As I was reflecting on last week, the most difficult and sad week I remember in our nations history, I noticed my youngest daughter had put up a quotation from my book THE MIDNIGHT HOUR: A Jungian Perspective On America’s Current Pivotal Moment on her Facebook page. I would like to share that quote and the section it came from with you.
Nightmares, whether societal or personal, have a purpose. Sometimes they are trying to wake us to the truth of what we are experiencing. Sometimes they are trying to help us absorb the emotional impact of traumas we have lived through. And sometimes they are trying to alert us to the illusions we have been living in and make us aware of the depth of pain and frustration in our lives—feelings that we have been stubbornly denying and trying to remain indifferent toward. These nightmares from the depth of our souls call us to find a new approach to life. How to recognize and accept the social wastelands we’ve created and how to midwife new creation and hope from their darkness are deep concerns for me as I write.
These same nightmares can also be seen as light-bringers, launching us on a new creative journey. Destruction in fire and ice actually calls for a new force of creation that will redeem our situation. Nightmares, whether sleeping or waking, whether personal or societal, are telling us that powerful forces are moving within and around us that we have been denying. If we can struggle into awareness and seek to understand the meaning behind our nightmares and the emotions they arouse, we can begin to see the extraordinary demands for change confronting us and the opportunities behind them. A collective nightmare that is trying to awaken us to our national reality initially seems like the end of the world as we have known it because it is. Of course, the experience is scary and demoralizing. But like personal nightmares, these experiences, these waking dreams, are meant to confront our complacency and indifference and to awaken our hearts and our courage. It is easy to say a candidate appealed to the worst in our social character. It is just as easy to displace our shock by reducing the opposing candidate and his or her followers to a shadow projection of our own expressed in psychobabble.
Blaming candidates, their parties, and their followers may have some validity and will surely fuel our outrage. But this approach can also subtly increase our defeatism, cynicism, amnesia, and feelings of hopelessness. Our opponents love for us to take this last position and to feel like we are powerless, and our actions aren’t worth the trouble because they won’t make any difference. It might be more accurate to suggest that the candidate or party appealed to the rage, fear, alienation, and helplessness that were dammed up in our collective shadow and erupted in the face of our denial.
These eruptions remind us that we must courageously look in the mirror, examine our own shadows, and begin living more vigilantly and realistically. A realistic outlook will remind us that there never is a permanent happy ending to life’s stories, and there never was a so-called golden age of greatness and smooth sailing in our past. It is far better for us to remember that it is our courage, our awareness, and the living and evolving manner in which we face our challenges that are more important than dreaming of wishful happy endings and positive outcomes.
It took me a few decades to learn that life is a flow of creation, destruction, and re-creation. When we are in the destruction phase, we often feel stuck, life seems chaotic, out of control, threatening and even despairing. In reality we are being faced with a turning point. We are being challenged to choose between regressing and re-creating. It took me a bit longer to learn that happiness, joy, and fulfillment are not goals to be achieved. They are the result of being fully engaged in the blood, sweat, tears, fears, love, and laughter of real life. True peace of mind comes from having the will and courage to confront the darkness and uncertainties we are facing and heal the splits within our unconscious shadows, both personal and cultural—the things we have closed our eyes and ears to.
art credit: The Slave Ship, William Turner
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One Response to “Hope In The Dark”
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Dr. Harris, thank you for your words. They give me the push I needed to see our current life situation from a perspective that helps keep the soul engaged. It’s too easy to fall into the shadow projection trap during these times.