Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

To Be or Not To Be a Zombie: Part I January 29, 2013

dinosaursA life that is being truly lived is constantly burning away the veils of illusion, gradually revealing the essence of who we are.” ~Marion Woodman

The key is to stay awake, to listen to what comes into consciousness and to open to it.” ~Monika Wikman

Whether we grow or wither in this encounter depends on whether we cling to our ego’s rigid standpoint, or whether we choose to trust the Self and leap into the unknown.” ~Monika Wikman

These quotes summarize what I think two recent dreams want me to know. In this and the next post I’ll share them and tell you what I’m learning.

Dream #4400: X Wants Me to Meet a Man Who Speaks About Consciousness
I’m pleased to see my friend, X, at a gathering. She looks lovely in a black and white patterned dress. She tells me about a man who speaks about consciousness. She wants me to hear him so we go to his presentation. Afterwards I introduce myself and tell him I’m thrilled to meet someone else who addresses this important topic.

Associations: X is a waking-life friend who represents my light shadow. I admire her self-confidence, down-to-earth good sense, communication and mothering skills, creative abilities, poise and naturalness. She’s attractive, yet doesn’t define herself by her looks. She’s sociable enough to attend functions when necessary, but at heart she’s a homebody who’d usually rather be doing her own thing.

I suspect her appearance in this dream was triggered in part by my recent post about the light shadow. After 24 years of dreamwork I’m pretty good at accepting my dark shadow, although I tend to dwell on it too much. I suppose that’s my ego’s way of punishing itself for its pride, the dark shadow of forced humility. Ouch!  So being honest about what I like about X feels good.  Knowing and enjoying our strengths is not vain, proud, self-congratulatory or self-indulgent.  And accepting our weaknesses doesn’t make us weak or unduly flawed.

Do you see how this works? I’m burning away some illusions. I’ve learned I’m not perfect but I’m not awful either. I’m comfortable wearing black and white at the same time, and this makes me more open to what enters my consciousness.

But the black and white dress also highlights a basic difference between X and me. Whereas I’m an Intuitive, she’s a Sensation Type who focuses on basic information about everyday life. As far as I know, she’s never been very interested in inner life matters like interpreting information, finding meaning, or becoming more conscious.  So why would she know about a man who speaks about consciousness? And why would she take me to meet him?

This oddity is a clue to the dream’s meaning.  Jung said the ego has to go through the shadow to meet our contra-sexual opposite (anima or animus) who is, in turn, the gatekeeper to the Self.  My light shadow wanted to connect me with an animus image.  Why? Because his very vocation is a message for me from the Self.  This man physically goes out into the world to teach about consciousness, and I think this is a suggestion for me to consider doing more of this myself!

Here’s the big question this dream poses for me: Will I wither by clinging to my ego’s preference to work from home or will I trust the Self and leap into the sensate world I prefer to avoid? More next time.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

Cartoon used with permission of Ryan North at www.qwantz.com.

 

Portrait of a Jungian Analyst: Monika Wikman January 25, 2013

MonikaLast October I met many like-minded souls at a conference that addresses the interface between religion/spirituality and the work of Carl Jung. Monika Wikman was a major presenter. Drawn to her authenticity, integrity and vast wisdom, I bought her book, Pregnant Darkness.

Its impact on me was powerful and lasting. I wrote a review on Amazon and am sharing her quotes on my social media sites. These have been so well received that one internet friend, Stephanie Pope—a cultural mythologer and poet-essayist who publishes Mythopoetry Scholar Ezine—requested a post about Monika. This is for you, Stephanie, and all whose lives have been transformed by tending to the inner life of the soul. Here’s Monika’s extraordinary story in her own words.

“In the early 1980s my body was over-run with an aggressive stage IV ovarian cancer that had spread throughout various organs. After working with the illness for four years and seeing the illness rise and fall within a range in which I could just about eek out a life, suddenly the illness and its effects rocketed and I was told I had a few weeks to live. After years of working with the illness, and then being given the terrible two-week prognosis, I was entirely exhausted, and finally gave up. In the instant that I confessed my exhaustion to myself, and was ready to accept death, windows onto the psychoid (a transpersonal realm of autonomous energy beyond the personal psyche) spontaneously opened and I experienced a series of visions.

“Afterward, there was no sign of cancer anywhere in my body. I took medical tests the next day and for many consecutive weeks after in awe as the tests that measured for active ovarian cancer that were previously sky high, were now below the normal range. All the symptoms had vanished as well. ‘Spontaneous remission,’ the doctors said, and closed my file. Meanwhile, my heart, mind, and life were doing the opposite. They began to open, increasingly moved with gratitude and awe to the mysteries and the map and the grace between us and the autonomous energies living in the psyche and psychoid beyond ordinary consciousness. C.G. Jung’s work gave me the lens that enabled me to see these mysteries at work.”

Wikman, an embodiment of the Wisewoman archetype, went on to earn her Ph.D. from California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego, teach graduate school at California State University, Los Angeles, and graduate from the Jung-Von Franz Center for Depth Psychology in Zurich. She currently has a private practice in New Mexico as a Jungian analyst and part-time astrologer.

Wikman’s “imaginally archetypal language,” to use Stephanie’s phrase, is a particular delight to those who have experienced the transforming power of creative imagination, the hallmark of mythos thinking. With help from alchemical symbolism, she unpacks numerous examples from her dreams and those of clients and friends to demonstrate that, “Without experiences beyond the tiny mind, how isolated we become, how utterly dried up consciousness and culture become—cut off from the living root of our existence. Through reconnection with the numinosum, we can recover. It is up to us. These instinctual religious patterns living in us can search out the mysteries, find nourishment in the numinosum, and then replenish the soul, body, psyche, personality, relational life, and the planet itself.”

If you learn nothing else from Pregnant Darkness or my books and blog posts, it is my fervent wish that you learn this truth which motivates and guides my thinking, my writing, and my life: The numen—the holy, original spirit informing life—does exist. By tending to our souls we can experience it and heal the divides “between heaven and earth, human and divine, conscious and unconscious fields of awareness and between all polarities.”

It is up to us.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Light Shadow January 22, 2013

brightshadowWhile most of us associate the shadow with undesirable or “bad” qualities we’ve disowned, everyone also has a “light” or “bright” shadow composed of their soul’s true potential. Why would anyone repress their light shadow? Because they learned early in life that the way to stay safe and comfortable at home and in the world was to hide parts of themselves.

Whereas some families encourage interest in creative pursuits like music, drama, drawing or writing, others see them as “putting on airs” or “only for sissies,” or “a waste of time and you’ll never make any money at it!” Many find being smart and aspiring to college admirable. Others might call you a “nerd”, or accuse you of “trying to rise above yourself,” or of thinking “you’re better than everyone else!”

Margaret Paul wrote in an article on Huffington Post, “When I was growing up, my parents made it very clear that feelings were to be avoided. I heard homilies such as “don’t cry over spilled milk,” or “I’ll give you something to cry about.” When I was upset or crying, I was ignored or sent to my room. The only difficult feeling that seemed to be allowed was my mother’s anger — but not mine. The only feeling I was allowed was ‘happy.’ Not only did I learn never to share any feelings other than ‘happy’ with my parents, I also learned to stay in my head and disconnect from my feelings. It was the only sensible way to cope with life in my home.”

As long as we disconnect from our feelings we won’t find our light shadow. To “follow your bliss” you have to feel it! Until you do, you’ll project it onto others, and that can become problematic. For example, if we refuse to acknowledge our feminine sides we might be attracted to others who exhibit feminine qualities, yet at the same time, have a tendency to criticize or persecute them for these same things. Or we might over-idealize someone with a gift or talent we’ve repressed, then reject them when they disappoint us by being as human as everyone else.

Other problems arise when we repress genuine strengths and obsess over unfulfilling substitutes until they turn into their opposite, unhealthy dark shadows. For example, an obsessive need to please others can become intense and rigid perfectionism. Forced piety becomes self-righteousness. Extreme humility can birth a sense of superiority. Overvaluing logic and intelligence can turn us into a thoughtless, painfully serious and dreadfully boring know-it-all. Continually serving others while denying ourselves can create resentment, and so on. There’s little light on an unauthentic path.

So how do we discover and develop our light shadow? Here are two suggestions.

Make a list of five people you deeply admire, known or unknown, real or fictional. Beside each name note their qualities that you most like. Re-read your list knowing that these qualities are undeveloped aspects of your light shadow which you have projected onto these people. Ask yourself what steps you can take to develop these qualities in yourself, and then…take them.

Examine your dreams for images of people, animals, objects, places or activities your dream ego is deeply drawn to. What is it about them that appeals to you? What associations do you have for them? How do they make you feel? Are they literal things you already enjoy in waking life, or are they symbols for something as yet undeveloped that you want to bring out, for example your creativity, talents, leadership abilities, or capacity for intimate relationships? In either case, they’re aspects of your light shadow, and you’ll do well to give more time and attention to them in your inner and outer life.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Creative Interactions With The Shadow January 18, 2013

creative-activityVessels we create via creativity, dream work, shamanism, and so on, are of value to us and the world soul to the degree that they give form to the religious instinct that connects us with the original spirit, the mediator of the opposites, the god of change and renewal.” Monika Wikman

I absolutely love this quote and think it’s one of the wisest things I’ve read in a long time. When our egos cooperate with our imagination to give creative shape and form to our inner contents, the latent Self (the archetype of our religious instinct or god-image) incarnates. In turn, the incarnated Self connects our egos with the sacred realm beyond the personal psyche (Jung called it the psychoid) whose energies stimulate uniting, renewing changes in us and the world.

But why, you might ask, do we need imaginative inner work to do this? Why not use logic, reason, intelligence and will power to renew ourselves and the world? The answer should be painfully obvious to anyone who has peered through the veil of cultural conditioning. For thousands of years cultures throughout the world have insisted that “we”, with our heroic egos, brilliant philosophies, and correct religions, know how to create the best of all possible worlds.

Golem, by Philippe Semeria

Golem, by Philippe Semeria

If we know how, why haven’t we succeeded? Because, my dear friends, we have individual and cultural shadows which interfere with our best intentions. These cannot be kept in check until we see them for what they are, and we can’t see them if they don’t have recognizable forms. I’m not dismissing the value of ego, reason, or willpower. I’m just saying we need to partner these left-brained strengths with our right-brained powers of mythos: imagination, creativity, emotion, symbolism, feeling, personal meaning, and myth-making. This is the soul’s language, and without positive change at the soul level, we cannot effect lasting positive change in the world.

In my last post I explained how we might discover a shadow of self-critical thinking by noticing our body language, emotions, and thoughts and then reflecting on them. Highlighting a shadow is essential, but it’s not enough. Once we know we have a shadow complex we need to work with it in imaginative ways that will make it easier to recognize in the future. Since the Self is our core and circumference, it contains unconscious shadows as well as conscious egos. Giving form to a shadow is therefore a way to incarnate another aspect of the Self. (If you don’t understand what the religious instinct has to do with dark shadows, think demons and devils.)

You can start giving form to a shadow by naming it. Dr. Jekyll called his shadow Mr. Hyde. Mary Shelley called hers Frankenstein. Organized religion calls its shadow Satan. In mythology and folk tales our shadows take such imaginative forms as dragons, ogres, witches, wicked step-mothers, wolves, vampires, monsters, golems, zombies and so on. I call my self-critical shadow Spiritual Bully. Now that s/he has a name, I can identify him more quickly in my habitual self-criticism and critical attitudes. Seeing him makes it easier to rein him in before he does any damage.

Monika Wikman notes other ways to incarnate the Self: “We can learn to draw forth the light in our life through individually-honed media (for example, dance, poetry, art, play, chant, active imagination, meditation, music, nature, sports and sexuality) that encourage spontaneous relationship with the Self and the numinosum [a term for the concept of “holy“].”

I hope you’ll share how you’ve used creative interactions with your shadow or other inner contents. We who are committed to self-knowledge need all the help we can get!

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 

Three Steps to Discovering Your Shadow January 15, 2013

Strom%20ComingEveryone has several shadow complexes. Once you’ve accepted this fact, what do you do next?

Step 1: Notice Symptoms: Each shadow is a complex of tangled attitudes, emotions, thoughts and behavioral responses that you habitually have to a certain type of situation. You’ve lived with this uncomfortable inner environment for so long that it feels normal until the storm is upon you. So your first goal is to notice when something has been stirred up such that your mood, energy, body language, emotions or thoughts are no longer within your comfort zone, and then figure out why this happened. Here’s an example of how this process might look when you’re dealing with a shadow of self-criticism.

Your first clue: Body language: You woke up feeling good this morning. You made your coffee, skimmed through your favorite parts of the paper, then started doing the crossword puzzle. After a while you sigh and prop your chin in your hands. You realize your shoulders are sagged over the table, you’ve put your pencil down, and you don’t feel like finishing the crossword puzzle. What’s going on here? You love doing the crossword puzzle.

Your second clue: Uncomfortable feelings: You notice you’re feeling a bit low. In fact, you’re feeling sad, ashamed, and disgusted with yourself. And maybe a bit sorry for yourself. Why?

Your third clue: Negative self-talk: You ask yourself what you were thinking about while you were working on the puzzle: “I’m a terrible friend. I should have called Mary right away when I heard she was ill. I never think to help others. I’m so self-absorbed and selfish. And my work on my latest project is laughable! I was so proud of my idea and thought I was so smart. And now I hate it! Why was I so stupid to think it was good? I’ll never be any good at this kind of work. What’s wrong with me? Am I lazy? Or just stupid?” Where did those thoughts come from?

Step 2: Locate the trigger: You re-trace your steps. Oh, yes. You were reading the advice column and a lady wrote complaining that she was sick and no one from work called to find out what was wrong or offer to help. The columnist wondered if she was making an effort to be friendly at work. That’s when you started feeling guilty. One thought led to another and soon you were beating up on yourself about all sorts of things.

Step 3: Analyze your response: Obviously you’re a very sensitive and well-intentioned person who wants to be kind to people and do good work; but there’s something in you that sabotages your efforts and well-being. That one little comment in the paper led to a spate of self-criticism about your character, work skills, and thinking ability. Do you see how you jumped from reading the advice column to criticizing yourself to feeling sad and dejected? If you go to work that way you’re not going to have the energy or desire to be friendly or do your best.

Habitual self-criticism comes from poor self-esteem. Psychologists generally think this is related to feeling unwanted as a baby and not having our needs adequately met. A shadow part of us is unconsciously convinced there’s something rotten at our core, and the least reminder of our unworthiness can set us off on a bout of self-criticism and self-pity. Sometimes this leads to withdrawal or debilitating depressions that lower our energy and add to our problems. Knowing this is one of our shadow complexes will help us recognize it more quickly the next time it comes around.

What symptoms tell you a shadow has arrived?

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Power of Original Choice January 11, 2013

enlightenmentIn the instant when our ego is conscious of our shadow we are lifted by grace from the dark realm of blind reaction into the enlightened realm of original choice.”

The above is from my last post about the shadow. Around 22 years ago I read a quote about original choice that instantly switched on some long-unused lights. I think Emerson wrote it. It was something like, “Nothing is so rare as an original choice.” I was just emerging from a lengthy dark night experience and knew that if I’d read it a decade earlier I would have blown right past it, uncomprehending.

Until I saw those words I hadn’t known how blinded I’d been by collective thinking. I’d been so busy being a good girl and pleasing all the important people and looking up to famous authorities and being so proud of myself for doing everything right that it simply hadn’t occurred to me that following outer examples while repressing inner realities is not the way to become who you are meant to be. This is what it means to be unconscious.

It seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t until mid-life. And it took a whopper of an inner crisis for me to get it. Luckily, I refrained from doing anything foolish during that time. I was very good at being a stoic little soldier, so I just tolerated the pain. Doing so was another message I had unconsciously absorbed. So much so that around the age of 12 when the dentist said I needed several fillings, I refused Novocain. I still remember the odd way he looked at me after drilling a particularly bad tooth. I had no idea what it meant, but now I think this kind man was feeling a mixture of compassion and pity. He must have wondered why in the world a little girl like me would make such a choice. I had no idea. Such is the power of cultural conditioning.

Wait! I made that decision by myself! Wasn’t that an original choice? Not really. I was proud of myself for choosing to be so brave, but unconsciously I was just following an example. No-excuses, non-complaining, unemotional stoicism was my mother’s drug of choice. Or at least, that’s how it seemed to me. In my mind I had to be like her. It made me feel safe. Special. Worthy. Such is the power of cultural conditioning.
A truly original choice would have been to listen to my feelings and say, “Hell yes, I’ll take Novocain! And anything else you’ve got! I’m tired of pretending! Conforming! Not feeling! Proving something! To whom? For what?” But I didn’t know I had that option. Most children don’t. We teach our kids good manners and appropriate social behavior, but how many of us teach them to trust their inner promptings, especially those that make us acutely uncomfortable? For most children, it’s far easier to conform than risk parental disapproval of their deepest, truest selves.

How do we make an original choice? First, by learning to listen to the murmurings of the pure and loving soul we were born with; a soul whose purpose in life is to bless the world with its unique gifts simply by loving what it loves. Second, when the time is right and we’re strong enough to accept the rejection that some will gleefully heap upon us, by singing our own song. Making our own contribution to the healing of the world is the greatest power and purest joy we will ever know.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau

Such is the power of cultural conditioning.  When’s the last time you made an original choice?

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

A Study in Shadows: Four Principles January 8, 2013

A study of shadows1.  A basic principle of Jungian psychology is that we all have a conscious ego self and an unconscious “other” self. The unknown other contains the personal and collective qualities of our psyche of which our ego self is unaware or which it disowns.  Jungians call the personal parts of the other—the parts unique to us as individuals—our “shadow.”  Some shadow qualities are helpful, some, harmful.

Our shadow’s healthy and spiritually desirable features are our “light” shadow.  Like a sunken treasure chest, it contains valuable potential we have not yet accessed. The potentially harmful features comprise our “dark” shadow.  Everyone, from the most enlightened spirit person to the most disgusting criminal, has some of both.  Even you and I.

2.  A corollary principle is that ignoring and/or denying our shadow, light or dark, causes inner conflict and is a primary obstacle to individuation. Many people are not aware of inner discomfort or else are not troubled enough by it to seek relief. Perhaps they inherited excellent coping skills, or good parenting made them feel confident and worthy, or they made lucky choices that brought fulfilling work and supportive relationships. Others are aware of their shadows but ignore them out of habit, embarrassment or pride, or because they don’t want to upset the status quo and risk societal disapproval. Some find comfort in group membership and service to others. Some escape through addictions.

But some people cannot escape their shadows, not because they’re worse than anyone else’s, but because their egos are highly sensitive to inner wounds that separate them from themselves, each other, and the world. We all have inner wounds. They can be caused by early neglect or trauma; social, economic, or educational disadvantages;  unfulfilling work; dysfunctional relationships; physical challenges; or inherited psychological traits. Whatever the cause, the luckiest among this type find relief by turning inward to face their shadows.

Regardless of how we handle our shadows, we’re all influenced by them and occasionally overwhelmed by them. When this happens we automatically know that the other person or outer circumstance has driven us to justifiable frustration. Caused us to act defensive, touchy, petulant or moody.  Made us feel put-upon, embarrassed, hurt, misunderstood, angry, rebellious, anxious, vengeful, superior, disdainful, hopeless, and so on. Anyone in our situation would respond as I did, we think.

If we think about it at all.  Mostly we don’t reflect on our emotions or behavior. We’re so busy gathering our defenses that we don’t hear the scathing tone of our voice or notice the pleasure it gives us to vent powerful emotions. We can’t see that our true motive is not to tell the truth with kindness and love, but to do whatever it takes to reinforce our position, win the argument, and ease our anxiety. In such moments of offended self-righteousness we believe we are the innocent, injured party, but we are, in fact, the embodiment of our dark shadow.

3.  The third principle is better news:  Accepting the reality of our shadow and developing a relationship with it initiates us into the inner journey to wholeness. Unfortunately, the gate to this path can only be opened by a rare and elusive key.  This key is growing consciousness.

4.  The fourth principle explains it: We discover our shadow by cultivating awareness of our habitual dysfunctional attitudes and problematic emotions as they occur, then choosing to change them. The repeating messages (old tapes) that amass our ego’s defenses are the trumpet blare announcing the arrival of our shadow. In the instant when our ego is conscious of our shadow we are lifted by grace from the dark realm of blind reaction into the enlightened realm of original choice.

Let the journey begin.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

The beautiful image on the cover of Faint Illuminations: A Study of Shadows and Light, is used with the permission of the photographer, Rudy Castillo.

 

 
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