This is from a chapter I wrote a few years ago – for a book that has been shelved – called “The Lifescape”. I had planned to write a self-help book about life mapping – using a variety of techniques, such as self analysis, ritual, dream interpretation, shadow work etc. It was from a Jungian/Pagan perspective. I shelved it as other projects took precedence, but also – because my mind was oscillating between atheism and agnosticism. Trepidation took a hold of me so I essentially forgot it – deliberately. I might still go ahead with it – after I’m done writing the Storming Archives!
At any rate – I’ve decided to post it here, seeing as I’ve been blogging about my dreams. I hope they are of some value to whoever reads this. (I will continue the Dream Blogging – sometimes my dreams are too personal to post!)
In this chapter, we will discuss the importance of analyzing our dreams, including the usage of:
- Dream journals
- Dream incubation
- Lucid dreaming
- Common themes
- Recurring dreams
- The ‘Universal’ or ‘Great’ dreams
- Prophetic dreams
- Jung’s individuation process and basic archetypes related to it.
We will also explore how we can incorporate dream insights into our psychological analysis of ourselves.
Self analysis would be pointless (in my view) without the inclusion of dream interpretation. The subconscious world is the playing field where our daily events, relationships, memories, impressions, problems, personality issues etc are ‘played’ out – like a nightly performance. They afford us the opportunity to dissect, analyze and integrate the messages into our waking consciousness.
When our consciousness lapses into sleep, the subconscious mind takes over and dredges up all the things we have repressed, ignored or denied – to produce the dream. When we’re awake, it can filter through to produce visions. It’s also the realm that gives us the playground for daydreaming and creativity – offering us the forum and tools we need in order to explore and understand ourselves, others and the world around us.
How do we interpret them?
By interpreting the symbols, atmospheres, emotions and actions – even the time of day. (It’s been said that if the dream was in the morning – then it represents your early years. If midday – then it indicates now or your middle years. If the dream was in the evening or night time – then it denotes your later years.)
If you dream in color (some people don’t) – analyze the meaning of the colors – also shapes, numbers, etc. The list is endless. Dreams sometimes speak in puns – for example: seeing someone kicking a bucket could be death (which in turn, could represent the ending of old habits or way of life, transformation etc) – or it could just mean a bad tempered person! Another example would be a crumbled cookie – saying “that’s just the way things are” – regarding an issue that might be bothering you – basically saying “That’s the way the cookie crumbles”. Or it could just mean that you feel you don’t have enough to eat – with only crumbs available.
Our dreams can also speak to us in riddles – in contrast to blatantly direct messages. That’s why dreams can be so difficult (and sometimes annoying) when we’re attempting to interpret them – however – the process is also interesting, illuminating and definitely rewarding.
They can also show sides of ourselves as reflected through others, which is confusing when we try to place the blame or try to figure out who and what the dream was talking about. (Later in this chapter, we’ll explore this further – regarding the elements of the Shadow, the Anima/Animus and the Self.)
The most vital tool to interpreting your dreams is understanding universal or ‘classic’ symbolism – in contrast to your own personal symbolism. A monkey can represent a mischievous character to one person – and to another – it may symbolize a wise man or woman. A flower could mean beauty, growth, coming of age, sexual attractiveness, pregnancy and so on. It all depends on the dreamer and what’s going on in their lives.
It’s imperative to keep a dream journal – whether a notebook or a word document on your computer. (If you’re not much of an artist – you can cut and paste images to represent the symbols – which makes the process fun.) Alternatively – keep a tape recorder or note taker by your bed, so you don’t have to scramble around trying to find your pen and journal in the dark.
A handy tip – You can remember your dreams more easily when your eyes are shut. The theta waves are in play – just like when you’re dreaming.
It’s somewhat difficult to interpret dreams as ‘prophetic’ – due to the many possibilities regarding the symbolic nature of them. People have had them – throughout history: like the man who dreamed that there was going to be a plane crash and tried to alert authorities – to no avail. A plane did crash, as per the details in his dream. But as plane crashes happen a lot –it’s hard to 100% apply it as prophetic. (Click on the image to link to the story.)
To dream of death – even dead bodies, pronouncements of death, headstones etc – does not necessarily mean that you or someone else is going to die. It usually represents endings, transformation and so on. It’s important to take into consideration other symbols surrounding it, such as the atmosphere, what the people were doing, saying, how they were dressed etc. Seeing dead bodies could signify issues such as illnesses in the body – disease, lethargy or certain aspects of the body changing. Sometimes we don’t see that a dream was prophetic until way after it occurs.
I had a dream once – where (to cut a long story short) I had a fly agaric toadstool in my pocket (the red ones with white specks on them.) The pocket was in a white jacket made of wolf’s fur. In front of me was a congregation of rabbits, who trembled every time I faced them. I tried to interpret it to the best of my ability at the time, but it wasn’t until later – a few months later – when I realized that it meant that I needed to be careful as to who I told about my being a witch, as some people were afraid of me afterwards. (Their projection – not mine, I assure you. I’m quite a pleasant person!)
There are also dreams that can alert us to the fact that we might have medical issues that we’re not aware of – or are about to manifest. For example: I had a dream that I was on the second floor of a house, where the lower floor was in flames. I tried to escape down a ladder, but it was also on fire. Not long afterwards, I had problems with a very painful hip, due to a joint problem. It felt as though it was on fire and I had to get x-rays and tests done, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. For two months I had to take anti inflammatory medication, until it went away by itself.
To dream of a house sometimes means you’re exploring the ‘Mansion of the soul’. Apparently the basement can represent your repressed memories or hidden self. The kitchen sometimes means your family memories or the nurturing side of yourself. The bedroom can represent your sexual side; the attic can signify what’s going on with your mental or spiritual attitudes; the lounge room can denote how you present to others or how you act in a crowd, and so on.
I’m not trying to dissuade you from interpreting your dreams as prophetic, but just be careful – as you may be, at times – deluding yourself to the point of being disappointed when they don’t come into being. (Especially if you dream about becoming wealthy!) Which leads me to:
Wish Fulfillment Dreams
Not all the wonderful dreams we have are wish fulfillment. For example: some sexual dreams do deal with our attitudes towards our own sexuality, our sexual history – or even the desire to ‘unite’ with someone, an idea or group of people, etc. Once again – it all depends on the dreamer and their circumstances. We often have dreams where we are having sex with a famous person we either secretly adore or never had any attraction to.
You don’t necessarily need to be single to have sexual dreams – therefore – it doesn’t automatically signify that you are sexually starved! (Even though sexual starvation does occur in some relationships.) For some sex addicts – to dream of having sex rarely occurs, but usually appears in some other format – such as packed trains, laundry baskets full of dirty underwear. Sometimes their dreams involve grossly abnormal sexuality or bizarre events – even animals (denoting base or animalistic desires.) But that can also occur for people who are celibate.
To dream of eating delicious food such as gourmet cooking, chocolate, cakes – or smorgasbords – can represent physical starvation – e.g. someone on a diet or financially challenged. It can also signify other issues – even sex. Once again it all depends on what else is going on in the dream and your life, your attitudes, etc.
Dreaming of finding a wad of cash or a wallet bursting with money usually appears when we don’t have any! Also, dreaming of being successful and powerful sometimes appears when we feel powerless and unimportant. The subconscious does try to make up for any shortcomings – which again makes the interpretation of dreams harder still. We need to be careful not to jump to conclusions and need to assess the dream from all possible angles.
Recurring dreams and common themes are usually an indication that we are not paying attention to ourselves and what’s going on in our lives. Of course, some common themes do continue occurring, as either it ‘worked’ before – when you paid heed or where your subconscious ‘knows’ what symbols to use to grab your attention.
Universal or Classic dreams
Having a good understanding of basic symbolism does help when interpreting your dreams, as well as a working knowledge of archetypes, which we’ll discuss soon. I’ll include here a brief list of ‘universal’ or ‘classic’ dreams, which we all seem to have at one time or another. Again – this is all dependent on the dreamer, the circumstances etc. But on average, the following can be applied for general purposes:
Flying – a desire to get away from difficulties; escape – desire for freedom. Some say flying represents an idealized view of your sexual capacity! Look at how you’re flying, where, the weather, your feelings – e.g. elated or fearful?
Falling – sometimes linked with flying, but usually an anxiety dream, indicating lack of support, feelings of insecurity, a need for structure, etc. Successful people often have this dream, for obvious reasons.
Nakedness – feeling exposed (where you might be worrying about others finding out your hidden side, etc), repressed sexuality, vulnerability, concern about social status, etc.
Loose teeth – falling out or being pulled can signify the desire to change your situation, feeling powerless, insecurities regarding your appearance, impotence, etc.
Snakes – can signify new perceptions and realities. Historically they meant psychic or sexual energy or deep seated fears; a “snake in the grass” to watch out for (as a pun).
Travel – depends on the vehicle. e.g. Airplanes could mean foreign concepts, or the same as flying. A train could signify how you ’travel’ in life alongside others and so on. Are you going left or right (wrong or right)? Are you driving, or is someone else – meaning who’s in charge of the vehicle (your life) etc.
Weather: Rain – water usually represents emotions, so being in the rain or seeing it could mean tears or emotional issues. Alternatively it could mean washing something clean or a welcome sign of rejuvenation.
Weather: Storms – struggles, personal disaster etc. Raging emotions, war of words, chaos – sometimes necessary to clear the path.
Weather: Tidal waves – I used to often have these dreams – it usually represents feeling overwhelmed by your emotions. It depends on what’s going on. For example: I used to dream that the wave was washing over me and I had no control, but once I resolved these issues (to a degree!) – I dreamt that the tidal wave came, then crashed – but by the time the water reached me I was sitting down calmly, letting the foam tickle my toes.
Being chased – this is a very common, universal dream, as we all have times in our lives where we are either running away from ourselves or the things that we think can hurt us. Who is the person chasing you – a monster, wild woman etc? Could it be an aspect of yourself? (To be discussed further in this chapter).
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are plenty of good books about dreams out there – depending on your needs, e.g. you might want the mystical interpretations or folklore, rather than psychological, etc. Mythic themes are useful in the interpretation of dreams – but we still need to focus on how the symbols speak to us personally.
What if we ignore them?
If we ignore our dreams (especially if they are important) our subconscious may eventually create a nightmare, where there is more urgency and the symbols become more exaggerated and sometimes terrifying. Even though nightmares can be frightening, they do afford us the opportunity to dissect difficult things or situations in our lives, and help us realize that things aren’t as grim as we thought they were.
That knowledge helped me with the fear I used to feel in dreams. Now – even when I see a terrifying image – I’m more like a scientist, trying to figure it out whilst in the dream. (Lucid dreaming is covered further on in this chapter.) Facing our ‘demons’ is usually the reason the nightmare comes to us – if we’ve ignored the messages in previous dreams. We need to treat dreams like mini documentaries and take them seriously. Our subconscious is like a reporter on the edge, feeding back relevant information – the news!
An interesting exercise in discovering your personal symbology:
Symbols are everywhere – as encapsulations of all kinds of information, depending on how they are used and who is looking at them. Interpreting symbols – even whilst awake – is a great exercise in understanding your reactions to imagery. For example: you’re walking past a field and see some horses. Meditate on what they mean to you – e.g. strength, freedom, spirit?
If you see leaves falling from a tree – what does it invoke in you? Maybe the cycle of life, the autumn years, waste? If you witness an argument, can you read between the lines as to what’s really going on – or are they just having a spirited discussion? What does their body language tell you?
Or perhaps you see an abandoned car by the side of the road. Does it represent a discarded life, forgotten dreams, rubbish? Doing this exercise not only helps you hone your interpretation skills, it also trains your mind to analyze things from different perspectives. Believe me – it’s amazing how quickly this skill transfers to the actual dream and awakens the possibility for understanding as well as lucid dreaming.
This is where we actually become aware that we are dreaming, whilst in the dream. This is a level of consciousness that allows us to keep a foot in each world simultaneously, bridging the conscious and subconscious realms. In this state, we are able to delve deeper into our unconscious motivations and the psyche, and to work out issues (some of them serious). We are also able to explore the wonderful dream realm and are only limited by our imaginations!
The word lucid comes from the Latin ‘lux’ – meaning light – which is interesting, as it is about the concept of ‘shedding light’ on the subject. While this is a fascinating experience, it is by no means easy. Sometimes it happens randomly without any prompting from our conscious mind; other times – it needs to be planned and ‘activated’.
One way to activate the experience is to program yourself – before you go to sleep. A little later I’ll talk about incubating dreams. One of the methods is to tell yourself before you go to sleep, that you will be alert during the dream and that something – a symbol or action – will prompt you to snap to and recognize that you are dreaming – therefore taking control of it. Apparently lucid dreaming also reduces the frequency of nightmares, so it’s obviously a useful tool. It has been noted that children dream lucidly – more than adults – though the reasons why seem to be a little vague – such as sleeping patterns, etc.
Being more aware of your subconscious world, through analysis and dream interpretation is helpful – as well as meditation – which assists in helping you gain more control over your inner world. Again, programming yourself is useful – especially when coupled with hypnosis (or self hypnosis – which can be gained with such things as affirmations, meditation and creative visualization – even combining the two: pathworking.)
If you program yourself before you go to sleep – so that you will be alerted once an ‘unreal’ action or event occurs in the dream, it should prompt you to take note (hopefully!) If there’s a common theme in your dreams that could be considered as ‘unreal’ – a great exaggeration of reality or some other recurring symbol – program yourself to recognize it when dreaming, in order to trigger the process of lucidity. If you often dream of blue birds, stairs going this way and that or suddenly ‘teleporting’ to some other place (unusual or not) etc – then use them as ‘lucidity triggers’.
This doesn’t mean – by any stretch of the imagination – that you will be 100% successful. It takes a lot of practice and programming. Just make sure you continue recording and analyzing your dreams – maybe you’ll achieve and possibly even master lucid dreaming! (It’s funny how it becomes easier when you take the time to dissect them. It’s like your subconscious mind ‘knows’ it’s being watched!) I’ve met a few people who dream lucidly, all the time – so just keep at it. I assure you, it’s definitely worth the effort.
Be mindful that there will be times that the lucidity will slip through your fingers. It’s easy to get caught up in the dream world and forget that you’re dreaming. One way to trigger lucidity is to recognize – in the dream – that what’s going on wouldn’t happen in waking life. For example: people with apples for heads, or driving cars without your hands on the wheel, etc.
For some people, it helps to wake themselves up – with an alarm clock or some other method (like drinking too much liquid before going to bed, so you’ll wake up – hopefully – to go to the toilet). Then stay awake for a while, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour. The reason for this is that it ‘disturbs’ the sleeping patterns and sometimes evokes lucidity. But be careful that you don’t disrupt your whole sleeping pattern. You don’t want to spend your days walking around like a zombie – or ending up an insomniac!
Another method is to try to retain consciousness whilst going to sleep. This is difficult to do but the theory is that you’ll stay alert for the entry into the dream state – therefore – be lucid and aware that you’re dreaming. I have tried this myself, but found for me – I might be aware for a few minutes and then forget that I am dreaming. Vigilance and perseverance is definitely a factor.
(This topic could’ve been included in Chapter 10: Ritual – but it’s relevant here and by no means is the only method for the incubation of dreams.)
One way – as discussed – is to program yourself before going to sleep – such as repeating a mantra, like “I will remember my dreams” or “I will be totally aware that I am dreaming”. The same could be done for a particular dream that deals with a certain issue. For example: “I will dream about a solution to…”
To start with, I find it useful to read a certain type of book before bed, or listen to a particular type of music, watch a movie etc, – that embodies the kind of issues and images I’d like to have in my dream. Also, talk about it during the day (to yourself or others) as though it’s an established fact – that you’re going to have a certain type of dream. A good way to achieve ‘programming’ of yourself is – of course – ritual. Ritual speaks to the subconscious, so it’s an excellent tool for dream incubation.
You don’t need to be a witch to conduct a ritual. We have little rituals in our life – every day. You might want to align yourself with a particular archetype or deity. Even if you’re Christian, you could ask Jesus to help guide you in the process. Other deities could be: Morpheus – the Greek god of dreams, Nanshe – Sumerian Goddess of prophecy (assists in interpretation of dreams), Chandra – Hindu moon god, Iduna – Scandinavian goddess of dreams and divination, or Bes – Egyptian god, whose likeness was carved on headboards to chase nightmares away. (It is said that if you draw a picture of him on your left hand and wrap it in a black cloth – that has been dedicated to Isis – he will bring you the dream you want.)
There are many other deities out there (or you can use an archetype – whatever makes you comfortable.) The correspondences you can use when conducting your ritual could be as follows:
DAY: Monday PLANET: Moon COLOR: White or silver DEITY: your choice GEM: Smoky Quartz, Moonstone, Celestite, Jade HERBS: Marigold, Honeysuckle, Sandalwood, Cinnamon, Elderflowers, Jasmine (you don’t have to use all of them – even one herb/plant will suffice.)
SWAN – helps interpret dream symbols
BAT – a messenger from the subconscious
DRAGON – guards the treasures of the subconscious realm
The above is just a guide – you might not want to incorporate ritual at all, and might be more comfortable just meditating. It’s up to you to choose the methods that you feel most comfortable with and then go from there.
Dream Incubation Ritual
If you like – draw a picture of the deity/archetype you’re going to use – as well as a power animal (or all three), if you like. Write out your question or statement regarding what kind of dream you want to have. Get a white or silver candle, consecrate it with sandalwood oil (again – depending on your preference) and prepare a cauldron or dish for your charcoal and incense – made from the herbs/plants – and set it on your altar (or bedside table – being careful with the flame of the candle and charcoal.) You can place the gems on your altar/bedside table or put them under your pillow (with the note, if you won’t be burning it in the ritual).
Light the candle, sprinkle some of the incense on the lit charcoal and call the quarters. Invoke the deities etc that you wish to have assist you in the ritual. Cast a protective circle and state the following:
“Hear me – Morpheus – God of dreams, I invoke Thee” (or whoever you’re using) “I seek your assistance tonight. Bring me a dream that answers this question” (either put the note in the cauldron to burn or put it under your pillow.) Also, you can change the wording to suit yourself. Then state:
“As this candle burns – the energies of dream incubation will be released. Thank you Morpheus” – or whoever your guide is. Then meditate on the flame – doing creative visualization incorporating the Swan, or Bat or Dragon (or all three!) – giving you the answers you desire. Mix it up to suit your purpose.
When you’re done, close the quarters and circle, go to bed and go over your question in symbolic format – e.g. if you want to know how to combat an emotional issue – see the issue as a tear falling down your face, and so on. Use your imagination – which speaks to your subconscious. When you awake, record your impressions. As I said before, you don’t have to conduct a ritual – it’s just that ritual is a great way of programming your subconscious will. If you prefer to just meditate, or put the gems under your pillow with the note, that’s perfectly fine. The important thing is – to set the tone for your desired outcome.
You might notice that the symbols in your dream seem totally nonsensical in regards to what you asked for, but don’t be discouraged. This is always the way the subconscious appears (at first.) Do analyze the dream and keep a look out for the next few nights – as the answer might not come straight away.
Now (finally!) we’re going to delve into the ‘meat’ of the topic – which is the discussion of the basic archetypes and the individuation process. I don’t want to go into depth regarding the psychological processes, as they are covered in the following chapter – Self analysis. (Not included in this post – sorry!)
Carl Jung regarded the individuation process as involving the developmental path that we all take during our lives, taking into consideration the fact that each of us are individuals with unique destinies. He stated that we have two personalities – the outward, ‘conscious’ personality and the hidden personality, contained in the ‘collective unconscious’. Under the conscious self is a well of repressed, ignored or forgotten feelings, memories and behavioral patterns – which he called the ‘personal unconscious’. Beneath that lies the ‘collective unconscious’ – a depository which is massive and encompasses all the behaviors and imagery that have been recorded right throughout history, since ancient times.
Jung believed that this collective unconscious – this depository of human memories etc – shows how history still has an incredible impact on us and our lives.
The Archetypal Stages of Individuation
1/ The Shadow: this is the archetype that embodies all the personal traits that we ignore, deny or repress. It usually represents itself as the same sex as the dreamer – or as a monster, etc. (Depending on the level of repression, etc.)
2/ The Anima/Animus: usually the archetype that represents the opposite sex to the dreamer (or the male/female aspects of the dreamer.)
3/ The Self: this is the archetype of the integrated persona – the ‘whole’ self, usually represented by a wise man or woman. (But it can take on other forms such as animals, inanimate objects – in nature and man made – or a variety of human forms.) In our dreams, we are often pulled back by our past and prompted by our future. These energies are sometimes personified – or objectified – by our archetypes. The individuation process is when we begin to integrate the whole of our consciousness into a singular being – rather than a fragmented being. Dreams are the individuation process reports – they tell us how we’re going in relation to our integration of various personas, etc.
The archetypes appear in our lives through the individuation process, which is determined by the type of person we are. This is why each path for each person is different.
Usually, the individuation process involves the second stage of life, according to Jung. He believed that we spend the first half of our lives building the personality, and when that’s accomplished (if not, then the process is difficult to say the least!) – then we can focus on going within.
During the first half of life, we learn how to live and how to deal with the world and the people in our lives. Our parents are the be all and end all – when we are young. They are the authorities and what they say goes (Usually!) We become who we are depending on their expectations and how they present themselves to us – often mimicking their behavior. We all enter into this world with a blueprint of who we can become. It needs to be able to adapt to all the different energies, experiences and people we encounter, in order for us to fulfill our destiny. We all have inherent skills, abilities and desires – which are sometimes denied, ignored or repressed in order to satisfy the expectations of others.
According to Jung, one or more personalities grow around these ignored or repressed desires etc – which become the Shadow. When we have new issues arise in our life and we don’t know how to deal with them, the Shadow figure appears in our dreams – which symbolizes the energies and so on – that we need in order to deal with them. Jung said that the Shadow appears when a new cycle is about to begin.
To start with, the Shadow appears as non-human, like a monster, zombie, etc. Later on they become fully human, the same sex as us – but still frightening. Later still, they become more of a nuisance – rather than a scary persona. We then look down at them and put up with their presence. Further on, they become acquaintances (although not important), then they evolve into friends, family members, or even partners. If we have integrated their traits into our persona, they will no longer appear in our dreams – as they have become a part of us.
If we continue to deny our true identity, the Shadow will pursue us in nightmares, which is why we need to stop and engage the Shadow, to find out what it wants. (This is why shadow figures appear in nightmares and dreams – because we have become too set in our ways or have forgotten our true path.) When we think that we are perfect – the Shadow figure contrasts this with the opposite persona – imperfect, dark, menacing etc. The shadow teaches us about how misguided we are about our desires.
When we repress ourselves sexually, a shadow figure appears who emulates all kinds of sexual ‘aberrations’. The more we deny the shadow, the more power we give it. After a while, it becomes too powerful for us to ignore. We either slip up and do things we’d rather forget – or project it onto others. (Especially those who aren’t as inhibited). If we acknowledge the shadow – we can evolve. If we repress it – we suffer it’s wrath. In order to understand the shadow, we need to see our projections and break them down.
If we don’t examine our hidden selves they build to monster proportions and break through to our conscious lives. If you come across someone in your dream who frightens you or if you fight with them – see the qualities in them that correlate to your personality and integrate them. The more the conflict – the more likely that you’re dealing with a shadow figure.
The Anima and Animus
The Anima is the males’ feminine aspect and the Animus is the masculine aspect of the female. It’s more difficult to integrate the Anima/Animus than the shadow. Intense emotional energies occur when we transform from the shadow to the Anima/Animus. (Once the Shadow qualities become integrated, the Anima/Animus issues appear – although I’ve found they can occur simultaneously.) The shadow appears to alert us to our hidden, ignored, forgotten or repressed desires and the Anima/Animus takes it from there. The world of the Anima/Animus is the testing ground for how we conduct ourselves in relationships (personal and with the world.) Our issues with our parents are also reflected in the workings of the Anima/Animus.
The Anima/Animus appears in our dreams in many formats. As god/goddess – such as Mars (embodying war, fortitude, etc) and Aphrodite (embodying beauty, love etc). They also appear as a variety of different archetypes – like the mother, father etc. They personify those particular qualities that we need when we are about to go through a transformation. The Anima/Animus shows us how misguided we can be about our emotions and relationships. In the shadow stage – we discover that the ‘monster’ is actually us. In the Anima/Animus stage – we discover that we are connected to everyone and everything. The Self teaches us that we need to discover our inherent nature – in order to be wholly integrated.
The Self is even harder to interpret than the Shadow or Anima/Animus. As an archetype – the Self encompasses many images and forms – which is what makes it so difficult to interpret. The Self is who we were destined to be; the supreme goal. It’s the divine aspect of ourselves. As we have an idealized view of ourselves (or who we should be), we usually use the archetype of the Self to measure other people against. When we stray from our true Self – a Shadow figure appears – but as we draw closer to our Self – the Shadow becomes less of a monster, etc and more like ourselves.
In dreams, the Self can be represented by an animal or even a tree, flower, river etc. Jung also believed that the Self could be symbolized by things such as mandalas and other forms.
These images often appear in our dreams when some kind of order is being restored within ourselves. If we don’t see the image, animal etc as an expression or symbol of ourselves – then integration will be difficult. When we dream about animals, usually depicted as aloof or disinterested, we need to realize that the Self has appeared to us.
Reptiles – especially snakes, are usually representative of the Self, as they appear when a new cycle is about to commence. They embody wisdom and powerful instincts. Apparently the most common representations of the Self as an animal are: snakes, horses, bulls, elephants, bears, black and white birds, fish – even turtles, spiders, snails & beetles!
The “Mana” personality: in dreams – is a being with magical powers and is evocative of the occult. Once the Anima/Animus is integrated, the Mana personality appears – sometimes before the Self does – and is considered a lesser representation of the Self. It forces us to question out true identity – to ask ourselves the question – “Who am I?” This is the part of the individuation process that is key – “How do I go from who I’ve become to who I’m supposed to be?”
We are ‘self actualized’ when our motivations are ‘pure’ and not colored by external expectations. Put another way, we can only truly be ourselves when we follow our own path rather than someone else’s – or their idea of what our path should be. Self actualized people are those who adhere to concepts such as truth, justice and beauty. They cope with life better than others, no matter how difficult the journey is. They truly ‘feel’ or experience the good and the bad in life. They are truly connected to their emotions, but once felt and expressed – are more able to move on, quicker than those not self actualized.
We can’t be our true selves without having confronted and dealt with who we are and what we want in life, without other people’s projections interfering. (Notwithstanding solicited advice, legitimate concerns etc.) According to Jung, there are strange side effects when the Self appears, such as emotional outbursts – that seem to happen for no good reason; or strange illnesses that seemingly appear out of nowhere. Other symptoms might include prophetic dreams – which come true and other ‘paranormal’ activity. This is the time when we need to guard against assuming we have become everyone’s ‘guru’ – especially towards those we think are less evolved.
This apparently occurs because of the archetypal energy released when the Self appears. We can counteract this distorted use of the energy by channeling it through a creative outlet. This is the process of sharing the collective unconscious with the world.
Final notes on dreams
We surely now understand why analyzing our dreams is important. When we take notice of our dreams they take notice of us noticing them! We form a ‘bond’ with the dream realm and it reacts accordingly. See how your dreams change once you actually start taking them seriously. When analyzing your symbols, use free word association and stream of consciousness methods – let your imagination run wild. This helps amplify the meaning, giving you every possible angle, so that you have a better chance of finding what makes the most sense to you.
Words are also symbols – check out their meanings in the dictionary, thesaurus and even world history – to see if you can shed any light on the subject. If your dream resembles a mythic story or fairy tale, research it to see if you can gain any more insights. I can not emphasize how important it is to record your dreams. Give them titles and dates so that you can access them easier. Use drawings if you can’t find the right words to describe them. You’ll discover that your dreams contain many wild adventures and opportunities for growth that will literally change your life.