Something to do with Love: Dreams and the Archetype of the Orphan
 ~ by Jean Raffa

Journal Entry: February 15, 1999


Bear lived in my house for 14 months and now he’s gone. I miss him terribly.

Fred and I came home to an empty house tonight after a Valentine’s Day weekend house party at our cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. Our son Matt and his dog Bear moved out while we were gone. I’ve been preparing myself for this. I knew it was going to happen soon, but I didn’t know it would be this weekend.

The house lost some life while we were gone. I knew it the moment I opened the door and there was no galumphing, snuffling, waggy-tailed golden retriever grinning with delight, wiggling into a U to snuggle as close as possible —   thumping his thick tail against my legs with one end, snorting and slobbering all over my jeans with the other. While we were away the joy in my heart just hopped into Matt’s car and rode off to his new house. How will I retrieve it?

What’s going on here? I have a loving family, dear friends, and work I love.   Yet I am inordinately attached to this dog who does not belong to me, and strangely heavy-hearted that he’s left my house. Why so sad? The fact that his new home is only a mile away and I can see him whenever I want makes this especially puzzling.

I need to pay attention to this melancholy mood. It surely speaks of more than the departure of a shaggy, four-legged house guest who protracted his stay twelve months longer than anyone expected. And so I will take the advice I give to those who seek help with their dreams. I will do something creative to beguile the mystery and entice it into the world where I can see it. I will listen to the voices whispering in the hidden chambers of my heart and give them names and personalities. I will explore my feelings in this journal. Something decisive will grow out of my ego’s joint venture with my unconscious. It always does.

Valentine’s Day. The mystery about Bear and me has something to do with love: wanting it, needing it, wanting to give it? Losing it?

Journal Entry: February 17, 1999, Morning

I have a free day so will work with my two most recent dreams by summarizing them here, recording my associations with their dominant images and emotions, and looking for meaningful connections to recent events in waking life.

Both dreams were disturbing. In Monday night’s dream I’m driving a lawn mower and am surprised to see that I’m pulling three portable potties behind me, tiered one above the other, which appear to have been the unlucky recipients of some explosive diarrhea. The image suggests I am trying to get rid of, but still unconsciously lugging around, some powerful and “disgusting” inner contents.

Last night’s dream features some dangerous intruders who invade my house and run upstairs Fred goes to turn on the alarm to alert the police so I relax. But after time passes and the police have not arrived, I see shadows descending the staircase and run for my life.

Unwanted diarrhea. Dangerous intruders. Both dreams remind me of some powerful emotions I experienced after last weekend’s house party at the cabin. We had invited four couples to join us. Since it was Valentine’s Day weekend we decided to be romantic and silly. We made valentines out of red construction paper and lace and gave them to our mates with hugs and kisses. We wrapped lights with pink tulle and red ribbons and stuck hearts and Cupids on the windows. Saturday morning we hiked through the snow and I wished Bear was there. He had adored our snowy walks over the Christmas holidays and would have loved being there again.

On the way back to the airport one couple brought up the subject of a form of active listening they sometimes use. The wife said it is helpful for her husband who finds it hard to express his feelings.   As a child his mother rarely listened to him so he learned to keep his hurt feelings to himself. After they demonstrated the technique Fred said he disliked it because it was unnecessarily artificial and painful. Suddenly I found myself holding back tears. I told the others I have difficulty communicating uncomfortable feelings too, and that a part of me sometimes feels hopeless about ever being fully heard.   I think of this part of myself as an Orphan who would consider it an extraordinary gift of love if Fred would listen to me the way our friends listen to each other.

Fred was astonished.  He had no idea I would take his attitude personally. When we were alone on the plane he apologized sincerely for hurting me, but by then I’d been slammed by a tidal wave and was swimming for my life. What to do?  I went for active imagination.   As the plane taxied down the runway, I closed my eyes, visualized my Orphan, and had a talk with her.   I said I could see how hurt she was and how hopeless she felt but I loved her anyway.   I said I would always love her and listen to her even if my husband couldn’t. Suddenly, almost miraculously, I was chuckling at the ridiculousness of talking to myself like this. The hurt and anger had vanished.

These dreams show me how powerful my Orphan shadow is.   The symptoms of her presence are emotions I’d rather disown:   self-pity, sadness, fear of losing the security of love. When she is aroused, she activates another inner character I think of as my shadow Warrior who retaliates to defend her.  Occasionally it takes all my objectivity and will-power to prevent his anger from taking over. It always feels so justified, as if I am rightly defending myself against a cruel, unfair attack.

In her book The Hero Within Carol Pearson says everyone has an inner Orphan—a complex of feelings held over from childhood when we were powerless, fearful of abandonment and desperate for love. She writes that the Orphan’s fear is “so profound that it usually is not experienced directly. The more apparent emotion is anger—either turned inward….or else turned outward toward God, the universe, parents, institutions—anything or anyone that can be identified as not properly taking care of them”i including husbands, no doubt!   It was my Warrior’s explosive anger I was carrying around in the toilets and running from when it intruded into the house of my psyche. But my anger is a symptom and not the cause. The real problem is my Orphan.

Clearly, Dream Mother is trying to draw my attention to her. Why did she show up during a weekend devoted to love?   And was it mere coincidence that Bear moved out the very same weekend?   I sense a connection between my Orphan and my attachment to him. I am meant to learn an important lesson from this teacher.

Journal Entry: February 17, 1999, Afternoon
I’ve been doing inner work for so long that synchronicity is now a common occurrence. Sometimes all I have to do is be intentional about asking a question and Poof! a meaningful answer appears within moments as if by magic. So it was this morning.   After working on the above two dreams I still wasn’t satisfied so I skimmed through my dream journal for additional information.Within moments I came across a forgotten week-old dream featuring Bear and a little Orphan girl. Bingo! Synchronicity! I am definitely on to something.

Dream #3511: Artemis and Aphrodite
Matt and I are in a house with several other people.   Matt listens as I talk to a dark haired little girl. She acts oddly reticent; then begins to quote a sophisticated poem. We think she must be a wise, precocious child. She tells us sadly that she was left by her parents to be an orphan.   I encourage her to forgive her parents.   Her sense of being orphaned appears to stand in the way of her growth and interactions with others.

Meanwhile a younger little blonde-haired girl has been playing with Bear nearby. Bear comes to me and lays his head in my lap and looks up at me mournfully.   The child  has stuck pins and needles all over his head and I am appalled and furious. I swiftly remove them and throw them on the floor then growl furiously at her, “Don’t you ever stick pins in that dog again or hurt him in any way!” She cowers in a puddle on the floor. I don’t care if I’m being mean or if she’s afraid of me. I feel very righteous in my indignation.

I pick Bear up protectively in my arms and head out the door. Someone inside a waiting car calls out, “I can see you’re not ready to go, but what about the rest of us? Do we just have to sit here and do nothing since you don’t feel like doing anything?”   I ponder this, wondering what to do with Bear. Maybe I could take him with us. One thing is for sure:   I’m not going to leave him here with that rotten child!

I find it very significant that this dream, which features Bear, Matt, and an Orphan, came a week before the events of last weekend when I had no idea my Orphan would soon be forcing herself into my awareness or that Bear’s move was imminent. This tells me my unconscious self was preparing me for new awareness to emerge.

The first part of the dream depicts my Orphan. How do I respond to her sadness?   Typically, I try to talk her out of it. I don’t want her to feel sorry for herself; I want her to see things from her parents’ point of view. Unfortunately, while such reasoning seems perfectly logical to the adult mind, childish feelings don’t go away just because we disown them. I despise self-pity and have tried to talk my Orphan out of it ever since my father died when I was 11, but the events of last weekend prove she will not be easily dismissed. She  still feels alone and unloved and the dream says this attitude is an obstacle to her (my) growth and relationships. Just how much of an obstacle was made clear this weekend.

My Orphan is very refined. She does not act out her hurt in cruel ways but sits quietly and feels sorry for herself without bothering anybody. She uses poetry—intellectualizations made up of abstract words and ideas—as a channel for her creative energies and a way to get the attention she craves. She represents the part of me that found socially acceptable ways to deal with early feelings of abandonment and alienation.

The blonde-haired child is younger and far less civilized than the Orphan.  I think she represents my deepest, most uncivilized emotions.  Raw and instinctive, archetypal and untamable, whether I like them or not—and in the dream I most certainly do not—they are part of me too.  Although she is alone there is no suggestion of orphanhood. I think she represents a different kind of feminine energy bubbling into my consciousness—a new-found naturalness, a savage determination to express my true feelings instead of trying to talk myself out of them. Where the Orphan is calm and obedient, she is wild and untamed. Where the Orphan is cerebral and verbal, she is utterly physical and doesn’t speak at all. The Orphan is passive; she is active. The Orphan thinks of herself as a victim;  this urchin is a feisty aggressor.

Another important clue: She has blonde hair. In my dream life this suggests closeness to the goddesses and gods who in Greek mythology were always blonde.   As images of archetypal forces which humans have always experienced as sacred, the goddesses and gods could be as cruel as they could be wise and loving. Maybe I’d understand this child better if I could associate her with one of the Greek goddesses. But which one?

The little girl is very closely associated with Bear; moreover, she is willing to hurt him—not seriously, but enough to rouse my anger. This is the most puzzling part of the dream. What on earth is there in me that could harm Bear? Think. Of all the Greek goddesses, who would be most apt to wound an animal? Of course. Artemis, goddess of the moon, the wilderness and the hunt. Her closeness to the animal instincts is symbolized in classical art by an ever-present dog at her feet. Most significant of all, in Who’s Who in Mythology, Alexander Murray says of Artemis, “As Brauronia, with the symbol of a bear, she had a sanctuary on the Acropolis of Athens.”ii

But how could the little Artemis in me wound the very animal that is her totem?   Because although the goddess was the friend and protectress of everything wild and innocent she also killed wild animals for sport! Could the blonde child represent a part of me that has a new tolerance for paradox and greater openness to my wild side? I hope so, for this speaks to a growing ability to integrate the opposites:  life and death, good and evil, light and dark.  Ugly and cruel as raw instincts and emotions may seem to my ego, wholeness will be forever beyond my reach if I cannot accept them.

The second goddess who comes to mind is Aphrodite. It would be just like her to instruct Eros to wound my heart the very weekend we mortals celebrate her gift to us! Aphrodite understands love; but, like Artemis, she will not be limited to one-sidedness, for she is equally comfortable with hatred and all the “baser” emotions including anger, vindictiveness, and jealousy. Jealousy. Aphrodite was always punishing women who drew her worshipers’ attention away from herself. Jealousy! Could the little girl be an emerging Aphrodite who is jealous of my love for Bear?   Did she stick pins in his head, not so much to hurt him, but to get my attention?

There it is. These two children, opposites in almost every way, represent truths about my instinctual self.  In Psychological Factors Determining Human Behavior, Jung said we have five instincts—hunger (or nurturance), activity, sexuality, reflection and creativity.iii  The issue in this dream is nurturance:  An Orphan feels deprived and is hungry for love.  Her caregivers may love her, but the kind of nurturing she wants or needs is not the kind she gets.

As a sensitive and well-meaning child I disowned feelings of self-pity, despair, and anger to protect my hard-working mother from my savage self. As an adult I still preferred not to see my neediness so I projected it onto Bear; hence, my attachment to him.  And my budding Artemis and Aphrodite are sad and jealous because I have lavished so much love on Bear and ignored them. I envy Bear’s freedom to be authentic while imprisoning my own instincts. Well-trained by my religious tradition I seek to soar high above nature’s earthy, uncivilized side.

Is this why some people get such pleasure out of hunting and killing wild animals?   Are they unconsciously trying to destroy their own dangerous wildness? Are we so deeply attached to our pets because training and loving them is an expression of our need to subdue and accept our own animal natures?   “Love me too,” says the blonde-haired child. “I may seem cruel to you, but I am just as much a part of you as Bear is. In fact, as my golden hair suggests, I am sacred.

Sacred?  Even the jealousy?  Even the natural cruelty?   Yes, these parts of us are sacred just as the cruel and tempestuous Greek gods and goddesses were sacred.   Just as the angry, jealous, judgmental Old Testament Yahweh was sacred. Just as Hinduism’s black-faced, blood-loving Kali is sacred. Sacred because all of life, all of creation with its cycles of Life, Death, and Rebirth is sacred. Sacred because every soul is sacred. We know this deep in our bones but fight it mightily with reason. This is the meaning of the ancient mystical saying that to know oneself is to know God.  Or as Sainte Julian of Norwich wrote, “We can never know God until we first know clearly our own soul.”iv

If I wish to know my own soul, I must accept what the children in my dream represent. The Orphan symbolizes a complex of emotions I associate with victims. I hate her sad mopiness and self-pity, am embarrassed by her insecurity and self-doubt. I could feel sorry for Bear when his companion Max got run over by a car shortly after they came to live with us, but not for myself when my father died. So I projected my Orphan onto Bear. I imagined he felt sad, lonely and neglected and gave him all the love and attention my Orphan wanted and deserved.  “You have no reason to feel melancholy,” I tell myself. “Grow up and get over it,” I say sternly. Is it any wonder my Orphan feels alone?  Is there anyone in the world willing to love her just as she is? To her it must feel as if there is not.

And like it or not, another part of me is like the blonde-haired girl. This dream is a summons to love my humanness in all its flaws and imperfections and this child is showing me what real humanness looks like. Can I learn to love her as much as I love Bear? Can I reclaim my instinctual self?

The last part of the dream shows where my energy is headed. Other parts of my psyche are ready to get on with the journey but are held back by an ego still embracing my Orphan projections, still hauling unwelcome, cumbersome emotions behind me like diarrhea-filled toilets!

These little girls do not represent the only emotions I disown. In the dream about the intruders, my ego wants to escape blame for any communication problems my husband and I have, and any anger I might feel over it. “It was his responsibility to set the alarm,” my dream ego thinks. “It’s not my fault the intruders (my fear and anger) became a threat.” In waking life, this corresponds to my ego thinking, “He should protect me from my insecurity and if he doesn’t, it is his fault.” Ouch!

“The dark-haired Orphan may be unforgiving, but not me,” says my ego. “I’m the reasonable one who tells orphans how they should feel.”   Later I think, “The blonde-haired child may be cruel, but not me, by God! I’m the defender and protectress of the instincts. When I get angry, it’s justified by the cruelty and insensitivity of others.”  Double ouch!

Is not this the same tough attitude of Artemis who found it so easy to destroy others with her anger when they offended her or one of her innocent creatures? And is this not how I occasionally feel in waking life?  Do I not project my own little cruelties onto others? Have I not seen myself as Bear’s protectress, even though he isn’t really an orphan and doesn’t even belong to me? Isn’t he a substitute for my own Orphan who I refuse to acknowledge yet unconsciously defend with self-righteous anger?

But there is hope for me. The dream says I am pondering what to do with Bear if I press forward on my journey into consciousness. Can I put Bear on the ground where he belongs and embrace my unlovable little girls? Can I bring them along with me on the journey, giving them the love and attention they crave?

i Pearson, Carol. The Hero Within, 29.
ii Murray, Alexander. Who’s Who in Mythology, 113-114.
iii Jung, Carl G. The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, 118.
iv Doyle, Brendan. Meditations with Julian of Norwich, 98.
Doyle, B. (1983). Meditations with Julian of Norwich. Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Company.
Jung, C.G. (1960). Psychological Factors Determining Human Behavior. In. H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, and W. McGuire (Eds.) (R.F.C. Hull, Trans.). The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1937)
Murray, A.S. (1988). Who’s Who in Mythology. New York, NY: Bonanza Books.
Pearson, C.S. (1986). The Hero Within. New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, San Francisco.

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Dr. Jean Raffa  is the author of The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, and Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dreamwork. Her newest book, The Sacred Marriage from Larson Publications, is  scheduled for May of 2012.

One comment

  1. Hello, all. I’m just dropping by with an update. It’s great fun to re-read this piece because it reminds me how much I’ve grown since I wrote it 13 years ago. Dreamwork is still my favored practice and I still learn so much from my dreams.

    Just the other night I had two that dramatized some emotions I was experiencing about my upcoming podcast and book signing at the Book Expo of New York: a melange of instinctual joy, spontaneity and confidence (symbolized by a huge black dog who leaped happily into a flooded sunken garden and swam around with abandon), mixed in with persona concerns in which my dream ego had feelings of self-doubt and self-criticism and worried about being unprepared! One thing for sure: this work never ends!

    The other update is about my new book. We’ve changed the title to Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace With Ourselves, Each Other, and the World, and the official launch is now July 30. We’ve received some lovely endorsements and I’m very excited! If you’re interested in knowing more about it, you can check it out at where they will soon have advance copies available for a reduced price.

    Thanks to Bonnie Bright and Depth Insights for your support of we who write about the inner depths. It’s a real privilege to be featured on these pages.

    Jeanie Raffa

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