Using Your Imagination to Care for Your Many Selves

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“…the outer world and inner world are interdependent at every moment. We are simply the locus of their collision and whether we like it or not our life is what we are able to make of that collision…So what we need is a faculty that embraces both worlds simultaneously…” ~Ted Hughes, quoted in Lindsay Clarke, Green Man Dreaming, p.21.

The faculty that embraces both worlds is imagination. Here’s an example of how I’m using it to deal with a current collision between my outer and inner worlds.

One part of me is very organized, responsible, and self-disciplined. You might say, driven. I call her Hilda. She’s the part of me with which my ego identifies the most.

Another part wants to lie in bed all day and read, eat popcorn, have someone else prepare dinner and bring it to me on a tray. And never have to worry about meeting a deadline again. I’ve glimpsed her shadow hanging around more than usual lately. I imagine her as a little girl. She’s so tired of us working so hard. It’s been such a long haul and she wonders when she’ll just get to relax. She’s an orphan, you know. Or almost anyway. Our mother was very organized, responsible, and self-disciplined too. She had to be. Our father was dead and she had a good job that she had to show up for every day except Sunday. Shelley understood, of course. She was a very good little girl who never complained. She had to be good or something bad might happen.

Lately, Hilda and I are a little troubled about Shelley. We’ve done a lot of inner work with her. Shelley did some grieving, and Hilda and I even had an adoption ceremony in which we vowed to remind our Mother and Father archetypes to give her more love and attention. After a while she stopped showing up in our dreams and we’ve seen very little of her for a long time. Occasionally she’d kick up a fuss when there was a surge of unusually challenging mental labor and stress. But when it was over, she always calmed down and all would be well.

Then about four years ago we started The Soul’s Twins and Hilda just took over. You should have seen her. What a Warrior! She could work at the computer for eight, ten hours straight. I was actually rather proud of her. We’re not getting any younger, you know.

But then I started having trouble sleeping. I couldn’t turn off my mind. I’d go to bed thinking about the book, lie awake a few hours, then fall asleep only to reawaken a few hours later. After that I’d doze on and off in that liminal space between sleeping and waking until morning when I often become aware that I was mentally dictating a solution to the problem I’d been struggling with the day before.

This was great, of course! I suspect the inspiration was coming from my Mediatrix and Sage. They’re good at working together to resolve the problems my book presented and I loved that I didn’t have to figure everything out by myself. So Hilda and I would hop out of bed and practically run to the computer where I’d write down everything before I forgot.

This went on for over three years. I assumed things would slow down when The Soul’s Twins was launched last November. But that was only the beginning of a new phase of work of a different, far more challenging kind for us. No one in the house of my psyche is good at marketing or selling. We are writers, philosophers, reflective opiners, dreamers, students and teachers of human nature, mentors, imaginative thinkers and assimilators of ideas. Yet, I have to promote my book if I want it to be read. And of course I do. I’ve had some help but the burden has been on Hilda and me. It’s been tough.

So Hilda is concerned about Shelley, and I’m concerned about Hilda. I think she’s about ready to throw in the towel. As the mediator and moderator in this family, I think that’s a little drastic. So I’m thinking I need to convene the whole family of archetypes who live in my house in a brain-storming session. There’s been a collision and more than a few of us are ready to address it. Nobody seems to know for sure what the problem is or who might be at the heart of it. I suspect it’s an assortment of unfinished business with my archetypal forces plus issues about the changes in work and relationships that have come with time and aging and diminishing ambition and energy. With patience, trust, a little imagination, and a dialogue between my conscious and unconscious selves, the Self will work these things out.

Take good care of your many selves.

Art: Michael Chaval

Paper and E-book versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. The Wilbur Award-winning Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.

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14 Responses

  1. Dear Jeanie,

    Oh dear, poor little Shelley and poor exhausted Hilda too! My heart goes out to both of them but most especially your fatherless, orphaned child who’s been ignored, sat in a corner and forgotten by her archetypal parents. It sounds as if your persona has been running the show and wearing a mask, so firmly in place, that Hilda thinks this is who she is too. For today’s musing reads like a Shakespearean or Dickensian tragedy where the forgotten or neglected one is the real star of the show, only the ego won’t allow it. As you approach 80, I’m thinking maybe there’s still time, here in the last years of your life, to mother Shelley, who’s been waiting and waiting for you to parent her and validate her. And yet, despite the sadness of this situation, in writing this post I can see that there’s hope for Shelley and your relationship.

    Sometimes we all need to put down our books, responsibilities, ambitions and masks and take ourselves outside to play. Play in the sense of fun, in the sense of relaxation too. Yes, let others cook, clean, care for us, or surprise us in a hundred small ways that show us how precious we are to them. That’s Shelley, and as for Hilda, well most of all she needs to know that she’s good enough and has worked incredibly hard all her life but surely she gets to enjoy retirement too? I mean she’s earned it many times over. Like a winning racehorse she needs to be put out to pasture now. It’ll take some time to get used to this but believe me, she’ll soon be frolicking around the field with a sense of freedom not even she knew she needed, and there in her freedom, she’ll discover new ways of using her imagination, much closer to home.

    The alternatives seem dark and depressing, and may involve poor Shelly never being loved, or seen or parented and working or pushing poor Hilda into the ground. Enjoy your final presentation but afterwards know that Shelley and Hilda need you too Jeanie, in different ways for sure, but a real conversation needs to take place. Together you can pull of the persona’s mask.

    Love and light, Deborah.

    1. “Together you can pull off the persona’s mask.” What a perceptive and beautiful image! Thank you. You’re right, of course. My persona has been running the show for far too long. I’ve been experimenting with taking it off for some time now, and in last night’s nightmare I did exactly that. It was terrifying to be naked in the face of patriarchy’s judgment, symbolized by three men in a white pickup truck on a dark country road. I awoke with my heart pounding. Yes, your comment, my dream, and my pressing need to write and share this post, are confirmation enough that a real conversation needs to take place.

      I thank you with all my heart for the understanding of your heart and the generosity of your spirit. Your words manifest the palpable presence of Mother Sophia.

      Love and blessings, Jeanie

      1. Thank you so much Jeanie for the love and warmth so freely given in your reply! Let me share a little secret of mine, whenever I publish a new poem, I feel an excruciating vulnerability that absolutely terrifies me yet is completely necessary for any healing to take place, above and below. Similar to how you felt in your dream last night, I feel bare, naked and judged by all, no longer able to hide behind one mask let alone ten masks and yet to experience this vulnerability, to face my own mercurial archetypes is to live another day in the glory, beauty and majesty of this world. Namaste my dear friend, namaste.

        1. Dear Deborah, you and I have the same secret! I’ve never shared anything that truly comes from the depths of my soul without feeling that terror. It’s such a common companion that I take it for granted. I think the healing comes from the affirmation and validation that arise from having the courage to acknowledge the fear and do the thing anyway. And yes, that is “to live another day in the glory, beauty and majesty of this world.” And to those adjectives I must add, “suffering”, which, in my experience, also has enormous healing power when I can tolerate the nigredo long enough to let it do its work of decomposing before the new equilibrium can be brought about. Namaste my dear friend.

  2. Loved your post as always, and I am definitely not an expert on how to deal with Shelly, but love the fact Hilda is still so full of enthusiasm and taking charge. You are a women of many faces, traveling in many directions, and I hope you will find the time and opportunity to take a breath and enjoy the wonderful senses around you. I know for me meditation and mindfulness play a big role in my everday life that navigates me through many interferences or just a busy day, when I forget and put too much on my plate. So in closing, I do hope you find that balance and can put everyone in their appropriate places……… and then take that breath and smile.

    Nothing is too good to be true
    Nothing is too wonderful to happen
    Nothing is too good to last
    Fern

    1. Dear Fern, thank you for the kindness of your response. Staying in touch with the messages the Self sends me through meditation, mindfulness, writing, and dreamwork has been essential to my travels thus far, and I count on them to guide me through this newest phase. Sending you much love, Jeanie

  3. Deborah’s comment has me gasping for her empathy and clarity Jeanie. I must say I feel those competing and colliding personas or archetypes or complexes or whatever they are, and it IS exhausting. What to do, what to do is a refrain that continues to haunt me and then I remember, what to be, what to be.

    It seems that labours are never over. Launching a book into the wide world and having to market is something you’ve achieved admirably and won coveted and deserved prizes for. And now another book looming. You have the skills, never forget that. You KNOW it’s a task and one you will meet. Have that meeting with your archetypal forces once your Phoenix meeting is done and dusted and take your time over that. Surrender to the moment … and let Shelley speak … let Hilda take a well deserved holiday while her sister takes centre stage. Love, Susan

    1. I agree with your assessment of Deborah’s comment, Susan. And I am greatly comforted by your honesty as well. “What to be” is the question isn’t it? And I guess the only healing answer is, “myself.”

      The next book may have to loom indefinitely while I weigh the passion and inspiration against the angst and suffering. I honestly don’t know if it’s in my best interest to go through this again. Meanwhile, I shall take your advice and surrender to the moment, let Shelley speak, and give Hilda a well-deserved holiday!! I think you’re absolutely right: Shelley does need to take centre stage. The very thought of it makes me smile. Thank you for your sisterly empathy. Love, Jeanie

  4. Don’t let Shelley, the Little Match Girl, blow out her last match for warmth. I want to catch a wind with the Monarchs and fly south to help save her.

    I love the way you’ve shared this, Jeanie–and I so identify, although my ambitious warrior has been flattened in recent years. My little Monarch Girl with her 4th grade science project took over this summer. I’m slowly writing about the experience, but the Monarch Goddess has not arrived to whisk away the drudgery inherent in publishing and promoting a book. And it’s harder now than ever before. If I find a publisher there are expectations. If I self-publish, my photos are so important but publishing photos is expensive. I don’t want to go broke (says the animus guy within who pays the bills and watches my resources). A conference is a great idea between Playful Monarch Girl and Practical Pay the Bills Animus and what do I name the ambitious one except Iva May–my mother’s name. The Cochlear Implant Girl needs to be a participant because she’s struggling to handle noises that seem normal for most people–like grocery store cooler fans and Zoom gatherings. She’s fragile and would rather be a Nature Mystic and hang out with Monarch Girl and imagine flying, but I push and push and push her to the limit. Then, like today, I crash and have to recover. Time to convene a meeting and clarify where all these figures stand. Thank you for helping me make that clear and I look forward to hearing where you go with this.

    Meanwhile have a wonderful presentation because that matters, too. With love and hope.

  5. Thank you, Elaine. Don’t worry. Shelley’s safe with me. I have an unending supply of matches. I just mislay them occasionally. This has been one of those times — my version of crashing and recovering — perhaps because Shelley found leaving the mountains to return to Florida’s inferno particularly difficult along with all the other book stuff that’s been monopolizing my mind and thoughts. I guess that messes with your metaphor. My Shelley prefers cool to warm, trails to blacktops, and forests and mountains to houses and shopping malls. 🙂 Her 4th grade science project was a poster-size colored pencil drawing of a great blue heron. That was fun. We actually have one who regularly visits our backyard here. Maybe Shelley would be interested in taking up drawing again……

    It truly is harder now than ever before to publish and promote a book. Authors have to do everything but pay for the printing, unless you are a celebrity or self-publish. Have you thought of starting a Patreon campaign to raise funds for your monarch book?

    I actually had an idea for you a couple of weeks ago. Do you ever watch CBS Sunday morning? They love nature stories and your work with monarchs would make a fabulous segment. It could feature an interview with you, a walk on your property to follow you as you gather chrysalises, your screened porch nursery, releasing the butterflies, and your photographs. I’ll bet that would drum up some financial support for a photo book. And I bet my publisher, Schiffer, who specializes in photo books, would snap it up. But someone who knows someone would have to present the idea to the producer of the program. I don’t quite know who that would be or how that would happen. But wouldn’t it be fun?

    Any time you want to catch a wind with the monarchs and fly south for warmth, there’ll be a room for you here, my friend. With love and blessings, Jeanie

    1. Thank you, Ashen. I would say the same of you and the impact of everything you write.

      And thank you for the link to your post, “The child in us.” I especially appreciated your words re. the power of the imagination: “Imagination serves multiple roles. It can draw us into habitual loops of negativity and self harm, or stimulate insights and enhance creativity. Artists know this. Imagination can also heal psychic wounds frequently handed down through generations. The healing aspect is especially powerful when employed consciously. Jung called it ‘Active Imagination.’”

      The very real power of the imagination to change our lives blows my mind. My inner ‘little one’ still strives to feel contained and unconditionally loved too, and using that power consciously and creatively gives me hope for her recovery. I’m working on it now, and your post is very helpful in that regard.

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