Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? February 21, 2017

Dear Matrignosis Friends,

As I thought about this letter over breakfast, it wasn’t long before the word love popped up and started waving its arms to get my attention.  Then a melody began running through my head. Who knew words and melodies have arms and legs? In the language of writers, I assure you, they do.

At my desk, my fingers flew across my keyboard—thoughts and fingers have wings too—and I found what I wanted. I listened, and it began raining in my heart. And on my cheeks. (And hearts and eyes can rain.)

Until then I hadn’t known what I wanted, but music has a way of grabbing your attention and shouting to make itself heard. (Music has hands and fists and mouths and vocal chords. It wants to be known and responded to.)

And so I decided to share it with you. Because I don’t know what else to say about the fact that I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be meeting here. Let me reassure you. There’s nothing to worry about. I’m fine…not sick or anything. Nothing bad at all going on. It’s just that everything has a season and I feel one cycle ending and another beginning.

I sense the next cycle will be easier in some ways, harder in others. I have a new (18 year-old) manuscript to bring to closure and birth, and that’s always fun and exciting—when the technology involved isn’t driving me nuts. And a few other ultimately rewarding projects await my full attention. But these things will necessitate me showing up less here, at our favorite meeting place. And this is very hard!  After all, we’ve been going steady for seven years.

I’m not leaving for good, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing each other less from now on. As least during the next cycle. So I couldn’t just leave without letting you know and telling you how I really feel.

Our relationship has been a major highlight in my life.

I’ll miss you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. I honestly love you.

Love,

Jeanie

 

 

 

Time Out January 31, 2017

Yippee! It's morning! Time to get up, Granna.

Yippee! It’s morning! Time to get up, Granna.

My son brings Izzy, his four year-old golden retriever, to our house. We will dog sit until his family returns from their winter vacation.  She’ll be with us for five days. I love this dog, but she’s not easy. She’s big, rambunctious, needy, demanding of attention. Will the time and attention I’m willing to spare be enough for her? I hope so.

We take a little walk. She sniffs around, does her business. Good. We return to the house so I can work and she can rest.

It’s evening.  I feed her and leave for my ukulele lesson. When I return home Fred says our daughter has invited us to join them for dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. We are delighted. Izzy will be fine alone for a while. She’s been here many times. I give her a treat, tell her we’ll go for a walk when I get home, say goodbye.

Over dinner our granddaughters recount last week’s accomplishments. A perfect score on a difficult and important math test.  A thrilling promotion from the junior varsity to varsity softball team.  Does anything feel better than this time out with them?

Back home, Izzy wakes up  from her nap on the kitchen floor. She looks up at me, tail thumping, waiting to see what’s next. I wrap her leash around my shoulders, stuff a green doggy-waste-bag in the pocket of my blue jeans, and we step out the front door.  Our little neighborhood is small and secluded so the leash is just a back-up plan in case we run into cars or other late-night dog-and-human-walkers.

A late afternoon walk.

A late afternoon walk.

I love being outdoors at night. The fresh cool breeze off the nearby lake. The quiet. The shadows. The open space. The peace. No people to talk to. No cars to avoid. A few pale street lights…just enough to keep Izzy in sight. The pleasure of giving her this time out, knowing she’s enjoying it, feeling confident and secure because I’m there with her.

She stops in the middle of the road, sniffing road kill. It’s too dark and the creature’s too long gone to tell what it is. Was. Osprey, raccoon, opossum, squirrel?  I look at the stars, happy to wait, enjoying her pleasure.  She glances back at me. I step forward, so does she. We move on to the next olfactory infusion. She stops, transfixed. I stop, transfixed. Does she remember I’m here, or is this new smell her entire universe in this moment?

We walk on. She sniffs something else, looks back, reads my body language. “It’s okay. You’re okay,” my body says. She understands and moves on. I’m still her lighthouse. I follow her lead. Knowing we’re connected as surely as if she were on a leash. Gratified that we trust one another so much that she doesn’t have to be tied physically to me. Pleased that she’s free to follow her nose. Humbled that we’re so acutely aware of the significance of each other.

We approach a crossroad. She looks back at me. Looks to the left. Looks to the right. Starts off to the right. No, I think. Left toward the lake is better. No traffic that way. She’ll be safer. I whistle one note. She freezes. Glances back. I point to the left. Just a slight movement of my arm and index finger. She turns around and goes left.

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A magical night by the lake.

I feel a surge of joy. This moment. This connection with Nature, this utterly delicious intuitive knowing. This trust between two animals who have such different languages and ways of processing life.

So different, and yet….we see each other. We know each other. In some invisible way we are touching each other, our minds sharing the same time and space. It feels magical. Miraculous. We’re part of a mystery so vast my mind can’t encompass it.

But, oh! I can enjoy it. This night under a starry sky. This dog who trusts me, who I trust. This connection to the unknown. I’m filled to bursting with gratitude and love. Does anything feel better than this time out?

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

What Is Enlightenment? January 10, 2017

mahavira_enlightenmentWhy am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Am I doing it? How can I know? Will I ever know? Is there an underlying pattern to it all?

These are some of the Big questions that philosophers, Spirit Persons, and ordinary seekers are compelled to ask and answer. Some rely solely on intellectual methods: following teachers, reading, studying, getting degrees, writing books. Some seek answers in traditional religions and ‘religious’ practices. Some experiment with various forms of self-reflection aimed at self-discovery, self-knowledge and consciousness. Some try combinations of these plus alternative practices like body work, mind-altering drugs and artistic pursuits.

As I noted in my last post, our hunger for answers to these questions is motivated by the ‘transcendent function,’ a form of archetypal energy we all inherit just by being human. As a reminder, here’s Jung’s definition:

The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the ‘transcendent function’…. This function progressively unites the opposites. Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, par. 1554.

In other words, even though we think of enlightenment as a strictly spiritual pursuit, it also has psychological (mental/ emotional/intellectual) components. Further, I would argue that it has physical components. In fact, I have come to believe that enlightenment is not solely a function of any one aspect of human nature, but of the whole package.

Buddhism expresses this idea through four “Aims” or goals of human life. As I see it, each goal is met within a particular domain of human functioning. Each domain is fueled by a physical instinct and represented by a masculine and feminine archetype. These stand at either end of the pole of energy in which that instinct specializes.

To be fully functioning spirit persons, we need to awaken, activate, and heal our fullest potential—masculine and feminine—in each of these four areas. ~Jean Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 203.

Here’s my summary of these relationships:

(1) The aim of Lawful Order and Moral Virtue takes place in The Social Domain. Our social lives receive energy from our physical Instinct for Nurturance.  Psychologically, this instinct is symbolized by the King and Queen archetypes, our inner authority figures who govern our social behavior for the benefit of all.

(2) We accomplish our aim for Power and success in The Physical Domain. This goal is primarily accomplished through our Instinct for Activity. We cannot just think or will our way to success. Our bodies have to be engaged in studied, committed, goal-oriented and self-disciplined practices. For me, the Warrior and Mother archetypes represent the opposite poles of physical energy available to us in pursuit of our goals in the material world.

(3) Release from Delusion:  The Mental Domain. Our search for truth and enlightenment relies on our cognitive functioning, or intellect, which matures as we consciously activate our Instinct for Reflection and its archetypal representatives, the Scholar/Magician and Wisewoman.

(4) Love and pleasure:  The Emotional Domain.  To find emotional satisfaction in life, we need to activate our Instinct for Sex and its psychological equivalents, the Lover and Beloved archetypes. This does not necessarily require our participation in physical sex, but the aspect of our libido which specializes in this kind of energy does need to be activated. In other words, we need to experience passion, and being loved and loving in return.

Since Jung believed we have five instincts, and in keeping with his insight that the transcendent function progressively unites the opposites, I respectfully offer a fifth domain which is equally essential to enlightenment.

(5)  Perfection and Completion: The Spiritual Domain.  In my experience, spiritual growth is fueled primarily by our Instinct for Creativity: our capacity to imagine and find meaning in the inner forces which influence our journeys through life. Our creativity is symbolized by the Couple archetype, or Self, which gradually manifests in every area of our lives via the transcendent function.

I see the Couple as integrating the other four archetype pairs in a sacred marriage of fully individuated and fully related opposites.  This union activates the creative instinct and brings us into the spiritual domain and Epoch III integrated consciousness. ~Raffa, HSD, p. 203.

british_museum_room_1_enlightenmentAs you can see, the search for enlightenment cannot be compartmentalized into one domain, but requires cooperation between every part of us in every domain in which we function. I stress this point to dispel the common misconception that putting all our spiritual eggs into one basket—traditional religious participation and belief—is the only way to attain enlightenment. This obsession with using only intellect and emotion to connect with a loving God not only dismisses the sacredness of the physical body, but it ignores the fact that our actual words and behaviors can be decidedly unspiritual. Moreover, it can lead to a dangerous split between mind and body, spirit and soul.

In conclusion I would like to note that despite all the thought and energy I’ve given to the pursuit of enlightenment, I cannot say for certain what it is. As I wrote in response to a comment after last week’s post:

“I wish I knew what enlightenment is. If it’s a conscious, consistent, ongoing process of trying to understand, individuate, love, realize our true selves, and appreciate the miracle of our lives, then, perhaps all of us who do this kind of work could be considered such. I mean, we know we’re part of a process, and we’re consciously involved in it. But if enlightenment is not a process, but an end-product, then I know I’m not “there.” I keep re-hashing old stuff and coming up with new stuff to process, so in this definition, I’m only as ‘enlightened’ as my thoughts, behavior, and motivations are in this very moment!” ~Jean Raffa

Image Credits: Enlightenment: Wikimedia Commons.  

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Next Step December 28, 2016

brain_power_large“Spirit and matter may well be forms of one and the same transcendental thing.” ~Carl Jung. CW 9i; par. 392.

This week between Christmas 2016 and the New Year of 2017 is the first in almost seven years that I didn’t schedule a Tuesday post on Matrignosis. I’m still trying to figure out why, but one factor is undoubtedly that I’m struggling with physical, emotional, and spiritual burnout from the presidential election and holiday preparations. As a result, I’m recovering from my second nasty bout with bronchitis in two months.

Determined to get the rest I obviously need this week, I had no conscious plans to write a post until after the new year. But this morning I awoke from a dream:

#4814 

A new government has taken over.  It is banning free speech and singling out intellectuals and other ‘undesirables’ on trumped up charges.  I’m feeling worried and frightened. Our only hope is in one extraordinary man who secretly leads a resistance group. I see his slogan, “We Will Survive” written in large bold letters on a large surface in a public place and take great hope from it.

I have to tell Fred.  He’s been distracted by work and doesn’t know this has happened. I find him and tell him with tears welling up in my eyes, “I have terrible news about the government!” I consciously add the words ‘about the government’ because I want to prepare him to hear something alarming but don’t want him to think the news is about any kind of immediate threat to our loved ones. I fear for our world.

So this is it. The core issue beneath everything I’ve been thinking and doing and trying not to think about or do in recent weeks. My intuition and feelings are in a high state of alert and as an introvert I’ve been trying to keep them under cover, both for my own protection and others. But the Self won’t allow me to ignore this any longer and sent me a dream to make me face it.

How am I going to respond to a situation that feels like a terrible threat to our country and world? How can I be sure that what I say or do will be helpful and not harmful?

cononley_09If you always do the next thing that needs to be done, you will go most safely and sure-footedly along the path prescribed by your unconscious. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 132-133.

After recording my dream I reread recent posts, looking for threads that might suggest my next step, my next post.

From The Invisible Cord: “Awakening from a long sleep during which our egos have been unconscious of our inner truths, and moving into a more mature way of living and loving is what Christmas is really about.”

From The Two Sides of Surrender: “Positive surrender frees you to live to the fullest with all the life energy you have at your disposal without wasting it on denial, escapism or self-hatred.”

And, “Healthy surrender is not a victim’s descent into lethargy. It is a warrior’s ascent to compassionate action which causes the least possible harm to others. It requires…restraint until you acquire the wisdom to know what must be done.”

But when will I know what must be done? Until now, my actions have been guided by this thought:

 “Your voice is too weak for those raging to be able to hear…Thus, do not speak and do not show the God, but sit in a solitary place and sing incantations in the ancient manner.” ~Carl Jung. The Red Book, p. 284.

Perhaps this is part of the reason I could find no words for a Tuesday post this week. But I am unusually mindful of these words from The Invisible Cord:  “…all opposites, outer and inner, are bound to each other by an invisible cord which is as real and essential to us as our heartbeat.”

There is an absolute, eternal union between God and the soul of everything. The problem is that Western religion has not taught us this. Our ego over-emphasizes our individuality and separateness from God and others. ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.

Mystics like Francis and Clare lived from a place of conscious, chosen, and loving union with God. Such union was realized by surrendering to it, not by achieving it! ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.

After citing the above I wrote: “If you’re not a religious person, just replace the word “God” with any or all of these three: Life. Love. Reality. It’s all the same thing.”

Still looking for guidance, I picked up a new book I’ve been wanting to start and chose a page at random. There I read,

“We’re standing in the middle of an awesome mystery—life itself!—and the only appropriate response before this mystery is humility.  If we’re resolved that this is where we want to go—into the mystery, not to hold God and reality but to let God and reality hold us—then I think religion is finally in its proper and appropriate place.” ~Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance:  The Trinity and Your Transformation, p. 73.

‘We’re standing in the middle of an awesome mystery.’ ‘Western religion has not taught us this.’ ‘I think religion is finally in its proper and appropriate place.’

‘Show the God.’

I think you can expect more of this from me in the coming months.

Image credits:  Brain Power, Cononley_09, Wikimedia Commons. 

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Two Sides of Surrender December 13, 2016

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, by John Trumbull

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, by John Trumbull

After last week’s post Susan wrote:

“Thank you Jeanie so much – a powerful post. Commitment to feeling our experiences, bearing our own cross and the surrender to that. I remember many years ago being very badly burned by steam on my right wrist while cooking something on the stove. I HAD to move on – there were pressing things that needed my immediate attention (it’s a long story so I’ll just give the bones of it). While I was waiting in the car later on wondering how in hell I was ever going to bear this, I also wondered how those being tortured would ever be able to withstand the pain. What went through their minds? What was it that they withstood their pain if they could? Did they surrender to that – the pain? Should I just surrender to it? I did, and the pain was GONE. I will never forget this … a true miracle …”

In a culture which idealizes competition and winning, the possibility that there could be positive side to surrender is difficult to accept. Through our ego’s dualistic, good/bad, win/lose lens, surrender is viewed in the context of a heroic battle. From this perspective it’s bad enough to lose a war, contest, or athletic event when you’ve tried your hardest, but surrendering is out of the question.  Giving up is a sign of weakness. A character flaw. A failure. A shameful loss of face.

But this is not the only way of seeing surrender. Occasionally, something unexplainable happens and our perspective changes.

The indispensable condition is that you have an archetypal experience, and to have that means that you have surrendered to life. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 972

Susan’s story suggests this different way of looking at surrender. A healthy way that promotes healing. A way taught throughout history by Sages, Spirit Persons, mystics, and psychological giants like Carl Jung.  A way not directed to the outer world, but to the universe within. Few of us discover this way until a time comes in our inner life when our heroic struggle to stay in control and press on regardless only increases our suffering. This happens when we’ve focused overlong on outer-world forms of success while ignoring the conflicting inner forms that our heart and soul require.

800px-white_flagAs long as we ignore the fact that our outer and inner goals are in conflict, our suffering will continue. Because all the money, fame, status, prestige, public and parental approval we’ve struggled to attain isn’t making us happy. And because admitting we’ve ‘failed’ to achieve the happiness we long for is too painful. So we do everything in our power to repress the realities of our hearts and souls, and that only exacerbates our suffering.

So what heals it?  What brings the “real” solution? Surrender. To the realities of our heart and soul. To the fact that we hurt and need help. That we’re miserable. That we want to make a change but are afraid of making a terrible mistake. And to every other reality we’ve hidden behind our persona of having it all together.

A religious conversation is inevitable with the devil, since he demands it, if one does not want to surrender to him unconditionally. ~Carl Jung, Liber Novus, Page 261

But this way requires extreme caution. Because like everything else, surrender is dualistic: God’s way and the Devil’s way. There are helpful and harmful ways to surrender. And it all depends on the impulses to which you surrender.

Unhealthy surrender succumbs to powerful forces from within and without that tempt you to give up living your own life or act out in negative ways. Unhealthy surrender allows others to take responsibility for your life. You stop growing, following your passions, developing your gifts, searching for your unique destiny.  Negative surrender wallows in disappointment and self-hatred. It sinks in lethargy, drowns in hopelessness.  And it can cause great damage to others in the process. For example, surrendering to your ego’s hatred and revenge by being cruel to others is no solution because your ability to give and receive love is harmed in the process.

Healthy surrender is an act of courage in which you face your suffering. Positive surrender relinquishes your ego’s need to squelch your inner realities. It gives up trying to control people and situations. It stops fighting your heart’s need for feeling, compassion and understanding, your soul’s need for creativity, passion and meaning. It gives up your ego’s pursuit of unfulfilling goals in the outer world and attends to your child’s need for love and intimacy. Positive surrender frees you to live to the fullest with all the life energy you have at your disposal without wasting it on denial, escapism or self-hatred.

450px-guiding_angel_-_tiffany_glass__decorating_company_c__1890Healthy surrender is not a victim’s descent into lethargy. It is a warrior’s ascent to compassionate action which causes the least possible harm to others. It requires a warrior’s focus, self-discipline, and self-examination. It requires patience to consider each step carefully before taking it.  Flexibility to walk a tightrope between opposites. Restraint until you acquire the wisdom to know what must be done. And accepting responsibility for the pain you cause others when you do it.

Numinosity, however, is wholly outside conscious volition, for it transports the subject into the state of rapture, which is a state of will-less surrender. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 383.

I know the healing way of surrender is available, but I don’t know why it comes to some and not others. Perhaps Susan’s story provides a clue. Perhaps a commitment to feeling empathy and compassion for the pain of others is a prerequisite. Maybe we have to take the first step.

Image credits:  Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull,  Angels for You, White Flag, all from Wikimedia Commons. Jung Quotes: Thanks to Lewis LaFontaine.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

How Do We Grow? December 6, 2016

imagesA hunger to understand the forces that aided my psycho-spiritual growth has dogged me since I first wrote about the inner life 27 years ago. Intuitively, I structured my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, around stories of painful early experiences that had influenced my life. That’s when I realized it wasn’t my intellect or will power or idealism or good intentions or good behavior or following the rules or listening to sermons or heeding other peoples’ advice that instigated my growth. It was my painful experiences. 

These were experiences I couldn’t forget because they made a powerful impression on me, created difficult questions, internal conflict, fear, self-doubt and suffering. Like, why did Daddy divorce Mama and then die?  Was it because he was bad and God punished him?  Why did the Lone Ranger shoot me in my dream at the age of 10? Why was Ken mean to me in high school? Why did I get so angry at my fiancé for fearing for my safety and wanting to protect me? Was I selfish? Insensitive? Cruel?

We all experience things like this. It’s just the way the world is, the way the human psyche is structured.

To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 249.

Painful experiences create painful emotions. Painful emotions create conflicts. Pain and conflict are notices that something isn’t working, and opportunities to try something different. Even though everything we’ve ever learned has convinced us that there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. Even though we know we are perfectly justified in being the way we are. Even though it’s so wrong and unfair we just want to forget it. Pain and conflict make us realize we can keep making the same old choices or make a new choice.  It’s our choice.

Adult suffering is caused by many things: physical pain, financial deprivation, illness, accidents, fear, self-hatred, regret;  bad memories, bad parenting, bad habits, bad luck, bad experiences, bad mistakes;  conflicting thoughts, painful emotions, a mind too rigid and closed, a mind too open and easily influenced; loyalty to old belief systems combined with fear of questioning them and risking something new; losses, betrayals, temptations; and any manner of other things. But whatever the cause of suffering and whatever else it may be, suffering is also a wake-up call from our unconscious asking us to pay attention, know that we have choices, and take action.

14918779_1402325989807599_6359112785560545926_oWhen we’ve had enough of suffering and summoned the courage to do something good for ourselves instead of waiting for something or someone to remove our suffering for us, we see an array of choices. We can change our partners, doctors, teachers, churches, addictions, bodies, lifestyle, home, job. Unfortunately, if our choices originate in fear of criticism or abandonment, anger, blame, self-hatred, self-pity, stubborn self-righteousness, or a refusal to take responsibility for our lives, they will take us from bad to worse. Fortunately, we can also choose to stop ignoring and despising our suffering and do something constructive to address it. Something like conducting our own research, reading a book, taking a class, committing to a practice, writing…anything we’re drawn to that brings insights about who we really are and why.

If you always do the next thing that needs to be done, you will go most safely and sure-footedly along the path prescribed by your unconscious. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 132-133.

But without the right motivation, choice and action are still not enough. Our action has to come from an honest recognition that we can’t do it alone any more. We need help. And it has to come from a humble attitude that sincerely wants and asks for help. Furthermore, our asking has to come from an attitude of surrender for the sake of love. Finally, we have to stay open and mindful enough to notice help when it arrives. It can come from anywhere: an experience that brings us to our knees.  A dream that frightens and fascinates us.  A new teacher or opportunity. A mind-blowing synchronicity between inner and outer events. A chance comment from a family member or friend. And when help comes and we know in our gut that it is beneficial and true, we have to trust our instincts, jump on board, seize it with all our being, and hang on for dear life.

This is a process with which I’m intimately familiar. Although the insights I’ve gained from studying and using Carl Jung’s practices have changed my life, I’m not just parroting his theories. What I know to be true for me is based on personal experience. Somehow in the middle of my life I started taking my life seriously. Somehow I sensed that my suffering and self-absorption, painful and humiliating as they were, had a healing purpose. Somehow I tolerated the tension of staying with it. Somehow I know others can too.

Whenever we’re led out of normalcy into sacred, open space, it’s going to feel like suffering, because it is letting go of what we’re used to. This is always painful at some level. But part of us has to die if we are ever to grow larger (John 12:24). If we’re not willing to let go and die to our small, false self, we won’t enter into any new or sacred space. Fr. Richard Rohr. From his online meditation, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2016.

Bon voyage.

Image credits:  Growth:  Wikimedia Commons. Jung Quote: Thanks to Lewis LaFontaine.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Two Ways To ‘Tell It Like It Is’ November 21, 2016

White smokers at Champagne Vent

White smokers at Champagne Vent

The tag line for this blog is “Think psychologically;  Live Spiritually.”  In the 6+ years I’ve been writing here, I’ve often shared dreams or traumatic early experiences that shaped my personality and way of life. I’ve done this to demonstrate the healing power of self-examination and self-discovery in the hope of helping others.

Since the presidential election I’ve had a few dreams, experiences, and conversations that heightened my awareness of an issue I’d like to address for the same reasons. I’m talking about the recent spate of angry outpourings from people who have been bottling up attitudes and feelings for years and have suddenly decided to “tell it like it is.” While the social media have always had its share of ‘trolls,’ the phenomenon has escalated since the election, and the venting is usually aired with hurtful language and intent.

A story on the radio this morning: A husband and wife were talking to a relative who was excited about coming for leftovers the day after Thanksgiving because the wife always served delicious BBQ turkey sandwiches. Frustrated, the husband said to his wife, “I’ve bottled up the truth for fifty years. I’ve always hated your BBQ sandwiches and now I can say whatever is on my mind without worrying about hurting your feelings. That’s the way the country is now since Trump was elected president! You just tell it like it is.”

unknownSomething in me seems to be responding to this at an unconscious level. In a dream from yesterday morning, four different men said or did mean things to me. One man accused me of being a sneaky crook when I accidentally bumped into his table and bent to retrieve an object that had fallen off. A second thought I was being selfish when I didn’t want to go where he wanted me to go. A third passer-by witnessed a fourth man groping me, and accused me of being a ‘loose’ woman. In three of these cases I was wrongly accused and misjudged. In the fourth I was physically molested. Worst of all, I couldn’t defend myself because my throat was shut so painfully tight that I could barely speak.

I recognized the husband’s response because I’ve experienced his need to vent about something I’ve repressed for too long. I recognize my dream characters as parts of myself because I can trace their self-critical attitudes back to youthful wounds that left me feeling guilty, as if I somehow deserved ill-treatment. Having no understanding of my feelings or words to defend myself, I held in the hurt. Meanwhile, in the shadows of my unconscious, my critical bullies were gaining power and building up pressure. And more times than I care to remember, I have let it out in ways that were hurtful to others.

Through trial, error and much self-reflection, I’ve learned there’s nothing inherently right or wrong about venting. We all hide certain uncomfortable truths, we all suffer for it, and most of us have felt relief from letting off some steam. But there is a better and a worse way to vent, and if you care about healing yourself and the world around you, you have a better chance of helping with the better way.

unknown-1Venting with a vengeful motive, self-righteous attitude, cruel words with the intent to wound, and the will to win at any cost is worse. A better way is to tell the truth about how you feel and why, to tell it honestly without anger, to tell it for the purpose of healing separations and misunderstandings, and to try to cause as little pain as possible.  I know it’s not always possible, but the least we can do is try. And keep trying.

So here’s what I’ve got:

Jeanie’s Self-Help Mini-Course on How to Tell it Like it Is!

I.  Reflect on my early painful experiences. 

  1. What hurtful experiences, starting with early childhood, caused me to bottle up my honest attitudes, beliefs, and feelings? Describe.

II. Reflect on my emotional responses.    

  1. How did these experiences make me feel? Hurt? Sad? Afraid? Victimized? Paralyzed? Humiliated? Betrayed? Helpless? Hopeless? Resentful? Rebellious? Resigned? Angry? Sorry for myself? Jealous? Vengeful? Other emotions?

  2. How do these feelings show up in my attitudes and behavior today? Record examples.

  3. Why did I bottle up my feelings? Because it didn’t feel safe to express them? Because I learned that way of dealing with emotions from my family of origin? Because pretending to be calm and unemotional helped me avoid conflict? Because I didn’t know how to fight back? Because I assumed I must have deserved the wounds? Because I was too proud, embarrassed or afraid to face what happened or ask for help? Because I thought it would make me look weak and whiny and I wanted to look tough and stoic?  Because my culture taught that ‘just getting over’ my feelings was the wiser, more mature thing to do? Because I was afraid of censure? Other reasons?

unknown-3III.  Reflect on my reasons for ‘telling it like it is.’

  1. What are my true motives? The desire to connect? To understand a different point of view? To help? To make peace? To heal my memories and wounds? To heal a relationship? To get revenge for being betrayed by someone or something I trusted?  To right a wrong? To relieve internal pressure?  To be right? To feel superior? Others?

Surely we can do this better. We’ll never heal ourselves or the world if we can’t.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Image Credits:  Wikimedia Commons

 

 
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