Answers. Answers. Who's Got the Answers?

WHEN I WAS THREE YEARS OLD, my parents rented a vacation cabin on Lake Michigan. One evening as I played by the shore, I looked up to find that I was alone. Each parent, thinking I was with the other, had gone back to the cabin. I began to walk along the water's edge, following a distant pinpoint of light in the dark.

Answers. Answers. Who's Got the Answers?

The Bridge to Wholeness:
A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth
Chapter 1

WHEN I WAS THREE YEARS OLD, my parents rented a vacation cabin on Lake Michigan. One evening as I played by the shore, I looked up to find that I was alone. Each parent, thinking I was with the other, had gone back to the cabin. I began to walk along the water's edge, following a distant pinpoint of light in the dark.

I still remember my feelings that, even now, are hard to put into words. Hurt: How could my mother lose me? Terror: Will she find me? Confusion: Is it possible that something bad could happen to me? Distress: Will somebody else find me and then will I have to live with them? Hunger: Who will give me food?

It seemed like forever, although it was probably only moments, before my father came up behind me, hugged me, and walked hand-in-hand with me back to our cabin. I was safe, but I was never again to experience the sense of utter faith and trust that I had lived with until then, for something new was set into motion that evening. I had become conscious of my existence in a very big, very dark, very dangerous world. Worse, I suspected my parents' fallibility. Was it possible they were not perfect and all-knowing? Why didn't my mother come for me? Didn't she know I would want her to find me? Why didn't my father carry me home instead of letting my brother ride on his shoulders while he simply held my hand? Did he love my brother more than me? Was it because my brother was a boy? Didn't my father understand how afraid I had been? Didn't he care about my feelings?

To the best of my memory, this event marked my separation from innocence and the beginning of my seeking and questioning. From this point on, I began to question the life I had been given. What were the rules? What must I do to stay safe? Who knew the answers?

For a while I continued to hope that my parents had the answers. Then, when I was eleven, my parents divorced. I sat in my mother's lap and cried and cried. How could this happen? How could it have been prevented? There were no answers.

Three months later my father died of his third heart attack.

My devastating loss and the reality of death were too terrifying to face, and I still couldn't comprehend the idea of a dangerous world where my own existence might be in jeopardy. I desperately needed the illusion of a safe, benevolent universe, and I didn't have the courage to give in to my doubt and despair.

And so, in the way of wounded children everywhere, I denied these feelings. I didn't cry. I protected myself by building a wall around my emotions and believing that I was just fine. But the questions remained and there were new ones: How should I feel? How should I act? Should I look sad? How long was I supposed to mourn? Was it wrong to laugh if someone said something funny? Did everyone but me know how they were supposed to feel and behave when a parent died? Was there something wrong with me? Would this have happened to me if we were rich and famous?

My search went on. Perhaps someone other than my parents had the answers - maybe people like the President of the United States, or presidents of banks and leaders of business, or people who had achieved fame and wealth, like movie stars. But in my ninth-grade civics class I realized that neither the Founding Fathers nor current politicians had all the answers about how to run a country. They were just guessing, hoping, shooting in the dark. The same was true of business people. If wealthy financiers and knowledgeable economists could not keep the stock market from crashing, who could? And movie stars? Were they immune from pain?

Gradually I realized that money and fame didn't seem to make any difference either. Famous people got sick, died, divorced, and had problems just like everyone else.

At seventeen, I turned to religion. I read the New Testament again and again. Ministers, saints, and youth group leaders became my authorities. And when the Reverend Billy Graham came to town and preached a powerful sermon and gave a compelling altar call, I was the first one to jump out of my seat and walk down the aisle. Now, I thought, I will find the answers through religion.

But as I learned the doctrines of my religion and followed the leaders I admired, I found that there were many religious leaders who believed in the same rules, yet came up with some very different answers. It seemed there were many ways of interpreting Holy Scriptures, many paths to paradise. And while I continued to live by the underlying truths I had found, there were no satisfactory answers to questions like: Why do good people suffer? Will faith in God protect me from pain? If it won't, what will? Why do I have to die? What is heaven like?

My search expanded into education. Teachers taught everything else; they must have the answers. But mostly I found theories, a major one being that I should learn to think for myself. How could that be? I was no expert. But I went as far as I could, and along the way I acquired more questions: Can people get better as they grow older or do they only become more corrupt? What should the purpose of education be? Whose fault is it when children fail in school? Their own? Their parents'? Education's? Society's? Is it possible for humans to create a perfect world? Who was right about what constitutes utopia? Was it Plato? Bacon? Rousseau? Marx?

And so I went from leader to leader, lecture to lecture, book to book, one castle of knowledge after another. Each time I searched for someone who had the answers, someone whose disciple I could be. And when each one disappointed me, I found a new authority to believe in, a new doctrine to conform to.

What was all this questioning really about? What was I really looking for when I sought answers from famous authorities and accepted doctrines?

All I wanted was this: a simple set of rules to live by that could protect me, like the thick walls of a cozy castle, from a terrifying, confusing world of loss, death, suffering, and loneliness. I wanted a predictable, uncomplicated world where I would be loved and understood and accepted and safe, a world where my mother would never lose me and my father would never die and I would never have to suffer all alone. A child's view of paradise - that is all I wanted. Nothing more. Nothing more.

Dr. Jean Raffa is an author, speaker, and leader of workshops, dream groups, and study groups. She maintains a blog called "Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom." Her job history includes teacher, television producer, college professor, and instructor at the Disney Institute in Orlando and The Jung Center in Winter Park, FL. She is the author of three books, a workbook, a chapter in a college text, numerous articles in professional journals, and a series of meditations and short stories for Augsburg Fortress Publisher.

Her book The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth (LuraMedia, 1992) was nominated for the Benjamin Franklin Award for best psychology book of 1992.

Reviewed in several journals and featured on the reading lists of university courses, it was also picked by the Isabella catalogue as a must-read for seeking women. Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dreamwork (Innisfree Press, Inc., 1994) has been used in dreamwork courses throughout the country and is included in’s list of the Top 100 Best Selling Dream Books, and TCM’s book list of Human Resources for Organizational Development.

You are here: Home Psychology The Bridge to Wholeness Answers. Answers. Who's Got the Answers?