A nightmare dream mirroring my fears and despair

A dream was given to me after reading about how the military chiefs of the US planned to stop a coup planned by our ex-president. A dream that grew out of the black muck of a new Nazi party that had taken hold of half the nation, half its senators, and most of its governors and legislators. It is a Reichstag moment where anti-democracy forces burned the seat of the German government and took over the country. I used to believe that it couldn’t happen here, and yet here we are.

I want to believe that every dream comes to us in the service of our health and well-being. Still, this one seems to be both a clarion call to fight the evil growing in the heartland, to fix that which is broken but also as a harbinger of death to a nation and a way of life, a pandemic of false fears promulgated by the righteous right hand as it deals a death blow to the left leaving the country handicapped and less than the whole.

The dream visited as I chewed on this most disturbing news.

The dream:

“I’m in a pool, and the tiles on the bottom are all broken up and scattered. The very foundation of the pool has been destroyed.” This is a dream of shadow and soul work as is I believe the waking world projection in the political world.

Our world, our country, our democratic principles, and a great experiment in democracy are stressed and in some places breaking up, and its foundational tiles of the free press, separation of powers, freedom of speech, and right to vote are all being shattered and cast aside. Soon the great pool of wonder that is, or was, the United States that was once as Abraham Lincoln once said, the world’s “last best hope” will begin to leak and will soon be empty of the waters of hope, the waters of life, the baptismal font of freedom, and that symbol which represents the Holy Spirit to Christians everywhere will be no more. 

We are doing this to ourselves out of fear, lies, political greed, and our self-righteous need to kill figuratively and practically what we see as different from ourselves, a caveman skill that we have yet to grow out of.

I’m not sure we can stop it, and like environmental warming, the degradation may be too vast and all-encompassing that there’s no turning it back at least not in the short term. However, we must put up the good fight for our self-respect, but I’m no longer sure we can win. Different from the last great war for freedom, there will be no United States to come to our rescue, for as Pogo once said, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.” All we have is ourselves, those of compassion, love, truth, goodwill, and reason regardless of political or religious point of view to call upon to save us. Let us hope and pray that it’s enough.

The attack of a nightmare often leads to awareness and an opportunity for healing

I had a nightmare earlier this month. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace these high anxiety dreams as they often reflect that all is not well with me emotionally and that I’ve been suppressing harmful materials that I need to address for too long. All nightmares I’ve found demand attention in that they speak to circumstances both within and around us that require us to provide further awareness.

This dream suggested that I’ve been dealing with certain emotional situations in a too logical and rational way that never really deals with them. I can’t rationalize a feeling in that they aren’t usually rational. But when the feeling is too painful, I tend to bury it or make excuses for it or make up a story that puts it in a better light, which doesn’t hurt the eyes, the heart, or the soul. It’s a temporary fix at best but only serves to prolong the pain and never leads to resolution.

But some hurts never go away entirely and hide at the edges of everyday living, affecting the world we see and creating a hidden longing for resolution, for it is often only found in the healing of an emotional disconnect, separation, or a loss of love. When these disconnects happen, the soul that ever strives for wholeness urges us to step back and evaluate our actions and open ourselves to possibilities, even those that don’t seem possible.

Nightmares are not always something to be feared, avoided or suppressed, sometimes they are there for your health and well-being.

Your death in dreams: Premonition?

In our darkest dreams we encounter tunnels to transformation, fall down holes into an inner world of the unconscious mind, step into a bright light, walk through open doors, observe a sunset, or a skeleton, or a gravestone, or cemetery and all are pathways to the hidden self. Most of these inner adventures when brought into the light can lead to changes in the way one perceives and lives their life. But deep down in the darkened cellars and caves of our soulful existence there are buried daemons of the rejected upper world–dragons, monsters, devils, and the Grim Reaper itself. 

They who venture into this world must be ready, not to do battle, for these creatures cannot be slain or conquered, but to learn their ways so as to harness their power.

For change to happen in one’s life they need to let go of that which needs change; one cannot hold onto the past while reaching for their future.

This is when death shows up in your dreams for it is the harbinger of change, that which heralds the end to one way of being to make room for something new.  And sometimes death in a dream is an invitation to go deeper into ones self to find the energy and power to go after a waking world dream, goal, or achievement. Sometimes, in order to engage life one must let go of it.

One can resist the need for change, but be warned that if you do, the images of death can become increasingly fearsome. Death makes itself known when there is an urgent psychological matter or problem that needs to be attended to.

In nearly every philosophy, or religion, some sort of resurrection follows death. Life, whether animal or plant appears to be in continuous birth, death, and renewal. All cultures have various rituals to acknowledge and celebrate the connection between life and death and all self-development programs require the letting go of one way of being in order to manifest another.

The dead in dreams not only refer to something having died in us, in our lives, or represent the need to let go of something, but also help us through times of transition. Sometimes something in our life is threatening our emotional survival and dreams of our death will come to shock us into awareness.

Aspects of the dead reflect aspects of ourselves that we need to pay some attention to or to let go of. Our own deaths in a dream can speak to transitional phases of our lives such as from adolescence to adulthood, singleness to marriage, or parenthood, or youth to old age. Worries about impending transitions such as from being in school to graduating, or moving from job to job can often conjure images of death, or threats to ones life.

In short, though it may seem contrary, death in dreams may actually be about healing; embracing the death can lead to this healing.

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

–Isaac Asimov (S.F. writer)

Psyche’s Nightmares

I’ve had dreams where creatures have suddenly appeared and threatened. They would come from some hidden place, a place where all nightmare creatures hide until when we least suspect it, they jump out and scare us awake. The human psyche can be an excellent reservoir for hidden demons just waiting for us to let our guard down. The following excerpt is from Psyche’s Dream: A Dragon’s Tale, due out in late 2021 or early 2022.

“There are many hidden artifacts and meanings within the fabric of older houses such as this. They are often ritually concealed by long-dead owners to protect or pay homage to the spirit of the house. Sometimes without warning, they can reveal themselves to us. They can come through its walls, cellars, attics, and fireplaces. This house is notorious for doing that.” There was an ominous tone in the old man’s words.

It was then that Adam noticed a sparkle that seemed to rise from below as though from a dark, hidden well beneath the floorboards. He couldn’t tell whether it climbed through the floor, from the abyss, or from the primeval chaos within him. He had seen this once before when it seemed to herald an impending change in awareness. The spark settled above the hearth, where the dragon carving suddenly became animated and uncoiled itself. 

As it grew rapidly in size, it reared its scaly and heavily muscled body and rose high into the rafters, snorting a stream of fire. Bending its terrifying head downward, it opened its fearsome jaws, and with teeth-gnashing and nostrils flaring, it let out the most frightening, bloodcurdling scream as it dived downward toward the cowering boy.

Its head was covered in small hissing and writhing snakelets like a medusa’s crown, and Adam could feel the beast’s hot, wet breath searing the back of his neck and soaking his clothes. Its long-outstretched tongue, which preceded its downward thrust, lashed across his face, leaving a nasty welt. Though crouching and barely able to keep his feet, he mustered enough resolve to turn and face his tormentor and confront it openly. It was as though the waking world universe was forcing him to own up to and face his demons and turn them into daemons.”

The transformation from an obstructive demon to a constructive daemon is always preceded by the protagonist facing their inner dragons and bringing them into a relationship. This action strips the demon of its power, the power of the dark that is destroyed when confronted by the light. That which we suppress and hide from grows within us and gains power over us. As with Adam in the story, our fearful nightmares come to us in the interest of our health and well-being. They present us with a chance to face what we fear or what disgusts us about ourselves and to confront it head-on.

Confronting the Shadow Self: My response to recent events

Though I never claimed to be a patriot, especially in its current disgusting and violent iteration, I have always respected the individuals who did join the military* and wanted to aid in the protection of the people and way of life of this country.

I find it intolerable how many of the very same people in the military are protecting hold so little regard for that service, especially for those who are black or brown. I am white, so I cannot even imagine what the nonwhite experience is like, but I find myself moved to anger at those who, without thinking, will denigrate a nonwhite at the drop of a hat and justify it with ignorant and irrational excuses biblical quotes out of context and some twisted understanding of individual constitutional rights. Over time my anger at my white male brethren has made me cautious and suspicious of people in general, mainly white people. I find that I have slowly become demeaning of my whiteness as though I belong to a sick group of humans that seem incapable of redeeming themselves, though, at a deeper level, I know this not to be true.

Over the years, I have personally known maybe a handful of black people, men, and women all of whom exhibited a remarkable commitment to their lives and the lives of others. One, a close friend when I was in the Marines, was killed when we were in Vietnam. Others whom I worked closely with in various capacities also gave of themselves in very profound ways. I hate that their contributions were denigrated every time the whites decide that they are better than the black population in general. I’m embarrassed by general white behavior and constantly wonder what can be done to turn around this negative ground between white people and black people. 

I know the only one who I can change is myself. To that end, I have looked at my prejudices, i.e., prejudgments toward black people specifically and all people in general, and worked on changing my internal narrative. It’s a slow process because most of these prejudices are unconscious and only float to consciousness on a piecemeal basis. Not all lend themselves to a quick resolution because of long-held conditioning, but I’m dedicated to doing what I can in the name of becoming more whole and more supportive to myself and others. This doesn’t make me better than others; goodness knows I am as flawed as anybody, but I also know that these flaws will be dealt with within the open light of day instead of keeping them hidden in the caves of my unconscious. It’s an ongoing process that I’m pretty sure will not become anywhere near complete during my lifetime.

This process of becoming conscious of my unconscious motivators and shadow aspects is a prolonged process fraught with pitfalls and social-emotional landmines. It can often undermine my sense of self-esteem. I’m a trained psychologist who prides himself in his willingness to become vulnerable as a way of opening to reality and ferreting out where I need to change. I am also quite clear that this is not for everyone, especially those who have sought out like minds to justify their points of view and feel like they belong and are accepted by their peers. How do I know this? Because I do it too. Belonging and acceptance and the love of those around us are potent motivators in forming our beliefs and behaviors that are empowering and those that denigrate. 

Carrot and stick diplomacy meted out fairly and consistently seems to me to be the best way of beginning the process of collective attitude change, i.e., rewarding the desired behavior while punishing the undesired. The Chauvin case is an example of a fairly applied “stick” consequence to someone who didn’t seem to believe in the sanctity of all life, and if this were consistently used across the board might help to shift the collective point of view but will only do so if there is an equal shift in how we reward the desired behavior of treating all people as equal under the law that I believe is the real meaning behind the phrase and declaration that all men are created equal.

Of course, no effort, no matter how well-intentioned, will ever be embraced by everyone, but those who just can’t see their way to treating others with respect need to be treated consistently and held accountable for their actions regarding their treatment of others. 

Hate and mistreatment should not be a matter of opinion or a sanctioned right by any ruling, legislative, or law supporting body. Hate and mistreatment are wrong and should never be tolerated or endorsed in any form, nor should philosophies or points of view support hate, mistreatment, disenfranchisement, the demeaning of others, and sanctioned division and polarization. That’s how humankind throughout history has dealt with those who were different. But that is caveman mentality, and I would hope that along with our technology and political systems, we would have matured beyond the neanderthal mentality of domination, disenfranchisement, banishment, humiliation, and death as a means of controlling a point of view. I think we have. There’s so much of the opposite being played out across the world so that the positive changes get lost in all the sound and fury of the fearful minds that want to close off the march toward equality and justice for all because it threatens its sense of dominance and power which they have for generations construed wrongly as leading to safety and security. It doesn’t and never has over the long run.

Free speech, independence, and so-called “state’s rights” that lead to the disenfranchisement of people should never be accepted at any level. We will never become the country of our Declaration of Independence if we accept hate and disenfranchisement of any of its people.

We ultimately must learn how to confront our shadow side and deal with it honestly and openly.

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*In the interest of full disclosure I was a Marine and served 13 months in Vietnam between Nov 1967 and Dec 1968.

A Chi Rho Synchronicity

A mosaic of Constantine’s Shield 

At lunch one day I ordered my meal, then started to read from a book that I’d brought with me about a dream that the Emperor Constantine had in the early 4th century just before he went into an important battle. Early in the day he had witnessed in the clouds of the sky the letters X and P, or the Greek letters Chi and Rho that stood for the Christ, or Kristos. That night he dreamed again of the letters and knew that God was with him. So he placed Chi and Rho upon his helmet and ordered his legions to place it on their shields and then he went into battle. He won that battle and many more after that. It was then, so it is said, that he embraced Christianity for all of the empire. Before the dream he was the persecutor of all Christians and after he became their friend and benefactor.

I thought this an interesting story regarding the conversion experience of a Roman Emperor, but was also aware that his conversion was only the beginning of his process toward a greater understanding. As a psychologist I viewed it, if the story were true, as his process of Individuation e.g. his development toward wholeness, nothing more or less than that. The letters in his dream and in his vision were symbolic of a developing awareness perhaps orchestrated by his unconscious mind. Humans are always looking for meaning and because Constantine was looking for a divine sign regarding the impending battle, an ordeal without an assured positive outcome, his unconscious psyche may have served him up one.

I closed the book and finished my meal, paid, said goodbye to my favorite waitress, and walked out into a cloudy day toward the car. Halfway across the parking lot my attention was drawn to a piece of plastic half buried in the dirty silt of a drying puddle. What prompted my next move I do not know but I bent down and picked it up, scraped off the muck, and took a closer look. There on what appeared to be an ordinary plastic cap were emblazoned the letters X and P.

Stunned by the synchronicity I looked about as though to see if something else might happen, or to see if anyone noticed what I was doing for now I was tearing up and felt a little embarrassed by it. Seeing no one around I carefully put the cap into my pocket and climbed into the car.

That night I had a nightmarish dream where I was taken to the top of an impossibly tall building where I was forced to eat a half dead pigeon and a nearly dead rat. I felt helpless and coerced and felt sorry for the animals and not wanting to cause them any pain. What I wanted to do was to just get through the ordeal. I’m also struck by the image of me “eating crow” (even though it’s a pigeon), i.e. to experience humiliation by admitting my wrongness and arrogance about something e.g. that Constantine’s dream was merely a psychological process vs. a divine message?

This dream may have also reflected my recent experience with an activity that I found to be quite difficult, physically and emotionally, and there too I just wanted to get through it. I felt coerced, not by another, but by my own inner drives for recognition and the fatigue and emotional drain were consuming me. The experience that I forced myself to endure was perhaps unhealthy and damaging to the soul. Perhaps I needed to pay greater attention to the needs of the soul and less to the instincts of the animal within. Perhaps I needed to be more compassionate with myself.

There was also the sense that even as I had attained the heights my ego was being brought back down through the act of something very basal.

Compassion and balance seemed to be competing messages in this dream and as I looked closer I wondered if that was not so for Constantine as well. He too was behaving in a manner unhealthy to his soul through the brutal persecution of a people. He too was looking for a sign that would help him through an ordeal, to help him see that there is something bigger than he and his way of viewing the world.

I am of course not sure that the synchronistic event of finding the cap with the very same letters that showed up in a story whose veracity I earlier scoffed at, had anything but coincidental meaning, but it did make me stop and think about what I was doing in my own life. It also pointed to how I had made ego-importance superior to that of my soul. 

Finally, it has made me pause to wonder yet again if the reality that I believe to be true is indeed true. Perhaps I’m not as much in control of what happens around and within me as I would like to believe. If synchronicities are not just meaningless coincidences, then what is it that creates these seemingly connected and yet acausal realities?

I also wonder if these synchronicities are not there to aid us in opening our minds to a broader reality than the one we’re conditioned to or the one our ego creates so as to be the star of the show?

The alchemy of the soul: Who we really are.

The alchemy of the soul: Who we really are

Within each of us resides a dichotomy that of the masculine and that of the feminine. Fundamentally at our essence we are androgenous. It is our gender and response to culture that tends to pull the persona towards being of one way or the other.

The psychiatrist Carl Jung suggested that in the dreams of a woman the image of a man represented her animus, her masculine aspect while in a man’s dream the image of a female is his anima or feminine aspect.

Basically these aspects are there to bring balance to the imbalance that culture and the persona have created. It is presumed that when out of balance humans are much less of what they could be if they were to embrace both aspects of themselves.

This idea is nothing new for one doesn’t have to look too far to see that the deities Shiva and Shakti within the Hindu religion one of the world’s oldest represented the masculine and feminine aspects that when joined brought wholeness and oneness. In Ancient Greek and Roman philosophies both goddess and god needed to work in harmony or it meant trouble for humans.

Actually there are many stories where the feminine and masculine come together to create wholeness. Most fairy tales and fantasy stories include the coming together of males and females to bring about success in some endeavor. It’s the extraordinary power of relatedness and the bringing together of our personal and collective unconsciousness’s that often drive our actions e.g., the hard working narrow focus of the seven dwarves having their lives expanded by the compassionate beauty of Snow White or the wisdom shared by Dorothy of OZ with her three male companions which leads them to embracing their true selves. There’s also the necessary male and female joining in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series that made it possible to overcome the evil of Voldemort and save the magical world from his terror, that was to bring balance to their world.

On a more current level and what could be called the waking dream one might say that a new leadership of male and female relationship in the United States will bring back balance and harmony in the way the U.S. does its business. The former leadership was so psychically skewed that it created a destructive imbalance that drastically weakened the power of the whole.

The masculine and feminine non gender influenced aspects of our archetypal selves transcend our individual psyches and if we are open to them can provide us with a way of becoming whole and complete and much more effective in our lives. 

These aspects are reflections of our soul and it has been said by many that the soul of a man is feminine while the soul of a woman is masculine. So when they show up in your dreams, that road to the soul, pay close attention to what they are saying or doing for they may be there to show you the way to who you really are.

My shadow

In good times and bad you are always there. You’re not a fair-weather friend like Mr. Good Guy Feeling Good About Himself because when I start to feel like I’m him you’re always there to remind me of why I shouldn’t but when the going gets rough Mr. Good Guy will often throw me under the bus and run and hide.

When I start to think that I may actually have a talent you’re always there to tell me that I don’t really at least not any more than most others.

I used to think that you were not very helpful that I’d just as soon you were gone, dead, and buried but you never take a hint because you’re always in the shadows and waiting to pounce.

I’ve read once that you are a part of me and that I cannot ever get rid of you or even train you to behave yourself and that in order to lessen your power over me I need to bring you out into the light because as everyone knows shadows can’t exist in the light. But you and I know that’s not true because just as light needs the darkness the darkness needs the light. To have one is to have both.

So, because you’re always going to be there, how do I accept you in all your warty glory?

How if I cannot get rid of you do I learn to hold you as a friend because I’d much rather have an agreeable relationship than one that is not.

I suppose that if it were not for you I would not know where it is that I would need to grow to be a better person, like where I need to be less arrogant, more accepting of differing points of view, less reactionary to fear and hurt, more giving, more understanding, more open, more loving, and less judgmental.

I also need you to point out that I am no different to those people I hate and judge to be less than and that my attitude about THEM also contributes to what is not working in the world.

You can also help me get my needs met by pointing out what they are through their absence like belonging, being accepted as I am, being useful to others, and being acknowledged. It’s as though I’m always trying to BE that is, to exist and to have me be acknowledged for that. Somehow acknowledgement makes me feel real and you in all your incessant critique makes me at least feel real. You are always there to tell me that I leave a lot to be desired but that I am at least here making that negative difference. 

I really do need you because you seem to care that I am here and care what it is that I do and don’t do while I am here. How can you not love something that cares that much about you and something that is constantly kicking you in the pants to be better and more than you are being?

Okay, I guess you can stay because I think that after all this time I don’t really know what I would do without you because you really are an important part of me, the part of me that makes me strive to learn, to accept, to act outside of my safety zone, to challenge my inherent laziness, to identify and strengthen my weaknesses and to care for others. You do all that by never letting me rest on my laurels or by never really letting me have any to rest on. So, the Good Me reluctantly accepts your friendship but don’t get all mushy about it.

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*For more on the shadow self type in the word shadow in the search box near the bottom of this page.

“well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand departed friends.”

By– Gray winter day liga klavina

There’s a line from an old set of books owned by my father and his father before him that goes like this, “And then did we, the seven, start from our seats in horror, and stand trembling, and shuddering, and aghast, for the tones in the voice of the shadow were not the tones of any one being, but of a multitude of beings, and, varying in their cadences from syllable to syllable fell duskly upon our ears in the well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand departed friends.” It is from Shadow.– A Parable by Edgar Allen Poe.

I was struck by the image of the shadows of many “departed friends”.  As I say goodbye to some contemporary friends I’m also reminded of the many who have passed before, family and comrades– people who contributed to and enriched my life in many significant ways. There’s hardly a day that goes by without a recollection of at least one of them being pulled from the Library of Memories. 

This could also be read as a memorial for the over 316, 000 who have died from the Covid 19 virus pandemic in the United States and the over 1.7 million who have died worldwide and the shadows that each cast upon those who are still living.

What makes them shadows for me is that even though I’m grateful for the remembrances of those I’ve loved and of those who I do not know I don’t want to look too closely at the feelings of loss, best to give a rueful smile at their thought and return the book to its place than to turn the pages toward the grief that still lurks deep within. Best not to look at death too closely because in its blackness I can see myself reflected.

But as with all dark shadows they do not rest peacefully and conspire to darken my present, our present that robs us of hope for the future. The prospect of Death seems to steal one’s energy like one of the ‘Dementors” in the Harry Potter series. But it also, or at least it used to, give at least me impetus to live life as fully as possible while I could. That seemed much easier when I was young and the future seemed infinitely far away. But as close friends begin to leave and the daily climb of statistical graphs make so painfully obvious what was kept at a cosmic arms length is now lurking beyond the next corner.

This feeling is not new to me for I felt it before every morning as I shuffled through the dark to pick up my weapon and a few ammo boxes and climbed aboard the helicopter I was assigned to for that day. There was a heavy air of resignation that weighed on me then that I find returning to me now. But then the point for my life had narrowed to surviving the day so that I could reclaim a future. I was younger then, 22, with a prospect for an infinite future if I could survive the present but now with a very much more restricted future I find that I’m having trouble with all those pesky hidden shadows and that any point to it all is beginning to fade.

Clearly these shadows need to be invited to the party and a new dialog needs to happen. Today I begin to dust off the old tomes stuffed into the lower shelves of the library.

With a slight shift and the world seems right again

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”

–William Butler Yeats

“On my meditation walks I am often moved by the life going on about me– boys with hockey sticks battling in the streets at dusk, flocks of screeching Crows nesting in trees, the smile of the crescent moon with the brightly seductive Venus off her bow. And on a warm night there’s crickets and barking dogs, but on a cold and crisp one there’s nothing but silence and the sound of my own footsteps. Sometimes a breeze whips through the branches and rustles the leaves and I hear the raucous laughter of a dinner party just seen through the picture window of the house across the street.

And the world seems right.

But on other nights my mind is disturbed with its thoughts that whirl like a demented vortex and I hear nothing but my own voice. It’s a boring voice droning on and on about inane this’s and that’s and burying the peace of the night in rubble.

And nothing in the world seems right.

I long for the magic I’ve so often felt on so many earlier sojourns through the dark, but on this night it’s not to be. This is when I cry out to the dark denizens of the otherworld, “Come oh magic creatures of the imaginal and entertain me. Bring to me your mystery, your awe, your wonder, and your hidden treasure– make it better than it is.”

That night’s dreams brought me headstones and skulls, darkness and gray empty fields– a reflection of the mood carried back from the earlier journey. And then I ran across the poem by Yeats and I thought, ‘It’s not the fairies of the land he is calling to, but those of the inner soul who are entreated to crawl out from the rubbish and dance with me once again’. And I remember yet again that it is I, it is I who can summon the magic from within.

And the world seems right again.”