Dark Man Archetype: From Nightmare to Initiation

Carl Jung once said of dreams, “They do not deceive, they do not lie, they do not distort nor disguise…They are invariably seeking to express something that the ego does not know and does not understand.”

I have been a dreamer all of my life.  From the time of early childhood, I can recall both sleep dreams and day dreams being a vivid part of my reality.  I also remember helping friends in junior high and high school interpret the symbols in their own dreams.  By the time I was in high school, the analysis was so spot on, it caused some of my peers to diminish or dismiss my gift through projection of criticism, doubt, and fear.  As a result of feeling a need to blend in and not stand out, I stuffed it away, in the recess of my mind, brushing it under a proverbial rug in my consciousness.  And I didn’t dream for a very long time.

At some point during my young adult life, I started to feel a yearning to reconnect with the gift of dreaming.  It felt so far away, I had to train myself how to bring my access to dreams back.  I would tell myself each night before sleeping, “I remember my dreams easily.”  I kept a notepad and paper on the bedside table, so that I could quickly jot notes of anything that came up during sleep state.  I slept with crystals under my pillow in order to improve my connectivity with myself.  Anytime I remembered a dream I would write about it and notice the symbolism.  I intentionally took time to stare off into space and daydream.  With some dedication and perseverance, I brought the gift back to the forefront.  From that point on, it was like the dream space had never alluded me.

I tell this story to illustrate the importance of dream work as a tool for growth/development.  When we get into the REM phase, our brain/psyche is literally processing or digesting our experiences.  When we don’t access the REM phase, we are quite literally creating a build-up of memory and experience in the mind, which creates an enormous amount of clutter.  This clutter then results in an inability to maintain focus, distractibility, and continual focus/obsession with the past (depression) or future (anxiety).  The REM phase or dream state, allows for the psyche to integrate the memories and experience, filing them away in long-term memory, so that they no longer occupy space in the present mind.  With clarity in the present mind, we free that space up for creativity, inspiration, pure love, and Divine guidance to flow through.  We can then enter into a space of spiritual awareness, in which our consciousness has greater access to All That Is.  Manifestation/co-creation becomes easier.

Talking with someone this week about dream analysis brought up a deep conversation about the Dark Man Archetype in dreams.  This person noted a fear of entering into the dream state, because she has been “plagued” with re-occurring dreams of the Dark Man.  For her, the Dark Man represented fear and an inability (or unwillingness) to face it.  This is what Jung referred to as ego’s inability to know or understand.

Hearing this person’s experience helped me to realize there are people who fear dreaming.  They fear what they perceive they cannot control.  They fear the unknown.  And ultimately these fears become a detriment to their spiritual growth/development, disabling their innate gift of understanding.

The Dark Man Archetype in dreams is represented in a variety of ways.  It can be an actual man, usually a stranger.  It can be a shadow figure, or someone who remains faceless. Or it can be a dark energy which takes no form.  In general, with Dark Man dreams, the dreamer feels powerless, terrorized, and/or afraid.  Oftentimes, people will describe these dreams as “nightmares”.  In actuality, however, there is another potential.

Dark Man dreams are about initiation or rite of passages and facing fears involving changes and transitions.  When the person and I explored more about the specifics in her Dark Man dreams, she began to realize she had some unhealed trauma she had not looked at, involving feelings of humiliation and powerlessness. New memories filtered into the conscious mind. The dream allowed her unconscious mind to show her what needs to be cleared or healed in her conscious psyche in order to experience more trust in herself, which is an intention she had been holding for months.

Dark Man dreams can be empowering.  They can draw up our deepest fears, so that we may face those fears and be absolved of the chains they create for us.  Taking it a step further, we can learn to become lucid in our dreams.  Lucidity brings about a fearlessness, because with this ability, comes the awareness that we co-create the reality we are in.  There IS nothing to fear because it’s always possible to change the dream.

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