Dark dreams may have the most to tell us


It’s a thin veil between the conscious and unconscious mind and though it may reveal our very salvation we fear to tread its ancient paths.

In the book The Archipelago of Dreams, the world that Robert passes into is the Otherworld of the Psyche, the mind, the unconscious depths he has avoided all his life. Shadows lurk there, dark and barely seen, never having seen the light of day. These shadows are not just the stuff from which Robert’s nightmares grow, but are the primordial ooze from which all our nightmares crawl.

It’s a thin veil between the conscious and unconscious mind that Robert pushed aside as he crossed a darkened lake and entered the mysterious and confusing world of the unconscious. It is this world that seems so personal but turns out to be a collective shared by us all.

There are images within the unconscious netherworld that we all share, though they may be expressed differently by culture. They are the same archetypal boogeymen – devils, the walking dead, life-sucking vampires, possession by ghouls, or evil spirits. All are the resident shadows that lurk within the deepest recesses of our minds, part of us and yet we deny them. And in their denial they become more fearsome.

Our shadows will not be denied. They will project themselves into everything and everywhere, demanding to be recognized. Greed, ill will, pride, all of the cardinal sins are but reflections of our shadow selves. But it is fear that commands the greatest attention and it is our fears that our greatest nightmares are trying to overcome and come to terms with.

Many of our movies, especially those scary-violent ones that threaten to possess us, are dealing with the myriad manifestations of fear e.g. the fear of loss – loss of life, love, respect, self-control, personal power, or soul.

We project onto our movies these fears and how we want to conquer them. Movies like The Exorcist on Warner Bros, Insidious – The Movie, and The Body Snatchers are examples of possession themes – the loss of personal control, the fear of helplessness. Zombies can represent the fear of being consumed by fear itself. This was the case for Jaws as well. Freddy Kruger, Jack the Ripper, Jekyll and Hyde and others represent the animal in each of us that we fear we won’t be able to control.

In The Archipelago, Robert is confronted with many of his fears, some of which are projections from his own unconscious mind, and struggles to understand and master them. For if he doesn’t, it is more than just his life he could lose.

What is it that goes bump in the night when it is only you and your nightmares in the room?

Embracing the Shadow


“Yesterday, upon the stair,

I met a man who wasn’t there.

He wasn’t there again today,

I wish, I wish he’d go away…”


We all have a person who isn’t there. It’s a shadow that follows us everywhere we go even on the darkest night with no moon or streetlights’ glare. It hides behind a mask amongst the deepest caverns of our mind, lurking, stalking and waiting to strike. He or she are all the emotions and distasteful parts of ourselves that we just as soon not see during the daylight but often show up in our dreams at night.

We shun them for they are not who we want to be. We lock them up in our cages so deep hoping that they will never escape. We hide them in the dark, dank and stinking tunnels of our unconscious trying to forget the smell of them and hoping that eventually they’ll die. But they never die for you see they feed on our fear and the energy we use to keep them hidden. Occasionally they’ll escape to the upper realm and play havoc with our relationships, our emotions, our goals and plans. Like little gremlins they toy with us.

“When I came home last night at three,

The man was waiting there for me

But when I looked around the hall,

I couldn’t see him there at all!

Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!

Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…”

 The shadow is a universal archetype whose presence is felt by us all from time to time. We deny its existence but that won’t do any good. Why won’t he go away? Because he can’t, he’s part of us and if you could cut him away we wouldn’t be us any more.

His power and persistence in our lives lies in our resistance to him. When pretending he’s not there he can wheedle his way into everything we do and try to be often with disastrous results.

“Last night I saw upon the stair,

A little man who wasn’t there,

He wasn’t there again today

Oh, how I wish he’d go away.”

                        –Antagonish by

                                              William Hughes Mearns

There’s a paradox here in that he won’t go away until you ask him to stay.

Accepting all parts of the self both light and shadow is to honor your wholeness. Treating all aspects of yourself as equal will allow you to use all your energies in a direction of your choosing rather than moving to the hidden ghost’s bidding or wasting your energy trying to keep half of you caged.