How Do You Respond to Unwanted Change?


“The divine process of change manifests itself to our human understanding . . . as punishment, torment, death, and transfiguration.” ~Carl Jung; Alchemical Studies

“At times it is strangely sedative to know the extent of your own powerlessness.” ~Erica Jong

“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” ~Anne Sexton

Welcome to my new website, now the home of my blog! I love it and hope you’ll take some time to browse through it after you read this post. If you’re familiar with my books you might enjoy the News and Reviews section where you can read advance reviews of The Soul’s Twins.

My social media sites have long needed a major overhaul, but I’ve resisted it. In Sacred Laws of Psyche: Circles of Change, I wrote that resisting growth and change perpetuates disorder and chaos. Now I’m realizing I need to expect disorder and chaos even when I instigate the change.

For example, I’ve wanted to play the guitar for years. But have you noticed that the older you get, the harder it is to learn new skills? At the age of 14 I taught myself four chords on a baritone ukulele in one day. That night I sat around a campfire with friends and played popular tunes like Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender,” and the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love.” It was so easy then.

“With stammering lips and insufficient sounds, I strive and struggle to deliver right the music of my nature. . .” ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Now in my 70’s, I’m shocked at how difficult it is. It’s taken months to play basic bar chords with the simplest of strums. My fingers and mind labor to coordinate. I yearn to master this instrument, but find these insufficient sounds, these humbling changes, intolerable. Half-way into my daily practice my self-pitying Child and intense Perfectionist start to rebel.

“Why are you doing this to yourself?” they ask. “You’re too old. Maybe you should quit. You don’t need the stress or embarrassment of exposing your ineptitude to your teacher.”

 “Just fifteen more minutes and I’ll stop,” I promise them. I’m learning the extent of my powerlessness. Rarely do I experience it as strangely sedative.

“It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and reasons for living.” ~Simone de Beauvoir

My inner characters are at their worst learning new technology. Recently I had a phone conference with a computer specialist who was helping me relocate my blog to my website. It was such a struggle that before long I was swamped with frustration and stress. That night I had a dream.

Dream #5179: I’m in a spacious, beautiful house. Suddenly it’s inundated with people who have made appointments I have forgotten about and am unprepared for. Two cabinet-makers arrive to review plans for the new kitchen. I rush upstairs to change from pajamas into presentable clothes. Every effort to dress myself fails. Then I’m in my kitchen looking for refreshments to bring my guests. A woman I know and like in waking life has brought several women for a long-planned tour. She leaves in a huff when she realizes I’ve forgotten. I feel awful. More people arrive, all needing my attention. As hostess, I rush from room to room trying to please everyone, yet I offend them all by failing to meet their expectations of me. I’m tormented by guilt and self-criticism.

This dream dramatized my emotional realities from the day before: confusion, chaos, worry, anxiety, anger at my forgetfulness, frustration at juggling too many balls and dropping them all. Does this sound familiar to you as you adjust to the unwanted changes thrust on you by the coronavirus? It does to me.

“In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us.” ~Virginia Woolf

Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the dead and resurrection into eternal life.

This pandemic has forced us to pay attention to the reality of some truly frightening changes. We are walking through a symbolic Dark Night, the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is a profoundly meaningful spiritual experience with life-changing consequences. What can you learn from it? How can you help your self-pitying inner Child? Your exhausted Warrior? Your overwhelmed Mother and workaholic Father archetypes who are struggling to fulfill their obligations?

Your isolation is an opportunity to take your life seriously. To use creative introversion to reflect on your dreams, thoughts, and feelings. To examine the unhealthy pace you’ve been keeping. To learn from what you see and then carry your gnosis forward. When this is over will you revert to mindless old habits? Or will you be proactive about finding ways to deliver right the music of your nature?

“It is better to learn early of the inevitable depths, for then sorrow and death take their proper place in life, and one is not afraid.” ~Pearl S. Buck

May we listen to our souls and step forward fearlessly. How are you responding to unwanted change?

Image credit:  Osiris, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Please Note: My first ever newsletter will be published on May 1. It will give you the latest news about my new book and what’s happening in my life. If you have an email subscription to my blog you will receive it. If you are not an email subscriber and would like to receive it, please sign up with your email address below.

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. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched by Schiffer Publishing this October.

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12 Responses

  1. Adjusting to change is a unique experience as I have had so many physical changes take place. I’ll be 71 this summer. I used to do a great deal of knitting, embroidering, crafting, playing the piano, sewing, but my eyes and brain no longer work as they did. I also wear hearing aids and not being able to hear really impacts my ability to learn. Also, we live in a small apartment so there is no place to store things. I am having to do simple things as I don’t have the ability to learn as I did. Fortunately, I LOVE to walk so that is my exercise and meditation. I read for me, and proofread for friends. I am having to look for new options in life that I can enjoy. It is frustrating, but maybe ‘change’ is the critical issue about aging. Thank you for this post. It is nice to know that I’m not alone.

    1. Hi Gwynn,

      Yes, I agree that change is the critical issue about aging. I don’t think we can ever be prepared for the physical changes. They creep up on you slowly and it’s easy to ignore them until finally one day you can’t any more. We can be more proactive about our living conditions and health care for the future, but even those are easy to ignore when you’re in good health. Either way, I doubt there’s any way to avoid the inevitable frustration when you’re forced to change.

      The one thing we can always do though, is choose how to respond to it. When I feel frustrated I can acknowledge it as a signal to consider my options and act on the healthiest ones I can imagine. I think mindfulness, choice, and imagination are key here. And kindness. Reminding myself to be kind to myself and those around me always calms and centers me.

      It sounds as if you have already made some very healthy choices to walk and meditate and read and proofread for friends. You have reminded me that walking is a very helpful option too. I haven’t done much of it since being cooped up but I’ll set aside some time for that today.

      We are lucky we can communicate like this even though we can’t in person. Yes, it is nice to know we’re not alone. Thank you for writing.

      With love, Jeanie

  2. Dear Jeanie,

    Beautiful, I love your new website! I’m looking forward to reading your new book “The Soul’s Twins” this autumn. As my birthday is in November it seems a wonderful present to gift myself! I agree, disorder and chaos do seem to go hand-in-hand with change don’t they! Oh, and how busy your dream ego was attending the needs of those archetypes, including your own perfectionistic shadow. Great dream interpretation, thank you for sharing with us!

    How do I respond to life’s unwanted changes? Usually by penning new poetry, as I did last week with my first coronavirus poem. If I’m not writing poetry, I’m reading other poets instead. And why do I read poetry before newspapers? The short answer is, it’s always been that way. The long answer would involve writing a new poem!

    I think it’s great that you’re learning to play the guitar despite struggling. An unwanted change I’m adjusting too has been the slow deterioration of my eyesight. Hmm, most challenging when you’re a book lover! For now varifocals lenses seem to offer me the best solution but I do worry about the future. On the other hand, when viewed through a Jungian lens, it could be that as my outer vision is weakening, my inner vision may be deepening?! If anything, it’s a great alternative way of seeing.

    Well, my exhausted wounded healer is taking a break for sure! And instead of offering love and empathy to my clients, I’ve been gifting myself both in a way I haven’t done since I first began my psychotherapist training nearly twenty five years ago. Following the first three weeks of lockdown alone, and after tuning in and listening to my soul, I’ve decided to now permanently reduce my working hours when our lockdown ends. Hope you’re all well and staying safe!

    Love and light, Deborah.

    1. Dear Deborah,

      I think The Soul’s Twins will be a wonderful birthday gift from you to you this November. I hope the giver and receiver derive equal pleasure from it. Certainly the author will. 🙂 I will eagerly await hearing how it is received.

      Some dreams are easier than others to interpret. Understanding my own is always more difficult, but this one was too obvious to mistake. It contained the exact same waking and dreaming emotions, just in different dress. I’ve heard it said and know it to be true that dreams are images of emotions. I’ve had a few lately with repeating themes that stumped me. It took a few weeks of musing and sharing it with a friend before I finally saw its message….which now seems completely clear! It always surprises me to realize how clueless my ego can be sometimes about what’s really going on inside me. We are such mysteries to ourselves.

      I love the way you respond to life’s unwanted changes. Writing does that for me too. It’s my way of bringing more clarity to my conscious self. Writing about my dreams always helps. And having my commentaries to read weeks, months, and years after I wrote them is always a blessing. I can read a commentary from a dream three years ago and see how befuddled I was then about an issue and how clear I’ve become about it since. It’s very reassuring. I wonder if it’s the same for you when you read old poems.

      My eyesight is a problem too. I had one cataract taken out a couple of months ago and had the other scheduled for tomorrow, but now that’s been canceled due to the coronavirus threat. My old glasses don’t work any more so I’m wearing a contact lens in the bad eye for the time being. Just another one of those changes to get used to. I think your eye metaphor is right on. I think it applies to both of us.

      I’m very glad to hear that you’re giving your exhausted wounded healer a break. Another gift from you to you. This one a gift of kindness. I have two therapist friends who have done the same in the last few years. We can be so hard on ourselves, so anxious to prove our worth and be of help to others that we forget to help ourselves.

      I am well and staying safe. I wish the same for you.

      With love, Jeanie

  3. Well, I loved your old website Jeanie I have to say and I like this new one. I’m sure I’ll grow to love it, just takes a bit of getting used to 🙂 Content-wise it will continue to be lovely and affirming, and the images and quotes will always be food for thought.

    Ah! the kitchen in dreams. Many times in dreams I’m unprepared, no food in the pantry for unexpected guests.

    In my view it is still early days (for me) vis á vis this pandemic. For so many it is horrifying and will probably continue so. Everything has been upended, small freedoms taken away, lack of food in communities, fault-lines exposed everywhere in the way ‘things have been’ and accepted as the status quo. But it also brings out the inherent humanity and goodness of mankind, those who are the angels in the midst of this unseen enemy. Could this curse be a gift in some way? And in the way we prioritise what is meaningful to us? What matters and what matters not? I am surely hoping so, no matter how extreme the change has been thrust upon us …

    Thank you Jeanie … keep strumming. Order surely follows chaos.

    1. Dear Susan,

      I loved my old website too. It felt cozy and warm and safe. But this new one feels right for me now.

      As I think about it just now, the old one was like inhabiting my own special little clearing in a vast surrounding forest where friends old and new would come to visit and share with me. I loved that feeling. This one feels different, like inhabiting the entirety of our Mother Earth with her cycles of ebb and flow, day and night, moon and sun, with all my sisters and brothers as we travel through unknown space in a vast, mysterious universe. I love that feeling too. I’m ready for fewer boundaries, more spaciousness, a broader vision, a larger and more diverse community with whom to share more love. Thank you for bringing me to that awareness with your comment.

      Yes, the kitchen dreams. Always about our instinct for nurturance: the struggles involved in wanting to nourish others, wanting nourishment for ourselves, making it all happen in a place of alchemical transformation. Flour, eggs, salt, milk, yeast, sugar, vegetable oil…. all very diverse elements which, when mixed together with a little love and kneading (needing?), allowed to rest and grow, then exposed to intense heat for just the right amount of time, are transformed into deeply nourishing and comforting bread for us and our loved ones. What symbols could better represent the human capacity for psycho-spiritual transformation than baking a loaf of bread in a kitchen? And at the time of this dream, my kitchen is getting a remodel: new cabinets. I wonder what that will mean for my waking life. More room in my heart and mind to contain and fulfill all the elements that make up my instinct for nurturance? Yet another unexpected awareness one of your comments elicited from me.

      I agree wholeheartedly that this curse is also a gift. I’m finding it to be true of myself already, although the gift doesn’t come without the requisite suffering. I was very sad for the few days leading up to Easter. Not being able to hug my children and grandchildren and share an Easter feast with them as we’ve always done was painful. But we stayed in touch by texting, and left gifts on each others’ doorsteps — the beautiful yellow and red roses on the little table in my office you see in the picture above are from a larger bunch of towers my daughter sent to us — and chatted for a few minutes from several feet away. Then we all got together for a Zoom session that afternoon and that was wonderful.

      Thank you, Susan. I will keep strumming. And I hope that your efforts to create beauty and order out of whatever chaos you are experiencing will bring you as much harmony as mine will me. 🙂

      With love, Jeanie

  4. Your new site is lovely–uncluttered, airy, and inviting. I love so much about this post.

    I love the Erica Jong quote and feel that sense of sedated surrender, possibly because I’m not hot on the trail of a big project. I feel helpless to do much of anything to help the world except send cards to friends who are struggling and send donations to political candidates who might change the mess we’re in. I buy stamps to keep the USPS open and encourage others to do the same so we can have the option of voting by mail. I’ve relied heavily on deliveries from the USPS for a long time, but especially in the last two months. I’m also planting vegetables in the garden my son set up last year and he and his girlfriend prepared for spring planting. She also does lots of shopping for me and a local organic farm delivers vegetables each week. I’m physically cared for and feel safe and planting food feels good.

    The big changes are just beginning, I fear. It’s April 16, and I woke up to 3 inches of snow with more cold and snow in the weather forecast. Climate change doesn’t wait for coronavirus to pass and, in NY State, we know how bad things can get with covid-19. I’m not a pessimist by nature, so I spend as much time outside as I can to watch emerging spring (the snow will melt and early flowers and birds will survive it). I took on the big project of adopting a puppy on my own in the fall, knowing it would put a dent in big writing projects. I counted on her being at doggie day care 3 days a week, but that isn’t happening now. So much derailed. I have many dreams about getting lost, sleeping late and missing something important, constantly scolding myself for imagined failures. Disco the Pup is a positive being in my dreams. The soul animal is healthy and comforting. I’m mostly alone with occasional visitors at a distance, but somehow the days dissolve. Zoom classes and zoom dream work help, but electronically transmitted sound is exhausting. It’s easier to stay in silence.

    I always take life seriously, often too seriously, forgetting the joy. I’m working with collage and hope. I’m grateful for laughter and the silliness of playing with a young dog. I”m not afraid for myself, but I feel deep grief for the suffering earth and for the young and midlife people (including my sons) who watch their plans dissolve and have to try to put this Humpty-Dumpty world back together again. It’s hard for them to hold on to hope. And this is the Dark Night and we must all make the descent. Your book comes at an excellent time when people will be settling in a bit and looking for meaning to this soul journey. Wishing you the best in every way.

    1. Thank you, Elaine

      Yes, uncluttered, airy. I love that! May my mind increasingly become that too!

      Fat chance. 🙂 But I do occasionally feel that strange sedative when I acknowledge the extent of my powerlessness. I feel that way about the isolation the coronavirus has imposed on me. It’s oddly comforting to know there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t dress up to go anywhere or do anything with or for anyone else. All I can do is take care of myself and Fred, communicate with my family via the internet, and focus the rest of my energy on doing the one thing I passionately love: write about the healing power of self-knowledge and self-love, and share my thoughts with my sisters and brothers here and in my books. Of course, with a new book coming out, there’s a lot of energy focused on doing everything necessary to prepare for that, and that is, as I’ve written above, the primary stressor that scatters my mind and destroys the calm these days.

      I love hearing about your gardening and fresh vegetables and walks with your dogs. You and Vic gave yourselves the gift of a lifetime when you bought that property. Sorry you don’t get enough of a break from Disco to write though. That would be really tough for me. Well, I assume she’ll start settling down before much longer.

      May we learn the lessons we need to learn in this dark time, and may we find helpful ways to share them with others. Love and blessings, Jeanie

  5. Thanks for your inspiration, Jean. Times are scary and I’m home alone but you are helping me to accept the changes that I know are coming. Bless you, Fred and your family.

    1. Thank you for writing, Charles. I’m so sorry you’re alone during this scary time. And I’m very glad to know that something I’ve written is helping you accept it. Acceptance can bring us peace, and looking for the small moments of beauty can bring hope and gratitude. When we see a flower bloom or a beautiful sunset, or get a message from someone who cares, we can say and feel, “This too is happening.” Love and blessings, Jeanie

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