#iamsubject project – My Natural Self – Reclaimed

My Natural Self – Reclaimed: Tying the Provisional Life to the Complex

by Raymonde Savoie

“… the power of our earliest messages is extraordinarily difficult to confront, especially when it is at work unconsciously. What we do not know does indeed hurt us, and others, and has the potential to guide our choices in directions quite different from those the soul desires.”
James Hollis

Back in 1990 when I realised that my actions and behaviours were not what I wanted or intended them to be, the shock to my ego sent me searching for answers that have been the focus of my life ever since.

Upon learning that I was under the influence of an addiction to relationships as a direct result of having been sexually abused as a little girl, and that it wasn’t my fault because I was a bad person, I could then start healing the wounded self I had become. It would be years before I could start to identify the complexes that riddled my dreams, and especially the needy little girl complex that was, as Hollis mentions, ‘guiding my choices in directions quite different from what my soul desired.’

At the time I wrote in my journal: “Who am I with this monster of need having its roots deep in my soul?”

Decades passed as I tried my best to dig down deep and uncover what my past had done to me. I was living my provisional life; the ego-self’s outer mask, or persona, was just a disguise hiding and protecting the fragile, real Natural Self that I had buried a long, long time ago.  Because I was not living who I was naturally meant to be, in other words, growing up, I was being assaulted from within with physical symptoms and mental dilemmas, not to mention very disturbing dreams that haunted me continuously.

Dreams can arise from many psychic, unconscious sources, and one of these sources is the presence of complexes that are formed when, as children, our life undergoes the changes and challenges to our reality that we are unable, or unwilling, to face at the time.

Facing a complex, Anthony Stevens says, “is hard, demanding, and sometimes frightening work…” and, “Dreams provide direct access to the complexes as well as mobilizing the symbolic and emotive energies necessary to change them.

Conscious Healing of the Past and Present

What I have come to call my Needy Little Girl Complex, or psychologically speaking, my Puella Aeterna, the ‘eternal girl-child,’ has been the one in charge of my life for many years, way past the time when she should have grown up, left home, and become a mature, responsible and autonomous woman.

From leaning on a non-emotional mother to marrying my first husband, also non-feeling, to diving into a second marriage in which we prided ourselves on ‘living a fairy tale,’ I have always attempted to have others care for me so that I would not have to do it myself, simply because it was too scary.

Dreams and Nightmares, A Survivor’s Best Friends

 Childhood is a period of great emotional intensity, and a childs earliest dreams often manifest in symbolic form the basic structure of the psyche, indicating how it will later shape the destiny of the individual concerned.

This is what Marie-Louise von Franz wrote in the chapter “The Process of Individuation,” from “Man and His Symbols.”Further, quoting a dream recounted by Jung to his students, she notes,

From this single dream it is possible to deduce the fate of the dreamer, which was anticipated by her psyche in childhood.

My retrospective search for healing and truth has uncovered this interesting correlation that von Franz speaks of between the complex that imprisoned me and the dreams I had as a child during and after the abuse. One recurring dream that I had the summer I was being molested seemed to be a presage of how I would thereafter perceive life and the ways I would invent to deny, elude or escape its anxiety-producing clutches.

In this dream, I am tied to a post in the family barn, with only a circle of yellow light surrounding me. The rest all around me is a pitch-black darkness. I am terrified because I know that sooner or later, he is coming for me and I am totally powerless to stop him, to free myself, or to expect anyone to come to my rescue.

What was staring out at me from the darkness was the huge fear of the new and the unknown, which Jung calls “misoneism,” and which my young, fragile mind perceived as the horrible man who abused me. The dream ends with the terror of hopelessness filling me, as hopeless as I felt to make him stop hurting me, and as hopeless the recurrent theme that filled many subsequent dreams that I have had all of my life.

In the year 2010, however, one dream in particular took on a more urgent, immediate flavour. I was living in Canada with my second husband, and an imminent change was about to rock our world. We had learned in the spring that he would have to go back to his native country, and I would be left alone, at least for the winter months ahead.

The dream that changed the course of my life went like this.

I dreamed that I was a passenger in a yellow car being driven by my husband. Going up a sloping bridge, we fell in the ditch, which became a circular, black rut or hole from which we could not escape. Eventually in this dream, I was left alone, first by my husband who told me the yellow car was fine when it was obviously broken, and then again by the woman in the back seat with the little girl who had warned me I would fall ‘into sugar’ again. Towards the end of the dream, I am in bed with the “manager” who is, to my dream ego, a complete stranger. My dream ends with “What is to become of me in this strange place, all alone, with a car I can‘t even drive? I feel so deeply alone…” Because, even if the car had been fixed, I would not have been able to drive it, for in reality, I don’t have my driver’s license.

The changes we dreaded did come to pass and after he had been in Australia for a few months that year, I too followed him and we were together once again. It took me nine more months of fighting my dreams and the dreadful insights that were bubbling up from my unconscious to finally give in, to admit that, all this time, my Needy Little Girl complex had been running the show, and not my adult self at all.

By showing me the nature of my true reality, this dream, after I was able to finally decipher a great deal of its important message, led me to leave my husband in Australia, to fly back to Canada alone, come back to become responsible for myself, and to try to heal the rifts between my family and myself that I had created such a long time ago.

My dreams have often brought me the healing symbols I needed to grow and move forward on my personal and spiritual path, especially when I have felt stuck or was at an impasse in my waking reality. That’s how dreams work, if we will let them. They helped me reclaim my Natural Self.


Hollis, James, ‘Finding Meaning In the Second Half of Life, How to Finally, Really Grow Up,’ Gotham Books, New York, 2005

Stevens, Anthony, ‘Private Myths, Dreams and Dreaming,’ Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1955

Von Franz, Marie-Louise, ‘The Process of Individuation,’ Part 3 of Man and His Symbols, Carl G. Jung et al, Dell Publishing, London, 1964

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

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