My Shadow Work Journal


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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Women’s Mid-Life Dream Journal

“Dreams compensate the one-sidedness of the conscious view, that is, it relates a message which is unknown to the dreamer but is potentially vital, and in need of being known” (Whitmont, 1991, p 38).

Welcome to My Mid-Life Dream Journal.

This work originated from my 2009 Doctoral Dissertation, A Jungian Oriented Treatment Plan for Mid-life Women’s Liminal Phase Transition into Mid-life. My continued interest in the Mid-Life Transition, as well as my own Mid-Life experiences, emerge at a time that Mid-Life is again being redefined. Some consider the new Mid-Life age to be 70. We live at an exciting time when Aging Women continue to begin new careers, earn degrees, begin new businesses, compete athletically, and more.

What will your experience be? What if, by becoming aware of your inner world, you learn, that the messages contained in your Dreams could change your entire life? What if your dream’s message to you, only makes even a small change possible? Are you ready to begin?

Dream Work releases unconscious material, that can help you transition into, and through mid-life. Carl Jung held that, in the second half of life we have the potential to become who we were meant to be. He called this Individuation. It’s how we separate from what others told us we were, to become our true selves. Our dreams can be our guide if we learn their language.

Working with your dreams may help you to understand and work with your new Mid-Life identity. A woman transitioning this phase of life, encounters three phases:

  1. Pre-liminal phase – Experienced as a loss of her previous identity, only it’s unconscious at the beginning, she is unaware. Instead she may complain of forgetfulness, depression, and/or a general feeling that her perceptions are lacking clarity, so she doesn’t trust her decisions. She may lose interest in her marriage and/or her job, or anything that has been the central focus of her life up until this time.
  2. Liminal phase – Awareness begins when a woman realizes she no longer has the identity of her younger adulthood. She is temporarily held in an ambiguous place, not really sure of her identity. “The structural ‘invisibility’ of the liminal personae has a twofold character. They are at once no longer classified and not yet classified” (Mahdi, 1987, p 5). This liminal phase of transition holds the potential for new discoveries as mid-life women seek their destiny.
  3. Post-liminal phase – Reincorporation of a woman’s NEW identity occurs in this third phase. This is when the confused and lost woman has transitioned into her new identity. She will have integrated her past, mourned her youth, and she accepts moving ahead with new challenges. Her perceptions have focus, and once fully reincorporated she may actually thrive in her new Mid-life identity.

June Singer, a Jungian Analyst, explained that the persona (your persona is the face or mask you show to the world), is usually involved in the presenting problem of a woman seeking therapy. For example, if you were coming into therapy you might complain of not feeling like yourself. You might indicate that the person you show to the world differs from how you perceive your own personality. In other words, we are talking about your identity in your world. The work here is to remove your mask, and removing your mask involves Dream Work. Working with your dreams to identify your identity issues, 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.

Dream Work helps to unmask the persona by bringing it into conscious awareness. Your unconscious holds within itself all the information needed to understand your dream. The language of your dream is highly symbolic; and the link to understanding these symbols is within you, the dreamer.

Robert Johnson relates two basic assumptions regarding the functions of dreaming. First, you, as the dreamer need to realize that your dreams are an expression of your own unconscious mind. Next, the images in your dreams are your own symbols, and should not be taken literally (1986). Edward Whitmont, a Jungian Analyst, states that a dream represents the dreamer’s situation as it currently exists.

Singer advises that when evaluating a dream it is helpful to notice where the strongest feelings are, and what elements in the dream stand out as most impressive. You could ask yourself what the setting suggests, and how the characters in the dream reflect aspects of your own being that may be unfamiliar. It would also be important to look at the role of the person in the dream that represents you (This is the dream ego).

Johnson developed a four – step method to assist his reader’s in analyzing their dreams. He calls this “Inner Work,” since it is through understanding the symbolization in dreams, that one learns what the unconscious mind is trying to communicate. In attempting to understand the dreams symbolic language Johnson (1986) suggests:

  1. Make associations
  2. Connect dream images to inner dynamics
  3. Interpret
  4. Create a ritual (You could draw your dream to make it come alive).

Remember, as stated earlier, your unconscious holds within itself all the information needed to understand your dream. The language of your dream speaks in symbols that are meaningful to you. It is important to remember that the symbols represent the parts of you, and the dynamics within your inner life.

Example of how a dream can be interpreted symbolically:

From Marion Woodman’s (1992), Leaving my father’s house.

Dream – I am spring-cleaning my bedroom clothes closet. I appear to have put all my old clothes and shoes in large, green garbage bags but left the bags in the back of my closet. Today I am taking the bags out. It surprises me how big the closet now is. I notice a staircase at the very back corner. To my delight it leads to an undiscovered tower room made of wood. I have always known that this room existed but I could never find the opening to it. With great joy I climb the stairs. The room is magnificent. It is an open square space with huge windows on all four sides. The sunlight streams in the curtain less windows. Nothing clutters the natural hardwood floors. It is the space I have always longed for, the space I can go to whenever I want.

The symbol of spring- cleaning means that a new possibility is being born. The old clothes (persona) and the old shoes (standpoint in life) were put in garbage bags (made conscious of but held onto). Now I am throwing the bags out (letting go of old patterns of behavior) and creating a new psychological space. The staircase (ego-self axis) leads to a square room with wooden floors (place of feminine wholeness). Here sunlight (consciousness) streams through the window (outlook). The floor (a new place to stand) is uncluttered.

Creating a Dream Journal

I have taken the suggestions of these Jungian analysts to create this journal, which was originally created in my 2009 Dissertation, and I have referenced their work for your further reading, on my website The purpose of this Dream Journal is to access your unconscious material, which will appear symbolically in your dreams. It is suggested that a series of five dreams be recorded for the purpose of developing a theme. A theme can alert you to a direction your life is currently headed.

Name of Dream # 1 _________________________________________________________________

Description of dream_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

1. What does the setting suggest?_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2. How do the characters in the dream reflect aspects of your own being that may be unfamiliar to you?_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3. What is the role of the dream ego (the dream ego is you)?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4.Where in the dream are the strongest feelings?_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5. What elements in the dream stand out as most impressive? Make associations to each element (can be personal, cultural, & or archetypal). An archetype is a predetermined pattern of feeling and/or thinking common to the entire human race. For example, if you dream of your personal mother or father your dream could relate to them on a personal level, or archetypally to your Goddess or God.


6. What is happening right now in your personal life?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

7. Relate the dreams message in the context of your life.


Dr. Marie Kerns PsyD., LMFT                                                                                                                          4199 Campus Drive, Suite 550                                                                                                                            Irvine, CA 92612