Shadow Work: Dream Study Class Three
The Shadow houses the repressed psychic aspects (many people mistakenly say “darker” aspects – but this doesn’t mean negative – only that it is in the dark) that have remained undeveloped because they have not been granted acknowledgement, integration and expression. Jung suggested these undeveloped feelings, ideas, and desires included animal instincts passed along in evolution. If determinedly neglected, (repressed or denied) our Shadow will take control of our lives.
So powerful is our shadow, Jung wrote, that if it is not attended to (ie. Made conscious) it will appear in the world around us as FATE. You know when you just KNOW someone is heading for disaster? Cruising for a bruising as they say?
Collective and Personal Shadow
The collective shadow is comprised of repressed traits held by races of people or countries as a whole which can get projected onto a minority group or nation. (Nazi Germany and Jewish people)
The personal shadow is a made up of our forbidden, shamed, conditioned beliefs and attitudes which have been repressed into our unconscious. (suppressed verses repressed) Jung once told a friend he would rather be whole than wholly good! The personal shadow also houses the creative, compassionate aspects of our personalities. When we are young, we are given reinforcement to resist and desist undesirable behaviour. Later in life, this resistance can develop into a “cut-off” personality trait that stops us from fulfilling our potential.
The shadow can be defined as unresolved inner conflicts and unexpressed emotions. It refers to those archetypal images which are intuitively recognizable as a troubling part of us: saboteur, martyr, victim, addict, sadist, masochist, or tyrant.
The mask we know and show to the world keeps the shadow hidden. The deeper, more unconscious the shadow, the more we experience it as alien to us. We cannot face it in ourselves or tolerate it in another. If you wish to catch a glimpse of your shadow, think of a person you detest. And if you don’t think you “detest” people look out you are denying your shadow!! Describe the qualities in that person that bother you. The characteristics you list are part of your own shadow.
Examples of the shadow:
- Self-destructive behaviours such as addiction and eating disorders
- Depression, anxiety disorders, psychosomatic guilt, and shame
- Destructive behaviours towards others-verbal, physical and/or sexual abuse
- Stealing, lying, marital affairs, envy, blaming, and betrayal
The More We Suppress Our Shadow, The More it Controls Us
The more we fight to control, suppress, and ignore our shadow, the more it controls us. Jung said that suppression of the shadow was akin to beheading for a headache. He wrote, “if an inferiority is conscious, one always has the option to correct it…but if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”
Shadow work is a courageous act. Because you cannot slay your own shadow – efforts at controlling and fighting with yourself only allow your shadow to become more powerful. It is in letting go that one finds power (the most powerful tool in handling the shadow is humour!) We can change ourselves with a sense of self-love, forgiveness, and compassion, NOT self hatred, condemnation, and shame. A house divided against itself cannot stand. We must take on the spiritual task of embracing our shadow with love in our heart so that we may understand it’s needs, motivation, and intention. When we are told to get our “intention” straight that means the unconscious, not consciousness. This is an ongoing discourse within the ‘New Age’ movement itself. “Think positive thoughts and good things will come to you.” takes on new meaning in the context of where DO your negative thoughts then end up? In the body? Or in behaviour out of the awareness of your consciousness.
How to know our shadows is of course through dream figures and also in our enemies. People we find abhorrent (ie homophobia) we want to stamp out of existence. This reaction is the force that makes wars so the road to peace is through acceptance of our own dark bits. That’s why Jung referred to this work as the most moral of undertakings you will take to task in your life.
The consequences of ignoring the shadow are high; you may continue to feel anxious, unworthy, out of balance, or shamed.
The Psychological Rewards of Shadow Integration
The rewards for this work however abound. Creativity, healing, wholeness, and individuation. Shadow work asks you to toil on all levels – spiritual, emotional, psychological, and mental. It is the combined effort that produces results. The goal of shadow work is integration, not rejection, of the shadow. Understanding and accepting the shadow will give you wisdom, choice, freedom, power, compassion, and hope.
By accepting my frivolity, I become more generous AND prudent; by accepting my impatience, I become more goal directed, and honest; by accepting my sexuality I become a better lover!
Our own nastiness is typically assigned to another character in our dream. Focus especially on same-sex characters.
Since the totality of a dreaming event consists of several simultaneously existing points of view, it is important to explore the potential of experiencing the memory of the dream not only from the point of view of the somebody referred to as “I”, but also if possible, from the perspective of other “somebodies” as well. One of the purposes of dreamwork is to experience dreaming events through as many facets as possible.
It is important that each emotion be felt through to its accompanying physical sensation.
For example: You dream that someone is pounding on your door to be let in. You have to experience in the depth of your belly, the fear of this pounding door person in the room, as well as the insistence on entering in the power of the fist bonking on the door.
When feeling both stomach and fist simultaneously, you physically experience both the muscle power of the unknown and the fear of the world beyond. The cringing in your system is the physical response to the clash of these forces.
Projection is Employed in Dreams Often
Projection is a psychological mechanism the ego employs to protect itself, It is the process of seeing elements of self in another person, while being convinced that these elements truly belong to the other. This process in employed in dreams often.
Projection holds up an invisible mirror to self and prevents us from truly experiencing the presence of other.
A transit is a spontaneous shift of the location of consciousness from within one dream person to the interiority of another. Ie. Observing a dream image involving two characters (your dream ego and another character) and by focusing on the image of action long enough suddenly you are inside the other character and can feel the sensation of being in the other’s body as if it were your own. You become the medium.
You become the other character while simultaneously knowing you are yourself. The interiority you feel remains yours and the sense of otherness remains acute, while at the same time you experience the other character’s body from within. (this is similar to telephathy)
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Characterization in Dreams According to Jung
If you are in a close relationship with the person who appears in your dream, Jung said an assumption can be made that the character does refer to its waking counterpart. He said this is an essential way of looking at dreams because it very likely refers to an as-yet unconscious perception of her or him.
This perspective suggests that further to dreaming of this person as themselves, we have integrated a part of this person in ourselves. For example if you dream of your child, you may be dreaming of an aspect of them and your relationship with them that is unconscious but you may also be dreaming of your little person self that identifies with them.
This is the interaction between waking consciousness and the dreaming imagination Jung called active imagination. It is a technique frequently used by the alchemists in their work on the depths of their material. It is a dialogue between the reality of dreaming and the probing conscious mind and takes place while being awake occurring on the waking side of liminal consciousness.
Bound Active Imagination
This is used in the service of dream recall. It tries to move as closely as possible along the contours on the dream as it is recalled.
Free Active Imagination
This is what Jung referred to as, “dreaming the dream onwards.” Free active imagination starts with an authentic image and lets the authentic action unfold from there – while the waking self remains constantly aware of the reality of the images it observes. Jung said that if, during active imagination, you see a lion on the Bahnhofstrasse (the main shopping street in Zurich) and you don’t respond with heightened alertness or a sense of fear, you are not in active imagination, because it is not real to you. Whether it’s bound or free, active imagination allows for the occurrence of entirely and sincerely unexpected events. Remember to always remind yourself! “Let’s go back to the dream”.
This sees images in dreams as referents to another world, which is absolutely inexpressible yet can be perceived by means of these symbols. A symbol points to a reality beyond its mere appearance.
A poetic capacity for crafting metaphor from images is essential for dreamwork, as is a wide knowledge of the world of symbols!
A Shadow Dream
A client has the following dream:
“I am walking along a busy street when I notice an interesting looking tea room situated in a semi-basement position of an old house. I walk down the stairs and soon realize this is not a tea house after all but a place to have a pedicure. It’s decorated in an overdone frilly feminine décor, almost garish. I look over at a woman who is sitting by herself off in a corner. She is wearing an interesting netted mask over her face, I can see her eyes staring at me intently and I feel really spooky. It was a woman I knew in college who never seemed to fit in anywhere. She is crazy I think! I was stunned to see her there. I wondered what she was doing there in that place.”
We spoke about this woman as her shadow in reference to how she was feeling about her work circumstances. I said when you are able to embrace this woman it will unleash such a powerful force of creativity – she had suppressed her old wildly creative, college self in favour of this successful yet highly neurotic business woman she had become – but she wasn’t fitting in and this was terrifying her – how could she be a successful business woman and a crazy creative woman who doesn’t fit in anywhere?
Terror of Woman In Her Dream
Her terror of this woman in her dream unleashed the very real fear that this crazy woman would lead her to pushing a grocery cart in abject poverty – a pathetic creature who doesn’t fit in anywhere. But this crazy woman waits for her in her unconscious mind – hidden in the feminine portal of her soul. She is someone she must embrace because she exists in her unconscious mind and she quietly, silently, POWERFULLY drives her fear and so DRIVES her inexorably living as she fears. She remains unemployed after 1.5 years in NY and now is very close to having to live with others until they sicken of her…
Once we accept all the varying aspects of our shadow we can work with it – and don’t think the work is over once one big one has been released. Because each step forward casts a new shadow! That’s why dreamwork is so vital.
Curses & Dark Spirits
Read Dr. Carl Wickland Gateway to Understanding