Dreams About the Creative Instinct: Part I


Carl Jung said we have five instincts: nurturance, activity, sex, reflection, and creativity. Sometimes our dreams contain images and activities suggesting how we feel about them or how well-developed they are in us.
In dreams, instincts are often symbolized by animals. The instinct for creativity might appear as a spider, which creates its own fibers for weaving marvelous webs, or some other animal noted for the marvelous things it creates, like a beaver or a silkworm. It might also appear as a special animal that has important significance to the dreamer, or as a fabulous or unique animal with a creative combination of characteristics that give it unusual power.
Dreams of real or mythical people known for their creativity, like artists, writers, or musicians, can also be about this instinct. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was the God of fire, the forge, craftsmen, sculptors and artisans. One of Apollo’s symbols was the lyre, and Athena, noted for her wisdom, was also known for her inventions and skill at weaving.
When a certain instinct is not well-developed in us we can remain so unconscious of its potential, or so afraid of it, that we find it extremely difficult to recognize dream references to it. Here’s a dream I had about my instinct for creativity 22 years ago, shortly after beginning dreamwork. It was a complete mystery to me.
Dream #42: “The Horse and the Desk”  I’m terrified of a powerful, dark, beautiful horse that’s chasing me. I slam a door on him, leaving him in a room with my beloved dusty desk which I don’t need any more. I’m worried he’ll hurt the desk.  Carefully I open the top of the dutch door to see what he’s doing. Then he sadly says to me, “Why are you trembling? Are you afraid of me? Did you think I would hurt you?” Suddenly I feel foolish because I know he’s always been my friend and would never hurt me; nevertheless I was afraid and had to get away from him.
When I had this dream I had just written a book that was a dry and scholarly outgrowth of my doctoral dissertation and was so tired of the subject that only a fierce determination to finish what I had started had kept me going. Moreover, I was ambitious, and I knew the chances of finding success as a writer were slim to none. Added to this was my fear of writing about my true interests: my spiritual nature, my quest for psychological awareness and wholeness, and feminine issues. Writing about things for which I had no formal training could derail my progress in the academic world where I had achieved a certain amount of success. So despite the fact that I had always loved to write, I was considering giving it up to focus on teaching.
What did the dusty desk mean? Although I always wrote at a desk, I ignored that fact and associated it with teaching.  In essence, I was trying to talk myself out of writing—to shut the beautiful horse out of my life—because I was afraid my creative instincts might damage my career aspirations. The dream’s lysis (last image) said I should trust my creative instinct, that it wouldn’t hurt me. But I didn’t understand this then. Even if I had, I doubt I would have acted on it. I simply didn’t know, trust, or like myself enough to take the risk, and it took another year of dreamwork before I did. Next time I’ll share a later dream that confirmed the meaning of this one and brought closure to the whole issue.
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0 Responses

  1. Just beautiful, Jeanie! Such powerful stuff – thank you for sharing this dream and your associations. I also find it enlightening to look back on old dreams in the context of what was going on in my life at the time. So much to be gleaned in retrospect – psyche always trying to communicate our soul’s purpose and desire.
    I appreciate all that you do, and all that you’ve done to share of yourself and your own transformation. It is continually inspiring.

    1. Thank you, Therese. As you know, this is my passion, and it’s enormously satisfying to share what I’m learning with others and to know they’re finding it useful.
      I think what you’ve said about, “psyche always trying to communicate our soul’s purpose and desire,” is what makes this a spiritual journey as well as a psychological one. You feel so known and loved when, over time, you begin to weave the threads together and see the big picture of wisdom and benevolence behind and beneath it all!

  2. Jean, May I too say thank you for this revelation which again, like many of your posts, has helped me understand a somewhat similar experience in my own life. As another exhausted thesis writer, caught in a bind between returning to a rather constraining health service job, trying to forge an academic career, or following my instincts to write and to develop counselling and complementary therapy skills, in July of 2005 a draft of a much more free and sporadic novel came bursting out of my system. It was almost like automatic writing and I experienced a tremendous sense of lightness and release when the first draft seemed to be finished. My characters were rough-edged and unhewn but I had an affinity with them and realised they were aspects of myself. Many drafts later, they have become their own people and though the rejection slips are mounting, I believe in the work and just keep going, Needless to say the writing, counselling and my long-time obsession with all things Jungian have won the day. As your posts are most encouraging and informative, I really love getting my email reminders, so thanks once again and best wishes, Roberta McDonnell http://www.subliminalspaces.wordpress.com

    1. Thank you, Roberta. Our stories are quite similar, aren’t they? Writing has always been a deeply satisfying means of expression and creative outlet for me, and when it’s combined with working on my dreams it’s my fundamental “practice.” That, and underlining!! 🙂
      I’m so passionate about writing and self-knowledge and “all things Jungian” that even when the rejection slips came, and there were many, it didn’t occur to me to quit either. I loved what I was doing and being able to do it was more important than any particular outcome,so for me it was a win-win situation: do what you love and the rewards keep coming, whether anyone else ever sees them or not!
      Best wishes to you too, Jeanie

  3. Jeanie,
    This is so synchronistic to something I just finished writing and reflects my own journey to taking every more seriously my passion the psycho-spiritual journey yet feeling a resistance to give more of my time and energy to it, especially with giving time and energy to keeping up MorningStar for the past 30 years. I have done more “safe teaching” of what I’m learning about myself and the journey than formulating writings about it, which would really challenge my full “sexpression” of who I am! Yes, it is so important to allow full expression of all instincts so they don’t inadvertently sabotage any of our potent energies to live visible and free. Yes, we have a similar story also.
    Thanks for your courage to Show Up! Love, Julie

    1. As usual, these marvelous synchronicities just keep affirming and encouraging us when we’re committed to the inner path toward living “visible and free.” Thank you for letting me know about this latest! I love it. And I’m very grateful for this opportunity to Show Up for people on the same journey. There’s no need for any of us to have to do this all alone. Love, Jeanie

  4. Oh the unbridled vibrancy of your horse! So beautiful! How wonderful to come across another blogger writing about and interpreting dream symbolism! I’ve bookmarked your site and will stop by again. Feel free to stop by my blog, Symbol Watcher, and let me know what you think. I

    1. Don’t you love the knowing look in his eye? I’m very happy to meet another dream blogger and will check out your site asap! Thanks for writing! Jeanie

      1. Wow, I want to thank you again and join in the chorus of gratitude for this post, and your comments Jeanie! What synchronicity! What a gift!
        Like you, and others, I felt deep fear about following my heart’s desire – writing. For me, it bled into terror. I put aside my joy of writing for many more years and went back to an art form I knew. I love that your horse told you that he’s your friend and would never hurt you. I heard what your horse said to you and I am taking that to heart right now. Ahhh…thank you!
        Then from one your comments to a reader – “I loved what I was doing and being able to do it was more important than any particular outcome, so for me it was a win-win situation: do what you love and the rewards keep coming, whether anyone else sever sees them or not!” I feel your words and wisdom nourishing my soul and spirit. Do you think there is a “rainmaker” aspect to this too?
        I also resonated with the comment you made “my fear of writing about my true interests: my spiritual nature, my quest for psychological awareness and wholeness, and feminine issues. Writing about things for which I had no formal training could derail my progress…” I am seriously considering dropping my plan B’s, in case plan A does not work out. Why not just go for plan A –– beginner and all! 
        I deeply appreciate your thoughtful and intelligent post and the conversation with other readers, their comments and your replies to them too. Thanks to them and to you for your wholehearted sharing and soul nourishing wisdom. I’m in awe, soaking it all in and learning.

        1. Oh, dear Sandy. You’re making me feel especially good today! How kind you are to let me know what you like and what other commenters and I are saying that you’re learning from. It emboldens me to say more about things I probably take for granted and forget that other people might like to hear!
          Can you say more about what you mean when you ask if there’s a “rainmaker” aspect to this?
          As for your thinking about dropping your Plan B’s and focusing on Plan A (I love that, by the way), all I can say is that I know you can’t go wrong if you’re following your heart’s passion! (As long as it’s positive and healthy and of social value, of course! It goes without saying that I’d never advocate someone following a desire to do something harmful!) I recently read a comment by a publisher who said that sometimes the most unexpected books have great success, and it’s almost always because of the passion of the writer. I really believe that. We’re each given our own particular form of genius and it’s our job to find it and share it with the world. You know what it is when the very process of expressing it makes time and space dissolve and you’re utterly absorbed in your own timeless eternity; you know, The Zone!!
          Thank you for your wonderful, generous-spirited comment!
          Love, Jeanie

  5. I have an old, yellowed, handtyped “mulitgraph” of notes and dialoges of a seminar on children’s dreams that Jung conducted in Zurich in 1938. And of course I can’t find the exact quote right now (because its the only book I’ve ever owned that I DAREN’T underline or highlight!). But in it Jung says essentially: When you are being chased by an animal in a dream, you should stop, tip your hat to it and ask: What message do you have for me?
    (I’ll try to re-read it in the next week or so, and send you the exact quote and cite)
    Lovely piece, which reminds us all that we are often frightened of
    life-changing gifts.

    1. Omigosh! I wish I’d read that before I had my dream! How perfect is that! In a way, I did let him know I was willing to learn from him when I opened the top of the dutch door and peeked in. By then I guess I had learned to respect the unconscious and trust my dreams enough to open a bit of myself, even though I wasn’t necessarily ready to implement the message. I’d love to have the exact quote when you find it! Thanks very much! I know about “fear of underlining special books.” I wouldn’t get near my The Red Book with a pencil! Jeanie

  6. You wrote, “In essence, I was trying to talk myself out of writing—to shut the beautiful horse out of my life—because I was afraid my creative instincts might damage my career aspirations.”
    When I was a teen in high school, and then college, the message I received was that no one my family was creative or artistic. A degree in business was the only “logical” path. That’s what I thought. But during my junior year I had to take a course in art history. My eyes were opened to a new world. Shortly, I was spending hours in NYC’s Met, the Frick and other museums. A whole new world had opened up to me. But nothing changed, I shut this out of my life as a frivolous pursuit. “What the hell am I going to do with a knowledge and interest in art and after all, no one in my family is creative?” I went into business, did fine, but never felt fulfilled.
    I can’t say it was dreams that awakened me to my creative side–we’ve talked about this before, Jeanie–but it was in my forties when I began meditating and contemplating the impact of those who came before me and the impact they had on whom I’d become. “Imagining” I’d call it, awakened me to my creative side.
    So, while it wasn’t a dream, perhaps it was a dreamlike state that put me in touch with a side of me I had buried. Soon I was creating images of stories of those who had gone before and suddenly I realized “I really do have a creative side.”
    I too struggled with what you wrote, “Added to this was my fear of writing about my true interests: my spiritual nature, my quest for psychological awareness and wholeness, and feminine issues.” Once I began creating stories from the past, once I began breathing of my ancestors’ space and time, the fear melted away and my quest for understanding myself and those who came before me, manifested itself.
    Another thought provoking post, Jeanie.

    1. Hi, Charlie,
      I think your story is one to which a lot of people can relate. I know I can. And your point about how using your imagination seemed to open the door to your unconscious is dead on. In fact, I think it’s an excellent point that needs to addressing. There are many roads to the unconscious, although either Jung or Freud said that “dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.”
      But anything a person does that refocuses their mind from the outer to the inner worlds can do the same thing: walking, jogging, yoga, meditation, body work, dancing, journaling, and any form of art in which you’re paying attention to how you feel and what’s important to you and allowing your imagination to take you to new places. It’s just a matter of removing yourself from all the external distractions. And, of course, that’s not easy to do because that’s all our culture conditions us to notice. Congratulations for making that decisive leap into your true creativity!
      And thanks so much for writing!

  7. You are so welcome Jeanie!!
    The following is a short version of the “Rainmaker Story” that Jung talked about. I was referring to this story when I asked you about the “rainmaker” aspect.
    A village experienced a great drought. After different methods of prayer and other religious incantations that failed to create rain, the villagers decided to call in a famous rainmaker.
    The rainmaker, a very old man, arrived in the village. He asked for a quiet little house somewhere. He locked himself in for three days. On the fourth day clouds gathered and rain fell quenching the thirsty parched earth. The villagers went to ask the man how he did it.
    The Rainmaker replied, “I have done nothing.” Astounded at this explanation, the villagers said, “How can that be? After you came, four days later, the rain started.”
    The Rainmaker explained, “When I arrived, the first thing I noticed was that everything in your village was out of harmony with heaven. So I spent four days putting myself into harmony with the Divine. Then the rains came.” ———-
    My husband and I have experienced the “rainmaker” story in our business and life. Just being present, embracing our authentic and personal inner truth no matter what it was, had an immediate positive effect in our life and our surroundings – even before any introduction of a tangible product into the world. Things just worked. I wondered if you have had this experience too. This is what I was referring to when I asked you about the “rainmaker aspect.”
    Thanks for your additional comments about discovering and bringing our own particular genius into the world, being in the “Zone” and yes, I agree about pursuing what is positive, healthy and of social value. I’m so glad you feel emboldened to say more because what you have to say is so nourishing and edifying! I love knowing that “unexpected books have great success, and it’s almost always because of the passion of the writer. I really believe that.” Ahhhhh….I’m taking on board your comment and belief!
    Thank you too for your generous-spirited reply. Such delicious soul food! Yum…I savor it!

    1. Yes, I remember that story now! I love it. And yes, I have had that experience too. The truer I am to myself the more uncomfortable situations and relationships change, without me doing anything to change them except be myself! Thank you for reminding me of this wonderful story, and thanks again for your affirming words!

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