Two Dreams, Two Images: Reflections on a Divided-Self Complex

This is a short reflection paper written in 2014 as part of a Santa Fe Jungian seminar series. It provides an orientation to a number of important ideas central to my revisiting of the 1994 Rock-Light Being Dream plus images posted on March 22nd & 23rd. I am hoping to explore key elements in future posts.

“My speech is imperfect. Not because I want to shine with words, but out of the impossibility of finding words, I speak in images. With nothing else can I express the words from the depths.” (Jung, 2009, p. 230)

Jung’s quotation brings to mind encounters with the numinosum, the awe-inspiring mystery (Eliade, 1957). In this paper I will be offering two dreams and two images which I experience as “words from the depths.” One dream is from 2014, the other from 1994. I want to suggest the ways in which each of the dreams is an out-picturing of my divided self, and discuss what the dreams contribute to my understanding of the nature of splitting and the healing process over the twenty intervening years. With some shared elements, I believe their differences reflect material deriving from the developmental and archetypal layers. In addition, there may be a trans-rational presence (Bernstein, 2005).

Jung recognized the universality of our experience and participation in two worlds, an outer material world ruled by the “spirit of the times,” and an inner world with a spiritual aspect informed by the “spirit of the depths” (Kalsched 2013, p. 264). For Jung, “supreme meaning” is image and force-based communication from the spirit of the depths.

Jung’s autobiographical description of his childhood experiences and capacity to suffer the tension provides a context for his first dissociative experiences and the emergence of “the old man, who belonged to the centuries” (Jung, 1961). According to Jung:

The most painful thing of all was the frustration of my attempts to overcome the inner split in myself, my division into two worlds. Again and again events occurred which forced me out of my ordinary, everyday existence into the boundlessness of “God’s world” (1961, p. 72).

The inner split from my own childhood experience opened me to nature, providing me with encounters with the mystery. As such, orienting to the spirit of the depths feels familiar to me.

The dreams presented in this paper demonstrate how the divided-self complex can be perceived through the lens of the spirit of the depths and the supreme meaning. After a somewhat restless night, mindful of my divided self, I had the following dream at 6 AM the morning of the first seminar.

Dream 1/8/2014. I’m sitting in the stands at a baseball game, midway up behind home plate. The next thing I know a ball is hit and someone to my left catches it and gives a mighty throw to first base in an attempt to throw out the batter. The throw is higher than the first baseman can catch; I sense he could have jumped higher. The runner gets on base. Very quickly another ball is hit and likewise is fielded by someone next to me, who now has a chance to make a double play. This time the ball is thrown even higher and missed by the baseman. There is a collective gasp – two bad throws and no double play. Next I’m out on the sidewalk and find a woman flat on her back, intensely distressed, as if she had fallen, or worse, jumped; an older woman is comforting her head. I move closer and recognize her as the person who had made the bad throws. She is overwhelmed with grief and shame, having tried her hardest, but having failed twice to dial it in, make her play. I recognize her as a put-together and fit acquaintance in the outer world I had noticed the week before at the coffee shop, thinking to myself she looked like she was struggling with something but trying to be brave.

Waking reflection. My immediate thought was what a gift to have such a vivid dream right then; surely psyche was talking to me about my engagement with the Institute. Then I thought: Could this dream, in revealing some brokenness, prove me unworthy of this study group opportunity? I have experienced failing in pairs before. Might the dream be a foreshadowing the analysts would be communicating over the heads of the study group participants, who may or may not work hard enough to catch it? Short on time to reflect, I considered it was at least a cautionary dream alerting me to my potential of trying too hard and over throwing in some way. I was acutely aware of the woman’s state of distress.

Over the next two days, I kept coming back to the two men on base. Who were they and how did they get on first and second? Were they echoes of my personalities No. 1 and 2? I had to laugh at the comedic genius of “Who’s on First, What’s on Second.” Was this an out-picturing of my divided self? My sense was yes. In which case, the woman figure carries the emotional impact of the divided-self complex maintaining the split, symbolized by the men on bases 1 and 2. Dropping into the complex nucleus layer, in gazing directly upon her anguish, I am bearing witness to my mother’s suffering of her loss of soul connection. This is an image and affect out-picturing of the wounding which generated the complex.

In Jung’s dialogues with the spirit of the times and the spirit of the depths, he comes to understand the existence of an ancient consciousness enlivening us all, but how easily that consciousness can get confused or lost under pressure from spirit of the times. The spirit of the depths comes in and places understanding and knowledge at the service of the inexplicable and the paradoxical, sense and nonsense. The melting together of sense and nonsense is what produces the supreme meaning. In Jung’s words (2009), supreme meaning is “the path, the way and the bridge to what is to come… image and force in one, magnificence and force together … the beginning and the end … the bridge of going across and fulfillment” Furthermore, from this perspective, “To understand a thing is a bridge and a possibility of returning to the path. But to explain a thing is arbitrary and even murder…” (Jung, Red Book 2009, p. 229-230).

While I was enjoying a new sense of freedom from my tendency to explain, and contemplating on magnificence and force together, the following dream came to mind.

Dream 12/5/1994. Scene 1. I am at a grand event, a celebratory rite of some kind. I see a man come up to the line and throw a small object or ball way out. He then tries to retrieve it with great speed. Not understanding what is transpiring, but finding the action very compelling, I run onto the field after the object. I dive over boulders to get to it, and then hear a warning: “Get ready because he surely is coming after it. It means a great deal to him.” The implication is “he” could unintentionally kill me if I were accidently in the way.

Scene 2. Three of us, two men and our woman guide, are working our way up a stream-like path. I am in the middle, experiencing a strong sense of wilderness and adventure. Coming to a rise on the path, our guide stops suddenly and points. In a watery place, a huge crocodile is hidden, perfectly lined up on us. We would have been killed had we have gone straight ahead. Our guide motions to move to the right. We walk, looking for a way up, trying to spot and avoid more crocodiles. I see another, but cannot find a way up. I call to our guide, but she has gone up, and is out of sight. She doubles back, offers a hand, and pulls me up. As we pick our way along, I get into the lead. Walking along a rock face, a door suddenly opens, almost hitting me, flashing a flood of brilliant light out. Something is tossed out, and then the door closes. I am anxious at almost being seen, not sure who or what was inside, a sense of some indigenous peoples. (The alarm went off and I woke up.)

After recording the dream, I decided to represent the image in pen and ink. My method for illustrating dream scenes is to begin by establishing the starting point of the scene, and then work through the action step by step to capture it all on one page. This dream opened with the stone path at the bottom center of the page. I began penciling in the details with no conscious awareness of the greater reveal (See Image 1.). As I finished the initial sketch, I couldn’t help but think, “Behold the ancient being with his bright flash of light for consciousness, crocodile brainstem extending into the olfactory region, and stunning child like silhouette! How striking, how primordial!” After completing this scene, I drew the close-up of our approach along the rock face. My intention was to create an image-as-threshold to assist me in ritually re-entering the startling moment. (See Image 2.)

RockLight DreamImage1NoMargin3.23.16EncounteringRLBeingImage2.3.23.16

In active imagination, I dialogued with an ancient reptile man-like being, a self identified gatekeeper and light tender who releases the light. When I asked him, “What did you throw out?” he told me they were shards of light, reflections of everything that has ever happened in my (Chuck’s) life. Each shard mirrored a scene of my life. I was to know they existed and seek to gather them all up; this was my path to self-knowledge.

Jung’s description of the serf’s predicament comes to mind: “I am the serf who brings it and does not know what he carries in his hand. It would burn his hands if he did not place it where his master orders him to lay it” (2009, p. 230). For me the quote captures the serf’s unconsciousness of his true relationship with the master. I have struggled with a sense of inferiority and confusion relative to my hunger, in my unconsciousness, to be on more human terms with the master. At the time of the dream it remained in large part an unsolved mystery. Now, in contemplating scene 2 as an out-picturing of the archaic world of the spirit of the depths, I can see I was an adept serf in following the master’s commands. In lending my hands to represent the scene, I was guided to the discovery of an ancient being sitting between the worlds (Image 1).

Is this ancient being (Image 1) the spirit of the depths incarnated, in me? If so, I am afforded the opportunity to gaze upon humanness in relationship to the spirit of the depths. This ego-in-relationship-to-Self was I. From this perspective, this would be a self-Self portrait. Placing the two images facing each other, I noticed a larger gestalt: Image 2 appeared to be the head of a giant stone being, a Rock Light Being. If so, in this pair, the self-Self portrait (Image 1) appears to be a “chip off the old block.” Could this Rock Light Being (Image 2) be an out-picturing of a trans-rational presence, making his presence known through the dream time?

The two dreams offered a theme of two men and a woman. The first dream reminded me of the importance of attending to the continued presence of painful affects within. However, rather than any evidence of the split signifying my pathology, the possibility a divided self complex reflects my humanness comes in to view. My genuine excitement about the dream and openness to playing with the images perhaps points to my evolution in discerning this detail. Splits are divides in need of relationship. This awareness aligns with the perspective: “We are suspended between two worlds, one personal and material, one impersonal (collective) and spiritual. This is our human condition and also our human predicament” (Kalsched, 2013, p. 281). The 1994 dream, with its archaic landscape, is an out-picturing of soul’s presence, bridging between these two worlds.

Jung’s united double nature concept pioneered the way for relationship with the unconscious (Kalsched 2013). Bernstein’s (2005) work expands this view of the unconscious to include the trans-rational world, the Borderland. Trauma, in activating a soul-preserving divided-self complex, opens us to psyche’s bounty of heaven, hell, and more. What preserves the soul is the complex; what bridges the divide is the soul.


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