Repairing the Foundation of Psyche’s House


Learning how we are really wounded, how our childhood was lacking, and how we need to be healed and grow is crucially important to living a fulfilled life. If we aren’t able to determine and face the truth of how we were formed, then in our radical achievement- and identity-oriented society we will constantly blame ourselves for what we consider to be our failures and inadequacies. . . Blaming ourselves  usually means that we are on a constant search to find new ways to discipline ourselves and new programs to improve ourselves. When these efforts flounder, we risk creating a growing pool of deep inner shame, as we never seem to be able to come to who or what we want or are striving to be. If we consider the analogy of a house, we can see that remodeling or adding on to a structure is never really satisfying when there are preexisting problems in the foundation or the design of the structure.” Massimilla Harris, Ph.D. and Bud Harris, Ph.D. Facing the Death Mother Archetype to Reclaim Love, Strength, and Vitality, pp. 20 – 21.

Last night Fred and I stayed up watching Maestro on Netflix. Today I slept in. I don’t want to leave my bed. It’s cold out there.  The winter gray sky feels like an invitation to read. Or maybe write. Fred hears me stirring and comes up from his office with hot tea and the newspaper. I settle back to read the news and solve the Sudoku puzzle. Ahhhh. Semi-retirement definitely has an up side. But soon I feel a restless urge to get up. I shower and dress and drive to the gym for a workout.

For most of my adult life I’ve been a driven perfectionist. Initially, sheer will power helped me show up and do my best at work I didn’t love. I had learned the lessons of patriarchy well. My identity and self-worth were based on my achievements. That served me well for a while, but every Sunday night I stoically pushed through a wall of gloom at the thought of returning to work Monday morning.

Then life intervened. First it brought the black dog of depression and loss of meaning. Once my suffering had my full attention, it led me to my destiny by way of Jungian psychology. The ensuing 30 years were the most meaningful and fulfilling time of my life. I assumed it would never end. But the last three years have proved me wrong. I see this new and unexpected phase of my life as a wake-up call from the Self.

The enthusiasm, psychic energy, and numinous synchronicities that once flowed so freely have been reduced to brief spurts. Fewer dreams give me fewer opportunities to interpret messages from the Self.  I don’t want to write another book. Some days I don’t want to do anything. Other days I push myself to do too much and feel frustrated if I can’t accomplish it all. Most days I feel guilty about whatever I’ve done or haven’t done. I’ve always had mild depressions after finishing a book. It’s a common phenomenon for creative people. But something else has been going on. Only now do I have the understanding and words to describe it.

A storm was brewing during the writing of The Soul’s Twins. It hit me full force after its publication. It felt like a sacred channel made strong and open from years of inner work had become clogged. Preexisting issues from childhood began to resurface. I had thought I was finished with the anxiety, self-pity, self-blame and fear that were constant companions in my youth. I thought I was over the anger I had felt during midlife about the unjust treatment of women. I was wrong. I felt drained. I lost my inspiration and energy because somehow, without noticing, I had begun to lose my connection with my foundation: the archetypal realities and energies of the Self.

In their book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, Drs. Massimilla and Bud Harris write:

Jung said clearly that nothing can be transformed if it is not accepted. We have to continually  ask ourselves, what is our true reality.  To find this out, we must return to the beginning of our life’s story and re-member the emotional events in our lives and the people in them, because our complexes originate in the feelings of our early relationships. A great help is to journal and question the emotional circumstances in our daily lives. This process of re-membering is not one of judging either ourselves or our parents. It is looking at ourselves and giving up denial and illusion for the love of truth, the truth of our own reality, and the acceptance of our potentials. p. 178

I’m learning that individuation is not simply one long heroic journey and then you’re there. We humans are evolving, and discovering the truth of our own reality is an essential requirement of evolution. It manifests as a series of repeating cycles of alienation and inflation. As you work through each cycle, it gets more familiar and a bit easier, but as long as your soul exists you’ll evolve.

I’ve been in an alienation phase. Today it feels like I might be coming out of the worst of it. This brings me hope. Now I know there’s more work to be done on my foundation. I know it’s normal, and I know how to do it. Bring it on.

Image Credits: “Blocked”, and “Where Did We Come From and Where Are We Going”. Angela Treat Lyon. 

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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15 Responses

  1. Jeanie, your honest evaluation of the importance of working on the foundation of your psyche and how this impacts your life and work is exactly what I needed to read tonight. It feels as if you have opened up a conversation I was reluctant to have with myself before I could begin to understand some of the origins of my own life patterns. It’s not a mere coincidence that the working title of my erstwhile book begins with the words “When Old Foundations Crumble…”

    Thank you and much love,


    1. Dear Jenna, I’m glad this spoke to you. I’ve been reluctant to open up this conversation with myself too. Let alone share it. I think that’s natural. We keep thinking we can fix the things about ourselves that make us uncomfortable with will power. And New Year’s resolutions! 🙂 We find things to keep us occupied to avoid the tough dialogues with ourselves. Meanwhile our complexes keep showing up in strong reactions and emotions and impulses that embarrass and mystify us.

      I’m finding that the Harris’s are right about the healing effects of journaling and questioning the emotional circumstances of our daily lives. And naming and dialoguing with the archetypal forces that seem to be behind them. It’s hard for me to see, let alone accept, the origins of my own life patterns. But I’m making the effort and seeing hopeful results. I don’t want to leave this life with regrets.

      I love the working title of your book. I look forward to reading it one day. I think you and I must be alike in many ways. Are you still experiencing synchronicities? They’ve been less prevalent during this phase but I’ve had a few lately that make me feel as if the channel is opening up again. 🙂

      With gratitude and much love back to you.


  2. At first, welcome back, dearest Jeane. I hope you have overcome all the circumstances with the holidays, etc! As I read your words here, I noticed some similarities between us, like striving for perfection and looking forward to beginning the new working week every Sunday dreadfully! How I hated Mondays!! Finding my reality, though, I don’t know if I have enough time. I started a bit late to look around myself. However, I am happy with what I’ve accomplished so far. The movie “Maestro” is an excellent, well-done work. My wife and I watched it a week ago and loved it. Finally, I must say that your masterpiece, The Soul’s Twins, still has much to teach. Stay well and blessed.

    1. Thank you Aladin. It feels really good to be back. I loved writing this. It helped me clarify what I’ve been experiencing. I’ve missed my blog and the dear friends it’s brought me. Plus, making the effort to write new posts seems to be another helpful practice for me. It’s like opening another little window into my soul. Perhaps it has the same effect on you? If so, then you’re already in the process of finding your reality. Anyway, if this recent surge of psychic energy continues, I hope to be writing more regularly.

      I also think “Maestro” is excellent and well-done.

      I appreciate your affirming words about The Soul’s Twins. I have been enjoying sharing it with others in Zoom presentations. It’s another helpful practice that strengthens my connection with my soul’s reality.

      Love and blessings to you too, Jeanie

  3. Dear Jeanie, never stop writing my dear friend! I love the Truth of your words and the quotes you’ve so thoughtfully shared. Indeed, the discovery and knowledge of what lies unresolved can greatly assist in healing early, and often our deepest, wounds. From which life-long journeys and stories follow as we look in all the wrong places for love and healing … be it with our careers, religions, bodies, relationships … and so the list goes on until slowly, if we’re patient and persistent enough, we find ourselves stepping onto new paths … far, far away from the madding, ‘discipline’ ones that have annihilated our minds, bodies, spirits and souls.

    Why a new path? Because when we bury ‘things’ alive, they’ll come looking for us sooner or later. No matter how hard we ignore them, we simply must clean up behind ourselves or be prepared to live with these wounds, ghosts, ad infinitum. So yes, let’s work on our foundations while we can … before it’s too late and the sand in our life glass, empties. Myself, I believe it’s never too late to turn things around even if we only have days or months to live. Lastly, I’m so happy that you’re continuing to steady and stabilise the foundation of your own ‘house’ thus finally liberating yourself from perfectionism. Love and light, always and forever, Deborah.

  4. Dear Deborah,

    Thank you for sharing your hard-earned wisdom in this letter. I know well that you resonate with what I’m writing about. And I especially love how you transform it into poetry! A hearty “Yes” to moving away from the overly disciplined paths that annihilate us. “Yes” to cleaning up behind ourselves to put the ghosts to rest! And “Yes” to our mutual determination to make good use of the sand left in our life glass! And I am a living example that it’s never too late to turn things around. Although I do wonder if I’ll ever fully liberate myself from perfectionism, though I can happily say I’ve begun to leave some of it behind! 🙂

    (Haha . . . Such is the power of poetic language that this image is triggering a fun fantasy of Hansel and Gretel who left crumbs on the path to guide them back home from their work of foraging for wood in the forest. Heaven forbid someone following me should pick up the crumbs of perfectionism I’ve discarded in the hope of receiving nourishment for their journey! They definitely wouldn’t!)

    Speaking of nourishment, your comments always bring so much.

    Love and light, always and forever, back to you dear Deborah.


  5. Dear Jeannie,

    This is the kind of post I love to read – honest, vulnerable, thoughtful, insightful and inspiring. Shortly before reading your post, I had seen a quote in an article, which spoke to my own resistance to writing about and sharing my experiences. My fire got rekindled but I had a busy day and so no writing got done. Then in the evening I read your article and it reinforced the value of making the effort. It felt so validating. I am not a writer as such, I write purely as a self inquiry practice and I agonise over publishing anything, even comments on inspiring articles such as this! But reading your article, and the thoughtful comments and your responses to them, drove the point home. The struggle to make sense of lived experience, and share it via whatever medium feels appropriate, matters and has value.

    This is the quote. It is from a book I had never heard of, “My Utmost for His Highest.” It was from a rather long article at

    “If you cannot express yourself on any subject, struggle until you can. If you do not, someone will be poorer all the days of his life. . . . You must struggle to get expression experimentally, then there will come a time when that expression will become the very wine of strengthening to someone else; but if you say lazily, “I am not going to struggle to express this thing to myself, I will borrow what I say,” the expression will not only be of no use to you, but of no use to anyone. . . .

    Always make a practice of provoking your own mind to think out what it accepts easily. Our position is not ours until we make it ours by suffering. The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been struggling for utterance in you.”

    I do hope you keep writing, at a pace that feels right for you. Your writing always touches me where it matters most, because it is heartfelt.

  6. Dear Gloria,

    I have also explored religious traditions other than Christianity and found many of their writings deeply meaningful. I discuss a few of them in the first chapter of my recent book, The Soul’s Twins. I believe that no one religion, philosophy, or psychological theory has all the answers. But when one gleans the best from each and synthesizes them in a way that satisfies our hunger for self-and spiritual knowledge, one comes closer to ultimate truth. Whatever that may be. At least that’s how it feels to me.

    When I started my blog in 2010 at the urging of my publisher before Healing the Sacred Divide was published, I struggled with the same issue of whether or not to share some of my musings with others in the hope they would be helpful. I fought the suggestion for a while, mostly out of fear and self-doubt, and finally decided to give it a try. The connections I made with other like-minded people were so gratifying that they’ve kept me going all this time.

    I agree with the author of your quote (I’m familiar with the book “My Utmost for His Highest” as it was all the rage at my church in the 1980’s) but I never actually read it), that “The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been struggling for utterance in you.” Wow! I love this! This is my experience as well, and it’s deeply affirming to know that there are others who’ve had the same experience.

    Thank you for being one of those others. Your comment inspires and emboldens me. I need to hear this kind of response from time to time. I think all of us who struggle to give expression to our truths and worry if it’s the right thing to do, need to hear it too.

    I’ve found your blog and would like to subscribe to it. I’ve contacted you about that. If you reply here, you may find that there are others who might want to subscribe as well. We come from a variety of countries and religions, but the one thing we have in common is that we are all seekers after truth.

    With sincere gratitude and love,


  7. P.S. I struggled more than usual with this post. It took me two weeks to get to the bottom of the truth I was trying to express. You and the others who have commented here have made it all worth it. Thank you to all of you.

  8. Ah, the foundation. This is the first thing Vic and I tended when we moved into this 200 year old house. I have great photos of Vic with metal supports under the house as he tore out the stone walls and rebuilt a solid foundation 50 years ago.

    I love reading this, Jeanie, because it reflects so much of what I’m going through. I haven’t been well for weeks with viral bronchitic and don’t have the energy to write or finish my book. It’s easy to miss my old life and, of course, I can’t rekindle it. I feel more confused than depressed and unclear about where I’m going or why I want to go there. January in northwestern NY has been brutal this year. I miss my close relationship to nature and the forest which is so cold this year. I miss the colorful summer Monarchs and the spring wildflowers. It’s a challenge to trust they will return. My snuggly black dog is the opposite of depression, and she takes this weather by snuggling under warm blankets and sleeping many hours. I tend to do the same with her at my feet although I rarely remember my dreams which feels like a punishment. Then I focus on this warm pup and how she simply loves to sleep in winter. I feel the same right now as I wait to find the spark again. This present confusion is my quest now and it began in childhood and continued on with the death of my soul friend Vic. The psyche moves in spirals. I never seem finished with that grief, but I miss Vic’s dream visits which are rare now. I’m grateful for so much, but have more excavation to do–and, of course, my therapist has covid and most everyone I know (including me) has a virus, so I’ll wait this out because life always offers something I don’t expect. I didn’t mention the concern about US political dysfunction, but that weighs on me, too, and there’s nothing I can do except dig a little deeper into myself and the warm darkness until light pours in. Thank you for encouraging that process.

  9. Dear Elaine,

    Confused. Unclear. Trying to trust. Forgetting dreams. Unfinished grief. Waiting it out. Unexpected offerings. The weight of political dysfunction. A great description of how you’re experiencing the alienation phase. I’d throw in depression, self-doubt, self-criticism, and a short emotional fuse! Perhaps others have more to add.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Elaine. There’s comfort in knowing we’re not alone.

  10. Ah, perfection. As a child and teen I used to be very competitive, winning all sorts of races, running, swimming, skiing. On day there was a county competition for breast swimming. It was a hot and humid day and I had to wait hours for my start. I won. I think my coaches had the Olympics in mind for me. That evening, in a beer garden, I drunk a Radler (mix of beer and lemonade) and I fainted, shortly. My mother believed the doctor’s advice for me to stop all competitions. That was a huge gear change, initially resulting in a lack of confidence.
    I later thought I was driven to speed and winning due to too much fire and air in my astrological chart, hardly any water and no earth.
    An imbalance that may well have been part of this relentless drive for perfection. My energy turned inwards, to contemplation.

    I’ve come to think that perfection, love, harmony and beauty exist, but outside space/time, as an ideal of the One consciousness, a guiding spirit.
    In our physical space/time realm perfection happens, but cannot be maintained. As my Sufi teacher used to say,
    ‘Reality is a function of contradiction.’
    Without opposites and friction, our collective reality may well not manifest. So it’s a balancing act to bridge extremes, for each of us.
    This is a theme of the third novel I’m presently stuck with, where my time travelling protagonist (now Mesa) returns to her near perfect world, where time has slowed down. Her task is to bring disruption and re-introduce conflict – for life to continue.

  11. Dear Ashen,

    I find your reflections on this post fascinating. You’re mostly fire and air–I’m mostly earth and water. However, my energy also turns inwards, to reflection and contemplation.

    I have consciously striven for completion for the last 35 years, but have had a hard time relaxing my grip on my mostly unconscious drive for perfection. Hence my recent return to my foundations. I also believe that all creation and creativity come from constant interaction between the opposites. Seeking that interactive, back-and-forth balance is the theme of all four of my books: The “BRIDGE” to Wholeness, “HEALING” the “SACRED DIVIDE”, and balancing the opposites of the Feminine and Masculine in “The Soul’s Twins” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul.” I see all four as my attempts to create a conscious, ongoing dialogue between my conscious and unconscious selves and all the opposites within that create conflicts. Two in particular are perfectionism and completion!

    I look forward to revisiting Mesa’s adventures in your third novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two!!

    1. Thank you for your reply. A thought … maybe there is never a completion, and to re-member is a cyclic task, more so as we grow older. This Haiku came up today:

      whenever pace slows
      the gathered fragments of life
      tease our memory
      into old tributaries
      as dreams drifts backwards
      we must re-member

  12. Yes! The cyclic task of gathering and re-membering between the ego’s oppositional ideals of perfection and completion. A shared space where ongoing life happens. I feel that too. Thank you for sharing this exquisite and apt haiku.

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