There is a sign on the journey that alerts us to the presence of our dragons and lets us know it is time to confront them. That sign is the awareness of mental and/or emotional conflict, or cognitive dissonance, and the desire to be free from it. Cognitive dissonance means there is a separation or lack of harmony between two different ways of knowing. The separation might be between our conscious thoughts and unconscious emotions, public persona and private realities, mind and body, beliefs and behavior, or all of these and more.
Many of us are taught that feeling pain, admitting to doubt and fear, or asking for help are signs of weakness and so we grow up acting like everything is okay. Pretending often works until midlife, but, unfortunately, after that our inner conflicts begin to express themselves in symptoms we can no longer ignore such as difficulty in relationships, addictions, depression, stress, accidents, recurring nightmares, or physical ailments.
I’m not suggesting we should whine, complain, attach blame, call attention to our discomfort with dramatic behavior, or wallow in our misery. These are just ploys immature egos use to gain attention, remain in the familiar role of victim, or avoid self-confrontation. The healing way is to admit our conflicts to ourselves and use some form of creative introversion like dreamwork, art, writing, or active imagination to clarify and come to terms with them.
After my last post, one reader, Joseph Anthony, shared his struggles with his dragons and described how he dealt with them in a form of active imagination. He says, “…when I faced my dragons…I went as a child. That might sound cute, but it’s true, and it wasn’t a conscious choice. And I don’t mean necessarily, my inner child…I mean, perhaps, an archetypal image of both creative power and wonder, and innocence—Divine Innocence.” Inspired by my post he wrote a delightful original story about this healing image and has posted it on his blog. I hope you’ll take the time to read it at http://blog.thewonderchildblog.com
Jung had a name for Joseph’s symbol of innocent childish wonder: the Divine Child. He saw it as an archetypal symbol for the Self — the whole, integrated, fully conscious psyche — and for the process of individuation which forms it. In every era and culture, this archetype shows up spontaneously in myths, fantasies and the dreams of individuals as a wise, knowing, unusual, precocious, or otherwise fascinating infant or child.
The Divine Child is an image of yourself in your purest form, with all your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, hopes and ambitions. Its appearance in your inner life means that forces are at work in your unconscious to return you to your original state of innocence, before the world wounded your trust and hardened your heart; before your ego dominated your psyche and the walls went up and the cynicism set in. But where your childhood innocence was a function of inexperience and lack of self-awareness, your newly regained transparency is a function of intentional psychological integration.
The way your dream ego relates to the Divine Child depicts your waking ego’s attitude toward the Self and your commitment to the path of consciousness. What will you do if it comes to you in a dream? Walk away from it or befriend it? Forget it or feed it? Fear it or follow it?
I too have suffered from despair since childhood. It began at the age of 11 when my father died. To this day there are many occasions in my daily life when I cannot get excited about something because I know it will not last and my pleasure will not last and I will die and nobody will care and nothing I have done will make any difference, and so what?