The Shadow In Men's Dreams
In Jungian psychology, the 'Shadow' is the archetype that represents all that we consciously are not. In other words, while our daytime persona (literally 'mask') is normally of a suitably polite and sociable person, we are at the same time hiding aspects of ourselves from other people, such as how awkward or aggressive we may be feeling, or whatever it may be. Those hidden aspects make up what is called the Shadow. There need be nothing particularly sinister about it; it is merely those aspects of ourselves that we do not acknowledge in public, and also those aspects of ourselves that we do not like or have not had a chance to express yet. Indeed, in very negative people, the Shadow may be full of the unexpressed positive aspects of their personality. In any case, we will be so used to hiding these aspects that we will frequently have forgotten that they exist. The bad news is, they go right on being there anyway, and if we've forgotten them they simply operate outside our conscious awareness and therefore outside our conscious control. Hence, we sabotage ourselves and others, get mean or nasty or whatever, without realising why we do it. The task in recognising the Shadow is to reclaim awareness of these aspects of ourselves so that we can bring them back under conscious control. Being aware is the key to controlling or improving any aspect of ourselves, of course. Indeed, Jung felt that being aware was pretty much all you had to do: actually changing yourself is all but impossible (tried giving up smoking/drinking/over-eating lately? Tough, isn't it?). Instead, just be well aware of the problem, and eventually, you will transcend it: in other words, Jung found that his patients or clients seldom if ever actually solved their problems explicitly; instead, once they understood the problems clearly, they reached a point where the problems in question simply became irrelevant and hence effectively disappeared.
In other words, something integrates in our minds, and our attitudes - including expectations if they are relevant - have changed. Jung's method for 'solving' problems - encouraging transcendence - was simply to keep yourself aware of them. There is nothing else to do. The mind, especially the unconscious machinery, being a built-in problem solver, would eventually sort it out. In other words, don't worry about it, just think about it from time to time. Awareness leads to insight leads to transcendence. This assumes that the solution is unique for each individual, so that there is no specific method that will work for everybody. Nobody else knows exactly where your problem comes from, for instance, so direct 'pull yourself together' type advice will not be sufficiently accurate to be beneficial. I suppose it can be summed up as: relax and observe what you do and why. Once you have spotted the key factor or factors and are consciously aware of them, their solution is automatic because you naturally will change your behaviour to take into account the new facts. This requires no effort. When you are ready, it happens. For example: You keep getting maths problems slightly wrong, and you don't know why. You rack your brains, read books, go to night school, stay awake at nights, all to no avail. Then one day, you realise that you have been rounding 0.5 down instead of up. Changing your behaviour requires no effort from then on. Also, note that the effort gone into solving the problem prior to the discovery was mostly wasted. (I've left out that you could have asked a teacher since for personal obstacles that generally isn't an option.)
Anyway, back to the Shadow itself. How do we recognize it? In waking life, it becomes visible as an uncharacteristic outburst of some sort - a burst of temper in an otherwise nice person, a ruthless streak in a normally helpful soul, a person who is 'accidentally' late whenever something important is to happen, someone who is quite different when under the influence of alcohol, and so on. When it occurs, the tell-tale sign is that it is as if something has taken over the person for a short time. Of course it hasn't: they are fully conscious of their actions, but they feel very different about them at the time because other aspects of their personality than usual are in control. They are not the same person that they normally are - indeed people often apologize, saying "I wasn't myself - I don't know what came over me." They are not in the normal sense of the word doing these actions 100% deliberately, despite being fully conscious of them. Other aspects of their personality, that they are not used to dealing with, are operating. Due to their lack of experience with those aspects, they can't easily control them. You can also recognize these signs in yourself, if you are observant. The action of any archetype has a certain feel to it, because it comes from outside your normal orbit of control. The point is, that you can recognize it as yours, and bring it back into your repertoire of controllable, i.e., voluntary actions: there are always times when it is right to get angry, for instance, but it is much more effective if you are doing it in a controlled way rather than just firing off half-cocked. Another tell-tale sign is if the person's reaction to something is far and away out of proportion to the obvious cause: it is as if somebody has pressed their crazy button. This happens when a lot of emotional energy is attaching itself to the obvious cause, and is coming out along with what would have been the legitimate reaction. Sometimes, another tell-tale sign is when you see some person that especially irritates you without them even trying to: you can't stand them and you are often not too sure why. They are like your Shadow: YOU. Study them! Often the Shadow is projected outwards like this: we see in others what we don't see so easily in ourselves, and it annoys us unduly and we want to stop it or get away from it, as the case may be.
In dreams, the Shadow typically appears as a character of the same sex as the dreamer: a sinister, threatening type in normally nice people, and a nice helpful character in normally nasty people (I shall deal mainly with the sinister Shadow from here on, since that is more common; just reverse the obvious signs if you have the opposite sort of Shadow). Often, the sinister Shadow character will have darker hair or darker skin than the dreamer - a bit like the way the baddies always wore a black hat in the old Western movies (black people typically dream of blacker people). The Shadow can also appear as a hostile animal, if emotional suppression is going on, for example, since animals often represent our instinctual selves explicitly.
How do you deal with the Shadow? Well, you need to recognize it as a legitimate part of yourself. Typically in dreams it will seem hostile, but quite often it is in fact amenable to reason! If you can just reason with it, talk to it and treat it like a legitimate person, ask it what it wants, tell it what you think of that, and it will most likely be satisfied. In dreams as well as in waking life, this amounts to acceptance of this aspect of yourself, which automatically reclaims it from your Shadow and places it within your conscious self instead. Just remember that there are many, many possible Shadow contents, from sheer nastiness to simple weakness of personality, and these aspects may need to be reclaimed one-by-one, in pieces, a bit at a time. But you will begin to feel the benefits very rapidly indeed once the process starts moving and your personality begins to round itself out a bit more.
Note that some aspects of your inner self might indeed be too dangerous and powerful for you to risk reasoning with them. Trust your dreams in this: if you can't bring yourself to reason with whatever it is because it is just too dangerous-seeming, then leave it until it presents a less dangerous face to you. You want to integrate it, not the other way around!
Leaving the Mother behind is vital if a man is to grow up and become a truly independent adult. As an infant, children are particularly dependent on their mothers, but if they do not separate from her and learn to take full responsibility for their own lives, they will never grow up.
Typically, this is more of a problem for men than for women, it seems probably because with men there is no obvious biological signal to say "OK, you're an adult now," whereas once girls menstruate, it becomes obvious that they are capable of being mothers themselves. Hence girls tend to start adopting self-reliant attitudes more quickly than men. This may also relate to why women tend to prefer those traits in men, since they are a good sign of someone who is a psychological adult taking control of their life (although most young men bluff, in fact, having learned what is wanted but not how to achieve it). Also, mothers are notorious for always thinking of their children as their babies and perhaps being over-protective or controlling, but because girls are generally closer to their fathers and usually feel a bit of oedipal rivalry with their mothers, separation is much easier than for boys, who tend to be closer to their mothers than their fathers. During the separation phase, the mother will probably be perceived negatively or at least avoided even if she is not in real life too controlling or intrusive: it assists the separation process.
The over-controlling or over-protective Mother typically appears in nightmarish form: spiders, female vampires, dragons and other such monsters are typical, as on some level we recognize the danger to our own independence such a Mother-figure represents. Excessively idealized images of women, either in our minds or in advertising or pornography amount to the same idea and represent the same threat to your independence, most particularly because they are unrealistic: in real life you have to relate to real people, not gods and goddesses. If your view of the opposite sex is too influenced by idealized images of them, relationships will fail as the real person's humanity becomes more and more visible to you. Furthermore, in seeing the other person idealized, you implicitly see yourself as inferior or dependent on their opinion of you: not a good starting point for a relationship. Again, this can't be dealt with just by refusing it, i.e., refusing to be attracted to or deliberately avoiding the idealized images of women; as with the Shadow, it needs to be integrated in an appropriate manner, and your attitude say to pornographic images (guilt? pleasure?) or to women (fear? delight?) will give you clues as to where you are in your process. Always daydreaming about women instead of meeting them and relating to them as human beings and instead of living the rest of your life is a typical sign and is normal in young men, for a while. Getting together the courage to approach women and the energy to live your life is a sign of getting over it.
When a man is not ready for a relationship with a woman for these reasons, he is likely to be afraid of the relationship: afraid of being trapped, for example, since his independence, which is under-developed, is threatened. Such a person is likely to be afraid to take the initiative with his own life and will retreat from opportunities: he may be a dreamer and not a doer. Only once he is secure in himself can he risk taking on a close relationship with someone else and indeed follow his own ambitions and do what he wants with his life. For example, dreams about vampires of either sex can illustrate the lack of life in people who are not yet ready: vampires suck the life-blood (independence, faith in oneself, energy) from people and leave them as passive victims dreaming about what they could do if only things were different and they weren't victims or they felt strong enough. Any energy-draining retreat from life (stifled creativity, denial of sexuality, refusal of certain feelings such as anger) can appear as vampires too, since the key characteristic is the loss of energy for living that they can represent.
Sometimes men who have an overly positive view of their mothers will tend to classify women into two extreme types: goddesses and whores, for example, and will be unable to relate to either properly for obvious reasons (they are not being considered as human beings). These men will get their sex from prostitutes but would never consider marrying one. They will have lofty romantic affairs with their goddesses if they can approach such women at all, but will be unable to be properly intimate with them.
Institutions such as Universities and large companies can take on the Mother role too: people are unwilling to leave the security of such places (Mother) to go and follow their own ambitions out in the dangerous and unsecure wide world. Interestingly, in today's world of huge threats to all of humanity, these Mother patterns are appearing on a wide scale: it is as if we need, collectively, to find more adult ways of relating to each other, both as men and women, and as humans with nature, and nation with nation, if we are not to destroy each other instead. It is readily apparent that the way nations posture and threaten and horse-trade, and the way people selfishly exploit the environment for short-term gain, are both immature ways of behaving. The modern difficulties in relationships between men and women are part of this pattern too, since in modern times women are no longer prepared to be their husband's substitute mothers in a subservient role enforced by society. Men in particular are being asked to grow up.
Once the Mother has been removed from the picture, i.e., once the boy has really become a man and is confident in himself as a man, he can start integrating or developing his feminine side, known as his Anima. I will look at the Anima shortly. Right now, it is worth looking at how to offload poor old Mother.
Some men try to escape from their real mothers by becoming intellectuals, and taking up careers that are well beyond their mother's ability to follow them. The hope is that she cannot follow and influence them when she doesn't understand what they are doing. Well . . . it isn't terribly effective. Not only can mother still interfere to some extent, but the institution itself secretly becomes the Mother, as I mentioned earlier. Sorry, but you have to do better than that. You have to change the way you live and the way you think. Appearances just won't do. Above all else, to become independent, it is absolutely necessary to do it: you must take action. Thinking about it is just not the same.
A typical first step for any male is leaving home, of course, but it must not end there. He must also not run crying back to mother every time he scrapes his knee. It is up to him now. The process of developing independence can appear in men's dreams as violent confrontations - fights with monsters, for example. It is what Joseph Campbell has referred to in his books as the hero's journey. The first step is always leaving the family home and going on an adventure. The first thing that happens is that the big wide world attempts to slap the hero back into line. Many myths and stories reflect this pattern: a modern version appears in "Star Wars" by George Lucas, although in Luke's case although it appears that he is dealing with a Father problem, he is really dealing with the problems caused by a lack of a father: the film starts with Luke trying to find a way to leave his adoptive family home (Mother), and failing until fate lends a hand. Once he has left home, he ends up with quite a fight on his hands as he struggles to grow up. This development is plotted through the two sequels to Star Wars, so that by the third film, Luke is visibly more confident and independent and in the end he manages to really become a man as he converts Father from a perceived threat into an integrated way to live (which is how I see the ghostly forms of Vader and Ben - i.e., as integrated archetypes), and he does it in his own way - by refusing to fight Vader, he forces him to choose: Luke's way or not? Also, Luke's other half, Han Solo, develops from being a braggart pretending to be an adult, into a responsible man able to express his feelings - and then he gets the girl: the traditional hero's reward, and in real life, the typical outcome as well. Immature men have particular trouble finding and keeping relationships with women.
As well as fights with monsters or daydreams of heroism (which amount to the same thing but usually take the place of action as much as they may be rehearsals for it), this growing up and leaving the Mother behind can appear as a dream of transforming women or of winning women. A typical dream could involve the transformation of a dark or darkly clad and exotic woman into a lighter, blonde or more brightly clad woman, or could involve dreaming of rescuing or protecting a woman. The woman in question is the man's Anima, his own female side, that is, his own ability to accept his "softer" feelings, being developed as his confidence is increasing. Gold often symbolizes this too. Conflict, if present in such dreams, is the power of the Mother being fought against. The legend of George and the Dragon is a typical example of such a motif.
The anima typically appears in one of two forms: dark and light. The darker form is the undeveloped, unintegrated or unaccepted side, the lighter form is the converse. If the darker Anima is dominant in dreams, it suggests that the man is not yet quite free from the Mother, although he may be well on the way. Such a man, in a relationship, tends to be more in love with being in love than with his partner. He loves his fantasies and is still not treating his woman as a real person. The good thing is that he is well aware of his feelings, of course, and this is why it is the Anima and not the Mother as such that is the archetype at work here: he is concerned with his own feelings and specifically not with what others might think. This is a definite improvement!
As well as dark and light, women also frequently appear in men's dreams as one of four types. In order of (usually) increasing maturity, they are "Eve", the biological, sexual, ordinary attractive female, "Helen", a spiritual and intellectual companion as well as a physical partner, "Mary", the lofty spiritual, distant, untouchable woman, and "Sophia", the wise woman who signifies that the man now knows how to relate to and love real women without risking losing himself in the process. Dealing with the feminine at this stage means dealing with the real world of physical reality and the accumulation of responsibilities, whilst at the same time retaining one's own space and interests, be they material, intellectual, spiritual, creative, or whatever.
The Anima can also be represented in men's dreams by traditional feminine symbols, e.g., the Moon, cats, and so on. Also, it is common for people to dream of their spouse, but one who is not their actual husband or wife; in this case, it will be their inner partner rather than their outer one that is being referred to. Typically, for men, she will be pointing the way to reconciling the male with the inner female - his feelings, especially loves. Such dreams can be very evocative, emotional and beautiful, and show how it is possible to develop from being the typical barbarous male of the Western world into a cultured, civilized person.