The Unconscious World of Dreams

The Psychology of Dreams - A Jungian Perspective

Understanding Your Dreams
The Individuation Process
Journey To Wholeness

Jung's approach to finding balance in life was through dreams and his 'Individuation Process'. Individuation is a self analysis, a self discovery, analyzing your own psyche and life, discovering what truths lie underneath the conscious ego-centric personality, and life. In this search of the unconscious one will confront different aspects of the psyche that influence our human fabric, our behaviour and reasons for those behaviours. Beginning with the 'Shadow', the following will introduce you to the four different aspects of the psyche that influence, often unconsciously, who we are as individuals, and ultimatley collectively.

The Shadow

The Shadow is always the same gender as the individual. The Shadow is considered to be a collection of inferiorities, undeveloped, and regressive aspects of the personality. They are primarily of an emotional nature and have a kind of autonomy, displaying an obsessive or more accurately a possessive quality. These aspects are generally associated with projections. Projection is defined as "the situation in which one unconsciously invests another person (or object) with notions or characteristics of one's own.

'parts of yourself {psyche} that you have not previously brought into consciousness'

The first step is taken towards self-realization {individuation} when you meet your 'shadow'. This is so called because it is the 'dark' side of your psyche, the parts of yourself that you have not previously brought into the light of consciousness. It is, for this reason, the 'primitive' (undeveloped or underdeveloped) side of your personality. It is also the 'negative' side of your personality, insofar as it is the opposite of whatever you have hitherto regarded as making a positive contribution to your well being.

In dreams your shadow may be represented either by some figure of the same sex as yourself (an elder brother or sister, your best friend, or some alien or primitive person) or by a person who represents your opposite (and of the same sex). A clear example of this in literature is Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mt Hyde', in which Mr Hyde may be seen as Dr Jekyll's unconscious shadow, leading a separate and altogether different life from the conscious part of the personality. The werewolf motif features in the same way in literature (e.g. Hermann Hesse's 'Steppenwolf') and in folklore. In pre-literate societies this 'other' side of the individual's personality was sometimes depicted as a 'bush-soul', having its own separate body - usually that of an animal or tree in the nearby bush or forest. (It should be noted that in such preliterate society the bush or forest or other wide or desert places surrounding the human settlement were powerful symbols of anti-anomianism, that is, of everything that constituted a threat to the established law and order in the human community. There is an obvious parallel here to the way the dark forces of the unconscious may be felt as a threat to the ordered life of the conscious ego).

Cinderella is a shadow figure. She is ignored and neglected by her elder sisters. They go out into the world, but Cinderella is shut up indoors. This represents the contrast between the conscious ego (which relates to the outside world) and those parts of the unconscious that have not been allowed any part in one's conscious activity. However, Cinderella eventually escapes from her imprisonment and marries the Prince. This marriage symbolizes the joining together of conscious ego (Prince) and shadow (Cinderella), which is the end result of the penetration of the conscious mind by the unconscious and/or the penetration of the unconscious by consciousness. Symbolically - in myths and in dreams - consciousness is usually represented as male, the unconscious as female; and the sexual penetration of female by male is therfore a common symbol of the descent of consciousness into the dark cave-like depths of the unconscious. (Here is a splendid example of the difference between Freud and Jung: whereas for Freud all - nearly all - dream images were symbols of sexuality, Jung asks us to entertain the possibility that the sexual act itself may be a symbol pointing to something beyond itself.)

Other symbols of the encounter with the shadow include the conversion motif. In the New Testament the Greek word that is translated as 'conversion' means literally 'a turning about'. And this is precisely what happens in the first stage of the individuation process: you start looking in the opposite direction - inside instead of outside - and this leads to the discovery and unfolding of a new dimension of yourself; new powers begin to work for you and you begin to experience 'newness of life'. 'You shall have life and shall have it more abundantly', said Jesus; and this, Jung would say, is what individuation is all about.

Both the ritual of baptism and the many Flood myths may be sen as the first stage of the individuation process. Water is a common symbol of the unconscious. In baptism a person is plunged into water and is said to be 'born again' when he or she rises out of the water. This symbolizes the descent of consciousness into the unconscious and the resulting new and fuller life.

The same aplies to stories of a great flood which destroys the face of the earth and the recedes, leaving one pure human being (e.g Noah in the Jewish - Christian tradition; Markandeya in the Hindu tradition). If we take this as a symbol of individuation, what is destroyed by the flood-waters (the unconscious) is the persona, that makeshift self-image with which we start our adult life. This partial self must be desolved to make way for the appearance of the whole self {represented by Noah or Markandeya}.

In some cultures there are myths of a diver who plunges to the bottom of the sea and brings up treasure. The water, again, may be seen as a symbol for the unconscious, and the treasure as the new self one finds when priviously usued psychic resources are given approperiate expression in one's conscious life.

The story of the Frog Prince tells of a young woman who is visited on three consecutive nights by a frog. On the first and second nights she is horrified, but on the third night she relents and lets the frog into her bed, and in the moment that she kisses him the frog turns into a handsome prince. For Ernest Jones (a follower and biographer of Freud) the story is an allegorical account of a young woman overcoming her fear of sex. For Joseph Campbell (a disciple of Jung) the frog is just another example of the dragons and other frightening monsters whose role in mythology is to guard treasure. The frog, like them, represents the dark and frightening shadow; the treasure is the true self. The kiss symbolizes a person's acceptanace of the shadow. And the result is the manisfestation of the true nature of the shadow, as a bearer of one's true selfhood.

In order to reach the second stage of individuation you must resist two temptations. First, you must avoid projecting your shadow on to other people. Your shadow, because it is your dark side, may be quite frightening, and you may even see it as something evil. You may therfore want to disown it; and one way of doing this is to make believe it is the property of someone else. On a collective level this is what leads to racism and the persecution of 'non-believers' (which in this context means people whose beliefs are different from our own). These are both examples of the 'them-and-us' syndrome, where we unload our 'dark' side on to some other group, which then becomes the scapegoat that carries the blame for everything that is wrong in our lives or our society. Commenting on Jesus's command to 'Love your enemy', Jung remarks: 'But what if I should discover that that very enemy himself is within me, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved - what then?' The answer is that you must learn to integrate the dark side of yourself, which means accepting it and allowing it to proper expression under the control of your conscious mind. It will then cease to be dark and terrifying and hostile; instead, it will enhance the quality of your life, advance your personal development and increase your happiness.

The second temptation to be resisted is that of suppressing the shadow, which means putting it back into the cellars of the unconscious and locking thye doors on it. (If Cinderella never realized her shadow, she would still be locked behind the closed doors which represents her unconscious desires to be free). Says Jung: 'Mere suppression of the Shadow is as little a remedy as beheading would be for a headache.' Whatever pain or unease your shadow may cause you, it consists of precisely those parts of your total self that you need to utilize if you are to achieve full personal growth. To suppress the shadow is merely to go back to square one; and sooner or later you will be forced to come to terms with this 'dark' side of yourself.

Usually, the first encounter with the shadow leads only to a partial acceptance of it, a mere acknowledgement of its existence. Certainly it is good to confess (what appear as) the less desirable - the'dark' - aspects of one's personality: without that, no further progress can be made. But merely acknowledging these aspects does not take us very far. A lot more work is necessary.

The Dark Side of the Psyche
Illustration: Darth Vader As the Dark Side of Luke Sykwalker

Stage Two: Anima and Animus

The Shadow A Feminine Perspective ........ The Shadow in Jungs' Life


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