Why is the Soul So Shy?

I have tentatively started – yet once again – to write in a journal, inspired by Virginia Woolfe, Anais Nin and even Kierkegaarde. My earliest inspiration for doing do was The Diary of Anne Frank, which I read  around the same age she was when she wrote that remarkable book – at the ripe old age of 12. I was so moved by her courage in the face of the horror that surrounded her and her family.


Every time I tried writing in a journal in the past, I would face my own inner horror which would say: ‘can I dare to be totally open and true to myself and the page?’ This existential terror would whisper…..’what if someone finds it and reads it? There is no hiding place that is good enough’. On a deep soul level this fear always slammed on the brakes.

 Now I am finally beginning  to see this for what is – the shyness of the soul – and I realize I am not alone. I came across this wonderful quote from Maya Angelou the other day and I realized that what I had been thinking about, she had articulated in another way – but that we were talking about the same thing:

 I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.

We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.

 Maya Angelou

 As a child I lived much of my life in that presence, but I had no words for it. When I was younger I couldn’t speak about my inner reality or my inner truth, because there was no “I” strong enough to do so. As in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of  The Little Mermaid, a story that I adored as a child, I had no voice. It took the long, slow process of growth into maturity to understand that like the little mermaid, I longed for a connection with The Prince. In Jungian terms this is understood as the inner connection to the animus (a woman’s inner connection to the masculine).


 For the complete story from Hans Christian Andersen:


 If we look at the fairytale from the Jungian perspective, the little Mermaid suffers and sacrifices herself in order to connect with her prince in the hopes that it will bring her into a grounded relationship with him. The horrible sadness of it is that she sacrificed her voice in order to get legs, so she could walk by his side and be in the same reality in which he lived. Like the little mermaid, the woman’s connection with the animus is the bridge that brings us into the world, but then the soul has to struggle to find its voice.


In this story, the Prince does not realize that it is the little mermaid who has saved his life when he was on the brink of drowning after a shipwreck. It is a man’s lifework to find and deepen the connection to the inner feminine and to give it voice. It is a woman’s lifework to find and embody the will, the strength and the courage to be and find her rightful work in the world, her true voice, her calling.

 This fairytale is about the longing of the soul for a grounded connection in life, and it also about its essential shyness. Until we are strong and courageous enough to speak from the soul, for the soul – we are silenced by our fear, distracted by our distractions, living a provisional life.

 This is not meant to blame – it takes a lot of time and courage, and perhaps many lifetimes to wake up. We need to be compassionate to ourselves and to others, while not allowing ourselves to be fooled into thinking this is all there is – so that we must rush and grab and step over others to gain a little inch for ourselves.

 When we do begin to wake up to this reality, we can begin to forgive ourselves for our lack of consciousness and our mistakes. Then, and only then,  can we begin to forgive others.  Perhaps they haven’t yet had the strength, courage or enough awareness to listen to their own souls and find their true voices.

 As Christopher Frye says in The Sleep of Prisoners, “It takes so many thousand years to wake, but will you wake, for pity’s sake?”

To listen to Sir George Trevelyan recite this poem go to:


A Sleep of Prisoners

by Christopher Fry

The human heart can go the lengths of God…

Dark and cold we may be, but this

Is no winter now.

The frozen misery

Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;

The thunder is the thunder of the floes,

The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong

Comes up to face us everywhere,

Never to leave us till we take

The longest stride of soul men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size.

The enterprise is exploration into God.

Where are you making for

It takes

So many thousand years to wake…

But will you wake, for pity’s sake?



10 thoughts on “Why is the Soul So Shy?

  1. Hi Margaret,

    I love this, especially reading it after finishing a post on alchemy and our modern emphasis on self. You perfectly express why this stage of the cosmos needs this emphasis, I think. The god is hidden, we are those gods, so we slowly learn how to express, gaining freedom for every kind of being and expression.

    One of the joys of writing for me is that I feel freer to try to express myself, in my own time, and in my own way. Often, when I am around others, I don’t felt listened to and therefore heard.

    I’ve missed your posts! Hope you are well and best wishes for the new year!

  2. What a beautiful post! Like you, I started a journal after reading Anne Frank’s, age 12 (I am sure we are not alone…) but it wasn’t until I reached 25 that I really started keeping a journal. And I haven’t stopped ever since. They are all lined up in my office, dozens of them, in chronological order and never re-read. I keep on threatening to do it one day but I am not sure I want to confront my life so head on. An ex-boyfriend did read one of them while I was out shopping, years ago, and major upset ensued. People should know better than to prod into others’ most unvarnished thoughts.

  3. No kidding! My worst nightmare was always the thought that someone might read what I had written – and yet the irony is that a writer wants to be read….I guess the maturity as a writer is holding that tension between one’s deepest truths and how much we dare to reveal. I feel what I have to work on the most is that courage…thank you for writing…I love your posts!

  4. Hi again Debra,

    It’s a beautiful thought that we are those gods….and that by struggling to express what is in us to express, we can make a difference to this world. I agree with you – we so underestimate our capacity for creativity and our ability to effect change – often in ways that will remain hidden to us and that we will never see.

    As to feeling heard – well, I have learned that if you can find one person, one place where you truly feel heard at the deepest level- that is one of life’s greatest blessings. I have such a one – she has been my analyst for over 25 years, and I will be heartbroken when I lose her. Once you have had that experience, you just make do with all the rest!

    Keep up the great work Debra, you are one who is making a difference!



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