Welcome to the concluding part of my Animus Diet, almost nine hundred nights later. Why nights and not days I hear you ask? Well for the simple reason that dreams have figured so largely on my journey. Why? Because I believe every dream that comes to us, comes in the service of health and wholeness. Be assured my inner man diet will not be ending, that’ll be lifelong I’m sure, nor will I stop adding reflections to my Animus notebook. No, this is more about being a writer and longing to get started on a new project. So I feel the need to draw a line under this one, even though I may follow up with further animus adventures in years to come!
I have offered but a few of what turned out to be deeply healing and transformative stories from these numinous nights, the most illuminating of which, I have shared with you in my four part series. By publishing these stories, I hope to make known a little of my journey and the subsequent insights I’ve gained to help others on their own animus journey.
Where It All Started
As you know my diet began back in January 2016 when I opened my wardrobe to explore the contents within. It was a place where me and my animus fought daily! That first weekend, it was a case of “goodbye aging Barbie doll” and “hello emerging midlife woman!” As I moved from clutter to clarity, inner shifts were made. To begin with, discarding my outer appearance seemed the right place to start this journey of love. For at 52 years of age I’d finally wanted to really see myself and who I was for the first time in my adult life. So, by using a Jungian lens, I began to attentively explore this midlife task through the eyes of the Divine Feminine, which brought my relationship with my body and my archetypal inner man into sharper and much needed focus.
After sorting through the wardrobe and letting stuff go, I decided I wanted even more of a physical change so opted to grow out my highlights and have my long hair cut into a shoulder length bob. In total it took another 18 months to grow out the dye completely and achieve a whole head of natural hair. A mix of brown, grey and white that would wave daily to me from my mirror, much like a colony of seals! Although several times during the growing-out process my ego erupted into panic and had me reaching for the phone to book in for a colour, but somehow I resisted and (im)patiently waited. Within weeks I noticed a growing confidence in myself as I stopped trying to satisfy society’s image of what feminine beauty should look like. Instead I learnt to love my emerging, authentic, feminine self. Me and the mirror, I’m happy to report, became curious friends whilst watching the emergence take place.
Next I turned my attention to my relationship with my body and in particular, the way in which I was exercising. For I had grown long tired of my animus’ aggressive and restrictive approach, forever shouting in my ear, “No, no, no! Swim faster, walk faster and never stop dieting!” I experimented and recorded it all, because I longed to build a more healthy and love-giving relationship with my body. One that would interrupt the animus from running my body-show and help me heal my father-wound by giving up all ideas of body-perfectionism. Instead of tuning in to his bullshit, I carefully listened to my body rather than pushing and punishing it in unhappy, competitive ways.
I felt I was moving closer to the next stage of my animus development which you can read about in Part One, alongside Jung’s theory on the developmental stages the animus goes through in a woman. By now I had clearly recognised my animus’ critical and bullying voice, which at times produced a devastating effect on my femininity, by obliterating all warmth, openness and receptivity. The cartoon character of Brutus became the animated avatar of my fat animus, with Olive Oyl representing my skinny feminine side. I kept a vigilant eye on them and tried to make sure things wouldn’t go belly-up in Brutus’ favour again! Little did I know, eighteen months later, things would move full circle in the opposite direction!
Nightly, in my dreams I watched and noted how my relationship with my animus was slowly beginning to transform. Meeting my mother, for the first time in years, in Part Two was deeply healing. Here I learnt the heart holds astonishing energy and presence, for my visit to her began a healing current that has touched everything in my life with forgiveness ever since. Rumi writes, “The wound is where the light gets in.” Spot on! A complete rereading of my poetry book followed my visit, and with my Jungian lens, the conflicts, battles and victories between ego, shadow and animus became clear to see. They literally jumped off the page! Appreciatively, my body love continued to grow.
A Journey of Love
I spent the next six months studying the Tarot in-depth, writing poems for each of the major arcana cards, which greatly contributed to my own Fool’s Journey. By Part Three Olive had grown fuller in figure and she and Brutus enjoyed a wonderful hiatus at the Hanged Man. Although it took a number of sudden breaks, done to the very bone, before I realised something was wrong and a reversal was needed, as it was Olive who needed to slim down. My skinny animus had been put on mute and my dreams were shouting it back to me, big time! Thank you so much David Bowie for putting in a notable dream appearance, in which I learnt that miraculous transformations await all who wander in search of truth.
My poems, Dear Mother, Dear Father followed by This Woman was Different, The Healing Light of Ancestral Love, The Shepherd’s Daughter and The Midlife Correction all followed. My writing was changing further, I was working with my animus in a different way. I felt truly liberated from my past. No longer denying my heritage, I worked deeply with my family’s ancestors to shine a bright light of healing love and forgiveness down my ancestral line. To live your own truth is not easy! This brings us up to speed and to my latest poem The Marriage of Word and Image which I’ll explore later on in this article. Naturally I feel it’s the words themselves I must delve into next on my animus diet.
During these numinous nights I finished my first novel, “The Bad Shepherd.” I had revised it countless times, worked fervently on each chapter, finding new ways to link and connect my characters and book themes. Yet, when I had finished writing, I knew I had to delete it and start again. Why? Because I had written a story of revenge, a story of hatred and negativity on a grand scale. It was a dark purging and confrontation and believe me, when shadow and animus come together to write, it’s not pretty! It’s was a dark story of madness, addiction and violence. I can only liken it to the necessary experience of drawing poison out of oneself. A life-giving task had to be done but what came out was deadly and toxic.
The Way of the Dream
Weeks before I pressed delete, a dream confirmed this when I found myself at school in a classroom and my writing book is being returned. A female English teacher with a kind face takes me to one side and says in a quiet, caring voice, “You cannot write your story Deborah because it is too abusive and no one will want to read it.” I sit down disappointed because I thought it was good but agree with her it’s a bit full on! She smiles, and asks me if I understand. I look around, everyone in the class has their head down and is writing their story. I settle down to write a new story, it’s called, “The Shepherd’s Daughter.” I watch myself write the title in my book. I wake up.
Naturally, I didn’t follow the dream’s advice until two months later, when a second dream came which clearly told me where my energy was and where it needed to go. In the dream I’m taking a final exam, an unknown woman and I rush through our paper, hand it in to the old professor and go outside to relax. After a while I wander back into the hall and see everybody, head down with the paper. The old professor, who bore more than a passing resemblance to Jung himself, takes me to one side and offers my exam paper back, saying “You still have time to revise it.” Lots of relevant points come to mind, so I sit down, revise my work and write down the things I overlooked. One question asks, “Is the ladder in the right position?” I focus on this and give a fuller explanation. I finish my paper and hand it to the professor. I wake up.
This time I understood, I really did! My animus was offering me the opportunity to rewrite myself, let the lost parts of myself be found. For you cannot heal yourself unless you know where it hurts, I was done with being abused and abusing myself. You may ask “Why make such a huge decision based on two dreams?” To cut a long Jungian story short, when one wakes from receiving Divine Wisdom, there is a deep knowing that one’s soul has been summoned to follow the way of the dream. As for Jung putting in an appearance, well, I know for sure that my Jungian studies have, over these past ten years, slowly yet profoundly helped me revise my view of many challenging events in my life.
However, my ego went into complete meltdown, screaming like a harpy! Crying, sulking, stamping but it knew there was no other outcome than to recognise a higher authority than itself. The writing was on the wall! And so it’s gone, deleted from my hard drive entirely! I remember writing it in a blur over the course of nine months, 128K words to be precise. It’s the book that had to be written but will never be published. Writing with the Demon Lover, my negative animus, was much like drawing poison out, with much fear and darkness clawing at the script. My ego was beyond furious, yet there was a quiet knowing I had done the right thing. For many years ago I had lived through the liberation of my sexuality, now I was moving through the liberation of my heart.
In that moment of pressing delete, I believe I shattered my animus possession by bringing forth the feminine and saying to her, “I love you,” while slapping my negative animus round the face at the same time. In doing so I noticed what was really me and what was not. To begin with on this diet I had cut my animus down to size, then I had to learn how to build him up. In doing so, all things were stirred up, above and below, for the animus can be a jealous lover. While writing the book, I was a woman locked in her animus, possessed with a cold, opinionated, rash, brutal determination that changed my character. For he had the power to keep me stuck in an old story until the poison was fully released. I wonder if anyone else has written and deleted a whole book? Many I’m sure. Words to be kept only between me and my soul. What an incredible journey of love we’ve been on together! Just imagine what your life would be like if your deepest wound was healed and it turned into your greatest gift. Okay back to the words …
The Marriage of Word and Image
The tools of my trade, those twenty six symbols that convey my secret thoughts to you the reader. After reading Leonard Shlain’s book, “The Goddess Versus the Alphabet,” in recent months and having an amazing Easter dream where a voice (the Goddess) tells me “the alphabet will be your lodestar,” I felt compelled to explore my love of words more. In one long sitting I penned The Marriage of Word and Image which explores the themes of my animus, ego and shadow. Shlain posits his theory that around the same time that people learnt to read (the creation of the alphabet) it brought about the demise of the Goddess worshipping societies. The price for women was high! So as a poet, who was born with a deep love of words, I felt I had to investigate further. Explore why I would love his letters so much and how my animus was working in relation to my feminine aspect with them. Curiouser and curiouser I became, with my long poem being the result.
With regards to the physical weight aspect of my animus diet, the ten pounds are still remaining. I’ve gained no weight and lost no weight for two and a half years, although I’ve achieved fitness in a far more healthy way! I feel I’ve also gained lightness in the right place, by liberating my heart through kind and gentle ways. Above all, I’ve learnt to listen to my heart, feed my soul, and slow myself down. Please know that the rich comments and support I’ve received from you whilst “dieting” have been awe-inspiring, filled with beauty, grace and reverence. Thank you so much dear poets and dreamers, your love, light and laughter have been the greatest of blessings during this time. My ankle is fully recovered and I’m still attending regular “weigh-ins” with the animus to check that all’s in balance within. In almost nine hundred nights I’m seeing the world differently, as those inner and outer shifts with my animus continue to take place.
I would like to acknowledge that without Carl Jung, Marion Woodman and many other great Jungian writers, including my friends, Elaine Mansfield, Jean Raffa and Susan Scott, all of whom I admire greatly, this Animus Diet would never have been possible! The Tarot played a big role in helping me to explore my masculine and feminine qualities, in search of creating inner balance and discovering ways to access those inner weighing scales. And in those days when my animus starts acting up, I look into the mirror and see that a midlife correction has taken place, with aging wisdom, smile lines and grey hair reflecting back to me and I say to him, “this sir is your new reality!”
Finally, as we approach Beltane, the great wedding of the Goddess and the God, I’ve hand fasted with my animus, tying the knot in a figure of eight. By binding our hands together and subsequently untying them, we remain together of our own free will. In this season of maturing life and deep found love, with both our hands unbound, my next book, “The Shepherd’s Daughter” awaits. All being well, I shall be working beside my midlife, metamorphosing animus and anima, otherwise known as Brutus and Olive Oyl. Wish me luck! “I’m strong to the finish, I love word and image … I’m Deborah who wed her (inner) man!” In sisterhood and in soul, Deborah.
Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2018
Image Credit: Google Images
(Tarot & Scrabble photos are mine)
Postscript: Here at Beltane, I sense a deep longing to wander in the natural world once more, to dance in the beauty and splendour of Summer. I am returning to novel writing for the next few months so will be scribbling away in the background, in-between, pulling on my walking boots and taking myself out, into the beauty of Gaia’s ancient woodlands and wild soul meadows. Bright Beltane blessings to all, Deborah.
© Deborah Gregory 2021. This essay forms part of a much longer series which includes my four part Animus Diet, Divine Hermaphrodite and In the Name of Sophia essays and poems which are presently being gathered to create a new book later this year – Jungian Archives