Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Seeing Through a New Lens: Part I October 25, 2016

I thought of this favorite coffee mug when I remembered my story about Ken.

I thought of this favorite coffee mug when I remembered my story about Ken.

This morning I awoke from a dream in which a woman calls me on the phone to tell me about an idea she has. “It’s erotic,” she says almost apologetically.”That’s okay,” I say, “I’ve been thinking about that lately.”

It’s true. Recently, a heightened awareness of the joys of physical life has reminded me of Jungian analyst Marion Woodman’s desiderata: ‘the eroticization of all life.’ By this she means experiencing and being grateful for the sacred energy which activates nature, our bodies and our psyches; creates and maintains the ongoing birth/death/rebirth cycle of life; and can fill our time on Earth with enthusiasm, creativity, meaning and passion. Libido, chi, Eros, God, and kundalini are some of the names we give it, but to me it’s all the same thing.

The woman on the phone continues, “Get a lens. A good one.” I imagine a big camera lens. “Take it with you. Listen to people’s stories. We don’t need more theory. We need to see real lives, hear real stories, like the one about the woman in Palestine protesting the war.” I imagine writing a new book of stories told by women from around the world. I could illustrate them with images captured with my new lens.

The dream stayed with me while I ate breakfast, read the latest news about the election, and prepared for the day. Should I take it literally? Was my anima suggesting the theme for a new book? Meanwhile I was also wondering about the theme for this blog post. Last night’s dream? Suddenly a memory of a painful incident in my teen-aged years came to mind. I had written about it in The Bridge to Wholeness, so it would be easy to rewrite here. Bingo! I had my theme. So here’s that story inside this story.

When I grew up the rules for girls were clear. Women wishing to be acceptable to mainstream society were limited to three roles:  lily-white virgin, supportive wife, and devoted mother. Any other way of being feminine was suspect, and women who stepped too far out of these prescriptions would be punished by self-righteous advocates of patriarchy. I had three experiences with this kind of prejudice during my teen-age years and they all did exactly what they were meant to do:  keep me fearful of, and submissive to, men.

The first occurred in the 6th grade shortly after my father died. I was home alone after school when a man called and asked for my mother. When I said she wasn’t home he told me in vulgar, sexually explicit terms what he was going to do to me. Then he said, “I’ll be right over.” I ran to a neighbor’s house and stayed until my mother came home. I never slept easily in that house again.

The second experience involved another phone call. The summer before tenth grade a friend was at my house when the phone rang.  It was a boy who wanted to talk and flirt but wouldn’t tell me his name. The memory of the obscene call was still fresh, and I told my friend I didn’t want to talk to him. A bold and sassy girl who had no fear of boys, she happily took the phone and continued talking as if she were me. At first this was fun but when her voice took on a disturbing sensuous quality I asked her to stop. Keeping the phone away from me and covering the receiver so he wouldn’t hear me, she continued the conversation. When she hung up, she refused to tell me what he said, and soon I dismissed the incident as harmless.

Weeks later I went to my first high school dance wearing a new white dress. Before long, the shy wallflower I had been through junior high was dancing with a boy. During a break he led me to a group of boys he knew. Among them was a boy I’ll call Ken who had a crush on me in the fifth grade. When we were learning folk dances he asked me to be his partner several times, but being loyal and shy, I never danced with anyone but Jimmy, my friend and neighbor from across the street.

This is the dress from my story. Here I'm wearing it again to the senior prom.

This is the dress from my story. Here I am two years later wearing it to the senior prom.

The boy I’d been dancing with said hello to Ken, then moved on to talk to the next boy. Face to face with Ken, I smiled and said, “Hi.” With a cold, venomous stare he spat out a single word: “Pig!”

I stared at him in shocked bewilderment. When I could get away without being noticed, I hurried to the ladies’ room where I locked myself into a stall and sobbed until the dance was over. I never wore that dress again without feeling dirty and ashamed. Perhaps you already know why Ken said that, but it took me 30 years to realize he was the anonymous boy on the phone.

Two years later my story took another turn. I’ll tell it next time. Meanwhile, perhaps you’d be willing to share a similar story. I can assure you I’ll listen.

We don’t need more theory. We need to see the world through a new lens. We need healing stories, like the video I saw on Facebook yesterday of Jewish and Palestinian women singing and dancing together in the streets to protest the war between their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

 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 About A Mother Complex June 2, 2015

Note:  The International Association for the study of Dreams will have its annual Conference in Virginia Beach this weekend. As some of you know, I’ll be presenting Friday night’s keynote speech. Since I’m still polishing it, I don’t have the time to write a new post, so this is one from a few years ago.  Interestingly, last month I wrote a post about the mother complex and several of you wanted to know more. Then last week I wrote about a friend’s dream of killing Lance Armstrong that received more comments than any other post I’ve written.  So it feels especially appropriate to repeat this one which features both themes.  I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at the conference this weekend.

A friend recently sent me this dream. I want to share it with you, as it brings to mind the very interesting topic of the mother complex.

An old lady is beating up a boy. She is beating him up really badly, he has a bloody face. When she is done, she comes towards me, moving to my right. I go to the left to see if the boy is still alive. I fear he is not. She comes at me, and I kick her in the stomach and she goes flying backwards, off a cliff.

She comments: “This was not a positive dream. Kind of freaked me out a bit, had a hard time going back to sleep. Was wondering what you thought, if you have time.”

My initial response: “Think of the waking life context a day or two before you had this dream. Did anything happen that gave you the same feeling you had in the dream? Were you angry or worried about something? An older woman in your life? An uncomfortable awareness of your own aging? A memory of something hurtful involving an older woman?”

She responded: “This dream came right before I played in my first big tennis tournament. In retrospect, I was the oldest lady on the courts I played, all my opponents were at least half my age. I think it had something to do with that, being something I was worried about. The older feminine who squelched my ambition and drive in waking life was my mom. Since her death I have finally come into my own. This dream seems like a significant one.”

Being the oldest woman on the courts may have triggered emotions which activated the ancient Great Mother. In her positive aspect this archetype creates and nurtures new life. In her negative aspect she smothers and destroys it. The way we see her depends to a certain degree on our experiences with our personal mothers although other factors can enter in as well.

In this dream she’s a mean old lady trying to kill a boy. I’d see him as my growing Animus, associated with my drive to individuate. He’s the part of me that wants to rise up from my unconscious bath in the maternal matrix wherein I just float along enjoying being taken care of and respond to discomfort by blaming outer circumstances while remaining innocent of all personal responsibility. He wants me to light my own fire, forge my own identity, prove myself through tests of my own choosing, accept responsibility for my own behavior, and assume my own authority.

The fact that the dreamer kicks the woman off the cliff suggests a mythical motif Jung called “The Sacrifice.” Jungian analyst June Singer writes about “the child’s sacrifice of the paradise of the early and rewarding unity with the mother” that “All children have to work it out with their own mothers or mother-surrogates in the process of moving toward maturity.” Why?  Because until they do, they will struggle with a host of debilitating issues and emotions which prevent the fuller development of their unique and creative selves. This is essentially what is meant by having “a negative mother complex.”

While the imagery of this dream may be shocking to a waking ego which does not see itself as a raging killer of little old ladies, there’s a deeper metaphorical meaning. In my projection, the mean old lady represents her negative mother complex:  the factors that have stood in the way of her individuation.

This dream seems to say that the dreamer has acquired the psychological strength and self-awareness to acknowledge the wounding she received from her mother.  No longer dependent on or controlled by her mother’s opinions of her, she is ready to empower herself, even if it means sacrificing her unrealistic fantasy of uniting with Mother in an innocent blissful paradise.  This creative and courageous act has freed her dammed-up libido, (the positive aspect of the Great Mother, the divine creative force of nature), to be used toward protecting and manifesting her truer, fuller self.

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.

 

The Positive Side of Depression April 22, 2014

In her brilliant book, “Psychic Energy,” Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding writes: “When life presents us with a new problem, a new chapter of experience for which the old adaptation is inadequate, it is usual to experience a withdrawal of the libido. For one phase of life has come to an end, and that which is needed for the new is not immediately at hand. This withdrawal will be experienced in consciousness as a feeling of emptiness, often of depression, and certainly of inertia, with an overtone of self-rebuke because of what seems like laziness or sloth.”

Have you ever been there? I have. Many times. And each time it happens it takes a while before I remember that this is simply another step in the journey. The road may be leading downhill for now, but it’s still there, and as long as I can place one foot in front of the other the story isn’t over yet. But what are we to do while we’re in the abyss of emptiness? The depths of depression? The islands of inertia? The swamps of self-rebuke?

First of all, we need to remember that when our libido, or psychological energy, withdraws, it is not gone forever. The laws of physics tell us that energy can be transformed but not destroyed. When we feel a loss of energy it simply means that the energy which was formerly available to our ego has sunk into the unconscious. Once it gets there, forces over which our egos have no control will have to be mobilized before the energy can return to consciousness. The ego usually feels to blame, but it is not, because it has no control over unconscious forces.

Second, in the words of Harding, “When the light of life dims and one is left in the darkness of depression, it is much more effective to turn for the moment from the objective task and to concentrate attention on what is going forward within, instead of forcing oneself to continue by a compulsive effort of the will.” Once the libido is no longer available to our ego, will power can only be used effectively to “follow the lost energy into the hidden places of the psyche by means of creative introversion.”

Creative introversion means working with our fantasies and dreams in creative ways that feel meaningful. These products of our unconscious speak to the hidden forces which have sucked our libido down into the dark belly of the whale, and their images can give us clues not only to the nature of the difficulty, but also to the solution.

For example, many years ago toward the end of an extended period of libido loss I kept imagining myself as a baby chick still inside an egg, pecking at the shell. I knew I felt trapped, but I didn’t know what was trapping me or how to get out. Exploring this and other waking and dreaming images through art, journaling and dreamwork highlighted features of my persona that had initially protected the new life in me but were beginning to smother it. As I kept pecking away, cracks appeared in my shell until it finally collapsed and I stepped out of my self-imposed prison. The extraordinary infusion of new life I’ve experienced since then has taught me to see libido loss and depression not as obstacles or enemies, but as helpful guides along the way.

My thanks to Dr. Judith Rich for the inspiration for this post. Check out her article on the Huffington Post to see her wonderful take on a related topic.

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

 

Dream About A Mother Complex August 7, 2012

A friend recently sent me this dream. I want to share it with you, as it brings to mind the very interesting topic of the mother complex.

An old lady is beating up a boy. She is beating him up really badly, he has a bloody face. When she is done, she comes towards me, moving to my right. I go to the left to see if the boy is still alive. I fear he is not. She comes at me, and I kick her in the stomach and she goes flying backwards, off a cliff.

She comments: “This was not a positive dream. Kind of freaked me out a bit, had a hard time going back to sleep. Was wondering what you thought, if you have time.”

My initial response: “Think of the waking life context a day or two before you had this dream. Did anything happen that gave you the same feeling you had in the dream? Were you angry or worried about something? An older woman in your life? An uncomfortable awareness of your own aging? A memory of something hurtful involving an older woman?”

She responded: “This dream came right before I played in my first big tennis tournament. In retrospect, I was the oldest lady on the courts I played, all my opponents were at least half my age. I think it had something to do with that, being something I was worried about. The older feminine who squelched my ambition and drive in waking life was my mom. Since her death I have finally come into my own. This dream seems like a significant one.”

Being the oldest woman on the courts may have triggered emotions which activated the ancient Great Mother. In her positive aspect this archetype creates and nurtures new life. In her negative aspect she smothers and destroys it. The way we see her depends on our experiences with our personal mothers. In this dream she’s a mean old lady trying to kill a boy. I’d see him as my growing Animus, associated with my drive to individuate. He’s the part of me that wants to rise up from my unconscious bath in the maternal matrix wherein I just float along enjoying being taken care of and respond to discomfort by blaming outer circumstances while remaining innocent of all personal responsibility. He wants me to light my own fire, forge my own identity, prove myself through tests of my own choosing, accept responsibility for my own behavior, and assume my own authority.

The fact that the dreamer kicks the woman off the cliff suggests a mythical motif Jung called “The Sacrifice.” Jungian analyst June Singer writes about “the child’s sacrifice of the paradise of the early and rewarding unity with the mother” that “All children have to work it out with their own mothers or mother-surrogates in the process of moving toward maturity.” Why?  Because until they do, they will struggle with a host of debilitating issues and emotions which will prevent the fuller development of their unique and creative selves. This is what is meant by having “a mother complex.”

While the imagery of this dream may be shocking to a waking ego which does not see itself as a raging killer of little old ladies, there’s a far deeper metaphorical meaning. The dreamer, who has worked on her dreams for many years, has acquired the psychological strength and self-awareness to release her habitual, unhealthy responses to the unconscious conditioning of her wounding mother.  This has freed her dammed-up libido, (the divine creative force of nature), to be used toward protecting and manifesting her truer, fuller self.  I agree with my friend. This dream seems significant!

 

The Positive Side of Depression July 1, 2011

In her brilliant book, “Psychic Energy,” Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding writes: “When life presents us with a new problem, a new chapter of experience for which the old adaptation is inadequate, it is usual to experience a withdrawal of the libido. For one phase of life has come to an end, and that which is needed for the new is not immediately at hand. This withdrawal will be experienced in consciousness as a feeling of emptiness, often of depression, and certainly of inertia, with an overtone of self-rebuke because of what seems like laziness or sloth.”

Have you ever been there? I have. Many times. And each time it happens it takes a while before I remember that this is simply another step in the journey. The road may be leading downhill for now, but it’s still there, and as long as I can place one foot in front of the other the story isn’t over yet. But what are we to do while we’re in the abyss of emptiness? The depths of depression? The islands of inertia? The swamps of self-rebuke?

First of all, we need to remember that when our libido, or psychological energy, withdraws, it is not gone forever. The laws of physics tell us that energy can be transformed but not destroyed. When we feel a loss of energy it simply means that the energy which was formerly available to our ego has sunk into the unconscious. Once it gets there, forces over which our egos have no control will have to be mobilized before the energy can return to consciousness. The ego usually feels to blame, but it is not, because it has no control over unconscious forces.

Second, in the words of Harding, “When the light of life dims and one is left in the darkness of depression, it is much more effective to turn for the moment from the objective task and to concentrate attention on what is going forward within, instead of forcing oneself to continue by a compulsive effort of the will.” Once the libido is no longer available to our ego, will power can only be used effectively to “follow the lost energy into the hidden places of the psyche by means of creative introversion.”

Creative introversion means working with our fantasies and dreams in creative ways that feel meaningful. These products of our unconscious speak to the hidden forces which have sucked our libido down into the dark belly of the whale, and their images can give us clues not only to the nature of the difficulty, but also to the solution.

For example, many years ago toward the end of an extended period of libido loss I kept imagining myself as a baby chick still inside an egg, pecking at the shell. I knew I felt trapped, but I didn’t know what was trapping me or how to get out. Exploring this and other waking and dreaming images through art and journaling highlighted features of my persona that had initially protected the new life in me but were beginning to smother it. As I kept pecking away, cracks appeared in my shell until it finally collapsed and I stepped out of my self-imposed prison. The extraordinary infusion of new life I’ve experienced since then has taught me to see libido loss and depression not as obstacles or enemies, but as helpful guides along the way.

My thanks to Dr. Judith Rich for the inspiration for this post. Check out her latest article on the Huffington Post to see her wonderful take on a related topic. Welcome back, Judith.

 

Prince Ego and the Kundalini Queen March 5, 2011

The Eastern world has long known about the power and effects of Kundalini, but most Westerners have no idea that such a thing as spiritual evolutionary energy exists. Yet, committed seekers and spirit persons have repeatedly reported experiencing the disconcerting effects of its awakening and interpreted it in accordance with the prevailing doctrines of their times. In India it is called Kundalini and Shakti; in China it is Chi; in Christianity it is associated with the Holy Spirit; in Freudian psychology, libido. Regardless of what we call this energy, the effect it has upon us as it undulates through our lives is profound.

No one can predict when or how Serpent Mother will awaken or what impact she will make. Perhaps the only thing we can say with any certainty is that our ego has no authority over her: she has a logic all her own and stirs only when she deems us ready. Unfortunately, the fact that our spirits may be ready for this mega-dose of sacred energy does not necessarily mean our bodies or psyches are prepared. Many people suffer mightily when she is aroused, for the Kundalini serpent is, above all, an agent for growth and change, and few of us welcome change.

One effect of Kundalini energy is said to be that as the “serpent” moves up the spinal cord she removes any energy blocks that might be tensing our bodies and hampering our growth. Because our resistance to change is so powerful, these blocks can be deeply entrenched, and our inability to relax and yield can cause extremely uncomfortable physical symptoms.

For others, the discomfort is primarily psycho-spiritual. Genevieve Lewis Paulson, in her book, Kundalini and the Chakras, says many Christian saints and mystics experienced the symptoms of Kundalini release which they called “sufferings” and accepted as necessary to their spiritual growth.  Less spiritually grounded individuals might see their depressions, temptations, self-hatred, moral lapses and religious doubts as indicative of character flaws or mental illness when they could actually be brought on by evolutionary advances in their thinking which are revealing the unacceptability of the narrow prisons of conformity within which they’ve been living.

It is not the ego itself, but its unconscious attachment to what Jung called the spirit of the times that blocks humanity’s evolution into greater wisdom, compassion and consciousness. These words of Franz Kafka could have been uttered by any authentic Spirit Warrior in any place or age: “Don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” This is how we become enlightened beings: by knowing, honoring and loving the spirit of the depths.

The Serpent Mother’s evolutionary energies remain dormant in mind and matter throughout the soul’s winter. This dark season will last as long as it takes for Prince Ego to mount his trusty steed and, with the help of his mighty sword of clear discernment, challenge the spirit of the times by discovering his own truths and bringing more light to his unconscious. If he persists, his disciplined practices will eventually lead him into the depths, the dwelling place of the Beloved. And if he will honor his queen with his noblest, most chaste and loving kiss, she will awaken and bless him with her partnership. Together they will usher in the spring of the souls’ blossoming.

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

 

 
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