The Shadow In Women's Dreams
One of the biggest difficulties that many women have is that of being themselves: it is very common, even in the modern era, for women to be brought up to please other people, especially men (including their fathers), rather than to find out what they themselves want. Dreams can often reflect this kind of lack of self-identity, for example, including characters who are only partly real, or who are clearly not whole people, or who yearn for recognition, or who are focussed on helping others rather than themselves, and who are generally lacking in substance. This problem often arises from learning how to act it up for men, which begins very young, when they learn how to smile sweetly and get their way from the men in their lives: this gives them some self-confidence in their power over other people, but they risk forgetting that they are acting, in which case they lose their sense of who they are: what do I want? What do I believe? What shall I do with my life? And so on. Instead, they become an Anima figure for the men in their lives; that is, someone who reflects the man's view of what a female is: she reflects his fantasies rather than being a real person. As a result, she will not be regarded easily as a real person, a proper human being, at all. So if she forgets that she is only acting, she may lose her own sense of self-identity too, as she will also forget the difference between acting and being herself.
There can be another angle on this too. Women who have been brought up to be Daddy's Little Princess, for instance, can sometimes become a little too proud of their manipulative ability with men, and as a result sometimes become unapproachable: they will play mind-games with men rather than make any real attempt to relate to them, because they feel that the men are not good enough for them or are beneath them. These women can have difficulty with relationships for obvious reasons, and especially with sexual relationships, since sordid sex has little in common with their high-minded attitudes.
As with the Shadow in men, the unlived parts of a woman's personality will usually appear in her dreams as same-sex people (i.e., women and girls) who are typically (but not always) not known personally to her in waking life. And whereas men struggle to gain their independence from the influence of their Mothers, women struggle to find themselves after acting for their Fathers and other men. Violence in women's dreams, which is much more common than in men's dreams, when it involves the other women in the dream, will be showing how these other parts of herself are being rejected or violated by her behaviour, or how they are reacting to her behaviour. Sometimes, it will be associated with a woman's mother, or with mothers in general: this often suggests that the woman is having trouble coming to terms with the reality of herself as a mother, or as a sexual being. Some observers claim that women who dream these things tend to have painful or troublesome menstruation as well, although it is not necessarily clear which, if either, is causing which. Contents
Violence in women's dreams will often be performed by, or will be assumed to have been carried out by, a male: this is likely to be the woman's own so-called inner male, known as her Animus. This is the side of every woman's personality that includes attitudes generally associated in most cultures with the masculine: ambition, aggression, dominance, and so on. Note that these attributes belong to women too, of course, it is just that culturally and therefore in dreams as well, they are associated with a male approach to life. In particular, violence and danger in a woman's dream is often associated with her inner male, since it is often her so-called masculine attitudes that can obstruct the development of her more feminine aspects. Sometimes, of course, they help instead.
Indeed, the Animus usually appears in one of four forms, depending on the stage of development of the woman's self-discovery. The earliest stage is that of the beefcake: an athletic muscleman. Next comes a man with initiative, followed by a conventionally successful man. Finally he becomes her spiritual guide and gives her inner strength.
The early form of the Animus, the muscleman, is typically also threatening and dangerous and robs the woman of her freedom and initiative much as vampires might in a man's dream. He is the sign that she is not being herself, but has taken on a role that was defined outside herself. The violence and danger is what is happening to her true self. Perhaps she is denying her feelings in favour of an overly logical approach to reality. Perhaps she has suffered a negative reinforcement to her self-expression recently and is tempted to try and deny herself. She will spend her daytime telling herself negative things such as "You are so silly to think that," or "I'll never achieve anything with my life," or "Men only want one thing (sex) with me," and "I am not a good person." Such thoughts stand between the woman and her feminine side, cutting her off from her potential and indeed often standing between her and meaningful relationships with men. The woman needs to recognize that these thoughts are from her negative Animus, her social conditioning or upbringing, and do not form part of her true nature: they arise only because she is out of touch with herself, and they act to keep her that way. They are automatic, lifeless and life-denying, and much reinforced by constant repetition. They need to be consciously refused and refuted as often as she notices them. When she does this, the violent males in her dreams will leave her alone: she will have stopped abusing herself.
Pregnant women often have violent dreams for a related reason. In committing themselves to one particular life choice, i.e., one man, one family, one ambition, they are naturally excluding other, possibly more exciting, choices. Often it will mean giving up her career, or at least delaying it. The resentment this causes will often manifest as violence in her dreams. She wants to be active, but is forced by her choices to live this particular life for now. Classically, she will blame her male partner for this and project her resentment on to him even though she has chosen this life. In fact, there is little choice left for the woman in this position. She has to wait, and make her plans for later, when her children are more independent and she can get back to her other ambitions again. In the meantime, she can keep in touch, read, train and so on, so that when the time comes to go back to the outer world, she will be ready.
Sometimes, whether she is pregnant or not, instead of being violent, her Animus will be dead, or passive, or generally lifeless or trapped: the woman's inner male, her initiative and drive for example, are dead or marginalised, and need to be woken up. Perhaps she has some ambition that she is not following even though she could. She is limiting herself unnecessarily in some way, possibly with the negative thoughts mentioned earlier.
When a woman has, as a young girl, perceived her own father in a negative light - hasn't liked him, or has found him too controlling, too intrusive, or too logical and lacking in empathy and understanding, she will sometimes generalise this and perceive men in general negatively and perhaps be overly critical of them (for example), and in any case is likely to have negative controlling men in her dreams as she begins to deal with this side of herself. Furthermore, she is likely to treat herself the way she perceived her father treating her. She may be overly strict with herself, forcing herself to behave according to some unrealistic internal standards, or she may be strongly opinionated, for example, or strongly resist feelings such as love. This is instead of her nurturing her femininity, and herself in general. Typically, she will sabotage her relationships with men by creating scenes: by arguing, by being awkward, by being overly competitive, by repressing her feelings (and thus getting resentful and angry) and so on. Often, she will think it is his fault, too, if she is not very self-aware. From the man's point of view, this sort of behaviour can be quite upsetting, of course, but it is also a sign of definite interest: she would not be so highly strung if she didn't care; but she doesn't know how to deal with it and feels her independence to be threatened. In fact, she is threatening her own independence with her self-controlling and anti-spontaneous attitudes. Sometimes, the woman will burst into tears when the man counter-attacks, as if to make him feel guilty - to make it feel as if it is his fault. He needs to know better and not be taken in.
Such self-policing attitudes can also interfere with a woman's relationships with her children. Instead of freely expressing simply felt genuine emotions, such as a flash of anger, for instance, she will suppress it and the children will experience something much less natural. This can be a problem, as children can deal with natural emotions instinctively and know how to accept them. The unnatural, the logical, does them little good. Being angry for example is perfectly all right, as long as the children know that they are loved. In practice, it is better to be a mentally healthy individual and treat your children naturally, than to be mentally unstable yet follow all the rules for how to bring up your children: they will still feel uncomfortable. When you are healthy, you naturally generate a healthy atmosphere for the children.
Another form that the Animus might take is that of a demon lover; a Valentino to whisk her away. This is especially likely to occur when a woman is not happy in her current relationships, of course. However, dreaming or day-dreaming (fantasizing) about such partners if over-indulged becomes a retreat from reality, the equivalent of the male attraction to idealized images of women (pornography). It can be a substitute for a real relationship, or for working on the ones you have, or for accepting that real men are human too. Know what you are doing when you read those romance novels! Note that this does not mean that you "should not" read them: watch out for "should" and "should not": these are classic self-control words straight from the mouth of your negative Animus. By all means, read those books, enjoy those films. Just know what they may represent. That's all. The best way to work through a phase is to work through it, not to suppress it. See what the feelings are and what they tell you about yourself, and remember not to abandon the real world, but to achieve mastery in it, whatever that may mean for you.
Sometimes a woman will try to avoid becoming personally involved in relationships: she will have them, but only to show off, or to further her career, for example. When she starts to develop feelings for the man, she will be inclined to run from it, to terminate the relationship. She is perhaps afraid of entanglements getting in the way of her ambitions and disrupting her life. This is the negative way of dealing with the problem of being herself: attempting to shut out the outside influences that may distract her. But, of course, it doesn't work very well. Who is she when she is showing off? Not herself, after all: she is living for others just the same. And those ambitions: are they really hers, or is she doing what she thinks she is supposed to do? This is a difficult question, and the answer will of course differ from one individual to another. Either way, however, in refusing relationship, she is refusing one side of herself and to that extent, she will not be herself. She may fear the suffering and vulnerability that true relationships can cause, but while lack of relationship may cover up her vulnerability, it won't stop her suffering from lonliness.
A more positive approach is to develop her positive Animus. The more developed the Animus is, the more positive it becomes in a woman's dreams. In its most positive form, it will be a spiritual guide, a teacher, a God, an angel, or some similar figure. This figure shows the woman the way to her true self. He shows her how to make real her true nature, how to achieve her own ambitions, and how to be free, both in relationship and elsewhere. By developing her will, her intelligence, her spirituality, in short, her personality, she leaves behind her barriers to herself and becomes a whole person at last. Her dreams will be of a highly spiritual, religious-seeming and inspiring nature as she understands and reveres her true self instead of putting herself down as so many women do to themselves. She will dream with the stars in her eyes and divine symbols from the history of the world will populate her nights with joy and peace as she lives in harmony with herself and with the courage to live the life she wants to live.
In Western societies, women are collectively finding themselves; throwing off the negative Animus has become in outer life the rejection of male dominance in society. This has some subtle difficulties, however. Firstly, because women still want relationships with men there is still a very strong need to behave in ways that are specifically attractive to men. If done without awareness, it can result in sex remaining impersonal because the women are still not being themselves. Furthermore, modern life is rootless: the community, the home and garden, women's connection to basic social reality, in other words, are weakened in the modern fast-moving world. Sex can become a desperate activity designed to try and build roots and fix things in place, both in the world and in her own life. This too is impersonal, ultimately. Sex and dating can be competitive, too, as young women are tempted to show off to each other about their latest boyfriends: this is all about socially defined success, instead of about deeper feelings. In cases like this, sex can become a power game; it can be an act a woman does to prove to herself how normal she is, for instance. Overall, in becoming independent, there are many by-ways that can be explored, most of them leading to loss of connection with her genuine feminine feelings. In our modern, rational world, it is vital for people, women especially, to accept and understand their feelings as having genuine value if life is not to end up becoming over-organised and intolerable. A woman might learn how to express her feelings under a veneer of pretend rationalisation, if she likes, for example in a business situation where she has a bad feeling about something or someone she can quickly come up with some seemingly logical reason ("There was something about his expression when he said that . . ."), but however expressed, expressed and therefore accepted they must be. With practice the intutitive trigger behind the feeling can often be spotted and framed as a logical statement. This is infinitely superior to suppressing the feelings or pretending that they don't exist.
In arguments, women will often argue with the Animus, using absolutes, making ultimatums, speaking legalese, laying down the law, and so on. The problem with these approaches is that they are too much of a generalisation: they are not taking into account the genuine, specific feelings that are associated with the situation. If you catch yourself or your female partner speaking in such ways, know that they are not actually expressing their specific feelings: they have generalised them; the result will not be a specific solution, but a general one, and therefore much less satisfactory. If you are angry or upset with your partner, it is often better as a woman to express the feeling rather than to get all abstract about it, because the Animus is not you, it is your social training only. In focussing on your feelings, you will communicate better, and he will know that it is the real you talking. The alternative is that he will feel uncomfortable, probably without realising why, but underneath, he is aware that you are not communicating with him: it is as if you don't love him because the true feeling you may have for him is being masked. Of course, you may want him to feel uncomfortable, depending on what he has done! However, it would be best if he felt uncomfortable for the right reasons. At least this way, a constructive solution can emerge instead of some pointless, impersonal absolute (e.g., mutual understanding instead of divorce).