In my last post, I mentioned that my earliest dreams were nightmares, but that once I was willing to move past my own ego and be open to expansion and change, my dreams became guides that led me to the next stage of my own development. This is what Carl Jung describes as the process of individuation (forthcoming post).
According to Jung in his work The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, individuation is a universal process that seeks to synthesize the conscious and unconscious realms within the Self (164). It generally includes five major stages, and in Jung’s observations and experience, “every step forward along the path of individuation is achieved only at the cost of suffering” (Psychology and Religion 272). These five stages include confrontation with the persona in the first stage, the ego in the second stage, the shadow in the third stage, the anima in the fourth stage, and the Self in the fifth stage (Rowan 144).
I feel like much of my shadow work took place early in life and continued into adulthood. And it felt like "suffering," as Jung described it. A spiritually-minded friend remarked that my dreamworld must have been accessing and working out major identity and purpose questions within the astral plain from the time of my youth (forthcoming post). I did not initially understand what she meant, but now it makes much more sense to me.
The dreamworld is really an alternative unconscious state. Within it we can access other people, places, realms, and parts of ourselves. We can confront our fears and experience our joys on a level that most people do not find possible in conscious waking life. Dreaming allows us to transcend the boundaries that we typically experience in life on earth. And although at times, it may seem heavy or formidable, it is truly a blessing designed to further our understanding and progress as an individual. As Aristotle put it so long ago, "We cannot learn without pain" (Politica, Book 8, Part 5).
Have you had dreams that have helped you work through a challenging or bleak time in your life? Do you feel like you've confronted shadow figures or dark aspects of yourself or others in your dreams? How did that make you feel, and were you then able to change or be aware of these aspects in waking life? I am always excited to hear your thoughts. May your dreams guide you!
Aristotle. The Politics of Aristotle. Trans. B. Jowett. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1885. Online Library of Liberty. Web. 6 July 2017.
Jung, Carl J. Psychology and Religion: West and East. Ed. and Trans. Gerhard Adler and R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1975. Google Books. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.
---. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Trans. R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1959. Print.
Rowan, John. Subpersonalities: The People Inside Us. London: Routledge, 1990. Print.