Some years ago, a very successful and talented friend of mine began to experience a crisis of meaning. As he became more receptive to his inner life he found himself drawn to Jungian psychology and dreamwork. One night he had the following dream.
An odd chase dream. I am with a woman…no one I know. I am being pursued by a very large bear. I have a thin spear-like stick with which to defend myself. The woman points out to me a very sharp, but very thin and small, piece of metal on the ground. It is like a piece of broken razor blade. I have to search for it a bit on the ground, where it is entangled with leaves, twigs, etc. I have it and force it into the end of the stick. The bear, I sense is close at hand, but I can’t see it…I never see it. I do see various cast shadows of it, almost like cut shots in a film, one of its powerful open jaws. I jab and feint at locations near me where, based on the cast shadows, I feel I might hit the bear. I never do. Shift. I am a woman. I awaken.
I haven’t discussed this dream with my friend, who was amazingly generous to share it with me, so I do not know what it means to him; nor can either of us possibly know its fullest meaning. The best I can do is tell you what it would mean to me if it were my dream. So here goes.
For me this extraordinary dream illustrates the archetypal drama of being compelled to move out of familiar territory (he is being chased by a bear), and accepting help from our feminine side (an unknown woman companion helps him), so as to be empowered to become an authentic Spirit Warrior (he is forced to look for a weapon with which to defend himself against an animal which feels dangerous and threatening). This new problem with its accompanying discomfort and uncertainty makes it necessary to develop creative new resources (the unusual weapon).
The woman in this dream (his anima, or unconscious feminine side, and possibly a suggestion of the archetypal Great Mother) helps by pointing out the sharp piece of metal (a product of masculine, man-made technology) which is entangled on the ground among leaves and twigs (feminine symbols of the natural world). He searches for the piece of metal (possibly a pun suggesting he is searching for his mettle, i.e. courage to honor his true self and live authentically), and then finds a creative way to unite the two objects, man-made metal and Mother Nature’s stick, into one useful weapon which he uses to jab at shadows: i.e. his shadow.
It would appear that when my friend had this dream his ego was trying to figure out how to deal with an aspect of his shadow — perhaps an instinct (suggested by the bear) or regressive tendency — against which it wanted to defend itself. I have no idea what the characteristics of his particular shadow are, but the dream makes it very clear that because he followed the guidance of his inner feminine and found a creative way to unite the opposites, (masculine technology, feminine biology), not only did he find a way to protect himself, but for one, brief moment he was able to identify with his feminine side by actually becoming a woman.
What could this mean? Does this suggest a positive development in this man’s psyche? If so, why would accepting help from a woman and briefly “becoming a woman” be important to a man’s psychological and spiritual development? Next time I’ll answer these important questions from the perspective of Jungian psychology.