Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

A Lasting Solution to Terrorism December 15, 2015

“. . . today most people cannot see the beam in their own eye but are all too well aware of the mote in their brother’s. Political propaganda exploits this primitivity and conquers the naive with their own defect. The only defence (sic) against this overwhelming danger is recognition of the shadow.” ~Carl Jung

Creating a persona, or social mask, to gain acceptance from our family and groups is normal.   Being accepted as part of a group is important to us, especially during adolescence, and usually well beyond.  But problems arise when we grow into adulthood believing our persona is the whole story about who we are.  It isn’t.  Life isn’t just about what you see; it’s also what you don’t see.

Psychological realities have energy. When we deny them honest expression they become like weeds that find their way out through cracks in the foundations of our personalities. My father’s death created a crack in my psyche and I turned to religion to heal it.  But instead of finding a loving Father God to keep me safe, my religion’s shadow, a judgmental God of retribution, crept in through the crack. The more I sided with and tried to emulate a gentle, forgiving god-image, the more power my punishing god-image acquired until it became an overly scrupulous spiritual bully.

My spiritual bully usually shows up in my dreams as mean, critical men, but I have occasionally dreamed of a hostile female authority figure. Once she was a Russian policewoman who tried to throw acid on my face.  I knew these characters must represent something in me, but I couldn’t see how they showed up in my waking life. After a while I realized that sometimes I had negative thoughts about myself, and once in a while I could see how these thoughts brought me down and sapped my energy. But it took years of dreamwork before I knew my bully for what he is:  the strategy of a fearful child trying to protect myself from more trauma. After all, my inner Orphan must have reasoned, if I punish myself, maybe God won’t punish me again!

To gain approval from the “good” God of my religion, I decided to be good too. Adopting a “good girl” persona required me to repress any “badness.” But instead of going away, some of my repressed qualities merged into a spiritual bully. My bully thought he was doing me a favor and I believed him. We thought self-criticism was good for me. We thought constant vigilance to root out the tiniest infraction would build character and keep me humble!

Perhaps it did in some ways, but in other ways this habit of negative self-thinking had the opposite effect. Constant reminders of your flaws hurt. If I’ve been feeling self-critical and someone adds to my pain by saying something hurtful, I forget that when other people hurt me it’s all about them. In this vulnerable state my Orphan can break through my persona.  I know she’s arrived when I start feeling sorry for myself. Wisdom and compassion fly out the window and I feel a childish resentment. I can feel superior, self-righteous, and yes, critical.  I can be thoughtless, insensitive, unsympathetic.  I can be a spiritual bully.

We need to see these things because we don’t just hurt ourselves when we blanket our shadows (everything we disown about ourselves) under thick, impenetrable layers. We also hurt others. Because the longer we ignore our own darkness, the more power it acquires to become the very opposite of who our masks proclaim us to be. Thus, self-righteousness and mean-spiritedness thrive beneath Church Lady’s piety; manipulation and control fester under the martyr’s mask; self-pity, sadness and depression hide behind the clown’s face; fear and powerlessness feed the excessive violence of warriors and terrorists; and lustful desires torment those who would be obsessively chaste and pure.

 “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”~Carl Jung

The Western world does not recognize the shadow as a powerful entity in every individual. Most of us will admit to certain flaws, but there are others we simply cannot see. We can easily see our most despised qualities in others, and are usually happy to point them out, but rarely can we admit to their presence in us.

This is not just psychologically ignorant, but dangerous. Our inability to understand and accept our personal and cultural shadows is the reason for our prejudices, hypocrisy, thoughtlessness, cruelty, broken relationships, crime, genocide, terrorism, imperialism, war, and destruction of our environment. The only lasting contribution I as an individual can make to world health and planetary peace is to know my own shadow well enough to restrain it without projecting more darkness into a world that already has enough to destroy us all.

Politicians take note: Killing dragons in the outer world will never free humanity from terrorism and tyranny. The only lasting solution is for each of us to make peace with the enemy within. Everyone has the power to do that.

This video is from my new YouTube series called Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery. You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page,) on my website , and at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU   Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

If All the World’s a Stage, Are You a Passable Pretender or Potent Performer? September 28, 2012

So after my last post, my best friend Ann, a Jungian therapist who now lives in Texas, called to chat.  As usual, it took only a few moments of touch-ins before we got into Jungian psychology. We’ve been known to go at this for hours with no sense of passing time. It’s our particular “zone.” This time our topic was the Actress archetype. Actually, I’m not sure if anyone has ever formally named or written about this as an archetype. If you know of someone who has, I hope you’ll let me know.

Anyway, as we see it, the Actress/Actor is an aspect of the fundamental archetype of the psyche that Jung called the Persona. Beginning in childhood, every Ego automatically creates a Persona. This is a filter or mask we wear to hide the socially undesirable parts of ourselves while revealing those deemed acceptable. A persona is like our wardrobe: by the time we’re adults most of us have a collection of different clothes for different occasions. We wear one outfit for our siblings, another for our parents, a third when visiting our extended family, a fourth for our friends, a fifth at school, a sixth at work, a seventh with co-worshippers, an eighth when with the “other” political party, a ninth in very formal settings.

The Actress/Actor aspect of our Persona can be a positive or negative thing depending on how much we’re hiding and pretending, what we’re revealing, and whether our major concern is to please, impress or be real. Hiding and pretending saps our energy; telling the truth fills our tank and fuels our inner light. Yet, being authentic and transparent can be problematic if we say exactly what we think when our thoughts are critical, our emotions are hostile, or our concern for the feelings of others is nonexistent.

The ideal is to communicate who we really are and what we truly care about with clarity, effectiveness, compassion, and respect for our audience. And here’s the kicker: our underlying motive must not come primarily from our Ego’s need to bolster its self-image, but from the Self’s desire to be of benefit. I doubt if we can ever completely erase our Ego’s needs, but we can subdue and redirect them in service to the Self. Finding this balance is tricky, of course, but when we  do, activating our Actress or Actor is powerful and beneficial. As Ann said, “It’s not losing strength, it’s gaining strength.”

I discovered my Actress around the age of 10 when I sang “How Much is That Doggy in the Window? ” punctuated with barks, in a church camp talent show. I loved the laughter and applause. After that I rushed onstage at every opportunity:  in classes, plays, as a teacher, president of the PTA, church leader, chairman of the board. It wasn’t until my mid-40’s that I noticed how little I really enjoyed these activities and how draining most of them were. That’s when I realized I was pretending.

Within a year, and with great relief and no guilt, I reduced the number of my obligations to causes outside my immediate family from ten to two. The two I kept were women’s groups in which no one starred and leadership was shared. Since then, my only ongoing social commitments and leadership roles have been related to my soul’s passions.

My dreams of panicking before going onstage because I can’t find my costume or haven’t learned my lines have steadily diminished. A few years ago I dreamed I was singing my own songs in an intimate nightclub with no stage and a receptive audience. I haven’t lost my Actress; I’ve gained a valuable ally in my life’s work of learning to be true to myself.

There’s more about this in my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

Dreams: Pictures of Emotions July 3, 2012

In the early years of working with my dreams my focus was almost entirely on head work: thinking, reading, discriminating, clarifying, understanding, analyzing symbols, and so on. I had heard that dreams were pictures of emotions and I enjoyed dreams that left me feeling happy or good about myself, but others that left me feeling bothered after I woke up were deeply puzzling.

As a child I learned to ignore uncomfortable emotions, or ones which, if I expressed them, would earn the disapproval of my family. By the time I entered junior high school, instead of responding authentically to each situation as it came, I automatically — and completely unconsciously — processed my reactions through a filter of how I thought I was supposed to act, which was calm, nice, reasonable, and, above all, unemotional.

I assumed — again, I was not aware of this assumption at a conscious level — that what my mind thought and how I appeared to others was more important than what my heart felt. I thought if I was tough enough to take whatever was handed to me and didn’t let it get to me, it simply wasn’t a problem. I thought it was just a function of mind over matter, and I was rather proud of my will power. The habit of being emotionally stoic was so deeply ingrained that I was almost completely unconscious of it as I was doing it, although I could sometimes see it after the fact.

It wasn’t until about twelve years ago that I finally began to see it as it was happening. The catalyst was a dear friend and gifted dreamworker, Justina Lasley. After I related a dream to her, Justina focused in on a part where some men were treating me unkindly and asked me how that made me feel. “Oh, fine. It’s no big deal,” I said offhandedly. Justina just sat there looking at me. “Really,” I said. “That’s just the way some men are; I understand that.” She just looked at me. I squirmed a bit under her penetrating gaze, and then the lightbulb went on. “Oh,” I said. “You mean, how do I really feel about this down deep? Oh, I get it! Well, I guess there’s a part of me that feels… sad? Hurt? Maybe…a little angry?”

I was stunned at this revelation. For the first time, I really got it in my gut that my automatic denial of strong feeling was part of my persona, the social mask I had built around my inner self to cover up my vulnerability. (Like the ego, the persona is neither good nor bad; we all have a social personality that helps us adapt to the requirements of everyday living.)

This was a huge breakthrough for me. I had always assumed that ignoring painful feelings was the right thing, the noble and spiritually desirable thing, akin to not being a whiner or complainer. But I was wrong. Why? Because our emotional realities are as important to our well-being as mental ones, and repressing them saps the life out of us. When we lose touch with our feelings we lose touch with our souls. Indeed, in our compulsion to elevate logos over mythos/eros we’ve lost our souls.

This is a major reason for the epidemic of anxiety in Western society today. The path to wholeness lies in accepting the whole truth about ourselves, including all our emotions, and not just the socially acceptable ones! Allowing ourselves to feel them without having to act on them is one of the best ways I know of to become who we are. This is something I’m still working on!  How about you?

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 Spiritual Path of Following Bear June 7, 2011

Until I was about 47 my spirituality was guided by the God of Christianity. But somehow this was never quite enough. I thought religion was supposed to have all the answers to the mysteries of life and fully satisfy my every yearning, yet I was haunted by a spiritual hunger I could not satisfy. When the emptiness was particularly painful I would wonder guiltily, Can this truly be all there is to life? Just behaving well, keeping God’s rules, serving him through organized religion, and embracing “correct” beliefs about him? If so, why isn’t it enough for me? Is there something terribly wrong with me?

Finally I reached a point when I could no longer ignore the fact that my religion’s symbols and rituals were as cold and dead to me as fossils frozen in stone. Then I discovered Jungian psychology and sparks began to fly. To keep the fire stoked I began a program of study and dreamwork. To my delight, the personal insights I gained were extraordinarily revitalizing. And not just in a psychological sense. The process of self-discovery was also satisfying my spiritual hunger in a way organized religion had ceased to do!

That was when I knew spirituality is a process of inner growth and the Mystery of God is Love. Whatever our cultures and religions might call it — Jehovah or Allah, Shiva or Shakti, Father or Mother, Holy Spirit, Kundalini, Beloved or Life — this Love is a very real entity which pervades everything in the universe, including human beings.

Love lives in the deep well of every soul where it stirs beneath layers of beliefs and assumptions that blanket our authentic selves.  It paints masterpieces in our dreams, croons lullabies  in comforting memories, sends gifts in synchronistic events.  It swells our hearts in a lover’s kiss, a baby’s smile, the ocean’s roar, a scattering of wildflowers beside the road, the cool sanctuary of a forest cathedral.  No matter how much we may have been hurt, no matter how much we may have hurt others, it rejoices with every breath we take and every beat of our heart singing, “You are known. You are loved. You are alive. You are life.”

Jung had a name for the individual piece of universal Love that flows through every soul;  he called it the archetype of the Self.  The Self has called out to seekers throughout history saying, “Live, Baby, live! Grow, Baby, grow!”  The ego’s desire to answer this call forms the basis of every religion. The fact that my religion no longer served my growth did not mean there was something wrong with me. Nor did it negate the holy Mystery at the heart of every religion. It was just a signal that I had stopped honoring the sacred new life bubbling up within me.

For me, the golden bear symbolizes the Self in its feminine aspect:  the infinitely powerful and empowering kind of all-embracing maternal love that leads to universal Love and spiritual renewal.  Love’s tracks are everywhere:  in our soul’s truths, in our heart’s desires, in messages from our bodies, in the changes that wake us up and shake us up, in everything that lights our passion and keeps it burning. By opening to growth and change and pursuing the things we love we learn to love ourselves. By learning to love ourselves we learn to love others. With every step we take we move closer to embodying Love in every aspect of our lives.  How could this not be a spiritual path?

I wish you Godspeed as you follow Bear to the Love within you.

 

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.

 

 

 

Recurring Dreams About the Persona November 20, 2010

Recurring dreams can be especially effective teachers. They describe important inner truths that require your attention. Once you recognize these aspects of your unknown self and can see their impact on your waking life, recurring dreams lose their value and disappear.

If a recurring dream makes you anxious or afraid, it’s usually about shadow qualities your ego would rather not face or painful experiences you want to forget. If it brings pleasure, joy, or awe it’s probably about progress in your journey of self-discovery. Either way, the purpose of a recurring dream is to bring insights that lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life.

For example, the “naked in public” dream shows how comfortable you are with revealing the naked truth about yourself. Feeling embarrassed and ashamed in the dream usually means you have recently exposed an aspect of yourself you wish you hadn’t. Conversely, being unconcerned suggests you’ve accepted a previously disowned quality and no longer care who sees it.

The common dream of teeth falling out usually pertains to waking life situations in which you’re afraid you’ve created a bad impression and believe you’re “losing face.” After all, having a strong set of choppers lets you “sink your teeth” into something and demonstrates your bulldog strength, determination and persistence. This dream tells you you’re concerned about losing power and appearing weak, impotent, or unconfident.

Dreams about our public personalities are persona dreams. We start wearing masks in childhood when we realize people are watching and judging us. A wounded soul might create a very withdrawn or rigidly controlled persona, or one that changes like a chameleon, or one that is always performing to impress or please.  These are disguises born of the need to shield the core Self from public view. A healthy persona has the flexibility to respond in a variety of ways appropriate to each situation without betraying the Self. Thus, we can sometimes be the teacher and at other times the learner; sometimes a curmudgeon, sometimes a clown; sometimes a sage and sometimes a fool. What truly matters about our persona is not how well it shapes the perceptions we want others to have of us, but how openly and authentically it reflects the truths of the soul beneath.

As a child I was relaxed and confident around others, but after my father died I grew fearful and painfully self-conscious. One recurring persona dream I still occasionally have is of pulling gooey, grainy gunk out of my mouth and trying to dispose of it without anyone noticing, but no matter how much I remove there’s always more.  This depicts an exaggerated concern about offending or annoying people with something that comes out of me. In another dream I haven’t had in years I’d be searching through a closet for something  to wear (clothes are common symbols of the persona) and be thrilled to discover an article of clothing I had forgotten I owned. This said that in my search for ways to enhance my public personality I had happily brought a disowned or forgotten quality into consciousness. 

Recurring persona dreams indicate unresolved issues about our public personality. With reflection we can connect these dreams to recent waking life situations. This awareness empowers us to be easier on ourselves and more relaxed and genuine with others so that our soul’s light can shine through for all to see.

 

Dreams: Pictures of Emotions July 27, 2010

In the early years of working with my dreams my focus was almost entirely on head work: thinking, reading, discriminating, clarifying, understanding, analyzing symbols, and so on. I had heard that dreams were pictures of emotions and I enjoyed dreams that left me feeling happy or good about myself, but others that left me feeling bothered after I woke up were deeply puzzling.

As a child I learned to ignore uncomfortable emotions, or ones which, if I expressed them, would earn the disapproval of my family. By the time I entered junior high school, instead of responding authentically to each situation as it came, I automatically — and completely unconsciously — processed my reactions through a filter of how I thought I was supposed to act, which was calm, nice, reasonable, and, above all, unemotional. I assumed — again, I was not aware of this assumption at a conscious level — that what my mind thought and how I appeared to others was more important than what my heart felt. I thought if I was tough enough to take whatever was handed to me and didn’t let it get to me, it simply wasn’t a problem. I thought it was just a function of mind over matter, and I was rather proud of my will power.

The habit of being emotionally stoic was so deeply ingrained that I was almost completely unconscious of it as I was doing it, although I could sometimes see it after the fact. It wasn’t until about twelve years ago that I finally began to see it as it was happening. The catalyst was a dear friend and gifted dreamworker, Justina Lasley. After I related a dream to her, Justina focused in on a part where some men were treating me unkindly and asked me how that made me feel.

“Oh, fine. It’s no big deal,” I said offhandedly. Justina just sat there looking at me. “Really,” I said. “That’s just the way some men are; I understand that.” She just looked at me. I squirmed a bit under her penetrating gaze, and then the lightbulb went on. “Oh,” I said. “You mean, how do I really feel about this down deep? Oh, I get it! Well, I guess there’s a part of me that feels… sad? Hurt? Maybe…a little angry?”

I was stunned at this revelation. For the first time, I really got it in my gut that my automatic denial of strong feeling was part of my persona, the social mask I had built around my inner self to cover up my vulnerability. (Like the ego, the persona is neither good nor bad; we all have a social personality that helps us adapt to the requirements of everyday living.) This was a huge breakthrough for me. I had always assumed I was doing the right thing, the noble and spiritually desirable thing, in wearing this mask. But I was wrong.

Why? Because our emotional realities are as important to our well-being as mental ones, and repressing them saps the life out of us. When we lose touch with our feelings we lose touch with our souls. Indeed, in our compulsion to elevate logos over mythos/eros we’ve lost our souls. This is a major reason for the epidemic of anxiety in Western society today. The path to wholeness lies in accepting the whole truth about ourselves, including all our emotions, and not just the socially acceptable ones! Allowing ourselves to feel them without having to act on them is one of the best ways I know of to become who we are.

This is something I’m still working on! How about you?

 

 
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