Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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.

 

A Life Under Construction December 14, 2012

houseunderconstructionAs I ponder what this season means to me, this time of fading light and lengthening darkness, graying skies and skeleton trees, crisp air and muffled throats, four words recycle through my thoughts: Birth. Death. Rebirth. Change. And it’s not just the seasons that are changing. It’s me too.

Once I saw life as a well-marked road with a clear destination. Or an upward trek to a distant mountain peak. One day I’d arrive at that light-filled place and be finished. Or it was a spiral whose circles would get smaller as they rose higher until only a small, still point was left. I told myself I’d keep digging until a dazzling light illuminated everything I needed to know. I’d write a book that would answer all my questions and say everything I needed to say. I’d dialogue with my loved ones until the air between us was crystal bright and sparkly with no misunderstanding, confusion, or hurt. I’d be at peace. Done. Oh, and happy all the time because no matter what happened outside, inside it would always be spring.

Jungian analyst Monika Wikman writes, “The beginning of the journey of awakening often carries the innocence and naivete’ of the fool archetype.” So I guess I’m not alone. What I failed to realize was that to live is to change. That life itself is change. How could I not have understood this?  There it is, in front of me every day. The bald cypress trees that were dense with greenery two months ago are sparse with rust-colored needle-like leaves. Our grass has patches of yellow for want of rain. Every day but Sunday our normally quiet street buzzes and bangs, chugs, hums and throbs with the saws, hammers, and generators of a neighbor’s house reconstruction. And this too will change.

Why did I think it would be any different with me? My inner house, my psyche, is under construction too. Last night I snuggled and relaxed into sleep with contentment after a day well-spent: a rainy morning of reflection and dreamwork that brought refreshing new insights after a long dry season of too much intellect; closure on more Christmas gifts; help from my son uploading the contents of my old iphone to my new one; a pleasant evening with dear friends. Yet other nights my thoughts churn and thicken with worry like cement in a rotating mixer.

goldenseatThis morning I awoke trusting there’d be time enough to answer my waiting e-mail and fit in my workout. I took it for granted that inspiration for the next blog post would come and I wouldn’t have to rush to a family Christmas party. Other days I wake up cranky from a stiff body and an uncomfortable dream, overwhelmed by a too-long to-do list, annoyed at the sudoku puzzle I thought was a snap until I bombed at the very end.

Sometimes I fight or ignore inner change. Then I lapse into a space that’s dark and narrow, like the hallways that led to the bathrooms I was looking for in two recent dreams. Then one morning I awaken from a dream of receiving a warm hug from a loved one walking behind me, holding me close, supporting me on my way, and I feel fresh appreciation for my husband’s cheerful breakfast commentary about the news, gratitude for a horoscope that sparks an idea for a blog post, pleasure at the synchronicity between an unusual word appearing in last night’s dream and this morning’s newspaper. I feel my limitations, know I will die, yet my heart surges with wonder and joy. In moments like this I sit in what Wikman calls, “the golden seat between the opposites, the incorruptible experiences of Self where we are not unduly thrown around by life changes, though we experience these changes.”

It’s true what she says: “Circulation of the psychic libido, when taken to heart, becomes…an embodied “religious” instinct…a felt experience of the divine.” ~Monika Wikman

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

Monika Wikman’s book, Pregnant Darkness, can be found at this Amazon link.

 

 
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