is a compass that points us to the eternal and the universal. Mythos is the mother of original thinking, self-discovery, spiritual growth, and personal meaning. It is the basis for all forms of creative expression and every form of inner work that leads to self-knowledge.

Although Plato loved mimesis/mythos and was himself very imaginative, inner-directed and spiritually oriented, he considered reason to be a more advanced and mature form of knowing. He preferred logos to mythos for two reasons: because of mythos’s appeal to the emotions — which, of course, can be dangerous and uncontrollable when they are not made conscious — and because he thought logos was fostered by written language, which he considered an advancement and refinement over oral language. Following Plato’s example, the writer of the Gospel of John proposed that logos is cosmic reason and the self-revealing thought and will of God.

Plato passed this bias on to Aristotle, Aristotle passed it on to us. Due to the enormous influence of these men on Western philosophical thought, today virtually everyone but writers, artists and mystics vastly underrates the potential of one half of our brains. I find it very bizarre that we still haven’t overcome this prejudice against inherent qualities of our own minds! Certainly there was a time in the history of our species when it was essential to hone our left-hemisphere qualities if we were to continue to evolve beyond our earlier, right-brained orientation, but we’ve had this bias for the past 5,000 years now, and expanding our consciousness has never been more crucial.

Why? Because we’re killing ourselves, each other, and our beloved planet. In his book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, vascular surgeon Leonard Shlain writes about the brain’s role in the evolution of our species. His research suggests that historically there has been a cause-and-effect relationship between an obsessive left-hemisphere orientation and the ascendency of the separate, abstract, male Sky God, the dominator mode of governance, and the repression of women and minorities. If Shlain is correct, the root cause of many of the world’s current problems is the intolerance the left hemisphere of our brains has for right-brained otherness!

In short, we’ve been projecting our fear and hatred of vital parts of ourselves onto others and now we’re suffering the consequences. Isn’t it time we started flexing our mythos muscles?

You can find more on this topic in my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

Crumbdungeon or Changing Woman? September 11, 2012

I’m back in Florida now. This summer I didn’t experience much of the peace and solitude I usually get at our mountain cabin. Living amidst that wild beauty was restorative, but this was mostly counteracted by the 10 hours I spent at my computer every day unless Fred, the kids, or guests were there. I love the writing phase of a book, but promoting it is an entirely different matter! Neither my personality nor my brain finds anything fun or easy about that. It didn’t help that my computer skills are rudimentary and our internet service was wonky!

Another thing. After months of obsessing over final edits and revisions, double-checking citations for my sources, answering my publisher’s questions, and attending to numerous other mentally demanding details, by summer’s beginning I was thoroughly out of touch with many realities of daily physical  life. Adjusting to the drastic changes in setting, home, and social responsibilities required skills I hadn’t used in a coon’s age, and sometimes this magnified my usual social and sensory spaciness to embarrassing extents!

Of course, the stress of having to employ my inferior functions day after day was an open invitation to my Shadow! She found these changes in my habitual lifestyle so difficult and frustrating that by mid-August I was resigning myself to the new and decidedly uncomfortable self-image of curmudgeon! Or as my friend Eleanor calls it, crumbdungeon! Naturally, my perfectionist Spiritual Bully was not amused to see this “flaw” in my Persona.

But I learned some very valuable lessons. My difficulties forced me to ask for help more often than usual. And I received it, especially from Fred and two of his office staff in Florida. And when the kids visited, my son cleaned out over 100 items on my computer that were causing unnecessary obstacles. HUGE help! Plus, my publisher’s marketing department knocked itself out on my behalf. These almost daily gifts warmed my heart and took a huge chunk out of my tendency take the blessings of my life for granted.

In short, my “vacation” was unusually challenging but surprisingly gratifying. For example, persisting despite my struggles reactivated some left-brained circuits my brain hasn’t used for far too long. It was eye-opening to see the limitations of my personality type—INFJ on the MBPI—and the perils of obsessing over it. Combine one-sided rigidity with the natural effects of aging and you have a recipe for diminishing mental functioning. You know the saying, “Use it or lose it.” I get that now and I’ll be more proactive about balancing my inner and outer lives from now on.

Launching my new book will offer additional challenges in the coming months. With many more obligations than usual, I’ll need to think farther ahead and plan more carefully if I want to keep doing everything that’s important to me. One of these is publishing two posts a week. Thursday I’ll be presenting for the Literary Sala in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and the following week’s schedule contains four more book-signings. Yikes! This leaves little time for writing.

But I think it’s going to be okay. This summer I also learned that while I can’t always be balanced, flexible, or free from my shadow’s influence, the energy and skills I need to pursue my passions will be there when I need them…as long as I remain healthy, self-aware, and open to redefining myself every day!

You can order Healing the Sacred Divide at www.larsonpublications.com or www.amazon.com.

Here’s a link to the site of the San Miguel Literary Sala for whom I’ll be presenting Thursday evening:  http://sanmiguelliterarysala.org/archives-2012/september-2012/

For a neat video of the San Miguel de Allende writer’s conference, click this link: U-TUBE VIDEO

 

Moon Over Lake September 7, 2012

Lately I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about nature. I’m starting to wonder why. I do have kind of a “thing” about nature. Always have, I guess. For the first 12 years of my life I loved playing outdoors. One of my favorite haunts was a secret “cave” under a trinity of palm trees beside the back alley. I’d hide there under thick palmettos, savoring the shade and enjoying not being seen by the occasional passer-by.

Back then I had my favorite tree, a pecan in the front yard. Sometimes I’d straddle a large branch and pretend it was my horse. Or I’d shinny up the oak tree in the side yard and settle into a snug fork with a book and pocket-full of sliced apples and carrots. Or I’d climb the Japanese plum, rub off the furry stem end, savor the juicy fruit and see how far I could spit the seeds.

Yet I never spent much time thinking about nature and still usually don’t.  I’m not formally involved in any green movements, although I support them by recycling and trying to reduce my carbon footprint. And about my only outdoor activities are an occasional hike or a bit of gardening when it’s not too hot. I used to ride my horse a couple times a week, but that was all about being with him, not about being in nature. And when my son’s golden retriever Bear lived with us, I walked him for an hour or so every day and enjoyed it. But I wouldn’t have been out there if he hadn’t made it a necessity.

I’ve never been one of those who has to go outside every day. Or who can’t stand to be cooped up in the house and needs to breathe fresh air. Who longs to feel the sun on my face or needs a lot of light. Or gets restless if I stay indoors too long. In fact, most days I’d much rather be inside writing at my computer. This is probably related to the fact that I’m so oriented to my inner world that I forget about my body and outer world phenomena. Yet, I do notice sometimes. And more these days than usual. So where is this new level of awareness of nature coming from?

Actually, it’s not that new.  I’ve felt it coming on for years, but at such a low level of consciousness that I can go for weeks without noticing it. What’s different now is that I think about and am attracted to nature more frequently and compellingly.  And when I’m outside I notice that I feel better somehow, as if something “out there”  is deeply satisfying to a deeply unconscious something “in here”…a part of me that’s been trying to get my attention for a very long time. The same part that feels a deep affinity for winding forest paths under a sheltering canopy of trees, that loves to be outdoors at night, that gets excited when I see a full moon emerge from behind the trees and cast her silvery path across the lake.

What is this part of me, and why is it getting my attention now?  I think it’s my soul:  the physical, instinctual, natural feminine bodily matter of me that has always attracted my evolving ego-spirit self. “As above, so below. As without, so within.” Could it be that my masculine-oriented ego’s relentless search for my feminine self is finally paying off? Are our physical bodies and our Mother, Nature, truly outer reflections of our souls’ inner realities as medieval sages and saints believed? Is the Mother of Life refueling and replenishing me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually because my ego self is making an effort to cross the divide that’s separated my inner opposites for so long? What do you think? Am I on to something?

You can order my newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, from www.Amazon.com and www.larsonpublications.com.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: