I’ve been doing some Shadow Work this week based on a dream I had earlier. At first the dream seemed rather innocuous e.g. people from the past, a woman psychologist looking for my reports from yesteryear that I can’t find then tagging along as I try to find a parking space so that we can get a cup of coffee at a roadside café but take too long and by the time we get there its closing up. I plead for two cups but the man behind the counter will only give me an old coffee can filled with coffee that the psych and I are to share out on the curb. I drink from the can and it is bitter to the taste. I feel embarrassed and a screw-up. The man behind the counter grins sardonically and moves on with his clean up. I feel defeated once again.
As I get into the interpretation I note my “screw-ups” references and yet she stays with me. At first glance I wondered if this vignette represented my wife and I but as I looked closer and realized that references to the past might be symbolic of one of my shadow aspects i.e. frequently worrying about rejection and being hypersensitive to potential rejection I began to see a deeper meaning to this dream. It’s as though I spend a lot of time secretly trying to be rejected and when it doesn’t happen I take it as a sign of acceptance. There’s also this idea that the shadow aspects of myself are a reflection of my real self and not just an aspect of the total. It’s as though I’ve mistaken my Shadow-self for my real self and thus deserve rejection. I mean that’s what you’re supposed to do with your unwanted and negative aspects i.e. reject them, right? If the shadow self, the screw up, is who I really I am then it deserves rejection.
I am haunted by these continuous thoughts that I’m a screw-up and that they try to convince me that I am my shadow and have led me to believe this is true (though I lamely deny the fact). It’s like what happens in the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after the good Doctor has taken the potion to make him Hyde so often that he becomes the evil Mr. Hyde. My constant “drinking” of the negative thoughts have led me to think that they are true and I become the Hyde part of myself. But a deeper part of me accessed through the dream suggests that I not believe everything that I think.
The dream seems to be telling me about a lifelong inner dialog that needs changing i.e. sometimes I screw up but am not a screw up. I also need to look closer at this narrative that pulls rejection into my life. Perhaps its time for a different narrative and time to ‘clean up’ (as the man in the café is doing) the story I’ve been telling myself. I need to acknowledge the shadow’s presence (that can be a bitter realization as with the coffee in the can) when it shows up but don’t take it on as though it were true or all that I am.
For those of you who might like to do some Shadow Work yourself these links may be of some help:
On occasion I receive dreams from those who have had family members or boyfriends/girlfriends that have been murdered. Many share seeing them again in their dreams. In some cases the departed will morph into something else. In one case the visiting dead turned into a snake that when in an attempt to catch it the snake slithered away into a hole. In this case it may have been a metaphor for those who had perpetrated the murder having not been caught and the dreamer trying to deal with the betrayal of both the “perp” and the authorities.
Some dreamers experience great helplessness (feeling tied up or trapped) or overwhelm (tsunami waves and/or flooding) as part of the dream. Some escape the symbolic trauma by climbing stairs or mountains toward a higher perspective while others fly free across a meadow or run away from threatening people or monsters.
Others have wondered if the extreme grief they’ve suffered has in someway damaged the soul.
Mostly the dream material of such traumas is about the mind trying to make sense of the loss and to then deal with it i.e. to make peace with it.
I believe that our souls accept trauma long before our conscious minds are able to wrap themselves around it, though the pain can be experienced as being so deep and profound that it feels as though your very essence, your being, the soul of yourself has been irreparably damaged.
Though the mind is valiantly trying to grasp and deal with the trauma experienced by the violent death of a loved one it can rarely do this alone. What often happens is the mind enters a never-ending spiral with no escape or resolution. Some dreamers experience this never-ending spiral as a vortex in a storm-tossed sea with them or the ship they’re on being pulled down into the darkness below. Some see themselves at the edge of a bottomless abyss.
Such dreams may reflect the dreamer’s difficulty in trying to resolve a great inner conflict generated by loss. This can take the form of anxieties of losing themselves or in facing the hard emotional reality of their own death. These dreams are part of the healing process but sometimes one can get stuck in the process without moving to the next level of dealing with the grief.
The experience of losing someone through a violent death can be similar to the experience of someone with post-traumatic stress (PTSD) with the reliving of the event in dreams or flashbacks, repetitive nightmares, and anxiety symptoms. This can also happen with those who have been physically attacked, witnessed great violence, and/or have been raped. All of these experiences destroy the sense of safety and personal integrity of ones life. They are a violation of the soul.
If these dreams persist over time it might be useful to the dreamer to seek a helper, a guide in the healing process, someone trained in helping others deal with grief.
Organizations such as Goodtherapy.com * can sometimes be useful.
Learning to deal with ones grief in a productive way can be helpful as well and to that end this link to ActiveBeat * as well as the following article in Psychology Today: Grief-isnt-something-get-over* might also be useful.
* I am not an advocate of these sites and only offer them as examples of resources without endorsing them. You will have to determine whether or not they are useful to you.