Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Aging and Becoming July 9, 2019

“These are writings about ‘becoming’ as an ongoing and active process with its especial significance as we age….becoming assumes a ‘changing to’ and a ‘moving toward.'” Susan Scott and Susan Schwartz

The above words are from the preface of Aging and Becoming: A Reflective Enquiry, by Susan Scott, a writer from Morningside, Johannesburg, and Susan Schwartz, a Jungian analyst from Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Each of the 26 chapters in this slender volume begins and ends with an appropriate quote, most from wise women throughout history. In between is a conversation between the authors on topics ranging from A–Aging & Attitude–to Z–Zero. Stitched together, these musings create a nurturing patchwork quilt of a month’s worth of meditations on how women can age consciously and wisely. Here aging is not treated as a downhill slide to a disastrous end, but a series of challenges and opportunities to grow your soul into its intended fruition.

A sampling….

A: Aging and Adapting

Susan Scott:  Attitude is a word of motion that in its best sense expands and broadens. Many of us who do not allow for an expansion of attitude, a growth in our view of ourselves and the world and our place in it, can get stuck…This entrenchment of attitude is limiting and draining to personal power and leaves little room for movement or maneuver.

Susan Schwartz: We are not only on a descent but also on an ascent into a more complete rounding out of our personality….Perhaps what is referred to as wisdom is the ability to cope and find reasons, strategies or ways of being and for valuing the present moments….The wisdom and spirit of age can be demolished only if we agree or collude with those attitudes that denigrate and demean.

B: Body

Susan Schwartz:  The time for conformity and fitting in just to be accepted is over. Real forms of self-expression derive not from a false front or to superficially conform, but arise from the real self, a more complete woman self. As we age, the need to define and express our essence becomes more insistent. The image of the older woman as frumpy is not true. Voice, artistic writing, style, intellect comes in all these numerous garments and more for expressing her soul.

Susan Scott: Healthy self-care differs from the obsessive body panic. The fine line is to be aware of judgments about the body as negative or perfect. That signals the false ego rather than a devotion to restorative self-attention.

D: Dreams, Death & Depth

Susan Schwartz: Dreams are both messages and messengers. And how awful it is to be ignorant of them. The mystery of not understanding them while holding them preciously allows for secrets to gradually unfold….[Dreams] illustrate, through their mirroring function, how the personality keeps on presenting information about life events, aging and changing.

Susan Scott: The dream reveals our own metaphor, our own myth, as a gift to one’s self. It carries great responsibility and opportunities. The rich and honest soil of the dream, unconscious and wanting some light thrown on it requires attentive watering for its fertility and to bear fruit.

F: Fear & Fulfillment

Susan Scott:  When I am assailed by fearful feelings I realize that they are often the spur that shakes me out of my languor and torpor. It is not easy sitting with them. Yet, by virtue of sitting and being in that fearful place, another kind of awareness may emerge creating a slight shift.

J:  Joy & Journey

Susan Schwartz: Jouissance is a French word for physical or intellectual pleasure, delight, or ecstasy…it means to go beyond the superficial and metaphorically get out of the box. Jouissance transports us to what is beyond the familiar. It represents…intricacies to be appreciated as the journey wends its way even more uniquely and we continue to define and refine.

M: Moon, Mourning & Mystery

Susan Scott: The moon’s principle is constant change and as such is symbolic of an emotional inner and outer principle. What other force is there like the moon that pulls the oceans from shore to shore? Now as we age we are more mindful of the powers of darkness, the night atmosphere represented by the moon and its associations to the feminine energy.

Susan Schwartz:  it is time to unravel the shadow pieces lying on the dark side of the moon. This expands the personality making us more inclusive and complete. We could then be more honest, openly accessible to ourselves and to others. Honesty is not hiding what we never had to hide to begin with.

P: Path & Pain

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Gloria Steinem

Q: Quest

Susan Scott:  The quest in life is being aware of the questions–about who we are, our place in this mystery of life as we experience it. We can ask the questions, stir things up a bit as it will surely do…we can welcome whatever arises as we would a guest, coming newly into our home. Can I live the questions I ask of myself? The only foolish question is the one not asked.

Z: Zero

Susan Schwartz: The end of the alphabet, zero, is a letter than denotes what begins and ends…An aspect to Zen is waiting, awareness, feeling and not feeling the body and its sensations and reactions, being and not being caught in the mind….And the zebra that is such a lovely and unusual animal…Like the zebras none of us have the same stripes. This is similar to how we move through aging by negotiating its complexities and living consciously….Aging presents challenges that we do not escape at life endings.

Aging and Becoming is not a work to rush through. It is contemplative reading, packed with thoughts to savor slowly, like a leisurely conversation over coffee with a beloved friend. It will activate your ego’s awareness of your soul’s natural condition: an appreciation for wonder, mystery, and curiosity, and a knowing of the essential meaning and potential of your life. Like winter, these inner events portend spring’s renewal.

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.

 

 

The Two Sides of Surrender December 13, 2016

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, by John Trumbull

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, by John Trumbull

After last week’s post Susan wrote:

“Thank you Jeanie so much – a powerful post. Commitment to feeling our experiences, bearing our own cross and the surrender to that. I remember many years ago being very badly burned by steam on my right wrist while cooking something on the stove. I HAD to move on – there were pressing things that needed my immediate attention (it’s a long story so I’ll just give the bones of it). While I was waiting in the car later on wondering how in hell I was ever going to bear this, I also wondered how those being tortured would ever be able to withstand the pain. What went through their minds? What was it that they withstood their pain if they could? Did they surrender to that – the pain? Should I just surrender to it? I did, and the pain was GONE. I will never forget this … a true miracle …”

In a culture which idealizes competition and winning, the possibility that there could be positive side to surrender is difficult to accept. Through our ego’s dualistic, good/bad, win/lose lens, surrender is viewed in the context of a heroic battle. From this perspective it’s bad enough to lose a war, contest, or athletic event when you’ve tried your hardest, but surrendering is out of the question.  Giving up is a sign of weakness. A character flaw. A failure. A shameful loss of face.

But this is not the only way of seeing surrender. Occasionally, something unexplainable happens and our perspective changes.

The indispensable condition is that you have an archetypal experience, and to have that means that you have surrendered to life. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 972

Susan’s story suggests this different way of looking at surrender. A healthy way that promotes healing. A way taught throughout history by Sages, Spirit Persons, mystics, and psychological giants like Carl Jung.  A way not directed to the outer world, but to the universe within. Few of us discover this way until a time comes in our inner life when our heroic struggle to stay in control and press on regardless only increases our suffering. This happens when we’ve focused overlong on outer-world forms of success while ignoring the conflicting inner forms that our heart and soul require.

800px-white_flagAs long as we ignore the fact that our outer and inner goals are in conflict, our suffering will continue. Because all the money, fame, status, prestige, public and parental approval we’ve struggled to attain isn’t making us happy. And because admitting we’ve ‘failed’ to achieve the happiness we long for is too painful. So we do everything in our power to repress the realities of our hearts and souls, and that only exacerbates our suffering.

So what heals it?  What brings the “real” solution? Surrender. To the realities of our heart and soul. To the fact that we hurt and need help. That we’re miserable. That we want to make a change but are afraid of making a terrible mistake. And to every other reality we’ve hidden behind our persona of having it all together.

A religious conversation is inevitable with the devil, since he demands it, if one does not want to surrender to him unconditionally. ~Carl Jung, Liber Novus, Page 261

But this way requires extreme caution. Because like everything else, surrender is dualistic: God’s way and the Devil’s way. There are helpful and harmful ways to surrender. And it all depends on the impulses to which you surrender.

Unhealthy surrender succumbs to powerful forces from within and without that tempt you to give up living your own life or act out in negative ways. Unhealthy surrender allows others to take responsibility for your life. You stop growing, following your passions, developing your gifts, searching for your unique destiny.  Negative surrender wallows in disappointment and self-hatred. It sinks in lethargy, drowns in hopelessness.  And it can cause great damage to others in the process. For example, surrendering to your ego’s hatred and revenge by being cruel to others is no solution because your ability to give and receive love is harmed in the process.

Healthy surrender is an act of courage in which you face your suffering. Positive surrender relinquishes your ego’s need to squelch your inner realities. It gives up trying to control people and situations. It stops fighting your heart’s need for feeling, compassion and understanding, your soul’s need for creativity, passion and meaning. It gives up your ego’s pursuit of unfulfilling goals in the outer world and attends to your child’s need for love and intimacy. Positive surrender frees you to live to the fullest with all the life energy you have at your disposal without wasting it on denial, escapism or self-hatred.

450px-guiding_angel_-_tiffany_glass__decorating_company_c__1890Healthy surrender is not a victim’s descent into lethargy. It is a warrior’s ascent to compassionate action which causes the least possible harm to others. It requires a warrior’s focus, self-discipline, and self-examination. It requires patience to consider each step carefully before taking it.  Flexibility to walk a tightrope between opposites. Restraint until you acquire the wisdom to know what must be done. And accepting responsibility for the pain you cause others when you do it.

Numinosity, however, is wholly outside conscious volition, for it transports the subject into the state of rapture, which is a state of will-less surrender. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 383.

I know the healing way of surrender is available, but I don’t know why it comes to some and not others. Perhaps Susan’s story provides a clue. Perhaps a commitment to feeling empathy and compassion for the pain of others is a prerequisite. Maybe we have to take the first step.

Image credits:  Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull,  Angels for You, White Flag, all from Wikimedia Commons. Jung Quotes: 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.

 

Excavating A Wounded Child with a Mother Complex September 22, 2015

child-walking-on-beachMy parents have rented a vacation cabin on Lake Michigan. I’m playing by the shore and realize it’s getting dark. I look around. I’m alone. I begin walking along the water’s edge toward a distant pinpoint of light. Could that be my mother looking for me? How could she lose me? Will she find me? Will anyone find me? Will I have to live with a stranger?  Will they feed me? Could something bad happen to me? After what feels like an eternity, Daddy and Jimmy come up behind me. Daddy explains. He and Mama left the beach separately, each believing I was with the other one. I’m safe, but I want Mama! Why didn’t she come for me? Doesn’t she know how afraid I’ve been?  That I’d want her to look for me? 

This is my earliest memory, described in more depth in my book, The Bridge to Wholeness. I was three. Something new was set into motion that evening. I had become conscious of my separate existence in a very big, dark, and scary world. In their book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, Jungian analysts Massimilla and Bud Harris write:

“…early infancy is the time when the world of the family begins imprinting itself on our tiny psyches, and this is a critical time in our emotional development.  We know by now that much of a baby’s view of the world is filtered through the mother’s body and the emotional attitudes her body reflects. Of course this means that the child of a mother who is overly anxious or is resentful of the birth will feel out of adjustment psychologically, and such feelings will be the beginning of a negative mother complex.  When we grow up this way, our personality will be founded on a deep sense of anxiety, scarcity, and a mistrust of the world.  In contrast, if our mother is sufficiently gentle, loving, and emotionally secure, she will help us develop a basic sense of trust in life and in our place in the world.”

This memory resurfaced after last week’s post in which I described an example of how my mother complex influenced a relationship. Since practically everyone has mother issues of some sort—whether positive or negative, recognized or not—it seems appropriate to share more of what I’ve learned.

Every child experiences anxiety when it becomes aware of its individuality and vulnerability, and mothers vary in their ability to assuage this, our earliest wound. Good mothers are naturally gentle, patient, good-natured, affectionate, reassuring and loving. They make their children feel confident, safe and secure. Mothering can be more difficult for well-meaning women with mother complexes, jobs, other external stressors, or undeveloped “maternal instincts.”  Nonetheless, a well-intentioned woman with a powerful desire to provide loving care and ongoing reassurance can be good enough at meeting her child’s basic physical and psychological needs.

Unfortunately, many mothers are too wounded, stressed, narcissistic or oblivious to give their children enough basic nurturance.  Some are angry, jealous or resentful. Some are unstable, mentally ill or abusive. Some are not there.

My mother was more than good enough. Although anxious and emotionally fragile, she was kind, gentle and loving. I admired her, loved her, and felt loved in return. She tried hard to provide me with a safe and comfortable life, and I did feel safe until she and Daddy divorced and then he died. But when she was pregnant with me and throughout my childhood, Daddy was rarely home because he was having an affair. The strain of this plus her full-time job left her with little energy for me, physical or emotional.

I wasn’t neglected. Mama boarded women students from the nearby university in exchange for minimal rent and baby-sitting. But she was rarely available during my waking hours…and I missed her. As I grew older it got easier to lower my expectations and ignore my need for her. By the time Daddy died, I was proud of my independence and saw my ability to hide my hurt as a strength. But deep within, a three-year-old child still felt sad, lonely, deprived, and sorry for herself.

Me at 5, recovering from the measles.

Me at 5, recovering from the measles.

It’s taken years of digging through layers of rationalization and denial to see her. Besides feeling the aforementioned emotions, she tends to (1) project Mother onto self-confident and accomplished men and women she admires, (2) feel deeply disappointed and unforgiving when they fail to measure up to her ideals, and, most insidious of all, (3) assume she’s unworthy and unloveable.

I’m sharing the causes and effects of my mother complex to help others excavate theirs. Mine doesn’t compare to ones that were shaped by rejection or abuse, but this doesn’t mean I should deny my honest feelings. It’s too easy to fall into that insidious trap. Conventional wisdom urges us to toughen up, ignore our pain, and stay on the “sunny side of the street.” It advises against “self-absorbed navel-gazing” and “blaming your parents for your problems,” leading us to equate acceptance with blame.

This isn’t wisdom.  It’s escapist rationalization. I know the pain of assuming I don’t deserve to live my own life, that I must hide my true self. And I’ve experienced the exhilaration of escaping that dark prison. We can’t become the mature individuals we yearn to be until we make peace with the inner forces that made us who we are.

Image Source:  Google Images, Flickr.com. 

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.

 

 
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