This blog follows Women’s Mid-Life Dream Journal Blog, which was the first step towards your personal psychological wholeness journey. Mid-Life is the time to reexamine your life, apart from your personal history and the role you played (your persona). When you discover you have been living a life defined by others and their expectations, you will discover your authentic self. This in turn, will help you express an identity that is in alignment with how you feel inside. You will become authentic in an empowering way that will enrich your Mid-Life years.
In Women’s Mid-Life Dream Journal Blog, we began to work on unmasking your persona by exploring your Mid-Life Dreams. Shadow Work will take unmasking your Persona a step deeper into understanding your unconscious.
In this current blog, My Shadow Work Journal, we will work on confronting, acknowledging, and integrating, your Shadow into your personality. Your Shadow is an archetype that lives in your unconscious. (An archetype is a predetermined pattern of feeling and/or thinking that is common to the entire human race). The Shadow Archetype consists of qualities that are unacceptable to your conscious mind, and could include acknowledging envy, greed, laziness, aggression, and jealousy. Up until Mid-Life, your psyche protects your Ego by repressing an awareness of your Shadow qualities. Recognizing your Shadow usually begins as awareness of the mask that protects your persona develops. As you continue exploring your Shadow, you will become aware of deeper parts of your unconscious. Your Shadow elements are incompatible with your conscious personality. There is a lot to discover here! It can be scary at first, but once confronted, acknowledged and integrated, it may bring more compassion for others into your awareness. This is one of the tasks of Mid-Life Development.
Connie Zweig, a Jungian Analyst, believes that the Shadow forces Mid-Life women to face their unlived life, as the ego is destabilized and the sense of identity is shattered. Zweig defines Shadow Work, as a slow and cautious attempt to increase one’s awareness of the dark side of their existence. It is a deliberate turning away from thinking positively, being productive, focusing out, and protecting the persona. Jung believed that in mid-life the shadow contents rise to consciousness and must be integrated into the personality as a task of the mid-life transition.
This process of recognizing and admitting to your Shadow qualities is what Carl Jung realized, was a rediscovery of an ancient truth regarding the healing power of catharsis. As a result of integrating your shadow, becoming aware of your darker side, then admitting (confessing) to it, you are working on your soul. The confessional, Jung realized is, the prototype for soul work.
Robert Moore, a Jungian analyst and a spiritual theologian writes extensively about increasing our spiritual and psychological awareness by respectfully accepting the dragon within us, and the implications of its presence. The dragon he refers to is the shadow quality of narcissism and grandiosity. If its presence is left in the darkness of unconsciousness it has the potential to possess individuals with grandiose archetypal forces (Moore, 2003).
An example of a Shadow Dream will help you to recognize the Shadow in your own dreams. Once you incorporate identifying your Shadow into your own Dream Work, you will easily recognize it as it manifests in further dreams.
In Edward Whitmont’s, The Symbolic Quest, he relates this Mid-Life Women’s dream:
“I am in a dark hallway. I attempt to reach my husband, but my way is barred by my mother-in-law. What is most frightening, however, is that my mother-in-law cannot see me, even though the spotlight shines brightly upon me. It is as if I did not exist at all, as far as she is concerned”.
Whitmont discusses this dream as an example of a classic situation regarding a woman who complains repeatedly and bitterly of her mother-in-law, who is described as domineering, incapable of admitting another person’s viewpoint, and deprecating advice she has asked for. The Mid-Life Woman who had this dream, felt that her mother-in-law stood between her and her husband. She also felt that her husband served his mother. At the time of the dream she felt hopeless about her marriage and the mother-in-law situation.
The message in this dream points to an unconscious situation, which means the message is not in the waking, conscious awareness, of the dreamer. On the surface this dream seems to confirm this women’s conscious complaint. Looking deeper we can understand that the projection process is informing us that the spotlight is on the dreamer, not the mother-in-law. So, it’s actually this woman’s unconscious qualities that she projects onto her mother-in-law, that stand between her and her husband. Surprise! As she accepts this reality, then integrates the fact that she too is domineering, incapable of admitting another person’s viewpoint, and deprecating, she becomes aware (conscious), of her unconscious psychological dynamics. If she does not become aware of her projection it will stay hidden from her knowledge, leaving her with an inaccurate view of her mother-in-law.
Even if these qualities accurately describe the mother-in-law, they leave this woman incapable of compassion. When a Shadow Projection occurs like this, it is difficult to see accurately the other person from our own projection. This woman would need to learn how take back the projection. How will she do that? I will go over the Five Steps on Withdrawing Projections further in this blog series.
Now it’s time to look for the Shadow in your own dreams. As a woman, the shadow in your dreams will be represented by a female. Take the same journal used in Women’s Mid-Life Dream Journal Blog, As you recognize the Shadow, address it as part of your exploration, in each question. As you work consistently on your dreams, themes may surface. We will work more with these themes in further blogs.
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