Slipping Away From Convention and Into Myself


“If we pay attention to our dreams, instead of living in a cold, impersonal world of meaningless chance, we may begin to emerge into a world of our own, full of important and secretly ordered events.” ~C.G. Jung

I began recording and working with my dreams in 1989. In those days, many of my dreams had to do with conflicting feelings about my career. This is one of them.

Dream #198: “Hiding From the Enemy”. Someone desecrates my small, primitive wooden house and ransacks my possessions while I’m away teaching writing classes. It’s a dark night and the enemy is looking for me. I’m in danger.  I hide, lying flat on the ground, pressed against the outside wall of the classroom. I’m afraid to breathe or make a sound. I know my tribe values my contribution and won’t give me away.

In dreams, houses usually represent the psychological condition in which we’re living.  So right away I’m being told that my inner life is cramped and primitive.  Moreover, it’s a mess. But instead of trying to fix it, I’m hiding in terror behind a classroom! In other words, I’m using my job as an escape, a way to avoid conducting some inner work and confronting an unknown enemy that’s really messing with my mind.

And who or what is this terrifying enemy that has my dream ego holding its breath and cowering in the dark? When I had this dream I couldn’t imagine what it might be. But now I know and the knowing makes me sad for my cluelessness and the needless anxiety I was suffering. I was a puppet of convention and terrified of my natural, authentic self.

As I wrote in my first book, “The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth”, a few years after I had this dream,

“Conformity is a castle that conceals authenticity and stifles individuality. A castle is a strong and impressive fortress; if it were not, most of us would not grow up dreaming of living in one. But the illusion of safety and the pleasures of power and prestige a castle provides cannot compensate for the withering of the soul of the individual who insists on remaining within its walls. Moreover, the castle cannot prevent crisis, it cannot teach us to recognize the call of the Golden Bear; it cannot prepare us for the island ordeal. As long as we remain within its walls, we have no hope of completion.”

At that time it might have looked to others like I had the world by the tail; but inside a battle had been raging for over nine years between two apparently irreconcilable opposites. On one side was my ego that was growing increasingly unhappy with its lack of personal meaning and spiritual fulfillment, but still preferred the familiarity and safety of a job I didn’t like and the status quo in my life to the dangers of the unknown.  On the other was the compelling new voice of Sophia whose call to freedom from conformity was deeply attractive but felt dangerously subversive. Which side was right? Which was wrong? Nothing in my life had prepared me for this painful dilemma. How was I to choose?  Rejecting either one would have felt like a terrible mistake!

My solution was deceptively simple and came in its own sweet time. I wrote about the symbols, images, events, and emotions that showed up in my dreams and looked for links between these clues from my unconscious and my waking life. Meanwhile, I tolerated the tension of my inner turmoil for nine long years without shutting down or rushing to premature closure. Gradually I grew more aware of a fuller range of choices and braver about making original ones that honored my inner realities as much as my outer ones. Then I had a big dream in which I was going against the current in a rushing river, determinedly wading back upstream toward my true home. This dream told me that something in my psyche had shifted. Without my ego’s full awareness I had changed directions and simply slipped into myself. All because I was taking my inner life seriously and paying attention.

It seems to me that the energies of life support two basic human endeavors: to become ourselves and learn to love.  And until we get the first one right, we can’t accomplish the second. That’s why making the unconscious conscious is my career now and nothing less will ever satisfy.

Art credits:  Jake Baddeley. Etsy: Old Wooden House.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. 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

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22 Responses

  1. Jean………..I love your website; I felt I could have written
    this most recent if I were but as articulate as you in
    describing your inner workings. A Jungian therapist
    told me I HAD to leave the collective to find my inner
    authenticity etc. etc. I don’t think I have done that but
    I’m working on it. Houses are always my repeating
    images/gatherings of people in houses/ etc. I wish
    you would seriously practice your dream work with
    our remaining Moonbeams…..would you work with me
    individually? do you work on others dreams via this
    blog and do my repsonses go out on the internet ? or what could we do? MB

  2. Dear MB Helen,
    Knowing you as I do, I also think you are suited for this giant step into the unknown!!
    I’d be happy to work with you privately, by phone, e-mail, or in person when possible to give what assistance I can in helping you tap into your deep wisdom. As you know, the ultimate goal is for you to become so familiar with your own inner workings that you no longer need confirmation or affirmation from anyone outside yourself.
    E-mail me privately and we’ll see what develops.
    Much love, beautiful lady,

  3. jeanie—when i was 19 and just getting exposed to eastern mysticism, i dreamed that a small squat snake with a drooping mustache was leaping to bite me in the living room of my parents’ house. i tried to defend myself by picking up big heavy books and throwing them, trying to crush the snake but it was much too quick and unpredictable. finally, after much drama, having chased it into the bathroom, it did indeed bite the little finger of my left hand, and i immediately felt myself growing numb and paralyzed, sinking toward death. the snake, for its part, leaped into the bathtub and disappeared down the drain, back underground…
    a turning point of a dream. pushed me away from cold intellectualization and the conventional way of my parents’ living room, toward the living dynamic of the ever-emerging unconscious.
    several years later, i came across a bronze casting of a crouching dragon, complete with drooping mustache, that was the very image of my dream’s sip of the collective unconscious’ well…..
    thanks for your work.

  4. I love it, William. What a great dream! What did you make of the drooping moustache? Perhaps a nod to the West’s image of the inscrutable Eastern mystic? (Too many Charlie Chan movies?) Did you buy the bronze casting?
    At the age of ten I dreamed the Lone Ranger, my hero at that time, shot me. Many years later when I ran across an 8 X 10 glossy of him and Silver standing regally atop a cliff beside Tonto and Scout I bought it and kept it around to remind me of my life’s work: to stop living vicariously through external heroes and tap into “the living dynamic of the ever-emerging unconscious.”
    I loved your new blog in the Huff. I’m still thinking about it.

    1. the drooping mustache surprised me since i wasn’t exposed to eastern art at the time. the dragons of the east tend to have long “mustaches” somewhat like catfish, not made of hair of course….
      it appears in retrospect that the archetypal image had broken through my conscious acculturation…..
      and yes, i bought it on sight and still have it all these years later. like yourself, i kept it as a visual reminder–for me, it has served to keep me aware of the utter mystery of the world, the inseparability of dreaming-awake and dreaming-asleep.
      getting shot by the lone ranger: i really like that! maybe a first push away from white-hat versus black-hat conventionalism???
      as for the recent blog on HP: it’s still rolling around in me, too, like long thunder…..i appreciated your comment!

  5. Several decades ago I would have a recurring dream where I was wearing a black slip-dress and holding a cup while talking with a group of friends who completed a circle. They were in shadow with two on my left, one oppositre me and one on my right. i worked on this for several years and still wonder at the missing components. The dress was an indication to pay attention to my feminine components, the drink was the gift of life, the circle represents the hidden components of persona, with the other individuals representing radically differing parts of the self. The right-hand part is the killer ( prone to violence) and the opposite part is my professional counterpart responsible to the world’s demands, but the two on the left are still puzzles.
    This dream along with many others is responsinle for my recognition of my contrasexual self and the resulting support for GLBTI issues. It also appears in my participation in philosophical debates and support fot Jungian Societies.
    James Q. Burgess, P. S. I was the one at the Sarasota meeting who clapped during your talk about the dysfunctional god-images.

  6. Hi James, it’s good to hear from you. Thanks for letting me know who you are. Your clapping was much appreciated! Will you please come to all my talks?
    Yes, I too see the circle as a symbol of the Self in all its various components. Did you know that Jung said that it was only in the advanced stages of the individuation process that the ego has contact with the Self in its feminine aspect? Sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of inner work for a long time, and bringing it into your outer life as well. Another wonderful example of how life-changing a dream can be. Thank you for sharing it with me.

  7. Dear Jeanie, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post with us! I really enjoyed musing on your dream #198 this morning, diving in those living waters, swimming in rich symbolism, alongside your knowing intuitions and deep insights. I hope you don’t mind me diving in too and surfacing, hopefully, with a tiny pearl for you to reflect upon.

    You see … I was struck by the image of you lying outside the classroom, outside the collective I thought, in the “true” place that wisdom is found. For conventional classroom, conventional religion was not to be your place of learning, and your soul knew it. In order to meet your fate and heal your wounds, it seems that you had to become a “true” disciple.

    For only a “true” disciple knows they must lay prostrate in the matter (however defined) until one cannot bow any lower. It seems that your psyche knew the position it had to take in order to become a teacher. This is the position you have needed to get into throughout your life in order to learn and teach. A place far, far outside the walls of the castle.

    Lastly, as you describe your big dream, “Countercurrent” a painting by Miles Johnston, a conceptual artist and illustrator, comes to mind. Do check it out, I’m sure you’ll recognise it, above and below, immediately! Just wonderful! Thanks again for inviting us to dream with you! Wishing you a bright and beautiful Imbolc, love and light, Deborah.

    1. Oh, Deborah. You struck a very deep chord with this comment. I’m wiping tears away as I write. They were prompted both by your spot-on interpretation of my dream, and from the shock of awareness on seeing Miles Johnston’s extraordinary print. Your intuitive vision astonishes me. I immediately tried to buy the print and it’s sold out. That “gobsmacked” woman was me. Is still a part of me. I wish I’d known about this image when I first posted the “going against the current dream.” I think it may be time to post it again, next time with this perfect art.

      And yes, it does seem that my psyche knew the position I had to take in order to become a teacher, and to continue to get through my life—a place far outside the castle. But this is the first time I’ve realized that this dream contained that message too, a message that runs through my life like a deep underground river.

      Have you read The Bridge to Wholeness? It begins with a fairy tale that came to me one morning when I was halfway through the writing of it. It’s about a princess who has to leave the castle of conformity to find herself. (Not that I was ever a princess, but every fairy tale needs a princess!) You’ve made me realize that it’s the theme of my life that still comes up from time to time. Just last week a Jungian friend told me that I need to learn “amor fati”, to love my fate. I had never heard of that concept before but have looked it up and, yes, I do need to learn to learn this valuable lesson. Given what you’ve been through and survived, I suspect you may already have learned it well. Here’s the link if you want to read more about it:

      You are a treasure, my dear friend. Thank you from my heart. Love, Jeanie

      1. Oh, I’m so pleased! Well done Jeanie, for slipping away from convention and into your Self! Despite dreams being difficult to decipher (thank goodness for a Jungian lens!), it seems that by understanding the meaning of one symbol or image alone, they can help us understand our lives enormously. No, I haven’t read your second book, “Bridge to Wholeness” yet as your last two have kept me busy for several years. Yes, I’ve heard of “amor fati” and truly believe that we wouldn’t have met, if not somewhere in mid-life, both of us hadn’t loved our fate, just that little bit more. x

        1. Yes, when the right symbol appears it has transformative power. I believe that amor fati has that power too.

  8. My dear Jeane. I am touched and somehow, at the same time, feel relaxed to know that you haven’t had any easier either! It is encouraging, and your lessons about learning by our dreams to handle our life are enormously helpful. And yes! The importance of understanding the symbols is a great goal.
    By the way, I could get the book (Dictionary of symbols) which you offered me cheaply by chance! Thank you so much for this significant doctrine.🤗🙏💖

  9. Dear Aladin,

    I understand about your feeling of relaxation—or perhaps relief? or reassurance? or affirmation?—that comes with knowing that someone else understands a little bit of what you’ve endured in your life. I have felt the same way before. I especially feel it when the Self gives me a deeply affirming dream. And now, with Deborah’s help, I feel that way about this particular dream. It’s a feeling of: “Thank goodness. I’m not alone. Someone understands!”

    I’m so glad to know you were able to get Dictionary of Symbols. It’s wonderful. I hope you enjoy learning more about yourself from it.

    Blessings my dear friend, Jeanie

  10. I love these lines: “It seems to me that the energies of life support two basic human endeavors: to become ourselves and learn to love. And until we get the first one right, we can’t accomplish the second.” That’s been my experience, too.

    Thank you for sharing your moving dreams and unpacking them to help me understand. I went through a month of no dreams recently and felt abandoned by the unconscious. A few dreams appeared recently and hint at letting go of something in the inner masculine. I look forward to talking with my dream therapist next week. As you know, I’ve been forced out of my protected “home” by two experiences–the death of my husband who shared the spiritual and Jungian paths with me and loss of clear hearing and balance with Meniere’s Disease. The extroverted woman I once was had to be abandoned as I’ve become an introvert by necessity. I adjusted decently because I had no choice.

    I feel most myself and at home in the forest with my two loving dogs. Fortunately I have good friends who share a common Jungian language, but struggles with hearing, especially on Zoom (the collective meeting place for Jung classes and dream work in the last few years) remind me to take refuge outside my old structures. Our class is studying Sophia, but I’m always a little out of step due to the hearing issues. Thankfully, my writing and love of Nature aren’t impaired by distorted sound. Thank you for all you give in your writing and dream work. You always help me dig deeper within.

  11. I’m grateful my writing nudges something within you. That’s only fair. Yours does the same for me!

    I love my dreams so much. I’ve had dry spells off and on and I always miss them. Talking about dreams and digging deeper within, in the last week I’ve had two dreams out of five that refer to the earth, and one that refers to the earth’s products: seeds, plants, gems, and stones, and one little furry golden creature. We’ve been so busy this week that I hadn’t recorded them in my dream diary until today, (they were hand-written on notepapers beside my bed and I had forgotten what they were about until I put them in my dream diary.) So when I decided last night to publish this post this morning, which was about me lying flat to the earth outside of the classroom, I didn’t remember the three dreams about the earth and nature. That feels like an important synchronicity. It seems I’m drawing closer to nature during this latter season of my life. Which makes perfect sense when you consider nature’s birth/death/rebirth cycle.

    I’m so sorry about your struggles with your hearing loss. Thank goodness can still read, write, and walk in the forest with your beloved dogs and take care of the butterflies. But struggling to hear and understand the voices of friends must be a tough burden. Have you heard about “amor fati’? The concept of loving your fate that Deborah and I are talking about? I think I’m beginning to do that. It’s slow coming, but I feel a shift inside…. Blessings.

  12. Dear Jeanie, I love your post thank you and the comments and your responses to each one! My dream world seems to have gone awol – my journal is right there by my bedside but for a while already I haven’t recorded any. I would if I could. But a memory sprang up as I was reading your post and comments; I was on the tennis court, and there was a huge construction of book shelves which toppled over and knocked me out – it hit my head and I was down on the ground. I took that to heart at the time and still do …

    Staying within our comfort zones or within the walls of conformity and convention leads to apathy and a withering of our souls …

    Love, Susan

    1. Hi Susan, I’ve also been through a long spells of not remembering many dreams. I’ve heard that’s very common after spending years working with our inner lives. Maybe it sometimes means we’ve reached a point where we’ve come to terms with who and where we are? It could also be due to the inevitable short term memory loss that comes with aging. I certainly don’t dream nearly as much as I did in my forties and fifties when sometimes I’d record 6 or 7 dreams a night and average at least one dream a night in a year. Or it could have to do with what’s happening in our lives, i.e. inactivity during periods of rest when we need all our energy just to recuperate from a stressful time. At the moment I seem to be experiencing a sort of Renaissance after about two years of minimum dream activity, with seven dreams over the last 8 days. There’s a lot stirring around in me at the moment. I doubt it will last long, but I’m enjoying it for now.

      I love your book shelf/tennis court dream. It sounds like it was a valuable wake-up call. I’ve been reading a lot lately. Maybe that’s part of the reason for the greater frequency of my dreams. Love, Jeanie

      1. Hi Jeanie, thanks for your comment. I’m just back from a walk … going on 7.00 p.m. here. I’ve had fallow times before, thanks for saying about your times. I had a few thoughts about the tennis court dream while walking. Why a tennis court? Well, tennis has its rules and conventions, a court has it sides and is rectangular and it is a court, so a vague association to a castle maybe.

  13. I haven’t heard of the book, the Sophia Sutras. I’ll check it out. I’ve written about Sophia in other posts. You can search for them by typing Sophia in the search bar at the top of my blog. Essentially, I think of Sophia as the sacred feminine wisdom in us and the world: the deep, mysterious, instinctual, natural wisdom of the body, the compassionate heart, our unconscious depths, intuition, the laws of nature, the cycles of life and otherness. She’s not about human-generated ego intelligence, or about pushing or striving for power or to be something other than what one is. She’s about being true to oneself and being comfortable with all otherness. Hope that helps. Jeanie

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