Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Couple Relationship Within and Without January 24, 2017

Lovers

Lovers

“The original sperm from which we are formed is masculine and feminine, the one which is in the majority wins, but the other side does not die, it remains living but as a minority, just as in politics the Government and the Opposition both exist.” ~Carl Jung, ETH, Page 216.

Unfortunately, whether we are talking about the masculine and feminine attributes of our physical bodies, the psychological relationship between our inner masculine and feminine qualities, or relationships between males and females, Jung’s use of the word ‘Opposition’ in the above quote is only too appropriate.  Once our egos start identifying with one principle in childhood, we tend to set up an antagonistic relationship with the other, and this polarization permeates every aspect of our lives.

Dualistic thinking appears to be a natural and inevitable by-product of ego-formation in the first half of life, but it does not have to end there. Nor should it, if we want to keep growing. As Dr. Jung noted, we’re all formed from both principles, and each of us has our own unique spot somewhere along the continuum between them. Ultimately, our satisfaction and fulfillment in life depends on finding our own place and learning how to be true to it.

“It is only possible to live as we should if we live according to our own nature. But in these days we live by our brains alone and ignore the very definite laws of our body and the instinctive world. We damage ourselves severely when we offend against these…” ~Carl Jung, Modern Psychology, Page 219.

As long as we’re unaware and unaccepting of our true nature and fuller potential, we inevitably damage others too. Regardless of our gender, if, as a child, we learn to fear, mistrust, and dislike our fathers or other adult males, we may grow up to feel the same way about our own masculine sides, other men, or the masculine sides of women. Our attitudes toward our mothers and adult females will likewise effect our attitudes toward our feminine sides, other women, and the feminine sides of men.

We all have different personalities, experiences, biases, complexes and shadows, and no one wants to look at their painful aspects. But we ignore them at our peril, because our disowned selves influence our health and the health of our relationships.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to spot our prejudices and barriers: they are mirrored every day in intimate couple relationships. But unfortunately,

 Nails in Love

Nails in Love

“We have not been educated to look inwards, though most people are able to give their attention to outside things.” ~Carl Jung, ETH, Vol. 3, Page 13.

If we want loving couple relationships, we must redirect our attention from the outer world to the inner.  We must commit ourselves to practices which reveal our soul’s truths, which we must accept, especially the painful ones. If we persevere, over time our wounds begin to heal and our perspective changes. As this happens our outer lives change too.

We will never change completely and our shadow will always be with us, but we can recognize it sooner and make reparations faster. Moreover, accepting and integrating our fuller potential empowers us to break out of our prisons of conformity and blossom into our individuality. Gradually our resistance to, and fear of, others and the unknown lessens. We pretend less, react less habitually, feel less need to conceal our honest feelings or stifle our gifts. Our need to know everything, control anyone, or prove anything diminishes. Defensive postures such as resentment and hypersensitivity soften.

We grow more mindful, less agitated. We can more easily relax into the present moment. We can anticipate what the next may bring with pleasure and enthusiasm. We can make original, authentic choices. When we feel our prejudices, painful emotions and unhealthy habits rising within us like monsters from the deep, we can find new ways to express them without hurting others.

Over time, our thoughts and behaviors spring more often from healed archetypes than wounded stereotypes. Life becomes a delightful gift to be savored; less of a contest to win, obstacle to overcome, or ordeal to be endured. Thus do we create an ongoing, original work of art:  an increasingly more authentic, empowered, and conscious being with balanced energies which flow appropriately between masculine and feminine, here manifesting qualities of the drive for self-preservation, there acting from the drive for species-preservation. In a culture distorted by one-sided worship of the masculine, integrating the feminine brings a refreshing return of feeling and the ability to live with soul.

Northern Italy (Embriachi workshop): Jewellery Casket with Couples of Lovers; late 14th century; bone on wood, intarsia. Skulpturensammlung (inv. no. 690; acquired in 1835 for the Royal „Kunstkammer“ collection), Bode-Museum Berlin.

Northern Italy (Embriachi workshop): Jewellery Casket with Couples of Lovers; late 14th century; bone on wood, intarsia. Skulpturensammlung (inv. no. 690; acquired in 1835 for the Royal „Kunstkammer“ collection), Bode-Museum Berlin.

Respecting both masculine and feminine values fashions a new morality of impeccable integrity and personal responsibility based on universal standards of justice and care for all. Our wish to cause as little pain as possible, combined with our growing ability to see and restrain our shadows, helps us listen with patience and tolerance while allowing our partners to speak their truths. Creating the Couple within dramatically increases our hope of healing our relationships and establishing the intimacy and compassion for which every soul longs.

“If our inner journey does not match and lead to an outer journey, we have no true freedom or “salvation.” Richard Rohr Online Daily Meditation, January 16, 2017.

And I would add, if our inner relationship does not lead to a more honest and healthy couple relationship, we can be sure we are neither spiritually mature nor enlightened.

Image Credits: 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.

 

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.

 

Managing the Monkeys August 23, 2016

Monkey-Mind-1-300x201“The unconscious as we know can never be “done with” once and for all. It is, in fact, one of the most important tasks of psychic hygiene to pay continual attention to the symptomatology of unconscious contents and processes, for the good reason that the conscious mind is always in danger of becoming one-sided.” ~Carl Jung; Syzygy: Anima and animus.

Is it my imagination or has this summer been crazier than usual?  I’m wondering if this is not just about the world situation in general, and America’s situation in particular (especially the upcoming election), but also about my personal life.  I didn’t expect to feel this way at my age, especially not when I’m supposed to be relaxing and enjoying our vacation in the mountains. But this summer there seems to be so much more on my plate, and I’ve been unusually aware of the weight of it. Yet at the same time — and here’s the odd part — I find I’m accepting it more calmly and letting go of it more easily. It’s……just……no big deal.

So I’ve been thinking about this lately and apparently my unconscious wants to help me clarify it. I think this because this morning I awoke with the residue of a dream in which I was writing a post about managing ‘monkey mind!’  I’m sure most of you are familiar with the term. Meditators use it to describe the challenge of calming the mind when myriad thoughts, images, ideas, worries, responsibilities, emotions, etc. are bouncing around in your head like a roomful of monkeys.  So since we just returned to Florida last night, and since today is one of those days when it feels like there must be a million monkeys in there, I’m going to go with this theme.  How shall I begin?

635941048195162433-28431253_TRUST articleTRUST:  As I wrote the above question, I realized that my choice to write about the issue highlighted in last night’s dream was exactly what I wanted to write about. For me, calming my monkey mind is a matter of trust. Trust that my mind is normal. Trust that my ego doesn’t have to control everything and I can let my unconscious do some of the work. Trust that my dream has meaning I can apply to my waking life. Trust that writing about what is meaningful to me might be helpful you. Trust that if my day gets so crazy that I don’t get my post written by my deadline of midnight tonight, my readers won’t be upset and my world won’t fall apart…. You get the idea.

So what I want to tell you is that I didn’t start out with all this trust. It has come very slowly, over years of reflecting on my inner life. You don’t decide one day to start trusting yourself and the universe, and then Trust just falls into your lap.  You have to work for it, and there’s no way of getting around that. What happens is that the more inner work you do, the easier and less stressful your life feels. You’re not as afraid of looking like an idiot. You don’t get as worried about silly unimportant things; and when you do, the agitation passes quickly. It feels like the big monkey bullies are calming down, some of them seem to have abandoned ship, and a few are starting to feel like friends you want with you on the cruise.

“Dictionaries define a contradiction as two things that cannot be true at the same time. I would say it this way: a contradiction is two things that cannot be true at the same time by your present frame of logic. As long as you do not reframe your reality, as long as you insist on your own frame of reference, you will not be able to find the wisdom in paradox. “The kingdom of God” is Jesus’ term for the bigger frame, or what we often call “the big picture” or “in the light of eternity…” You’ve got to find some framework that allows you to stand back and look at the moment with the eyes of Infinite Love and Mercy. Then you’ll see that many things which appear to be contradictory through logical, egocentric, dualistic thinking might not necessarily be so to a nondual mind.” Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, August 21, 2016.

monkey-mind-2TAKE YOURSELF VERY SERIOUSLY: This isn’t easy. Conventional wisdom has it that taking yourself seriously signals self-centeredness. And religion tells us that you should always think about others first. Right? Wrong. Let me remind you of a couple of sayings by someone generally considered to be one of the greatest Spirit Persons who ever lived.

#1: “The kingdom of God is within.” So if the sacred place is located inside your mind, is it wise to ignore the monkeys that plague your mind? Might taking them seriously be, in fact, the exact way to acquire a more spiritually enriched life?

#2: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “As yourself” implies that you have to love yourself before you can love your neighbor, right? So how can you love yourself if you’re frantically trying to love and take care of everyone else and neglecting the monkeys in you that want your attention?  Will you learn to love others by hating your monkeys? Ignoring them? Being afraid, critical or ashamed of them? It doesn’t work that way.

STOP TAKING YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY: Yes, on the surface this seems to contradict what I just said above. But if you can accept both sides of this paradox instead of thinking it has to be one or the other, you’ll see what I mean. Yes, we have to notice the monkeys. And, yes, we have to stop being so hard on them and start lightening up and playing with them. Because that’s how we calm them down. We have to ask ourselves, “So how important is it really, if I don’t get this post written by my self-imposed deadline? Is trying to save the world with my writing really more important than living fully and loving and being who I was born to be?” (Which is a lot more than just a writer.)  Can I let go of my self-importance and start enjoying my day?

imagesI think I’m finished here….except you might be interested in knowing that I just wrote this entire post in record time with plenty of time leftover to play for the rest of the afternoon and evening. This on a day onto which my ego projected an especially dismal forecast. I hope you’ll forgive me for giving myself a metaphorical pat on the back, and for awarding myself a metaphorical gold medal for what feels like an Olympic accomplishment.

Image credits:  “Monkey Mind,” Google Images, http://www.warriormindcoach.com.  “Trust,”  Google Images, http://www.theodysseyonline.com.  Monkey mind-2:  Google Images, https://interculturalmeanderings.wordpress.com. Peanuts cartoon:  Google Images, http://www.pinterest.com.

 

Three Signs of a Healthy Ego April 26, 2016

13061936_1222930674413799_1029611237442425841_n“We are entangled in the roots, and we ourselves are the roots.

We make roots, we cause roots to be, we are rooted in the soil, and there is no getting away for us, because we must be there as long as we live.

That idea, that we can sublimate ourselves and become entirely spiritual and no hair left, is an inflation.

I am sorry, that is impossible; it makes no sense.” ~Carl Jung, Kundalini Seminar, Page 29

This quote reminds me of a true story. In 1848 England, art critic John Ruskin married 18 year old Effie Gray. Five years later their marriage was annulled because Ruskin had failed to consummate it. As Effie told her father:

“He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and, finally this last year he told me his true reason… that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April.”  Wikipedia  

On their wedding night John discovered that Effie had pubic hair. His malady, which by today’s standards may seem laughable, was psychological. But consider the context:  John grew up in Victorian England.  His father, John James Ruskin,

“helped to develop his son’s Romanticism. They shared a passion for the works of ByronShakespeare and especially Walter Scott…. Margaret Ruskin, an Evangelical Christian, more cautious and restrained than her husband, taught young John to read the King James Bible from beginning to end, and then to start all over again, committing large portions to memory. Its language, imagery and stories had a profound and lasting effect on his writing.” Wikipedia

A romantic, an idealist, and the only child of an evangelical Christian mother, John had so sublimated his instinctual, physical roots that it hadn’t occurred to him that his beautiful young wife’s body would be any different from the smooth, marbled statues of Greek goddesses he so admired.

By ‘sublimate’ Jung meant to unconsciously transform socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations into acceptable actions or behaviors. Freud believed this was a sign of maturity in individuals and civilization. By this means one could deflect the sexual instinct with its erotic energy into so-called “higher” and “socially useful” physical, scientific, artistic, or religious achievements.

Likewise, a person with aggressive tendencies can channel them into acceptable contact sports like football or boxing. A person with an urge to kill someone might join the military where he could justify his urge in the name of protecting his country. A literary example is provided in Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None. In this story a judge with homicidal urges gives unusually harsh sentences to guilty criminals in the name of protecting the citizens and upholding the law.

“One is only confronted with the spiritual experience when one is absolutely human.” ~Carl Jung, Visions Seminar, Page 394

images-12But Jung had higher hopes for individuals and societies.  He believed we could be transformed into psychologically whole and spiritually enlightened beings without denying our instinctual roots. And he knew that when the defense mechanism of sublimation remains unconscious, it is an obstacle to an individual’s fullest and healthiest development. Individuation only becomes possible when our egos consciously acknowledge our instincts and choose to channel them in harmless and healing ways.  To remain unconscious of them leaves them free to attain toxic extremes.

An ego which denies its entanglement in the roots of the physical body and unconscious psyche can become  dangerously inflated, capable of doing unspeakable things while believing itself to be virtuous. One can’t help but wonder what hidden evils the Spanish Inquisition‘s zealous Tomás de Torquemada was striving to deny when he had around 3,000 people tortured and executed for heresy against the Catholic Church.

The same might be asked of more contemporary political leaders like Stalin, who it is widely agreed was responsible for millions of deaths;  Hitler, who was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other victims whom he and his followers deemed socially undesirable Untermenschen (“sub-humans”);  Cambodia’s  Pol Pot whose policies were responsible for from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a 1975 population of roughly 8 million; and Saddam Hussein whose security services killed an estimated 250,000.

If we don’t start taking the human psyche far more seriously, countries including our own will continue to enable toxic, minimally conscious egos to acquire positions of far-reaching power. We can change that by learning to recognize three signs of an ego that is growing into health and consciousness:

  1. It explores its unconscious roots with an ongoing self-reflective practice;

  2. It recognizes and reins in its defense mechanisms, including projection and sublimation; and

  3. It acknowledges its shadow without allowing it to control its thoughts, words and actions.

Meanwhile, we might ask ourselves, “Does anyone in the next election show signs of an unhealthy ego?”

Image Credits:  My thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for sharing the Jungian quotes and images on his Facebook Jung site. 

Jean’s newest book, 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 also at Amazon as well as KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

Killing Lance Armstrong May 26, 2015

Military personel from all over Europe compete in the 2006 United States Forces Europe Mountain Bike riders prepare to race at Aviano Air Base, Italy.  Military personel travel from all over Europe to compete in these series of races.  ( U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Nathan Doza ) ( Released )

Military personel from all over Europe compete in the 2006 United States Forces Europe Mountain Bike riders prepare to race at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Military personel travel from all over Europe to compete in these series of races. ( U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Nathan Doza ) ( Released )

For several years I’ve occasionally helped a friend understand puzzling dreams. Recently he shared one I found so interesting that I asked his permission to share it here. First, I need to tell you something about him.

As an avid cyclist, he was a long-time fan of Lance Armstrong.  A really BIG fan.  He followed all his races.  He worried about him when he was diagnosed with a potentially fatal cancer and celebrated when he returned to racing and won.  He supported Armstrong’s charity, Livestrong—a Non-Profit Organization that unites, inspires and empowers people affected by cancer—by buying many of its products and encouraging others to do the same. You might say Lance Armstrong was his hero.  He admired him, was inspired by him, and avidly defended him when others suggested he might be taking drugs.

And then, “in 2012, a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation concluded that Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs over the course of his career and named him as the ringleader of ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.'”(Wikipedia) A CNN article wrote, “The epic downfall of cycling’s star, once an idolized icon of millions around the globe, stands out in the history of professional sports.”

My ethically idealistic friend was outraged.  He felt duped, violated, betrayed. What bothered him most was that Armstrong had ruined the career of fellow cyclist and friend, Frankie Andreu, and publicly slandered and humiliated his wife Betsy for exposing his drug use. And he was utterly unrepentant! My friend threw out or gave away all his Livestrong gear and even burned one of his shirts. Whenever someone brought up the subject he could feel the anger and hatred rising to the point that he could barely contain it.

He couldn’t forgive Armstrong and lived with this knot of hatred for three years. He knew it wasn’t good for him, but he couldn’t help it. Then a few weeks ago he had this dream:

“I’m in a store where people are standing around a table admiring some Livestrong gear.  I say, “Don’t buy any of that stuff.  The guy’s a liar, a doper, a cheater, and a despicable human being!” Then I go into a room where a man is admiring a beautiful racing bike and see he’s Frankie Andreu. I say, “Hey Frankie.  I have an idea.  Let’s go out there and buy up all that Livestrong gear and burn it! I can buy a thousand dollars worth if you’ll take care of the rest.” Frankie enthusiastically agrees, so we buy everything. Then I say, “Where can we burn it?”  A Mafioso-looking man nearby says, “I have a field you can use.”  So we pile our purchases in Frankie’s  SUV, drive to the site, and burn the gear.

We hear a commotion and see people sitting in front of a nearby tent. They tell us they’re watching a mountain bike race. Just then a biker comes into view over a rise wearing Livestrong clothes. I think it’s Lance, so I say to Frankie, “Hey, lets shout insults at him.” He agrees. I see my BB gun lying in the lawn chair in front of me. “Let’s sting him a little with this,” I say. “Yeah, that’ll be good,” he says. But the biker turns out to be Armstrong’s girlfriend.

Another biker rides past then Armstrong comes over the rise. I see my hand gun beside the BB gun. I pick it up, aim it at him and shoot three shots in the shape of a triangle into his center mass. I look at the gun in my hand and think, “I’m going to jail for this. But I guess that’s okay. Being the guy who killed Lance Armstrong isn’t a bad legacy.”

When I asked my friend how he felt after that dream, he said most of the anger and resentment was gone. I asked how he felt about it now. He said, “I feel good!” That’s when I realized what the dream was about.

It wasn’t saying he’s a terrible person. This would be taking the dream literally and ignoring the underlying metaphorical meaning. Since he learned the truth about Lance Armstrong he’d been obsessed, feeling embarrassed, angry and unforgiving. Meanwhile, without his awareness, his unconscious was looking for a solution to this unsatisfactory way of living; and when the time was right, it gave him this healing dream.

Killing Lance Armstrong in a dream gave his moral outrage a profoundly powerful, yet harmless outlet. After three years, his obsession has been defused and he’s feeling pretty good. Because what he actually killed was Lance Armstrong’s power over him.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone handled their hatred with the same integrity and self-restraint as my friend?  If they took their inner lives seriously? If they tried to understand their dreams?  If they felt and expressed their honest feelings without causing harm?

This reinforces my belief that there’s hope for our world. There is a way for humanity to attain inner and outer peace.  And this is it.

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 Emotionally Intelligent Are You? May 19, 2015

HSDcoverLast week Bud Harris, a Jungian analyst and author, posted a review of Healing the Sacred Divide on Amazon. In it he noted, “I have recommended this book to many people particularly for its sections on Emotional Integrity and Cultivating Emotional Intelligence.” Others have told me how much that part of the book means to them too, so I’d like to share a bit of it here.

Most of us believe we’re in touch with our emotions if we feel the basic ones like love, anger, fear, happiness, and sadness.  But it is possible to feel and recognize some emotions and not others. Moreover, knowing you’re feeling an emotion doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to contain it or use it wisely.  Consider the following symptoms of emotional ignorance.  Which of these have you experienced?

25 Common Symptoms of Emotional Ignorance

1.  Feeling angry, happy, sad, anxious, afraid, guilty, ashamed, rebellious, hurt or sorry for yourself without knowing why or being able to control it.

2.  Acting scornful, superior, patronizing, fearful, seductive, resentful, manipulative, critical, etc., without realizing it.

3.  Not recognizing, understanding, or being able to admit to having a certain emotion, even when you experience it in a dream or someone points it out to you in waking life.

4.  Recognizing and responding from your anger while ignoring the hurt, sadness, fear, self-pity, self-doubt, guilt, or other less-obvious emotion that gave rise to it.

5.  Being swamped by a strong emotion–for example, grief, jealousy, fear, or anger–and allowing it to escalate to the point that it hurts you, another person, or a relationship.

6.  Becoming infatuated or falling in love with someone you barely know.

7.  Acting on your attraction to someone without being able to control yourself when it would be hurtful to you, him/her, or other innocent people.

8.  Having obsessive and/or intrusive fears, thoughts, anxieties, or worries you can’t control that are unrelated to chemical imbalances or mental illness.

9.  Trying to alleviate anxiety or other uncomfortable emotions with excessive use of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or compulsive/addictive behaviors.

10. Feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, or drained of energy on a regular basis without knowing why (except for the last, which could, of course, have a physical cause).

11. Expecting others to make you happy and blaming them for your unhappiness instead of taking responsibility for (which requires admitting to) your own feelings and the unsatisfactory life situations that give rise to them.

12. Feeling guilty or critical of yourself for having certain normal human emotions such as anger, fear, or self-pity; or, at the opposite extreme, pleasure, happiness or joy.

13. Habitually expressing only the emotions you think you should express based on your family’s emotional personality.

14. Feeling justified or not caring when you do or say something that hurts someone else.

15. Feeling no compassion for people who are hurting.  This includes yourself.

16. Holding grudges without wanting or trying to resolve them.

17. Hating/despising others who are different from you; and/or hating/despising yourself for being different from others.

18. Being caught in a repetitive cycle of abuse, remorse, and over-compensation toward another person; or allowing another person to act that way toward you.

19. Expecting others to meet your emotional and/or physical needs without noticing or appreciating how they meet yours; or believing you have to meet another person’s emotional and/or physical needs whether or not they notice or appreciate your efforts.

20. Avoiding apologizing or talking with someone you have hurt because you don’t want to feel the guilt or admit to having said or done something hurtful.

21. Being unwilling or unable to cry or grieve over your pain or losses.

22. Being unable to enjoy your successes.

23. Feeling a strong internal pressure to habitually act cheerful and put on a happy face regardless of how you really feel.

24. Habitually withholding your true emotions from your partner, family, or friends.

25. Moodiness.

If you see any of these symptoms in yourself, welcome to the human race.  If you are ready to deal with them, welcome to the threshold of consciousness.

Image Credit:  Mandorla.  Cicero Greathouse.

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.

 

A Six-Step Method for Working with Dreams January 20, 2015

 

The Asklepieion, a dream chamber dedicated to Asklepius, Greek god of medicine and healing.

The Asklepieion, a dream chamber dedicated to Asklepius, Greek god of medicine and healing.

This June I’ll be presenting the Friday night keynote speech for the annual conference of the  International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) in Virginia Beach. As I was reviewing my archives for ideas, I ran across this post from five years ago. Although I won’t be addressing this in my speech, (titled “Dream Theatres of the Soul”), I’m prompted to share it here again, both as a reminder for those who already work with their dreams, and as a useful aid for those who don’t but want to. There are many helpful ways of working with dreams, but this method works best for me.

Step 1: Prepare: Place a notebook and pen or pencil beside your bed where you can easily reach them. Before you go to sleep be very intentional. Ask the Dream Mother three times to bring you an important dream and help you remember it. Intentionality is probably the most important step. Don’t forget it.

Step 2: Describe: If you wake up with a dream in the middle of the night, jot down a few key images and actions to trigger your memory in the morning. As soon as you can, flesh it out in your dream journal with a full and rich description. Give the dream a date, number and title. Write in the present tense to keep the dream more immediate: “I am at a party,” not “I was at a party.” Note as many details — setting, colors, objects, actions, people, directions, etc. — as you can. Most important, record every emotion and where in the dream you felt it.

Step 3: Examine Symbols: Begin with the first symbol (activities as well as objects and their descriptors) and record your personal associations to it. Ask yourself: If I saw this symbol in a play, poem or film, what would I think it meant? Dream example: “I’m driving a big, old, outdated car down a dark and winding road. I’m going too fast and want to put on the brakes but I can’t reach them. I’m afraid I’m going to crash.” What would be the first symbol or activity you’d work with? Driving. What are your associations to driving? Steering? Big, outdated car? Dark and winding road? Going too fast? Brakes?

Step 4: Restate: After you’ve noted your associations to the symbols, briefly summarize the plot from beginning to end, substituting your associations for the symbols. This used to be a recurring dream of mine, so here’s my summary: My ego (the “I” in the dream) is in charge of my journey (driving down a road). The way I’m traveling (car) is outdated, impersonal, and mechanical (I’m in a machine), and unconnected to the natural world (I’m surrounded by a bubble of steel and glass, not walking out on the road). I’m unconscious (in the dark), going too fast for comfort, out of control, and afraid.

Step 5: Create an Emotional Bridge:  Dreams are pictures of emotions. Look for connections between the emotions in your dream and your recent waking life.  (This is very important: these connections bring valuable insights that lead to increasing self-awareness and self-knowledge.) List the emotions your dream ego felt in order of their appearance. Ask yourself: What is the most dominant or disturbing emotion? (Fear: of being driven, of not having any control over my life, of crashing.) What triggered this emotion? (I try to stop, but can’t.) When have I recently felt this way in waking life? What does this say about the current status of my waking life?

Step 6: Reflect: Consider what actions or changes might be called for in light of the information you acquired about yourself. Ask: Do I want to change my rushed and fearful way of living? What steps could I take to instigate change? Record your insights and intentions so you will remember them. If the dream feels especially important create a private ritual to honor it and the Dream Mother.

A final note: Keep at it, but give yourself some slack. You don’t need to work with every dream.  Once a week–more if you can, less if you can’t– select a particularly puzzling or compelling dream and spend some time applying this method to it. Then congratulate yourself for the important work you’ve done and enjoy the wonderful new insights you’ve gained. I hope you’ll let me know if these suggestions help.

Photo credit:  I took this photo in the museum at Epidaurus, Greece, the location of the ancient Center for Healing.

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

 

 
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