Two nights before my keynote speech to the 2015 International Association for the Study of Dreams I had this dream.
#4,642: My Animus is Afraid to Trust My Instincts: Old friends have visited us for two days. I’ve just realized they left their dog alone at home. I’m worried about this. Will it have enough food? I say to the husband, “Won’t it poop and pee all over the house?” He says with a shrug, “Maybe. We’ll see.” I can’t believe he’s so casual about this. It feels wrong.
We drive to their house in another town and go inside. As we approach the sliding glass door to the backyard, he points out little piles of poop that make a trail to the open door. I see their dog sticking its cute brown and white head out from some green undergrowth at back of the cement patio. It moves into the open looking wobbly and weak, as if it’s about to drop.
I go to it, sit on the ground, and pet it. It wags its tail happily and climbs into my lap, growing excited and playful. Another little black dog who looks like Peri [our son’s dog as a child] runs to me, jumps all over me, licks me, and wiggles around in my arms. The husband is watching us from the stoop of the open door. With an ironic smile he looks pointedly at his brown and white dog and says, “I’m afraid of you.” He turns away as if he’s lost interest.
My associations: I associate the husband with the part of my animus that identifies with the Scholar archetype. In waking life this man is an intelligent, creative former college professor. The dogs represent my animal, instinctual self, especially my instincts for nurturance and activity. My dream ego enjoys and trusts my instincts, but my animus neglects them and admits he’s afraid of his dog. Why?
The key to understanding this dream is the context. Anxiety about my upcoming speech had dominated my waking hours for over a month. The previous day, an artist friend who used to attend my classes at the Jung Center called and asked if I was ready. When I told her about my concerns she said, as other friends had been saying, “Relax. You’re going to be great. You always are. Just trust your instincts.”
Bingo! My animus was afraid to trust my instincts. As a college professor, my instincts were of no importance. Nothing but an abstract concept. What was important was task-oriented, single-minded attention to texts written by outer authorities. We (my animus and ego) saw this as the only way to comprehend and express the course material clearly and correctly. This was how a good teacher prepared to teach.
When I quit teaching and began writing over 25 years ago, this habit persisted. By then my reading, studying and writing were focused on Jungian psychology and understanding my dreams. But as I persisted in this inner work, something changed. I began to rely more on my dreams and instincts and less on outer authorities to guide the direction of my thinking and writing.
Following some inner compass I didn’t know I had, I spent mornings listening to my anima—my creative, feminine, instinctual self—by meditating and working on my dreams. When a dream image, emotion or theme felt unusually fascinating, I’d spend the afternoon—time reserved for my animus to manifest my anima’s creativity—incorporating it into my current manuscript. In respecting the needs of my feminine and masculine sides I was unknowingly activating the Self, the central authority of my psyche, and learning to trust it.
This transformation awakened my passion and creativity and informed my books. Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work is the book on which my speech for the IASD was based. I knew this material. It had come from listening to my feminine instincts. Yet, in preparing for my speech I’d neglected Her in favor of His traditional, single-minded, outer-referential ego-mode. And like the puppies in my dream, She was starved for attention, nurturance, and love.
Understanding this inner reality had a magical, mystical impact. With no mental effort other than a 30 minute meditation/ritual during which I thanked Dream Mother for this dream and reassured my animus that he could relax now, my concerns simply fell away. For the next several days I was wrapped in a cocoon of calm and trust. Never have I been more relaxed before or after a presentation.
Yes, after 25 years of inner work, my animus’s fear of my instincts occasionally still floods me with anxiety, but so far this tension has served me well. Tolerating the interaction between the different perspectives of my masculine and feminine sides has not only insured my survival and thriving, but created and birthed self-knowledge, consciousness, and spiritual meaning.
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.