The image is my teacher.
Often though the consequences of the lessons gleaned by any individual may not be the one intended by the artist. Let’s take the extended violence currently pouring across movie screens with the new GI Joe film. The same barrage of imagery can result in a variety of responses from anxiety to disgust, from suspicion to a release of adrenaline. Even hilarity as I witnessed in some teens earlier today. And as these images continue to replay around the globe to different audiences, for some they will provide confirmation to a certain stereotype of how the American psyche needs to be approached and handled.
The same can be said of how we engage the imagery the unconscious serves up in our dreams. The analysis of the meaning of any given dream image can be pursued removed from the context of the specific dreamer, and the results will be fascinating. And to the extent that the dream has collective value, such endeavors move beyond fascinating and become useful. Collective value or not, each dream is tied to a specific life engaged with a unique set of challenges.
The “art of the art” in my experience has been to live with an eye orientated toward these images. This involves living in relationship to them much as we do in any correspondence. It’s when we answer the dream, value it enough to respond as you might by commenting on a blog, or answering an e-mail, or even just a reply on twitter, that the potential that the dream holds for us opens up to a new level. It’s not really about figuring them out, but listening and responding.
There are many ideas out there about needing to do away with the ego, that the ego is the root of our problems, that everything would be better if we could just take our ego’s out of it. Yet, the ego is needed for every single conscious action we perform. I question if modern life could even continue to exist without it.
There is another way to consider this dynamic, a way which Jung wrote about extensively and which from my observation seems not to have entered into our collective understanding. It demands that we look at our psychic structure as relational. So some bullet points to get the ball rolling.
- the ego, like the hidden aspects of the unconscious, is a complex; it is equal to our consciousness.
- the ego complex, or consciousness, is the crown jewel of creation.
- we are more than our ego’s, but we tend to identify ourselves only with ego awareness.
- the key to individuation is developing and maintaining right relationship to creation, both as it exists in the external world and as it exists in the unconscious.
- Wrong relationship leads either to inflation or a diminishment, (loss of self esteem, etc.)
- While many Eastern spiritual paths pursue nothingness, the Western mind frame seems more geared to the pursuit of somethingness.
- Because we have consciousness (ego’s), we have responsibility.
In Jung’s thought there emerges an idea of the ego-Self axis. This forms the basis of the transcendent function whereby consciousness develops a relationship with unconsciousness, the ego a relationship with unconscious Self. One of the great benefits of this schema and finding the experience its defines: it guards against the ego-centrism we so often recognize in each other.
I will cycle back to this theme, but first I’d love to hear how these points sit with you.
Dream: Come down stairs and my Mom is visiting. She hands me a newspaper that has a positive review of the work I’ve been doing in one of the articles.
It’s an interesting dream fragment for many reasons. Blogging tends to bring a great deal of compliments into ones consciousness. First time visitors to a site often send quick notes if their initial glace at the site pleases them. Real readers tend to get engaged and provide feedback through comments. It’s truly different then the experience authors had a hundred years ago. And the flattery can be a type of pitfall, a seduction that could pull one from the true path.
Yesterday I posed a specific question not to you my readers, but to the Psyche. This dream, the response. I asked Psyche what it thought of the work I’m doing in this place. I come downstairs, to a place where the maternal aspect of the psyche is emphasized, and the review is positive.
I posed a similar question before beginning to blog this dream journal, asking if the psyche felt it would useful. What I hope this demonstrates is that we can engage the psyche objectively: “as if” the Self is autonomous from our conscious control. Once we have that perspective, a relationship can be established. This is what Jung points to in his writing on the transcendent function. Then we begin to see the “as if” is how it actually is…