In response to a prayer not too long ago regarding an entreaty to help with turning around the negativity in the world especially as it relates to the current dark aspects of the American political climate I had a dream.
In the dream I was trying to change the attitude of a dark man who was being very skeptical. I was trying to get him to turn away from his criminality. Later I was told to clean up old washing machines lying helter-skelter in some field.
Basically the dream was presenting me with my own dark side, or shadow, and suggesting that I needed to deal with it as well, that the problem lay also with me and not just the outside world. What I needed to do was to clean up old and no longer useful machinery i.e. ways of being and thinking.
There were other parts of the dream where I was looking for ways to not take the blame for things, in other words ducking responsibility. This made me look to where I was not willing to be responsible for my less desirable and unhelpful traits.
Though I was praying for an answer to my feelings of helplessness, the dream turned that around by empowering me to deal with my own negative contributions to what was being manifest in the greater world.
This dream is an example of the mirror aspect of dreams in that a dream is like standing before a mirror and seeing yourself more directly and clearly. So too the world about us is a mirror to ourselves both in what we admire and what we reject, in what makes us proud and in what we fear.
Often the outside world reflects our own growth or need for growth. We tend to ignore our own flaws by projecting them onto others. By being outwardly critical we may also be passive aggressively self-critical.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
I believe that Jung’s statement is especially true in our dreams. Essentially I believe that we are not what happens to us but what we have chosen to become and that to some degree the outside world reflects that. To varying degrees the world we see and react to reflects some part of ourselves admired or rejected. In short, we can do little to change the outside if we aren’t willing or ready to change the inside.
As I wrote this and shared it with a friend they pointed out to me that this may also be the message from Mathew 7: 3-5:
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Always good advice I thought but though they sound similar, the difference in the motivation behind each may give some insight into their usefulness in that the biblical entreaty uses a key word i.e. “hypocrite” that suggests a liar and deceiver, a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings implying a wrong doing that needs to be corrected in order to meet a religious expectation or to change the behavior of someone outside oneself. This is not the motivation behind Jung’s quote where he believes that we can use our prejudices and judgments of others to better understand ourselves and not as a means of changing something outside ourselves that you can’t do anyway.