Helping Others with Their Dreams March 24, 2015
In my experience, every dream contains information about the dreamer’s unconscious self. Which is exactly why it’s so difficult for us to figure out what our own dreams mean! Moreover, no matter what we may think we know about someone else, we have no idea what’s going on in their inner universe, and it’s not only inappropriate, but unhelpful to assume we do.
Yet there are ways we can help. Long-term dreamwork develops understanding of our psychological issues and heals our personal wounds. It also strengthens our intuitions and awareness of archetypal patterns, symbols and themes that hold similar meanings for every psyche. We can share this knowledge, knowing it is backed up by study and personal experience. We can also offer our associations to dream symbols, ask incisive questions, and suggest directions to pursue.
But then we need to leave the rest up to them. It is their job, not ours, to create understanding and meaning for their lives from their own experiences, practices, personal associations, gut feelings, rituals, and creative imagination. Engaging in this process is what Terry Pratchett meant when he wrote, “If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.”
Here’s an example from an acquaintance who has studied Jungian psychology and recorded dreams for years. This dream arrived after several evenings of asking the unconscious for a dream:
“I dreamt last night that I was looking through the windows of someone’s house at snow-capped mountains in the Pacific Northwest. The back of the house was all windows, about 4 or 5 separate windows, and the mountains were a coal gray and silver color. They were truly gorgeous. I saw this scene in a movie over the weekend, and it left an impression since I’ve always wanted to travel to the Pacific Northwest to see the mountains and ocean together.
In the dream, I was talking to whoever owned the house, and he was facing me from his seat at his desk as I looked past him to the mountain. I pointed to the snow-capped tip of the mountain and said, “That’s where I’d like to be, on the top of that mountain away from everyone and everything.”
These are the dreamer’s associations: “I used to always prefer to be by myself, and really thought I’d live alone most of my life. But, I’ve been in a serious relationship now for some years, and I’m starting to crave community–that’s the main reason we are moving. So, in the dream, I was a little surprised at my desire to want to be isolated at the tip of the mountain considering my conscious desire for community.”
Now here’s my response (edited here for clarity and brevity): If this were my dream, I’d see it as a metaphor for my psycho-spiritual aspirations. Jung’s research convinced him that mountains are symbols of the Self, and that wanting to get to the top suggests a desire for spiritual enlightenment and psychological wholeness. Naturally, this requires some solitude for soul-making practices like dreamwork, meditation, artistic expression, ritual, journaling, study, and/or other forms of inner work, but one can do all these things whether one lives alone or has a serious relationship.
The comment, “That’s where I’d like to be…away from everyone and everything,” could be based on my belief that utter solitude is the only way to attain the heights of spiritual union, consciousness and wisdom. Of course, there are people whose genuine calling is to be a monk or hermit. In my youth I toyed with the idea of becoming an anchorite like Mother Julian of Norwich, but I personally would no longer interpret my wish for solitude to mean that I literally want or need to be physically isolated from people all the time.
If I actually do crave more alone time to pursue my inner work, perhaps discussing this with my partner could facilitate that need; I can also look for other ways to carve out time for myself. But if I’m finding comfort and pleasure in my relationship, I personally see no need to sacrifice it or other human contact for the sake of my psycho-spiritual growth.
I would definitely take my craving for community seriously: to me, that sounds like my soul talking. Feminine Soul thrives on relationship, which is a primary way of getting in touch with one’s own femininity, not to mention the best way I know to acquire empathy and compassion. I was probably in my 50’s before I truly began to value my relationships as much as my inner and outer work. This was a major impetus for my continuing growth. I personally believe it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to become an authentic Spirit Person without intimate relationships. How else do I discover my shadow or learn compassion?
For me, my yearning see the the mountains (masculine spiritual heights) and ocean (feminine soulful depths) together suggests the hieros gamos, or Sacred Marriage of Alchemy: the union of my masculine Spirit and feminine Soul which are the two halves of the Self. Since enlightenment and self-knowledge go hand-in-hand, the individuation journey is not complete without both.
As you no-doubt know, Jung believed the goal of psychic development is to establish a conscious relationship with the Self. He spoke of the ego’s need to step aside so the Self can occupy its rightful place at the center the psyche, while creating an Ego-Self axis with which to maintain contact. Regular dreamwork and writing are my primary ways of keeping the lines of communication open between my ego and Self. Yours might be quite different. I hope this helps.
Image Credit: Google Images, Huffington Post
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
The Role of the Animus in a Woman’s Spiritual Journey January 12, 2015
Jung developed his theories about anima and animus in a place and time where gender stereotypes ruled. Despite his intention to draw from “the spirit of the depths” where these archetypes have universal meaning, to modern sensibilities some of his ideas might seem to have been contaminated by the spirit of his times.
For example, in his day men were generally considered to be more intellectually capable and women more emotional, and these assumptions occasionally crop up in his writing. To us this is obviously related to the fact that women in his time were still subjugated in many ways, including being denied equal educational and work opportunities.
Nonetheless, Jung developed far more objectivity in this area than most people before or since. Because of this, and because ignorance about these issues creates so many problems in our inner lives, work, and relationships, his descriptions of anima and animus are very useful.
In essence, he believed the animus matures as we cultivate an independent, non-socially conditioned idea of ourselves, growing more aware of what we truly believe and feel, and developing more initiative, courage, objectivity and spiritual wisdom. If the anima’s “soulful” activity is centered on caring and nourishing inner and outer relationships to preserve the species, the animus’s “spiritual” activity is focused on becoming more conscious and individuated to preserve oneself. In the big picture, of course, both ways of being are vital to the mature development of soul and spirit, individual and species.
Jungians believe that like the anima, the animus develops in four stages. In Jung’s Man and His Symbols, he cites analyst Marie-Louise Von Franz who writes that in the first stage the animus appears as “a personification of mere physical power – for instance as an athletic champion or ‘muscle man'” such as Tarzan. Next, the animus demonstrates initiative and has the capacity for planned action; thus, it might show up in a dream as a student, salesman, inventor, war hero, hunter, etc. Third, it becomes associated with inspired verbal and intellectual proficiency and might manifest as a dream image of a poet, professor, clergyman, lawyer, or politician. At its most mature it becomes, like Hermes and Sophia, a messenger of the gods who mediates between the unconscious and conscious mind via dreams, synchronicities, visions, and creative imagination. Thus, the highest calling of the animus, is, like the anima, to embody Wisdom and incarnate meaning.
Is this a true and accurate description of the animus? No one really knows because our ideas about masculinity and femininity have been forming for thousands of years and vary widely from culture to culture. I have no doubt that as the ego grows more conscious these ideas will continue to evolve. But currently in the West we tend to think of a healthy animus as the part of us with the strength, motivation, self-discipline, and courage to peel away the layers hiding the Self’s light, and we recognize him in the temptation to risk letting that light shine through until we are transparent in our uniqueness.
In the long run our uniqueness may not look anything at all like traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity. It will simply look like the soulful, spiritual being we really are. The purpose of both anima and animus is to help our ego selves know and act from our fuller, authentic selves and develop loving relationships with everything and everyone, regardless of what others may think.
Photo Credit: Google Images, Anima-Animus. I can’t find out who the artist is. If anyone knows, please let me know so I can give him/her credit.
Ebook versions of Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are atAmazon, Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
Do We Need Schools for Forty-Year-Olds? November 10, 2014
Some years ago I was working on a precursor to my latest book, a manuscript about creating partnership between our psychological opposites. Throughout history cultures have found the categories of “masculinity” and “femininity” useful for designating differences between pairs of opposites in many areas of life, including languages, electronics, social roles, leadership styles and so on. Curious about the different ways men and women develop psychologically over a lifetime, I used the same categories in an assessment tool I created. The Partnership Profile estimates the relative weight an individual gives to the masculine and feminine qualities of his or her psyche. I wanted to use it to help people understand that everyone contains both kinds of qualities, and both are equally necessary to a successful adaptation to life.
As Jung wrote in 1930 when gender and sexual stereotypes were more widely accepted and adhered to than now:
“We might compare masculinity and femininity and their psychic components to a definite store of substances of which, in the first half of life, unequal use is made. A man consumes his large supply of masculine substance and has left over only the smaller amount of feminine substance, which must now be put to use. Conversely, the woman allows her hitherto unused supply of masculinity to become active.” Jung, CW, Vol. 8, para. 782
Over the next few years I administered The Partnership Profile to over 700 people in various stages of life, from college students to old age, and used the results to refine my instrument and draw some preliminary conclusions about the natural changes that occur in the psyche over a lifetime. I’m not sure I agree with Jung’s observation that men have a larger supply of masculine qualities and women of feminine, but my results did bear out his findings that everyone has both, and that our use of them changes over time. He wrote,
“How often it happens that a man of forty-five or fifty winds up his business, and the wife then dons the trousers and opens a little shop where he perhaps performs the duties of a handyman. There are many women who only awaken to social responsibility and to social consciousness after their fortieth year. In modern business life, especially in America, nervous breakdowns in the forties are a very common occurrence….Very often these changes are accompanied by all sorts of catastrophes in marriage, for it is not hard to imagine what will happen when the husband discovers his tender feelings and the wife her sharpness of mind.” Vol. 8, para 783
For a while I conducted partnership workshops at the Disney Institute. At one session an elderly man stood up and proudly shared his score which was heavily weighted on the feminine side of the continuum. Then he said something like this: “I was a marine for over thirty years, and I’m proud of it. But I’m here to tell you that the score I got today is right on. It sure wouldn’t have been when I was a young man, but I’ve changed. My wife and I live next door to a little old lady whose health is bad and I go over there every day to help out. I cook, clean, buy groceries, run errands, do odd jobs. My wife won’t go with me. She says she’s had enough of that and would rather read.” At this point his wife nodded vigorously in agreement. He continued, “But I can’t get enough. I love helping her! That’s a whole new part of me I never knew I had when I was a marine.”
“The worst of it all is that intelligent and cultivated people live their lives without even knowing the possibility of such transformations. Wholly unprepared, they embark upon the second half of life. Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young people to a knowledge of the world? No, thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of our life; worse still, we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according the programme of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.” Vol. 8, para. 784
Have you experienced this reality? What do you think? Should someone start a school for forty-year-olds?
Note: For those interested in reading more, I highly recommend The Second Half of Life by Angeles Arrien, and Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by Jungian analyst James Hollis.
Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.