Conscious Living

Balancing the Masculine and the Feminine

AnimaAnimus

In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

There are many given meanings to this ancient symbol: light and darkness, good and bad, positive and negative, heaven and earth, love and hate, life and death.

Yin and yang is also a perfect representation of the Animus and Anima – the male and female – that dwells within us all.

Jung described the animus as the unconscious masculine side of a woman, and the anima as the unconscious feminine side of a man, each transcending the personal psyche.

The Anima (the feminine energy in the male)

Derived from Latin meaning “a current of air, wind, breath, the vital principle, life, soul”, the Anima refers to the unconscious feminine dimension of a male which can often be forgotten or repressed in daily life.  However, in order to psychologically progress and reach greater internal balance and harmony, it is necessary for a man to recognise, embrace and connect to this latent element of his character.

As described by Jungian Psychologist Dan Johnston, the man who has connected with his feminine Anima displays “tenderness, patience, consideration and compassion.”  However, repression of the female element within the man results in a negative Anima that triggers personality traits such as “vanity, moodiness, bitchiness, and sensitivity to hurt feelings.”

 

The Animus (the masculine energy in the female)

The Animus, which is a Latin word that means “the rational soul; life; the mental powers, intelligence“, is the unconscious male dimension in the female psyche.  Due to societal, parental and cultural conditioning, the Animus, or male element within the woman, can be often inhibited, restrained and suppressed.  However, some societies and cultures (such as the Western way of life), ruthlessly impose masculinity ideals as ways to excel, succeed and get anywhere in life for women.

These external elements can contribute towards a negative Animus, which reveals itself in a woman’s personality through argumentative tendencies, ruthlessness, destructiveness, and insensitivity.  However, integrating a positive Animus into the female psyche can result in strength, assertiveness, levelheadedness, and rationality.

Jung believed that in order for a person to develop self-awareness and understanding and become whole they must encounter and work to embrace their internal Anima or Animus.

The masculine/feminine elements within us have nothing to do with sexuality, and everything to do with creating a balance on the scales of passive (female) and aggressive (male) energies within us.

 

Balancing male and female energy

Gender roles are not as defined now as they were in the past, but there is still a fairly strong separation of gender energy. Everyone naturally has both aspects in their physical and spiritual makeup but society has separated the two for thousands of years creating an imbalance.

A young girl would be called a tomboy if she enjoyed outdoor sports or getting dirty more than playing with dolls. In reality she is a girl who has an outward expression of her masculine energy.  Likewise, a boy who wanted to dance or paint may have been called a 'girl’ or a ‘sissy’.  In truth, he is just a boy with an outward expression of his feminine energy, something that would make him a good partner and father in the future.

For hundreds of years, we have lived in a world that has been biased toward the patriarchal, supressing the feminine. This has not only been damaging to females, but also to the wellbeing of our planet. The suppression of the feminine has resulted in nature being much less respected and has resuted in problems with pollution and lack of habitat.

But, as feminine qualities are receiving more recognition it is important not to suppress the masculine in an attempt to bring in more power for female energy. That would just create an imbalance in the opposite direction. Balance is the key to greater happiness and prosperity.

We all need to be conscious of keeping a balance of masculine and feminine energies. Here are a few ideas on how you can create balance:

Create balance: Masculine energy

For females, connecting to the inner Animus is also about understanding masculine energy which manifests itself as everything that is active, dominant, and logical. 

1. Do Something Competitive

In nature, males are naturally competitive.

  • Take on a sporting challenge such as running a marathon.
  • Set a challenging goal for yourself in your work.
  • Compete in a team sport.
  • Learn to play chess or cards and play to win.
  • Play a video game with a partner.

2. Complete a home maintenance task

Home maintenance jobs are often seen as a ‘man’s job’. Embrace jobs that need doing around the home yourself. Learn masculine skills, (e.g. fixing car problems, handy-man abilities like using drills, fixing broken appliances, etc.)

  • Look for any minor repairs that need to be done around your home. Seek guidance from the internet and local building stores.
  • Attend a ‘how-to’ class in something like car maintenance.
  • Dig a hole and create a water feature in your garden.
  • Learn how to change a car tyre.
  • Renew grouting or sealant in your bathroom.

3. Test your physical strength

Take your limits beyond everyday chores to spark useful masculine energy.

  • Lift weights
  • Practice squats and stay in the squat position as long as you can.
  • Climb a steep hill carrying a weight such as a rock.
  • Practice doing a headstand
  • Do a set number of press ups every day.

Remember to be safe, and consult your doctor before engaging in greater physical activity.

4. Practice assertiveness

Assertiveness is seen as a masculine trait. Remember, as with all the ideas here, the aim is to create balance. When embracing your masculine side don't forget to keep the balance of the feminine.

  • Adopt a role or position that puts you in authority/dominance.
  • Learn to take charge of something in your life.
  • Discover and develop your leadership abilities.
  • Read non-fiction instead of purely fiction.
  • Become more self-sufficient and self-reliant.

 

5. Relax

Feminine energy is flowing, ever-changing. Feminine energy will flow from one task to the next, always looking for something else that needs to be done. While this is good, we must remember that balance is the key. Masculine energy knows when to stop and rest and recharge. After doing a set number of tasks allow yourself time to relax. Recognise that it is just as important to look after yourself as it is to look after others.

 

Create Balance: Welcoming the Feminine

Connecting to the Anima for males is about understanding feminine energy which manifests itself as passivity, sensitivity, and emotionality. 

1. Create Art

The side of your brain responsible for creativity can be found on the feminine side. Look for ways of expressing the inner Anima creatively, e.g. through music, art, sculpture, poetry, or dance.

  • Get a sketchbook and pencil and just draw whatever comes to mind
  • Sign up for a local art class
  • Put on some music and dance.
  • Buy a colouring book and pens (there are lots available for adults now).
  • Make music. If you don’t have an instrument you can create one from household items.

These are just some ideas. The list of things you could do is endless.

2. Nurture

One of the strongest female traits is to nurture. This could be to nurture anything from plants to people. It isn’t just children that need nurturing - that belief alone has created an imbalance. Everyone craves to be nurtured and to nurture others. This is an inner strength that can be expressed in various forms:

  • Encourage those around you in whatever they are doing.
  • Practice the art of listening with concern and compassion.
  • Be a vessel of positive energy that draws people to you
  • Nurture yourself and others with fresh food, water, and rest
  • Touch: Give someone a hug, a touch on the arm, or hold someone’s hand.

3. Trust your intuition

Intuition is a feminine energy and is the balance to a masculine analytical mind. The education system has churned out people more used to using their analytical mind. Your intuition is your internal GPS and is never wrong. Your senses and your higher-self can see and feel things that your basic human senses cannot. Practice following your gut instincts and see where they take you. The more you build this natural gift the stronger it will become. Read my blog post here for more ideas.

 

4. Don’t fight your Emotions

Boys especially have been brought up believing that emotion is a weakness. Expressing emotions is not only a way to keep yourself on a good balance of masculine and feminine energy, it's good for your personal health, improves relationships, and builds your self-awareness.

  • Practice mindfulness, meditation and other ways to get in touch with, and understand inner emotions.
  • Practice thoughtfulness and consideration of the needs of others.
  • Practice Self-Study in order to develop greater consideration of your internal needs for love and fulfillment.

 

5. Think Holistically

The word ‘holistic’ means to look at any situation as a whole. In health, holistic healing is to treat all aspects of human health: mind, body, and soul. Think of ways throughout your day that you can bring in a more holistic approach. When dealing with other people take into account their spiritual and religious beliefs and any health needs they may have.

 

Finding Balance

Life is fluid and in constant motion. Change is the only thing we can be sure of. As you go through your day be constantly aware of creating balance. One day, you may need to focus more attention on your feminine side, the next day the masculine. Look at each task you face from the masculine and feminine perspectives. You could even give each energy a name and then be aware that you are in the background watching and making the decisions.

Consider what has been happening in your life recently. Do you attend business meetings that have a strong male bias? If yes, how can you introduce more female energy? If you are in an environment, such as nursing, that is a more nurturing environment can you think of ways to introduce more masculine energy?

Everything in the universe is about balance. As you go through your day constantly adjust your energy to bring about balance. It will be good for your health and peace of mind and good for others too. Jung discovered that the human psyche was androgynous 
and consisted of both masculine and feminine, so, in essence, what we are striving for is this androgynous state, the state that is often attributed to our spirits which balance all opposites into one unified whole.

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Snow White Syndrome

Snow White

We’ve all heard the story of Snow White.  A young woman in an unconscious state waits for Prince Charming to come along and save her.  He kisses her, she comes to life and she is saved by her hero.

I’m sure there are many people who hope that their lives will turn out that way. They sleepwalk through life, just waiting and hoping for things to happen to them, for someone to save them, or for some good fortune to come their way that doesn’t require any effort on their part. They buy lottery tickets every week and hope that their numbers come up. They go to work, do an average job with little energy and hope that someone taps them on the shoulder and gives them a promotion and a pay rise.

They are the sort of people who transfer their parental responsibilities onto teachers and child care workers, hoping that their children magically turn into well-balanced, confident adults (and blaming anyone but themselves if they don’t). They read self-help books expecting to experience spiritual growth. They go into personal relationships because they ‘need’ the other person and don’t know how to be happy on their own.

The reality is that there is no Prince Charming or magical princess waiting for the chance to turn your life around.

The only way to turn your life around is to take responsibility and take action to change things, not wait for someone else to do it for you. Stop acting like Snow White, get out of your glass box and start making things happen.

Remember that life rewards action.

You can live happily ever after but you have to put in the work and be disciplined.

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Judge others and you judge yourself

Transference

I once visited a relative and he looked out of his kitchen window at his neighbour and commented “Look at him, he’s really thick. He doesn’t even know how to use a lawnmower properly.” I happened to know that the “thick” neighbour was head of a law firm, and instead of looking at the neighbour and agreeing I found myself looking at my relative and thinking, “If you’re so clever why are you working in a manual job on minimum wage?”

My relative might have been better off abiding by the timeless rule that a closed mouth gathers no feet. This is because research has shown that the traits you attribute to others are then attributed to you. The famous German novelist, Hermann Hesse, said, “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is a part of yourself. What isn’t a part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

Whenever you’re judgmental of others, you’re in fact, judging yourself.

This doesn’t mean that if you dislike a murderer or rapist you are identifying with them, what Hesse, and Freud and Jung before him, were referring to is that this kind of dislike has a particular energy. You become irritated by someone in a way that’s obsessive and almost irrational. When a certain type of person always irritates you, what you dislike in them is likely something related to something you dislike in yourself.

The phenomenon whereby traits we publicly assign to others are likely to be attributed to us is known as trait transference and it basically means ‘you are what you say’. The research showed that this association can tend to persist over time too. If we are not gracious and kind to others and instead choose to criticise them we also run the risk of either having our unflattering remarks revealed, or coming across as jealous or vindictive.

Sometimes an imperfection in others pushes our buttons or touches aspects of ourselves that demand our attention.

Think of the mother who puts a bottle of wine in her shopping trolley for herself then admonishes her child for wanting sweets ‘because they are too expensive’. This same mother will criticise her child for wanting second helpings at dinner yet will refill her own plate. Her daughter’s gluttony confronts her own difficult relationship with food. It’s also the hypocrisy of the father who hits his son to teach him that it’s wrong to bully other children.

Maybe, as well as studying people we admire when we are working on self-improvement, we should also study those we dislike.

Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us in others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Everyone is your mirror. Identify what it is in the other person that triggers the response in you. It is through our interactions with others that we can come to know ourselves better. Once we know our negative traits we can acknowledge them and maybe do something about them.

We can only feel whole when we embrace all aspects of ourselves – both our light and dark sides.

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Being open to new ideas

Xmascardsinks

I had a Christmas card order to complete but my favourite black watercolour pencil kept breaking. I’d sharpened it so many times it was now just 2” long. I needed it for my project so set out for the shops to buy another one. However, the only ones I could find were in expensive sets that I didn’t need. I had two full sets at home, both missing the black. At first, I started to think, “I won’t be able to complete the order” and “What will I do?” Then I started to think, “Is there an alternative?” Instead of focusing on just the watercolour pencil I widened my field of vision to consider what else was available. Standing in my local art shop my eyes rested on a charcoal art set. I wondered if it would be suitable and decided to give it a try. It turned out to be far better than the watercolour pencil and opened up a world of new ideas and opportunities. I’m now regularly using charcoal to complement the inks and it gives far superior results. It made me think about how we can get stuck with something because it is what we are used to, making us blind to alternatives. I’m now deliberately looking at other things that I use or do as a habit i.e. for cooking, clothing, gardening, as well as art. I’m asking myself, “Is there an alternative?”

Sometimes opening our eyes to new possibilities can lead to something better.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Intuition connects us to the natural world

Intuition

The moment we choose consciousness rather than the tired out collective consciousness (behaviours we have inherited from our family) is when we start to think for ourselves. It's when we stop our lives unfolding according to someone else’s plan. It’s the transformative moment – it’s when we get to choose the life that’s ours and ours alone.

By becoming overly attached to the things (and people) that we like but don’t necessarily need, we become their slaves. We become distracted from thinking about and pursuing our real goals.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells the story of how a mouse does not know it has been caged for quite some time: “It doesn’t realise it has been trapped. There is a little cheese hanging on the hook just inside the door and it tempts the mouse inside. The door snaps shut. The mouse thinks to itself, “I wonder what that noise was?” But is doesn’t realise what caused it because there’s this nice beautiful piece of cheese hanging from the hook. The mouse nibbles the cheese, maybe takes a few rest breaks, and a little glass of wine with it, they enjoy themselves and think “yum, yum, this cheese is really good”. And, when the cheese is gone, they think “Well, I’ll be on my way now, and I’ll find somewhere else to go, be and do”. But they can’t get out. The door is closed. They are trapped. They are trapped by this thing that initially was something that was the lure of temporary pleasure. Maybe it even put them to sleep a little bit, like when you eat too much then you drowse a bit.”

That’s how people become trapped away from their true souls. You offer them something pretty, or something nourishing, or something delightful, and you get them to enter the cage and the door snaps shut immediately. And, they have no idea of what’s happened for a long period of time. They might be drawn to a new partner and think “Oh look, they are having a nice time, that’s a nice house; they look like they’re having a nice time and eating nice stuff”. But, it isn’t long term, it isn’t nourishing. It isn’t what lasts. You could say that at that moment they have overwhelmed their own intuition. They need to be more conscious of transformational moments and take them instead of being so easily seduced away from them.

The mouse with the full belly was convinced all the choices were right – at least for a time – until the full belly was gone. Pleasure is the motive choice, it’s the anesthesia, especially for women, often inherited from women who felt they had no status, or whose status was received from the men they were married to. It’s not useful for setting a good example for their children.

It’s the quality of what they choose that’s the issue – they shouldn’t choose anesthesia, they shouldn’t choose the full belly if it puts them to sleep.

It is such a wonderful thing to be born. It is just incredible how everything comes together to form a human. This shouldn’t be wasted. Everyone is needed; everyone has a role to play. The thing to remember is what besides intuition can a person possibly rely on in order to develop and to grow in order to transform themselves? How else can they grow from something ego-driven into something soul-driven? Dreams are intuitive, daydreams are intuitive, and visions are intuitive. Everything that proposes an image or symbol is intuitive. And this plays a role. It generates the energy within the belief system, or within the intuitive system, or within the psyche – however, you would like to say it. It enables the person to think the thoughts that they weren’t able to think before and they have a choice whether to investigate them, or whether to refute them. But, the question is, “Who chooses?” At this point who chooses? Your soul? Your ego? Or the strange demon who appears to have possession of you?

You don’t need to understand your childhood. You just need to remember that the authority of your internal voice is much stronger than your external voice. To make use of it you have to increase your self-esteem, your self-love. You need to learn to trust your instinct. You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you to the best solutions. Intuition connects us to the natural world and to our nature. Every thought is preceded by a perception, every impulse is preceded by a thought, and every action is preceded by an impulse. Listen.

Rely on your intuition, your true being.

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Break Free: Don't let anyone hold you back

Vintage-crab-illustration

I often say to people, “You are a free person, no one has the right to tell you what to do or to hold you back". But the problem is, a lot of people aren’t free because of the people they have chosen to have around them. They choose to be around people who restrict them, kill their spirit, and stop them chasing their dreams. It’s like self-inflicted incarceration.

The thing is though, no matter how hard it is for you to get away, get away you must. No matter how hard it is to extract yourself from a situation, it is possible.  Cut yourself free.

I’d like to share this story with you:

An old fisherman had pulled his boat into port with a large basket filled to the brim with crabs. A young man was walking by along the dock and noticed the basket had no covering to secure the contents. He beckoned to the old Fisherman, “Why don’t you put a cover on the basket so that none of the crabs escape?” The old man answered quickly. ”It’s the strangest thing, every time one of them tries to climb out, three or four of the others grab its legs and pull it back in. It’s strange behaviour but at least I don’t have to worry about them escaping.”

Humans are much the same. Crab mentality, also known as crabs in a basket mentality, is a way of thinking best described by the phrase "If I can't have it, neither can you". While any one crab could easily escape, its efforts will be undermined by others, ensuring the group's collective demise.

In humans, members of a group will attempt to reduce the self-confidence of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, resentment, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, in order to stop their progress.

Be aware of this when it is happening to you.

Never let the attitude of those who don’t want to see you succeed hinder you from appreciating the other good and better things that this life has to offer.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

A symbol for healing

Oak

Symbols can play a powerful role in the process of healing and recovery. As humans, we have all had experiences of loss and trauma. We’ve experienced losing loved ones, maybe our health, or lost a much-needed job. It’s inevitable. Nothing in this world lasts forever. The problem is that we are never prepared when bad things happen and we struggle to process it. It certainly can’t be fixed by an hour-long therapy session or a weekend workshop.

If you find yourself stuck and unable to shift you need to move through the loss and distress and reconnect with your meaningful purpose. This requires symbolisation of the experience.

One way to symbolise your experiences is simply by talking about them. Telling your story to someone can be cathartic and healing. It can move the pain and trauma into a story that is unique to you. It makes your feelings and emotions about the experience conscious. You give the experience words, a name, and a description.

Another way to use symbolism for healing is to find a symbol that can pull you through an episode of distress. When you are in distress your psyche will naturally be attracted to a symbol that can heal you and move you forward. You cannot overcome serious psychological crises but you can outgrow them. This is the goal of the symbol. For some this solace can be found in nature or being with animals. It can be anything that transports you to another place, another time, and a different way of being that contains this magical elixir of healing. The symbol will help you to move beyond your current experience into the future.

If you have a traumatic event that you need to deal with, write in your journal about it, express how it made you feel and what emotion it still raises in you. Where does it lie in your body? How do you feel about yourself in relation to this experience?

Once you have finished reread it and create a symbol for your story.  First state your intent maybe about how you have learnt a lesson from the experience, how it was not your fault, or that you would not be who you are today had you not had that experience.

Next create a symbol of healing, letting go. First, fill yourself with a feeling of peace and acceptance. Then ask the universe/God/Nature/your higher self to give you a symbol of healing. It will appear instantly. Take the first thing that comes to you. Do not doubt it or try to change it. Write it down. It could be an object, a song, an animal even.

During the week reflect on your symbol. It should take the place of your traumatic memories. As the symbol contains both conscious and unconscious content, it is a far more powerful remedy for healing the psyche, because it takes into consideration the unconscious aspects of the trauma that you are not aware of.

Take time to reflect on how you feel about the event and the effect the symbol has on you.

When I did this exercise I received the oak tree as a symbol – tall, strong, and well-rooted.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

The Little Match Girl

Matchgirl

The story about the Little Match Girl is a familiar one. The story, at its core, describes what lack of nurture and lack of focus look like and what they lead to. The story is told in different forms too, sometimes with a man in the lead role such as the charcoal burner who uses his last coals while he dreams of times past, or the flower seller, a broken-hearted man who gazes wistfully into the centres of his last flowers and is spirited away from this life.

Some people might say these stories are superficial and overly emotional but it would be a mistake to dismiss them lightly. Stories like this are, at their base, profound expressions of the human soul being negatively mesmerised to the point that real life begins to die in spirit.

The version I am most familiar with is adapted from the story by Hans Christian Anderson. The message behind the story is that soft dreams under hard conditions are no good, in tough times we must have tough dreams, real dreams, dreams that if we work hard enough and believe in enough will come true.

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL

It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark. Evening came on, the last evening of the year. In the cold and gloom a poor little girl, bareheaded and barefoot, was walking through the streets. Of course, when she had left her house in the woods she'd had slippers on, but what good had they been? They were very big slippers, way too big for her, for they belonged to her mother. The little girl had lost them running across the road, where two carriages had rattled by terribly fast. One slipper she'd not been able to find again, and a boy had run off with the other, saying he could use it very well as a cradle some day when he had children of his own. And so the little girl walked on her naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the cold. In an old apron, she carried several packages of matches, and she held a box of them in her hand. She wandered the streets and begged strangers, would they please buy matches from her? But no one stopped and no one paid her any attention.

Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along, a picture of misery, the poor little girl. The snowflakes fell on her long fair hair, which hung in pretty curls over her neck. In all the windows lights were shining, and there was a wonderful smell of roast goose, for it was New Year's Eve. Yes, she thought of that!

In a corner formed by two houses, one of which projected farther out into the street than the other, she sat down and drew up her little feet under her. She was getting colder and colder, but did not dare to go home, for she had sold no matches, nor earned a single cent, and her father would surely beat her. Besides, it was cold at home, the house in the woods on the edge of the town had been built out of clay and branches the wind whistled even though the biggest gaps had been stuffed with straw and rags.

Her hands were almost dead with cold. Oh, how much one little match might warm her! If she could only take one from the box and rub it against the wall and warm her hands, she thought. She drew one out. R-r-ratch! How it sputtered and burned! It made a warm, bright flame, like a little candle, as she held her hands over it; but it gave a strange light! It really seemed to the little girl as if she were sitting before a great iron stove with shining brass knobs and a brass cover. How wonderfully the fire burned! How comfortable it was! The youngster stretched out her feet to warm them too; then the little flame went out, the stove vanished, and she had only the remains of the burnt match in her hand.

She struck another match against the wall. It burned brightly, and when the light fell upon the wall it became transparent like a thin veil, and she could see through it into a room. On the table a snow-white cloth was spread, and on it stood a shining dinner service. The roast dinner steamed gloriously, spreading the wonderful aroma of the delicious food. Then the match went out, and she could see only the thick, cold wall. She lighted another match. Then she was sitting under the most beautiful Christmas tree. It was much larger and much more beautiful than the one she had seen last Christmas through the glass door at the rich merchant's home. Thousands of candles burned on the green branches, and coloured pictures like those in the printshops looked down at her. The little girl reached both her hands toward them. Then the match went out. But the Christmas lights mounted higher. She saw them now as bright stars in the sky. One of them fell down, forming a long line of fire.

"Now someone is dying," thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a star fell down a soul went up to God.

She rubbed another match against the wall. It became bright again, and in the glow, the old grandmother stood clear and shining, kind and lovely.

"Grandmother!" cried the child. "Oh, take me with you! I know you will disappear when the match is burned out. You will vanish like the warm stove, the wonderful roast dinner, and the beautiful big Christmas tree!"

And she quickly struck the whole bundle of matches, for she wished to keep her grandmother with her. And the matches burned with such a glow that it became brighter than daylight. Grandmother had never been so grand and beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and both of them flew in brightness and joy above the earth, very, very high, and up there was neither cold, nor hunger, nor fear, nor pain.

And in the morning, between the houses, the child was found still and gone.

"She wanted to warm herself," the people said. No one imagined what beautiful things she had seen, and how happily she had gone with her old grandmother into the bright New Year.

The Little Match Girl lived in an environment where people did not care for her. If you live in an environment like this, get out. I found myself in this predicament and I walked away. You should too.  

The child has matches, little fires on sticks, the beginnings of all sorts of creative possibilities, but what she has to offer is not valued. She is in a situation where she has few options. She has resigned herself to ‘her place’ in life. If this has happened to you, as it did to me, be strong, unresign yourself and walk away.

So what should the Little Match Girl have done? If her instincts had been intact she would have had many choices. She could have walked to another town, hidden in an outhouse, or offered to do some work in exchange for warmth and food.  But the Little Match Girl had lost touch with her inner wild spirit. She was freezing and hungry and all that was left was a person wandering around in a trance.

Being with real people who value us, who warm us, and encourage our creativity is essential for a fulfilled and happy life. Otherwise we freeze to death in the coldness of empty relationships and lives. Nurture comes from within and without. You need to believe in yourself and also to be with people who notice the state of your inner being, encourage it, and, if necessary, comfort it. Friends are important - we all need at least one or two who can see our value.

When we are left out in the cold, we tend to live on fantasies instead of action. This sort of fantasy is like anaesthetic.  People like this – men and women - have great talent as artists, storytellers, or in some special craft, but they are isolated or feel disenfranchised in some way. They are shy, which is often a sign that they lack motivation because their inner being is being starved. They have difficulty gaining a sense that they are being supported from within, or by friends, family, community.

To avoid being the Little Match Girl (or Boy) there is one major action that you must take. You must recognise that anyone who does not support your art, your life, your beliefs, is not worth your time. Walk away. It sounds harsh but it is true. If you don’t you will be dressed in the rags of the Little Match Girl (as I was for many years) and you will be compelled to live a quarter-life that freezes all thought, hope, gifts, art, creativity, music, and dancing.

Warmth should have been the major pursuit of the Little Match Girl. But in the story, it is not. Instead, she tries to sell the matches, her source of warmth. She is selling her soul. Doing so leaves her no warmer, no wiser, and no further forward in life.

The Match Girl is not in an environment where she can thrive. There is no warmth, no kindling, no firewood. If we were in her position what should we do? Firstly we should ignore the fantasy of finding warmth by lighting the matches. There are three kinds of fantasies: Firstly there is the pleasure fantasy such as daydreams; secondly intentional imaging. This kind of fantasy is like a planning session. It is like a vehicle that will take us forward into action. All successes, whether spiritual, financial, psychological, or creative, begin with fantasies of this nature. The third kind of fantasy is the type that hinders and brings everything to a halt. It is the kind of fantasy that stops us from taking the right action at critical times. Unfortunately, this is the fantasy that kept the Little Match Girl trapped. It is a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality. It has to do with the feeling that nothing can be done, or that something is too hard to do, so one might as well just drift into idle fantasy. Sometimes it is just in the mind or it might come in the form of a bottle of wine every evening, or a needle – or lack of one. Or it may take the form of regrettable secret relationships with someone they think will ‘save’ them. Women – and men – in these situations play out the Little Match Girl scenario every day and every night, waking up dead and frozen every daybreak. There are many ways that we can lose our intent, lose our focus.

So what will reverse this pattern and restore our self-esteem? We have to find something that is very different to what the Little Match Girl had. We have to take our ideas to a place where we will find support for them. This can involve an enormous step such as walking away and seeking a new life. Our focus should be on finding nurture. Very few of us can create solely under our own steam. We need all the help we can get.

Most of the time creative people have wonderful ideas: I’m going to get a picture of the sunrise from the top of Mount Snowdon; I’m going to paint a picture and sell it; I’m going to design a garden and win the best Show Case Garden award at the Chelsea Flower Show. I’m going to start this, do that, travel, clean up my act, be a community stalwart. This used to be me. Is it you?

The thing is that those kinds of projects need nurture, vital support, from warm people. Are you tattered like the Little Match Girl? Are you, like in the old song, “she’s been down so long it looks like up to her.” No one can thrive at that level. We need to get ourselves into a position, like the seedling in the woods that finds a gap in the canopy and grows towards the sun. But there has to be a sun. To get ourselves into the right position we have to move, not just sit there. We have to do something that makes our situation different. If we don’t we are just back on the streets selling matches.

I was lucky enough to have friends that loved me, friends who had warmth for my creative life. They are the best suns in the world.  A woman like the Little Match Girl who has no friends can become frozen with anguish or even by anger. Also, one may have friends that are not suns. They may give comfort instead of informing you of your increasingly frozen circumstances.  They may comfort instead of nurture.

You may have a plant that you put in the coal house and say kind words to it –that is comfort. Taking the plant out of the coal house, putting it in the sun, watering it, feeding it, talking to it - that is nurture.

Frozen people without nurture have a lot of “What if” daydreams. If you are in the frozen condtion you must refuse the comforting fantasy. It will kill you. You know how they go: “Some day…” and “If only I had…” and “He will change…”

The Little Match Girl would have benefitted more if her internal grandmother had shouted at her to “Wake up!” and find warmth instead of whisking her off into a fantasy land.

The Match Girl has a trade-off, an ill-conceived sense of commerce when she sells off the matches – the only thing she has to keep her warm. It is like being on a subsidence diet with the outside world,  just eking out a life, taking the barest of nourishment then returning every day to whence you began, over and over.

It is hard to awaken to a life with a future because it is like you are trapped in a wretched life, hanging yourself on a hook daily that you cannot get down from. But get down you must. You need transitional movement and action that will set you on a new path. Get out. Seek friends who will nurture and help you, but even if you don’t have friends you must still escape, for as you start to glow inside you will find people who will nurture you and you will find a life that warms you inside.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story

Joan Crawford

We all wear masks and often without realising it we sell ourselves by how we appear.

Carl Jung called this mask the ‘persona’ and it is the ‘mask’ we show in society to please others. We need this mask because it helps us to function, but when we understand who we truly are, the persona becomes more pliable. Then we can be aware that we are wearing the mask, but at the same time, respect the boundaries and ways in which we all must act to function well in society and in different situations.

Problems occur when we lose sight of the delicate balance between our real ‘Self’ and our Persona. This is when we can come across as ‘fake’ and disconnected or lacking self-awareness. When we identify too much with the mask, it becomes a habit and we believe we are the face we put on. This limits our potential.

It is impossible, undesirable even, not to wear a mask because it is a defence against intuition and manipulation, but this does not mean that mask-wearing is always appropriate. If we identify solely with a certain persona/mask, it is to live in an illusion. We are labelling ourselves in a certain way because masks are labels. Humans though are always more than the label they give themselves. When people identify too much with their persona it results in a lack of emotional connection in their work and private lives, a lack of feeling they are contributing to something larger, a lack of drive and connection.

Besides protecting us, the persona also serves us as our personality, the social adaptation that we as individuals must make to society as a whole.

The Japanese say you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.

Our persona is like a role in a play. We create our first persona to please our parents and peers. Then we may have another persona to fit in with our job.

There is a psychic danger, a potential trap for the ego-consciousness because the persona is created to serve the ego. If the persona is especially successful in its effect upon the world, then the ego may so identify with it that it winds up serving the persona, the master becomes the slave.

I was the little girl with the narcissist father. A narcissist feels superior, they have illusions of grandeur – they need other people to become smaller. I developed approval addiction and an inferiority complex otherwise known as ‘Make Yourself Smaller Syndrome’.

If you have a superiority complex or an inferiority complex, you need other people around. As I grew up it was as if I needed to be found out that I wasn’t good enough so I ended up in relationships with narcissists. I played the role well and the mask stuck until I was in a car crash and the mask began to slip and I found myself on a journey towards finding the real me.

When you figure out how to be yourself it’s an incredibly liberating way to go through life.

Image: Joan Crawford holding a mask Wikimedia Commons

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Why losing control can be a good thing

Horses

I’ve always enjoyed horse riding. When I was younger I particularly enjoyed pony trekking when we would ride all day. In the summer there would often be forty or more of us saddled up and heading into the Berwyn Mountains.

One day, when I was a teenager, there was a shortage of guides. The owner of the farm asked me if I would lead that day’s trek.

“But I won’t be able to remember the way,” I replied, worried about leading all the other riders astray. Although I had ridden it many times before, I had not memorised the route and was afraid of going the wrong way.

“That doesn’t matter,” he said, “The horse knows the way. There will be two points where he will hesitate and when he does, the first time guide him to the left, the second time guide him to the right.”

Sure enough, the horse hesitated at two intersections and I simply guided him the right way.

I often think back to that day and think how easily we can create problems that aren’t there and make life far more complicated than it needs to be.

The great hypnotherapist Milton Erickson once shared a story about a horse that wandered into his family’s yard when he was a young man.

The horse had no identifying marks. Erickson offered to return the horse to its owners. In order to accomplish this, he simply mounted the horse, led it to the road, and let the horse decide which way it wanted to go. He intervened only when the horse left the road to graze or wander into a field. When the horse finally arrived at the yard of a neighbour, several miles down the road, the neighbour asked Erickson, “How did you know that horse came from here and was our horse?”

Erickson said, “I didn’t know- but the horse knew. All I did was keep him on the road.”         

From: My Voice Will Go with You: Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson

Erickson became a famous psychotherapist and he liked to tell this story to his students, telling them that therapy was a lot like riding that horse. In beginning a course of therapy it is often helpful to go back to the beginning of the real road. Whatever ideas you have about the best path for your client to take, you stand more chance of success if you tap into the wisdom of the unconscious mind – both the client’s and your own. “You can trust the unconscious,” he used to say. He would encourage his students to let go of their preconceptions – about therapy, about clients, about human nature – and to trust their unconscious mind to come up with creative solutions to their problems.

I’m not saying there isn’t any value in making plans and applying what you know. You have to start somewhere.

But whenever you set out to do something extraordinary, there comes a point where, like Erickson on the horse, you have to choose between trying to control everything – or letting go and getting carried away by something bigger and more powerful than yourself.

 

Horses2

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️