Carl Jung

Hamlet, I, 5 - Hamlet and the ghost.

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Can’t remember whose theory on dreams and the subconscious gave the most weight to the symbolic nature of the people, objects and situations that make up the scenery of our nightly home movies.

I blame Pat Robertson and the Progressive Left in any case for last night’s visitation regardless.

Normally, my dreams are populated only with people I know and the setting is most often a variation of the town where I attended university or a school building I once worked in. I don’t know why and I haven’t bothered to research what it means or doesn’t.

Dead people seldom have starring roles in my dreams. If the departed do appear, they have cameos at best. But last night, Will showed up, which shouldn’t come as a surprise thanks to the Robertson faux uproar, but I have to be honest – I was surprised because he has only deigned to grace my dreams a handful of times in the past five plus years and never as more than a walk on. Ever.

I was back in school. It was – god help me – the 80’s with  clothing and the hair styles so jarring that I actually commented on it to another character completely out of context to the situation.

I found myself back on Currier E2 in my old corner room (minus the high-strung room-mate) and Will shows up to visit me for the weekend. And you could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened the door and it was him. Normally, it’s Rob who rides shot-gun in my dreams. Very seldom do I dream that Rob doesn’t figure at some or all points.

Here’s the odd thing – as if dreams with dead husbands stopping in for visit aren’t odd enough – he was not young. His hair was longer, curled like Dee’s does at the nape, around the ears and that same cowlick that drives her to distraction and salted with gray. His face was lined a bit and his goatee salted as well.

This has happened once before where someone who’s been gone a while showing up in a dream looking his real age. My Uncle Jim popped into a dream not long before Will and I married, looking very much like the 65-year-old man he would have been and not the 39-year-old man he was when he died.

When I asked him what he was doing there, he said,

“I thought I should visit now.”

I had been on my way out to meet friends, but his arrival prompted me to suggest we stay in. He didn’t want me to change plans. He would come along after he changed into a clean shirt.

He was not the 30-year-old I remembered from before the ravages of illness. More solid. A bit thicker and hairy, but not on the order of a grizzly.

Throughout I was aware that he shouldn’t have been there but I got no further explanation from him about why other than he deemed the visit “necessary”. I sorta felt like he was less happy to see me than I was to see him and that the visit wasn’t for pleasure but one of those dutiful things a person does.

He watched me with an appraising sort of look. He seemed tired as though he’d come a long distance to spend time with me, but whatever he’d left behind him was still on his mind. He mentioned at one point that he wouldn’t be able to stay for more than the night. He had to get back. I didn’t ask where or why, and he didn’t volunteer any more information.

I’ve thought about it all day and I can’t figure out why – after all these years – he put in an actual appearance in my dreams. He has never felt the need before. It has a ghost of Hamlet’s father feel to it. Blunted purpose chiding? Perhaps.


Halloween costumer, New Orleans.

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As theories go, this has more validity than most:

Most people dress up as themselves for Halloween.

And I can buy this. We tend to select costumes that are merely extensions of or amplifications of parts of who we are every day.  Or who we think we are.  After all, many of us haven’t the vaguest idea of who we grew up to be though most of us don’t spend as much time over-thinking it as I do.

But for something completely different this Halloween, the premise of really personifying one’s shadow self was recently put on my table.

What is a shadow self?

It is the “you” that cannot be allowed to be for reasons that only you would know but are probably too hesitant, outright fearful or have completely buried.

Shadow Self is potential you.

Carl Jung put it this way,

“in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity.”

Keeping in mind that “creativity” is a highly subjective term then, the shadow of who you could be is being held in reserve, or check, by you, the expectations – outside and self-imposed, denial and/or fear. And we haven’t even talked about simply being a clueless, completely indoctrinated lemming though I have to wonder what the shadow of a lemming might look like.

So while dressing up as a sexy witch or maid or princess or vampire is just an extension of sexy you that you very likely hint broadly at most of the time anyway, shadow you could be Thomas Edison. Unless someone is Mrs. Edison, Thomas is about as far from naughty librarian as it gets.

This is not to say that your shadow is devoid of characteristics you express strongly or vaguely on a daily basis.  Shadow you is someone who no one would expect to meet – ever – let alone on Halloween, locked and loaded.

I wonder then about my shadow. Because if shadows are not extensions, she is not a writer or teacher. Perhaps I embraced her on the yoga mat? But that seems like an extension of known aspirations and qualities to me.

‘Tis a puzzlement. And an exercise of interest, but perhaps not one that needs to be indulged in for such a frivolous occasion.