In this episode, we explore how to work with your shadow in dreams, from insight to integration of aspects of your shadow self. By working with shadow dreams, you can begin to tap into your full inner power. We discuss:
- A dream example and its interpretation
- How to explore your shadow in your dreams
- How to integrate your shadow
- Common shadow dreams
Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, welcome back to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I’m Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We’re continuing our series on dreams. Today we’re talking about the shadow in dreams. But before we begin, I do want to remind you if you’re listening to us on a podcast service, such as iTunes, Spotify, don’t forget to subscribe. We have information in the show notes, don’t forget to check there as well. We’re excited for this series to continue.
Robert Maldonado 00:57
Before we get going into the shadow, let’s review. Last time we talked about the types of dreams. If you are playing along at home, you can consider kind of dreams because we’re going to present a dream as well, that’ll be interesting. Number one, there’s prospective dreams, Jung describes it as a car with headlights. The headlights are illuminating the road ahead. That’s what prospective dreams do with us. Tell us what’s ahead intuitively, emotionally, as far as our personal work. Also, as we’ll see in even more detailed work, they give us a heads up. The second one is compensatory dreams, or a compensatory function. Dreams are always trying to balance out an attitude that we have in the conscious waking life.
Debra Maldonado 02:05
Wouldn’t they fall more into shadow? Or can they be?
Robert Maldonado 02:09
All of these can essentially be shadow dreams. But their particular aspects of shadow work, integrative, it’s the idea that the dream is helping us integrate aspects of our personality that we pushed away, which is shadow. So definitely.
Debra Maldonado 02:34
It’s doing the work for us while we’re sleeping. Dream away your problem. We want to look at the psyche in a very different way. Jung says it’s doing its work. It’s an active function in our life.
Robert Maldonado 02:47
But we also want to participate. That’s the main difference with the ordinary person who is simply going through their life without paying attention to that unconscious mind. What we want to do is we want to pay attention and say “How can I participate consciously in this process of growth?” Reoccurring dreams. Of course, we all had these dreams from childhood or adolescence, or even now.
Debra Maldonado 03:15
The same themes keep showing up. It doesn’t have to be the same exact dream. It’s like I always have dreams of being lost. I have dreams of too many people and being overwhelmed or having dreams of being left behind. Those kinds of themes. Think about it that way as well.
Robert Maldonado 03:32
Then there’s technical term, very neuroscientific, big dreams. Big dreams means it’s those dreams that wake you up and say, “Pay attention.” You know you’ve been beat. There’s something that happened during the night, you experienced something very intense.
Debra Maldonado 03:54
It’s either an intense unpleasant feeling or an intense pleasant feeling. But there’s a sense that it’s something big and it’s something you’ll remember usually without even writing it down. The big dreams stick with you year after year. That dream I had is still there. That’s how you know it’s a big dream. It’s burned into your memory all the time.
Robert Maldonado 04:19
Finally, archetypal dreams, which are really unique in the sense that they’re very mythological.
Debra Maldonado 04:28
They aren’t about your personal life, you’re in another world or almost like you’re in a fantasy.
Robert Maldonado 04:33
Like you’re in The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. When these occur, they’re big dreams, but they’re also archetypal in the sense that the imagery points to the mythology that exists in the unconscious mind. Anyway, this is not comprehensive. There’s a myriad of other types of dreams.
Debra Maldonado 05:00
In the last episode, we went into all the explanations. If you want, go back and listen to it. We asked people to submit their dreams for possible interpretation. I have a dream here, let’s talk about what type of dream it is. I’m going to read the dream first, then we’re going to look at what type of dream it is and also understand it in a way. “I’m in my therapist’s office during a session when a group of children enter and interrupt us. The children leave, then my friend Nancy who is at the time pregnant with twins walks in. She’s coming to talk with my therapist, who I also share with Nancy’s husband in real life. She’s calm, trying to smile, but her eyes are very sad. She has jaundice around the mouth, she says some major shit is happening — excuse our French — she really needs to talk to someone. I asked ‘Are the babies okay?’ She says yes, it’s something else. I hug her and leave, so she can talk with my therapist.” She said it’s what she believed was a pre-cognitive dream from 2013, this is 10 years ago. This person remembers this dream, so it could be a big dream as well. She also noted that in real life, Nancy lost her twins three months after this dream suddenly. It was a great shock. She was out of town when her husband called her to tell her the news. She was at a Frida Kahlo exhibit when he called. After Nancy lost the twins, her husband discontinued the therapist, so that Nancy could receive grief counseling from her. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.
Robert Maldonado 07:01
You missed a phrase there, which was part of the dream that there was something about Frida Kahlo mentioned in the dream. It’s an important piece because when she receives the call, she was at a Frida Kahlo exhibition. This is a pre-cognitive dream. It’s a classic pre-cognitive dream that’s going to tell us something that hasn’t happened yet. This is months before this happens. She has a dream about her friend, she’s worried about the babies. She asked in the dream about the babies. But in this case, the friend denies it and says it’s something else, something bigger, in a sense. Then a few months later, she receives a call that the the babies are lost. It brings up a lot of questions. We can say it’s a pre-cognitive dream. How is this related to shadow? The shadow often hides not only the negative. A lot of us believe initially that the shadow means something bad, some things that we’ve pushed away. But it can also hide talents, skills, abilities. For our friend, I know her as a student, she trained with us, this was a dream that was showing her her ability to connect to people at a much deeper level.
Debra Maldonado 08:48
When the girl said it’s not about the babies, it’s something else, that gives a clue. Part of this is pre-cognitive, but there’s something else.
Robert Maldonado 09:00
Because all dreams invariably are talking about the dreamer. It’s also a message for the dreamer. It is disguised as a message about the friend’s loss of the babies.
Debra Maldonado 09:17
What would be the purpose of having a pre-cognitive dream? Because you can’t really stop it from happening, it happens later. I’ve had lots of pre-cognitive dreams, I’m like, “That’s interesting.” But I think what you said is that it’s maybe pointing to your unconscious telling you you have these gifts, you have this intuition you’re not tapping into. You have the ability to see the future but you’re not using it on a conscious level. I’m going to give you a taste of it in the dream life.
Robert Maldonado 09:52
It gives you an understanding that time isn’t as it appears to us in the waking state. When we’re awake, time seems to move from past to present to future. One-way arrow locked towards the future. But here, how can this be? How can it be that months before your mind already knows something that’s going to happen? It hasn’t happened yet in the real world as people say, in the waking world. It shows something about the nature of space and time. It’s an apparent reality, as it’s understood in Eastern philosophy. It’s Maya, an apparent reality. It doesn’t mean it’s not happening, it is happening. But it’s happening as a mental experience, as mind stuff.
Debra Maldonado 10:57
For her, there’s symbolism of twins, which is also duality. There’s a death, which is transformation, also a symbol. Frida Kahlo can be a symbol, it can be the artist, the free spirit, the intuitive, all the things that represent her, she’s very creative and colorful. It may be a part of it. It’s like merging your conscious attitude with your unconscious attitude. There may be aspects of that, whether that person knows it or not. They’re bringing out colorful, creative, intuitive parts of themselves. There’s also the husband involved, it’s also something. We can do lots of layers to this dream. It’s interesting to see that dreams have many layers. You can interpret it from a big dream standpoint, you can interpret it from a shadow standpoint, you can interpret it from a pre-cognitive standpoint. There’s all the different layers and archetypes in this dream. The pregnant mother, there’s lots in there. It takes talent and skill to fully unpack this, but we wanted to give you a glimpse of how such a short dream can be packed with so much information. What I love about Jung’s work is that you’re not just on a cognitive level, trying to think positive and get face outward. You’re tapping into the resources you have within you. Dreams are really a great way to do that.
Debra Maldonado 13:24
Let’s talk about the shadow. We talk about that part of ourselves that’s hidden or pushed away. Let’s talk about what the shadow is, a review for those who don’t know, shadow work, or what shadow is.
Robert Maldonado 13:35
This is more of a discussion. It’s more conversation, talking about our personal experiences in working with people through their shadow and our own experiences, of course.
Debra Maldonado 13:48
For clarity’s sake, there’s a lot of myths and perceptions about shadow. I see people calling it “limiting beliefs” or “my negative inner voice”, like that Gremlin. That’s not the shadow. They think that’s the shadow. The shadow is the part you can’t see. It’s the part of your mind you’re not conscious of, parts of your personality you’ve repressed, you can’t see, that actually want to come express itself through you, that are both too light for your personality, it could be intuition, or brilliance leadership, or it could also be anger, or things that aren’t socially or culturally acceptable put in the shadow. We all know some things we’re hiding from people. We have a persona, we have this inner conscious self-assessing, but these are really the things you’re not conscious of. That’s why dreams are so important, they can really get to the root. So many times when I don’t know the answer to something, my rational mind can’t figure out what’s stopping me, I’ll have a dream. It’s like what my psyche, my inner wisdom is showing me.
Robert Maldonado 14:59
The key is to understand it’s both light and dark. Not negative and positive so much because negative and positive are more ego functions, it’s our mind’s ability to determine if something’s good or bad for us.
Debra Maldonado 15:17
Which creates that persona shadow dynamic.
Robert Maldonado 15:20
But the shadow is essentially things that weren’t adapted for us. Things that aren’t going to help us adapt to our social and physical environment. Those things get pushed into the shadow. There’s often a lot of abilities, a lot of skills and talents that are repressed or ignored, and go into the shadow. Then we forget them, we can’t see them. If you know something, that’s not shadow, because that’s part of your conscious awareness, it’s part of your persona. Even if you don’t like it, or even if it disturbs you, that’s not by definition shadow.
Debra Maldonado 16:05
Or something that you can get to by journaling. You can’t really get to the shadow by journaling. You may get insights of your persona, but the shadow is so unconscious, it’s almost like a seal the ego creates that bounces off. You think you’re getting somewhere, the ego likes to confuse you and give you some rationale, intellectualize it that feels good. But then nothing changes. You’re wondering “I thought I did some shadow work.” Many people that take our training say, “I thought I did years of shadow work, I realize I haven’t done any at all yet”, because of that misperception in the culture of what it is. In dreams is the best way to see your shadow because your ego’s asleep and in a more relaxed state where you have access to raw content.
Robert Maldonado 16:54
There’s three ways we can access the unconscious mind, or that we typically use in Jungian coaching. It’s looking at triggers and at emotional triggers. But that involves working with a coach that knows how to get the client to reveal, or get the client’s mind to reveal the shadow through the process of coaching. The second one is active imagination, where we’re combining both the conscious mind and the unconscious, asking the unconscious mind to fill in the blanks in a sense, to give away its content that way. But in dreams, it’s the royal road, of course, because our conscious mind is asleep.
Debra Maldonado 17:38
It’s unfiltered. There’s a little awareness there but it’s not like conscious awareness when we’re in hyper-survival mode. It’s almost relaxed. It’s like anything else when you relax and get into a creative flow, the mind is more open. That’s on steroids when you’re dreaming.
Robert Maldonado 17:56
Therefore, the content that comes up in dreams is unfiltered, it’s showing the raw, unconscious mind and doing its work.
Debra Maldonado 18:07
We hear a lot of our clients say, “I had a nightmare” or “I had this very disturbing dream.” Unfiltered, again. It doesn’t have the moral codes or the proper etiquette. It’s really plain, raw, sometimes very graphic. We get clients that would be so sweet and innocent-looking, and they have these really raw, intense, dark dreams. They’re just like, “Where did that come from?” It’s because of that unfiltered part of our mind. We don’t want to read them as nightmares. We want to see them symbolically.
Robert Maldonado 18:47
That puts things in the proper perspective. But typically, before people enter the individuation process and get serious about personal transformation, they will often have these shadow dreams that are giving them hints that it’s time to do this work, it’s time to look inward. The way the unconscious does it, one of the ways is that it will present you with a dream of a character that plays out in the drama of a dream, that’s shady. It’s a shadow, therefore, it tries to make it clear that this character can’t be trusted.
Debra Maldonado 19:31
Sometimes they report it a dark hat, this criminal with the dark hat and the dark coat. You can’t see their face, this dark figure.
Robert Maldonado 19:40
That’s, of course, a trickster, or an aspect of the trickster. The trickster is an archetype of the collective shadow, but it shows up as the symbols of the trickster in the personal dream. I’ll give an example. When I was in college, I had a friend who personified my shadow, essentially. He was everything I was not. He was very outspoken, he had no hesitation about getting up on stage and playing music, singing, talking to people. I was completely the opposite. I was very shy, withdrawn, kept to myself as much as possible, wanted to be left alone. Often, in my dreams, he’d show up and play that role of the shady character who messed things up or embarrassed me in front of other people. That’s a typical beginning of shadow in dreams.
Debra Maldonado 20:49
That reminds me, a lot of times I’ll be working with people, they have a friend that they know on a conscious level, they’re their opposite, this person is my shadow. I am shy, they’re outgoing, you can see you’re opposites, but you’re joined together. That’s what really happens. People that carry your shadow qualities are ones you’re attracted to, because you feel complete with them, because they’re playing out the script that you on a conscious level resist playing out. You get to live through them by being their friend, they get to live through you by you playing out their shadow. I had this one client who would always be like, “Becky’s in my dream again, I keep having this dream about Becky.” We know what this is. She kept dreaming it until she got the emotional shift in the shadow work. She knew it intellectually. That’s another thing too, when you’re using dreams, pay attention to the emotion in the dream and what’s happening, all those layers besides just trying to put it in a neat little box because it’s complex and individual. Not everyone’s shady figure’s the same, not everyone’s shadow is the same, not everyone’s persona, obviously, is the same. Why we created the persona is not the same, what we are hiding isn’t the same. We want to look at it from an individual perspective. Your individuation journey is so unique. That’s why we don’t really recommend a dictionary because the person who’s interpreting the dream will know more about what that dream means than anyone else. The coach can help them, guide them through the framework, but ultimately the client will be the one with the answer.
Robert Maldonado 22:37
Yes and no. Like you say, it’s the association. The coach can help the client understand and do the integration, which is the next phase of it. But often, because people read dreams very literally, they miss the symbolic function of it. They think it’s talking about my friend, it’s not me, my friend was the one messing up in the dream.
Debra Maldonado 23:08
Or my ex-boyfriend keeps showing up. Should I go back with him? I had dream we got back together.
Robert Maldonado 23:14
They asked, “Is the mind telling me that I should get back with my ex?” No, the unconscious mind uses people that we know, characters in our lives to construct the message.
Debra Maldonado 23:27
What I was saying is not that the person should be left alone to do their own dream interpretation. But you need someone skilled to understand the larger concept, the framework, and what to do. But when it comes to a symbol, there are universal symbols, but for everyone, their symbol, there’s a personal element to it. Let’s say, you dreamt of a Bible, that could be very different things for different people. Or you dream of a car, it could mean something different in different cultures, money and all those things. Based on your religion, there could be religious symbols that relate to you only, that you have a specific emotion towards. It’s a collaborative experience with it in coaching, it’s not “do it on your own”, but you want to give the client that openness to not just say, “I have a dream dictionary here. This is what the dream means”, and the client’s like “Okay.” You want to give them the opportunity to dig a little more and explore. Because when the client discovers that connection and it makes sense to the coach, it fits into the individuation process, they feel more empowered than if someone just tells them what it means.
Robert Maldonado 24:47
It’s also part of their personal growth, so that it has meaning for that individual that might not make sense to anybody else except that individual.
Debra Maldonado 25:00
Then after they have the shadow dream, we have this dark figure, the coach understands where that is, what would be the next step? How do we integrate the shadow? Because at first, there’s just insight, “I can see I’m not like Becky, she’s outgoing, I’m not. Do I need to be more outgoing?” It’s not that simple.
Robert Maldonado 25:21
Not that simple, because the integration requires emotions. In looking at the dream, one of the clues as to the meaning of that dream is in the emotion, the feeling tone, like Jung says. What is the feeling tone of the dream? How does it feel? How did it feel when you were in the dream experiencing that process? If it’s embarrassment, if it’s shame, if it’s anger, if it’s amusement, laughter, joy, whatever it is, it’s giving us a big clue as to what the unconscious mind is trying to communicate to us or to our clients.
Debra Maldonado 26:01
The symbols are showing us, reflecting our conscious attitude. Would you say the feeling is something that you’re not expressing in waking life? Let’s say, in the dream, you’re laughing, having a great time, but on a conscious level, you’re really feeling down. Would that be a compensatory dream because you need to bring more in this life? A lot of our clients have anger show up in the dream where they’re really angry, and they’re like “That’s not me.” It is but you need to get in touch with that feeling. Would that be a way to look at it?
Robert Maldonado 26:36
That’s an important clue. Again, because we’re looking at a human beings, human beings are very complex, you want to consider all the factors. You want to look at what kind of dream or what type of dream this is. More importantly, the individual. At what stage are they in their personal development? Have they done any internal inner work? Or are they completely identified with ego?
Debra Maldonado 27:08
This is like a one-on-one session deal where you’re integrated and you’re done. It’s like a switch you turn on. It’s a progression and evolution of who you are. What we’re doing with all this work is you’re really thinking of your conditioned personality, that part of you that was conditioned early in life. Then there’s this other part that wants to live through you, the repressed parts, not only from your shadow, but from the collective unconscious. It’s about making those parts conscious and having a bigger perspective of yourself in life, so you have more choices. Because if you’re in that conditioned personality, you only have one option in certain situations: survive. You can’t have any flexibility in how you respond to life and how you choose your life and taking risks. Where when have more access to all of who you are, you can have different experiences in life that you probably didn’t experience early on, because the ego wouldn’t let the shadow come out. Like for you, being able to stand on stage and be bold and be out there is something you’ve integrated.
Robert Maldonado 28:20
I’d say I’m in the process of integrating. It’s always a process. There’s nothing wrong with that. Again, this is a natural process. This is an important piece, because most of us have forgotten this principle. There is an internal teacher in us that’s always guiding us. We always have access to it, but we ignore it. That teacher speaks to us primarily through dreams.
Debra Maldonado 28:52
If we don’t pay attention to our dreams, we’re letting our ego, the rational, logical, conscious mind make rational choices in life, which keeps us in the same pattern. It’s about becoming aware, self-aware, the self-awareness that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is like, you have these survival needs, social needs, then there’s transcendent needs. Individuation lets you have those transcendent experiences. For me, it’s like how everyone takes everything personally, we all do, it’s part of being human. As things happen, we take it personally or we’re all hard on ourselves. Imagine knowing that that’s not all of who we are. We’re not our results. We’re not our behaviors. We’re not how people judge us. We’re this grand, amazing being. Don’t we want to know that part of ourselves? The inner teacher.
Robert Maldonado 29:45
I have a question for you. Given your experiences in working with clients, students, friends, family members, you’ve also coached family members. What is the common denominator you’ve seen in shadow work as far as the dreams perhaps, or the symbols that line up with shadow for people, including the emotions?
Debra Maldonado 30:12
We started out for the first 10 years doing work with the relationships. One of the common dreams I saw with our single clients was the house. They were in their house, someone was trying to get in, fighting, trying to get in. Also, even in the beginning of the process, one of our clients had a dream like the SWAT team was coming in and trying to infiltrate the house. That’s really this other part of ourselves trying to integrate, and the person in the house is like, “I set everything up nice.” It’s showing the ego’s resistance, we’re showing a little bit resistance. But then, I always say to my single clients to imagine that you have a house and a guard dog, and the guard dog is sitting there guarding you. That’s like the ego always defending you, making you survive. But the thing about the guard dog is, it doesn’t know the difference between the postman, a thief, or the man of your dreams. Everyone’s off limits, it bites the mailman and the thief, but then also pushes away someone who can bring good and love into your life. Think about, if you’re not single, what part of your life you’re not allowing yourself to experience? That dream usually says, “This is something here”, usually the feeling is fear. What is that fear like? What are you really afraid of? For most people, it’s vulnerability, it’s exposure, someone’s going to see who I really am. We’re so comfortable in our persona and being who we’ve always been. It seems so scary to be someone else or have a different experience of ourselves.
Robert Maldonado 32:02
The house dream is a common one. I wanted to mention more the emotional component. Almost everyone I worked with had to deal with anger. It might not be the central component of that particular shadow, but it’s part of it. And because it’s such a raw primal emotion, the way we label it is unfortunate because we only have one word for it, or maybe “rage” or something like that. But it still denotes that angry feeling of attack or wanting to hurt.
Debra Maldonado 32:48
Or it starts as a frustration. We keep burying it because it’s not okay to express ourselves. Anger is actually also the same word as passion. It means the same thing. If it’s about passion and saying what you mean and being passionate about something, it’s also anger at the same time, this strong energy.
Robert Maldonado 33:17
That’s it, the energy. One of the differences between Freud and Jung was the idea of libido. Freud was very much into thinking about libido as sexual energy. Jung wanted to expand the concept to more as life energy or life force. That libido, that raw energy, that life force, when it’s frustrated, when we’re not able to express it in a creative way or in a complete way, it backs up. It’s that frustration damming up that raw power of emotion. That’s really what most people call anger, but it’s pure, raw, powerful energy that we can turn into passion and purpose.
Debra Maldonado 34:08
If you think about it, not just anger, everyone who we blow up at, or we have anger toward, is usually not the source of the anger. The source can happen, you have work and you’re frustrated with your boss, but it’s not appropriate to yell at your boss because you can lose your job. You come home and take it out on your partner, or you take it out on your friend, or you just get triggered. That energy needs to go somewhere. Or if you really repress it, it shows up in other people, you get people angry at you, and you’re like, “Why am I around all these angry people? I am so peace and calm. I am a peaceful spiritual person. Everyone’s so angry, what’s wrong with the world?” We have to integrate. Whatever judgments we have over other people’s emotions and personality behaviors is something that we’re rejecting in ourselves. There’s always that moral code. That was one of the big questions that a lot of our students ask at the beginning. What’s morality? Do we have no moral code? It’s not okay to yell at people, so how do we come to terms with that?
Robert Maldonado 35:14
That’s one of the functions of the integration of the shadow. It allows for that raw emotional libido energy to be transformed into consciousness, into conscious awareness, to be able to use it in a creative way. Why do we need that passion? It fuels relationships, it fuels our passion for work, it fuels our energy, our mind body energy, so that we’re healthy and feel good.
Debra Maldonado 35:46
So that we’re not numb. What we’ve done, especially in our culture, is numb everything. Then we wonder why we’re not connecting with people and relationships. I don’t feel the passion for that person, or they don’t feel the passion for me, or I don’t get excited about work anymore. That dullness. It’s like falling asleep, this dormant energy. What happens, for me, when I left the corporate world and started as a hypnotherapist, it was all this energy that I’ve been pushing away and denying myself. Remember, when you met me, I was so excited and passionate. That was like a year and a half after I started, it was so exciting to take that energy and move it towards something creative versus using it to beat myself up, using it to be resentful in life, resentful of situations. It’s like turning that energy around and using it for creativity. In dreams, it really shows you that raw energy and how you are using it, in a way.
Robert Maldonado 36:50
Part of the process of integration of the shadow, it’s heavy or difficult from the perspective of our ego, from the persona side, because we’re having to restructure our life in a way or our sense of self. But from the opposite side, from the self side, it’s an incredible journey, because now we start to gain access to that raw energy that is in the shadow, or through the shadow, we access that power. The integration piece is really important, we learn that dreams are not just giving us these weird messages about acting too rational or too uptight in this area. They’re going to point directly to the source of inner power, that passion.
Debra Maldonado 37:47
It’s an untapped power that we’re projecting out onto the world. We think the world has power and we don’t. That’s the individual in the beginning part of our life, shaped by the world, that’s what we’re taught. The parents have the power, society has the power, teachers have the power, the economy has the power, governments have the power. We feel like we’re just bobbing on the top of the ocean, tossed around by the waves. But we are the ocean. That’s what it shows, this blending of not only our intuitive powers, but also a universal power. We’re so much more than we think we are. That’s what I love about dreams. Next week, we’re going to go deeper and talk about the anima and animus in dreams.
Robert Maldonado 38:33
We’re going to trigger some people.
Debra Maldonado 38:37
The feminine and masculine, not in the gender roles, but more the energies and how they play out in dreams. Very interesting. Don’t forget, if you’re listening to us on the podcast services, iTunes, Spotify, all those great services, don’t forget to subscribe because the next episode, we’re gonna go a little deeper. You don’t want to miss it.
Robert Maldonado 38:58
We’ll be sure to present some new dreams as well.
Debra Maldonado 39:01
Thank you so much for joining us. We’ll see you next week on Soul Sessions.
Robert Maldonado 39:07
See you soon.