Sunday, November 21, 2010

Symbolic Language and Fairy Tales

Symbols are the language of the archetypes. Symbols are how we communicate with ourselves when we sleep.  Our dream images are often symbolic of the energies of life we are engaging at the moment.

We dream in symbolic language, since it is our mother tongue.  These symbols get grouped together to form stories.

Myths and fairy tales are ancient repositories of symbolic language. So get out your old Edith Hamilton and Grimm's Brothers and start reading myths and fairy tales to practice your symbolic language skills.

I always find it synchronistic when many clients show up with similar life stories. Lately I have several wonderful women clients who have been totally rejected by their mothers. Abandoned. Marginalized. Berated. Ignored. Beaten. And yet, even when raised in countries that totally devalue women, they are survivors who have created lives for themselves. 

What's the story with that? How do un-mothered women make their way in the world? Mothers teach us how to survive by loving us. When we don't feel loved, what keeps us from giving up?

And yet, despite neglect and cruelty, or maybe because of it, many un-mothered women search within themselves and find their own inner mother who nurtures them when their biological mother can't. 

There are lessons and wisdom about how you survive such conditions hidden away in ancient fairy tales and myths.  These are the bones of the archetypes. These are stories that speak to the soul and heart of the matter.  They bring healing when we understand their message.  

There's a fairy tale called The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson. In the tale, a mother duck discovers that one of her eggs has hatched into a very strange looking bird.  Not at all like her other duck children. The poor ugly duckling is reviled by everyone, and even its mother washes her wings of it. So it ran away.  But its life only got worse, for everywhere it went, it was an outcast. But one day it saw beautiful swans flying over the lake, and its heart went out to them. They were beautiful.  Not like the ugly duckling at all. Its life was hard.

But winter came, and then spring.  And the ugly duckling, who had barely survived the winter,looked down into the water and saw its reflection.  It had changed into a swan. And the other swans came and welcomed it.

In her marvelous book, Woman Who Run With The Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks about this fairy tale and says she believes that sometimes women who have been abandoned by their families and their mothers are really mistaken zygotes, little aliens who landed in the wrong families. Perhaps this is so, or perhaps it’s because women have been disregarded in our culture for thousands of years. Most of our families have this wound around the value of women.  So women have to suffer through the family patterns of rejection, disregard, alienation.  But sometimes a woman will remember her strength, her wild nature as Estes says, and make her way like the ugly duckling until she discovers her beauty.  She is a survivor.  But then she has to learn how to thrive in her life.  She has to learn to believe in love again. She has to acknowledge her swanlike beauty. 

Nothing makes up for the loss of a mother's love.  And yet so many of our favorite fairy tales are about just that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Symbolic Language is our Mother Tongue

To understand dreams you have to know symbolic language. This hidden language of the Imagination is the one language we all share.  It is our mother tongue.

Symbols are psychic activators. You have to contemplate symbols for them to reveal any part of their true meaning.  Symbols don't mean just one thing.  Symbols relate an experience, a feeling, a meaning. Symbolic language is the language of your soul. So when you see this language, you know that your soul is trying to talk with you.

When we dream, each part of the dream wants to take us into a whole story, a whole experience.  For example, if you dream you are being chased by a bear, you can go to a good symbol and dream dictionary and look up bear.  You'll find that bear symbolizes the primal power of the ancient Mother, a fierce defender, the spiritual warrior. 

Bears used to be worshiped throughout the ancient world.  But most of us have never experienced the power of the bear in nature.  So you've looked up bear, now your mind knows what it means. If you leave it at that, you'll never really understand what it means. You would be taking the image and making it a sign rather than a symbol.  A sign is like a stop sign.  It means one thing.  But a symbol has many meanings and great depth.  You never really come to the end of knowing what a symbol means.

So how do you work with this image to find its symbolic meaning? First you ask yourself what did the bear feel like in the dream? Was it very big? Did it smell? Was it angry? Was it curious? Then ask yourself what it felt like being chased by a bear? Where you panicked? Or did you freeze? These questions can only be answered by going back into the images.  

Do you feel bear's power?  Do you feel your fear? Going into the image will tell you things that a symbol dictionary can't about primal power.  Both the power and the fear are part of the symbol of bear. It's up to you to choose to consciously to channel the power of the bear or to stay stuck in the fear.

Did you know when you dream a bear is chasing you it wants you to face your own power? It's the bear energy that wants to engage your ego, your consciousness.  Bear calls you to protect yourself and your people and your world.   When you dream of bear, you are being called to your primal power. Only you can figure out how to use it wisely.

Did you know that King Arthur was a manifestation of the bear god?

Until next time

Sweet Dreams!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How Archetypes Affect Us

How Archetypes Affect Us

Do you realize that part of you is connected to everyone else in the present as well as the past? And that you're also connected to the wisdom of life? That's what Jung's theory of the Collective Unconscious means.   Below the level of your own personal unconscious, you are capable of reaching down within yourself and finding a place where you can access timeless wisdom to deal with your life.

Jung's theory of the Collective Unconscious includes his theory of the Archetypes, which make up the contents of the Collective Unconscious.  Archetypes are basic patterns of human instincts that we all share.  They don't make you do things, but rather, they give some order to your experience of life. 

Archetypes are the energies that are available to each of us at birth to help us evolve and grow during this lifetime.  And yet, it is our own choices and experiences that shape how we relate to these archetypal energies. In and of themselves, the archetypes are neutral, but we can experience them either positively or negatively.

Some basic archetypes are the Mother, the Father, the Child, the Lover, the Adversary, the Trickster or the Wise One.  There are also collective archetypes such as the Judge, the Priest/Priestess, the Bard, the Artist, the King, the Queen and the Warrior. 

Any of these archetypes can and do show up in our dreams.  Sometimes they come to us in mythic images, such as a king, a clown or a saint.  At other times they show up disguised as a friend or associate or family member.  Since we can never know the archetypes in themselves, we can only know them through the images we have of them. 

Think of archetypes at one end of the spectrum and instincts at the other end, like infra-red and ultra-violet light.  It is the same light, but a different form.  When we do something instinctually, it just happens without thought.  It's a reaction to a life situation.  As we become more conscious, the archetypal images help us understand how and why we react the way we do.  And that helps us change our behavior.  We can make different choices.     

As we experience the power of the archetypes in our lives, we begin to understand that we're part of a bigger picture, the grand experiment of life. We are here on Earth to evolve into higher states of consciousness, which can heal our sadness, fear, ignorance or unconsciousness.  When we know that our choices in life affect not only our self but the world around us, we can look at our society and decide if we like what we see. We can see if our society reflects our values and hopes and dreams. If it doesn't, then we have the responsibility to change it once we've changed our self.

We are living in times that are calling on us to make different choices about how we live. Both personally and collectively, we are faced with challenges and we need to make changes in the way we think about our life here on Earth. We can change the way we do business, the way we consume, the way we work, the way we connect with others. It just takes consciousness and choice.

The archetypal patterns themselves evolve or one becomes more prominent than another.  I had a dream about these changing archetypal themes about a year ago. 

I dreamed: I see the constellation of the Pleiades shining brightly in a daytime sky. And then I see another constellation dissolve like fireworks.

This dream of the Pleiades is a dream of hope, because this constellation has always represented the idea of a new dispensation and a new life.  Something has changed in our collective consciousness, and the shift in our awareness is mirrored by the Pleiades shining in a daytime sky, clearly visible in our conscious lives. 

Archetypes in themselves can't change, but their patterns and their prominence in our collective psyche can change as human consciousness evolves. I think they're changing now and so we'll have their energies to help us make this transition.

If anyone has a star or constellation dream they'd like to share, I'd love to hear them.