In my last post, you met examples of inner parts that can block even the most well-meaning attempts at change:
the Body Shamer and the Self-Love Enforcer
We learned that polarized parts keep us trapped in an endless loop of pain-reaction-pain-reaction…
…in this example, as we flip-flop between wallowing in body shame versus drowning it out with self-love affirmations.
I also shared that most approaches to change involve the ego choosing which part is “better” (like the Self-Love Enforcer, for instance) and helping that part “win” by overpowering the other part.
In fact, conventional spellcasting often takes this approach, too.
For example, we might cast a spell to increase self-love or diminish body shame.
Both are worthy aims, to be sure, but if we’re not working with the underlying patterns (and the associated inner parts continue to go unseen and unheard)…
…change is often temporary, and it comes at the cost of forcing aspects of our psyche into the unconscious.
This is truly a case of winning the battle and losing the war.
Today, let’s introduce the healing presence of the Self, the divine, whole-ing essence within each and every one of us that has the power to heal inner parts and reintegrate them with the rest of the psyche.
Here’s the quick-and-dirty reason the Self is so profoundly healing:
The Self is an archetype of psychic wholeness.
Archetypes, in general, exert a powerful influence on anything within their reach.
And the Self, in particular, is an archetype that magnetizes whatever it touches toward psychic wholeness.
If we think of our inner parts like a classroom of kindergartners who have gone Lord of the Flies, the Self is the warm, calming presence of a skillful, loving teacher.
Whereas before, all of these inner parts felt unseen and alone, left to fend for themselves in situations for which they don’t have the necessary skills and maturity…
When the Self arrives, everybody exhales a huge sigh of relief.
Instead of a chaotic band of five-year-olds desperately trying to figure out how to find food, skillfully negotiate classroom infighting, and a million other impossibly adult things…
…they can now gather ’round the Self to receive whatever they require to heal and mature.
I want to show you how to connect with Self, right here, right now
…because the Self isn’t just a nifty idea–it’s meant to be experienced.
You can read the following instructions and then go into meditation on your own, or you can use this free guided audio.
Find a comfortable seat, free of distractions, and close your eyes.
Breathe for a few rounds, bringing your awareness to your body and the gentle rise and fall of the breath.
Bring to mind a recent triggering situation. Spend a few breaths thinking about this situation.
Where in your body do you notice sensation starting to localize? Perhaps there’s a clenching in your jaw or a fluttering in your belly.
Bring your awareness to this sensation.
As you focus here, do any images or words come to mind, however abstract they might seem? For example: splotchy purple lights, jagged sounds, or a towel waving in the wind.
Bring an awareness of gentle curiosity to these images or words. This is an inner part.
As you focus on this part, check in: How do you feel toward this part?
If you feel some mixture of caring, curious, calm or compassionate, you are in Self.
If you feel something else, that’s okay–just notice it. What are you feeling? For example: worry, judgment, or impatience.
This is also an inner part (and there may be more than one, such as a worried part and an impatient part).
Focus on one of these emotions at a time, and see if the part takes shape in your mind.
Whether or not you can see it clearly right now, ask this part if it would feel okay relaxing a bit so you can get to know it better. (This is called unblending from a part.)
Repeat this process with any other parts that have appeared, asking each one to step back or relax a little so you can get to know it.
What remains, once you have unblended from any parts, is the Self.
What does it feel like to be in Self? What does it feel like to see your inner parts through the eyes of Self?
If you like, spend some time asking these parts what they want you to know.
What do they need from you right now?
Before you finish, thank these parts for being willing to talk with you.
See them in the presence of the Self, in whatever way makes sense to you. (I envision a glowing, loving presence with them.)
When you’re ready, open your eyes.
Working with the divine Self
I encourage you to journal on this experience, taking note of any parts you met and what they need from you.
You can always return in meditation to meet with these parts again, experimenting with unblending and remaining in Self, your divine healing essence.
With practice, you can check inward and be present with parts from the Self in any situation, without needing to do a formal meditation.
This is an invaluable skill to have.
Shifting into Self puts you into immediate contact with your inner gifts, skills and intuitive wisdom, when and where you need them most.
Imagine coming into Self during an argument or when you’re making a big decision, instead of letting the classroom of kindergartners handle things? Game changer, right?
In my next post, I’ll show you how this connects to spellwork, which is, after all, just an ancient (i.e. time tested) method for creating change.
And when you spellcast from the Self?
Let’s just say the results are often nothing short of miraculous.
In my last post, I introduced the concept of a matrix of meaning. If we were fish, this is the water we’re swimming in.
It affects everything we think, feel, say, and do…yet the majority of us have positively no idea it exists.
Needless to say, this can pose some pretty significant roadblocks when we want to create change, and the more we experience frustration around our attempts at change, the more we start to believe it’s just not possible.
Today, I want to explore a very specific aspect of the matrix of meaning…
…one that plays a major role in feeling trapped by maddening, self-limiting patterns.
And then in a couple days, I’ll give you a very effective tool for stepping out of this frustrating cycle, a way that’s so deceptively simple, you might be a little suspicious at first.
I won’t ask you to take my word for it, but I will ask you to give it a try and see for yourself.
What about this matrix of meaning confounds even our sincerest efforts at change?
It’s something I call an IMP: an inner mandate or prohibition.
…but for now, let’s look at what I mean by an inner mandate or prohibition.
IMPs are the rules that define your matrix of meaning.
Recall in my last post the example of hearing a hard edge of contempt in your dad’s voice whenever someone was “too emotional.”
This experience can easily get translated into an IMP, like:
“Expressing emotions (or maybe even just having emotions) elicits contempt.”
And then this ensnaring cycle is initiated…
Parts of your psyche are tasked with upholding this rule or IMP of avoiding emotional expression, because these parts (understandably) want to protect you from being a target of contempt.
While this rule might not be activated 100% of the time, in certain situations, enough of the components of your matrix get triggered, and boom…
…inner parts rush in to shut down emotional expression to protect you from contempt (both inner and outer sources, btw).
When this rule is unconscious (as the majority of IMPs are), this tends to happen next…
One. We’re apt to be strongly drawn to people who are contemptuous of emotions.
And two. We’re less able to see when this is happening. We might notice we feel crappy around them, and we might even have a long list of other reasons why this is so, but the fact that they exhibit contempt toward our emotions will be much harder for us to spot.
(And even if we do spot it, refer back to point one: We’re still drawn to them.)
(and you’ve tried everything else you can think of)
To me, there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing I’m engaged in unhelpful patterns (codependent people pleasing, shaming my body, etc)…
And I maybe even have a clear idea of what needs to change and how…but I just can’t seem to make the change stick.
To give one example in which I basically have a PhD at this point:
Relationship Drama Bulls*%t
There aren’t enough numbers in existence to count the times I’ve thought:
“This person is driving me NUTS–I can’t do this anymore.”
Followed immediately by the ice-cold fear of:
“Oh god, what if they dump me/don’t like me/talk shit about me?”
For years, I felt trapped in relationships where, together, our wounds were inflicting so much collateral damage on everyone involved…
yet I was so filled with a tangly web of terror-relief at the thought of losing the relationship that I couldn’t see a way out.
(Or if I did, I’d just repeat the same old drama-rama with the next person.)
Maybe you can relate?
Or finances. Ohhhhh, finances. Where to even begin.
Perhaps you know what it’s like to crawl out of one angry hornet’s nest of money angst, swearing this is the last time.
From now on you’re going to save more, ask for that raise, STAY AWAY from Amazon when you’re bored…
Only to find yourself, before long, waltzing face-first into the very same trap.
Your car’s transmission craps out, and there goes $4,000 you didn’t have in the first place.
Or Amazon boxes start landing on your doorstep, followed shortly thereafter by a credit card bill that maybe it would be okay to burn without opening. (Just this once.)
For me, these patterns had me convinced that I clearly, obviously sucked at life in some fundamental way.
I mean, otherwise, all of the things I was doing—meditation, yoga, therapy, journaling, etc etc etc—would actually be working…right?
If I just did them enough or the right way, maybe I could finally feel confident in my ability to change, release badgering thoughts, and not be so overwhelmed by my emotions all the damn time.
Well, here’s the thing:
None of us are actually taught how to do this stuff.
It’s kind of astonishing, when you think about it.
I remember back in grade school, arriving to class one morning to find a blank, white envelope waiting on every desk.
We were instructed to take out our ruler and pencil, and the teacher showed us how to make neat penciled rows: one for the recipient’s and one for the sender’s address.
We learned where to affix the stamp (this was back when you had to lick them, and I was one of those kids who fiendishly loved the taste) and how to properly format the address.
I can’t count how many times I’ve used this knowledge. (Thanks, Mrs. Kern!)
So why, then, was I never taught what to do when it felt like anxiety was going to make my heart actually, literally explode?
Or how to set boundaries in my relationships so I could feel safe and connected at the same time?
Or ways to recognize when my “self-care” practices were actually causing me more harm than good (and what to do instead)?
But then again…we are taught these things, aren’t we?
Somehow, we figure out a way of dealing with the anxiety, the boundaries, and the self-destructive patterns.
And we do this by watching what the people around us are doing, especially our family, soaking it all in like a dutifully attentive sponge.
We see how our dad gets that sharp edge of contempt in his voice when someone is being “too emotional.”
We take mental notes when our grandma laughs off (a little too loudly) someone’s hurtful comment instead of speaking to it.
We memorize every nuance of the panic and loneliness when we’re sent to our rooms for a timeout, right when we most need to feel held and accepted.
All of these lessons get absorbed into our being…
…creating what I call our matrix of meaning.
If we imagine this matrix as a props list for a play, we might have things on our list like:
“contempt toward emotions”
“giving people the silent treatment”
“that weird, clenched feeling when I think someone’s mad at me.”
And throughout life, an unconscious part of our psyche is always scanning our surroundings, making sure everything on the list is present and accounted for.
Do we and/or someone in our life exhibit contempt around emotions? Check!
Do we and/or someone in our life engage in the silent treatment when hurt? Check!
Much as we might consciously hate these experiences…
…unconsciously, something feels unnervingly amiss when they’re not present and accounted for.
When this matrix is unconscious, as it is for everyone until we learn how to coax it into the light of awareness, we have zero control over it.
This isn’t because we’re weak or broken or lacking in some way.
It’s because the matrix is unconscious.
I’m going to go Captain Obvious for a moment, but it took me ages to truly understand this:
We can’t do anything about a thing until we’re conscious of its existence.
If, 30 years ago, someone dumped a bunch of toxic waste in my yard, and now, when I’m trying to grow vegetables, they just aren’t doin’ so hot or when I eat them I don’t feel so great…
I can address things at a symptoms level all day long—maybe taking some digestive enzymes to ease that weird cramping or getting some high-end organic fertilizers…
And some of these things might even create change. For a little while, at least.
But the fundamental issue—there’s freakin’ toxic waste in my yard!—isn’t something I can effectively address until I know it exists.
And I’m not an idiot for not knowing—I just don’t know what I don’t know.
There might be parts of us that think, “Oh man, how the heck am I going to deal with toxic waste??” These parts might believe it’s better to just not know.
I hear that. I really do.
I’ve spent decades feeling terrified of knowing what I don’t want to know.
But here’s the thing: When you actually understand what you’re dealing with, you can…well, deal with it.
Your belief in your ability to change might be rock-bottom low, and I can relate, believe me.
But is it really that you’re hopeless at change…
…or could it be that, just maybe, you’ve been spraying fertilizer on some tomatoes that are trying their lovely tomato-y best togrowin toxic waste?
Chances are good (very good, in fact) that as you start learning what’s really underpinning your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, you’ll be in a much, much better position to deal with them, no matter what comes up.
You already possess the ability for utterly gobsmacking change.
I realize this might sound like hooey, and that’s okay. It’s more of a “you gotta feel it to believe it” sort of thing.
So I’m not asking you to take my word for it.
What I do ask is that, for the next week, you allow me to share some of the insights and tools that have helped me believe in myself…
…and that fill me with absolute confidence that you have every reason to believe in yourself, too.
I was getting ready to head to the office when I noticed a fiery knot tangling in my belly.
Emails were flying around the night before, and I knew I was walking into a category 3 shitstorm.
My mind raced with all the ways in which this day was guaranteed to go sideways:
Ethan would do that passive-aggressive thing that always gets Sela super riled up, and then I’d have to…
And on and on it went.
I tried to explain some of this to my husband as we were saying our morning goodbyes, and as I heard myself stress rambling, something in me locked down like a steel trap, and I forced a grin:
“I’m just going to think positive!” [cheery thumbs up]
Years later, I’m still thinking about this scenario…
…because as it happens, it marked a turning point that I was totally unaware of in the moment.
The turning point was one in which I shifted from:
I will only be okay if other people act a certain way (e.g. if Ethan doesn’t get passive-aggressive, Sela doesn’t fly off the handle, etc.)
How can I respond from a place of internal wholeness, regardless of what other people do?
Previously, I’d find myself jacked up on anxiety, wondering what was going to happen if so-and-so did such-and-such.
And this became mentally framed in stark terms: Are they a good person? Can they be trusted?
The Doom Loop
I felt wracked with doubt if they did anything that seemed challenging or “bad” (Can I really trust them??)
…and then I’d agonize over whether my perception was accurate or “all in my head.”
If they did anything to contradict my assessment (and they invariably did–humans are complex, after all), I’d be back to the hellish drawing board, trying to figure out whether or not they were good and mentally “building my case.”
No surprise, this drama played out internally as well, andI constantly evaluated whether I was a “good” person or not, all based on whether I had a perfect track record of so-called goodness.
If anything tarnished it, like, you know, my human fallibility, cue self-recrimination.
This is a loop I was lost in for years, and it felt impossible to step away because–my thinking went–if I wasn’t asking these questions, I could end up letting people treat me like crap.
The saying, “You teach people how to treat you by what you allow,” rang in my ears, urging me to analyze relationship dynamics even harder to keep myself safe.
Of course, there’s truth to that saying, but how I was going about it was a wee bit problematic.
The Replay of Powerlessness
My anxiety circled around the (often unconscious) belief that I would only be okay if I could anticipate and/or control other people’s behavior.
And life, being largely un-anticipatable and uncontrollable, kept getting in the way.
This dynamic kept me stuck in a childhood pattern, one where I was powerless to control, or even really impact in many cases, the events around me.
As an adult, by adopting a stance that required me to do the impossible–fully anticipate and control other people’s actions–I was guaranteed to feel the way I did as a kid: powerless.
Over and over and over again.
In the childhood scenario, my power was taken away, and with it, any sense of responsibility.
So it was miserable, but it was also comforting, in a weird way.
Whatever horrible things happened weren’t my fault because I wasn’t given any choice in the matter, thus I could remain safe in my innocent “goodness.”
As a kid, this made a sideways sort of sense. As an adult? Not so much.
As an adult, I do have choices, I do have responsibility.
And by focusing on other people, I was abdicating both.
Making the Shift
It’s our responsibility to choose how we want to respond to the unpredictable circumstances of life.
When we short circuit this process by tossing a blanket of“Just think positive!” over everything, we give away our power, which can only lead to resentment.
Can Ethan be trusted or will he do that stupid passive-aggressive thing again?
We can take back our power by asking:
If Ethan behaves passive-aggressively, what are some ways I can take care of my wellbeing in this situation?
And then, we need to do the work: to develop those possible responses, to work with our inner world so we feel capable of actually using those responses in the moment, etc.
All of this juicy work is easy to overlook when we’re focused on what the other person is or isn’t doing
…but when we choose to retrain our focus self-ward, we gain wise insight and have access to our inner skills and gifts.
Will we disconnect from our power from time to time? Yep, totally. We’re human.
But in every moment, we’re given a new opportunity to choose.
This allows us to step out of the loop of codependency–what will other people do???
…and into our magical power.
Next month, my Jungian Spellcasting course, Enchant, opens for registration.
If you want support and detailed guidance on how to do the inner work of uncovering your magical power and channelling it into radically effective spells, be sure to get on my mailing list.
The tarot practice I’m about to share can be used any time of year, but here’s why I find it particularly potent at the Autumn Equinox:
In Jungian Magic, the interplay between the conscious and unconscious selves is of prime importance.
It’s what drives everything in your life, especially your magic.
At either the Spring or the Autumn Equinox, access to this dual nature of your psyche is a bit more accessible.
The veil between these two realms of your inner world becomes a bit thinner than usual…
…and it’s easier, if you know how to look, to see things about yourself and the world that might otherwise remain hidden.
The power of shadow work + the Autumn Equinox
At the Autumn Equinox, this thinning of the veil precedes a phase (in the Northern Hemisphere) of increasing shadow…
…meaning our normally-quite-slippery unconscious energies will be easier to grasp.
Again…if you know how to look.
If you don’t, this could mean feeling as if things are happening to you, as if you’re more subject to the whims of fate.
For as Jung famously said,
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate.”
Thus, it’s incredibly useful, particularly at this time of year, to understand some of the deeper forces within that, if left unexplored, could exert a heavier hand during these fall and winter months.
So, that’s the why. Now, let’s look at the technique.
How do you find your personal tarot card?
Many practitioners and schools have linked tarot with astrology, and here, I’ll be using a specific set of correspondences popularized by the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley.
I prefer to use Crowley’s Thoth TarotDeck with this technique, but I’ve also experimented with applying it to other decks, and the results are just as useful, so do what feels best to you.
First, grab a copy of your natal chart, which you can get online for free.
Bonus: Nicholas’ charting software was built by “AnnieCannons…a queer-led software development agency that trains all of its engineers from among survivors of human trafficking and gender-based violence and pays these newly trained engineers a living wage to build software.”
Hell yes to that!
Once you have your chart, look at your Sun sign.
There should be a degree number associated with it. The degree shows the position of a planet—in this case, the Sun—within a particular sign.
So, if your Sun is in Libra and the little number near your Sun is 18, then your Sun is positioned at 18 degrees in Libra.
Some charts might show another number with what looks like a single quotation mark—this is called a “minute”, and you can disregard that number for this technique.
(The chart I provide below will indicate what degree your Sun is in based on your birth date, so you don’t have to download your chart, but I find it useful to understand where these numbers are coming from.)
Now, it’s time to find your decan.
The zodiacal year can be divided into shorter chunks of time known as “decans,” each made up of ten degrees (roughly equivalent to ten days).
Each decan has a corresponding tarot card associated with it, specifically one of the minor arcana or “pip” cards.
When you know which decan your Sun is in, you can see which tarot card matches with this decan, and this is known as your “personal card.”
The chart below will show you how to match up your decan with a specific tarot card.
Click the image to download your free chart.
I see this technique as one way of plumbing the depths of your Sun sign…
…and as we enter this shadowy, post-Equinox phase, the energetic currents really support this form of deeper exploration.
Once you know your card, it’s time to figure out what it means for you personally.
I mentioned above that you’re welcome to use this technique with any tarot deck, but here, I’m going to talk specifically about the Thoth deck.
Have you ever reread a book from childhood and discovered secret keys…
…that happen to be precisely what Adult You needs right now?
Well, I recently got a hankering for my old John Bellairs books, starting with The House With a Clock In Its Walls.
Most of the book was comfortingly familiar, and I was amazed at how even tiny details in the illustrations came back to me…
…like it was just yesterday I’d been camped out under my rainbow bedspread, reading by flashlight.
(Man, that was the best.)
But what I had somehow entirely forgotten was the climax of the book…
…specifically, how the main character, Lewis, managed to turn around seemingly unbeatable odds through a very peculiar strategy.
Without losing ourselves in the plot weeds, the gist is that Lewis and his Uncle Jonathan (a wizard) and their good friend Mrs. Zimmerman (a witch) are faced with an evil genius who wants to end the world.
[Dum, dum, DUM…]
It seems as if all is lost, because the villain appears to be an exceedingly powerful magician who is always two steps ahead of them.
But then, something happened that adult me didn’t at all remember reading as a kid.
Mrs. Zimmerman had painted a rather dour picture of their chances…
…saying that the villain’s “magic is logical. It proceeds from A to B to C in nice, neat steps. As logical and neat as the movement of a hand around the face of a clock.”
In a flash of inspiration, Uncle Jonathan replies, “Then there’s no point in our being logical, is there?”
The others are totally confused, so he explains…
“We’re no good at that sort of game. Our game is wild swoops, sudden inexplicable discoveries, cloudy thinking. Knights’ jumps instead of files of rooks plowing across the board. So we’d better play our way if we expect to win.”
“It all seems clear enough to me. Lewis, what I want you to do is this. Get a pencil and paper, and dream up the silliest set of instructions you can think of…Make it as goofy as you can.”
Lewis runs with the idea, sequestering himself in the study for fifteen minutes…
…before emerging with a list of instructions, the first of which made Jonathan “throw back his head and laugh loudly.”
And here’s the thing:
Those “nonsensical,” laughable instructions ended up winning the day and saving the world.
Here’s what I noticed while reading the text as if it’s filled with secret magical wisdom (‘cause it is).
First, the whole group got on board without reservation or sarcasm.
No one was bitching about how stupid the plan was. They were all enthusiastically, whole-heartedly participating as if this were exactly what the situation called for.
And so it was.
When they acted as if, they called into being the reality they had imagined.
Viewed another way, they took the intuition and the messages of the unconscious seriously.
How often do we dismiss our dreams as merely “random” or “weird,” or our gut instincts as a case of “just being too sensitive”?
But here, the non-logical (though not, what I would call, illogical) was highly valued.
Second, they trusted that things would become clear after they began engaging with the process.
After rushing through the house, carrying out the first batch of oddball instructions, the three regrouped in the parlour, and Uncle Jonathan asked Lewis, “What’s next?”
To which Lewis replied that they needed to play a game of poker until the “Ace of Nitwits” appeared.
Jonathan replied, “And what, may I ask, is the Ace of Nitwits?”
“I don’t know. It just came to me. I guess we’ll know when we find it.”
And so they proceed to play–again, whole-heartedly–and what do you know? A half hour into the game, Lewis “picked up a card and found that he was staring at the Ace of Nitwits.”
How often do we hem ourselves in, fearful of taking the first step without knowing the fifteenth?
Trusting that guidance will appear when we engage with life beyond the confines of our mind is a powerful act of magic.
We’re giving the Universe potent energy and intention to which it can respond with equal gusto and enthusiasm.
Imagine the reverse, a situation we so often find ourselves in:
We’re hesitant, maybe even a little suspiciously pessimistic about our chances…
…and we become stuck in our heads, trying to micromanage the details before we’ve even begun.
Here, the Universe is offered constricted, circular energy to respond to…and it does.
In these scenarios, it’s easy to start seeing obstacles everywhere we look, and our self-doubt is amplified with every pass around the mental track.
And this isn’t because the Universe is “out to get us.”
It’s simply responding to what we’re broadcasting, magnifying our energy with more of the same.
So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck in patterns of self-doubt, take a cue from this magical text:
Listen to the nudges of your intuition,
engage with them whole-heartedly,
and trust that, when you do, guidance will emerge, precisely when and how you need it.
P.S. Want to amplify your magical power even more?
P.S. This idea of crafting powerful questions has been on my mind more than usual lately, as I just finished writing the divination lesson of a new Jungian Magic course, which will be coming out later this year. 🙂