Spiritual Psychology
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Excerpt from:

Exploring the Secrets of your Soul
by Marilyn C. Barrick, Ph.D.

Chapter 7
Discoveries from the Land of Shadows

When the gray stranger shows up in your dream...
You know that if you were for a time in mortal danger,
and are so still, it was not from a stranger.

—Howard Nemerov
      What about shadow or astral dreams that are extremely unpleasant, verging on a nightmare quality? Everything in this kind of dream is also a part of who we are, but we often do not recognize the shadow parts of ourselves because they seem so scary.
      While such dreams are symbolic, they are also concretely applicable to our lives. The symbolism is known to the soul even when it is confusing or frightening to the outer mind. The fact that the outer mind is confused or frightened by a dream indicates that we may be shrinking from a lesson we need to learn in our waking life.
      Shadow dreams may also be an expression of underlying fears, desires or records of trauma that we haven't faced or resolved. We may have decided, subconsciously, that these experiences are best dealt with in a dream, so that the memory of them will not suddenly pop up at the wrong time--interrupting us in the middle of work or as we interact with other people.

Transformation through a Poisonous Snake Dream

      I remember such a shadow dream reported by a lovely older woman, Alicia. She dreamed that a long snake had gone down her throat. She thought it was poisonous and began pulling it out. She said to herself, "Oh, yes, there's the head. I got it all out." She awoke feeling a bit shaky but proud of herself.
      I asked Alicia, "What does a poisonous snake mean to you?"
      She replied with a slight shudder, "A poisonous snake is slithery, sneaky, quick moving. The head is where the venom comes out through the mouth. Poisonous means something that kills you when you swallow it. It's quick-moving poison, which makes me think of those lethal put-downs from my ex-husband. Even though I knew it was his stuff, I took it in. It's like I swallowed it and reacted inside of myself. I'd get hurt, frustrated, oversensitive and angry, but I didn't express it much.
      "It's the same reaction I had to my mother, who was extremely controlling. I don't like being controlled. I get confused and lose my center when I'm around others with strong opinions. It's as though I take in other people's negative opinions, like the snake's poison. Then I put myself down the same way. I know that putting myself down is a block between my Higher Self and me. In the dream, I am removing that block. That feels pretty good."
      "Yes, it's great, isn't it?" I responded. "How would you phrase your dream message?"
      Alicia thought for a minute or so and replied, "I am freeing myself from poisonous thoughts, feelings and words--put-downs that have been killing me. I forgive those who have hurt me. I invoke God's light to transmute all hurt and negative thinking. I claim my right to be who I am. This is actually a transforming dream for me." She liked her response so much that she wrote it all down.
      Consciously understanding the meaning of such a dream helps us face and resolve the fears, traumas and untoward desires that are holding us back from our higher quest. The dream acts as a warning, telling us we need to clean up our act, so to speak. We need to change our negative patterns that relate to the dream's images. Or perhaps we need to change our equally negative reaction to those patterns when they surface in someone else.
A Recurring Shadow Dream:
Mirrors and Variations on a Theme

      We all occasionally have bad dreams. They are often a combination of our own negative energy and other people's energy that we have taken in. They may also be the arcing of attention back and forth between us. Thus, energy from someone who is focusing attention upon us can enter our world and our dreams. When the energy is so influential that we are dreaming about it, we need to own it on a temporary basis so that we can let it go.
      Grace, an old friend of mine who is very serious about her spiritual path, had a dream that illustrates this kind of interchange of energies. She described it, "My husband and I are in a car and this woman who has in real life chased after him for years comes up to us. She's pleasant, and in the dream I'm surprised that she isn't angry with me since I'm with my husband.
      "Later in the dream I find out that he has been calling her once a week out of sympathy, feeling sorry for her. And when my back is turned and she is looking into the car, he is whispering that he loves her. I find out about all of this and get very angry. I tell him, 'It's over. Don't go back to her.'"
      Grace told me that this is a recurring dream that has happened over and over with very slight variations on the theme. In the dream her husband always gets sympathetic with this woman and Grace gets very angry and tells him, "It's over. And don't go back to her."
      In the particular dream she was sharing with me, after she tells him, "It's over," Stan, her husband, is sitting slumped down and looking very emasculated. She changes her mind and approaches him instead of walking away, her usual reaction. She feels compassion for him. She tells him that she will forgive him and they can try to work it out if he will go to this woman, tell her it's over, that he doesn't love her and that he will never see her again.
      Grace described her husband as he appeared in this dream: "Stan is being deceptive, telling this woman who's chasing him that he loves her when he actually doesn't. He just feels sorry for her. He's also being deceptive to me, trying to make me think there's nothing going on. He's being totally controlled by his reactions to me and to her. It's actually the same way I feel when I get angry--I'm out of control and my energy drains out of me."
      I asked, "What about the woman in the dream?"
      Grace responded, "She's like an archetype of a fallen woman--glamorous, passive, sympathetic and on the make. She represents the archetypal seductive female who is superficial and empty inside. She feeds off of other people. She's just like my mom and like some other women, so-called friends, in my life. They live on the surface. As long as you admire them and do everything they want, they're nice to you. When you have to confront them about something, they get angry and either ignore you or turn on you.
      "My mom is just like the woman who goes after my husband--the same archetypal sympathetic, glamorous, beautiful, seductive, rich woman. They both represent my shadow passions, ways I used to behave when I was young, before I had awakened to my spiritual path. I never liked being that way though. It wasn't who I really am."
      I asked about her emotions, "What does it mean to you that you get so angry in the dream?"
      She said with a sigh, "That's a side of me I'm still trying to change. I realize it's my angry shadow side. I flip from being passive and sympathetic, like this woman in the dream, to getting angry. Stan does the same thing. We're mirrors for each other when it comes to the sympathetic and then angry reactions."
      In her associations Grace thought of another related dream: "I have another recurring dream about a man I was once involved with who took advantage of me. When I dream about this other man, he is always trying to convince me that he has changed, and in the dream he does all the right things. He wants me to marry him. I want to believe him, but I'm not convinced that he has changed. I can't remember an ending where it becomes clear one way or the other."
      I asked her, "What do you think you are telling yourself through this dream?"
      She responded, "This man I was once involved with represents the fallen masculine side of me [the negative animus]. He is attractive, rich, and trying to seduce me. He gets angry when he doesn't get what he wants. He's like my dad, charming but very angry. He's the masculine version of the woman who's chasing after my husband in the first dream."
      As we discussed her dreams, the following picture emerged: Grace and Stan believe they are twin flames, twin souls. This means they were created by God at the same time and have identical patterns at the level of the divine, like twin suns. Once on Earth, they got separated because they fell prey to people like the ones she dreams about.
      As twin flames, Grace and Stan have a very close connection, even when they are not together. They can feel each other's feelings and mirror each other's responses to life. When they get into relationships with people who betray them, they absorb that negative energy and consciousness. Since they are so close, they pass the energy and consciousness back and forth between them until they finally recognize what is going on. Then they do spiritual work together to transform the energy they have taken in and to heal their relationship.

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