One of the most rewarding aspects of being authors of books like INTO THE HEART OF THE FEMININE are the responses we get from readers. These responses encourage us, energize our work and fill us with awe and humility. The author of the letter we are sharing with you touched us deeply and we are very moved by her journey and experiences. She asked us to share it with other readers if we thought it might be helpful to them. This isn’t something we normally do, but we are making an exception because we also believe that sharing our stories supports us and others on similar paths. We hope that this story adds to your journey and that you too find a place in a reading group, a study group or your own therapy or analysis to share your story.
A Personal Story and Thank You Letter
Dear Drs. Harris,
I want to thank you so much for your book Into the Heart of the Feminine, and share the story of how it has been a significant tool in my journey to healing.
Just over two years ago I was in a miserable place in my life. I was in a relationship and living with a man who was verbally abusive and just downright mean to me. I was confused, hurt, afraid, and had no idea what was the right thing to do. I felt I really loved this man, and that if I continued to support him, emotionally and financially, I could help him heal from his own wounds and we could be happy together.
Someone mentioned the book Sacred Selfishness to me and I thought about that title for a few days. The word “selfish” seemed to freeze me in my tracks, and bring on a feeling of intense guilt and shame. I couldn’t imagine how such a thing could be sacred, so of course I bought a copy of the book to find out.
What I read opened my eyes to so much within me, and to a pressure from the outside world that I had not been conscious of. I realized that in my relationships with men, I had a deeply rooted sense that I should give everything of myself, that being a good person meant always putting others first and myself last. This was an expectation that, as a woman, had been forced upon me from a very early age. I had given away my power, projected my own good qualities onto others, and not acknowledged the importance and responsibility of taking care of myself.
During that time I began to follow your blog posts and Facebook page. I had a very vivid dream that seemed quite significant and, though I didn’t know what to make of it, was very relevant to a particular quote you had posted that day. I wrote to you about my dream, and you wrote back suggesting I go see a Jungian analyst that could help me mine the gems from that dream.
So I did! She immediately helped me to see that I was depleted, dangerously low in energy, and making decisions that were keeping my life in shambles because I was pouring all my energy into someone else. She also showed me that the dream was full of hope and that my unconscious was longing for me to become aware of it.
Though leaving him was so hard, I knew it was what I needed to do. I knew that I could not fight his demons for him. The cruel words he hurled at me over and over, every time he called me “selfish,” which was quite often, actually gave me strength because my definition of the word had changed, and I knew I was honoring myself and honoring a healthy boundary I had created.
After being in analysis for a year, living in my own little safe haven, having powerful dreams to help me on my journey, I began to realize there was something stuck deep within me. Though my logical mind told me otherwise, I was still experiencing an intense fear and shame when criticized by someone else. Even the thought of someone criticizing me would effectively paralyze me emotionally! Where was this coming from? I had been working so hard, and taking great strides, toward truly loving myself; what was this huge stumbling block that reduced me to a scared little girl? Where did my confidence and groundedness go?
Then you two introduced Into the Heart of the Feminine and I knew I needed to read that book. I had just started reading Women Who Run with the Wolves, and between the two I was submersed in the rich waters of fairy tales and mythology. I was amazed to learn that those ancient stories were actually describing the inner conflicts of triumphs of the human psyche, that those characters exists within me and that the proverbial knight in shining armor that would come to rescue me was within myself and not someone else that I needed to wait for.
The myth of Medusa, in particular, struck a deep chord. She was turned into a monster after being the victim of one of the most tragic violations that can happen to a woman. Her innocence was ripped away from her in such a brutal manner. I realized how this happens to most of us – as children we all have experiences that force us to see how cruel the world can be.
An important part of the myth of Medusa, for me, is that Athena blamed Medusa for her own violation by Poseidon. Athena, a goddess known for siding with patriarchal values, basically said, “You shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt, Medusa. You shouldn’t have tempted Poseidon, or been alone with him. This is your fault.” How often, as women, do we hear this still today? This type of thinking, this unjust blame and criticism, makes women put up a guard around their femininity, and compensate with a drive to do, work, go, prove, fight.
I began to see how angry I was at that loss of innocence. I began to see that I was giving and giving all of myself away, while deep inside I was angry and my heart was getting harder and more shut down. I saw how I was unconsciously trying to compensate for that anger and pain and I was exhausted. I mean, I had raised my son on my own, put myself through college while supporting us both, started a business and been a Superwoman! But I was lonely and angry deep down, and I could be absolutely cold and cruel to others because I was still deeply critical of myself.
With the help of my analyst, I began to recognize the Death Mother complex in myself and in others. Surprisingly there were noticeable physical symptoms – tightening of the chest, heart racing, sweating, not being able to think clearly. Just recognizing the complex made it less intense; I could take some deep breaths and take a closer look at it, dialog with it, and journal about it. Just bringing the complex from its shadowy depths into the light of consciousness began to dissolve it.
Into the Heart of the Feminine showed me that the Death Mother complex is not just unique to me, but is quite common. The way you two wrote the book, sharing your personal stories and making yourselves so vulnerable and exposed, was truly heartening. To see so many people expressing their appreciation for this book, even starting reading groups to work through it together, gives me such a feeling of hope that the feminine can be restored in our world.
You know, I look around me and see such hatred, violence, and evil. Such an “us vs. them” mentality that seems to be ripping the world apart. To me it seems a time of extreme separation from the divine feminine. Your book walks right up to the monster and slays it with the sword of bravery, justice, and love. You give us a way to be our own heroes, to rescue our inner feminine and create a sacred space for her to take her rightful place within us individually and in the world.
Thank you for this book. Thank you for spending your time and energy to share your insights with us. It is a true act of love.
Letters like this one along with our personal and professional experiences assure us there is hope. If we face the Death Mother, take the healing path, and through transformation empower the feminine love and strength within us, we can give new birth to our vitality, spirit and creativity.
Book cover art and design by Courtney Tiberio
Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris
, anxiety, authenticity, Death Mother, Death Mother complex, healthy personality, honoring your own needs, Individuation, Jungian psychology, living authentically, Medusa, Sacred Selfishness, self-acceptance, self-loving, struggles