Exploring the Rabbit Holes of My Psyche


It’s Tuesday, the day on which I’ve published a new blog post almost every week for the last 12 years. Something in me has changed and I want to be present to it. As I approach the eighth decade of my life I want to learn the lessons it wants to teach me. And I want you to know what’s happening.

This newest phase is a time of reflection and retreat. A time to explore some of the rabbit holes (a term I learned from my poetess friend, Deborah Gregory) I’ve neglected. The push to publish and market The Soul’s Twins exhausted me and I need to reevaluate my priorities. This has required me to withdraw from social media for a time. I want to be free of deadlines. I want release from the all-consuming burden to produce. I want to respect my desire to read and relax. I want to feel better about myself: more complete and whole.

Ever since I discovered Jungian psychology I’ve longed to work with a Jungian analyst, but never found the time. I have the time now, so as a special gift to myself I reached out to one I’ve admired for years. So far we’ve only had four sessions, but the cistern containing my life force is already refilling. Recent dreams are rich with psychological insights and spiritual meaning. I understand more about some of my complexes that date back to early childhood. I had an intellectual knowledge about most of them for years, but working with an expert at this deepest archetypal level is creating an emotional knowledge I always knew was missing.

Earlier today I visited my Facebook page and discovered this post from Jungian scholar Lewis Lafontaine on his page, “Marion Woodman and Depth Psychology”. It’s an interview I did three years ago with Teresa Oster—a journalist associated with the Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida—in advance of a workshop I would soon present to them. As I re-read it, it occurred to me that some of you might be interested in it. So here it is. I do hope you enjoy it.

I’ve missed you. But I know that if you’ve followed my blog for very long you understand my powerful need to be whole and true to myself. This knowledge brings me great comfort. Thank you for being in my life.

Think psychologically. Live spiritually, my dear friends.

The Dysfunctional God-Images in a Broken World Interview with Jean Raffa, Ed. D.

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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26 Responses

  1. You already know the huge debt I have to you and the gratitude I feel towards what your gift brought me. I wish you eventful and successful digging in your sessions. Know as always, you are loved

    1. Thank you for your kindness and good wishes, Brian. I do know. And I hope you know how grateful I am for your friendship and trust all these years. Love and blessings, Jeanie

  2. Dear Jeanie,

    As someone who disappears down her own rabbit hole often, I resonate deeply. I’ll miss you lots but take your time to rest, relax and recover. I think a lot of this way of being for me is to do with my INF typology, especially the introverted part as I find the extraverted online world overwhelming at times. I’m just not good at social media, although I do recognise it has its uses … so time spent down the rabbit hole is my way of finding balance and gathering energy.

    Well, it looks as though next year we’ll both be celebrating big-Oh birthdays, your 80th and my 60th. Something happens inside doesn’t it as we approach these milestone birthdays? There’s often a deep desire to transition something (however defined) and a need to get out of our own way (ego) to facilitate change. In the last year the death of my parents instantly brought this desire on so in order for things to shift, above and below, my descent was vital.

    And down there in the Great Below, I fully relaxed, read a few slow-paced books on nature, poetry and one on ageing which I highly recommend to all, “The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul”” by Connie Zweig. I explored many creative arts and continued to wander the ancient woodlands and shorelines, above and below … but what I loved best was getting down into that dirt and disappearing. My ego rebelled hugely, but that made me dig deeper!

    Gifting yourself analysis speaks volumes! Why? Because it’s like you’ve been dancing around Jung for all this years and now you’re finally taking a slow dance together. The psyche will never be fooled by dry intellect or a desire to create order. It’s akin to looking for love in all the wrong places … but often this is exactly what we have to do, go around those houses until we find ourselves back in the place we started, down in the pregnant darkness where we meet all our endings and beginnings.

    Lastly, enjoy the burrows, I met a dark sorceress, “Soror Mystica” in mine who gifted me the title of my new book. Love and light, Deborah.

    1. Dear Deborah,

      I agree that our shared need to withdraw has a lot to do with our INF typology. I am truly grateful for social media. This is where I’ve discovered my soul’s tribe. The friends I’ve made here are very precious to me. But it is an extraverted world that saps the energy of this introvert.

      As I’ve reflected on my life here and in my books I’ve discovered a pattern of ten-year cycles, each with its distinctive thresholds through which I’ve transitioned from one phase to another. While adjusting to their challenges hasn’t always been easy, I’ve come to trust them as ultimately healing and necessary on my journey to wholeness. So I look forward to the treasures I’ll discover in the burrows of my 80’s. As you say, descent is vital. And of course, inevitable.

      I’ve been doing a lot of reading and discovered a new author whom I adore. Perhaps you’ve heard of Amor Towles? His books,The Lincoln Highway, Rules of Civility, and A Gentleman from Moscow, are absolutely brilliant. Others have also recommended Connie Zweig’s book, so I purchased it recently and look forward to reading it.

      Your comments, “It’s like you’ve been dancing around Jung for all these years and now you’re finally taking a slow dance together,” and “The psyche will never be fooled by dry intellect or a desire to create order,” are right on target. I’m loving this new dance.

      Thank you dear friend for sharing your rich insights and experiences here. Love, Jeanie

  3. Congratulations !! What You learn now as Elder will help us All !! Thank You for your courage. It is vital we know how To Be and not To Do in late Life
    in preparation for a Good Death ….. that is our Task !!

    1. Thank you, Karen. Although I can’t promise regular posts, I do expect to write new ones as my soul prompts. I hope you’re right that they’ll be helpful to others in their quest to learn how To Be. With love and blessings, Jeanie

  4. It is a “now or never” chance then for me to wish you a leisurely time in your cosy hole, dear Jean. It seems that I have two angels to miss now and then! As I have told Deborah, every time, I can repeat it to you too: Can you take me with you? 😁
    Anyway, I understand it totally, and I hope you will reach the goal you desire. The interview is worth reading.
    PS: you don’t look that age at all, although your wisdom and experiences are plentiful.🤗💖🌹

    1. Hahaha. It would be fun to have companions on the underground journey, wouldn’t it? Too bad it doesn’t work that way. But I appreciate the offer. I’m glad you found the interview worthwhile reading. And thank you for the compliment. I don’t feel this age either. Someone said to me recently, “If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you think you are?” I’d say about my mid-thirties. With love, blessings, and gratitude for your friendship. Jeanie

  5. Oh Jeanie, I feel that too, time for just me to reflect and dig deeper into complexes and bits and pieces that need exploration! How I’d love to go into a Jungian analysis again. It was such a valuable period in my life all those years ago. So dear friend, I wish you well in this time for yourself and analysis. You’ll be missed; you always gave us nourishment in your books and posts. Thank you for the link to your 2019 post which was rich indeed.

    I’m about to loan a friend of mine Robert A Johnson’s book ‘Owning Your Own Shadow’ as she has expressed interest in Jungian psychology. I loaned her a Von Franz book a few weeks ago. But in the margins of Owning Your Own Shadow I wrote (heaven knows when) ‘What shadow was projected when the 10 year old Liverpudlians grabbed the 2 year old, momentarily separated from his mother in the store onto the railroad (railroaded) tracks to meet his death’. – which brings to mind yesterday’s shooting in Texas.

    With Love, Susan.

    1. Hi Susan. Thank you for your good wishes. I wish everyone understood how wonderful it is to work with a Jungian analyst. I look forward to my sessions and leave each one with amazing insights and the most marvelous feeling of gratitude for being heard, understood, and affirmed. It’s a true gift of the best kind.

      I read Johnson’s ‘Owning Your Own Shadow’ many years ago too and have returned to it many times. I have a treasured photograph from a Jungian conference in the early 90’s of me standing between Johnson and another valued Jungian author/mentor, John A. Sanford. They were both giants in their fields. Sanford was not only a Jungian analyst but also an Episcopal priest. He’s the person from whom I learned that the psychological journey within is also a spiritual journey. He sowed the seeds for this blog’s motto: Think psychologically. Life spiritually.

      What a sad story about the 2 year old boy. And the tragedy in Texas? Unspeakable.

      Love and blessings, Jeanie

      1. What was also interesting to me was your mention of Robert Johnson, your earliest Jungian mentor in your 2019 interview – I had already located his book to lend to a friend. While looking for it, I also saw John Sanford’s book ‘The Concept of Evil’ and put it aside to take with me on my upcoming travels. They were both giants, I agree. The synchronicity of these two mentions does not escape me.
        The murder of 2 year old James Bulger by two 10 year old boys happened 30 years ago … I’m not now sure if the boys themselves were from Liverpool UK, but the toddler was eventually found on a Liverpool train track. This latest shooting at a school in Texas is inexpressively tragic. What a dark shadow it casts …

        1. You and I seem to experience so many synchronicities! That’s so cool. I sure wish I knew the mechanics of that. Maybe science will figure it out one day. Meanwhile, I just enjoy them. 🙂

          And the 30 year old murder and recent murders? Yes. Inexpressively tragic. I just can’t find the words. A dark shadow, indeed…

  6. You’ll be dearly missed. I hope you come back occasionally to report on your underground adventures.

    I thought I share with you and the faithful friends who commented here, some thoughts on the shadow by a beloved author of mine, Ursula LeGuin.

    First a story by her you may know, which I discussed on my website in 2015 https://courseofmirrors.com/2015/02/12/the-ones-who-walk-away/

    And a PDF article by Ursula LeGuin I found yesterday ‘Child and the Shadow.’ https://johnirons.com/pdfs/shadowleguin.pdf

    Be well, you and all.

  7. My second try to leave a comment …

    You’ll be dearly missed, Jean. I hope you occasionally visit to report on your underground adventures.

    Thought I share with you and friends here two short writings on the Shadow by Ursula LeGuin.

    First, a story you may have come upon before, discussed on my website in 2015 https://courseofmirrors.com/2015/02/12/the-ones-who-walk-away/

    And an article on PDF by Ursula LeGuin I found yesterday by chance ‘Child and the Shadow.’ https://johnirons.com/pdfs/shadowleguin.pdf

    May all be well ♥

    1. Thank you, Ashen. As you can see, both of your posts came through, but not until this morning when I saw on my blog dashboard that they hadn’t been approved. I have no idea why that happens sometimes. Luckily, all I had to do was click on “Approve” and they showed up here.

      I’ll be back from time to time, but I’ve given up trying to be consistent. I guess that came from my need to live an orderly, controlled, and predictable life. I think it made me feel safe somehow…… Anyway, I no longer seem to need that.

      Ursula LeGuin is also a favorite of mine. I look forward to reading both articles. Thank you so much for sharing them. And thank you for being my friend,

      With love and best wishes, Jeanie

      1. Uhm, sorry the post twice landed twice. We do depend on useful structures to feel safe, but it’s the privilege of mature ladies to drop consistency and be unpredictable 🙂
        I’m pleased that you, too, appreciate Ursula LeGuin’s writing. I hope you enjoy the story, and the article I discovered only yesterday, in your own time, Both carry poignant thoughts on the workings of the Shadow.
        Wishing you a marvelous summer ♥

        1. I adore your comment: “…it’s the privilege of mature ladies to drop consistency and be unpredictable.” It certainly is! And a great relief.

          I just finished the two articles. I remember reading your post years ago and found it equally fascinating this time. And it goes so well with the subject of this post and Ursula LeGuin’s article.

          I’ve been a huge fan ever since I read her 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness. I thought it was a brilliant, eye-opening novel that brought harmful gender stereotypes out of the “shadows” to be viewed clearly and objectively. I agree with her that the most effective way to do this is not with reason, but with her chosen genre of fantasy. I never knew that she was a Jungian, only that I was very drawn to her thinking and writing. When I discovered Jung several years later, the similarities of their messages gave me a hint of who and what must have inspired her imagination.

          It makes me want to write a fantasy version of what I was trying to say in The Soul’s Twins! My first book, The Bridge to Wholeness, begins with a fairy tale that came to me unbidden one morning halfway through the writing of it. It encapsulated the archetypal realities of the book, and of my life journey. I suspect your fantasy novel, Course of Mirrors, has a similar origin.

          As LeGuin says in her article: “Fantasy is the language of the inner self. I will claim no more for fantasy than to say that I personally find it the appropriate language in which to tell stories to children – and others. But I say that with some confidence, having behind me the authority of a very great poet, who put it much more boldly. “The great instrument of moral good,” Shelley said, “is the imagination.'”

          As one who figuratively walked away from conventional thinking and began to explore my shadowy unconscious during the second half of life, I especially loved this quote:

          “Reduced to the language of daylight, Andersen’s story says that a man who will not confront and accept his shadow is a lost soul. It also says something specifically about itself, about art. It says that if you want to enter the House of Poetry, you have to enter it in the flesh, the solid, imperfect, unwieldy body, which has corns and colds and greeds and passions, the body that casts a shadow. It says that if the artist tries to ignore evil, he will never enter into the House of Light.”

          Thank you for these inspiring reads. I wish you a marvelous summer too! Jeanie

          1. I’m so pleased, Jeanie, that LeGuin’s story and article resonate with you.

            You may hugely enjoy writing a fantasy novel.

            Fantasy has been degraded over time, and can be fluffy, but at best it emerges from deep within the soul, the inner self, that guides our imagination and brings up wonderful metaphors. So it would be more accurate to call such stories imaginal.

            Course of Mirrors started with a powerful image of me standing on a bridge across a chasm and waterfall, the origins of a river gushing from the mountain. Ana follows the river, crossing many bridges from one realm into the other. The novel does sum up the myth of my life.

            At times I used to ask clients if they know of a fairy tale that resembled their life, which made some people start reading fairy tales, for the first time in their lives. Shelley, and so many other artists and poets had it right “The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.’”

            It’s always lovely when friends spark each other’s thoughts.
            Thanks for being such friend.
            Ashen ♥

  8. The idea of writing a fantasy novel has huge appeal. I used to teach Children’s Literature at the University of Central Florida and in the process acquired a deep respect for Modern Fantasy. My favorite author was Madelyn L’Engle, who wrote A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet well before the Harry Potter series. An excellent example of the genre at its best. So are C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. And, of course, the Hobbit trilogy.

    I remember how Course of Mirrors starts. Chasms and bridges are meaningful symbols for me too. I once wrote a screenplay for the TV series Northern Exposure (they didn’t use it) that opened with a shamaness riding a gray horse across a tall bridge over a chasm, accompanied by her wolf/dog named Bear. Animals, especially horses and bears, are important symbols for me too. That was a time when I was trying to become better acquainted with my instincts. All my books are attempts to clarify my own myth.

    Yes, we are definitely sparking each other’s thoughts and it is a lovely feeling. 🙂

    Be well, Jeanie

  9. Beautifully written but I think we all need to be true to ourselves. Without it we can’t get success. Well shared thanks 😊👍

  10. Thank you, Priti. Yes, being true to ourselves is the best thing we can do for ourselves in every way. It’s how we become whole. Many thanks for writing. Blessings, Jeanie

  11. Jeanie, I’m going through similar questions and explorations about what I want with the rest of my life. The old models aren’t working well for me anymore. I’ll finish the Monarch book out of love, but it isn’t the Jungian “masterpiece” I thought I’d write. Instead, it’s an ode to nature which is where I find strength, comfort, and trust. I wish you well in every way and hope that I also learn that an exhausting path isn’t the right path. It’s a hard lesson for an overachiever, but this life energy is precious and sacred. I hope we both fill ourselves with nectar. (I’ve been working with my Jungian dream therapist for over 14 years and I’m grateful as I explore the spiraling energy of struggles with my ambitious self that pleased my mother–but is no longer pleasing to me.) With love and hopes for a restful glorious summer in North Carolina and I trust we’ll hear from you again when you’re ready.

    1. I cannot wait to read your new Monarch book. I’ve no doubt it will be the masterpiece, your magnum opus, that will fulfill your lifelong writing aspirations, Jungian or not. And I know that Jung will permeate it throughout, if only behind the lines. I suspect your studies of Jung encouraged you to see value in your imagination, trust your emotions and instincts, and follow your soul’s call, just as mine did. You have done that and continue to do it.

      I saw my first two monarchs of the season a few days ago when walking Izzy. They were fluttering and dancing around some flowers in our vacant lot across the street. It has milkweed too. Flowers produce nectar simply by being themselves. I think we also produce nectar by being true to ourselves. It’s just nature’s way.

      My retiring, introverted mother never voiced any ambitions for me. If anything, mine may have made her a bit uncomfortable. I believe my ambition came from wanting to please and impress my absent, ambitious father. I remember thinking to myself when I finished my doctoral dissertation, “This is for you, Daddy.”

      Yes, you’ll hear from me here again in time. Love, Jeanie

  12. By chance I was recently forwarded a copy of a review your book ‘Healing the Sacred Divide’. I ordered it last week and it arrived today. I have already been reading it and it’s what I need. The review was sent to me by someone who knows I’ve been captivated by the idea of the mandorla (as a tool to visualize the the unification of opposites) since reading ‘Owning Your Own Shadow’ by Robert Johnson in the last year. In the last year I’ve also finished a Spiritual Direction Program (out of Asheville, NC) which had a huge Jungian and dream component. While captivated by the work that I did it to complete the course, it has left me feeling quite spent and I’ve been puzzling over why. I’m following you on the life journey by about a decade it would be seem, but I can acknowledge the hard work in course took an unexpected toll. I’ve also been back in Jungian Analysis for about a year and the dreams are bringing a lot up. In any event, I am thrilled to have ‘found’ you and look forward to reading first this book and then others. Blessings.

  13. Thank you for writing, Kevin. And thank you for ordering “Healing the Sacred Divide”. I hope you find some of what you’re looking for in it. And I hope you’ll let me know your thoughts on it.

    I’d heard from many Jungians that the journey into wholeness is never over, and now I’m experiencing the truth of that for myself. I’ve been on this path for over 30 years, and somewhere along the way I must have succumbed to complacency. My soul won’t have that! It wants wholeness. So now it’s presenting me with new challenges I wasn’t prepared for.

    For a long time I thought that with enough study I could do this by myself, but head knowledge could only take me so far. Now my challenge is to address some disowned emotions and heal some old heart wounds. For that I need help. It’s humbling for my ego to accept, but then, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? 🙂

    Blessings to you on your continuing journey,

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