Has it ever happened to you that an ordinary symbol or image from everyday life suddenly feels significant? Perhaps it happens after a synchronicity like falling in love with a painting then finding the same image on the cover of a fascinating new book. Or maybe you have no idea why an image moves you deeply.
Either way, your heightened awareness of a symbol tells you you’ve connected with an unknown aspect of your unconscious self that is bringing more meaning to your life. You can ignore this, which is what most of us do, and life will go on as usual. But if you want to understand yourself better and feel more spiritually connected, you can take these inner awakenings seriously and look into the meaning of the symbols that elicit them. In doing so, you create a new story for yourself: you remyth your life.
Once I got serious about self-knowledge and began to pay attention to my dreams, things like this happened quite often. At first I hid my growing fascination with certain symbols for fear people would think I was weird and make fun of me. But after a few years a special dream gave me more confidence to be myself.
Dream #860: Acquiring the Courage to Be Real. I’m walking through an underground corridor lined with narrow but beautiful rooms decorated with elegant antiques. It is the mansion of an older, reclusive, hardworking woman. I live here too. The doorbell rings, telling me my friend has arrived. The older woman asks me to buy her some lemonade while I’m out. To be polite, she asks if my friend wants to come in. When I say no she is relieved.
I climb the stairs and open the door into a big, dark, dusty warehouse. I follow a narrow path through broken pieces of junk to a door which opens onto the street. It’s opened by my beautiful, young, black-haired friend who wears a white trench coat and is bathed in brilliant white light. We walk through a rundown, weedy front yard onto a busy street. The passersby do not suspect there is an elegant, but somewhat narrow mansion below the ground behind this junky facade. The older woman is afraid of people knowing she is there or how she lives.
This dream told me I had a fearful shadow (older woman) who was hiding the best parts of herself—my richer, fuller spiritual nature (mansion)—deep inside (underground) behind a neglected persona (warehouse, weeds, front yard). That she wanted some lemon “aid” (in Judaism the lemon symbolizes the human heart), said that she lacked the compassion to give more of herself and the courage to be real.
It was very heartening to know that my ego had grown enough spiritually (walking up stairs) to step through my barrier of fear (doorway) and enter life in the outer world more fully. And to know that the feminine aspect of the Self (friend, the opposites of black and white, white light) wanted to help me obtain what I needed (lemonade) felt absolutely wonderful. This was when I finally understood that the sacred feminine is real, that she lives in me, and that she’s a helpful friend!
Understanding the symbols of this breakthrough dream emboldened me to reveal more of my true self to family, friends, and in my writing in a way that nothing else had the power to do. And yes, I am now aware of levels of spiritual meaning in many things I never thought twice about before, including narrow mansions, lemons, doors, stairs, warehouses, white light, and even junky yards!
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
Hullo – you write very beautifully indeed.
I was touched by this post in particular and feel impelled to ask you a question here. Since a significant violent loss which occurred in my life in 2006, I find it very difficult to discriminate ‘degrees of significance’ between any object – whether it’s large or small. There is now a quality of surreality to everything I see and the only colour I can feel is when I hear some classical music which I discovered (or played) in my childhood and early adulthood. The seeing of colour no more has any sense of inherent beauty to it. I thought that maybe I had lost a sense of ‘reverie’ as a result of the loss – and that it would gradually return, or suddenly arrive back one day or night. But it hasn’t. This is all I am left with – a sense that all objects are and appear surreal.
It would be wonderful if you could possibly comment on this (if/when you have time).
Thank you, Sharon.
I’m not a therapist so have no professional opinion about your question, but I can respond as a lay person.
I’ve read that a major trauma can cause a person to sort of “numb out” when it comes to feeling emotions. This is actually a helpful protective function of the psyche that spares one a great deal of pain until the ego is strong enough to safely feel it. I personally experienced something similar to what you describe after my father died when I was 11 years old. The trauma of losing this very well-loved man, plus the resulting awareness of my own vulnerability and mortality, effectively detached me from my emotional life. At the time I didn’t notice this, and it wasn’t really until I was in my mid-thirties that I began to realize how out-of-touch I was with my feelings.
Jung thought of our feeling function as the ability to make value judgments between liked and unliked, pleasurable and unpleasurable, important and unimportant images and events. When we’re out of touch with our feelings, we are unable to value one thing over another, and other people and things in the outer world do have a sort of unreal, meaningless quality. We may function perfectly normally in the world with no outer evidence that anything is wrong, but we’re just stoicly going through the motions with sheer will power that is not accompanied by empathy, compassion, great pleasure, or great pain.
When I finally realized how out of touch I was with my emotional life I began a program of self-study by reading as many books by Jungian authors as I could find, writing, and working with my dreams. My first two books, The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul describe that time in great detail. I also went to a Jungian therapist for a year. I did not experience any radical overnight change, but over the years as I’ve continued with my inner work, my feeling function has gradually been restored.
Without knowing you or your circumstances, I can only say that I suspect that what you are experiencing is normal, and that you, too, can find healing if you become intentional about addressing this issue.
I send my blessings and very best wishes to you,
Our levels of dreaming seem to depend also on our symbolic language. For me, lemonade would have symbolised refreshment/
I recognise this dream from Dream Theatres of the Soul, which I am still working my way through, but slowly, as my own dreaming seems to be sporadic and meaningless.
Thank you for sharing this.
Yes, indeed, the inner journey is a completely individual one such that different symbols mean different things to different people based on their life experiences and psychological make up. It is also true that as our egos become stronger we become aware of levels of meaning that we previously were not equipped to see or understand.
At the time of this dream my hardworking shadow was actually very much in need of some refreshment and relief from the stoic way I was approaching my life and inner work, but I simply could not understand what this meant or how it applied to me at that stage of my life. I was so used to living like this that I thought I was just fine. I could, however, resonate deeply with the idea that I needed to develop more heart in terms of the many associations I have for that symbol.
As I write this and ponder your comment that you find your own dreams to be meaningless, I wonder if my response to Sharon (above) has any possible application to you as it does to her and me. There is no doubt that self-discovery and the acquisition of meaning is a slow and lifelong process. I can only say that in my situation, persevering, even in the face of occasional feelings of hopelessness, has been key to my own healing.
Much love to you, my friend,
What a beautiful dream. Why was the older lady relieved that your friend wouldn’t come inside?
Also, to what extent does the material world reflect the unconscious? Would the state of mind you dreamt of be likely to be manifested in having a physical nice house and junky yard?
I believe the older lady (my shadow) was relieved because she was pretty much worn out from all the energy it took her to keep her (my) persona of competence and normalcy intact. As a result she had none left to give to anyone else. Her hiding from the world was a self-protective measure that allowed her to avoid potential conflicts and interactions that she would find unduly stressful. Hiding behind her persona and keeping to herself allowed her to maintain her image of herself as perfectly fine.
Everything in the material world is a projection of some energy or entity within the psyche. As such, with every image or event that brings new feeling, we enlarge our consciousness.
As for your last question, in waking life I have a very physically nice house and yard, both front and back. So in this situation the meaning for me was psychological. It meant that I hid the best parts of myself, the qualities and values that were of most importance to me, from others behind a mask of social conformity. In other words, I tended to show people what I thought they wanted to see: a very pleasant person who is not too serious, who is very accommodating and accepting of the opinions and behavior of others, and who can appear to be having a good time even when inside she is not enjoying herself at all. According to Jung and the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, this is how introverted, intuitive feeling types like me normally function.
My best friend Ann, a Jungian therapist, has said to me that people who only know me through my writing (in which I feel comfortable enough to drop my mask and say what I really think and believe) would be surprised if they met me in a social situation because I seem very different. She says I laugh easily, have a warm and friendly personality, etc. While I don’t find this to be “junky” in any way, but simply another aspect of a rather complex personality, I think this dream was telling me that I was beginning to see that my strong need to be pleasing to others in social situations was not really the best part of me; was, in fact, kind of “junky” compared to who I really was inside. This awareness was very helpful in getting me to be more open and honest, i.e. transparent, about who I really am. At present, I’m far better at integrating and manifesting these two aspects of myself in ways that are honest and authentic.
Thanks for the excellent questions! It was fun answering them.
Thank you very much for your kind comments on your latest blog post. By the way, I enjoyed it very much and recommend it highly to my readers.
You are a brave soul to share your dreams. This dream is a positive one for you, and helpful for all of us looking for light in the shade and shadows of our inner workings. Maybe the lemonade is a water symbol. Water is life. Add a little sugar, and it’s la dolca vita! A toast to life. Nice.
Thank you WaterOverFire.
You are very kind to say I’m a brave soul. I suppose my “bravery” is composed of part innocent ignorance (of the negative judgments others might want to make about my soul’s messages to me), and part growing acceptance—the result of years of dreamwork—of my shadow, plus a trust in the dream messages which are beginning to convince me that I am worthy as I am, regardless of what others may think.
I love your associations with lemonade! They feel meaningful to me now in a way I wouldn’t have understood years ago! Perhaps I’ll pour myself a bit of limoncello for dessert tonight and with it make a toast to life!
My congratulations and best wishes to you with your own life-giving, soul-making inner work,
This is a lovely site, the posts are so rich, informative and inspiring. I like it also because it resonates so much with my own recent experiences with Jungian psychology and the potency of symbolism in everyday life, which I am trying to voice in my http://www.subliminalspaces.wordpress.com blog, but you are articulating it so much better here!
I can vouch for the transformation that takes place when you begin to pay attention to the synchronicities in your life – over recent months they have become daily occurrences in mine and really just a central part of my life now, co-inciding with massive improvements in so many aspects of my life and relationships it’s almost unreal.
Thanks for this and looking forward to following future post 🙂
Hi, robertajune. I’m so glad you’ve found my blog and given me the link to yours. I just read your most recent post. It’s wonderful and I highly recommend it!
Yes, synchronicities truly do accompany growth in consciousness. I had one today with a woodpecker—symbol of opportunity and communication—who showed up to tap on my window just as I was reading an e-mail from a friend who was offering to host a book signing for me in Atlanta when my book comes out! I happily agreed! It feels so wonderful when things like this happen. They remind you that you are known and loved by a great mystery.
I appreciate your taking the time to comment today. I look forward to your future posts too.
Thanks for your message, it’s very uplifting to have this encouragement and to hear of your experiences. Uncannilly, one of my most memorable encounters with the ‘great mystery’ as you so aptly put it was bird-related: I was waiting for my children to get off the school bus when a raven landed beside the car and stood really still, staring at me – it seemed to last for ages. When I got home, I looked up the symbolism of ravens and found they are revered by many native american tribes for their wisdom and foretelling of significant change. This indeed was the case as I soon began to have material accepted for publication and gained instant freedom from a period of writer’s block. So thanks again for your inspiring words and best of luck with your book! All the best, Roberta
It was my pleasure, believe me. I adore this form of communication.
I find ravens very meaningful too. Believe it or not, I had an experience with a black crow/raven/grackle (I understand they’re all closely related) just yesterday when one walked boldly in front of a friend and me as we were having a very meaningful conversation about an important recent dream he’d had: a dream that spoke of important change and his growing wisdom! I love it!
Great post. Yes, we are known and loved by a great mystery. I’m going to be “swimming” with lemonade associations for a while now, and surely anticipate some synchronistic encounters. Can’t help but acknowledge my “southern” associations – we “southern” women know just the right ways to sweeten that persona. Okay, to be fair most women do – and we also find ways to transform our bitterness at mid-life. That hardworking, reclusive “old” woman asked for lemonade, how beautiful! My sense is that it was for her own refreshment, and for the hospitality she would, at some future point, be extending to others. Thank you for sharing this breakthrough dream, especially the realization that the sacred feminine lives within us!
Thank you, Therese. Your intuition is spot on, as usual! Your phrase about southern women, (and really most women), that we “find ways to transform our bitterness at mid-life” speaks very strongly to me! It goes right along with my struggle to sweeten my life with less emphasis on persona and more authentic courage and compassion. I can tell you from experience that this is, indeed, a very refreshing and well-earned change that comes with hard inner work!
Thanks so much for posting this on your site: carlJungdepthpsychology. You’re doing such wonderful work there spreading knowledge about Jungian Psychology! I appreciate your support.
Jeanie, I could really relate to this part of your dream: I” had a fearful shadow (older woman) who was hiding the best parts of herself—my richer, fuller spiritual nature (mansion)—deep inside (underground) behind a neglected persona (warehouse, weeds, front yard). That she wanted some lemon “aid” (in Judaism the lemon symbolizes the human heart), said that she lacked the compassion to give more of herself and the courage to be real”.
I’ve been working on my courage to show up with new levels of authenticity and truth also, and am grateful for your modeling, through your dream process, the vulnerably, yet strength in revealing who you are. You are, as author Jim Marion’s book title names, “Putting on the Mind of Christ” in this way. In finding forgiveness and compassion for ourselves we know how to give it to others. Is there any other way? Thanks for the lemonaid!
Your comments are always such a gift to me. It feels wonderful to know my attempts at mentoring and modeling are of benefit! I’ve never heard of Jim Marion’s book, but I like the title. I’ll check it out.
No, I don’t think there is any other way to authentic spiritual living. And without some kind of aid, lemon or otherwise, the path may appear to be so daunting that people avoid it. I think this may be the narrow gate Jesus spoke of.
Good morning, Jeanie,
Yes, I think you would enjoy Marion’s book ….which reflects the path you and I seem to have both taken in mining the wisdom from the Christian tradition, which at it’s heart (Jesus’ and Mary’s), is so all-embracing of a variety of sources of wisdom which reflect the stages of the human journey to wholeness and authentic love, as your book “Healing the Sacred Divide also promises to reveal to us in your own unique and authentic way.
This morning I felt blessed to be reminded through the action of “graced” synchronicity, of the characteristics of the Christian mystic understanding of “Dark Night of the Senses” as the prelude to a more subtle level of awareness and indicating the movement of ego’s journey into that deeper surrender and a more direct communication with the spiritual/transpersonal realms. There is no getting around the “Dark Nights”,…what Christianity would refer to facing our “sins” and what we call “inner work to make our unconscious shadow more conscious and integrated. Yes, the only way through to accepting our full humanity as foundational to our sense of union with the All. I’m eager for you new book to come out to help us all be inspired to keep moving toward that healing and integration in our own lives. Blessed Be, Julie
i’ll definitely check out Marion’s book. No, there’s no getting around the Dark Nights if one wishes to grow closer to psycho-spiritual maturity. It would be like refusing to acknowledge the value of the darkness of night and only honoring the daylight! If it weren’t for darkness we’d never appreciate the miracle of light. Thanks for your comments! Jeanie