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
[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
For a contented ego, all things big and small matter only with regard to their impact on me and whatever it is that matters to
[T]he individual who wishes to have an answer to the problem of evil, as it is posed today, has need, first and foremost of self-knowledge,
Jean, I truly admire your approach to all things soulful, and how you explore the storms we weather in dealing with strong emotions. Anger and rage are, like lust, all-consuming at times. How fortunate that your friend found relief in a dream solution, and recognized it as “letting go”. In fact, he was probably most angry at himself, for having been taken in by an illusion in the first place. In dealing with my own anger (which is directed at the entire human race, how ambitious is that!) I have been absorbing a book called “All the Rage”, with contributions from various Buddhist writers. Just this morning I read a passage that encourages us to think of our enemies, collectively or singularly, as babies abandoned on a doorstep with a note pinned to them, saying “please take care of me.” We can think of the source of our anger as this baby – each of us crying out for help in our own way. Turning anger into sorrow, turning sorrow into understanding, turning understanding into wisdom… it’s a long journey which begins with awareness. Dreams can awaken us to that important first step. Really enjoyed this post, thanks again.
Thank you, Lorrie. I think you’re right about him being most angry at himself. And I understand why you’re angry at the entire human race! It can be deeply unsettling to learn that the people you most trust and admire are playing you! We need our gods and heroes. If there’s no one we can trust, how can we bear the injustices of life? The politicians and CEO’s who try to manipulate the public and think only of themselves? The advertisers who tell deliberate lies?
“All the Rage” sounds like a marvelous book. I love thinking of my anger as an abandoned baby on the doorstep crying out for help. This is exactly how it feels, isn’t it? And I agree with you about the way we find healing. Awareness is the key: feeling and admitting our anger, and the hurt and disappointment and fear beneath it. Grieving over our lost innocence. Seeking guidance from our dreams because they are true, benevolent guides we can trust. In fact, they may be the only things in life that will never lie to us. Thanks again for writing.
So true so true! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and the powerful messages our dreams bring to us!
You’re welcome, Kathleen. It’s my pleasure. I’ve personally experienced the transforming power of dreams many times, so I can’t help but be thrilled and excited when others experience it too. For me it’s been like suddenly finding a hidden door in my house I never knew was there, and opening it to a whole new magical, mystical world of unlimited potential, joy and meaning. And it’s been there all the time, just waiting for me to enter. I can’t get enough of it!! Thanks for writing.
As always, I enjoyed this post, but I have one long standing concern. I’ve just been reading again Dr. Jung’s “The Transcendent Function” as carried in CW7. There he seems to suggest that one could also simply fantasize a solution like this. BUT, the question is, how do we know the difference between ideation for action and fantasy for defusing emotion? He gives the example of the friend who told him of dreaming about stepping off the top of a mountain, and then a few months later he actually did it. How is the difference between defusing a negative emotion and carrying something into everyday life managed? Obviously, not every fantasy or dream should lead to suicidal or murderous results in the real world, but they are also not always harmless. How can the average person be advised on this point?
This is a great question, Skip. I don’t think there’s any general rule, except that it all comes down to what’s in the dreamer’s heart. It’s always an individual thing. I don’t have a therapeutic relationship with this man, but I know him quite well, and he’s unusually honest about his emotions and his shadow. While he is idealistic, (as am I), he’s very responsible and grounded in physical reality. He used to be a big gun fancier, but after the Sandy Hook massacres he was so disgusted and appalled that he got rid of all but one hand gun.
I’ve read Jung’s example of the friend who stepped off the mountain. Jung knew him well, knew his passion for climbing not only physical but spiritual heights. If I recall correctly, Jung considered him to have a dangerously inflated self-image, (and perhaps a compensating “death wish?) so when he heard his dream he saw red flags everywhere.
Naturally, one has to be very careful about interpreting their dreams. When a dream feels especially powerful, I would advise one to let it simmer for as long as it takes without taking any drastic actions. This gives the unconscious time to find a resolution, which then arises naturally, as my friend’s dream did. He consciously tolerated his discomfort and anger for 3 years without doing anything except ridding himself of reminders of Armstrong. For me, this shows him to be a person of unusually strong character.
I hope this helps.
I’d like to add something to the above comment. Early in my own dreamwork I dreamed I was in a sorority house with other girls and a very intense older man was in the center of the room, acting very self-important and aggressive and intimidating us all. Without thinking, I simply picked up a gun on a nearby table and shot him. When I woke up, I immediately applied the literal standards of my conscious ego and felt guilty for not feeling guilty about killing him. At the time I had no idea what he symbolized to me. Killing an unknown man was not nearly as clear as killing someone I consciously despised would have been. But years later I knew what my obsession was. I’d been very angry for several years at the “faceless” shadow of patriarchy that disrespects and abuses women. Having the guts to stand up to this man was not just a way to defuse my negative emotions but also signaled some very healthy growth. After having taken this stand my anger began to dissipate and I began to forgive. It was the perfect solution for me, and the basis for the inner knowing I felt that my friend’s dream had done the same thing for him.
Yes and no. I certainly meant no disrespect for your friend. But this problem has always been kicking around in my head for 15 years, or more. Dr. Jung seems to have referred to the story of the alpine climber several times in his writings, so it was clearly quite numinous to him. I had the sense that it occurred early in his career (certainly before 1916, when he was writing “The Transcendent Function”). In the account I recall (but not from “The Transcendent Function” essay), the conversation with his friend was an offhand thing, carried out across a street, where the friend shouted across that he had had such a dream, and Dr. Jung responded in a casual manner that he should be careful. But, my impression was that it was not something either had taken so seriously at the time; and it was only in retrospect that he really tied the “accident” to the dream. Perhaps I am getting this wrong. I will welcome any advice on this.
My big concern is really quite personal. Shortly after the financial collapse of 2008, one of my apparently extremely successful neighbors committed suicide. It was never spoken, but my inference was that his extremely high profile and apparently successful local business was in financial trouble. At the time, I had such thoughts, but I decided that I wanted to see the end of the movie, rather than walking out in the middle. Nonetheless, such issues do emerge in my consciousness from time to time, and it is very hard to know what to do with them.
Having gone back and re-read your reply before beginning this paragraph, I DO think your answer contains a lot of wisdom, especially in the second and third sentence and in the third paragraph. Obviously, anyone who is reading this is well aware that these are not trivial issues, but truly matters of life and death, which must be taken very seriously indeed. I know you know I do.
My previous reply must have been written while you were writing your account of the sorority house intruder, which adds additional wisdom. Your post obviously touched something very deep, as I suspect it may have for others, so it may perhaps suggest a sequel or two. You are certainly the right person for that task.
Since you took note of the commentary on Ex Machina, by Mike Berkowitz & me, I would certainly like to see your commentary on the movie, particularly considering your dream about the sorority house in the context of the ending of this popular (in the theatre) movie’s ending. What is Hollywood trying to say to us? It will be particularly helpful to have a commentary from a thoughtful feminine standpoint, particularly in the context of the points you raised about patriarchy.
Once again, I was writing the below comment while you were sending this one to me. I’ll try to see it when I can. If I have any insights, I’ll let you know.
I think suicide fantasies are a different order of reality from dreams. First, fantasies come from the ego, and, unless the ego is more conscious than the norm, has a strong relationship with the Self, and trusts the unconscious in general, the ego can easily delude itself into thinking it should act to turn such fantasies into reality.
Second, active imagination is a particularly potent way that the ego can interact with the unconscious, but the ego must understand that what comes up is about the inner life, not the outer one. One should always take active imaginations seriously, but not literally. Nor should we allow them to influence our waking behavior until the powerful emotions and temptations they represent have passed. It takes much time for insights from dreams or fantasies to be integrated into the conscious personality in healthy ways. Meanwhile, the ego needs to stay aware and vigilant.
Third, dreams come from the unconscious and the ego has no control over them. Therefore, they tell the truth, but once again, this truth is a symbolic one about inner processes. While inner processes obviously relate to the outer world, the key once again is never to take any rash or harmful steps, but to tolerate the tension, mulling the issue over as long as it lasts, until the solution comes. Sometimes it comes in the form of a healing dream; or it can be a change in one’s waking life circumstances.
On the surface, a dream about killing someone, whether known or unknown, is always shocking. As we know, dreams often exaggerate to arouse an emotional response that will get our ego’s attention. This doesn’t mean we have to interpret them in any way at all, but we do need to stay open to and reflect on our feelings and options, letting them cook until we acquire helpful insights. Trying to deny or escape from shocking dreams, like painful situations, is never the answer. Growth only comes from this patient “cooking.”
Yes, this post did touch something very deep. I endured a nine-year-long “Dark Night” experience without doing anything drastic or harmful while inside it felt like my world was falling apart. Believe me, this took some serious courage, patience, and presence of mind. Much of it was about my rage at having been duped by patriarchy into believing I was a second-class citizen who must conform to cultural norms for women in ways that effected every area of my life….mostly adversely.
Thanks for the suggestion for a sequel. Maybe I’ll incorporate this conversation into it since readers who don’t subscribe to the comments will never see it.
Somehow, I feel relieved. While it is often true that I feel some therapeutic benefit from reading your posts, that is particularly true in this case. I am very grateful! You are certainly welcome to use any part of my comments on a future post, if you wish. Your advice about letting the cooking stay on “simmer” seems very wise indeed. My neighbor might still be alive if he understood that wisdom.
I’m very glad to know my words have somehow brought relief, Skip. We have to stay with the “crap” as long as we can. It’s the alchemical ‘prima materia’ that we must distill before it can be transformed into gold. 🙂
Thank you Jeanie very much for this dream and to your friend for allowing it to be shared. It is extremely powerful as is its explication. I read this last night and couldn’t wait until today to add my comments now to see Skip’s comments and your unravelling of his concerns is extra grist to the mill.
Many of us were hugely angry at Lance Armstrong for the duping and doping saga .. we had something like this in South Africa many years ago when our cricket hero was found out for fixing cricket scores.. As a nation we were stunned, literally. It took many years to come through this – sadly he was killed in a plane that flew into a mountainside …
A long time ago I dreamed of shooting someone and burying the corpse. My sister was with me. It was so disturbing, I made a small clay figure out of the corpse which lightened my fear of this dream. I will go in search of it for my own interest, the dream that is. I know where the clay corpse is.
Am sharing your post. Thank you again for your wisdom.
Many thanks for your thoughtful reply, Susan, and for sharing this post. Many of us have similar issues with disturbing dreams and some of us carry around a lot of hidden shame, afraid of what evil might lie within us and fearing others’ judgment. This can weigh heavily on a sensitive, scrupulous soul. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I thought a lot about whether or not to share this dream lest people misunderstand and judge. Ultimately I decided it was an important issue that needed to be brought out into the open. The more that people understand the benevolence of dreams — i.e. the fact that they come in the interest of healing and wholeness — the freer we can all become from fear, shame, and self-criticism. The secret sense that we are inherently unworthy is an insidious cancer of the soul that must be eradicated before we can learn to love ourselves and others.
I love what you did to keep cooking your dream. Making your clay corpse was brilliant. First, because it gave you a creative way to process your feelings, which is inherently healing in itself, and second because it stamped a symbolic image onto your mind that was a visual reminder to continue working through the issue it represented. My daily writing and dreamwork did, and continue to do, the same for me. I hope you’ll let me know if finding and revisiting your dream and the clay corpse have a healing effect on you!
I really appreciate these dialogues with you and Skip. We have much in common. Jeanie
Hi Jean What a useful/helpful dream! I agree with you that he was giving voice to his anger and frustration in a harmless way. The subconscious, as I understand it, is supposed to balance the consciousness. Here, his conscious self was storming about and the unconscious stepped in to discharge all that fury. I’ve always thought that my subconscious was a whole lot smarter than me [conscious self]
Hi Mary. I’m very glad to know you found this useful and helpful. You expressed the value of exploring the unconscious and the dreams it creates for us beautifully. I’ve always thought of the unconscious as smarter than my ego too. Maybe that’s because it knows what my issues are and how to create lasting change when my ego hasn’t a clue!! I don’t like to think about what my life would have been had I not discovered my inner sage and started listening to it!
P.S. I’ve just ordered The Drawing Lesson, the first in your Trilogy of Remembrance. I’ve been looking for some good summer reading and this one fits the bill perfectly!
I wanted to share with you 2 dreams I had last night, which seem to have been stimulated by yesterday’s discussion. Note that I think I may have dreamed about Dr. Jung 1 time before that I can recall, so having two dreams about him in one night is a surprise.
Dream 1 – Woke me at 12:40 this a.m. Dr. Jung is investigating something in a public garden. [I am his companion, but he pays no attention to me. He is behaving like Sherlock Holmes.] He goes into a building and finds a morgue like casket drawer on the wall, with the name “JUNG” written in big letters on the end of it. He just looks at it with interest. Then a disembodied voice says, “No no no no, he didn’t look away.”
–gave me goose bumps
Dream 2 — — Woke me at 4:15 a.m. I am with the “head” of the American Racer’s Association at a major horse race. He says, “I received a Tweet from someone saying, ‘Jung is dead. Leave him there.’” Then I hear a disembodied voice saying the same thing.
–gave me goose bumps again—rarely happens
So far, my interpretation is that I, at least, should not be trying to relive parts of Dr. Jung’s life, as if I know what really was happening at the time. He has lived his life, and we must take from it what we can and move on. This relates back, I think, to my view that we cannot be talking about Dr. Jung’s life as if it were something holy. I think I may have been tending toward that in my comments yesterday. Of course, he would not approve, since he did not want a religion to develop around his writings, but rather wanted us to take them, see what we could learn from them, and then continue the process of human development and consciousness by applying his insights to our own lives as they are experienced going forward. His famous quote, “Thank God I’m Jung and not a Jungian,” as related by Barbara Hannah in her biography, P. 78. Of course, I do know you know all about this, but I thought it might be of interest to some of your other readers, who have much less experience with Dr. Jung’s work.
I have no better insight at this point.
Best regards, Skip
Wow, Skip. This feels like two very BIG dreams, both containing a profound message. If this is my dream, the words, “No no no no he didn’t look away” would mean something very similar to your words, he wants us to “continue the process of human development and consciousness by applying his insights” to our own lives. Jung didn’t look away from his inner life. He kept searching and searching, like a detective, to the clues that would unravel the mystery of his Self and provide meaning. He didn’t worry about what the world thought of him, he wasn’t distracted by his companions on the journey, he never looked away from the task that he knew was crucial to the welfare of his soul: to acquire self-knowledge and consciousness by constant scrutiny on his inner life.
2nd dream: again, if my dream, I’d be asking myself if the reference to “head” might be a reference to the kind of “head” knowledge I’m trying so hard (racing?) to acquire, and will power I’m trying to use with all my studies of Jungian psychology, while —because there’s no reference to it—ignoring the compensatory language of the heart: my personal feelings, fears, anger, grief, and other emotions, relationship and other issues, shadow, etc. I’d take the comment “Jung is dead. Leave him there” to be a reference to this left-brained way of approaching Jungian psychology: focusing on learning theories, i.e. “being a Jungian” instead of being with myself.
The reason I view “my” dream this way, is based on the fact that what I say above is the way I pursued Jungian psychology for many years. I wanted so badly to be a scholar with the answers, thinking that would help, but my focus on ideas was a way to avoid dealing with my feelings. I needed to grieve about a lot of things that bothered me that I didn’t want to have to face. I was into about my 12th year of studying Jungian psychology before I began to really “see” and feel the painful emotions that I feared so much.
Finally, I would see the disembodied voice as coming from my inner Wisewoman or Wiseman. My personal sage and inner guide to whom I should be listening with every fiber of my being: body, feelings, emotions, intuitions……………..
My thoughts about this are totally about me and my experiences. None of this may be true for you. I hope you understand that I know this. I don’t have a clue about what’s going on inside you except for the few things you’ve revealed in comments.
There’s an outfit called “Sounds True,” which publishes books, recordings, etc. from a lot of different traditions. I always liked the name. I’m reminded of it because your analysis sounds true to me. That has actually helped a lot in bringing me along in my thinking! Thank you for those thoughts.
So glad! You’re more than welcome.
This dream was the key that released your friend from the cell of Torment. I can relate to this process as you describe it, because my past dreams have turned compulsive rumination into a quietness about existing, an alchemical transformation. Thank you, Jean, for the years of study and expertise you have devoted to this area of education and healing, also the feelings of gratitude that I know must have come to you from your friends, patients, and readers of your books and articles.
Thank you for writing, Joseph. Yes, it’s true that my friend is no longer imprisoned by his obsession. This is a wonderful metaphor for a powerful reality. He’s not totally over it yet, but he is definitely experiencing an alchemical transformation that I, too, relate to. Thank you also for your affirmation of the positive effects of my years of study. The older I get, the more I experience and feel deep pleasure in, and gratitude for, the growing rewards of my struggle toward self-knowledge.
Dear Jean Raffa,
I feel “compelled” to let you know that I expect to be 84 years of age in August 2015. I do not know exactly what you and Susan Scott will be writing inside your forthcoming book about “Becoming.” I feel like I am constantly “becoming,” and this is an exciting thing to experience. I am extremely pleased that you also recognize the values of, and salute, your own aging. Best regards, Joe
I have definitely not decided what I want to be when I grow up!
At this stage of my life, the psychological benefits of aging far outweigh the physical disadvantages. I, too, am constantly becoming. Just this month I’ve noticed some strikingly positive signs of growth in several areas. The only thing I can attribute them to are the cumulative effects of persevering with inner work. Yes, I recognize the values of aging and salute you for doing the same. Best, Jeanie
So lovely to read this thread, thank you. And to see Joseph here and his acknowledgment of your wisdom Jean. Just a small note – Susan Schwartz in Phoenix and I are collaborating on a book on Aging & Becoming.
I wondered where Joseph got that idea. 🙂 Obviously he follows you too. Blessings on your new book. I look forward to reading it.
To Jean and To Susan- I have known in my clear mind that the collaboration was between Susan & Schwartz. Was this a “Freudian Slip,” that in this thread I had written about the collaboration? Was I unconsciously trying to create a battle about the original ownership of the age-old idea—“Aging?”- Am I ruminating about this topic while I am day-dreaming about a bottle of cognac in my hand? Getting serious, – – – no response expected here.
Enjoy your cognac!! 🙂
As always, I thoroughly appreciate and enjoy your post, and the further dialogue with commenters is so helpful. There is incredible flow to the conversation between you and Skip … beautiful to read. In addition, the synchronicity between this post and what I’m reading right now is lovely: “Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct.” 🙂
P.S. Thank you for your recent wise and informative response to a post and comments on FAR. I’ve been trying for ages to try to understand that particular issue!
Thank you very much, Darla. I feel good about this post, especially the conversation with Skip. It teased thoughts about a critically important topic out of me that I haven’t expressed before and I’m grateful for the chance to talk about them with someone as knowledgable and articulate as Skip. I’m equally happy about the discussion Carol and I had on Feminism and Religion. It’s terribly difficult to understand the difference between psychological realities and thousands of years of unconscious social conditioning about masculinity and femininity. But I think we may be zeroing in on a breakthrough in collective consciousness.
I am glad, Skip, that you responded to me as you did. I was, in fact, thinking along these lines, “I wonder what I will do when I grow up,” but I decided, “Enough wise-cracking from Joe Rubin!” When my wife and I talk, and she has had a spectacular career in managing a real estate company, I joke around asking what she would do after giving up her business after “retirement.” She has only to start, and everything else would begin to accelerate, by re-arrangement of the pattern of dots that she already has.
Susan Scott and I greatly appreciate the teachings by you, Jean Raffa. However, it is very hard to find enough time to read and to comment in the midst of other necessary tasks. In this site, I feel as if I am attending a graduate-level seminar where highest quality exists to give comments and to appreciate replies that are received. I look forward to coming by again!
“…re-arrangement of the pattern of dots that she already has.” I like that. It’s quite apt, really. We all live by underlying patterns. At the deepest levels of the unconscious we share the same archetypal patterns with everyone; but closer to our awareness we each fill them in with uniquely personal dots arranged in different ways, depending on our genes, experiences, and unique interests, skills and aptitudes. These always influence our behavior and choices whether we know it or not! I can see why “this place” feels like a graduate-level seminar to you!! No matter what I do, my dots always seem to take the same shapes of student, teacher and mentor.
What a fascinating little nugget. I am thinking I might try to apply this – ask for a dream, in other words – about an anger issue that won’t seem to go away, one I often find myself thinking about and wondering, WHY am I still thinking about this? Why is my mind still ruminating on this old issue??
Anyways. Much gratitude to you for writing with such clarity and your friend for being willing to share.
In a funny synchronicity, yesterday on my way home from the grocery store I saw some big Livestrong box in the recycling area of our building, and had Lance and his story on my mind…
Hi Katalina, It would appear from your very interesting synchronicity that your unconscious would be more than happy to offer some suggestions about your anger issue! If you do receive a dream about it, you’re welcome to share it here. I’m sure we could all learn from it. Thank you for your comment.
Hmmmm, so smart. Yes of course, I was primed for your post.
Did a journey today and got the beginnings of something, but will wait til it is more developed before sharing 🙂
Wonderful. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, a friend gave him the Lance Armstrong biography. Vic had so much of his own will that he didn’t need Armstrong’s. Still Vic admired him and didn’t live to see his downfall. I love how this dream presents positive violent images with a feeling reversal (feeling good after killing someone) of how the dreamer thinks he should respond. My therapist taught me to ask hat all important question, “How did the dream make you feel when you woke up?” Thanks for the stimulating way you work with dreams.
You’re welcome, Elaine. I like the term “feeling reversal.” It took me years to give as much attention to my feelings in dreams as I did to my thoughts and reasoning. Now I find that emotions are a far more direct route to meaningful insights. Had I known that from the beginning I could have saved myself so much time and energy. But I guess that’s just the way learning about the psyche goes. What’s farthest away from our consciousness takes the longest to find, and I was masterful at ignoring my emotions!