Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Welcome to the House of Chaos January 4, 2011

Last night we returned home after a glorious snowy week in the mountains with our kids and grandkids. We had snowman building, snowball fighting, snow-angel making, sledding; we even made snow ice cream. Indoors it was all popcorn and games and movies beside the proverbial roaring fire. It was the quintessential winter holiday, especially for children born and raised in Florida. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen the pictures in the L.L. Bean catalogues; it was just like that. Seriously. They could have done next year’s photo shoot at our cabin!

But it took some work to make it happen.  Moreover, before that we had two weeks of frenzied Christmas preparations preceded by a three-week whirlwind tour of Indochina. During all this time my house has been turned upside down with a “simple” remodeling project that was supposed to be finished when we got home from our trip but has morphed into a greedy, multi-tentacled monster. Four of the downstairs rooms are intact, but the entire upstairs is a train wreck. Seriously.

We’re camping out in my daughter’s old room while our bedroom is off limits. The other rooms are crammed with furniture, books and clothes. The carpeting in the loft where I write was replaced with wood flooring the week before Christmas. Except for a few slender cables connecting my computer to the wall, my desk is floating, unmoored, in the middle of the room. I’m sitting here trying to get this post written for publication tomorrow while one workman is ripping off floor molding behind which he will hide some exposed wires formerly hidden by the carpet, and another is using a very loud power saw. Three more men are tearing out part of a wall and rewiring electricity in what used to be our bedroom. (Oops, scooting my chair forward a bit. Someone just passed behind me with a ladder.)

Welcome to the House of Chaos. Excuse me for a moment while I step outside and emit a primal scream or two. Just kidding. Not really. Lately I tear up at the least provocation, and I know for sure it’s not PMS. Last night my husband was trying to make me feel better. After reciting the litany of all we’ve done over the six weeks he said, “Do we know anyone else our age who could have done all this?” My response was, “Why would they want to?” I don’t like to whine, but this is ridiculous. What were we thinking? (Oops, wincing at a blast from a very loud Shop Vac.)

I’m not feeling very perky or wise right now. In fact, I’m sort of questioning my sanity. What’s going on here? There’s meaning in all this. There always is. In dreams a house is a symbol for the psyche. My house is a mess. My psyche’s a mess right now too. Did a temporary onset of psychological chaos, perhaps brought on by unconscious unresolved issues surrounding the holidays, contribute to the physical chaos? Was it the other way around? Or am I just losing it?

But I know better. Life is all about cycles and I’m in a downswing. At times like this, mental gymnastics don’t help much. What I really need is to step out of the tidal wave in my head and accept the tornado of my life without worrying how I got here or how long it will last. Like when I go to the dentist: just close my eyes and breathe. (Breathing now.)

By the way, between the last paragraph and this one we put my desk back where it belongs and tidied up my work area and everyone left for lunch. For the moment I’m enjoying the eye of the hurricane. Thanks for listening.


The Metaphoric Meaning of Dreams August 3, 2010

Dreams symbolically represent underlying truths of which we are unaware. Dream events, like those in fairy tales, fables, myths and films have allegorical, metaphorical meanings. Rarely are they meant to be taken literally. My dream about the unsuitable new house didn’t mean we would move into a new house I would hate. It was a picture of some repressed emotions I was feeling about my profession that my ego didn’t want to acknowledge.

The ego is very good at repressing uncomfortable truths. My ego is no exception. The ego is a slow learner. Ditto my ego. Despite numerous dreams that dramatized the same issue from a variety of perspectives, eight months after the dream of the unsuitable new house I still didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I didn’t know because my ego didn’t want to know. Then came the following dream:

#209: Running Out of Gas. It’s a dark night and my car runs out of gas. An old woman pulls up behind me and pushes my car to a doctor’s house. As she walks me to the door I ask her what kind of doctor it is. She says he is a psychiatrist. I was hoping she would say that. We go into the living room. In the center of the floor is a large open book. A young girl in a ballet costume flutters across the room on toe shoes as the doctor tells her how lovely she is. An intense young Russian man expresses a desire to stay in the United States. When the others tell him to stay, he says he can’t disappoint his father; he has to go back to Russia to pay him back for his education. A woman in a cowboy hat sits quietly on the floor in front of me with her back to me.

This dream wasn’t warning me to check my gas tank, see a psychiatrist, take ballet lessons, or travel to Russia. These would be literal interpretations. The metaphoric meaning was that I was “in the dark” (confused) about my life’s journey, and “running out of gas” (energy), but had access to the guidance of a wise old woman (Sophia). The people in the house (the inner world of my psyche) were unknown aspects of my personality gathered in the living room (the place where I was living my life.) The doctor was my wise inner healer who was helping me with my inner work. The lovely ballet dancer symbolized my desire and potential to return to the graceful, innocent state of my childhood when I felt free to pursue my real interests. The intense Russian (he came from an alien “land” far from my conscious awareness) was the part of me that felt indebted to the Father (the patriarchal system I grew up in) for its investment in my education.

The Russian student was the key to the meaning of my dream. Pursuing a job I disliked was sapping my energy. I longed for meaningful work but believed it would be wrong and ungrateful to disappoint the teachers and mentors who had given me so much support.

And the peaceful woman in the cowboy hat? She was the me I was yet to become: the maturing woman who would quit her unsuitable job, sing her own song, dance her own dance, write her own books, buy her own horse, and wear a cowboy hat with glee! Two months later I quit college teaching for good and stepped into my real life, the one for which I was born, the one I’m living now.

Moral of the story: Do dreams really have meaning? You bet!  But try telling that to your ego!


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.




Dream Symbols: Houses July 31, 2010

Throughout the 80’s I had recurring dreams about preparing to move into new houses I didn’t like. Here’s one I had in 1988, three months after I began recording my dreams.

#54 The Unsuitable New House.  We’ve sold the house I love and I’m walking through a rickety plywood house we’ll soon move into. I’m appalled by everything I see. The tiny kitchen has huge, old-fashioned appliances and a turquoise and pink wringer washing machine. The window air conditioner unit rattles noisily. The dining room floor isn’t level, the flimsy table has a rotting corner, and the ceiling fixture is made of the shoulders, head, and antlers of a deer! Worst of all, there’s no room for my beloved books: no library, no shelves, no desk. I hate everything about this incredibly tacky house. Why did I design it this way? How could I have ordered these hideous things? I am filled with remorse. I think I should try to like this house but cannot convince myself I ever will.

I went back to school for my doctorate in the late 70’s and spent the 80’s teaching university students. The unsuitable new houses in my dreams depicted my unhappiness with myself and my life. It took another year of dreamwork before I trusted my dreams enough to leave a profession that wasn’t right for me. Two days after I left for good I dreamed I was escaping from a prison!  That fall I began to write my first book about the inner life. That was when I had a dream about touring an exquisite house that was perfect for me. At the end of the dream the woman writer who owned it hinted that it would someday belong to me!

When I was five we moved to Florida and lived in a trailer until Daddy bought the dear crumbling old wooden cottage where I grew up. After he died my mother struggled to support us on a nurse’s meager income. I would not have attended college had I not miraculously earned a scholarship. By mid-life I knew I had not developed my true interests and talents and entered a long and difficult struggle to discover my true self. At the age of 45 I found Jungian psychology and began studying my dreams. Since then my house dreams have depicted my progress. Here’s the one I had last weekend.

#4253 Revisiting My Childhood Home.  I’m in my childhood home standing in a spacious kitchen that used to be tiny, dark, and dingy. Filled with light, it has gorgeous new hand-made cabinets and polished stone counters. A young woman is kneeling on the floor painting the cabinets a creamy white. A man in the adjoining dining room is painting trim around the open doorway. I stand back to look at the remodeled kitchen and am so astonished at its beauty and suitability that I begin to weep in gratitude.

This emotional dream depicts exactly how I was feeling the evening before. My husband and I were driving along a beautiful mountain road to join dear friends for dinner when I was suddenly overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I love the way I’m traveling through life! I love my family. I love my work, my friends, my lifestyle. I feel loved and am learning to love myself. I am so grateful, feel so incredibly fortunate. The houses are my psyche. Their kitchens and dining rooms are places of transformation and nourishment. The remodeling work I’ve been doing for 22 years is making them more suitable for me. I’m becoming the woman I always wanted to be, and it feels so good!

How do Dream Mother’s houses depict your feelings about yourself and the way you’re living your life?


Slipping Into Myself March 25, 2010

I began recording and working with my dreams in 1989. In those early days, many of my dreams  had to do with conflicting feelings about my career.  This is one of them.

Dream #198: “Hiding From the Enemy”

Someone desecrates my small, primitive wooden house and ransacks my possessions while I’m away teaching writing classes.  It’s a dark night and the enemy is looking for me.  I’m in danger.  I hide, lying flat on the ground, pressed against the outside wall of the classroom.  I’m afraid to breathe or make a sound.  I know my tribe values my contribution and won’t give me away.

In dreams, houses usually represent the psychological condition in which we’re living.  So right away I’m being told that my inner life is cramped and primitive.  Moreover, it is a mess. But instead of trying to fix it up, what am I doing?  Hiding in terror behind a classroom! In other words, I’m using my job as an escape, a way to avoid conducting some inner work and confronting an unknown enemy that’s really messing with my mind.

And who or what is this enemy that has my dream ego holding its breath and cowering in the dark?  When I had this dream I couldn’t imagine what it might be; dreams are, after all, dramatizations about the unconscious self.  But now I know and the knowing makes me sad for  my cluelessness and the needless anxiety I was suffering. I was a puppet of convention and terrified of my natural, authentic self!

At that time it must have looked to others as if I had the world by the tail; but inside a battle had been raging for over nine years between two apparently irreconcilable opposites. On one side was my ego that was growing increasingly unhappy with its lack of personal meaning and spiritual fulfillment, but still preferred the familiarity and safety of the status quo to the dangers of the unknown.  On the other was the compelling new voice of Sophia whose call to freedom from conformity was deeply attractive but felt dangerously subversive. Which side was right? Which was wrong? Nothing in my life had prepared me for this excruciating dilemma. How was I to choose?  Rejecting either one would have felt like a terrible mistake.

My solution was deceptively simple and came in its own sweet time. I listened to my inner opposites and tolerated the tension between them for nine long years without shutting down or rushing to premature closure. Gradually I grew more aware of a fuller range of choices and braver about making original ones that honored my inner life as much as my outer one. Then I had a big dream in which I was going against the current in a rushing river and walking back upstream toward my true home. This dream told me that something in my psyche had shifted. Without my ego’s full awareness I had changed directions and simply slipped into myself.  Why? Because I was taking my inner life seriously and paying attention. I was just trying to stay conscious.

It seems to me that the energies of life support two basic human endeavors: to become ourselves and learn to love.  And until we get the first one right, we can’t accomplish the second. That’s why making the unconscious conscious is my career now and nothing less will ever satisfy.


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