Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

In What Can We Trust? November 15, 2016

trust-dreamsLast night I had two dreams, my first since the presidential election. They were helpful, and I hope they might be to some of you.

Dream #4800.  Monday, Nov. 14. Releasing Two Snakes. 

The end of the tail of a long slender black snake is somehow attached to me. I pull it away to free it and set it on the ground. It writhes, as if in pain. I hope it’s not hurt. I back away from it cautiously.

Now there’s a large, greenish, alligator-sized snake with an unusually large head in front of me. A man I can’t see, but whose presence I sense, faces me from the other side of the snake. We need to remove it from this place of humans and return it to its natural habitat.

Pressing his left hand on the snake’s head so he can hold it down to prevent it from turning around and biting us, the man uses his right arm to lift it up. I’m pleased to have his help, impressed that he knows what he’s doing, and aware that though we are cautious, we’re not overly fearful. I trust him to know how to handle this.

Dream #4801. Monday, Nov. 14. Dancing with my Anima

I’m dancing with a woman who’s smaller than me. We’re wearing white robes and holding each other loosely and lightly. I realize with embarrassment that I’m trying to lead and not doing a very good job of it. I don’t hear music and can’t find an appropriate rhythm. I make a self-deprecating joke about how our problem is that I’m trying to lead and ask if she’ll lead instead.

We stand there for a brief moment, then she gently dips me over backwards. I smile, enjoying this unexpected move. I’d forgotten about dipping. Relaxed, I give my body to this movement, trusting her not to drop me. As I raise one leg to do the ‘dip pose’ I wonder if I’m flexible enough to do this gracefully.

330a7260e2e98f35ebfed55532c4e3b7Associations and Conclusions: Since the election I’ve been vacillating between trust and fear for myself and our country. Taken together, these dreams affirm that what I’ve been thinking and feeling is okay. I can trust the Self (integration of my animus and anima energies) and allow it to be in charge.

My dream ego’s interaction with the black snake says my ego is actively involved in ridding myself of some dark, unconscious, primitive and potentially problematic instinctual energy. I think this energy may be related to unconscious prejudices I’ve had about patriarchy and masculinity.

The size and color change from the black snake to the larger green one in the second dream suggests that some ‘greening’ (healthy new life) is developing in my soul. Perhaps this represents my growing trust in my animus whose help—for example, in the form of more courage to speak my mind and address fears I once ignored—I’m beginning to accept.

The dancing dream shows my habit of trying to control the dance of my life and my realization this isn’t working. When ego’s in charge I lack balance and harmony; I can’t hear the music (of my soul) and don’t know what steps to take. But I’ve reached a point of vulnerability where I trust my anima (body, instincts, physical energy, intuition, honest emotions and feelings) to lead the way in the hope of acquiring more flexibility, balance and grace in everything I do.

I don’t have any wise and learned theories about my future or the future of our country as a result of this election. I don’t know how I’ll feel this afternoon or what steps I’ll take tomorrow. I don’t know my topic for next week’s post. Until this morning I thought this one would be about synchronicities surrounding the election and Leonard Cohen’s passing.

But what I do know is that my dreams have proven to be so helpful that I trust them to guide me safely through whatever comes.

Sweet dreams, dear friends. R.I.P. Leonard Cohen. Halleleujah.

 

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

Image Credits:  Quotesgram.com, Pinterest.

 

Muse, Anima, or Soul? September 1, 2015

The Ponte Vecchio (

The Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”) in Florence, Italy

Recently a reader asked this question: “If a woman performs the function of being an artist’s ‘muse’ and if the artist believes (to paraphrase Joseph Campbell in ‘The White Goddess”) that ‘she is a representative of the goddess deconstructing and remaking him’ then where does muse/anima begin and end?”

I wasn’t exactly sure I understood the question fully, but here’s how I replied…in a slightly revised form now that I’ve decided to make a post of it.

Well, right off hand I’d say that the muse is one of several functions of the Anima.  Anima is the name Carl Jung gave to a man’s unconscious feminine side. As I use the term however, I essentially mean the unconscious or undeveloped feminine in everyone.  Sometimes I use Anima and Soul interchangably.  I do the same with the unconscious masculine:  i.e. Animus or Spirit. 

Our feminine side is associated with empathy, intimately relating, nurturing, receptivity, tender feelings, the instincts, and all the soulful, material, physical aspects of human life. Whichever of these are not consciously developed remain in the unconscious as our Anima.

Our instincts are the source of all creativity:  i.e. we need to eat (the instinct for nurturance), so we create weapons and tools to catch and kill animals and fish. Or look for work we can enjoy and earn money doing. Paradoxically, we contain an instinct for creativity itself, although not everyone activates it as much as artists and other unusually creative people. 

Patriarchal culture educates us into a one-sided way of thinking and behaving with values that are active, productive, dynamic, goal- and achievement-oriented, practical, clear, structured, logical, linear and competitive.  In this masculine-oriented environment, many of us repress our Soul into the unconscious, thus losing the ability to care deeply and have empathy for others, cultivate intimate relationships, feel and express tender emotions, tend lovingly to our bodies and the everyday physical requirements of life, and be receptive to our own repressed needs and instincts. Soul requires more time, quiet, stillness, space, receptivity and contemplation to get in touch with the inner life—including inspiring inner images, visions, dreams and imagination—than the fast track allows.

As a result, many, if not most, men project their Anima onto a woman and let her carry it for them.  A man can learn  a lot about Soul vicariously through her, but he won’t necessarily learn to experience his own Soul, which might be quite different from hers.

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” ~Dante Alighieri

Dante sees Beatrice for the first time.

Dante sees Beatrice for the first time.

This can create real problems between them because he expects her to behave “appropriately,”  i.e. as his own idealized feminine side would.  When she doesn’t mirror his ideal image, or Anima, he may be critical, disappointed, or angry at her. This is because he doesn’t see her as she really is, or even necessarily like her;  he can only see her and appreciate her when she appears to be who he wants her to be.  Yet if she leaves him, he can be devastated.  It’s as if she’s taken away an essential part of him.  Which she has:  his connection to his feminine side.

Now, let’s assume this man has a strong, conscious connection with his creative instinct, and is a writer, artist, poet, composer, actor, etc. Let’s also assume that the woman onto whom he has projected his Anima inspires him to use his creative instinct in unusually imaginative and enormously satisfying ways.  In this case, the woman also assumes the function of his muse.  As such, she provides him with an important connection to the “inspiratrix” aspect of his own Anima.

This is exactly what happened to Dante when he first saw the girl Beatrice on the Ponte Veccio in Florence.  His Anima awoke with a lightning flash and immediately took residence in her image. Even though he married someone else and Beatrice died at a young age, her image forever after functioned as his Anima/Muse/Beloved and inspired him to write The Divine Comedy.

In bringing him in touch with his deeper inner life, the muse as his Beloved also provided access to his entire Soul, not just the inspiratrix part of her, but also the other instinctual parts that helped him care and feel deeply, develop intimate relationships, learn about his own feminine side, and ultimately connect with his Self.  It was this  inner relationship with his Soul and her conscious union with his Spiritual side that activated his authentic Self, expanded his vision into the Sacred Realm, and illuminated his brilliant masterpiece.

Unfortunately, most men never see the woman to whom they are profoundly attracted as an individual in her own right. Nor do they realize that the reason they are so attracted to her is because she represents the feminine half of their own authentic Self.

The Divine ComedyBut a man who can learn about his own Soul from the woman onto whom he projects it—i.e. a man who recognizes that the qualities he admires in her belong to him, and who can gain access to these qualities whether she is physically with him or not—is the most fortunate of men. Why? Because to consciously activate and create harmony between one’s own Soul and Spirit is the whole point of the human journey…or should I say, of the Divine Comedy?

And what is that point? To consciously make of one’s own life a work of art.

Image credits:  The Ponte Vecchio, http://www.asceville.org, Google Images. Dante and Beatrice, Henry Holiday, Wikipedia. Divine Comedy, 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.

 

Women in Men’s Dreams December 16, 2014

Some years ago, a very successful and talented friend of mine began to experience a crisis of meaning. As he became more receptive to his inner life he found himself drawn to Jungian psychology and dreamwork. One night he had the following dream.

An odd chase dream. I am with a woman…no one I know. I am being pursued by a very large bear. I have a thin spear-like stick with which to defend myself. The woman points out to me a very sharp, but very thin and small, piece of metal on the ground. It is like a piece of broken razor blade. I have to search for it a bit on the ground, where it is entangled with leaves, twigs, etc. I have it and force it into the end of the stick. The bear, I sense is close at hand, but I can’t see it…I never see it. I do see various cast shadows of it, almost like cut shots in a film, one of its powerful open jaws. I jab and feint at locations near me where, based on the cast shadows, I feel I might hit the bear. I never do. Shift. I am a woman. I awaken.

I haven’t discussed this dream with my friend, who was amazingly generous to share it with me, so I do not know what it means to him; nor can either of us possibly know its fullest meaning. The best I can do is tell you what it would mean to me if it were my dream. So here goes.

For me this extraordinary dream illustrates the archetypal drama of being compelled to move out of familiar territory (he is being chased by a bear), and accepting help from our feminine side (an unknown woman companion helps him), so as to be empowered to become an authentic Spirit Warrior (he is forced to look for a weapon with which to defend himself against an animal which feels dangerous and threatening). This new problem with its accompanying discomfort and uncertainty makes it necessary to develop creative new resources (the unusual weapon).

The woman in this dream (his anima, or unconscious feminine side, and possibly a suggestion of the archetypal Great Mother) helps by pointing out the sharp piece of metal (a product of masculine, man-made technology) which is entangled on the ground among leaves and twigs (feminine symbols of the natural world). He searches for the piece of metal (possibly a pun suggesting he is searching for his mettle, i.e. courage to honor his true self and live authentically), and then finds a creative way to unite the two objects, man-made metal and Mother Nature’s stick, into one useful weapon which he uses to jab at shadows: i.e. his shadow.

It would appear that when my friend had this dream his ego was trying to figure out how to deal with an aspect of his shadow — perhaps an instinct (suggested by the bear) or regressive tendency — against which it wanted to defend itself. I have no idea what the characteristics of his particular shadow are, but the dream makes it very clear that because he followed the guidance of his inner feminine and found a creative way to unite the opposites, (masculine technology, feminine biology), not only did he find a way to protect himself, but for one, brief moment he was able to identify with his feminine side by actually becoming a woman.

What could this mean? Does this suggest a positive development in this man’s psyche? If so, why would accepting help from a woman and briefly “becoming a woman” be important to a man’s psychological and spiritual development? Next time I’ll answer these important questions from the perspective of Jungian psychology.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

What Do Dreams Have To Do With “Real” Life? Part II July 22, 2014

IndividuationandArchetypeLast time I shared a dream from over 20 years ago titled “Two Snakes in the Tree of Life.” So what did that dream have to do with “real” life?  Actually, dreams ARE real life.  They happen to everyone, even some animals.  They are facts.  We do not make them up.  They come from a place beyond Ego’s control: the unconscious.  Our unawareness of the unconscious does not negate its reality;  each dream proves its existence. When we trust it and explore its nightly dramas, ordinary life is transformed into the greatest adventure of all: living our own myth.

This is my all-time favorite dream and I’m still processing its message. It arrived shortly after I finished my first book about the inner life, The Bridge to Wholeness.  I had quit college teaching to follow my passion for writing, birthed my precious child, nurtured it through months of revisions, and was looking for a publisher. At a time when I was particularly vulnerable, this dream affirmed my choices and bolstered my courage to continue on my new path.

It is a mythic allegory about the psycho-spiritual initiation of my immature Ego (the little green snake) which had unconsciously identified with my culture’s masculine/Animus values.  It said that my destiny was to take the individuation (tree) journey through a dark and unknown way to integrate my Soul (brown female snake) into consciousness.

The Bridge to WholenessThe first stage of initiation was a slow awakening to Spirit through a lengthy immersion in the spiritual realm (hole).  This corresponded with the first half of my life when I escaped internal conflicts by immersing myself in church, the Bible, and masculine-oriented religious teachings.

The second stage began when the little green snake left the safe womb of conformity and ventured out on its own.  This was the right choice (right) for me, even though it opened me to the dangerous influence of the unconscious (left). The outer world equivalent to this plot development is that at age 37 I finally acknowledged my unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, overcame my inertia, and returned to college for my doctorate.

Act III featured an encounter with my earthy feminine Anima/Soul (brown female snake) who lived in the opposite, unconscious side of my psyche. Suddenly, her differing needs demanded equal time with Spirit.

In waking life I had come face to face with a moral dilemma, both sides of which were equally compelling, yet intolerable.  Fearful of making a terrible mistake that could have disastrous consequences, I tolerated the tension of their slow simmering in a Dark Night of the Soul for nine long years. Listening to the dialogues between Reason and Emotion, Conscious and Unconscious, Animus and Anima, Spirit and Soul, Ego and Self without giving in to my Ego’s desperate wish to escape was my salvation, for in the process, the alchemical vessel of my psyche was strengthened and empowered.

dreamtheatres2Fascinated by the strange image of the female snake biting down on the head of the little green snake, I looked for associations in Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Walker says that the serpent was originally identified with the Great Goddess and many ancient religions told stories about a male snake deity who was the Goddess’s consort.  Walker writes:

[This male snake]…gave himself up to be devoured by the Goddess.  The image of the male snake deity enclosed or devoured by the female gave rise to a superstitious notion about the sex life of snakes, reported by Pliny and solemnly believed in Europe even up to the 20th century:  that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head in her mouth and letting her eat him [italics mine] p. 904.

Bingo! This mythic image which I had never encountered before is an archetypal symbol of fertility, transformation and renewal! It appeared in my dream as a natural consequence of years of inner work and mirrored a life-changing transformation in my personality. This is why the last scene of the dream pointed not to death, but to new life. An apparent catastrophe was transformed into something sacred (rainbow) by the snakes’ bizarre embrace. The result was a more maturely individuated Ego and Animus (cowboy) and a deeply meaningful spirituality.

So my answer to,”What do dreams have to do with ‘real’ life?” is, “Everything that truly matters and is deeply real.”  They show us who we are: our greatest fears and deepest desires, our wounds and wishes, weaknesses and strengths.They tell us where we are and how to get where we want to go. They help us forgive our flaws and learn compassion for ourselves and others. They encourage our individuality and reward our healthy choices. They satisfy our soul’s yearning to be known and loved.

I still struggle daily to understand and accept myself, but thanks to my dreams and the writing through which I pour out my vital essence, I’m still evolving.  And beneath my ubiquitous self-doubt rests a solid foundation—laid by 25 years of recording and working on #4,552 dreams to date—of peaceful knowing.  My dreams tell me:  You are making a contribution only you can make. This is enough for me.

Your destiny is the result of the collaboration between the conscious and the unconscious. Carl Jung, Letters Volume I, p. 283.

Photos:  Ego and Archetype by Edward Edinger is one of my favorite books by a Jungian analyst. It’s a must for the library of any serious seeker. To learn more about Jungian psychology from a layperson’s point of view check out any of my books.  Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Hero, the Shadow, the Anima, and Love February 24, 2012

After my last post Qestra asked how important the anima is in women and the animus in males, and wondered how one actually meets the animus and anima. I’ll share parts of my answer here.

The anima and animus are equally important to females and males. Most of us have issues with certain qualities associated with our gender as well as its opposite. Jung called the unconscious same-gender qualities our shadow, and the opposite gender qualities either our anima (for men) or animus (for women). Of course we know now that not everyone identifies with his/her physical gender and that many of our ideas about gender are culturally imposed, so Jung’s definition of shadow is not always helpful.

In working with my dreams I’ve solved this problem by simply seeing all the female characters, liked or disliked, as unconscious aspects of my feminine side (feeling and relationship), and male characters as my masculine side (thinking and logic). Together, they symbolize aspects of my shadow I associate with gender. Some of these belong to my individual personality, and some belong to the archetypal feminine and masculine, the anima and animus.

To proceed on our journey we must first integrate our personal shadow, the  important disowned elements of our individual personalities including qualities we associate with either gender. Until we can acknowledge our shadow we cannot hope to come to terms with the archetypal anima and animus, and until we integrate them, we cannot hope to become whole.

Here’s the crucial point I want to make: We meet our anima and animus as they are reflected in other people (both in waking life and dreams) who are so fascinating to us that we are filled with wonder and awe. This “spiritual” falling-in-love feeling of having been touched by the Mystery is the tip-off that we’ve met an image of our anima or animus, for they are the feminine and masculine sides of the Self, our God-image.

This is a life-changing experience and our response to it can determine the outcome of our journey. A whole individual accepts the imperfections of our heroes, authorities and loved ones without expecting them to be our spiritual intermediaries and saviors. We have to establish our own connection to Spirit without requiring others to provide it for us. This is extraordinarily difficult at best, and nigh impossible if we have not integrated our shadow.

In Adventure in Archetype, Mark Greene uses Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story, “The Birth-Mark” (1843), to illustrate this problem. Aylmer is a scientist with intellectual powers “akin to the alchemists of old” who longs for spirituality and finds it in his union with the beautiful, docile, subservient Georgiana, a woman who has no ambition other than to make her husband happy. In other words, he projects his “Goddess” anima onto a human woman, she projects her “God” animus onto him, and each expects the other to provide blissful feeling and spiritual meaning for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, “in compensation for all the ‘light’ he brings to his empirically-informed world of science” Aylmer attempts to “subdue and tame her ‘imperfection’” by insisting on removing a birth mark from her face. Since he has not confronted his dark, perfectionist shadow, he cannot “integrate the feminine without falling into [a] heroic fantasy of saving women.” Ironically, it is this “would-be” hero’s subjugation of the feminine “so clearly manifest as physical oppression of women throughout history” that causes Georgiana’s death.

Could it be that simple? Could we put an end to humanity’s destructiveness and learn to love just by accepting our feminine sides and freeing women to be sovereign over their own lives?  It seems a small price to pay for peace.

 

Dream Symbols of Transition and Transformation October 25, 2011

Inner work causes gradual changes in our inner and outer lives. When an important change has occurred, the Self may send a “big” dream to let us know our work is paying off and to furnish the energy and motivation to continue. Following are some symbols we might expect to see in these dreams.

Dreams use symbols as metaphors for what’s going on in our unconscious and are rarely meant to be taken literally. For example, death is an important symbol that often depicts the end of an old outmoded aspect of our personality or phase of growth. Likewise, the birth of a baby usually symbolizes the emergence of healthy new life.

After a time of inner work we may have an important dream of transition that deals with our acceptance of our anima, or unconscious feminine side. Perhaps we befriend a woman we have previously disliked, or are attracted to an especially unusual and interesting woman. Likewise, a dream about accepting our animus, or unconscious masculine side, might feature men who initially feel threatening but become more friendly; or perhaps we are in an intimate relationship with an especially attractive man. Allowing our femininity and masculinity to merge and overlap as equal inner partners is how we empower our souls to become all they can be. It is also a major step forward in healing our relationships.

Dreams about the union between our feminine and masculine aspects often use the symbol of the wedding.  In his book The Kingdom Within, Jungian analyst John A. Sanford says the most auspicious wedding dream is one in which the dream ego is not too directly involved. When the ego plays the role of the bride or groom, it suggests an “inflated” ego that’s a bit self-important and full of itself.  What matters most is that we be invited to attend the wedding. This suggests our ego is heeding the call of the Self to witness the sacred joining of our inner opposites without taking credit for this miraculous gift.

Other symbols of transformation include the moon (which is transformed each month from a tiny, silver sliver into a full, glowing orb), bears (which have always held sacred meaning because of their hibernation, or death, each winter and their apparent rebirth each spring), and snakes (which shed their old skins, or old lives, and grow new ones). These symbols are archetypal; that is, the meaning attached to them is so universally accepted that we know they come from the collective unconscious. They are also associated with the Self, which is ultimately responsible for our inner transformations.

A dream about an initiation, a dramatic change in direction, a visit to a spectacular garden beneath the ocean, or a dynamic nuclear reaction at the earth’s core also probably signifies that some important life-changing transformation has occurred deep within our unconscious world. While the exact nature of the change my not be immediately apparent, dreams like this fill us with hope and bring special meaning to our lives. It is enough to know that our inner work is paying off in an especially potent way.

Note: This post is an adaptation of a section about “big” dreams from my book, Dream Theatres of the Soul. Since I wrote it, other symbols have appeared in my dreams to suggest important life changes. Do you have any to contribute to this list?

 

Women in Men’s Dreams August 24, 2010

Some years ago, a very successful and talented friend of mine began to experience a crisis of meaning. As he became more receptive to his inner life he found himself drawn to Jungian psychology and dreamwork. One night he had the following dream.

An odd chase dream. I am with a woman…no one I know. I am being pursued by a very large bear. I have a thin spear-like stick with which to defend myself. The woman points out to me a very sharp, but very thin and small, piece of metal on the ground. It is like a piece of broken razor blade. I have to search for it a bit on the ground, where it is entangled with leaves, twigs, etc. I have it and force it into the end of the stick. The bear, I sense is close at hand, but I can’t see it…I never see it. I do see various cast shadows of it, almost like cut shots in a film, one of its powerful open jaws. I jab and feint at locations near me where, based on the cast shadows, I feel I might hit the bear. I never do. Shift. I am a woman. I awaken.

I haven’t discussed this dream with my friend, who was amazingly generous to share it with me, so I do not know what it means to him; nor can either of us possibly know its fullest meaning. The best I can do is tell you what it would mean to me if it were my dream. So here goes.

For me this extraordinary dream illustrates the archetypal drama of being compelled to move out of familiar territory (he is being chased by a bear), and accepting help from our feminine side (an unknown woman companion helps him), so as to be empowered to become an authentic Spirit Warrior (he is forced to look for a weapon with which to defend himself against an animal which feels dangerous and threatening). This new problem with its accompanying discomfort and uncertainty makes it necessary to develop creative new resources (the unusual weapon).

The woman in this dream (his anima, or unconscious feminine side, and possibly a suggestion of the archetypal Great Mother) helps by pointing out the sharp piece of metal (a product of masculine, man-made technology) which is entangled on the ground among leaves and twigs (feminine symbols of the natural world). He searches for the piece of metal (possibly a pun suggesting he is searching for his mettle, i.e. courage to honor his true self and live authentically), and then finds a creative way to unite the two objects, man-made metal and Mother Nature’s stick, into one useful weapon which he uses to jab at shadows: i.e. his shadow.

It would appear that when my friend had this dream his ego was trying to figure out how to deal with an aspect of his shadow — perhaps an instinct (suggested by the bear) or regressive tendency — against which it wanted to defend itself. I have no idea what the characteristics of his particular shadow are, but the dream makes it very clear that because he followed the guidance of his inner feminine and found a creative way to unite the opposites, (masculine technology, feminine biology), not only did he find a way to protect himself, but for one, brief moment he was able to identify with his feminine side by actually becoming a woman.

What could this mean? Does this suggest a positive development in this man’s psyche? If so, why would accepting help from a woman and briefly “becoming a woman” be important to a man’s psychological and spiritual development? Next time I’ll answer these important questions from the perspective of Jungian psychology.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: