Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies, by Mary Pipher January 2, 2020

Happy New Year to my dear reader friends. Thank you for following Matrignosis. May the new year bring you increasing health, prosperity, joy, and wisdom. Today a friend sent me this wonderful article by Mary Pipher. I share her sentiments and could not have said it better.  Enjoy.

We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias. –Maya Angelou

The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies

–by Mary Pipher, Feb 27, 2019

This article originally appeared in the New York Times Sunday Review, on January 12th, 2019.

When I told my friends I was writing a book on older women like us, they immediately protested, “I am not old.” What they meant was that they didn’t act or feel like the cultural stereotypes of women their age. Old meant bossy, useless, unhappy and in the way. Our country’s ideas about old women are so toxic that almost no one, no matter her age, will admit she is old.

In America, ageism is a bigger problem for women than aging. Our bodies and our sexuality are devalued, we are denigrated by mother-in-law jokes, and we’re rendered invisible in the media. Yet, most of the women I know describe themselves as being in a vibrant and happy life stage. We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins. Our happiness comes from self-knowledge, emotional intelligence and empathy for others.

Most of us don’t miss the male gaze. It came with catcalls, harassment and unwanted attention. Instead, we feel free from the tyranny of worrying about our looks. For the first time since we were 10, we can feel relaxed about our appearance. We can wear yoga tights instead of nylons and bluejeans instead of business suits.

Yet, in this developmental stage, we are confronted by great challenges. We are unlikely to escape great sorrow for long. We all suffer, but not all of us grow. Those of us who grow do so by developing our moral imaginations and expanding our carrying capacities for pain and bliss. In fact, this pendulum between joy and despair is what makes old age catalytic for spiritual and emotional growth.

By our 70s, we’ve had decades to develop resilience. Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice. We don’t need to look at our horoscopes to know how our day will go. We know how to create a good day.

We have learned to look every day for humor, love and beauty. We’ve acquired an aptitude for appreciating life. Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering. That is why it is the least privileged, not the most, who excel in appreciating the smallest of offerings.

Many women flourish as we learn how to make everything workable. Yes, everything. As we walk out of a friend’s funeral, we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues.

Our happiness is built by attitude and intention. Attitude is not everything, but it’s almost everything. I visited the jazz great Jane Jarvis when she was old, crippled and living in a tiny apartment with a window facing a brick wall. I asked if she was happy and she replied, “I have everything I need to be happy right between my ears.”

We may not have control, but we have choices. With intention and focused attention, we can always find a forward path. We discover what we are looking for. If we look for evidence of love in the universe, we will find it. If we seek beauty, it will spill into our lives any moment we wish. If we search for events to appreciate, we discover them to be abundant.

There is an amazing calculus in old age. As much is taken away, we find more to love and appreciate. We experience bliss on a regular basis. As one friend said: “When I was young I needed sexual ecstasy or a hike to the top of a mountain to experience bliss. Now I can feel it when I look at a caterpillar on my garden path.”

Older women have learned the importance of reasonable expectations. We know that all our desires will not be fulfilled, that the world isn’t organized around pleasing us and that others, especially our children, are not waiting for our opinions and judgments. We know that the joys and sorrows of life are as mixed together as salt and water in the sea. We don’t expect perfection or even relief from suffering. A good book, a piece of homemade pie or a call from a friend can make us happy. As my aunt Grace, who lived in the Ozarks, put it, “I get what I want, but I know what to want.”

We can be kinder to ourselves as well as more honest and authentic. Our people-pleasing selves soften their voices and our true selves speak more loudly and more often. We don’t need to pretend to ourselves and others that we don’t have needs. We can say no to anything we don’t want to do. We can listen to our hearts and act in our own best interest. We are less angst-filled and more content, less driven and more able to live in the moment with all its lovely possibilities.

Many of us have a shelterbelt of good friends and long-term partners. There is a sweetness to 50-year-old friendships and marriages that can’t be described in language. We know each other’s vulnerabilities, flaws and gifts; we’ve had our battles royal and yet are grateful to be together. A word or a look can signal so much meaning. Lucky women are connected to a rich web of women friends. Those friends can be our emotional health insurance policies.

The only constant in our lives is change. But if we are growing in wisdom and empathy, we can take the long view. We’ve lived through seven decades of our country’s history, from Truman to Trump. I knew my great-grandmother, and if I live long enough, will meet my great-grandchildren. I will have known seven generations of family. I see where I belong in a long line of Scotch-Irish ancestors. I am alive today only because thousands of generations of resilient homo sapiens managed to procreate and raise their children. I come from, we all come from, resilient stock, or we wouldn’t be here.

By the time we are 70, we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen. If we are wise, we realize that we are but one drop in the great river we call life and that it has been a miracle and a privilege to be alive.

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re An Adult April 10, 2019

Do you ever ask yourself, “Is this all there is?”  Have you played by the rules and done your best, yet wonder why you’re not as happy and fulfilled as you expected to be?  If so, How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening is a book you’ll want to read. The author, Ira Israel, is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Mindful Relationship Coach.

Israel sees beyond the cultural illusions and covert assumptions that have kept you from discovering your authentic self. For example, Western culture’s beliefs in capitalism, science, and religion taught you to value the wrong things like productivity, consumerism, and romantic love. Your futile struggles to find happiness and unconditional love via these beliefs created resentments and judgments about the past. And whether or not you realize it, as an adult you still dwell on these beliefs and ignore your present pain to stave off future pain.

This book will challenge and deconstruct your current worldview and encourage you to own the realities of your life. It will help you see the false self you created as a child to gain the acceptance, approval and love you craved.

Israel writes:

Every time we are forced, as children, to jump through hoops in order to get love or positive feedback, this foments resentment. And even if there was no physical trauma during our childhoods, all of the resentments can add up to what is often called “a core wound.”  As adults, we have remnants of wounded children in us.

Israel says that without our conscious awareness, these remnants influence the way we think and behave as we live our everyday lives. Here is the clearest description I’ve ever read of what this looks like:

In short, we emulate the characteristics of the caregivers we had when we were young in an attempt to retroactively subconsciously gain their approval and love; and we also subconsciously incarnate the opposite characteristics of the caregivers we had when we were young as a way of individuating from them.

You might be surprised to know that, “Becoming something in order to gain approval is inauthentic: being reactive and rebelling against something is also inauthentic.” In fact, living through your false self is the reason for your resentment, stress, anxiety, depression, and unhappiness. The antidote is to be congruent, to allow your outsides to match your insides. To do this you need to be present to yourself: your honest feelings, your true intentions, and the way you are thinking and acting in this very moment.

As a being who yearns for connection, you will welcome the author’s instructions about how to express yourself compassionately and as authentically as possible. He says,

If it is time to improve our conversational skills and create a more loving and positive reality, then let’s become conscious of the words and actions we choose in order to express who we are, who we want to be, and what type of lives we want to lead.

To this end, he recommends two transformational tools to improve your relationships:  reflective listening and “nonviolent communication.”  These are described in the final chapter. As Israel says, there is no plan B.

The only possible panacea is authenticity, which is difficult but must be attempted and practiced on a daily basis. It is up to us to break the chains of unskilful solutions that were handed down to us, to consciously decide who we want to be, what type of relationships will nourish us, and what kind of world we care to live in.

Throughout this delightfully humorous and seriously wise book, Israel guides you through healthy and dysfunctional ways of thinking and suggests practices that combine valuable wisdom from philosophy, spirituality, and psychology. If you make it your job to become a mature, authentic adult, you can transform your life into the fulfilling journey you looked forward to as a child by committing yourself to these practices. They will alleviate your suffering, promote loving relationships, and help you live with authenticity and love.

How to Survive Your Childhood Now that You’re an Adult is not just a great read.  It’s a must-read for anyone who seeks truth, growth, and happiness.  I highly recommend 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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

A Lasting Solution to Terrorism December 15, 2015

“. . . today most people cannot see the beam in their own eye but are all too well aware of the mote in their brother’s. Political propaganda exploits this primitivity and conquers the naive with their own defect. The only defence (sic) against this overwhelming danger is recognition of the shadow.” ~Carl Jung

Creating a persona, or social mask, to gain acceptance from our family and groups is normal.   Being accepted as part of a group is important to us, especially during adolescence, and usually well beyond.  But problems arise when we grow into adulthood believing our persona is the whole story about who we are.  It isn’t.  Life isn’t just about what you see; it’s also what you don’t see.

Psychological realities have energy. When we deny them honest expression they become like weeds that find their way out through cracks in the foundations of our personalities. My father’s death created a crack in my psyche and I turned to religion to heal it.  But instead of finding a loving Father God to keep me safe, my religion’s shadow, a judgmental God of retribution, crept in through the crack. The more I sided with and tried to emulate a gentle, forgiving god-image, the more power my punishing god-image acquired until it became an overly scrupulous spiritual bully.

My spiritual bully usually shows up in my dreams as mean, critical men, but I have occasionally dreamed of a hostile female authority figure. Once she was a Russian policewoman who tried to throw acid on my face.  I knew these characters must represent something in me, but I couldn’t see how they showed up in my waking life. After a while I realized that sometimes I had negative thoughts about myself, and once in a while I could see how these thoughts brought me down and sapped my energy. But it took years of dreamwork before I knew my bully for what he is:  the strategy of a fearful child trying to protect myself from more trauma. After all, my inner Orphan must have reasoned, if I punish myself, maybe God won’t punish me again!

To gain approval from the “good” God of my religion, I decided to be good too. Adopting a “good girl” persona required me to repress any “badness.” But instead of going away, some of my repressed qualities merged into a spiritual bully. My bully thought he was doing me a favor and I believed him. We thought self-criticism was good for me. We thought constant vigilance to root out the tiniest infraction would build character and keep me humble!

Perhaps it did in some ways, but in other ways this habit of negative self-thinking had the opposite effect. Constant reminders of your flaws hurt. If I’ve been feeling self-critical and someone adds to my pain by saying something hurtful, I forget that when other people hurt me it’s all about them. In this vulnerable state my Orphan can break through my persona.  I know she’s arrived when I start feeling sorry for myself. Wisdom and compassion fly out the window and I feel a childish resentment. I can feel superior, self-righteous, and yes, critical.  I can be thoughtless, insensitive, unsympathetic.  I can be a spiritual bully.

We need to see these things because we don’t just hurt ourselves when we blanket our shadows (everything we disown about ourselves) under thick, impenetrable layers. We also hurt others. Because the longer we ignore our own darkness, the more power it acquires to become the very opposite of who our masks proclaim us to be. Thus, self-righteousness and mean-spiritedness thrive beneath Church Lady’s piety; manipulation and control fester under the martyr’s mask; self-pity, sadness and depression hide behind the clown’s face; fear and powerlessness feed the excessive violence of warriors and terrorists; and lustful desires torment those who would be obsessively chaste and pure.

 “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”~Carl Jung

The Western world does not recognize the shadow as a powerful entity in every individual. Most of us will admit to certain flaws, but there are others we simply cannot see. We can easily see our most despised qualities in others, and are usually happy to point them out, but rarely can we admit to their presence in us.

This is not just psychologically ignorant, but dangerous. Our inability to understand and accept our personal and cultural shadows is the reason for our prejudices, hypocrisy, thoughtlessness, cruelty, broken relationships, crime, genocide, terrorism, imperialism, war, and destruction of our environment. The only lasting contribution I as an individual can make to world health and planetary peace is to know my own shadow well enough to restrain it without projecting more darkness into a world that already has enough to destroy us all.

Politicians take note: Killing dragons in the outer world will never free humanity from terrorism and tyranny. The only lasting solution is for each of us to make peace with the enemy within. Everyone has the power to do that.

This video is from my new YouTube series called Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery. You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page,) on my website , and at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU   Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Fear of Retribution December 6, 2011

The fear of God’s retribution has haunted me most of my life. I believe it arrived at the age of 11 when my father died of his third heart attack. Since he had divorced my mother three months earlier to marry another woman, I must have concluded that death was God’s punishment for betraying Mama and leaving us. Of course, I received a little help from my religious training on that assumption; after all, the Old Testament god was a punishing god.

Soon I began to ask the big questions about the meaning of life and gravitated toward religion which appeared to have some answers. By 17 I was hooked, and over the next ten years I read the New Testament of the Christian Bible three times. Its words were very comforting, and gradually my god-image of retribution morphed into one of love. Consciously, that is.

But here’s the thing: It’s not just about what you see; it’s also what you don’t see. My conscious belief that God was about love, not punishment, did not convince the wounded child whose fear of retribution never went away. In fact, the more I sided with a gentle, forgiving god-image and disowned its opposite, the more power my punishing, masculine god-image acquired until it became an overly scrupulous spiritual bully whose job was to criticize and repress me. And this hidden character in my inner cast of players began to influence me in equal measure to his opposite with one important difference: he did it without my awareness!

Psychological realities have energy. When we deny them honest expression they become like weeds that find their way out through cracks in the foundations of our personalities. My father’s death created a crack in my psyche and my bully took advantage of it. Instead of focusing on my good qualities and reminding me of my worth and lovableness, he’s the part of me that delights in emphasizing my mistakes and flaws.

He thinks he’s doing me a favor. After all, you know the saying, “Pride goeth before a fall.” He believes self-criticism is good for me and constant awareness of how “bad” I am will keep me humble! And therefore safe from God’s retribution.   But thinking we’re bad, hiding our light, and squelching our soul’s truths lest we attract God’s wrath or upset others are not good uses of our precious time on Earth. Might as well crawl into bed and pull the covers over our head.

Our soul’s reason for being is to live fully, love wastefully, and become all we have the potential to be.  That’s hard to do when we’re being pushed around by a spiritual bully. So how do we handle that negative inner voice? I choose to believe my Wisewoman, who, after 22 years of dreamwork, I can now hear in waking life. She’s the alpha mare who says to my spiritual bully stallion when he gets too inflated, “I hear you, buddy, but I’m not buying what you’re selling. I think it’s time you got a new job. How about helping me follow my bliss instead of criticizing me for being human?”

Taking our inner characters and disowned realities seriously is a choice to live our life fully instead of trying to kill it. What was Wisdom’s response when I finally saw my bully and started challenging his authority? Failure? A bolt of lightning? Loss of love? Abandonment? No. Actually, it was more like, “You go, girl!”

 

Fear of Retribution June 6, 2010

The fear of God’s retribution has haunted me most of my life. I believe it arrived at the age of 11 when my father died of his third heart attack. Since he had divorced my mother three months earlier to marry another woman, I must have concluded that death was God’s punishment for betraying Mama and leaving us. Of course, I received little help from my religious training on that assumption; after all, the Old Testament god was a punishing god.

Soon I began to ask the big questions about the meaning of life and gravitated toward religion which appeared to have some answers. By 17 I was hooked, and over the next ten years I read the New Testament three times. Its words were very comforting, and gradually my god-image of retribution morphed into one of love. Consciously, that is.

But here’s the thing: It’s not just about what you see; it’s also what you don’t see. My conscious belief that God was about love, not punishment, did not convince the wounded child whose fear of retribution never went away. In fact, the more I sided with a gentle, forgiving god-image and disowned its opposite, the more power my punishing, masculine god-image acquired until it became an overly scrupulous spiritual bully whose job was to criticize and repress me. And this hidden character in my inner cast of players began to influence me in equal measure to his opposite with one important difference: he did it without my awareness!

Psychological realities have energy. When we deny them honest expression they become like weeds that find their way out through cracks in the foundations of our personalities. My father’s death created a crack in my psyche and my bully took advantage of it. Instead of focusing on my good qualities and reminding me of my worth and lovableness, he’s the part of me that delights in emphasizing my mistakes and flaws.

He thinks he’s doing me a favor. After all, you know the saying, “Pride goeth before a fall.” He believes self-criticism is good for me and constant awareness of how “bad” I am will keep me humble! And therefore safe from God’s retribution.   But thinking we’re bad, hiding our light, and squelching our soul’s truths lest we attract God’s wrath or upset others are not good uses of our precious time on Earth. Might as well crawl into bed and pull the covers over our head.

Our soul’s reason for being is to live fully, love wastefully, and become all we have the potential to be.  That’s hard to do when we’re being pushed around by a spiritual bully. So how do we handle that negative inner voice? I choose to believe my Wisewoman, who, after 22 years of dreamwork, I can now hear in waking life. She’s the alpha mare who says to my spiritual bully stallion when he gets too inflated, “I hear you, buddy, but I’m not buying what you’re selling. I think it’s time you got a new job. How about helping me follow my bliss instead of criticizing me for being human?”

Taking our inner characters and disowned realities seriously is a choice to live our life fully instead of trying to kill it. What was Wisdom’s response when I finally saw my bully and started challenging his authority? Failure? A bolt of lightning? Loss of love? Abandonment? No. Actually, it was more like, “You go, girl!”

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc

 

 
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