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Everyone dreams. Just like that individual, their dreams are unique to themselves and could be seen as the unconscious mind attempting to tell that individual more about themselves. This is usually in a way that cannot always be understood. Dreams can be considered the key to understanding oneself in a deeper way. In the book Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung, Individuation can be described as bringing the unconscious mind into the conscious. It allows the individual to be fully aware of themselves and understand themselves with more depth both mentally and physically. The process, the reflection of it in dreams, and the significance in understanding oneself, have to be further analyzed in this essay in order to further understand individuation.
The process of individuation is a way of looking at the dreamer’s personal world. This process would start from the childhood as “childhood is a period of great emotional intensity…”. The childhood is usually like this because of the world being such a new place. Everyone starts off with the idea that they live in a perfect world, which then slowly they see the world around them, which in return causes a loss of innocence. A child’s dream can possibly reveal their future because of their psychic makeup. There can be a deep issue buried within them that they are not consciously aware. This was the case with a young woman who took her own life at the age of 26. She had a dream about Jack Frost coming into her room and pinching her, but in reality, she was the one who pinched herself while she was sleeping. It was abnormal that she did not react to this dream because a child would usually consider this as a nightmare and be afraid of this. The lack of emotion here possibly revealed she did not care about being hurt and she possibly already felt “numb”. The actual process of individuation “begins with a wounding of the personality and the suffering that accompanies it.” This is similar to a child losing their innocence after experiencing a confusing moment (the wound) and then realizing that the world isn’t such a perfect place (the suffering).
Dreams reflect the process of individuation through two important parts. These parts are the shadow and the animus/anima. The shadow is the part of the dream when an individual becomes aware of their personality. It connects with their past behaviours, and even attitudes. This then links to the unknown parts of the ego. Since individuation deals with bringing the unconscious mind to the conscious, it is possible for an individual to see their shadow. By this, the individual is aware of their own personal qualities. “..those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in other people…”. It is human nature to deny negative qualities about oneself. It is also true that people will point out negative qualities in others. However, it becomes embarrassing when one’s own dreams bring up these negative qualities that they consciously deny about themselves. The way to bring this shadow into the conscious is simply by being honest. Since the shadow revolves around qualities, impulses, and even denial, one can bring this into their conscious by being true to themselves. “Each man has to look to his own problem and try to determine what is right for himself.”
In both the dream and myth, the dreamers shadow appears to be the same sex within the dream. The next part of the reflection is with the anima or animus. This is the sexual part of the individual’s personality. The animus refers to the male form and the anima would be the female form. Unlike the shadow, these are the parts that do not really fit into the whole ego. The anima and animus can be considered the personification of the unconscious. For males, the personification of their unconscious is female and for the female it is male. The anima that appear in a man’s dream is shaped by his mother. It depends on how the man was raised, how much his mother loved him and how much attention she gave to him. If the man had a negative relationship with the mother, the anima would reflect this way. It would reflect “irritable, depressed moods, uncertainty, insecurity, and touchiness”. These animas can usually be very negative and have a big impact on a man’s life. It can cause dark moods and unsettling thoughts, and if they are strong enough it can lead a man to harm sex, unlike the shadow. As the dreamer becomes more aware of their anima, this personification would go through different types of transformations. If the dreamer becomes more aware of these figures, the dreamer can gain a deeper understanding of the positive and negative sides of the anima. Further, when looking at the man who had a positive experience with his mother, the anima could take result the man into becoming sentimental and sensitive. “…they may become as touchy as old maids or as sensitive as the fairy-tale as the fairy-tale princess who could feel a pea under 30 mattresses”.
Although there are negative sides to the anima/animus, there are also some positives. By being able to bring this dream unconscious into the conscious, it could be used to find the right type of partner to marry as this would be a conscious decision. The anima can also be used to find and get in line with the individual’s right inner values. “it is as if the inner radio becomes tuned to a certain wave length that excludes irrelevancies…”. Similar to the way the man’s anima is shaped by his mother, the woman’s animus is shaped by her father. The negative animus can lead the woman into dark thoughts and open up their insecurities. “Unfortunately, whenever one of these personifications of the unconscious takes possession of our mind, it seems ourselves are having such thoughts and feelings.
As mentioned before with the anima, the animus is not all negative. There are positive sides to the animus which can open the truthfulness and the courageousness of the individual. Both the shadow and anima/animus are crucial for the dreamers to become aware of as they reveal more about oneself. One must look deeper into their dreams in order to bring that personification into their conscious and become more aware of themselves in order to be truly accepted of themselves. The significance of the process of individuation in finding out oneself is important because it can help one come into terms with certain happenings in their life. It is important to understand the unconscious because of the fact that there are hidden messages that reveal more about oneself. Referring back to the anima and animus, based on the relationship with the parents, the individual’s anima or animus would appear in a certain form to tell the dreamer more about themselves. Connecting back to part II of Carl Jung’s book, Beauty and the Beast is bought up. This fairy-tale idea of man being cursed by witchcraft and can only be broken by woman’s love is bought up again in part III. “A process symbolizing the manner in which the animus becomes conscious.” The workings of the shadow and the anima/animus will eventually deepen the unconscious of the dreamer and this allows for the self to become a lot more aware of the symbols and motifs of these figures. Therefore, instead of one’s ego becoming much more inflated, it actually becomes deflated and in return one becomes more of an authentic version of themselves. By this they become more related and connected to humanity as a whole.
Symbolism in dreams has a big part when attempting to understanding oneself through individuation. One of the biggest symbols could possibly be in mirrors. “In dreams a mirror can symbolize the power of the unconscious to mirror the individual objectively – giving him a view of himself that he may never had before.” The phrase “you should take a long hard look in the mirror”, branches from this because it forces the individual to figure out their own flaws. As discussed before, the individual is more likely to point out flaws in others, but when a symbol of a mirror shows up in their dream, it attempts to tell them that they have flaws and are not coming to terms with them. Therefore, this forces the unconscious feelings into the conscious. “Hence, for the individual to enter seriously into the process of individuation in the way that has been outlined means a completely new and different orientation toward life.”
Narcissism is an important term to understand as it oppositely relates to the process of individuation. With narcissism, there is an excessive interest in one-self and self-importance. This causes selfishness. With the process of individuation, it is completely opposite to this because it attempts to bring in a more realistic understanding of oneself versus the world. The realistic understanding that the individual themselves are actually not that unique and the world does not revolve around them.
Dreams can reveal a lot about a person. The unconscious holds a lot of information about a person that they might not fully be aware of. It is through the process of individuation that a person is able to understand their unconscious mind and bring it to their conscious. This unlocks their ability to be their true self and, in a way, figure out their place in the world. It is through the understanding of the process of individuation, the way it reflects in dreams, and the direct significance to oneself, that one can truly be their true self. Carl Jung once said, “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” Therefore, we must learn to accept ourselves before we can help others.
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