Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Do Dreams Have To Do With “Real” Life? Part II July 22, 2014

IndividuationandArchetypeLast time I shared a dream from over 20 years ago titled “Two Snakes in the Tree of Life.” So what did that dream have to do with “real” life?  Actually, dreams ARE real life.  They happen to everyone, even some animals.  They are facts.  We do not make them up.  They come from a place beyond Ego’s control: the unconscious.  Our unawareness of the unconscious does not negate its reality;  each dream proves its existence. When we trust it and explore its nightly dramas, ordinary life is transformed into the greatest adventure of all: living our own myth.

This is my all-time favorite dream and I’m still processing its message. It arrived shortly after I finished my first book about the inner life, The Bridge to Wholeness.  I had quit college teaching to follow my passion for writing, birthed my precious child, nurtured it through months of revisions, and was looking for a publisher. At a time when I was particularly vulnerable, this dream affirmed my choices and bolstered my courage to continue on my new path.

It is a mythic allegory about the psycho-spiritual initiation of my immature Ego (the little green snake) which had unconsciously identified with my culture’s masculine/Animus values.  It said that my destiny was to take the individuation (tree) journey through a dark and unknown way to integrate my Soul (brown female snake) into consciousness.

The Bridge to WholenessThe first stage of initiation was a slow awakening to Spirit through a lengthy immersion in the spiritual realm (hole).  This corresponded with the first half of my life when I escaped internal conflicts by immersing myself in church, the Bible, and masculine-oriented religious teachings.

The second stage began when the little green snake left the safe womb of conformity and ventured out on its own.  This was the right choice (right) for me, even though it opened me to the dangerous influence of the unconscious (left). The outer world equivalent to this plot development is that at age 37 I finally acknowledged my unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, overcame my inertia, and returned to college for my doctorate.

Act III featured an encounter with my earthy feminine Anima/Soul (brown female snake) who lived in the opposite, unconscious side of my psyche. Suddenly, her differing needs demanded equal time with Spirit.

In waking life I had come face to face with a moral dilemma, both sides of which were equally compelling, yet intolerable.  Fearful of making a terrible mistake that could have disastrous consequences, I tolerated the tension of their slow simmering in a Dark Night of the Soul for nine long years. Listening to the dialogues between Reason and Emotion, Conscious and Unconscious, Animus and Anima, Spirit and Soul, Ego and Self without giving in to my Ego’s desperate wish to escape was my salvation, for in the process, the alchemical vessel of my psyche was strengthened and empowered.

dreamtheatres2Fascinated by the strange image of the female snake biting down on the head of the little green snake, I looked for associations in Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Walker says that the serpent was originally identified with the Great Goddess and many ancient religions told stories about a male snake deity who was the Goddess’s consort.  Walker writes:

[This male snake]…gave himself up to be devoured by the Goddess.  The image of the male snake deity enclosed or devoured by the female gave rise to a superstitious notion about the sex life of snakes, reported by Pliny and solemnly believed in Europe even up to the 20th century:  that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head in her mouth and letting her eat him [italics mine] p. 904.

Bingo! This mythic image which I had never encountered before is an archetypal symbol of fertility, transformation and renewal! It appeared in my dream as a natural consequence of years of inner work and mirrored a life-changing transformation in my personality. This is why the last scene of the dream pointed not to death, but to new life. An apparent catastrophe was transformed into something sacred (rainbow) by the snakes’ bizarre embrace. The result was a more maturely individuated Ego and Animus (cowboy) and a deeply meaningful spirituality.

So my answer to,”What do dreams have to do with ‘real’ life?” is, “Everything that truly matters and is deeply real.”  They show us who we are: our greatest fears and deepest desires, our wounds and wishes, weaknesses and strengths.They tell us where we are and how to get where we want to go. They help us forgive our flaws and learn compassion for ourselves and others. They encourage our individuality and reward our healthy choices. They satisfy our soul’s yearning to be known and loved.

I still struggle daily to understand and accept myself, but thanks to my dreams and the writing through which I pour out my vital essence, I’m still evolving.  And beneath my ubiquitous self-doubt rests a solid foundation—laid by 25 years of recording and working on #4,552 dreams to date—of peaceful knowing.  My dreams tell me:  You are making a contribution only you can make. This is enough for me.

Your destiny is the result of the collaboration between the conscious and the unconscious. Carl Jung, Letters Volume I, p. 283.

Photos:  Ego and Archetype by Edward Edinger is one of my favorite books by a Jungian analyst. It’s a must for the library of any serious seeker. To learn more about Jungian psychology from a layperson’s point of view check out any of my books.  Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


11 Responses to “What Do Dreams Have To Do With “Real” Life? Part II”

  1. Francesca Says:

    Thank you, Jean, for your wonderful today’s blog that turned out to be very supportive to my own lifelong views on dreams. I myself was going in my mind about my recent dream where an elephant female (deepest wisdom) have been happily married to an (ordinary) man and they even had a human child, as I have been told in dream. Something that made me think of my own love and yet inability to marry “ordinary” man. 🙂 I have not yet met the one of my own “breed” I would love to be married too. :-).

    And giving you an encouraging word here – Dreams do matter. At some other times they work as guiding or warning help too. That is my experience.

    Looking forward to your sharing some other memorable dream experiences of yours.

    Thank you. Francesca



    • jeanraffa Says:

      Hi, Francesca. Your wise elephant female/ordinary human male image is fascinating. Perhaps it says something about the Soul’s/Sophia’s “wisdom of the heart”, i.e. the ability to understand and feel love and compassion for all forms of otherness, including different manifestations of Spirit, in the interest of intimate relationship….. and that ability to establish intimacy with otherness creates healthy new life…. Hmmmm…..

      Yes, dreams have many more levels of meaning and guidance other than those I mentioned. Once in a workshop I attended the teacher asked us to think of the different things dreams can do and we filled up an entire chalkboard with examples.

      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to write!



  2. Amy Campion Says:

    Reblogged this on The Dream Well and commented:
    Following on from yesterday’s post from Jean Raffa, here is the second part that explores how dreams can have lasting significance to our lives. Thanks to Jean for allowing me to share this with you, and kindly offering to answer any questions you may have.


  3. frankramer Says:

    I think our journey of going from the masculine influence in spirituality to discovering the feminine side is typical for many women in our culture and you have expressed it so beautifully here.


    • jeanraffa Says:

      I agree. Organized religion as I experienced it was painfully one-sided but it took me a long time to learn how to fill that void by knowing and trusting my femininity. Hopefully, as more women do that it will become easier for younger women who follow us. Thank you for your kind and affirming words.


  4. elainemansfield Says:

    Thank you, Jeanie. It’s a stunning dream and you’ve mined it deeply. I’m sure you’ll continue mining it for a lifetime.

    After Vic died, vivid dreams helped me digest and accept the underworld initiation of catastrophic illness and death. I worked many of them with my Jungian dream therapist and also painted them. I’m grateful.


  5. jeanraffa Says:

    Thank you, Elaine.

    I imagine your dreams of Vic during that dark time performed many functions that directly impacted your waking life. Not only did they provide many opportunities for healthy and healing grieving, but I would think they also brought enormous comfort, guidance, affirmation, and companionship.

    How wise you were to turn to your dreams, painting and art as ways of finding meaning in your tragedy. I wish I knew how to help others see the enormous power in our deceptively simple faculty of creative imagination. I am so looking forward to the publication of your new book, the child and fruit of Psyche’s hard journey to healing and consciousness.

    With love and admiration,


  6. “My dreams tell me: You are making a contribution only you can make. This is enough for me.

    Your destiny is the result of the collaboration between the conscious and the unconscious. Carl Jung, Letters Volume I, p. 283.

    Wow, Jeanie. Your powerful final words, coupled with such a poignant quote from Jung, ended this post with a bang! It left me stilled and inspired, all at once. Thanks – It is fascinating to watch you work a dream.

    PS. I realized the other day that I have one of your books (Dream Theatres) on the shelf in our library here at Dream School! I was so tickled to see it jump out at me 🙂


    • jeanraffa Says:

      I so appreciate knowing this post inspired you. It’s music to a writer/dreamer’s ears. As you would know!! And to hear that my book leapt out at you from your library book shelf adds the final touch to the inner symphony I’m enjoying at the moment! If you’d be interested in sharing a bit about your Dream School here, I’m sure many of my readers would be interested in knowing more about it.

      Thank you for your affirming comment. It means a lot.



  7. […] real life. In a two-part post, she presents an important dream from her own life and then, in the second part, describes her experience of living and working with this pivotal […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s