A Love Affair With Carl Jung March 22, 2013
A few nights ago I dreamed I was Carl Jung’s mistress! His wife and I were in the big family room of his country house watching a fluffy black bear cub cavort over the carpet with two or three gray and white dogs and a cat. The bear cub was lovingly licking the faces of the other animals and they were enjoying themselves as much as s/he was. When I entered a study/library behind the main room, Jung was there with his other mistress and a few friends. He greeted me with a loving hug, then wrapped his right arm proprietarily around me. As I snuggled happily into his warmth he turned to me and said, “This is our time. It’s your turn now.”
My waking ego’s immediate reaction was to interpret this literally. Other mistress? Wife? My turn? I felt a bit indignant and embarrassed at the thought that I was content to “wait my turn” because he expected me to share him with two other women! But as my morning cobwebs dissipated, so did these thoughts. I knew this dream was a metaphor for something going on in my psyche, I knew it had relevance to my waking life, and I knew it was good.
The tone of the dream reinforced this. Everything about it was suffused with love and trust. The rooms were spacious and comfortable. The bear cub and pets loved and trusted each other. Emma Jung and I loved watching their antics and weren’t concerned about being together. Everyone in the study accepted me and I accepted them. There was no hint of annoyance, judgment, guilt, furtiveness, anxiety, jealousy or shame on the part of my dream ego or anyone else as one would expect if this were a waking life situation. I didn’t know it was a dream. I didn’t know I was married. I just knew everything felt good and right. I loved being in that place with those people, and I felt loved by them.
So guess what. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. I think this mood and dream were triggered by the recent news that I’ve received the Wilbur award for Healing the Sacred Divide, which is based on Jungian psychology. I think Carl Jung represents my thinker/writer/warrior/lover animus who has been working diligently for twenty-four years to help me understand myself, and for twenty-three years to help me share what I’ve learned in my writing.
I love Jungian psychology with a passion because it has changed me in so many positive ways. For example, I think the black bear cub represents the wildness of my natural instincts that have been tamed enough to live comfortably with more domesticated beings. And the fact that the cub was so nurturing and loving? To me this suggests my newly developing instincts (the cub was very young…Jung!) for spontaneity and play, nurturance and love.
Without Jung’s encouragement I would never have had the nerve to follow my passion for writing. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have had anything to write about. The only thing I know much about is the inner journey to self-discovery and the practices that guide me; and writing is the only job I’m good for! Given my serious, self-critical and perfectionist nature, it’s hard for me to imagine what I’d be like now if I hadn’t figured this out. Dissatisfied? Disillusioned? Unfulfilled? Disappointed? Resigned to a meaningless, unlived life? Ashamed of myself for not fulfilling my potential? Surely I’d be feeling all these things. Bitter? Probably that too.
Yes, I’m having a love affair with Carl Jung, and apparently it really is our time and my turn to enjoy the benefits.
A Masculine Wound: An Obsession With Winning February 5, 2013
This blog, Matrignosis, (Mother Knowing) is based on my profound need to understand and empower the wounded feminine in myself and society. The same theme is explored in my three psychologically-oriented books. Although the most recent one is about creating equal partnership between the healthy masculine and feminine, in this book too I emphasized the feminine side of the equation. That seemed the most pressing need.
But recent dreams and outer events are making strong statements about certain masculine wounds. Robert Bly, one of our most eloquent voices for healthy masculinity has written, “By the time a man is 35 he knows that the images of the right man, the tough man, the true man which he received in high school do not work in life.”
Women know this too, but immersion in a culture whose institutions are based on distorted images of masculinity blinds both genders to healthier images. Knowing in our hearts that something is wrong is one thing. Acting on this knowledge when no one around us appears to see this elephant in the room is quite another.
A boy is filled with excited anticipation about his first hunting trip. If he misses (deliberately) the graceful doe he’s told to kill, he’s taunted and shamed for being “a girl.” If he cries, the adults are disgusted. If he dutifully kills her he earns their respect and praise. They’ve been through this themselves and see it as a rite of passage that will toughen the boy up and prepare him for “real life.” It may do that, but at what cost? Of what value is a hardened heart that cannot feel its pain or empathize with the pain of those who have no voice?
A young athlete succumbs to the temptation to take illegal performance-enhancing drugs. When he wins he enjoys his success and ignores the shame of his pricking conscience. Is being victorious over others truly the only valid definition of success? Sure, when human rights are in the balance, only the worst among us would argue that victory over oppression is not a successful outcome. But how about when greedy, fearful masculine-oriented egos conquer conscience, compassion and consciousness? Is this a successful win?
Catholic theologian Richard Rohr says a basic difference between the feminine and masculine psyches is that for the masculine it’s either win or lose. But the feminine, the Mother, can’t choose between winning and losing. All her children have to win! For her, win-win is the only justice. Psychologically, everyone has a masculine (animus) and feminine (anima) side; but only our masculine side is vulnerable to obsessing over winning at all cost. This happens when he mindlessly aligns his natural love for winning with patriarchy’s five-milliennia-old obsession with subjugating our inner feminine and the outer women who remind us of her! At all cost!
How do we bridge the seemingly irreconcilable divide between our inner masculine and feminine? Our egos must invite the disowned Feminine Spirit Warrior, the Mother, into our awareness. She’s strong enough to feel the shame of our pricking conscience. Brave enough to suffer when we’ve caused others pain. Tough enough to admit our fallibility. Caring enough to love and serve all our children. Becoming an undivided Spirit Warrior who lives with compassion and balance while causing the least amount of harm to others is the true meaning of winning.
How might your life have been different if you’d been taught to respect the feminine instead of how to win the respect of a wounded, dysfunctional culture?
Dreams of the Animus April 30, 2011
Last weekend was special. I was born two days before Easter on Good Friday; but since Easter’s date is always changing, this year my birthday was the day before. April is glorious in Florida, so part of the specialness was getting to spend both holidays with my family in one long weekend at the beach. Another thing making it special was the dreams I had there. Of the two I recall, both featured my masculine side, or animus. Since one of my goals for this blog is to make Jungian psychology as relevant and helpful to others as it has been to me, I’d like to share these dreams in the hope of raising your awareness of your own inner resources.
Dream #4319: Passing Through a Threshold With My Animus. I’m entering an open doorway. A dear male friend (no one I know in waking life) is immediately behind me. His arms are wrapped around me, holding me gently. Our movements are so synchronized and easy that I can’t tell if he’s guiding or following me. Either way, it feels wonderful to be so close.
I awoke from this dream on my birthday. It was my first gift of the day. It said I am not alone as I move forward in my journey. Yes, I know I’m profoundly blessed to have a loving family, but the truth is, not one of them will ever feel my passions and emotions, understand my conflicts and yearnings, or experience my awakenings. It is my job to know and grow myself, not theirs. They have their own souls to make.
That’s okay, says this dream. Because my animus has always been with me he knows me completely; and because I have honored and empowered him, he will support me at the crossing of every threshold, even the one that opens to death. The comforting feeling of knowing my back is covered by this loving inner reality lingered all day.
Dream #4320: Dancing With My Animus. I’m on a small stage in an intimate room that feels like a chapel. I’m the female lead in a play; an attractive man is the male lead. We’re both feeling unsure of ourselves as we demonstrate a phase of a developing relationship in which neither partner completely trusts each other or their own feelings. We dance around the stage then he bends me over backwards and leans over me. We hold this pose and wait for the audience’s response so we’ll know what to do next. This play is an improvisation requiring spontaneous interaction and cooperation between the players as well as between the players and audience.
My birthday dream depicts one reward of accepting my masculine side. My Easter dream says this work is not over. The presence of an audience suggests that my other inner characters are interested in my soul-making drama. It could also refer to an outer audience which is watching and helping. Both interpretations feel right to me.
My ego’s passion is to know and relate to my whole Self; my animus’s passion is to help me manifest what I know in writing. The dream says we’re both still feeling our way in this partnership. The religious setting means our work together is sacred and archetypal. And the presence of an audience tells me the purpose of the dance between everyone’s masculine and feminine sides is twofold: to unite the opposites in our own souls, and to help all humanity birth this Sacred Marriage in the world.