Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Race and ethnicity in dreams

A lot of my dreams have included people of different ethnic groups and I've puzzled over what these mean. Asia, particularly Japan, frequently shows up, both as people and as objects, and I'm starting to think that, being an American of Japanese ancestry, it means the unconscious realm; the mysterious, foreign land but also something vaguely familiar. It's as if it's calling me home, back to that far-away land. It's of the "foreign" spirit realm but it's also my true home. This would be different, of course, for people who have no relationship to Japan; probably for them, it's just a foreign country as India or China are for me. In my own dreams, India is more foreign as in pure foreign; exotic, and with no feeling of "home." China, which has also occasionally shown up in my dreams, is halfway in between India and Japan; foreign but with a tinge of the familiar.

The other group that shows up a lot in my dream, almost as much as Japan, is black people (they seem to be African American black people, not black African people) and I've often puzzled over what they mean in my unconscious. Being progressive, black people carry the following conscious meanings for me: maybe rough around the edges but honest; real; although often pushed down, never give up. But our unconscious ideas about things often differ from our conscious. Last night, as I was re-listening to Marie-Louise von Franz's The Way of the Dream, this caught my attention:
It was a hot summer's day, and I was walking with a gorgeous black woman through rolling green country along the side of a jungle. We'd known each other for a long time, and I called her my goddess. It was my pet name for her.

Suddenly she stopped and said, "I have a problem." I didn't understand what she meant, but instead of telling me with words she pulled down the strap of her dress and bared her shoulder. Her black skin on the top of her shoulder was peeling where it had been exposed to the sun, and under the top skin, underneath the black, her skin was golden-white. She looked at me and said, "If I keep seeing you, it's going to happen all over my body. I've got to talk to my mother and get some advice from her about what to do..."

In the alchemical tradition, the transformation of the Shulamite, or the Queen of Sheba plays a tremendous role. One of the recurring fantasies of the alchemists was that the matter which they wanted to transform into gold was initially black. They compared it to a black woman who then takes off her skin or black garment and is transformed into pure gold. Notice that in this dream the woman's skin is golden white under the black.

The black garment represents a typical feature of the undeveloped inner anima figure. Just as we shall see that the animus in women is sometimes destructive and negative, the black anima is relatively negative in a man. The black anima indicates that his whole capacity to love is mostly autoerotic. When a man has not developed his anima, his feminine side, he is generally very narcissistic. That's what a woman painfully feels when a man is meowing under her window like a tomcat. He really loves his own fantasy. He loves his own being in love, but that's a long way from learning to love her and not merely enjoying his own being in love. And often in literature, a young man, when he first discovers the experience of love, is completely autoerotic. It is a fantasy out of which, through a painful development, he has to learn to love the woman, not as the object of his romantic fantasies, but as a human partner.

Just as in a man his anima is originally narcissistic and autoerotic, in women our feelings of "love" are also initially narcissistic and ultimately autoerotic: the partner is basically just a living, breathing blow up doll, a convenient hook for our projection. An example is when women "fall in love" with a famous figure, as many girls and women have done with the characters in Twilight. While projection can be a useful way seducing one into the hard work of building an actual relationship with the actual person it is by it's nature itself only a relationship with yourself: you project a part of yourself onto the recipient and then proceed to fall in love with that part of yourself. And just like men, we also project our bright shadow and/or our animus and/or our Self onto our "beloved" instead of having a human relationship with the human right in front of us.

All the same, I do feel as if some amount of projection is a necessary part of falling in love. I'm not sure but it seems to be the reason why we fall in love with some people but not others. Some questions to think about are how thick and obscuring the projection is, and whether or not there's a significant part of the beloved that matches our projection or if it's just pure fantasy, but in any case, the ultimate goal is to relate to the human being underneath all the projections.

There are also some further questions: occasionally, while interpreting fairy tales or dreams, von Franz talks about the animus of the anima, or vice versa; i.e. the evil troll who has bewitched the princess into murdering all of her husbands. Who is this animus? Or, in the case of women's psychology, who is this primitive anima of a woman's animus? Is it even the anima of the animus? If it is, is it actually an aspect of the Self? I've had some indications that suggest that that's exactly who this figure is; the black women appearing in my dream, and at the same time I dream of a mutilated female figure who must be confronted and saved. The readings referring to the coming of a Queen when I ask about love and romance. It's as if through our travails with love, we heal the anima behind our animus, which is really the part of the Goddess who needs healing and wholeness. Once She is made whole we ourselves become whole. It also suggests that the way to heal the part of our Self that is mutilated is by working through love issues, and also that it's only when we heal this wound that we can truly love another person; it's only when the Goddess is whole that her servant, the animus, becomes healthy and strong.

There's still more to explore in this subject, but this is a good start.

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