Dream Dictionary

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Shadow

Joseph Campbell wrote: "Gods suppressed become devils and often it is these devils whom we first encounter when we turn inward." Shadow dreams include a stalker, intruder or other frightening monster hiding in the shadows, stalking you or attempting to break into your home. Since all characters in a dream represent sides of you and the house represents your psyche, this type of dream can represent difficult ideas that you are not assimilating or integrating into consciousness. Some side of you simply wants to be acknowledged in consciousness. It only stalks you because you do not allow it.

The Shadow embodies the rejected or repressed aspects of your more natural expression that was sent underground. At some point, you may have decided (or were told) that some part of you was unacceptable because it suggested weakness, fear of fitting in with the group, and can create unresolved anger. In actuality, these aspects become the power of your untapped potential. It appears frightening because you do not understand it.

As a child, you may have been labeled the 'black sheep' or were a caregiver to the caregiver. A difficult relationship with a parent can be at the root of Shadow dreams. One part of you is a pronounced nurturer but you are unable to nurture yourself because of old tapes play that suggest you are not worthy. You grow to become empowered and successful, but the part of you that is disowned (unprocessed) can continue to stalk you. Look at this type of dream as your misunderstood value, which is trying to be understood. Since we role identify with the parent, if we hold them in contempt, there may be an alter identity that is unacknowledged, and yet, stalks us.

Repetitive dreams of this type can be solved by understanding the nature of forgiveness. You may not approve of how you were raised but compassion for another's shortcomings goes along way in helping you to release these unintegrated feelings. Simply denying and repressing it is what causes this 'neglected' Self to stalk you. Any time powerful aspects are not allowed expression, they come forward as something powerful that pursues you. This can happen when you are in a disempowering relationship as an adult. You believe another holds power over you, when you have simply given them this power.

As a type of defense mechanism, Freud believed repression worked to keep the truth inaccessible. He also explored fixation and fetishes as being organized by ideas that evoked a sense of attraction and repulsion at the same time. An urge that initially sought pleasure brought instead, displeasure as the pathway from urge to satisfaction was distorted. Fixation is the way in which we are drawn to the type of situations we would rather avoid. Energy repressed within is always seeking to be understood and integrated.

This convergence of feeling is at the root of the intense emotional response or charge that is created when you encounter your Shadow in another. Understanding the Shadow is central to your empowerment and wellness. When you can understand and transcend the initial displeasure arising in this type of encounter, you are able to access the truth of what you fail to acknowledge about yourself.

While Freud hinted at it, Jung pioneered the study of the Shadow and referred to it as the repressed and undeveloped aspects of the personality. Jung described projection as changing “the world into the replica of one’s unknown face. The more projections are thrust between the subject and the environment, the harder it is for the ego to see through its illusions.” He described the Shadow as those dark, unwanted, and unrecognized qualities of the ego that were deemed negative and ultimately repressed.

Understanding the creation, repression and ultimate resurrection of the Shadow through dream characters, provides a basic understanding of why we dream. While you sleep, those sides of you that remain dormant are given expression. All aspects that are unintegrated, and therefore fearful, continue to seek authentic expression. When the dream conjures fear, you can be certain that its symbolism offers clues to your empowerment by integrating the elements associated with the Shadow character.

In many stories, the hero unmasks the frightening character and discovers an important aspect of themselves. Luke Skywalker removes the mask of Darth Vader to find it is his father. The characters in the Wizard of Oz are all missing something valuable that they need. They uncover how the frightening Wizard of Oz who forces them into life threatening situations, is just a little man standing on a stool orchestrating their fear. You can view frightening characters in dreams in the same way. The nightmare is actually a positive dream of how something powerful is seeking expression. Once you explore what and why they are hiding, you can resurrect something of value. This leads to increased understanding, self acceptance and authentic power.

The fear associated with any character of this type captures the fear of acknowledging your own power or potential in some way. See also Enemy, Houses and Buildings, Nightmares and Attack and Being Chased.