In my last post I answered questions from students at Justina Lasley’s and Tzivia Gover’s Institute for Dream Studies about what brought me to dreamwork and how it has influenced my life. Their remaining questions were about identifying and working with archetypes in dreams.
Archetypes are universal, unconscious psychic forms, or images. Contents of the collective unconscious of humanity, they are the psychological equivalent of our physical instincts. Although we are not normally consciously aware of our instincts or their archetypal images, they nevertheless predispose us to perceive our experiences and behave in certain predictable ways.
We cannot directly know the archetypes, but we can learn about them from their symbolic manifestations in myths, fairy tales, dreams, and imagination. Examples of the primordial images which populate the treasure trove of our dreams include animals, objects, people, themes, and motifs. With our preference for the conscious ego’s rational processes above all our other functions, western culture tends to devalue the psyche’s natural, intuitive, imaginative processes. This split between the rational mind and nature created the seriously dysfunctional attitudes and practices which have brought us to the brink of destruction.
When you can see and acknowledge the very real power of archetypes in your dreams and waking life, you will understand yourself with all your bright and shadow qualities better. The more self-aware and self-accepting you become, the more compassion you will feel for yourself and others. Over time your dysfunctional ways will abate and you will discover and live the meaning and purpose of your life. As you grow in consciousness, others will be affected. The ripple effect will take over and you will become part of the solution.
This is precisely what the students at the Institute for Dream Studies hope to do with their lives. They were particularly interested in the four basic feminine and masculine archetypes I’ve written about in my new book, The Soul’s Twins: Mother, Father, Queen, Warrior, Mediatrix, Sage, Beloved, and Lover. Here is their first question:
Q: Does it take a while for one to determine their dominant archetype(s)?
Yes. During my first two or three years of dreamwork I focused almost entirely on understanding the meaning of the symbols and images in my dreams. I examined them from three perspectives: my personal associations for the symbols, my culture’s associations for them, and the archetypal associations for them in myths from every culture. I also looked for manifestations of their negative sides in the hope of recognizing and befriending my Shadow. I knew from my Jungian studies that it was my major barrier to deeper self-knowledge.
In those early years I was mostly doing intellectual head work and paid little attention to my emotional responses to the images, themes, or overall feeling of my dreams. I knew very little about the archetypes and wasn’t terribly interested in them. And it rarely occurred to me to look for any connection between my inner/dream life and my attitudes and behavior in waking life. Mostly I was just compiling fascinating data.
This was fun and very useful, but I craved more. I began to notice uncomfortable recurring archetypal themes. I wondered what they had to do with the way I acted and felt. I saw how I covered up my inner realities with outer attitudes and behaviors that weren’t true to what I knew myself to be and feel inside. I wanted to know who I was beneath my persona, why I was the way I was. I wondered what the underlying complexes and archetypal patterns were that seemed to trigger strong emotions. When I noticed that many of my attitudes and behaviors centered around stereotypes about masculinity and femininity, I began to study and write about that. I was following my intuitions and instincts, and was rewarded when a hidden new world of archetypes opened up for me.
My first strong connection was with my Warrior. He was very good at defending and protecting me, but soon I saw that he was often overly quick to do so. So I began to look for what he was defending. I found her in my dream emotions and occasional glimpses of sad, vulnerable, self-pitying Orphan girls who I eventually identified as different versions of my immature Mediatrix. She was suffering from feelings of abandonment she didn’t understand and just wanted her Mother. In waking life my personal mother had been too busy trying to be a surrogate Father/provider to give me the comforting nurturance I needed. I realized my Warrior had made it his job to defend this rejected child I didn’t want to admit to, so I focused on developing the nurturing Mother in myself so that together, she and my conscious ego could love this childish part of me. That meant I had to give my Warrior another job. Now his goal-oriented determination and persistence help my Sage with my writing. Over time other archetypes have revealed themselves, each with their own issues, strengths and weaknesses.
Only recently has my Queen stood out as my powerful personal authority who’s been with me all along without my knowledge. With help from my Warrior and Sage, she has given me the confidence to make my own way through life on my own terms. Last to awaken have been my Beloved and Lover. This development has brought more forgiveness, compassion, and satisfaction to my life than ever before. It’s been thrilling to watch them blossom.
Next time I’ll answer the last question, which is about my dominant archetype, the Mediatrix. Until then, sweet dreams, my friends. And happy Mother’s Day to all who have birthed and protected new life in themselves.