Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Sorting out Psyche, Self, and Soul September 2, 2013

St. Francis guarding the physical resting place of my mother's eternal soul

St. Francis guarding the physical resting place of my mother’s eternal soul

As many of you know, I’ve been taking a sabbatical from regular blog writing after over three years of composing twice-weekly posts. But I’ve been staying in touch on Twitter and Facebook through reposts of some of my favorites from the past.  As I write this it’s Labor Day and we’ve just returned to Florida from our summer home in the North Carolina mountains.

Just before I left I received this comment after one of my reposts.  Busy with packing, traveling and reuniting with our family, I’ve been unable to respond until now, but I’ve been thinking about it all weekend.  Having just written my response, it occurred to me that our conversation would be great material for a new blog post.

Here it is:

Hi Jeanie, In doing an online search for the meaning of psyche in relation to soul and  Self, I googled your blog and saw that you posted recently…nice to have you  back! If you have a moment, can you clarify for me or refer me to a specific  post? As well, I’ve come across two books I really like: “Falling Upward” by Richard  Rohr and “The Light Inside the Dark” by John Tarrant…have you read them?

Dear Bett,
This is a tough one that has stumped the brightest minds throughout the ages.  I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you what I think I think at this moment!

Self: For me, Self is the central archetype of the human “mind” (another difficult term to describe). It encompasses everything about my personhood and distills it into my core desire to evolve, to transcend my human limitations and connect with the Grand Mystery. Jung called this compelling and wonder-filling form of energy our God-image. IT’s what tells us there is something “more” beyond what our puny egos can possibly know, and IT causes us to want to unite with IT.

Soul: Right now I see Soul as my unique essence, one small, but valuable and ongoing part of the Grand Mystery. My body is a physical manifestation of this very real, but invisible entity we call the soul. My soul has a unique contribution to make to physical life, and it will continue to exist, as does every form of energy, after it leaves my physical body.

Psyche: Psyche has long been considered another name for Soul. In Greek myth, the soul’s journey through life was personified in the human woman Psyche who, through her love for the God Eros (Love), was transformed into a Goddess.  If I had to make a distinction between Psyche and Soul, it would be that Psyche is the aspects of the Soul that are accessible to humans through our study of psychology and the human personality.

These are fine distinctions that are by no means utterly clear. At least not to me. There are times when I use all three terms interchangeably, depending on the particular manifestation I’m talking about:  archetypal reality (Self), physical/spiritual essence (Soul), or personality (Psyche). Three in one.  Hmmmm…..   Sounds familiar.

Thank you for this wonderful question.  I hope I’ve answered it adequately for you.  Thanks also for the book recommendations.  I haven’t read either one, but will check them out.


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


Remembering the Soul’s Language November 1, 2011

One day my 5th-grade teacher asked the girls in our class to follow her to the auditorium. We had no idea why. There we joined the other girls our age, and, after a brief introduction from one of the teachers, we watched a Disney-esque film about the birds and bees.

I don’t recall there being a question-and-answer session afterwards. We simply paraded back to our rooms where the boys were waiting for us. As I took my seat I noticed the boy behind me looking at me in an odd way. Was that a gleam in his eye? What was that about? I’m sure I blushed deeply when, with a knowing smile, he asked me where we’d been and I realized the boys had a lesson on the same subject while we were gone. I was so embarrassed I wanted to fall through the floor.

Maybe you had a similar experience. Remember how curious it felt to become aware of your body in a whole new way? How all sorts of puzzling things the adults and older kids said began to take on new meaning? How the boys and girls began to see each other from a perspective that wasn’t there before? If you’re like me, you, too, experienced a major epiphany upon your discovery of this unsuspected new dimension of life.

Developing heightened self-consciousness around the age of eleven is a universal experience. With bodily changes girls tend to start worrying about their hair, clothes and makeup; boys, about developing muscles, being strong and tough, and taking impressive risks. Both genders begin to define and judge their worth less by the individual interests they’ve been pursuing with innocent, unconscious abandon and more by their appearance and standing in the social pecking order. For some, this external focus softens with time and merges with inner realities into a comfortable balance. For others it sharpens into a life-long one-sided obsession.

Just as nature predisposes us to physical self-consciousness in early adolescence, Carl Jung discovered that it likewise draws our awareness to our interior lives as we approach mid-life. In response to my post, Making Connections, Sandy wrote that some of us hear and/or feel this “deep energetic calling to take the next step in the evolution of consciousness,” adding that for “those who have never learned or intuited that they can listen more deeply, it is difficult for them to understand the words that are being used by the other side. We’re actually speaking two different languages.” The difference between these languages is as marked and baffling as our pre- and post-eleven-year-old languages, and stepping into this new dimension is likewise a life-changing epiphany.

Sandy concluded with an observation about the global consequences of failing to balance the language of collective consciousness with the language of our individual souls: “Neither is right or wrong, but one will more likely allow all of life to be sustained for a longer period of time.”

You knew your soul’s language when you were ten. Then you did not yearn for a secret, solitary life of discord, dread, agitation, blame, guilt, exhaustion and self-disgust; you yearned for kindness and tender care, creativity and meaning, intimacy and partnership, joy and passion. Luckily, it’s never too late to remember your soul’s language and follow it into, in Sandy’s words, “a future that enlivens rather than frustrates and generates hopelessness.” I hope to see you there.


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.


A River Called Love May 30, 2010

A few days ago I had a visit from a dear friend I hadn’t seen in years. As young mothers we lived in the same town and attended the same church. When her husband was confirmed in the Episcopal church, he asked my husband to be his godfather. When their third child was born, they asked us to be his godparents; when my son was born they became his.

Among the many things Ginger and I had in common, perhaps the most important to both of us was a deep spiritual thirst. I had experienced a spiritual awakening at the age of 17 when the Bible came alive for me. Her awakening came with the miracle of the birth of her first child. Together, the two of us lapped up church services, Bible study, prayer groups and retreats like parched kittens. In our spare time we took care of each others’ kids, shared our deepest feelings, and prayed with and for each other.

Within a few years Greg’s work called him to another town. They moved several times after that and we rarely saw each other again. Then, a few weeks ago, I got a call from Ginger telling me that after living with prostate cancer for 17 years, Greg had died and she was returning to Florida to visit family and old friends for some love therapy. We picked a day to meet and I looked forward to her visit.

But our paths have deviated radically over the years and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I live in a big city; she lives in a remote rural area. I’ve traveled extensively, she has stayed close to home. I entered the germ-free tower of academia; her work as a nurse and caregiver required regular physical intimacy in the trenches. What concerned me most was that she had grown increasingly conservative in her political and religious views whereas I had become what I feared she would see as a flaming liberal religious heretic!! (She watches Fox Network and I watch CNN!) Would we feel comfortable together? Could we be honest about our differing views? Would she still like me, or would the polarization so rampant in today’s America infect us with its toxic distrust and animosity?

I needn’t have worried. Our time together was Real time. Soul time. A time for Love. We talked about Greg. We talked about our kids and grandkids and wished we could see each others’ families. We laughed about the fact that she loves Sarah Palin and is aghast that I voted for Obama. We laughed at my incredulity that she doesn’t believe in evolution. Then my daughter-in-law stopped by to borrow some life jackets, so Ginger got to meet her and my grandsons. A while later my daughter called to say she was coming by with her girls to drop off some things she’d borrowed from us. Ginger and I marveled at these amazing synchronicities. It never happens that both of my girls and their children come by unexpectedly on the same day, and yet that day they did. Later, we met my husband at our grandsons’ Little League game and after 35 years Ginger was reintroduced to the coach, my son, her godson.

Like I said, the one thing Ginger and I always had in common was our spiritual  thirst, a thirst for Love. And we’ve never stopped trying to quench it. Over time, drinking in love washes away all the dross—all the words, ideals, prejudices, and wounds—and leaves only the pure essence of soul wherein the river of  love that underlies everything comes to dwell.  It’s no coincidence Ginger received exactly what she needed that day.  The river called Love knows its own.


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