In my growing up years the relationship between psychology and religion mirrored the cold war between the U.S. and Russia. Other than the fact that each was suspicious of the other, they appeared to have little in common.
Of the many forms of mind-training that bring more self-knowledge, my favorites are writing and dreamwork. When I combine the two, as I usually do, I never fail to gain a valuable insight. For example, the following dream from a few weeks ago dramatizes my ego’s growing awareness of its attitude toward an unlikeable shadow.
Last week my husband and I took our son Matt and his wife Robyn with us to a Kris Kristofferson concert. The venue, an old movie theater-turned-concert hall, was so intimate that as we were leaving Robyn said, “I feel like I’ve just been hanging out with him in the living room.”
A few months before my father died, he was working in another town and we went to visit him there. I was outside with several other girls and boys having a carefree time diving, racing, and showing off in the motel pool when my parents called me inside.
I’m at my desk reading the Goethe quote on my coffee mug: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” I feel the truth of this deeply, but wonder if I really understand it or can express it adequately. I want to try.
The other day a friend and I were talking about why so many people lead unfulfilling lives. As is my habit, I immediately went for the psychological explanation and pursued it with my usual fervor.
We have the capacity to be as aware of our basic drives as we are of our values, and we can use this awareness to benefit everyone’s team. But if our egos cannot see our shadows — our unconscious instincts, emotions, assumptions, and fears — we are easily overwhelmed by them and can unwittingly betray our noblest selves. Then potentially productive conflicts are transformed from games into wars.
Like the fertility goddesses who carry her image, the human mothers who carry out her mission, and the planet Earth which carries life, the Earth Mother archetype creates, nurtures, births and protects new life in us.
One morning in May of 2011 I awoke to screaming headlines, “OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD!” This news, and the media frenzy that followed, elicited some complex feelings. Am I glad this obviously twisted mind with no respect for human life will no longer mastermind terrible disasters that kill innocent people? Absolutely. Unequivocally.