“All consciousness separates; but in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare of all egohood. It is from these all-uniting depths that the dream arises, be it never so childish, grotesque, and immoral.” ~ C.G. Jung. “The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man” (1933/1934), CW 10, par. 304-5.
When we work with a dream our ego is the one doing the work. Our ego thinks it knows everything about us, but it doesn’t. It thinks it is the boss of the entire psyche, but it isn’t. It’s merely the boss of our conscious personality.
An ego is like a well-intentioned gardener who owns a plot of land. She is the boss of that land and gets to decide how to use it. She considers the climate, her personal preferences, the amount of energy she’s willing to put into her project, the space she wants to work on, what she wants to grow, and so on. She makes a plan, prepares the soil, buys and plants the seeds, fertilizes, waters, weeds, researches the best environmentally friendly options for pest control. The works hard to grow healthy plants and help her garden thrive.
Meanwhile, there are forces at work over which our gardener has little or no control. Some are social and economic like fluctuations in prices and wages, supply and demand, local policies, and so on. Some have to do with her health and the health of family and friends who need her help. Some have to do with the time and energy she has available to spend on her garden. These forces are hard to prepare for and work with.
The most ungovernable force of all is Nature. Some land is extremely difficult to work with. Maybe it’s on a steep slope, is full of rocks, lacks a source of water, or has uneven terrain or infertile soil. Then, of course, there’s the weather. Sometimes it rains too much. Sometimes it doesn’t rain enough. Some plants are destroyed by blights and bugs. Some freeze; some can’t take the heat. Then there’s hail, fire, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes….well, you get the picture.
“To me dreams are a part of nature, which harbors no intention to deceive, but expresses something as best it can, just as a plant grows or an animal seeks its food as best it can. These forms of life, too, have no wish to deceive our eyes, but we may deceive ourselves because our eyes are shortsighted. Or we hear amiss because our ears are rather deaf—but it is not our ears that wish to deceive us.” C.G. Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1962), pp. 161-62.
Dreams, emotions, and our physical and psychological inheritance (the land we have to work with), are also Nature. Like hurricanes, insects, dirt, and crocodiles, they simply are what they are and we cannot control them. Gardeners do not create the land or weather, and our egos do not create our bodies, psyches, or dreams.
The best our gardener can do is conduct enough research to know the land, understand the needs of specific plants, make backup plans, watch the weather reports, and respond appropriately. Likewise, the best our ego can do is gather information about what’s going on in the inner world of our psyche, accept the things we cannot change, and make wise choices about what we can. If we commit to understanding the inner forces that disrupt our plans, we can change with the circumstances and times and our garden can continue to thrive.
Our dreams, emotions, and bodies map the lay of the land of our soul. Moreover, they provide an ongoing commentary every night and every day about the unconscious forces that act upon us. If we choose to be intentional about tapping into this deep wisdom and stay connected to it, we can begin to free ourselves from negative influences that sap our energy and sabotage our hopes for a life well-lived. Making this choice and sticking to it marks a major transformation in the life of every individual.
Why would an ego want to go to all this trouble when it’s so much easier to neglect nature’s mysterious garden within us? For the same reason a gardener works to understand the land and watches the weather report. Because in the business of living, growing more self-aware and accepting our whole, natural selves is our ego’s job and the most auspicious way to grow into beauty and wholeness.
Art Credits: Michael Parkes, Midnight Garden
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.