You’ll Want to Read This Book! July 28, 2015
In last week’s post I mentioned how my friend and gifted dreamworker, Justina Lasley, helped me understand how dreams are pictures of emotions we need to face if we want to wake up to our truths and live our lives as fully as possible. I had written and scheduled that post for publication during the previous week because I wouldn’t have time to write a new one while we were visiting friends in Aspen.
Synchronistically, on the day we returned from Aspen—the day before last week’s post was published—I received a letter from Justina. She’s been working hard creating a launch for her newly republished book, Wake Up to Your Dreams: Transform Your Relationships, Career, and Health While You Sleep, and asked if I could help her get the news out to as many people as possible.
I must tell you that Justina is one of those special, generous-spirited women who is gifted not only at dreamwork but also at networking and promoting the work of other women she admires. She was the first person to invite me to lead a weekend workshop on my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness, in her home town of Atlanta. That experience led to many new contacts and opportunities for other presentations.
She did the same thing when Dream Theatres of the Soul came out. By that time she’d been leading dream groups at her church for a few years so I invited her to co-lead that workshop with me. She did, and she was good, and the rest is history. She went back to school for a master’s degree, wrote her first book, then founded and still directs the Institute for Dream Studies, an internationally recognized program that promotes the understanding and value of dreams to help people reclaim their authenticity.
I mention our history together because I believe that in a world dominated by masculine values, one of the most wonderful and valuable feminine qualities—in women and men alike—is the desire to share and promote the new ideas and worthy works of other women. We’ve all heard stories of how dominant males throughout history have squelched the voices and buried the valuable contributions of women while taking all the credit for their work and research. I refuse to be a part of that divisive, one-sided, short-sighted, ego-driven, territory-protecting behavior! So does Justina, and this is the main thing that drew me to her and one reason I’m writing this post.
You already know the goal of this blog is to inspire you to think psychologically and live spiritually. Justina’s stated goal for Wake Up! is essentially the same: in her words, “to inspire you to awaken to your authentic self and greatest potential.” She writes,
“Wake Up! introduces you to the incredible wealth of wisdom available nightly through your dreams and teaches you to remember, record, and dissect your dreams to better understand yourself and your life. Dreams bring new information and truths that are not often available in waking consciousness and are therefore precious and beneficial to all types of psychological and physical health. Wake Up! encourages you to use nighttime dreams as a tool to awaken your most authentic, creative, and spiritual self and thus to lead a more fulfilling and joyful life.”
I’ve read this wonderful book and give it my highest recommendation. Justina tells her story honestly, interprets her dreams fearlessly, and is especially skillful at helping others dissect their own dreams using a variety of incisive questions and helpful techniques. If you’re a serious dream worker, you’ll want to include this book in your library. The formal launch for Wake Up! will take place on August 5th. I encourage you to visit Justina’s site on that day and take advantage of some of her give-aways, including autographed copies of her book.
You can purchase Wake Up to Your Dreams at Amazon. Justina’s other information is below.
Institute for Dream Studies
Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
My Animus is Afraid to Trust My Instincts June 30, 2015
Two nights before my keynote speech to the 2015 International Association for the Study of Dreams I had this dream.
#4,642: My Animus is Afraid to Trust My Instincts: Old friends have visited us for two days. I’ve just realized they left their dog alone at home. I’m worried about this. Will it have enough food? I say to the husband, “Won’t it poop and pee all over the house?” He says with a shrug, “Maybe. We’ll see.” I can’t believe he’s so casual about this. It feels wrong.
We drive to their house in another town and go inside. As we approach the sliding glass door to the backyard, he points out little piles of poop that make a trail to the open door. I see their dog sticking its cute brown and white head out from some green undergrowth at back of the cement patio. It moves into the open looking wobbly and weak, as if it’s about to drop.
I go to it, sit on the ground, and pet it. It wags its tail happily and climbs into my lap, growing excited and playful. Another little black dog who looks like Peri [our son’s dog as a child] runs to me, jumps all over me, licks me, and wiggles around in my arms. The husband is watching us from the stoop of the open door. With an ironic smile he looks pointedly at his brown and white dog and says, “I’m afraid of you.” He turns away as if he’s lost interest.
My associations: I associate the husband with the part of my animus that identifies with the Scholar archetype. In waking life this man is an intelligent, creative former college professor. The dogs represent my animal, instinctual self, especially my instincts for nurturance and activity. My dream ego enjoys and trusts my instincts, but my animus neglects them and admits he’s afraid of his dog. Why?
The key to understanding this dream is the context. Anxiety about my upcoming speech had dominated my waking hours for over a month. The previous day, an artist friend who used to attend my classes at the Jung Center called and asked if I was ready. When I told her about my concerns she said, as other friends had been saying, “Relax. You’re going to be great. You always are. Just trust your instincts.”
Bingo! My animus was afraid to trust my instincts. As a college professor, my instincts were of no importance. Nothing but an abstract concept. What was important was task-oriented, single-minded attention to texts written by outer authorities. We (my animus and ego) saw this as the only way to comprehend and express the course material clearly and correctly. This was how a good teacher prepared to teach.
When I quit teaching and began writing over 25 years ago, this habit persisted. By then my reading, studying and writing were focused on Jungian psychology and understanding my dreams. But as I persisted in this inner work, something changed. I began to rely more on my dreams and instincts and less on outer authorities to guide the direction of my thinking and writing.
Following some inner compass I didn’t know I had, I spent mornings listening to my anima—my creative, feminine, instinctual self—by meditating and working on my dreams. When a dream image, emotion or theme felt unusually fascinating, I’d spend the afternoon—time reserved for my animus to manifest my anima’s creativity—incorporating it into my current manuscript. In respecting the needs of my feminine and masculine sides I was unknowingly activating the Self, the central authority of my psyche, and learning to trust it.
This transformation awakened my passion and creativity and informed my books. Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work is the book on which my speech for the IASD was based. I knew this material. It had come from listening to my feminine instincts. Yet, in preparing for my speech I’d neglected Her in favor of His traditional, single-minded, outer-referential ego-mode. And like the puppies in my dream, She was starved for attention, nurturance, and love.
Understanding this inner reality had a magical, mystical impact. With no mental effort other than a 30 minute meditation/ritual during which I thanked Dream Mother for this dream and reassured my animus that he could relax now, my concerns simply fell away. For the next several days I was wrapped in a cocoon of calm and trust. Never have I been more relaxed before or after a presentation.
Yes, after 25 years of inner work, my animus’s fear of my instincts occasionally still floods me with anxiety, but so far this tension has served me well. Tolerating the interaction between the different perspectives of my masculine and feminine sides has not only insured my survival and thriving, but created and birthed self-knowledge, consciousness, and spiritual meaning.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
The Heroic Making of a Soul March 28, 2014
Earlier this month on March 10, my darling child, Matrignosis, turned four years old. As it has been with my human children, so it has been with Matrignosis in many ways: Pouring my passion into her and learning more about myself as she’s grown has been one of the greatest privileges and pleasures of my life. Indeed, the overwhelming maternal feelings I have for her and what she’s taught me are reflected in the name I gave her: matri (Lat. Mother), and gnosis (Gk. knowledge).
Yet, as she has developed through my creative outpourings, Matrignosis has been not only Child, but also Maiden, Mother and Crone to me. All are part of the life cycle of women and the Sacred Feminine in whatever guise we see her: Goddess, Sophia, Anima, Soul, Yin, Mother Nature, Durga, Kali, the drive for species-preservation…..
As Child she represents my youthful innocence—all the instinctual feeling, vulnerability, wonder and openness I once had and to which I am returning, this time with awareness. (See Dreams of the Divine Child.)
As Maiden she is my dreaming Princess who lives in the questions and tolerates the tension between immaturity and maturity, ignorance and knowing, waiting for a kiss to guide her next steps in the dance. (See The Golden Bear.)
As Mother and Queen she has willingly embraced the otherness of masculinity. In so doing, she has suffered the loss of innocence, established the boundaries of her identity, struggled to assume her sovereignty, and celebrated the birth of fresh, hopeful new life. (See The Queen: Lioness of the Psyche)
As a Crone who is slowly and lovingly being stripped of youth’s illusions, she is opening to the mystery of Death while blessing the beauty and wisdom of her body, experiences, and each fleeting moment of her miraculous life. (See A Dream of Crones and Crone Love.)
Matrignosis contains all these qualities and more, as do I. She also reflects my Shadow, the parts of me that are ignorant, self-centered, proud, stubborn, judgmental, defensive, unforgiving. In some posts I’ve shared my flaws. In others I’ve withheld them. And sometimes they’ve snuck through the cracks in my Persona without my awareness, just as my Shadow sometimes erupts in my behavior. That’s what Shadows do and I’m okay with that. There’s no human being so transparent that light passes through without casting a shadow.
Yet I am not just a physical body with a flawed personality. I’m also an evolving soul with a sincere passion for self-knowledge, a deep love for Spirit, and a powerful desire to pass along what I have learned. As such, Matrignosis is as much a testament to my soul’s healthy truths and accomplishments as to my ego’s unhealed wounds.
The combination of both is what makes me human. My willingness to take my soul seriously enough to face and admit to both is what makes me heroic. The same is true of you and every soul who suffers the shame of ignorance, who is appalled when your Shadow overrules reason and good intentions, who enters the struggle for understanding because you want learn how to love and help other suffering souls. You. Are. Heroic!
And so in conclusion to this celebration of Matrignosis’s fourth birthday, I’d like to say that of all the good things she has brought into my life over the past four years, the courage to claim my soul’s heroism and let its light shine without apology or fear of judgment brings the most satisfaction.
Thank you for reading and sharing your truths here. It means the world to me to have created this in-between space where heroic souls can meet.
This is for you, Tony. Did you ever know you are my hero?
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks
Art: Debutante, by Helen Scobel Raffa.
Art: Wisdom Lady by C. Victor Posing. Used with permission.
Feasting at Women’s Tables April 2, 2013
Since I left my job to write in 1989 I’ve always been part of at least one women’s circle with sometimes as many as four ongoing groups at the same time. My Jungian study group was formed in 1989 and our weekly meetings lasted for ten years. The Purple Pro’s, my writing group, has met monthly since 1990 and usually shared home-cooked lunches. This year is the first we haven’t had a meeting because of changes in our lives that make it too difficult.
In 1997 a few women and I founded The Matrix, an organization dedicated to identifying and meeting the sometimes physical, but always psycho-spiritual needs of women in Central Florida. Until we passed the torch along a few years ago, my monthly meetings with five unusually wise and gifted women were deeply growth-inducing and soul-sustaining. 1997 was also the year I started teaching classes and leading dream groups at the Winter Park Jung Center. When it closed, our dream groups met in private homes until my latest book demanded too much time and energy.
For over 20 years I have regularly shared meetings, study groups, planning sessions, classes, programs, volunteer projects, weekend workshops, retreats, dream groups, and food with circles of women. We opened and closed most occasions with rituals. Some, like the five minute deep-breathing meditation before dream groups, became traditions. Others were tailored for specific occasions like Matrix meetings, classes, holiday gatherings, and individual life passages such as birthdays, weddings, new babies, transitions into crone-hood, house-blessings, illnesses and deaths.
The defining feeling running through all these groups was abundant nurturing. This is nothing to scoff at, I assure you! Think about it. When’s the last time you were with a group of people who wanted to nourish each other more than they wanted to grab all the goodies? I’m not saying there were no hurts, disagreements or misunderstandings, but there were only two occasions when differences were not resolved with emotional restraint born from growing fullness and caring. In both instances, the unforgiving women who left were deeply wounded neophytes in self-reflection.
A climate of abundance is rare among both genders in social institutions where an attitude of scarcity prevails. Not even religions are immune. Think about the usual office and board meetings, gatherings around the water cooler, times off in the break room, holiday office parties. How many have you attended where you didn’t hear a single snide remark or juicy bit of gossip? I’ve sat in faculty meetings where scorn for other professors, departments or colleges was palpable. Served on boards, chaired committees, and attended church functions where petty gossip, misogyny, exclusivity, and competition to impress hid behind the thinnest of pious veils.
I know some women prefer the company of men. I’m sorry for those who’ve never experienced the deep sustenance offered by mature and generous-spirited women, who’ve been poisoned by the spiteful gossip of miserable, mean-spirited women. I’ve shared tables with a few of the latter type when they’ve joined one of my classes or tried to befriend me. But ever since I excused myself from the company of rigid institutions and started communing with like-minded sisters, women like that have never hung around for long. I think their wounds have left them feeling so empty that they crave a constant diet of discord and drama, and I have no appetite for this.
There are some desperately unsatisfied and spiritually starved women out there, and it hurts knowing they can’t digest the kind of food that would help them discover their inherent beauty and capacity for love. But there are also many generous-spirited Queens, Mothers, Wisewomen and Beloveds, and sharing my journey with some of them, including you who join me at this table, has been a major blessing in my life.
Are Men Out of Touch With Their Feelings? If So, Why? February 19, 2013
Before I address the questions I raised about gender wounds in my last post I’d like to clarify some terms. When I write about men, males, women, or females, I’m addressing sexual gender. When I use “masculine” and “feminine” as adjectives, I mean the qualities we associate with our inner masculine and feminine sides.
From an early age our egos build our identity on society’s messages about the characteristics and roles considered appropriate to our gender. We do this without knowing that we all have a masculine and feminine side. Gender wounds are the result of getting stuck in fixed ideas or lost in collective judgments about what we can and cannot be and do because of our gender.
Our “feminine side” reflects our drive for species-preservation. Jungians describe the feminine principle as the maternal, nurturing qualities of fertility, caring, creating, protecting and birthing new life; being, receiving, and containing; relating to otherness with honesty, harmony, mercy, and emotional intimacy; being physically and emotionally connected to and present with oneself, nature, and otherness; diffuse awareness of subtle energies; integrating information with intuition, subjective feeling, and creative imagination to see holistically and create meaning; reverence for paradox, mystery, oneness, and completion.
Our “masculine side” expresses our drive for self-preservation with attributes like the ability to separate oneself from external and internal distractions that threaten our territory and safety; the need to discover and manifest our individuality; penetrating, competitive, productive activity to meet our goals and satisfy our basic needs; focused concentration and rigorous self-discipline to sharpen our knowledge, skills and abilities; logical thinking that makes clear distinctions between details and helps us understand and resolve complex matters; aspiring to noble ideals like justice, freedom, purity and perfection.
Obviously, neither of these principles is in any way “superior” to the other and everyone has the capacity for both. Don’t you? So in answer to the question, “What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings?” I would say that women with well-developed feminine sides are simply trying to express the disappointment and rejection they feel when their need for emotional closeness, honesty, harmony and communication is not met by men who are emotionally distant, unexpressive, or silent.
In The Hidden Spirituality of Men, the trail-blazing theologian Matthew Fox writes, “A lot of self-preservation seems to require silence.” Fox quotes the medieval philosopher and mystic Thomas Aquinas who observed that there are “various kinds of silences: That of dullness; that of security; that of patience; and that of a quiet heart.”
Some reasons Fox cites for why men might be silent about their emotional and spiritual lives include:
- Because Western culture is still a dualistic patriarchy that values thinking over feeling, material wealth over spiritual, scientific fact over intuitive knowledge, men over women, and heterosexuals over homosexuals.
Because men are rarely rewarded, and often mocked, for openly expressing their deepest feelings of joy, sensitivity, and pain.
Because many men carry wounds inside they would rather forget or put aside than admit are there.
- Because communication between boys and fathers is often cold or nonexistent in our culture, and too many elders “retire” to the golf course rather than mentor younger generations.
Patriarchal cultures obsess over our masculine sides and repress our feminine sides. Although boys generally feel more pressure to conform, neither gender is immune. As a semi-reformed emotional stoic, I know that life feels like an endless desert with no oasis in sight when we can’t feel or express our emotions, especially grief and pain. And I believe that the depression and hopelessness felt by so many today is due to psychological and emotional ignorance. The remedy? Self-knowledge and self-acceptance.