Throughout my life, I’ve often experienced vivid dreams. Even growing up, I always felt there was some sort of significance to my dreams but I never knew how to go about figuring it out. It’s only been over the past three years or so that I’ve begun to actively journal the things that I dream about and dissect the symbolism according to Jungian psychology and dream interpretation.
Not long ago, I had one of the most graphic and disturbing dreams I can recall ever experiencing. It was, by all accounts, what most people would consider a nightmare. But even nightmares contain subconscious truth when you look at them closely.
In my dream, I was staring at a gruesome scene. The background was black. There was someone standing next to me, but I never looked at them and they seemed almost invisible. In front of me was a woman with her arms outstretched, perhaps even tethered or chained. It would almost seem like a scene from a torture chamber or a horror movie.
Her body was flayed open both in the front and the back in such a way that you could see through the bones in her torso to the other side. Someone else, whose arms were all I could see, was ripping her bones out of her body, one by one. She screamed continuously.
I never took my eyes away from what was happening in front of me; the presence next to me said, “When the ego is stripped away, power is all that remains.”
Then I woke up.
I immediately recognized the scene to be a representation of something that I talk about fairly often—the construct of the human ego.
I often refer to the ego as a scaffolding that we build up around our true selves. Each bar of the scaffolding represents a belief that we hold about who we are and what we are capable of and that scaffolding constructs our personality, or who we think we are—our false sense of self.
Many times those beliefs about who we are, and our capabilities, are extremely limited and it’s only through a long process of self-reflection and hyper-awareness that we are able to identify what those beliefs are and remove them. In a sense, you have to destroy your current self.
I understood that the scene that was being shown to me was representative of that process, each bone represented a piece of who that person believed she was, and they were slowly being torn away. It was painful. And it is painful.
Looking within for the beliefs that are at the root of our ugliest emotions is not easy to do. It’s much easier to continue to blame someone else for “making” us feel the way we do, but the truth is, they are merely a trigger for something that already exists inside us. And we need those people to help us identify the things that we need to work on.
It’s often the arguments, the hurt feelings, the most painful relationships we have with people that offer us the greatest opportunity for personal growth and development—if only we look closely enough to see it.
The imagery of the dream itself was exceptionally reminiscent of the depiction of the “Death” card in my Tarot deck from the Wild Unknown. It’s a decaying bird with outstretched wings that has nothing left but feathers and bones.
The message behind the Death card is one of transition, endings and beginnings, the decay of old belief structures and the rise of new opportunities. That’s precisely the type of message you might receive during a period of self-reflection meant to tear down your ego. Transition to what, though?
Once all of those limiting beliefs have been ripped out and discarded, all you are left with is a churning, swirling cosmic sea of creative potential ready to be molded at your will. You are no longer defined by the seemingly intrinsic egoic skeleton that grew with you from childhood to adulthood and then stopped shifting. You are free—truly free—to shed it and become whomever you choose, and that is powerful.
Author: Ashley Riley
Image: Courtesy of Author
Editor: Travis May