Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Anima/Animus: The Archetype of Contrasexuality December 22, 2015

sacredmarriage

Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung. “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335

So far in this series about the five major players in every psyche, I’ve written about the ego, our center of consciousness; the persona, our social mask;  and the shadow, our disowned qualities.  The remaining players are buried much deeper in our unconscious, and can only be accessed after we’ve learned about, and come to terms with, the very real and potentially toxic powers of our shadows.  Until this happens, we will not reach the fourth level of the psyche or mature self-knowledge.

To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.  Carl Jung. “Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology” (1959). In CW 10. Civilization in Transition. P.872

Getting in the middle is good!  Seeing ourselves from two sides—i.e. conscious and unconscious, good and evil—frees us to discover our full individuality.  We do this by meeting and coming to terms with the anima/animus archetype of contrasexuality. This pair represents the two fundamental energies of the psyche.

Jung said the anima is the unconscious feminine.  He believed she is a particularly potent force in the psyche of a man, but today it might be more appropriate to say of a person whose ego identifies primarily with maleness. Historically thought of as soul, Jung associated our unconscious feminine sides with Eros, the principle of feeling and relationship.

Conversely, the animus is the unconscious masculine, a unusually powerful force in one whose ego identifies primarily with femaleness.  Historically thought of as spirit, Jung associated our unconscious masculine sides with Logos, the principle of rationality.

Until very recently, humanity has not understood that everyone contains all the qualities associated with both energies, and so has made the mistake of assigning specific and limiting roles to the genders. Even Jung tended to be confusing when writing about this issue, as he believed that every woman’s psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, and every male’s on the principle of Logos. But might he have been influenced by gender stereotypes which were so strongly imposed in his time?  For in organizing the personality types into the two opposites of Logos thinking and Eros feeling, he acknowledged that both potentials exist in every psyche. So why assign each to a gender? In other words, even this great psychological pioneer had difficulty being clear about this issue.

Anumus Anima, Why? Wendy Stark, YouTube

Credits: Animus Anima, Why? Wendy Stark, YouTube

I think Erich Neumann said it best when wrote in The Origins and History of Consciousness (Princeton University Press, 1954) xxii n. 7:

“…we use the terms “masculine” and “feminine” throughout the book, not as personal sex-linked characteristics, but as symbolic expressions. . . . The symbolism of “masculine” and “feminine” is archetypal and therefore transpersonal; in the various cultures concerned, it is erroneously projected upon persons as though they carried its qualities. In reality every individual is a psychological hybrid.”

There is no final word on this issue as yet, either in the Jungian community or the general public.  The stereotypes about gender that have prevailed throughout the patriarchal era (about 5,000 + years) have confused and severely constrained the psychological development of all of us. However, we are beginning to understand that the creation and evolution of every form of life, both physical and psychic, only occurs when these two complementary forms of energy merge in a reciprocal partnership. Neither form is superior or inferior to the other and nothing new can be created by either one alone.

The anima/animus archetype manifests as new potentials that most of us will only consciously develop after we’ve fulfilled the basic tasks of the first half of life:  getting an education, developing our interests and skills, proving ourselves in jobs, finding love partners, and establishing a home and family. In our dreams, our anima/animus qualities appear as unusually fascinating and influential women and men who compel us to challenge and change outmoded attitudes, thoughts and emotions. Opening our minds and reflecting on these changes spurs healthy growth;  rejecting them out of fear or stereotypical thinking stunts further growth into mature consciousness.

As I write this, it’s Dec. 21, 2015, Winter Solstice Eve, the darkest night of the year. In the following video I share my very first recorded dream. It’s very fitting that it featured my animus as an attractive, seductive man who wanted to enlighten me about love. Fortunately, I was ready to push past my fear and learn what he wanted to teach me. Please enjoy my holiday offering to you: The Dream Theatre of the Anima/Animus.  This dream brought more light into my psyche. May it do the same for you.

 

 

Loving Yourself Through the Seasons of Your Life April 5, 2013

balloonrideApril 3, 2013. Dream #4422. Fear of Heights.
I’m in a vehicle traveling up a steep mountain on a narrow road. The mountain is on my right, a sheer drop-off is to my left.  I don’t want to look down or feel anxious so I close my eyes. When I open them the right side of my vision is filled with mountain; the left, with sky.

As we round a curve I see a light brown cigar box-shaped object with a half-open lid that seems to float in the sky. I think it must be anchored to the top of the mountain like a billboard supported by slender poles. I wonder what it is. A viewing facility? An art object? Maybe I’ll find out when we arrive at our destination.

The vehicle stops. To our left a wooden deck is connected to the mountain by a narrow walkway. People are out there preparing a balloon for flight. Someone opens the vehicle door and a small, gray curly-haired dog hops out and trots fearlessly down the walkway. A fluffy white cat is perched regally on the front seat. I understand we’re to take a balloon ride and look forward to it. But I’m worried about the narrow walkway and the cat. I wish it wasn’t with us. It’s my responsibility to hold it and I tell the others, “I’m afraid the cat will leap out of my arms!” It’s not really the height I’m afraid of; it’s the precariousness of this situation, the cat’s vulnerability, and my ability to restrain it. I don’t want this concern to spoil the pleasure of our ride.

I’m writing this three days before the Wilbur Award banquet. The heights could be a metaphor for receiving this award, and Dream Mother could be showing me some anxiety I have about this event. So why the anxiety? I couldn’t figure it out so I called my best friend Ann, a Jungian therapist. When she asked what I’ve been worrying about, I was embarrassed to tell her I’ve been stressing over how I’ll look at the awards ceremony! Am I too fat for my dress?  I hate my hair! Should I wear it up or down? Do I have the right shoes? Makeup? Jewelry?

The odd object in the sky is an important clue to the meaning of this dream. It looked exactly like one of those Hav-a-Tampa cigar boxes I grew up with in the Cigar City. As a teenager I put my jewelry in one. Why was it in the sky? Well, when I lived in Tampa an iconic image on its skyline was a bottle-shaped water tower advertising whisky. It was supported by slender poles. To me, these macho images of a mid-century southern town suggest an issue that originated there in my formative years, an era when Miss America pageants ruled, southern girls dominated them, and masculine values ran the whole show!

cigarboxFor half my life I’ve struggled to break free of gender stereotypes; travel comfortably in my own space between mountain and air, matter and spirit; and write about my journey to heal my sacred divides. And now that I’m about to receive a wonderful acknowledgement of my life’s work, I’m possessed by a teen-aged girl whose trepidations about the prom are conjuring up a scenario of potential disaster! Seriously?

My instinctual masculine side (dog) is full of confidence and ready to go. My instinctual feminine side (cat) is, in typical cat fashion, serenely above it all. But my ego has been beset by a stubborn “woman-as-beautiful-object” stereotype that refuses to die a peaceful death.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive, but there is something wrong when it impairs your ability to love yourself gracefully through the seasons of your life regardless of gender, looks or age!  With Ann’s help, this issue already feels less problematic. My talk with her left me laughing at myself, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be smiling all the way to Indianapolis this Saturday and soaring home on Sunday.

See the water tower in the upper left corner?

See the water tower in the upper left corner?

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

What Do Men Mean When They Say Women Are too Emotional? February 26, 2013

huntingsaber-toothed tigerIn my recent posts about the role of feelings and emotions in gender relationships, I raised the questions, What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings? What do men mean when they say women are too emotional?

In the last post, “Falling Through: One Man’s Fear of Feeling,” author and poet Rick Belden shared a powerful poem about emotions. He wrote “fear is much too mild a word for what I feel when I get close to my grief, sadness, and pain. A far more accurate word would be terror. The source of this terror is not a mystery. I clearly remember the words I heard countless times as a child: Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” For Rick, “Any open expression of grief, sadness, and pain was a potential threat to my very existence, and over time I learned to hold those feelings tight, deep inside myself, to survive.” This reinforces Episcopal priest Matthew Fox’s observation that men are rarely rewarded, and often mocked, for openly expressing their deepest feelings of joy, sensitivity, and pain.

My question, “What do men mean when they say women are too emotional?” elicited the observation from katsoutar that between men and women, “the term ‘emotional’ seems most used to describe weepy, passive emotion, i.e. women cry too much, men, not enough.” In response, Amy Campion shared the research finding that, “women’s tears contain a chemical substance that though undetectable consciously, has the power to reduce a man’s testosterone when inhaled.” Lorrie Beauchamp added that this dampening effect reduces men’s sexual attraction and increases their empathic response. As she said, “a true-to-stereotype male would not want his testosterone messed with in this way, which might explain why men get annoyed by tears, and why tears become part of manipulative behavior in children and women.”

emotionsBiology, culture, and individual personalities feed into this dynamic. Both genders inherit physical traits that predispose them to predictable responses to certain situations and emotions, and some cultures and institutions reinforce these to stereotypical extremes. Many individuals take advantage of this for self-serving reasons, thus exacerbating the gender gap. We all know of children and women who manipulate men with tears. And we know of men who manipulate women with silence or subtle threats of violence.

We can see how in the early stages of our species’ development the survival of small, isolated groups was best served by empathic females and stoic males. Both had everything to lose if women were emotionally unavailable to their vulnerable children and men were too emotional to protect their tribes from marauding saber-toothed tigers. But history has consistently proven these abilities to be present in both genders.  There have always been gentle men who feel deeply and cry without shame, brave women who let nothing compromise their goals to protect their loved ones and fight for what is right.

Both genders can bring more consciousness and balance to their work and relationships. Unfortunately, the least aware are most resistant to change. Worse, too often they are in positions of power. Our hope lies in the commitment of a majority who can overcome our lethargy and become the change we want to see. Spirit Warriors of both genders abound in today’s world, and it’s never been easier or more necessary to enlist their help in bringing us to greater psychological awareness. For anyone who wants to understand their feelings, I highly recommend The Language of Emotions, by Karla McLaren.

 

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.

 

 

Gender Wounds: Feelings and Emotions February 12, 2013

emotionsWe’ve all heard people say that men are out of touch with their feelings and women are too emotional. Are these observations true or are they stereotypes? If they’re true, then why? When we try to answer these questions we face the problem of not being sure what we really mean when we use the words emotions and feelings. In my effort to raise more awareness about gender wounds, I’d like to begin by clarifying these terms.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines feeling as 1. The sensation involving perception by touch. 2. An affective state of consciousness, such as that resulting from emotions, sentiments or desires. 3. An awareness; impression. 4.a. An emotional state or disposition; emotion. b. A tender emotion; fondness. 5.a. The ability to experience and react to the emotions; sensibility. b. feelings. Sensitivities; hurt his feelings. 6. Opinion as distinguished from reason; sentiment. 7. An impression produced by a person, place, thing, or event. 8: An appreciative regard.

Emotion is defined as 1. A complex and usually strong subjective response, as love or fear. 2. A state of agitation or disturbance. 3. The part of the consciousness that involves feeling or sensibility, as in a choice determined by emotion rather than reason.

As these definitions show, sometimes we use the word feeling to mean an emotional state or emotion. At other times we mean sensitivity. And sometimes we mean the ability to experience and react to our emotions, or sensibility. The word sensibility seems key to this discussion. Two definitions that apply are 1. The ability to feel or perceive, and 2. Mental or emotional responsiveness toward something, as the feelings of another; being sympathetic.

Everyone feels and everyone has emotions. Yet attitudes toward emotions seem to differ between men and women. Recently a male friend half-jokingly voiced the common criticism that women are too emotional. People sometimes cite Myers-Briggs data to support this belief, but the Thinking (T) and Feeling (F) indicators are about how we organize information to make choices, not judgments about whether we’re overly emotional. The data simply indicate that the majority of women (75.5%) prefer to make decisions in a personal, values-based, emotional way (F), whereas men (56.5%) prefer to decide in a logical, objective, unemotional way (T). Is there something inherently “wrong” or undesirable about either of these positions? Is women’s preference for subjective value a feminine wound? Is men’s preference for objective logic a masculine wound? Or are both preferences appropriate in differing ways and situations?

Later in the conversation my friend mentioned being angry about something in the news, so I said, “You’re angry about a lot of things, aren’t you?” “Yes,” he readily admitted. When I responded, “Anger’s an emotion, isn’t it? So aren’t you being emotional too?” he was quite surprised. He said he’d never really thought of his anger as being emotional! Yet teachers and students alike often report that boys are more prone to being agitated and creating disturbances, i.e. being more emotional, than girls. Why hadn’t he recognized his own emotionalism? Why did he project “being emotional” onto women?

In summarizing what I’ve said so far, I find five areas for discussion: 1) What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings? 2) What do men mean when they say women are too emotional? 3) If everyone has feelings and emotions, why might women experience and react to their emotions, i.e. have more sensibility to emotions, and men have less? 4) Why do we perceive emotional differences between the genders in terms of “good” and “bad” stereotypes? 5) How can we overcome damaging gender stereotypes?

I’ll share my thoughts about these questions next time. Meanwhile, I’d love to know yours.

 

A Call to Dialogue About Gender February 8, 2013

UntitledAfter my last post, Lorrie B said that gender is a huge elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. It’s true. But talking is essential if we’re to heal our gender-related wounds, so in this post I’ll offer topics for conversations.

Tribalism: Our species is between 100 and 150 thousand years old. In that time we’ve made more progress taming the instincts of carnivorous canine and feline pack animals than our own. Why are we still so territorial? So hostile toward members of our own species whose only differences from us are physical appearances and culturally- and geographically-conditioned adaptations? Episcopal priest Matthew Fox says that as a species we are extremely dangerous and our tribalism is eating us alive. What roles do gender issues play in tribalism? What changes can men and women take to eliminate it?

Violence: Lorrie B also noted that men, onto whom we’ve traditionally projected our masculine drive (self-preservation) and values, are accountable for over 90 % of the world’s violence. Why are women (onto whom we’ve projected our feminine drive of species-preservation with its values of caring, connecting and relating) and spiritually enlightened people of both genders still so ineffective in reducing violent conflicts? Is testosterone the only culprit? How can the genders cooperate in healing our violent tendencies?

Male-Dominated Spirituality: Our “primitive” forebears appreciated and worshiped the sacredness of all life in its masculine and feminine aspects. Why do so many “advanced” Westerners believe that a one-sided masculine-oriented spirituality is preferable? Why has organized religion failed to solve the problems of male violence and female oppression? Why do both genders submit to external religious authorities instead of acting on the truth of these words from the Dalai Lama? “We can do without religion, but not compassion.” Didn’t Jesus and Mohammed teach the same thing? Why is Mother Teresa the female spirit person who most readily comes to mind? What can we learn from her?

Gender Stereotypes: Why do gender stereotypes still abound? Why are some people still rigidly obsessed with defending them, especially ones related to sexuality and fundamental personal rights? Why do some of us privately project logic and rationality onto males and sensitivity and emotionality onto females even though both genders contain the psychological potential for both? We’ve had three generations of world-wide immersion in technologically produced visual images, beginning with photography, and moving into film, television, and computers. Why are we still so visually illiterate and vulnerable to subtle manipulation by the media? When and how does advertising take advantage of gender stereotypes and perpetuate unhealthy ones? Who wins from this practice? Who loses? Is it true that men are more out of touch with their feelings than women? Why? Why do women seem to find it easier to integrate their masculine sides than men, their feminine sides? What factors account for the high divorce rate in North America? Why do the genders still have difficulty understanding each other and communicating?

Exploitation of Women, Children and Nature: What can I say about human trafficking, child labor, and sexual exploitation? About the rape of Nature, our Mother? These things are unspeakably appalling and both genders are complicit. God help us. With all the freely given bounty and beauty of life we certainly haven’t excelled at preserving it or helping ourselves and each other enjoy it! Why?

I know most of us would rather imagine figures of light than face dark realities, so if these questions have aroused uncomfortable emotions or offended sensibilities I hope you’ll understand and forgive. May we all advance toward Buddhism’s goal of joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Disney Princesses August 30, 2011

In the 1970’s Westerners experienced a huge surge of awareness about gender stereotypes and we began a concerted effort to free ourselves from them. One issue receiving a lot of attention was how the depictions of female characters in traditional literature unconsciously influenced little girls’ beliefs about themselves and their place in the world. This led many women, myself included, to revisit our personal stories to see how we had limited ourselves.

Huge changes occurred in our cultural stories too. Television shows like Charlie’s Angels  featured women in roles that had been traditionally reserved for men.  Scholars like Marija Gimbutas (The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe) and Merlin Stone (When God Was A Woman) wrote books that examined feminine aspects of spirituality. New volumes of fairy tales were re-written to give the female characters more power and control over their lives. Since then, our growing awareness has fostered greater gender balance in many sectors of society.

How then do we account for the phenomenon of the Disney Princesses? Some see them as positive role models for their daughters, but many see them as stereotypes which are bound to scar our daughters’ minds.  Why do they think this?  Because the rule for female leads in such tales as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast is that they must be young, beautiful, sweetly shy, innocently seductive, charmingly vulnerable, and, for the most part, deferential to males. Moreover, although there are occasional deviations, the plots almost always follow the  masculine-hero-rescues-feminine-victim-and-conquers-villain formula for heroic behavior.

If we take these stories as literal models for gender behavior in the outer world  they are, indeed, limiting. But what if we see them as symbolic of the inner life of the soul which has a masculine and a feminine drive? What if we realize that each of us contains a sweet and vulnerable Cinderella/Snow White/Aurora/Belle Orphan who needs to be rescued from its child-like dreaminess so we can become conscious, mature, and responsible? What if we recognize the cruel Stepmothers, Stepsisters, and untamed Beasts within us who can influence us adversely if we do not become more aware of them?  What if we see that helpful Fairy Godmothers, noble Kings and Queens, and heroic savior Princes are also part of our potential and we can choose to empower them if we wish?

The characters and plots of our cultural stories are projections of our psyches that show us who we are and who we have the potential to become. If we view them as opportunities for self-reflection they can be portals to growth and self-discovery. The Disney Princesses represent a youthful stage of development of our feminine sides. As such, they will appeal to most children for a little while. A few might even stay in that stage throughout their lives — perhaps because the archetype is simply a powerful part of their true personality, or perhaps because they’re afraid to risk changing — but most will grow beyond it. And when they do, there are plenty of other role models out there to pick from.

At 6 and 9 my granddaughters have already outgrown the Disney Princesses. I wonder how long it will be before they discover Barbie and Ken…

 

 
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