Each human personality is like a unique oak seed. The soil we fall into is like the environment we are born into. Some soil is lush and nurturing, and we grow large and healthy. Other soils are dry, or filled with stones and sticks. Regardless of soil, the seed knows how to best use available resources, the seed knows how to grow around any stone, any stick.
The journey from seed to oak tree is like the journey the infant embarks on into adulthood. Jung called this journey the individuation process. The guiding principle that navigates the seed around the stones is what Jung calls our Self. The Self is another name for your Wise Woman. Unlike the seed, humans have Ego and we can choose to defy our Self’s guidance. Listening to your dreams will reconnect you to your Wise Women and will help you grow into the tallest, healthiest Oak tree.
Conscious involvement in the individuation process doesn’t begin until the individual encounters a life altering crisis. In our culture, this will likely be when you go to college. Separating from the support your family gives you in a kind of trauma. Our culture doesn’t have many traditions or customs around preparing the child for this journey.
In tribal life, the young boy or girl was put through what is called an “initiation ritual” where the tribal elders would create an ordeal for the child to go through. An example is a boy is kidnapped at night and convinced he is about to be killed. Once the boy is weeping and pleading, the kidnappers remove their masks and reveal that they are the male tribal elders. They begin to teach the boy knowledge only the elder men know (tracking, shooting, skinning, etc.) The boy is now a treated as a man. The purpose of these rituals was to help the child move from childhood into adulthood.
Every single human has to let go of childhood and embrace adulthood. This is a wounding experience. It is this stage of life when the Individuation process starts. This is the moment this book is preparing you far. Your childhood is a safe place where Mom and Dad are lighting the way and you are relaxing in the back seat playing on your phone.
At some point, they park the car, you have to get out, and it is your turn to venture into the dark forest. Do not worry, you have quite a few years before you start your adventure. Do not shy away from this adventure either. One of the surest beliefs I have is that denying this essential human challenge is a mistake. You’ll be ready. It’ll be fun.
When the individuation process begins, your dreams will grow in their intensity. You’ll start receiving a couple of reoccurring images. The most common one you’ll be encountering in the beginning is what Jung called the Shadow. Your shadow side will show itself in your dreams as someone of the same gender, around the same age as you, and she is normally an adversary, or creator of conflict within the dream.
Every human has within them the potential of every human action. Each of us has the potential to save a life, murder another, work hard, steal, teach or lie. Our shadow is made up of all the aspects of human nature we see as bad, wrong, awful, gross, etc.
Back to the Forest
The first step of the individuation process is bringing our Shadow into the light. Your flashlight is a powerful tool you don’t know how to use yet. Your fear fusing with the light will cause interesting shadows to dance in the forest. The gift of the shadow is that it is showing you parts of yourself you’ve never realized were there. Those ghosts lingering on the edge of your beam of light are potential allies. Have the courage to go towards the shadows and shine your light. You’ll discover what you thought was a monster actually is a fox, an owl, a wolf, a rabbit. Each animal represents human potential. They are all teachers. But you have to be brave enough to shine your light on the monster to gain the ally.
When you become aware during a dream where your Shadow is represented, instead of fighting her or running from her, turn to her and hug her. Embrace her. This symbolically represents the most healing attitude during this stage of development. Love, accept, and embrace your Shadow. If done correctly, (which is an ongoing process, not something you finish), you’ll find that you stop judging others. Because the things we judge in others are actually the projections of the part of ourselves that we don’t love.
Understanding projection is one of the most useful tools I know. We cannot know another human completely. They are like a spotty mirror, and we project our own psyche onto them to fill in the holes. Everything another person does that upsets us, it is because they are reflecting back at us a part of ourselves we don’t like. When you love another, it is because their mirror is so shaped that they allow us to see a part of ourselves. Condemning the other wounds ourselves, loving the other heals ourselves.
Once you achieve an understanding relationship with your Shadow, you’ll begin encountering your Animus. Your Animus is a symbolic representation of your connection to your Wise Woman. The Shadow helps you understand your conscious mind more clearly. The Animus is the bridge from your conscious mind to your Unconscious mind.
Another angle to look at this is that the individuation process is a chore you’ve been given to clean an old house. The house is old and dirty, flickering lights and cob webs hug each room, scaring you. Coming to terms with your shadow is like changing all the bulbs, cleaning all the webs out, and having a beautiful and bright home you can live in. The Animus is you discovering a locked cellar door in the basement.
Your Animus will show up in your dreams as someone of the opposite gender, around the same age as you. Your Animus can be both positive and negative. The flavor of your animus is shaped by the relationship you have with the primary male caretaker in your early life. Wallace, Chris and I all took care of you when you were a baby so you’ll have an interesting variety of energies your Animus can use to communicate with you.
Your Animus represents your connection to your Wise Woman. If your Animus is positive, he will be a guide to your creativity and inner genius. If your Animus is negative, he may be mean, murderous, or assaulting. I doubt yours will be negative but if it is we’ll work through it together. The Greeks used women as oracles because if a woman is in sync with her Animus, she can reach a level of insight men simply cannot reach.
Back to the Forest
Once you’ve learned to trust and listen to the animals in the forest who you once thought were monsters, they’ll lead you to a cave. Here there is man waiting. This guide is magical and appears to you in a way that is unique to you. He may trick you if you don’t trust him. He may protect and guide you if you do trust him. Either way, the next stage in your journey is into that cave. Your animals and guide are coming along.
The purpose of this cave is to find your magic item. Your animals and guide will help you. Your magical item is creativity.
The Anima/Animus stage of the individuation process, like the Shadow stage, is never finished. It is a regulating process in our psyche that is ongoing our entire life. Hopefully by the time you are at this stage of life, you’ll have been recording and trying to understand dreams for years. If you have, your Animus will help you find what your unique creative expression is. We emerge from the cave once we’ve found this magical item.
The third and final image we see in dreams is the Self. This is your Wise Woman. She will appear in dreams as a magical child or wise elder of your gender. These dreams are rare and are very important. The Self can also show itself as a royal couple of two magical animals of opposite genders. The Self also appears as magical stones.
Your Self is that growth principle that guides the little seed into the great oak. These kinds of dreams will normally offer advice or will show you something that will create a deep sense of peace and ease in you when you wake up.
But like the Shadow and your Animus, the Self has a dark side. The dark side of the Self is extreme hubris. An example of that is if you start to think you understand the entire universe or that you’re the smartest person alive. This can be very dangerous. Listen to your dreams and stay humble.
Back to the Forest
You’ve emerged from the other side of the cave. The cave exit is the side of a mountain and below you see the immense beauty and chaos that is reality. With your animals, guide, and magical item, you see before you the world. Billions of people in millions of different groups. You see a beautiful mountain on the opposite side of this billion headed mass. There is a little garden. You know that is the place you will die. There is no fear, only a deep sense of peace. For the next dozen decades, you get to dance in that mess, but your Self will guide you to that garden.
The animals, and guide, and magical talisman are your tools. To keep them sharp and useful, stay connected to your dreams.
As you descend into the fray, you’ll attract others. They’ll see your fox, your owl, your talisman, your guide, and you will attract to you the exact people that fit. Recognize that each of these people are on the same journey you are one. Love them, accept them, help them, and dance with them.