Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Which Feminine Archetypes Are Strongest In You? November 24, 2015

If you haven’t read last week’s post, you might want to go there first to hear my thoughts about the basic masculine archetypes.  This time I want to highlight the feminine ones.  Please remember that these energies and qualities, so-called “masculine” and “feminine,” are part of the psychological inheritance of everyone, regardless of gender. It’s only society that assigns some of them to men and others to women, and these associations can very from culture to culture.  Unfortunately, this limits all of us to only a portion of our fullest potential.

In my system, the feminine archetypes are the Queen, Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved. These images of our basic instincts serve our “feminine” drive for species-preservation and relationship. The ways we see and use their energies are transformed over time as our egos mature through three “feminine” phases: the innocent Maiden, the life-giving Mother, and the wise Crone.

In the first phase we unconsciously serve the drive to preserve our species by emphasizing relationships, conforming to tribal/cultural standards, and sexual activity; in the second, the cycles of life force us us to become more aware of our individual needs; and in the third, attending to our inner, spiritual selves becomes as important as meeting the needs of others.

Our Queen is a culture mother and the feminine sovereign of the psyche. Like the goddess Hera, a Queen in the Maiden phase automatically honors her duty to society without reflection. Her growth is usually instigated by some sort of crisis —rape or love, parenthood, illness, divorce, or loss of a loved one—which destroys the Maiden’s virgin innocence and instigates the Mother’s suffering. If she develops a conscience and learns moral responsibility she becomes a caring Crone/Queen of personal sovereignty, moral virtue, respect for individual differences, and social leadership.

The Mother archetype represents our instinct for physically serving the birth/death/rebirth life cycle.  In our unreflective Maiden phase our Mother is, like the warrior goddess Artemis and Mother Nature herself, as capable of destroying life as mothering it, simply because she is not very aware of the significance of otherness and puts her own needs first. In our Mother phase our Mother archetype struggles to understand and serve the needs of individuals as much as her own and the activity of the impersonal Great Mother who gives and takes all  life. As our egos mature, the Crone Mother helps us value the life in our bodies and souls as much as life outside ourselves.

The Wisewoman is diffusely aware of, and deeply sensitive to, the maternal depths of the unconscious.  In our unreflective phase she is like Greece’s Persephone, Stephen King’s Carrie, and Walt Disnery’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Because we lack the experience and logical thought to handle the vast unknown, our Maiden can get us into trouble with archetypal powers we don’t understand and can’t control. Our transformation into the Mother phase begins when our mistakes force us to distinguish between objective facts and subjective symbols in the inner and outer worlds. Our Crone Wisewoman integrates logos with mythos to see the big picture, understands how the parts connect, and creates personal psychological and spiritual meaning.

The Beloved is the magnetic principle in relationships. Our Maiden Beloved is like Aphrodite: an innocent, unconscious seductress driven to attract sexual, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment by attracting and pleasing others. Our Mother phase begins when we suffer the conflict between wanting to please our lovers and wanting to discard them when they no longer please us. Our Crone Beloved is like a hospitable, emotionally authentic hostess who lives in beauty, inspires others, and gives what we could only hint at in our youthful phase: full sensory and emotional intimacy with fully respected and loved otherness.

12246976_1115151578525043_7102838831078503786_nWhereas shadow masculinity destroys otherness, shadow femininity is self-destructive. A compulsive Queen can burn us out if we give too much of ourselves. Our Mother can sabotage our relationships by being too receptive or smothering. An obsessive Wisewoman can cause us to be depressed and overwhelmed by the unconscious. And if our egos obsess over the outer appearance of beauty, our Beloved can compel us to sacrifice the true beauty of our souls. But as we accept our feminine sides and partner them with our masculine sides, their union can give birth to a Spirit Warrior of perfected selfhood and completed relationships.

What does your attitude toward the feminine archetypes say about your ego’s maturity and your acceptance of the feminine side of your psyche? How are your relationships and service to our species evolving in ways that benefit all?

I wish you all a happy and love-filled Thanksgiving Holiday.  I am so very thankful for you, my internet community. You have enriched my life immeasurably.

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.


What Is Love? October 27, 2015

The labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

The labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

“There is no linear evolution;  there is only a circumambulation of the self.” ~Carl Jung

My last post concluded with the question, “And what about my prayer for love?  Did that work?”

For the past 35 years I’ve traveled a slow and circuitous route to unravel the mystery of love. First, I had to learn what love is not. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

Discovery #1.  Love is not a role we play or an act we perform.

In my early years I was largely unaware of my inner life and the fact that my behavior was dictated by a compulsion for safety and approval.  I just wanted to be good, and being good was easy for me….until it became hard.

“The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.”

Letting go of ego starts with recognizing and dissolving the persona (social mask) we built in our youth. If we continue to identify with our role—in my case, being the loving and devoted daughter, wife, and mother; the pious believer; and, to a certain extent, the compassionate savior—we’ll pay a price for not seeing our shadow.

For example, after noting that, “…the pious Drummond once lamented that ‘bad temper is the vice of the virtuous'” Jung added,

“Whoever builds up too good a persona for himself naturally has to pay for it with irritability.” ~Jung (CW7, par.306)

images-2Jung said of a patient that when she first came to him “…she was able to play her traditional role of the supremely wise, very grown-up, all-understanding mother-daughter-beloved—an empty role, a persona behind which her real and authentic being, her individual self, lay hidden.  Indeed, to the extent that she at first completely identified herself with her role, she was altogether unconscious of her real self.  She was still in her nebulous infantile world and had not yet discovered the real world at all.” ~Jung, (CW7, par.248)

Discovery #2. Love does not grow in a nebulous infantile world.

Love needs familiarity with our real self. As Ghandi said, love is not a “garment to be put on and off at will.  Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being….If one does not practice non-violence in one’s personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken.” ~Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi, ed. Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence, pp. 36-38.)

Discovery #3. Love is a choice.  It has taken me many years to learn that love is a practice we willingly engage in minute by minute, day by day. The goal of our practice is not to use our ego’s willpower to love, (or act like we love) others, but rather to use our healthy, mature ego in service to acquiring self-knowledge. But isn’t that egotistical, people often ask? No. Because love dwells in the Self. And with daily practice—that long, slow, circuitous route to the Self—we will eventually connect with the love at the core of our nature. Only then can we truly love others.

In other words, consciousness travels hand-in-hand with love.  As consciousness grows, so does love. This leads me to the inevitable conclusion:

Discovery #4. Love is consciousness. Consciousness is love.

Catholic monk Richard Rohr, one of the foremost spiritual teachers of our time, affirms this conclusion and describes the practice which led Ghandi to consciousness, love, and non-violence:

“Gandhi’s answer is always the same: steadfast, persistent, dedicated, committed, patient, relentless, truthful, prayerful, loving, active nonviolence. In other words, universal compassion must become your whole way of moving through life.” ~Richard Rohr

unnamedSo have I learned to love?  Well, yes and no. I know that love dwells in the unified Self, but I also know that knowing about love is not the same thing as loving.  Unless the knowing is accompanied by authentic loving words, motivations and actions, it’s just dualistic thinking that values the head and mind over the heart and matter.

But yes, in my 35 years of circumambulating the Self I’ve experienced love, and sometimes I manifest it…when I remember it’s already there, waiting for me to choose to access it. But no, I don’t access the love that indwells me all the time. First, I have to be conscious of my non-loving feelings and attitudes. Then I have to choose to connect with love and act from it instead.

But I’m hopeful knowing that love is a process of growing increasingly conscious through recognizing and integrating the opposites in my life: ego and Self, persona and shadow, even yes and no! And yes, I’m involved in that process. Anyone can be. You don’t need to be a saint to enjoy the benefits of awakening to your life.

“Life becomes infinitely more meaningful when the focus of our existence changes from separating to connecting. The more opposites we unite, the more conscious we become.  The wiser we grow, the more sacred significance we see…and the more deeply we experience our lives.” ~Jean Benedict RaffaHealing the Sacred Divide

Image Credits:  Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, Wikipedia via Google Images. Jungian image quote:  Lewis Lafontaine. Quote image:  Brooke Snow via Google Images.

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.


Horse Crazy Part I: How to Build a Wall October 13, 2015

IMG_6068“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”― Joseph Campbell

One warm summer evening when I was five years old, my father took me for a walk down a dusty Tallahassee road. At the nearby stable I saw my first horse and fell passionately in love.  From that day on, I went to the stable as often as I could.  It was bliss just to be near these magnificent animals—to see them, smell them, and if I was lucky, to touch them.

From then on, I had one goal in life: someday I would have a horse of my own. Each year as my birthday drew near I fantasized about the horse that would be standing outside my window when I awoke on my special day. I nursed this fantasy when we moved to a big city. It continued throughout elementary school, where everyone knew I was horse crazy.  If I wasn’t drawing pictures of horses or writing stories about them, I was reading Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books from the school library.

The summer before sixth grade I wrote myself a letter to open when I was sixteen. In the envelope I included the best present I could think of to give my future self:  a picture I had drawn titled “A Wild Stallion Sniffing the Air.”  It showed a stallion standing high on a cliff overlooking his herd of mares far below.

My father died that winter and I began to lose my unrealistic dreams (Chink! go the bricks as they are added to my protective wall: “Playtime’s over;  it’s time to grow up!”). I was also losing my utter confidence in myself (Chink! “Face it, kid;  you’re a victim!)  Occasionally, however, I got to be with horses, and the month I spent with my mother’s Michigan relatives who leased a black-and-white pinto for me made for the best summer I ever had.

By high school and college my love for horses took second place to boys.  I married after graduation, got a job as a third grade teacher, and dreamed about having a child of my own.  But the horses were still there, running around in the shadowy summer pastures of my mind, and I still dreamed of owning one someday.  Five years later my dream came true when my husband bought me a white albino gelding with light blue eyes. But my dream was short-lived: I was pregnant within a few months and my cautious doctor warned me against riding.  We sold Bamboo before my daughter was born.

It was the only thing to do. Motherhood is a full-time job. Isn’t it? When we grow up, we need to be reasonable and give up our unrealistic childhood dreams.  Don’t we?  Passion is a foolish and dangerous emotion.  Isn’t it?

It can be enlightening to examine the symbols that prevail in our outer lives; sometimes they have an amazing correspondence to our psychological development. My youthful confidence and self-sufficiency were symbolized by my fixation on the black stallion, the epitome of powerful masculine energy, combined with dark, feminine, instinctive passion. Had I lived in another place and time, I might have continued to develop the capabilities of this powerful symbol, but, wildness and darkness were not quite acceptable in my world which preferred reason to passion and masculine to feminine.

As I grew older, my symbol acquired some balance and became a tamer, more reasonable, and less passionate (lighter-colored) black-and-white pinto.  (Chink!) By the time I was a wife, mother and teacher and had accepted the restrictions placed on women, my symbol was a colorless gelding.  Passion and dark femininity were lost and masculine light and reason overshadowed my horse energy, which had become dormant and impotent. (Chink! Chink!)

1649041“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

My choice to be a teacher was guided by my needs for security and societal acceptance, not my real interests or skills. I didn’t even know what these might be. And although becoming a wife and mother were the right choices for me, I was not fulfilled in either capacity. Why? Because I was conforming to ill-fitting, societally transmitted renditions of these roles.

I lived on the surface of my life for several more years. I was a good sport, a good wife and mother, a mediocre tennis player, and an enthusiastic church- and party-goer, looking outside my Self for answers, approval, and temporary relief from my discomfort. Unaware of the wall that covered my true Self, a place where my passion for the black stallion was still alive and well, I assumed I was who and what I appeared to be. What I really was, was a woman following a path laid out for her by her forebears, a woman living her life for others.

Let go of the life I planned?  Out of the question….much too dangerous to even think about, for in the first half of my life I was obsessed with building. Rebelling and tearing down weren’t even on my radar.  Fortunately, the life that was waiting for me wouldn’t be denied.

More about that next time……

Image Credit:  The Black Stallion, Google Images

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 Game of Hide and Seek, or How to Build a Shadow October 6, 2015

images-2One day Miss Berry, my first grade teacher, announced that we were to have blood tests. In a few days we would go to the school nurse who would prick our fingers, squeeze out a drop of blood, apply it to a glass slide, and then we would come back to our rooms. It wouldn’t really hurt very much she said. Just a momentary pinprick.  We must take these permission slips home, have them signed by our parents, and bring them back.

That afternoon as I rode home on the school bus, I made my mind into a wordless, imageless blank. Almost of its own volition, my right hand crept into the pocket of my dress where it found a small crumpled piece of paper.  Just a scrap of paper. I looked in determined fascination at the passing scenery, ignoring the hand that secretly tore the permission slip to shreds in the darkness of my pocket.  I shifted the unimportant pieces of paper to my left hand, which moved slowly and casually to the open window.  I looked at the chattering, fidgeting children in the bus and forced myself to smile and speak to the child sitting to my right (usually I kept to myself) as I ignored the fingers of my left hand that casually opened and allowed the scraps of paper to slip stealthily into oblivion.

“My mother decided not to sign it,”  I told Miss Berry when she asked me for my permission slip. “She’s a nurse, so she’ll prick my finger herself.” As I sat alone in my corner of the classroom watching my classmates file back from the school nurse, each with a cotton ball between thumb and middle finger, I felt a deep sense of shame.  But I willed myself to ignore it and banished the tiny ugly creature from which it came to a dark corner of my unconscious self so neither I nor anyone else would see my shadow.  I was a good girl, I told myself.  And I breathed a sigh of relief because I had escaped the pain of the finger prick.

images-3Such is the morality of youth. Honesty is not very important to vulnerable little girls for whom the most pressing need is to survive with a maximum of need fulfillment and a minimum of personal discomfort.  At this, the earliest level of human morality, “good” is anything that protects us from pain and punishment.  “Bad” is anything that hurts or gets us into trouble.

At six, I knew it was wrong to lie to my teacher and not to tell my mother about the blood test, but my need to avoid pain had top priority.  Because this need was so strong, I had no recourse but to ignore and deny the truth I knew at a deeper level:  I had broken some rules that were important to the adults in my life.  I had lied.  I had been bad.

And so, like all children, I learned to play the game of hide and seek.  Hiding my secret badness behind a wall of denial became a way of life for many years.  I believed that because I conformed in public and gained the approval of the people in power, I must really be good, regardless of how I thought or acted in private.  In other words, I didn’t know how to separate the game I played and the mask I wore from the way I really thought and acted when unobserved by others, which, of course, was not always “good.”

There’s nothing abnormal about this in children.  In fact, research into moral development indicates that we all pass through this stage as we wander through the murky forest of ignorance toward the light of moral maturity.  Only we must be careful not to stay there overlong.  Years of hiding and feeding the tiny ugly creatures we created as children can transform them into walking, talking conscienceless monsters; and nothing on this earth is more dangerous or devastating to humanity’s hopes for peace and justice than the fearful, dishonest, single-minded, self-interested shadow of a mask-wearing adult in a position of power.

UnknownWe have to stop our finger-pointing. The real enemy is not out there:  it’s right here inside you and me.  It’s our very own shadow. Fortunately, each of us has the power to take away its power. We do this by committing ourselves to an ongoing three-step program of observing, acknowledging, and forgiving:

(1) pay attention to your inner life so you can see your shadow the next time it shows up,

(2) acknowledge the truth of it to yourself and others,

(3) forgive yourself for being human.

Welcome to the human race.

Image credits:  Google Images

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.


Twenty-five Benefits of Inner Work September 29, 2015

UnknownDespite the rapid growth of psychological awareness in the West, many people don’t really get what inner work is or why anyone would want to do it. If you’re one of them, this post is for you.  If you’re not, but struggle with some of the issues below, or know someone who does, it’s for you too.  We can all benefit from using our instinct for reflection in more intentional ways.

Inner work is anything that helps you reflect on who you really are beneath your conscious awareness and public persona. Examples are wounds you dismiss, grief and pain you deny, traits you disown, instincts and needs you ignore and thwart.

One effective form of inner work is to study depth psychology, for example, the writings of Carl Jung and Jungian analysts. This might lead to examining the meaningful themes and symbols of myths and your dreams to see how they relate to you. Other examples include psychotherapy, journaling, active imagination, mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga, body work, dance, and other forms of creative and artistic self-expression.

The goal of inner work is to help you see the unconscious forces that shape you, often in dysfunctional ways. Consciousness heals your wounded ego-self and creates an intimate connection with your true, spiritually-connected Self.

Here are some examples of how regular, long-term inner work can transform every aspect of your life.  I hope you find them helpful.

  1. jungquote Self-acceptance: Seeing our true strengths and weaknesses diminishes self-criticism and helps us like ourselves.

  2.  Self-esteem: We learn to accept our basic worth and rights, and we expect fair treatment and respect from others.

  3.  Love: Self-knowledge brings more understanding, compassion and forgiveness toward ourselves and others.

  4.  Courage:  We dare to speak our own truths and live our own lives by our own lights.

  5.  Choice-making:  We see alternative ways of responding, our choices grow less habitual, compulsive and obsessive, and making healthier choices gets easier.

  6.  Morality:  Suffering the knowledge of our shadow and its potential for evil humbles our ego and births a new ethic of caring and love.  It impels us to take responsibility for our actions, care about others’ welfare, act with integrity, and want to be of help.

  7.  Social action:  We practice what we preach with less talk and more action.

  8.  Feeling: We spend less time in our heads and more in our hearts.

  9.  Authenticity: Less faking it and more honesty. We become real.

  10.  Emotional pain:  Grieving our wounds frees us to accept reality instead of fighting it.

  11.  Stress:  Awareness of our internal conflicts eases worry, indecision, fear, frustration, anxiety, and agitation.

  12.  Spontaneity: Accepting our inner realities diminishes our fear of criticism, failure, and what others think about us. We live in the present moment instead of being bound by concerns about the past or future.

  13.  Emotional intelligence:  Taking responsibility for our debilitating emotions prevents us from blaming and hurting ourselves and others.

  14.  Work:  Knowing our true interests and skills motivates us to gravitate away from work we hate and toward work that is personally meaningful and fulfilling.

  15.  Intuition:  We see and know things of which others are unaware, and we trust our knowing.

  16.  Mental acuity: Our mental processes become sharper as we allow our instincts, feelings and bodies to inform our thoughts and guide our behavior.

  17.  GuidanceWe rely more on our own authority and less on outer authorities.

  18.  Relationships:  We grow more honest, authentic, open and forgiving.  Relationships become more intimate, respectful, loving.

  19.  Living:  We overcome obstacles with less effort and move through our days with more pleasure and wisdom.

  20.  Dying: Death feels less like the end of us and more like an exciting new beginning.

  21.  Trust: The benevolence of life becomes an experienced reality. We neither get derailed nor lose hope when problems arise because we know that apparent obstacles are opportunities in disguise.

  22.  Spirituality:  Feelings of wonder, gratitude, reverence and love are commonplace and generate a truly “religious” attitude toward the miracle of our lives.

  23. 115235-004-350EACF1 Meaning:  Our lives have purpose. We no longer live by belief, but by synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) which regularly reassure us that we are known and loved by something beyond ourselves.

  24.  Peace:  We strive less and enjoy more harmonious relationships with our inner selves, work, others, and nature.

  25.  Creativity: Self-knowledge awakens our originality and creativity. We become works of art.

Image Credits:

Jungian Quotes: Google Images

Dervish: Bruno Morandi–Stone/Getty Images

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.


Excavating A Wounded Child with a Mother Complex September 22, 2015

child-walking-on-beachMy parents have rented a vacation cabin on Lake Michigan. I’m playing by the shore and realize it’s getting dark. I look around. I’m alone. I begin walking along the water’s edge toward a distant pinpoint of light. Could that be my mother looking for me? How could she lose me? Will she find me? Will anyone find me? Will I have to live with a stranger?  Will they feed me? Could something bad happen to me? After what feels like an eternity, Daddy and Jimmy come up behind me. Daddy explains. He and Mama left the beach separately, each believing I was with the other one. I’m safe, but I want Mama! Why didn’t she come for me? Doesn’t she know how afraid I’ve been?  That I’d want her to look for me? 

This is my earliest memory, described in more depth in my book, The Bridge to Wholeness. I was three. Something new was set into motion that evening. I had become conscious of my separate existence in a very big, dark, and scary world. In their book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, Jungian analysts Massimilla and Bud Harris write:

“…early infancy is the time when the world of the family begins imprinting itself on our tiny psyches, and this is a critical time in our emotional development.  We know by now that much of a baby’s view of the world is filtered through the mother’s body and the emotional attitudes her body reflects. Of course this means that the child of a mother who is overly anxious or is resentful of the birth will feel out of adjustment psychologically, and such feelings will be the beginning of a negative mother complex.  When we grow up this way, our personality will be founded on a deep sense of anxiety, scarcity, and a mistrust of the world.  In contrast, if our mother is sufficiently gentle, loving, and emotionally secure, she will help us develop a basic sense of trust in life and in our place in the world.”

This memory resurfaced after last week’s post in which I described an example of how my mother complex influenced a relationship. Since practically everyone has mother issues of some sort—whether positive or negative, recognized or not—it seems appropriate to share more of what I’ve learned.

Every child experiences anxiety when it becomes aware of its individuality and vulnerability, and mothers vary in their ability to assuage this, our earliest wound. Good mothers are naturally gentle, patient, good-natured, affectionate, reassuring and loving. They make their children feel confident, safe and secure. Mothering can be more difficult for well-meaning women with mother complexes, jobs, other external stressors, or undeveloped “maternal instincts.”  Nonetheless, a well-intentioned woman with a powerful desire to provide loving care and ongoing reassurance can be good enough at meeting her child’s basic physical and psychological needs.

Unfortunately, many mothers are too wounded, stressed, narcissistic or oblivious to give their children enough basic nurturance.  Some are angry, jealous or resentful. Some are unstable, mentally ill or abusive. Some are not there.

My mother was more than good enough. Although anxious and emotionally fragile, she was kind, gentle and loving. I admired her, loved her, and felt loved in return. She tried hard to provide me with a safe and comfortable life, and I did feel safe until she and Daddy divorced and then he died. But when she was pregnant with me and throughout my childhood, Daddy was rarely home because he was having an affair. The strain of this plus her full-time job left her with little energy for me, physical or emotional.

I wasn’t neglected. Mama boarded women students from the nearby university in exchange for minimal rent and baby-sitting. But she was rarely available during my waking hours…and I missed her. As I grew older it got easier to lower my expectations and ignore my need for her. By the time Daddy died, I was proud of my independence and saw my ability to hide my hurt as a strength. But deep within, a three-year-old child still felt sad, lonely, deprived, and sorry for herself.

Me at 5, recovering from the measles.

Me at 5, recovering from the measles.

It’s taken years of digging through layers of rationalization and denial to see her. Besides feeling the aforementioned emotions, she tends to (1) project Mother onto self-confident and accomplished men and women she admires, (2) feel deeply disappointed and unforgiving when they fail to measure up to her ideals, and, most insidious of all, (3) assume she’s unworthy and unloveable.

I’m sharing the causes and effects of my mother complex to help others excavate theirs. Mine doesn’t compare to ones that were shaped by rejection or abuse, but this doesn’t mean I should deny my honest feelings. It’s too easy to fall into that insidious trap. Conventional wisdom urges us to toughen up, ignore our pain, and stay on the “sunny side of the street.” It advises against “self-absorbed navel-gazing” and “blaming your parents for your problems,” leading us to equate acceptance with blame.

This isn’t wisdom.  It’s escapist rationalization. I know the pain of assuming I don’t deserve to live my own life, that I must hide my true self. And I’ve experienced the exhilaration of escaping that dark prison. We can’t become the mature individuals we yearn to be until we make peace with the inner forces that made us who we are.

Image Source:  Google Images, 

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.


Shadow or Self: Who’s in Charge? September 15, 2015

Unknown-1“What should I do?” I asked my husband.  “This feels like a test about choosing between courage and cowardice.  Or is it between my noble and selfish selves?” We were talking about a relationship issue that was brought to my attention by a timely and bizarre synchronicity. The odds against this coincidence occurring must have been millions to one.  Because of the wild improbability I knew there was a lesson in it for me.  But what was it?

Which part of me should I act on:  the part that could see this objectively, laugh it off and let it go, or the part that took it personally, felt betrayed, and wanted to let the other know? I couldn’t tell. My habit of suppressing my truths to avoid conflicts or hurting people was still too strong. As a child and young woman, I’d seen this as a noble trait, but I was learning that keeping my mouth shut wasn’t always the right choice. Sometimes it was merely ‘settling.’ Sometimes it was not believing enough in my basic worth to draw firm boundaries and stand up for myself. At the very least it was a lack of authenticity.

Over the years a recurring dream has addressed this issue: I’m in a social situation with a mouth full of sticky mush that I have to remove and dispose of so I can talk. No matter how much I take out, there’s always more. Having people around me is uncomfortable and embarrassing. When I finally understood this was a metaphor for being afraid to use my own voice, I became determined to heal this wound that has its roots in my earliest childhood.

I grew up believing I must protect my mother from agitation or conflict. Something told me she’d had too much pain in her life and I shouldn’t add to it;  for example, by arguing with her, or expressing my disappointment that she didn’t attend my theatrical and musical performances, or begging her to drive me anywhere, or expecting special attention or praise from her.  It was too risky.  I realize now that this is symptomatic of a mother complex.

The part of me that wanted to reclaim my voice believed that expressing my truths in the current situation was the right response. But knowing it could be hurtful to the other party held me back and caused me to question my true motivation. Was there something in me that wanted to hurt this person? The thought that there probably was made me deeply uncomfortable.  So what was I to do? Suppress my truths yet again or take the risk of exposing my secret thoughts? Beneath this was a bigger question:  Which side of my dilemma represented my shadow and which the Self?

UnknownI asked my husband to help me clarify this issue, then made my decision. But we both still had misgivings.  So I asked my daughter. I should tell you she’s a level-headed person with a doctorate in marriage and family counseling. I trusted her response to be truthful and objective. After describing the situation and how I’d decided to handle it, I immediately sensed her hesitation.  “What?”  I asked. “Is this bogus?  Am I being childish?”

“Yes,” she said smiling gently. “I think it’s coming from your mother complex. Your wounded child feels neglected and wants attention and revenge.”  The undeniable truth of this resonated, a dark cavern in my unconscious was flooded with light, and a weight I didn’t know I was carrying vanished. It explained so much about parts of my shadow I’d been struggling so long to understand. A few nights later a vivid dream confirmed the truth. In it, an intelligent and accomplished young Asian woman went to her hotel room after making an important presentation, and I heard her screaming for her absent mother in anguish and anger. The youthful, ambitious, perfectionistic achiever in me still wanted her mother’s affirmation.

“In each of us there is another whom we do not know.  [S]He speaks to us in dreams.” `Carl Jung

Carl Jung believed complexes are perfectly normal. As I recall, he once said he had 13.  No matter how hard we try to think and act wisely, everyone has clusters of attitudes, feelings and beliefs that can impersonate wisdom and shadow our judgment. And when our ego is swamped by a shadow complex, it’s very good at justifying its self-serving motives. So how can we discern the truth and make the best choice?

We can bring the True Self into the picture by asking it to observe our conflict as we follow this 7-step process:

(1) Name both sides of the conflict.

(2) Listen carefully as each side expresses itself fully.

(3) Examine the beliefs, emotions and motives of both sides with objectivity and compassion.

(4) Forgive both sides for being human.

(5) Grieve our hurt fully.

(6) Create an original work wherein our ego, shadow and Self invent their own meaningful sacred dance.

(7) Ask for help if we’re still in the dark.

Then we can choose to step toward the light. Life is too precious to waste in the shadows.

Image credits:  Google Images

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.



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