“If we pay attention to our dreams, instead of living in a cold, impersonal world of meaningless chance, we may begin to emerge into a world of our own, full of important and secretly ordered events.” ~C.G. Jung
I began recording and working with my dreams in 1989. In those days, many of my dreams had to do with conflicting feelings about my career. This is one of them.
Dream #198: “Hiding From the Enemy”. Someone desecrates my small, primitive wooden house and ransacks my possessions while I’m away teaching writing classes. It’s a dark night and the enemy is looking for me. I’m in danger. I hide, lying flat on the ground, pressed against the outside wall of the classroom. I’m afraid to breathe or make a sound. I know my tribe values my contribution and won’t give me away.
In dreams, houses usually represent the psychological condition in which we’re living. So right away I’m being told that my inner life is cramped and primitive. Moreover, it’s a mess. But instead of trying to fix it, I’m hiding in terror behind a classroom! In other words, I’m using my job as an escape, a way to avoid conducting some inner work and confronting an unknown enemy that’s really messing with my mind.
And who or what is this terrifying enemy that has my dream ego holding its breath and cowering in the dark? When I had this dream I couldn’t imagine what it might be. But now I know and the knowing makes me sad for my cluelessness and the needless anxiety I was suffering. I was a puppet of convention and terrified of my natural, authentic self.
As I wrote in my first book, “The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth”, a few years after I had this dream,
“Conformity is a castle that conceals authenticity and stifles individuality. A castle is a strong and impressive fortress; if it were not, most of us would not grow up dreaming of living in one. But the illusion of safety and the pleasures of power and prestige a castle provides cannot compensate for the withering of the soul of the individual who insists on remaining within its walls. Moreover, the castle cannot prevent crisis, it cannot teach us to recognize the call of the Golden Bear; it cannot prepare us for the island ordeal. As long as we remain within its walls, we have no hope of completion.”
At that time it might have looked to others like I had the world by the tail; but inside a battle had been raging for over nine years between two apparently irreconcilable opposites. On one side was my ego that was growing increasingly unhappy with its lack of personal meaning and spiritual fulfillment, but still preferred the familiarity and safety of a job I didn’t like and the status quo in my life to the dangers of the unknown. On the other was the compelling new voice of Sophia whose call to freedom from conformity was deeply attractive but felt dangerously subversive. Which side was right? Which was wrong? Nothing in my life had prepared me for this painful dilemma. How was I to choose? Rejecting either one would have felt like a terrible mistake!
My solution was deceptively simple and came in its own sweet time. I wrote about the symbols, images, events, and emotions that showed up in my dreams and looked for links between these clues from my unconscious and my waking life. Meanwhile, I tolerated the tension of my inner turmoil for nine long years without shutting down or rushing to premature closure. Gradually I grew more aware of a fuller range of choices and braver about making original ones that honored my inner realities as much as my outer ones. Then I had a big dream in which I was going against the current in a rushing river, determinedly wading back upstream toward my true home. This dream told me that something in my psyche had shifted. Without my ego’s full awareness I had changed directions and simply slipped into myself. All because I was taking my inner life seriously and paying attention.
It seems to me that the energies of life support two basic human endeavors: to become ourselves and learn to love. And until we get the first one right, we can’t accomplish the second. That’s why making the unconscious conscious is my career now and nothing less will ever satisfy.
Art credits: Jake Baddeley. Etsy: Old Wooden House.
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.