My Animus is Afraid to Trust My Instincts


puppy-pic2Two nights before my keynote speech to the 2015 International Association for the Study of Dreams I had this dream.

#4,642: My Animus is Afraid to Trust My Instincts:  Old friends have visited us for two days. I’ve just realized they left their dog alone at home. I’m worried about this. Will it have enough food?  I say to the husband, “Won’t it poop and pee all over the house?” He says with a shrug, “Maybe. We’ll see.” I can’t believe he’s so casual about this. It feels wrong.

We drive to their house in another town and go inside. As we approach the sliding glass door to the backyard, he points out little piles of poop that make a trail to the open door. I see their dog sticking its cute brown and white head out from some green undergrowth at back of the cement patio. It moves into the open looking wobbly and weak, as if it’s about to drop.

I go to it, sit on the ground, and pet it. It wags its tail happily and climbs into my lap, growing excited and playful. Another little black dog who looks like Peri [our son’s dog as a child] runs to me, jumps all over me, licks me, and wiggles around in my arms. The husband is watching us from the stoop of the open door. With an ironic smile he looks pointedly at his brown and white dog and says, “I’m afraid of you.” He turns away as if he’s lost interest.

My associations:  I associate the husband with the part of my animus that identifies with the Scholar archetype.  In waking life this man is an intelligent, creative former college professor. The dogs represent my animal, instinctual self, especially my instincts for nurturance and activity. My dream ego enjoys and trusts my instincts, but my animus neglects them and admits he’s afraid of his dog. Why?

The key to understanding this dream is the context. Anxiety about my upcoming speech had dominated my waking hours for over a month. The previous day, an artist friend who used to attend my classes at the Jung Center called and asked if I was ready. When I told her about my concerns she said, as other friends had been saying, “Relax.  You’re going to be great. You always are. Just trust your instincts.”

Bingo! My animus was afraid to trust my instincts. As a college professor, my instincts were of no importance. Nothing but an abstract concept. What was important was task-oriented, single-minded attention to texts written by outer authorities. We (my animus and ego) saw this as the only way to comprehend and express the course material clearly and correctly. This was how a good teacher prepared to teach.

When I quit teaching and began writing over 25 years ago, this habit persisted. By then my reading, studying and writing were focused on Jungian psychology and understanding my dreams.  But as I persisted in this inner work, something changed. I began to rely more on my dreams and instincts and less on outer authorities to guide the direction of my thinking and writing.

Following some inner compass I didn’t know I had, I spent mornings listening to my anima—my creative, feminine, instinctual self—by meditating and working on my dreams. When a dream image, emotion or theme felt unusually fascinating, I’d spend the afternoon—time reserved for my animus to manifest my anima’s creativity—incorporating it into my current manuscript. In respecting the needs of my feminine and masculine sides I was unknowingly activating the Self, the central authority of my psyche, and learning to trust it.

This transformation awakened my passion and creativity and informed my books. Dream Theatres of the Soul:  Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work is the book on which my speech for the IASD was based. I knew this material. It had come from listening to my feminine instincts. Yet, in preparing for my speech I’d neglected Her in favor of His traditional, single-minded, outer-referential ego-mode.  And like the puppies in my dream, She was starved for attention, nurturance, and love.

Understanding this inner reality had a magical, mystical impact. With no mental effort other than a 30 minute meditation/ritual during which I thanked Dream Mother for this dream and reassured my animus that he could relax now, my concerns simply fell away.  For the next several days I was wrapped in a cocoon of calm and trust. Never have I been more relaxed before or after a presentation.

Yes, after 25 years of inner work, my animus’s fear of my instincts occasionally still floods me with anxiety, but so far this tension has served me well. Tolerating the interaction between the different perspectives of my masculine and feminine sides has not only insured my survival and thriving, but created and birthed self-knowledge, consciousness, and spiritual meaning.

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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0 Responses

  1. Jean, your reflections and gentle truthfulness are extraordinarily helpful for me at this time. Gratefulness and affection wing their way to you . 🙂

    1. Thank you, my sister from “down under.” By the way, I love that name for Australia. It makes me feel like I’m communicating with the depths, and its messages are always so kind and affirming.

    1. My pleasure. It’s hard to believe in yourself when you’re taught to believe in “authorities.” Of course you have to do your homework and learn what you need to learn, but you’d think after 25 years it would be easier to trust your own authority, wouldn’t you?

  2. Possibly similarly instinct related, a couple of nights ago, in a work-based dream, I had an armadillo come and sit in my lap, it’s back feeling pleasantly cold and metallic and an earthy smell about it. I was aware of the oddness but felt at ease with it. And felt an ocean of calm in the organised chaos of the ward, which I will retire from in 6 months.
    In a way it’s quite reassuring Jeanie, to hear you still having unsurities, and great to see the support from those who instinctively know your capabilities.

    1. Hi Brian. What a very cool dream! Especially the part about feeling”” “an ocean of calm in the organized chaos of the ward.” That’s an enviable state of mind, indeed. It must have something to do with your utter comfort with your instinctive self. I love that. Yes, I am still having unsurities, but luckily, I also have Dream Mother and others

      1. (Oops, I hit the “Send button on my iphone by accident before I was finished with that sentence)…who believe in me and help restore balance to my self-image!
        Thank you for sharing your armadillo image, Brian. What’s so interesting about it is the fact that the armadillo is armored by a cold, metallic shell, yet felt comfortable sitting on a the lap of a human…a potential enemy. To me this says that my instincts trust me as much as I trust them; a truly reciprocal relationship of mutual trust. I wonder if this has anything to do with your other work of writing poetry. Since instincts are the mother of creativity, perhaps it could be said of this dream that Mother and Son have mutual love and regard for each other, and that this is the condition that produces your unusually beautiful and meaningful art?

  3. Wonderful dream work as always, Jean. And I love how a simple ritual with the intention to hand it all over to Divine Dream Mother broke the tension and allowed you to trust. I have a similar conflict, along with many others with lots of intellectual training and less training in trusting the feminine. Thanks for your skill at holding the balance–and when we fall off the balance beam, your remind us we can climb back on again.

    1. Thank you, Elaine. Yes, our love for ritual has served us both very well. Personally meaningful rituals have a way of reaching and healing the psyche in ways that logic alone cannot do. I love your metaphor of climbing back on the balance beam. It speaks to the persistence, presence and ongoing practice needed for the magnum opus of integrating our psyches and lives.

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