He drew a circle that shut me out, heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win, we drew a circle that took him in.”“Outwitted” by.– Edwin Markham
The Circle it’s arguably the most powerful of all the geometric symbols in both the waking and dreaming worlds. There’s “a circle that drew him in”, an inner circle, crop circles, expand the circle, circle of life, concentric circles, magical circles, circular thinking, a containment, circular file, geomancy, Ouroboros, circle the wagons, coming full circle, secret circles, pie charts, Arctic Circle, going in circles, square the circle, circle of friends,, circling the drain and on and on and on…
Circles in dreams, mandalas, magical incantations, and intuitive awareness’s are used to exclude and include, highlight or delete, expand or restrict awareness. Without the circle virtually nothing would move or exist for that matter e.g. there are gears, wheels, cells, atoms, planets, planetary orbits and galaxies that all come in circle-like forms.
Interpreting dreams can be like peeling an onion that symbolizes the concentric layers of the dream’s symbolism that can lead one to the inner self or God Him/Herself.
This process of digging down into the self is often represented by a circle that is in itself a representation of the self called a mandala. There are also bisected circles to represent the need for balance (yin/yang) or a circle with a cross to represent the Earth our birth mother or with a central dot to represent the life giving mate of the Earth, the Sun.
Buddhists draw the circle to represent completeness and wholeness while Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Jews use it to symbolize the divine.
Carl Jung the famous Analytical Psychologist and dream guru suggested that anything circular in a dream from a bicycle wheel to a ball symbolized a mandala that in itself represented a divine map to the soul.
I’ve been working with a man who for most of my dealings with him seemed calm and well centered even during the long illness and death of his wife. On a recent occasion he asked me to work with a dream he had experienced about a year after his wife had died and I gladly took on the task fully expecting to add helpful material to what I imagined was his quest for healing. Though in retrospect I was being rather naïve.
I spent many hours on his dream that had turned out to have a great many images about his wife and other characters in his life.
His response to my analysis was violent calling it bullshit and then attacking my credentials as though they too proved the efficacy of his negative pronouncement. Gone was the mask of the calm nice guy replaced by a barely controlled anger that seemed as though it had been long suppressed. Instead of taking responsibility for his own anger he proceeded to dump it onto me. Trying to turn his perspective somewhat I suggested that what he called bullshit was only how I would have viewed his dream had it been my own to which he pronounced, “More bullshit!” Clearly there was no room for another point-of-view.
He then picked up his things and whistled as he walked down the street.
I of course was taken aback though having seen people’s masks slip many times before I wasn’t too worried. I also didn’t immediately fall into the personal trap that after some self-reflection I would go into self-attack. This time after some reflection I could see that I had loosened his mask that then fell and revealed another aspect of this man as someone who spent a lot of energy repressing his negative feelings. In retrospect his calm and well-controlled emotional character made a different sense to me.
Unwittingly, and blinded by some arrogance in thinking I had something positive to offer, I had pushed one of his hidden buttons that unleashed a cascade of emotions that he was not prepared to deal with and by his terminating our relationship I no longer had any permission to explore with him what that was all about. His actions had in effect sealed the breach of his cover-up and he went blissfully on.
This encounter reminded me of what I’ve been witnessing on a societal level. Some groups of people seem particularly wedded to a singularly rigid point-of-view. Of course there’s nothing new there but to the mix has been added a very deep and large scale paranoia that will not yield to rationality regardless of how many irrefutable facts are brought to bear.
Many of this group see evil everywhere except from within themselves. They have created an almost idolatrous ideology in their blind and unyielding beliefs and because of this there is no room for a difference of opinion. To them their rigid “faith” in what they believe to be true has the aspect of soul being attached, though soul has as one of its defined aspects the qualities of change and includes failure and occasional regressions, this is not so for these people. They use an idea of faith that they are righteously right as armor against the world that they fear even though most of that world only exists within their own hearts.
There also doesn’t seem to be any self-trust so they adhere to an ideology that seems to promise security from their fears. Unfortunately when self-trust goes out the window so does love. The heart becomes armored as well and love can’t get in anymore. But once love is gone security is gone for love cannot exist in an environment of paranoia and self-protection.
So what’s the answer? There’s a clear answer to dealing with fear and it’s a mirror image of the title of this post,
Nodding off while sitting before my computer after three hours of writing I dreamed a box with me standing inside. As I looked up I saw the flaps of the box taped shut from the inside. Slowly the space within the box and the walls as well began to move as though the whole room were turning itself inside out. Still looking at the taped flaps I was now on the outside looking down instead of up. A very disturbing vision but consistent with the blog posting I’d written earlier in the day.
After I came to I recalled a book written by Madeleine L’Engle titled “A Wrinkle in Time” where she had described a hypersurface cube, or four-dimensional analog of a cube, called a tesseract. “Googling” this object I found an animated gif that pretty much mirrored the vision of the nap.
Trapped in the box I was able to escape the trap that I’d obviously put myself in (remember the tape was on the inside) by manifesting the inner into the outer, perhaps this was a metaphor for what needs to happen in order for the entrapped soul to more fully and authentically express itself?
A tesseract (or hypercube in this case) folds the fabric of space/time onto itself thus overcoming the limits of time and space. This same phenomenon, though unknown to him at the time of the writing of the book, was what Robert experienced when gazing into the mirrors that lined the walls of the Aelf house he visited while on the Island of the Dream Healer in theArchipelago of Dreams.
In Robert’s story mirrors played an important role in revealing hidden information on the characters of the island called Tir Na Nog. Hidden information is often revealed in dreams in that mirrors are a metaphor for reflecting the inner self.
The world that you and I live in is three dimensional (3D) in nature, thus the box I’ve been referring to is a cube. When the bigger-self is experienced I imagine yet an inner cube within this cube that when properly stimulated turns itself inside out to become the larger cube and creating yet a fourth dimension and thus revealing what’s inside. This may very well be the process of transformation in graphic form.
Sometimes I wonder if the world is an asylum for broken souls. This kind of thinking has led me to see craziness all around. Thinking of it as a place where the soul comes to heal itself creates yet another reality while thinking of it as a place where the soul comes to play creates yet another. Each schema can explain what it is we are seeing. While one perceives crazy the next accepts everything as healing process while the third assumes that it’s all a playground, a digital game so to speak where the soul gets to express itself in all its aspects both creative and destructive.
Through the positions we take with our mind you and I literally determine the form and meaning that the energy that we and everything else is made of. What we actually see with our eyes, or hear, or feel, taste, or smell is subject to a whole host of mental interpretations most of which are out of our control for it is our unseen unconscious mind that’s running the show for the most part.
We create our world through the process of intentionality what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines as, “the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs”.
Fundamentally cause and effect are related because in order for one to exist so must the other i.e. they are inextricably linked. For example, there is the object called a chair and there is my experience of chair and each intends the other i.e. the experience in the mind of a chair creates the reality of chair as the objective reality creates the subjective. We are continuously creating what we experience while in turn the object creates our experience.
In short, if you see it, you’ve intended it– shift what you see and the object shifts with it. Magic!
Try it, shift your perspective of an object i.e. what you imagine it to be, what you ‘think’ it is and see what happens to your experience of it. Then look closely at what happens to the object with the new experience.
We live in a Euclidean world where there are straight lines that sometimes meet and parallel lines that never meet and where up is contrasted by down, but what if you were to change that perspective to a hyperbolic vision where straight is not necessarily straight, and parallel lines sometimes meet, and up doesn’t always contrast with down?
As I stare at the doorknob to this room (see above) I notice that it has a polished surface and in the scene reflected by that surface I notice an image that alters the perceived reality of the room. Immediately the knob portrays an example of M.C. Escher’s reality perspective shifting from ordinary geometry to hyperbolic geometry. My relationship to the world shifts making all its angles different to what was their norm up to now. Has the room changed or only my perception of it and what difference would it make anyway? The object has altered the experience and the object is altered by the experience.
Now I know that it’s just the door knob that’s changing the experience so I can easily keep my experience separated from the object but what if I didn’t know?
We do the same thing with dreams in that we “think” that we see only a dream when we are asleep but what if that weren’t true? What if we are always dreaming, what does an “always dreaming” perspective say about what we’re experiencing now? The mind changes the experience while the experience shifts the mind.
Our reality has been conditioned since birth through our experience, our parents and siblings, and society. We see what we are conditioned to see.
Simply we are seeing what we want to see or are conditioned to see. This is mind stuff and the object stuff will then reinforce the mind stuff. Cause creates effect that in turn creates cause. See? Or maybe not. My head is hurting again.
Dragons turn up in dreams from time to time but what is he or she trying to tell us?
They have a long history in both Europe and in the far-east. In Europe they often lay waste to villages, turn brave knights into ash and steal fair maidens for feasting.
In the English story of St. George and the Dragon the knight does battle with the Dragon that has stolen the King’s daughter. He eventually slays him but is that all there is to it? Is it all just a fairy story, probably not because every story is symbolic of the psyche of humankind? And the story of Saint George is no different. Psychologists suggest that the story may be archetypal in that it represents the battle between good and evil I all of us. This shows the selfless courage of the hero and is an attempt by the psyche to integrate the opposites and that Saint George’s conquest represents when someone has successfully done so. But all dragons are not always demonic aspects of the self.
The Dragon is actually the major symbol of good fortune in Chinese Astrology. The Dragon constellation, for example, is accorded the honor of being the guardian of the Eastern sky. Traditionally the Dragon brings in the Four Blessings of the East: wealth, virtue, harmony and longevity.
Of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac the Dragon is the most special, as it is a mystical being rather than an earthly animal. According to Chinese astrology it’s a karmic sign and we can expect grand things from this year.
Chinese mythology sees the dragon as a symbol of wisdom.
Interestingly enough the root word for Dragon in ancient Greek was Drakon that means “to see clearly” or “that which sees.” This might be interpreted as wisdom.
Confucious (a famous Chinese philosopher) compared Lao Tzu (the writer of the Tao Te Ching) to a Dragon.
A good luck and wisdom symbol. Many pictures show the dragon handing the “Pearl of Wisdom”, or the “Pearl of Potentiality”to a shaman. Good, life-giving energy (chi) is channeled along “Dragon-lines” that in China were said to follow underground water or magnetic fields.To dream of a dragon is considered by some Chinese to be very auspicious.
The Lung dragon was the most powerful of the three species of Chinese Dragon and was considered a divine animal. The Cha-yü dragon only showed up when a ruling sovereign showed a lack of virtue. This dragon was known for eating men (symbolic of an leader who consumed the virtue and life force of others).
In Chinese mythology the Dragon of Hidden Treasures is a symbol of vigilance and the guardian of their fortune.
The Chinese New Years Dragon represents benevolence, but also power, representing the forces of nature. It is a rain bringer and dragon of fertility that brings only benefit to the people.
The Chinese frequently paired the dragon with the image of a phoenix bird (Fenghuang, or the August Rooster). Since Neolithic China these two were considered two of the four Supernatural Spirits symbolizing both the four directions and the four seasons (which seem to have been added to over the millennia e.g. The dragon, phoenix (or the Feng bird for short), unicorn (or deer), tortoise and tiger). They were often thought of as the “Gentleman and the Sage” and given that the Emperors of China often thought of themselves as descended from the Dragon, the Phoenix was often seen as his mate. Thus this pairing has been likened to the union of the Yin and Yang. An old saying in China goes, “When the Dragon soars and the Phoenix dances, the people will enjoy happiness for years…”
For the ancient Chinese culture dragon were primarily symbolic, but the idea of the actual existence of Dragons surfaced Millennia ago as the philosopher Chang Qu found gigantic bones of a dinosaur and mistook them for that of a dragon.
In Chinese myth, dragons originated as rain deities. Folk legends say that the dragon lives under water half of the year, rising into the sky during the spring when the constellation of Draco, the dragon, is at its highest. In China, dragons are symbols of authority, fertility, goodness and strength, and the benevolent giver of wealth and good fortune.
They were generally portrayed as protectors, guarding treasure, temples, or even Heaven itself, keeping watch over sky and waterways. This image of beneficent power was appreciated by China’s rulers, who used the dragon as an imperial symbol. The emperor occupied the Dragon Throne, wore dragon robes and even slept in the dragon bed. Chinese people sometimes referred to themselves as children of the dragon.
In Chinese culture, the season of the Dragon is mid-spring, its direction is east by southeast, and its fixed element is wood.
Symbolic meaning of the Dragon in dreams:
The dragon and the snake have a rich symbolic history in the mythology of mankind. In general, animals were seen to have certain attributes that were often observed in their natural behaviors. It was these attributes that people wanted to take on for themselves and it was thought that aligning ones self, or by extension, ones nation, or tribe with the animal it would assist in this process. This practice still exist to some extent in military banners and national emblems, note the Eagle in the Marine Corps banner as well as that of the national emblem, or the double headed eagle of Greece or the eagle in the Egyptian flag, or the dragon in the flag of Wales.
The Dragon is often the protector of treasure with the TREASURE representing YOU. (which was the point of the book The Dragon’s Treasure. It can represent fears that have to be overcome before recognizing the true self. Often it can be the guardian of the spirit. For some it is their ‘Spirit Guide.’
The fearsomeness of the Dragon could represent the fear felt regarding the unconscious.
Dragons and snakes are interchangeable in many cultures. Giant snakes like the Naga can be found in many cultures, Hindu, Buddhist to name two of the most well known. They often represent rebirth and death. The Minoan Snake Goddess of early Greece represented wisdom and the snake of the Asclepion was a healing snake that we still see emblazoned within modern medicine. All can be considered symbols for meaning in the dream world.
• Dragon totems in some Native American traditions represent messengers of balance. They are also seen as the masters of all the elements: earth, wind, fire, and water. They are seen as powerful guardians and guides and embody the primordial power.
“A Dragon totem is one of the most powerful totems, representing a huge range of qualities, emotions, and traits. When Dragons come to us, it could mean many things.
The most common message a Dragon totem [may] carry to us is a need for strength, courage, and fortitude. Dragons are also messengers of balance, and magic – encouraging us to tap into our psychic nature and see the world through the eyes of mystery and wonder.
More specifically, Dragons are the embodiment of primordial power – the ultimate ruler of all the elements. This is because the Dragon is the master of all the elements: Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind.
As a totem, the Dragon serves as a powerful guardian and guide. Encourage communication with your Dragon, and acknowledge your Dragon’s presence as often as possible.”*
With the Native Americans of the North and Southwest there were a number of Dragon and serpent legends. Most of these Dragons and serpents stole children and were associated with water. Some stories may have been used to scare children away from water and thus the serpent became a type of bogey.
Examples: Amhuluk (Oregon); Ancient Serpent (Piute); Angont (Huron); Kolowisi (Zuni); Msi-Kinepeikwa (Shawnee); Palulukon (Hopi weather Dragon-similar to Chinese version); Stvkwvnaya (Seminole Dragon with a magic horn on its head).
The Australian Aborigine speaks of the Dreaming where two Serpents Yingara and Ngalyod (mother and father deities) are revered as the Rainbow Serpent creators of the world.
From the Wiccan perspective it represents a person of power and if in the dream you are riding on it, then it may be about spiritual insight.
A winged Dragon may also mean some kind of transcendence, a passing from a “lower” to “higher” level of maturity.
A Hydra is a many-headed dragon. Legend has it that Hercules kept cutting off the heads, but they grew back. To dream of a hydra might suggest that you are having a recurring issue in your life i.e. something that keeps coming back and never seems to get handled. Some sources (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snap-dragon_%28game%29) suggest that after Hercules killed the dragon he made of it a flaming meat and named it “Snapdragon.” A game of this name was played by children in some English speaking countries from the 16th through the late 19th centuries on both Christmas eve and All Hallows eve. In a bowl of blue flaming brandy were placed raisins that the children would try to pluck out without getting burned and then eat, all the while chanting,
“With his blue and lapping tongue,
many of you will be stung
Snip, snap, dragon.”
The symbolism of conquering danger in both the legend of Hercules and the dragon and in the playing of the game, “Snapdragon” is inescapable. We humans are always telling the story of conquering evil, of being the heroes of our own personal myth. Thus continues the ongoing reconciliation between the opposites good and evil.
As with some other animal symbols the Dragon and/or snake may also represent your sexuality, especially if your sexuality scares you. Does it threaten to rule your life?
Many people send me their dreams with images of houses and rooms locked and unlocked. Some rooms are secret and have never been seen before. Some houses are in ruins while others are grand mansions and still others are humble shacks with some like castles with turrets and battlements. Some are haunted while others are homes from ones past. Some are multistoried with cellars below while others are like great warehouses or tiny apartments. There are also hotels, motels, dorm rooms and malls.
For me the images of houses, buildings, and rooms are some of the most important dream images for understanding the self.
What they all have in common is that they represent the dreamer’s inner self and the various aspects of the dreamer’s personality.
A house is often symbolic of ones soul or self while the rooms are a specific aspect of that self. For example the attic or top floor might be your intellectual self while the cellar can represent the unconscious mind.
Cleaning a house might suggest the need to change old ways of thinking or being while a run-down house or a house in ruins can be about old feelings, beliefs or thoughts that are no longer useful to you. A dirty room might suggest some part of yourself that you are ashamed of. A locked room might represent some part of you that you have rejected or neglected.
Repairing one’s house might suggest the need to make some changes in oneself.
A house with a grand exterior but with a significantly less grand interior might suggest that the dreamer is putting too much emphasis on how they look or aren’t being genuine or authentic.
A cluttered house could suggest that there is chaos in your life– perhaps there’s some emotional clutter that’s messing up your life. Water in the cellar or flooding the house can be about being overwhelmed with some emotional stress.
To be in a stranger’s house or to discover a room in your own house that you didn’t know was there might suggest that there’s something about your self that you haven’t yet discovered i.e. new skills, or repressed memories, ideas and thoughts.
Some dreamers write of their house being haunted that sometimes means that there may be some unfinished emotional business that might be related to the past that may be coming back to ‘haunt’ them. Unexpressed, or unacknowledged, feelings can cause this image as well– this holds true for when ghosts show up in dreams and sometimes when dead relatives show up.
There are of course other types of houses for example: A warehouse is a place where memories are kept, sometimes dark and unseen; Hotels might suggest the need for the dreamer to take some time off, or to escape the day-to-day, but also there may be some loss of personal identity or the need to move away from old habits or ways of behaving or thinking; A mansion might suggest your potential for growth. Do you have lofty goals? Perhaps you are feeling or acting better than everyone else; And finally a mall may symbolize your materialistic nature and/or fashion trendiness. It could also symbolize choices and options available to you that will shape your life.
Fundamentally one’s home is most often where their basic needs are met, where they store their values and sense of security or in some cases a lack thereof. If you’re having trouble getting back to your home or even to find it, this might suggest that you’ve lost faith in yourself. A homecoming might suggest the need for gratefulness or the need for returning to your roots.
Some time ago I was down in Santa Barbara attending an introductory course on a relatively new approach to dream work. It’s called Dream Tending and though I’m only just scratching the surface of its potential, it has created enough of a change in my perspective that I want to alter the manner in which I work with a dream–yours and mine.
Today’s blog entry I think will reflect some of that change. As I learn and practice I’ll share this already transformational journey.
I’m walking down a forested path with overhanging bushes and trees. I’m looking down a downward sloping path that seems to go into darkness as it bends slightly to my right. Oh, oh, there’s a skunk walking around the corner and out of the darkness, waddling rapidly toward me.
I’m feeling a little fearful. “Will it spray me with that foul smell?” It doesn’t seem menacing, but I’m unsure as it passes me on my right, brushing alongside both myself and the bushes along the path. It’s heading up the path and as it does it seems to be changing from a skunk into a furry, fat old raccoon, less menacing and certainly less fearsome, though I still cringe at the thought of it spraying me once it has passed.
Here’s where I would normally begin the interpretation part of the dream work, however following at least the spirit of the Dream Tending technique, if not actually the letter of it, I continued to work with the image of the creature. What I am attempting to do is to keep the image alive so that I can continue to work with it and interact with it as opposed to doing forensics on it, which requires that it be still so that I can take it apart and study it. The old method requires that the image be unanimated e.g. dead and of course in this state it can only give me information about what was and provides nothing ongoing–it flattens, or two-dimensionalises what started out as an interactive three dimensional being within the dream world.
Both of us seem focused on where we are going as though we each have a mission. As I’m working on this image I’m engaging the creature and say to it, “Good Luck!” and it responds, “Same to you!” There’s a sense of us being on the same team and performing our prescribed duties in a communal manner.
I’m having a sense that the creature is female and that she’s emerging (ascending) from where I’m headed–she having a purpose in the upper realm while I have a purpose in the lower realm.
We both seem excited by our respective missions. The mission seems like one for the planet versus a personal mission. She is coming from the mother, while I am going toward the mother with us both traveling along this two-way path.
I’m imagining the path now to include lots of back and forth traveling, doing the business of the planet. I’m noticing that this has always been the path that I have been on, but I didn’t have the eyes to see it. Now it feels as though I’m part of it versus being separate from it i.e. in true partnership. I’m feeling hopeful and energized.
I don‘t know what’s around the corner and though I’m feeling a little hesitant, I’m letting that pass and head down anyway. This transforming creature (from skunk to raccoon) reminds me of Alice’s Rabbit whose imaginal emergence becomes an invitation into a world beyond the normal–a world beyond our collective illusion–a glimpse of a world yet more real.
Though the skunk may represent my hesitancy in that I might need to protect myself, it also changes into something much more benign and welcoming.
I seem to be on the road to embodying my new position on the planet in that I am marching to its center to pick up my orders, so to speak.
I’m noticing that the thought, “Living life intentionally” comes up and that the dream seems to embody and encourage this intentionality.
I’m also struck by the animal’s femaleness and wonder if she is also a metaphor for transforming my relationship with the feminine. Am I finally recognizing our connection, our true partnership? Is the animal Psyche, Gaia, Earth Mother– the feminine side of God? Is she welcoming me as she did in the “Blue Fresco” dream summarized in the posting of 8-30-2016?
Am I being invited to help in bringing the feminine back to the world so as to heal its overly masculine imbalance? Is the image in the Blue Fresco the Sophia of the ancient Jewish tradition, the feminine aspect of God, the wisdom side of the masculine?
These are archetypal symbols that dramatize and establish core meaning to the images of the dream and invoke the divine that is in all dreams e.g. the Divine Mother and Wise Old Woman. They can be seen in virtually every mythology including those that were scribed as drawings on cave walls (the original temples serving as both tomb and womb, and earthly connection with the underworld and the spirit), or carved from clay before the dawn of the written word.
Myth, or the study of them, mythology, is frequently what the other guy believes in. All too often it is denigrated, put-down, and demeaned. “Oh, that’s just a myth!” is often heard as a means of dismissing something that one doesn’t believe in, or disagrees with. We are taught very early to discriminate between what is real, fact, and what is not real, myth or fiction.
That’s well enough, but many of the things we believe are real can turn out to be myth. At one time the whole world believed that the Sun orbited the Earth, most believed there were many gods and that women were property. “God created the world in six days!” Is this a myth or fact, or maybe a myth that points at a fact? After all, it is a fact that the universe was created. It’s the how, when, or why that stumps us and so we make up stories of explanation and adhere stubbornly to them until something better comes along.
And that is the purpose of myth–it’s a means of pointing to what is often the ineffable i.e. what we have trouble putting words to. Our myths point to a reality that is hard to express, or visualize. They also point to human or environmental behavior that is difficult to explain otherwise. It’s not that these behaviors don’t exist, but that we are trying to fathom the world, its people, and ourselves through the power of allegory and myth. We project onto our gods, our heroes and on to other people our own myth. When we learn to read it, the reality of the real world will begin to reveal itself.
Even though myths are often used as the end point of explanation, they can also be the first step in dealing with reality in that they identify what needs explanation e.g. what is it we are seeing? Essentially myths may serve as allegory or symbol of what is real. This is also what our dreams do, they point to the reality we may not see.
For example, when we say that we are a writer, a biker, and a lover of chocolate we then want to explain why that is so. For example we might say, “I am the way I am because my Dad was a biker, my Mom a reader, and chocolate’s an addiction, or surrogate for the love I never got because my Dad was off riding and mother too buried in her books. Or here’s a more ancient explanation for the unknown, “the sky is dark and thundering so there must be an angry god” or perhaps a vengeful sorcerer, demon, or witch.
We develop a lot of myths about ourselves e.g. any time we say, “I am the way I am because…” we are creating our personal myth, our personal explanation for reality–the story, or narrative, that we live by and through. Of course most of these behavioral explanations require some form of blaming someone, or something, other than our selves. And for many of us the whole of life is a myth. Does that mean that your life isn’t real, or true? Not necessarily, for in each personal myth is the seed of truth if we had the eye to see it. Mostly we are so busy making up stories about who we are that we can’t see the reality beneath the stories.
Why do we seem to give such power to our myths? What we seem to do more often than not is to confuse the pointing finger with what the finger is pointing to.
Myths can also be used to hide the assumed reality of ourselves so as to protect us from what we fear the world is, or what we fear we are. There is of course nothing wrong with a personal myth and it’ll do until something better comes along. But you might take the first step in your own growth, and in deciphering your own metaphors for understanding life, your life. As Jean Houston, a human potentials movement leader, said “myth does serve as a manner of explanation, but it is also a mode of discovery…it is the stuff of the evolving self that awakens consciousness…”
You might ask yourself what is your personal myth i.e. who and what do you think you are and are not and why? Jot down a list of adjectives along with their explanations and then scan them and look for themes. What reality does all this seem to point to? For example, if you are someone who meets criticism with hostility and are quick to defend your position, what is it you fear you are that you then feel so compelled to defend against it? What are you protecting?
The myth you have created can inform you as to the fact of you, the reality of you. The informants are all around you and every judgment you have of another person is part of your personal myth and can tell you more about you than it can about them.
Every point-of-view, every criticism, every acknowledgment, and every belief contains valuable information about you and collectively this information can paint a picture of the ‘you’ who exists in the world. And I believe that the more you understand what you’ve created the more you can discriminate between that and who you really are.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
― C.G. Jung
Let’s use the biker, reader, chocolate example again, if you believe that chocolate should be one of the main food groups because it is such a good pick me up when you’re feeling down, or you get upset anytime someone ignores you, and your explanation includes what your parents did when you were a kid you might look for a theme in that. Is there “hurt” in that, or “abandonment”? Is there fear, or anxiety? Do you feel compelled to defend your position? From what and why? The story will reveal parts of yourself that you may have hidden long ago. Where else in your life do these feelings and reactions come up? Do they arrive in your dreams, work, school, or on a date? What might they be telling you about yourself?
I have often said that every person in a dream represents an aspect of the dreamer e.g. their emotional and behavioral characteristics are a mirror of your own. Though this is a truth in dreams it’s also a truth in our waking lives as well.
Each of us is mirrored* in the others that we meet. Hate a certain behavior in someone and you are seeing your own rejection of that behavior in yourself. Dismiss someone out of hand it’s probably because you don’t want to acknowledge their behavior that they reflect from yourself no matter how small it may be.
How are the people you reject just like you? How are the people you like just like you? Both reflect parts of you.
This fact leads me to compare the dream world with the waking world and helps me to see that maybe both worlds really are a dream, the sleeping dream and the waking dream. Interestingly learning to decipher each dream can help us understand ourselves better and where we fit in the overall scheme of things. Both dream worlds can act as a personal therapist and guide through the journey of our life.
Often when a dark and scary being shows up in a dream we want to run from it, hide, or verbally or physically defend ourselves vigorously. This type of dream being is known in psychology as a shadow aspect. When the shadow shows up in a dream either in the sleeping or waking world** take a break before reacting for there’s an opportunity being presented here for you to see a part of yourself that may need dealing with and perhaps modifying so that you can begin to manage the darker aspects that show up throughout life. In short, seeing others as a mirror for self-improvement and/or self-acceptance is a sign of a maturing and evolving psyche.
**If you want to look deeper into this concept of the Waking Dream and how it is used therapeutically for greater self-awareness you might like to read “Life as a Waking Dream” by Diane Kennedy Pike, Riverhead Books, 1997.
I was reading an article not too long ago that made reference to Plato’s Shadow World, you know, The Allegory of the Cave from his book The Republic.
In this allegory Plato imagined a group of prisoners chained in a cave facing a wall and unable to turn around. Behind them was an eternally burning flame and between the flame and the prisoners there was a parade of objects and people that cast their shadows upon the wall. To the prisoners their reality was this two dimensional movement of shadows before them. Unknown to them was a reality of immense multidimensional complexity that if they had known of it would have totally explained their universe.
In a lot of ways Plato’s shadow world is a reflection of what the unconscious shadow mind that resides in each of us does to our experience of reality. The cave we live in is the one of our conscious mind and its three dimensional way of seeing things. We too, like the prisoners in Plato’s allegory, cannot “see” the reality behind us when all we have is the wall of our conscious mind to perceive with.
What we are missing is a 4th dimension of space, that created by the unconscious mind– that part of us where we have stuffed what we don’t want to look at, that part of us where the archetypes of the whole of humanity lay informing and forming what we see and what we do. There is a world beyond our conscious awareness that makes up 80-90% of the real world. But unlike Plato’s prisoners we have the ability to “turn around” so as to perceive it, so as to understand the meaning of the world we find ourselves in.
How do we do this? How do we loosen our own chains so as to make the shift in perception? Fortunately it’s pretty easy for the universe has given us the tools to expand our consciousness through our dreams and the art of meditation. Both tap into the Great Unconscious, both give a glimpse as to the world behind us that cast the shadows that lay before us.
Our world is not just the three 3 dimensional reality we’re so familiar with– there’s a 4th dimension to the space/time continuum we’re all used to and it is the realm of the greater psyche and the individual and world soul that informs and enriches its every expression.
Just as Plato’s prisoners saw their shadows as neither positive nor negative the objects that move in our unconscious mind are also neither positive nor negative, it is our conscious mind that labels them as such. This shows up especially with those who have low self-esteem for they cannot see the positive aspect shadows that hide within the unconscious. But there is an inestimable reservoir of creativity that resides in the shadow world of the unconscious mind i.e. both that which is labeled positive and that which is labeled negative contribute significantly to what is created in the conscious world.
Next time you have a dream where a dark something or someone shows up and threatens your dream-self don’t run from it, engage it, start a conversation with it. You may find that such a conversation actually illuminates what’s going on in your life. The shadow often has information to enlighten even though it seems to come from the darkness. Using your dreams to unlock the chains that have kept you staring at only one dimension of reality can be immensely rewarding.