The Wilderness of Our Emotions July 21, 2015
In the early years of working with my dreams my focus was almost entirely on head work: thinking, reading, discriminating, clarifying, understanding, analyzing symbols, and so on. I had heard that dreams were pictures of emotions and I enjoyed dreams that left me feeling happy or good about myself, but others that left me feeling bothered after I woke up were deeply puzzling.
As a child I learned to ignore uncomfortable emotions, or ones which, if I expressed them, would earn the disapproval of my family. By the time I entered junior high school, instead of responding authentically to each situation as it came, I automatically — and completely unconsciously — processed my reactions through a filter of how I thought I was supposed to act, which was calm, nice, reasonable, and, above all, unemotional.
I assumed — again, I was not aware of this assumption at a conscious level — that what I thought and how I appeared to others was more important than what my heart felt. I thought if I was tough enough to take whatever was handed to me and didn’t let it get to me, it simply wasn’t a problem. I thought it was just a function of mind over matter, and I was rather proud of my will power. The habit of being emotionally stoic was so deeply ingrained that I was almost completely unconscious of it as I was doing it, although I could sometimes see it after the fact.
It wasn’t until about 18 years ago that I finally began to see it as it was happening. The catalyst was a dear friend and gifted dreamworker, Justina Lasley. After I related a dream to her, Justina focused in on a part where some men were treating me unkindly and asked me how that made me feel. “Oh, fine. It’s no big deal,” I said offhandedly. Justina just sat there looking at me. “Really,” I said. “That’s just the way some men are; I understand that.” She just looked at me. I squirmed a bit under her penetrating gaze, and then the lightbulb went on. “Oh,” I said. “You mean, how do I really feel about this down deep? Oh, I get it! Well, I guess there’s a part of me that feels… sad? Hurt? Maybe…a little angry?”
I was stunned at this revelation. For the first time, I really got it in my gut that my automatic denial of uncomfortable feelings was part of my persona, the social mask I had built around my inner self to cover up my vulnerability. This was a huge breakthrough for me. I had always assumed that ignoring painful feelings was the right thing, the noble and spiritually desirable thing, akin to not being a whiner or complainer. But I was wrong. Why? Because our emotional realities are as important to our well-being as mental ones, and repressing them saps the life out of us. When we lose touch with our feelings we lose touch with our souls. Indeed, in our compulsion to elevate logos over mythos/eros we’ve lost our souls.
This is a major reason for the epidemic of anxiety and depression in Western society today. We have long believed that the path to healing, spiritual growth, and happiness can be found by accepting mainstream beliefs and devoting our energy to straight-forward, one-sided, stiff-upper-lip, upward-striving, people-impressing mental effort! But, the true path takes a wandering way deep into the dark forest of our unconscious selves. This is where we’ve been dumping unacceptable truths about ourselves, especially painful emotions, in the hope they’d go away. Unfortunately, they don’t, and they never will until we can find and face them.
Fortunately, our dreams send pictures of the contents of our personal garbage dump every night. Sometimes they are images of angry, cruel, sad, suffering, self-pitying, or fearful people, animals, or objects. Sometimes it is we, our dream ego, who feel these and other disowned emotions. Either way, recording and reflecting on these images, paying special attention to those that bring up uncomfortable emotions, and trying to see where they show up in our waking life, is how we find the treasure buried beneath the garbage.
Once we can see and admit to our true emotions, the next step is simply to allow ourselves to feel and grieve them without having to act on them. This is how, step by step, dream by dream, picture by picture, we walk the path of healing our pain and moving into the fullness of our lives. I wish you well on this healing adventure into the wilderness of your true Self.
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 Sacred Laws of Psyche May 5, 2015
My friends: last week’s post about the new book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, by Jungian analysts Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris, addressed a lesson that must be learned if we want to heal ourselves and the world. This is the importance of recapturing our ability to think psychologically and symbolically. This I know: learning the two languages of One Mind is the only lasting remedy for the devastation that our cultural mentality of one-sided rational, verbal and literal thinking has wrought.
With the synchronistic help of Elaine Mansfield, a dear friend and sister writer, I was reminded of this post I published in the wake of the Newtown tragedy over three years ago. If any act epitomizes the evil impact of the one-sided patriarchal culture that has activated the Death Mother archetype in our culture, that did! With this repost I extend my condolences to include the families and friends of those who lost their lives in last week’s devastating earthquake in Nepal.
The inner universe of the mind is, like the physical world, a living organism that functions according to natural laws. Deciphering them has been the work of holy fools, for who can presume to understand the sacred inner workings of creation? Yet we do try to understand these autonomous patterns of energy (archetypes) in our individual minds (the psyche) and in the mystery of the One Mind beyond ordinary consciousness (the psychoid) because we feel their profound influence.
Our brains know two languages: logic and imagination. Separately, each has limits, but an individual who respects both can make brilliant inroads into the Mysteries. Einstein was one such person. He said,
“Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”