I’ve had a series of disturbing dreams lately. When I wake up my heart is beating fast, and only slows down after I do a “reality check”. “Thank god that was only a dream”, I tell myself. I certainly don’t want to dwell on the content. Nevertheless, as my morning progresses I’m still left with this lingering feeling of anxiety, fear, shame, or disgust…usually some combination of these uncomfortable feelings. Added to this, I feel a sense of failure because I’m actually trying to do dreamwork again. I meet with a dream group for the purpose of dream interpretation, but I’ve yet to present a dream. I have created this “bind” for myself where I am afraid of the content of my unconscious, even as I profess to invite it to reveal itself.
What I do know, however, is that recurring “bad” dreams occur because our unconscious is trying to send a message through to us. The message is usually about something we need to attend to. The dreams will continue to occur, and in fact may broadcast louder until we pay attention to the message. This, I believe is the psyche reaching toward wholeness and growth. In dreams the language of the message is symbolic. So, for example, a symbol of death may appear in a dream. It may actually mean I need to let something die in my life. Perhaps I’m maintaining a relationship that no longer serves. Maybe I need to let a “role” I have assumed, or a burden I have carried, die off. The death needs to occur to allow for new life to emerge. Letting this aspect of myself die is a good thing for my inner growth, but my awake and conscious self may be afraid that if I change I will no longer be accepted…or even loved. It feels risky. This is where the “shadow” comes in. Basically, I believe that by the time we all reach adulthood we are socialized by our families and the culture to only identify with, or “own”, if you will, certain aspects of ourselves. Other parts, we may learn, are “bad”, or in my case “unladylike”. Being human, we are of course going to feel these “bad” things anyway, but we quickly learn to “disown” that which people will not love us for. These aspects get shoved down into our “shadow”, where they are largely unconscious. We can glimpse our shadow selves when we find we are reacting strongly and judgmentally to the things other people do. Strong reactions are often, although not always, a “projection.”…that is to say, we may attribute to others that which we cannot see in ourselves.
I think we also get to see our shadow selves emerge in dreams. When we invite ourselves to remember dreams, the shadow self demands to be seen, heard, and felt. I think my strong reaction to remembering my dream had to do with some “shadow” material that was trying to come though.
I also believe that if we make room for the “shadow” self, and give it a “place at the table” so to speak, we can begin to integrate those less comfortable parts of ourselves. Bringing these parts into the “light”, so to speak, we will find that they are not so scarry…..Its when they remain in the dark that they continue to have unmanageable power over us.
Ok….now I’ve said it…I’ve committed…Bring it on shadow! I’m ready for you now