Voice of the Feminine as Dream Symbol
How Cassandra Recovers Her Voice – Killing the Animus
Download or listen to this article
Soha Al-Jurf, September 16, 2020
Dream, March 27, 2016
I am in a house. It’s a big house: wood structures, fireplaces. Oldish, but nice. I am packing up to go someplace; a suitcase is open on the floor. I am at the end of something, the beginning of something … about to set off on a journey. My father calls me on my cell phone. He says there’s been some sort of drama with my mother and she has left. He very calmly, in his rational voice that belies complete insanity, says that he needs some time…he needs to take some time to sort this out. He will need to study psychiatry so that he can understand her (because she is crazy), and once he can analyze her, he’ll be able to address her instability, but it’s going to take some time. I very calmly suggest that perhaps they could go see a psychiatrist together, that this may be a shortcut to him understanding what he wants to understand, since the psychiatrist would already have the information that he wants to study. Of course, secretly I am hoping this would be a way for Dad to get analyzed, and he’s not buying it. He starts to go off on one of his paranoid tangents, accusing me of some covert intention to manipulate him, and I can’t take it anymore. I begin calmly enough; I tell him my covert intention is actually to see him happy, but my anger escalates, and I start screaming that the reason I want to see both him and my mother happy is because their misery, their insanity, makes everyone else miserable. I want them to be happy so that I can be happy. Somehow this incident is affecting my plans (I needed to go to their house to get some of my things that I’d been storing there and now I can’t). I notice that as I am beginning to get louder, my breath lacks force/pressure, and I am gasping for air, struggling to get power behind my words. I see that Sandra [a life coach with whom I had worked previously] is standing in the room, milling about, listening to my conversation, and I am at once feeling vulnerable that she is hearing this conversation and also relieved that she might see me with more compassion once she sees how sincerely I am hurting/struggling right now. I can see her shifting as she is listening to me struggle to get force behind my words—shifting toward compassion and understanding. I am breathless, with no sound coming out except forced exhalations of air, as I continue shouting into the phone, “Why can’t you just die? Just die, already? It’s enough! You need to just die!” over and over again. I hang up the phone and I am shaking. I need to go; I need to pack up and go. I say out loud that I have just enough clothes to manage, and Sandra starts rummaging through her things to give me extra clothes. I tell her I’m good (I’m not sure I want to receive any assistance from her), but she insists it’s clothing she was planning to get rid of, anyway. She hands me an old, worn-out bra, and she continues to look for more clothing. I say, “Sandra, why can’t he just die, already? If we are truly souls going through a spiritual journey, what could he possibly be doing that is still of use on this planet?” She says, “How many times have you wanted to die, thinking your journey had ended?” An image of my father appears before me, almost as an apparition. The dream ends as my father shoots himself in the mouth, vanquishing his image in my mind’s eye.
In the archives of dreams that I have experienced and recorded over the last several years, this dream was one of the most unsettling, and therefore, it likely represents shadow material that is vying for conscious integration. Jungian analyst Chris Beach (2014) suggested that “in dreams where a Shadow archetype dominates, the dreamer is uncomfortable, confused, upset, and/or disturbed” (Section II, The Shadow in Dreams: Trickster and Witch/Senex). Yet, although the dream is distressing to the ego (to both the dream ego and the ego of the dreamer, i.e., me), in order to fully integrate its contents, it is necessary to look at the dream from the perspective of the whole psyche, not just from the perspective of the ego.
From a depth psychological perspective, the characters in a dream are to be viewed symbolically rather than literally, and generally as aspects of the dreamer’s own unconscious psyche, not as representations of actual persons who exist in waking reality. In an egodystonic dream such as this, the figures in the dream represent psychic energies that are challenging the dreamer to wake up to new growth potential; they are communicating something about where the dreamer’s psychology is out of balance, inflated, stunted, or in need of further development. In this dream, the image that most strikingly suggests that the time has come for the ego to forfeit its domination over the psyche is the loss of power behind the voice.
The voice of the dream ego begins by expressing itself normally enough, but as the dream ego feels more threatened, it attempts to exert force against, or in opposition to, the father, and it subsequently begins to lose its effectiveness. The dream’s end—where the dream ego sees the father shooting himself in the mouth—presumably silences the relentless tyranny of his introjected image in the dreamer’s psyche. The dreamer, or at least the dream ego, gets her wish; she is free from the internalized oppression symbolized by the image of her father. But in so vehemently opposing the voice of the father—in wasting so much breath attempting to change what appears to be the father’s essential nature, or at least a nature that is archetypal and therefore unchangeable—she loses her own ability to be heard.
I dreamt this dream at age forty-two, during a period when, as part of a deliberate immersion in a midlife transition, I was working regularly with a Jungian analyst on dream interpretation. When I initially explored the dream with my analyst, she interpreted the dream ego’s loss of voice as an indication that I, the dreamer, needed to find my voice. By this she meant that I needed to stand up to the tyrannical animus (my own father’s voice inside my head, so to speak) and to declare my freedom to express my individuality in the face of his dominance over my psyche. In other words, I needed to silence his voice in order to be able to hear, trust, and express my own voice—to exert my will, to share my opinions, and to recognize my desires as separate from those of my father (or, perhaps, from those of the archetypal father—i.e., the patriarchy).
While I believe that my analyst’s interpretation was partially correct, when I began to reflect on the dream through the lens of typology from my perspective as someone with ENFP preferences, there seemed to be an important nuance that may have been missed in the original interpretation of this dream: I cannot silence, destroy, or eliminate my own animus, nor would it be beneficial for me to do so. In fact, from the perspective of typology, the dream seems to be communicating that the ego, by continuing to do battle against its perceived subjugation by the introjected father figure, is likely keeping the dreamer (me) from finding her voice.
Beach (2014) pointed out that in dreams, the dominant function generally takes on the heroic attitude and shares the dominant function of the dreamer. In the case of an individual with ENFP preferences, the dominant function would be extraverted intuition (Ne), with introverted sensation (Si) operating in the inferior function. According to Jung (1921/1976), the inferior function is carried by the animus archetype. We would therefore expect the animus in a dream of an individual with ENFP preferences to be represented by a male figure with a dominant introverted sensing function. The only male figure in the dream is the father. My own father, a well-educated though somewhat traditional Arab-Muslim immigrant, is a retired, highly skilled surgical oncologist. Although he fully supported my educational advancement and encouraged (in truth, pressured) me to follow in his footsteps and become a physician, he otherwise maintains somewhat antiquated views on women, particularly on the relational dynamics between men and women.
As is the case with many physicians (whose profession necessitates the ability to competently utilize the introverted sensing function), my father likely has ISTJ preferences, a supposition that is further supported by his traditional value system. As an ISTJ, introverted sensation (Si) would be my father’s dominant function, with extraverted intuition (my dominant function) serving as his inferior function. Jung (1921/1976) described the typical characteristics of the introverted sensing type as follows:
The introvert’s characteristic difficulty in expressing himself conceals his irrationality. On the contrary, he may be conspicuous for his calmness and passivity, or for his rational self-control. … Such a type can easily make one question why one should exist at all. This doubt may be justified in extreme cases, but not in the normal, since the objective stimulus is absolutely necessary to sensation and merely produces something different from what the external situation might lead one to expect. (¶ 650)
These characteristics of the Si type are reflected not only in the dispassionate way in which the dream father explains that he will need to study psychiatry in order to understand the so-called “crazy” mother, but also in the dream ego’s communication with the father as she begins to express her emotions with increasing intensity. When the dreamer interprets the father’s impassive way of expressing himself as a “voice that belies his complete insanity,” she seems, also, to implicate herself, as her inferior function (Si) contaminates the dream ego’s dominant Ne function with the very same behavior of which she accuses the father. As the dream states, she begins “calmly enough,” but soon escalates into an uncontrolled tirade, questioning why the father “exists at all,” thus revealing her “concealed irrationality” (Jung, 1921/1976, ¶ 650) that belies the inferior function’s infiltration into the conscious personality.
Viewed from the perspective of typology, the dream father is simply acting as an individual who expresses his dominant function naturally through introverted sensation. It is the heroic perspective of the dream ego that regards the dominant attitude of the father, which coincides with the dream ego’s inferior function, as “infantile and tyrannical” (von Franz, 1971/2013, p. 8). This heroic perspective is not an objective view per se. It appears to be the dream ego’s blind spot, as she unwittingly projects her unadapted inferior function onto the father/animus. In keeping with the heroic attitude, the dream ego reacts strongly to the father’s dominant Si function, becoming defensive toward the father in the dream in a way that suggests that she is the one in the conversation who is capable of maintaining mental stability whereas his mode of communication “belies complete insanity.” Her tone, or rather, the dreamer’s tone in describing the father, is not only suspicious but also judgmental and belittling; it is apparent that she does not trust his stated intentions.
The dream ego (and the dreamer) assumes that the father figure is unbalanced, not to be believed, or that he is dishonest in some way. This, according to von Franz (2013), is precisely how one would perceive the inferior function from the perspective of the superior function; the inferior function “represents the despised part of the personality, the ridiculous and unadapted part” (p. 7). The dream ego is doing everything she can to discount and dismiss her inferior function, here present in the guise of her own father. In the process, however, the more she outwardly expresses her opposition to her animus, the more she begins to lose her footing; she starts to become exasperated, sacrificing her heroic stance, here symbolized as a loss of command over her own voice.
In this dream, the diminishment of the physical strength behind the voice that occurs in the midst of the dream ego’s emotional outburst seems to indicate that the inferior function has infiltrated the ego’s dominant, heroic attitude, weakening her ability to affect and influence her environment through her reliance on extraverted intuition. To continue to identify with her heroic stance would be of great detriment to the dreamer, as she would miss seeing how the dream ego’s loss of voice (and, also, that of the dream father) is pointing to the dreamer’s need to integrate, not silence, her inferior function. As von Franz (1971/2013) emphasized:
[The inferior function] is also that part which builds up the connection with the unconscious and therefore holds the secret to the unconscious totality of the person. One can say that the inferior function always makes the bridge to the unconscious. It is always directed towards the unconscious and the symbolic world. (p. 7)
When the dreamer confronts the animus figure in the dream, she loses control of rational expression and succumbs to an uncontrollable verbal onslaught. She has descended through the inferior function into her unconscious extraverted feeling (Fe) function, which, in Jungian analyst John Beebe’s (2004) model, is represented archetypally by the witch.
The ENFP’s unconscious Fe witch function attempts to protect the ego’s desire for freedom and personal integrity by verbally attacking the dream father. For an individual in whom extraverted intuition (Ne) is dominant, the desire for freedom and the exploration of limitless possibilities take precedence over perhaps all other desires or intentions. In this dream, the dream ego’s ENFP preferences motivate her to shut down that which she perceives as a threat to her personal freedom: her ability to think, feel, and move freely; her right to choose her own life course; and the capacity to exercise her individual will. The dream ego exerts considerable effort to reinforce her own integrity (i.e., her sense of wholeness, as well as her sense of righteousness) by making her voice heard, largely in an effort to silence, quell, or dominate her perceived opponent. But in so doing, the dream ego actually loses strength and vitality.
Defending the ego against the perceived threat posed by the dream father reinforces the ego’s heroic stance, but it does not allow for much growth or evolution. The subsequent loss of voice forces the dreamer to pay attention; it forces her to notice that something is not right. The events in the dream suggest that the time has come for the dreamer to integrate her unconscious functions into consciousness rather than continue to bully her own psyche to submit to her dominant function. The shift away from relying on the familiarity of the conscious functions to allow for the rising up of the unconscious functions reflects a natural, if unsettling, evolution toward individuation. Viewed from Beach’s (2014) perspective of the interplay between the heroic/dominant function and the inferior function, the loss of voice of the dream ego seems to indicate not that the dream ego needs to silence the voice of the father/animus that usurps her so that her own voice may be heard, but that she is silencing an inner voice that may actually have the capacity to help her if she stops defending against what she perceives to be the unwanted authoritarianism of the voice of the father and learns how to listen to it.
Coaching the Coach
The voice is both a physiological instrument that is contained within the body and also the manifestation of that instrument as a mode of expression; it communicates that which is inside to the outside world. The voice itself has a liminal quality, existing both inwardly and outwardly; it is both invisible and manifest as sound. The voice, as a silent, internalized entity, generates thought, perspective, and an inner sense of the self within the psyche. Until and unless the voice is externalized (e.g., in speech or in song), it exists as an “inner” phenomenon, one that we can feel and sense within us and that, to a degree, we identify as ourselves. For most of us, there is a voice that speaks incessantly in the imagination, a voice that produces no audible sound and yet is nearly impossible to silence. The voice chronicles our life experiences, repeating things that others have said and, at times, generating spontaneous psychic material that torments us with unresolved issues through relentless inner dialogues. From a typological perspective, the voice in its internal modality can be thought to reflect introverted sensation (Si): it is in and of the body, it is held as image, and it recounts memory.
The ironic twist in the dream’s use of voice loss as an image to wake up the dreamer to the need for transformation lies in the paradox that in waking life, the voice is at the center of my life’s work. After completing a degree in vocal performance, I pursued a graduate degree in speech pathology with an emphasis in vocology, the scientific study of the voice. I then worked clinically for twenty years with individuals suffering from a loss of voice due to medical pathology, helping them to recover their lost voices through vocal rehabilitation. I had spent my career up to that point working with every imaginable disease or disorder that could disrupt an individual’s ability to reliably use the voice to communicate, specializing in the rehabilitation of professional opera singers with vocal injuries. While I had supported hundreds of patients to find their voices (both literally and metaphorically) throughout my career, my analyst was right; I had yet to find my own voice—the inner confidence that would allow me to unapologetically express myself as myself, from a place of trust in my own accumulated knowledge and with an intuitive sense of wisdom that comes from lived experience. I was still fighting against the perceived authority of the father (whether my own father or an archetypal one) rather than embodying my own authority. The question, which was highlighted so poignantly by the images in this dream, was whether finding my voice meant that I must defeat the father or embrace him.
Interestingly, it was my father’s love of opera (a traditional art form that likely also draws on introverted sensation) that sparked my own. My career path was an attempt to integrate the two seemingly disparate aspects of art and medicine into a viable livelihood. However, I found that the actual implementation of my skill set in a medical environment exhausted me, and I now question whether my clinical career may have forced me to rely too heavily on my inferior function’s limited aptitude for introverted sensation. Two years prior to this dream, feeling dissatisfied with my work but unclear precisely why, I left my job as a voice-specialized speech pathologist in a medical setting in order to pursue a vocation that I hoped would combine my knowledge and expertise of the voice with my interest in Jungian psychology and my inclination toward spiritual inquiry.
At the time of this dream, I felt relatively clear on what I felt called to do, but I was unsure exactly how to move forward with the pieces of my life—how to execute what I felt was a soul’s calling to combine voice, psychology, spirituality, and the feminine—into a cohesive body of work that would be fulfilling to me and in service to humanity. In pursuit of this endeavor, I rid myself of most of my belongings and traveled throughout the Middle East, Indonesia, Europe, and the U.S. with a couple of over-stuffed suitcases, seeking out psychological and spiritual literature and guidance, hoping to gain clarity on my life’s purpose. The circumstances in the dream reflected a reality that was familiar to me in waking life: packing and unpacking, accumulating things and ridding myself of things, and moving from place to place in perpetual pursuit of a deeply felt but seemingly elusive future.
Two years after this dream occurred, I started graduate studies in depth psychology in order to deepen my own understanding of psychology, dreamwork, and specifically, the archetypes of the collective unconscious. After completing my course of study, elements of this dream began revisiting me, urging me to investigate the deeper layers of unconscious contents that the dream seemed to be offering through the relationships between the typological functions. Von Franz (1971/2013) wrote:
When the time comes for the development of the other functions, there are generally two associated phenomena: the superior function degenerates like an old car which begins to run down and get worn out. … Then, the inferior function, instead of appearing in its own field, tends to invade the main function, giving it an unadapted, neurotic twist. (p. 15)
I see both phenomena at play in this dream: the rising up of the inferior function to menace the dominant egoic stance and the impending fall of the superior function. Both are contained in the single image of the voice, in its capacity to be heard and its capacity to be silent/silenced. The silencing of the voice suggests that the dream ego is, in a sense, undermining her own authority by continually attempting to overthrow the father/animus rather than learning to work in a truly collaborative partnership with it.
Throughout the dream, the dream ego’s attitude is one of presumed superiority. This reflects the heroic attitude generally and the Ne function in particular. Jung (1921/1976) said of the extraverted intuitive type:
[She] has [her] own characteristic morality, which consists in a loyalty to [her] vision and in voluntary submission to its authority. .., [She] has little regard for [others’] convictions and way of life, and on this account [she] is often put down as an immoral and unscrupulous adventurer. (¶ 613)
The voice, as it is reflected through the Ne function of the dreamer, takes on a bit of a “know-it-all” affectation. This happens because the dream ego believes that she alone can see the whole situation for what it truly is. The dream ego refuses to see the perspective of the father, to even consider that he may in fact have something of importance or meaning to communicate. Yet, seen from another point of view, it is the father who ultimately comes through as the hero in this scenario, insofar as he is the part of the dreamer’s psyche that offers the possibility of substantive transformation to the dream ego if she can set aside her own imperiousness and listen to what the father/animus is actually attempting to communicate. He is, at least in the context of dream symbology, not her enemy; he is on her side.
While perhaps not immoral, the behavior of the dream ego in this dream does indeed reflect both her assumptions of psychological supremacy as well as the wild, unbridled wanderings of an ungrounded, unrooted itinerant who feels imprisoned by any sense of stability that might limit her freedom (Jung, 1921/1976, ¶ 613). At the outset of the dream, the dream ego appears unstable primarily in regard to her place in the outside world. The dream indicates that she is in a liminal space, in the process of moving from one (unknown) place to another, “at the end of something, the beginning of something … about to set off on a journey.” Jung emphasized that “because [the extraverted intuitive] is always seeking out new possibilities, stable conditions suffocate [her]” (¶ 613). The dream ego is indeed resisting stability. She is unsettled, and in classic Ne fashion, she is rummaging around for more items (symbolically, more ideas, knowledge, and hunches) to take with her on her travels, in other words, to support her eventual psychological and physical engagement with and through life. However, she does not appear to apply all that she has gathered throughout her life to actually living it. We get the sense that she is always moving, always in transition, always accumulating and getting rid of things. This is a danger because, as Jung noted, the Ne type “all too easily fritters away [her] life on things and people, spreading about [her] an abundance of life which others live and not she herself” (¶ 615). This frittering away is symbolized in the dream by her belongings that are scattered here and there—in suitcases, at her parents’ home, and in the house in which she currently is located. She accumulates things only to lose them again as she travels from place to place; nothing stays or sticks.
Furthermore, while the dream ego is currently in a house, she does not identify the house as her own; it apparently belongs to someone else, although it is unknown to whom it belongs. If the house represents her own psyche, she is not at home in/with herself; she is living in someone else’s world, or even within someone else’s psyche/worldview. In fact, the house she is in is described as “oldish, but nice.” In other words, wherever it is that she is currently residing (symbolically) is comfortable but outdated, and she needs to move out of it/beyond it. However, her typical, heroic method for moving (i.e., literally moving from one geographical location to another) is also outdated, as her inferior function is attempting to show her.
Embracing the Father Energy
In archetypal terms, the quintessential image of ordered, structured stability—perhaps even rigidity, control, and containment—is represented by the mythological figure of Cronos/Saturn. The repeated reference of the dream father to the concept of time suggests a possible archetypal/mythological amplification to Cronos/Saturn, the god of chronology, methodology, and traditional patriarchy. It is the archetypal father energy against whom the dream ego continuously rebels. The archetypal energies of Cronos/Saturn are mirrored in the traits of introverted sensation: adherence to tradition, an emphasis on measured calculation and categorization, and habitual recall of the past. However, while the perceived constriction by the archetypal father may feel imprisoning to the freedom-seeking ENFP, the disciplinary energies of the Father God are not without their benefits.
In practical terms, Cronos/Saturn has the capacity to ground ENFP tendencies in concrete reality; Cronos/Saturn gets things done in the literal, tangible world. While this may feel restrictive to someone with dominant Ne tendencies, it is, in another view, a mark of maturity; it allows the ENFP to do practical things such as earn income, buy a house, hold down a job, and manage time and money. Without the assistance of the archetypal energies of the father, the ENFP may never implement her own goals or desires and take her place in society. She may remain inhibited by her less developed functions, such as extraverted sensing (Se), which directs psychic energy toward the material world, and extraverted feeling (Fe), which directs psychic energy toward interpersonal relationships. The effect is one that ultimately reflects the dream ego’s (and perhaps the dreamer’s) resistance to entering life fully, to finding the true expression of her own voice in the world, not in opposition to anyone, but as an honest reflection of her own knowing.
The extraverted intuitive function, likely in combination with an ENFP’s tertiary extraverted thinking (Te) function, allows the dreamer to establish her authority by observing and expressing many aspects of any situation about which she has knowledge or expertise. This makes the ENFP a talented teacher and an inspiring mentor with a unique ability to observe and articulate details and intricacies that others might miss. However, the conscious functions also make the ENFP likely to voice practically every thought or opinion that comes to mind (even and perhaps especially in the face of perceived external authority). It appears that the inferior function in this dream is challenging the ego to see that its dominant function is no longer working. It is no longer working because it excludes the wisdom of the whole psyche; it discounts the valuable contributions of the unconscious. To say that the dreamer has not found her own voice suggests that she is unable to express herself, which is not precisely true. However, she is relying too much on habituated patterns of vocal expression as a monolithic method of presenting herself as an articulate, competent, and intelligent individual, without reinforcing the voice with the depth and creative potential of her whole psyche.
As an ENFP, the dreamer’s ability to appear clear and confident through verbal expression is a trait that many less verbally expressive personality types might find enviable. Yet, if we make a distinction between the voice as an acoustic signal that transmits rational thoughts through the spoken word and the voice as a metaphor for soul-inspired, authentic self-expression, we see that the dreamer’s Ne-influenced voice relies too heavily on the former without fully assimilating the latter. The ease with which the dreamer’s Ne function allows her to communicate, particularly when it does so in opposition to a perceived external threat (likely boosted by her unconscious extraverted feeling function in the witch position), is wearing her voice out. She is screaming to be heard, but nobody is listening, least of all herself. If the dream ego (and likely the dreamer) continues to oppose the energies that she perceives are oppressing her instead of recognizing that they are potentials within her own psyche that must be incorporated into her consciousness, she will, to all practical effect, continue screaming into a void.
Although the dream does not explicitly say this, the silencing of the dream ego could actually lead the dreamer to a greater fortification of the self/Self, although not by reinforcing her dominant function, not by becoming more heroic or more articulate in an extraverted way. Instead, if she can listen to her inferior function, taking its perspective seriously as her ally and not her adversary, she will recognize that the father figure in the dream is trying to communicate that perhaps it is time to stop screaming to make her voice heard. The dream father is advocating for a time of introspection – to reflect deeply on the psyche, to study it formally and allow all of its voices their due.
While the dream ego wants to take a short cut by engaging the two parents in psychotherapy to fix them (i.e., to defer to some other presumed authority who “already has the information” needed to repair what she perceives to be broken in the relationship between the masculine and feminine archetypes within her own psyche), the animus is suggesting that the dreamer herself must become the authority on and within the psyche. She, with the support and determined will of her own animus, must take ownership of her psychic house by devoting time and effort to learn to understand the psyche. The animus of the dreamer insists that this level of commitment is what will be needed to understand the mother.
Recovering the Mother Energy
And who is the mother? What does she represent? The mother, interestingly, spends the entire dream off-screen. She is given neither a voice nor a body; she is an image only, seemingly symbolic of the repressed maternal feminine. According to the father, she is crazy. Why? What does this represent in the dreamer’s psyche? The mother has no voice of her own; she is that which is defined by the dominant masculine narrative. She is buried somewhere in the psyche and is not easily retrievable. She is hidden, invisible, silent, silenced. She needs to be analyzed—that is, excavated—in order to be retrieved, revived, recovered, and restored to wholeness. Archetypally speaking, she can be thought to represent the energy of the goddess herself, who was silenced by the patriarchy and must, at some point, be reckoned with and reconciled in the life of every woman (and man) during the process of individuation. In this dream, the energy of the repressed archetypal feminine appears to be vying for expression through the guise of the silent, invisible mother.
My own mother, I would venture to guess, likely has ENFJ preferences, which means that her dominant function is extraverted feeling. According to Beebe’s (2004) model, extraverted feeling falls in the bowels of the unconscious psyche for both my father and me; neither one of us is particularly comfortable with it. In waking life, we both tend to experience my mother as being somewhat prone to histrionics. However, my mother’s intuitions often prove to be quite accurate (probably due to her auxiliary introverted intuition, Ni), giving her a kind of unexpected, uncanny wisdom that not infrequently humbles me into admitting that she was actually right about a given situation after all. While the Ne dream ego doesn’t even afford the mother a place to express herself on-screen, the dream father outwardly discounts the Fe function in the psyche while, paradoxically, expressing his desire to understand it.
If the conscious attitude prevails, we cannot take the father’s/animus’ stated intentions at face value; the dominant Ne attitude of the dreamer only allows her to see the manipulative subtext of the Si-dominant father’s control over the mother as well as the presumed emotional manipulation enacted by the Fe-dominant mother as they are sometimes perceived literally in the dreamer’s waking life. If, however, we take the dream as a reality on its own terms, outside of the tyranny of the conscious attitude, the animus is opening the door to something significant and meaningful: the dream father is offering to devote his time, energy, and ultimately his life’s work to understanding and integrating the energies of the divine feminine. Of course, the dream ego does not trust the father; she can only see the ways in which he is antagonistic toward her because of his seemingly patronizing attitude toward her and the mother. Presumably, he has created so much pain and frustration for both the mother and the dream ego that she wants him dead—gone, done with, eradicated. But, the father, as animus, is directing the dreamer toward something valuable, and if she does not look past her own defensiveness that strives to maintain the ego’s one-sided domination over the psyche, she is going to miss it; in fact, her efforts will ultimately kill it. This where Sandra comes in.
Sandra, in my waking life, was a life coach with whom I had worked approximately one year prior to having this dream. She was most definitely a matriarchal figure, but there was always something unsettling to me about her; I did not trust her. While in the beginning I saw her as a supportive and nurturing figure, the circumstances surrounding the conclusion of our work together left me feeling hurt and betrayed. What, then, does she represent in this dream? Is she a witch-figure, the shadow side of the good mother archetype, representing my extraverted feeling and mirroring my own mother? While in waking life this would make intellectual sense, she does not appear as a “biting, imprisoning, or paralyzing” (Beach, 2014) figure in the dream; in fact, she seems sincerely interested in helping the dream ego. In order to move beyond my conscious mind’s interpretation of who Sandra is or was in waking life, I amplified the image of the dream figure, beginning by looking up the meaning of her name.
The name Sandra originates from Cassandra meaning unheeded prophetess. In Aeschylus’ (1966) Oresteia of 458 BCE, Cassandra was the oracle to whom Apollo gave the gift of prophecy in exchange for agreeing to lie with him. However, she changed her mind at the last minute and refused to be with him. As a punishment for her refusal, Apollo cursed her so that when she spoke, nobody believed her prophecies. As a result, Cassandra was considered mad. She was not, in fact, mad; all of her prophecies came true, similar to my mother with her dominant (seemingly irrational) extraverted feeling and her auxiliary introverted intuition (which somehow allows her to know things in an unexpectedly wise, intuitive way).
In the figure of Cassandra, there is an interesting parallel to the relative capacity (or lack thereof) of the feminine voice to wield influence and effect change in her environment; her “voicelessness” makes her vulnerable and ineffectual in the literal world, not because she lacks wisdom but because her power and authority have been usurped by the tyrannical influence of a masculine god. Cassandra represents the difficulty of expressing one’s own truth in a way that is persuasive and influential in the world, particularly a truth that is not androcentric in a world that is dominated by a patriarchal narrative. In this dream, the weakening of the voice of the dream ego represents the suppression and repression of the feminine that results from continuing to rely on old ways of exerting influence, that is, by expressing frustrated opposition or resistance to the Father God. Sandra appears to bring both the empowered and the disempowered aspects of the feminine voice to the fore.
Sandra shows us that the way for the dream ego to find her voice’s expression is not by becoming louder, stronger, or more forceful, somehow overthrowing the almighty patriarchy. The way for the dream ego to find her voice’s expression in the world is by unearthing the repressed voice of the mother, allowing its extraverted feeling and introverted intuition to come forth and be heard while trusting the animus to offer sound guidance and support.
Sandra helps the dream ego begin to recognize that this dream is about reclaiming her own unique expression of the voice of the feminine in two ways: first, she gives the dream ego “an old, worn-out bra.” Second, she offers the dream ego a piece of wisdom and encouragement, a sort of divination that seems to acknowledge the dream ego’s (and the dreamer’s) propensity to give up on her own life while reassuring her that her life’s path is in no way futile and that it most certainly has not reached a dead end.
A bra is an intimate item that is meant to provide support to a woman. In the dream, this particular bit of feminine support is old and worn out; the dream ego does not want or need it. It would, in fact, be an extra burden to pack in her suitcase, a bit of junk that she will later need to rid herself of. This offering—the old, archaic, worn-out way of the feminine—is indeed worthy of being rejected or refused. The old way of the feminine (symbolized, for example, by the “bra-burning” feminism of the 1960s) is defunct. It is time to throw it away. While it may have played a useful and necessary role in supporting previous generations of women to arrive at our current level of discourse, it is time for a new approach or perspective to be advanced.
Sandra is attempting to facilitate this transition or transformation. Throughout the dream, Sandra is listening to the telephone call; she listens to the animus, and she now can translate the insight that was awakened through the activation of the inferior function’s “call” into practical advice or inquiry: “How many times have you wanted to die, thinking your journey had ended?” Sandra is showing the dream ego, with the prophetic vision of the Pythia, that this is not a time to give up but an opportunity to transform. The dream ego is being encouraged to continue on her journey, to keep going, even and especially when things feel as though they have come to an impasse. Sandra is not urging her to move into life in her typical heroic way of packing up and running off to slay dragons, but by recognizing and acknowledging the legitimacy of the dream father’s more reflective, introspective, slow, methodical way of introverted sensation in combination with the intuitive wisdom of the mother. Integrating the seemingly disparate parts of the psyche will lead her to develop the unconscious functions that are pressing to be unearthed and utilized more effectively.
Sandra’s role is consistent with the demon/daimon archetype in Beebe’s (2004) model—the one who originally seems poised to destroy the ego and all it holds dear yet comes through with unexpected, unanticipated gifts. Beach (2014) described demonic/daimonic energy as that which “tends to lead us into heaven or hell, into a transcendent moment or personal (and maybe communal) devastation.” While in waking life my relationship with Sandra proved challenging, the unanticipated effect of our difficult interaction was that it nudged me toward my own becoming; my experience with Sandra forced me to stand in my own truth and to find my own voice while also acknowledging the ways in which my heroic attitude might still be interfering with my process of individuation. In the dream, Sandra took on this more beneficent, if somewhat ambivalent, role.
If Sandra’s original gift (the extraverted sensing, palpable, physical bra that the dream ego supposedly could wear for comfort or support on her outer body) was useless at best, what Sandra offered in the end was the ultimate connection to the Self. Although Sandra’s profound message does not reflect extraverted sensation in an obvious way of engaging the literal senses, if the dream ego (and the dreamer herself) can listen to her advice within the context of the whole dream, Sandra’s effect is indeed one that reflects extraverted sensation: it brings her into the world. It brings the dream ego (and the dreamer) out of her perpetual Ne habits of swimming in possibilities and helps her to see the merit of her own destiny as a voice of, for, and through the feminine. By connecting with the animus through Sandra’s revelatory message, the dreamer comes to see that her voice need not be in opposition to but can be supported by the archetypal energies of the masculine that are contained within her own psyche.
Sandra is the mother who at the very end of the dream, finally speaks, and when she speaks, she offers wisdom and insight that lead the dream ego to a place of calm, centered strength to carry on with her soul’s destiny. However, this does not mean that the ego is meant to exercise her authority over the animus in a way that permanently silences it/him. If she does this, she will actually rob herself of the ability of her animus—a vital and much needed psychic supporter—to offer access to the depths of her unconscious psyche. Without access to the whole psyche through the inferior function, the dreamer will never reach her full potential; she will never express her true self.
My analyst’s insight—that I had not yet found my own voice in spite of the twenty years I had spent helping hundreds of others find theirs—catapulted me into an unexpected inquiry that led to the self-realization and transformation I was seeking. Yet it was my ENFP personality type’s seemingly tireless capacity to search for other vantage points and alternative interpretations that allowed me to access the depth of possibilities this dream had to offer. I would be remiss if I didn’t offer gratitude to my extraverted intuition for ultimately guiding me to explore the true power of my own voice.
Aeschylus. (1966). The Oresteia (R. Fagles, Trans.). Penguin. (Original work published ca. 458 BCE)
Beach, C. (2014). Type and archetype in dreams. Personality Type in Depth, 21, October.
Beebe, J. (2004). Understanding consciousness through the theory of psychological types. In J. Cambray & L. Carter (Eds.), Analytical psychology: Contemporary perspectives in Jungian analysis (pp. 83-115). Brunner-Routledge.
Jung, C. G. (1976). General description of the types (R.F.C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Series Eds.), The collected works of C.G. Jung (Vol. 6, pp. 330-407). First Princeton/Bollingen paperback printing. Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1921)
von Franz, M.-L. (2013). The inferior function. In J. Hillman & M.-L. von Franz, Lectures on Jung’s typology. Spring Publications. (Original work published 1971)
Basquiat, J.-M. (1982). Untitled. Retrieved from wikiart.org
Chagall, M. (c. 1938). Hour between wolf and dog (between darkness and light).Retrieved from wikiart.org
Dalí, S. (1937). Ant face. Retrieved from wikiart.org
Hodler, F. (n.d.). Floraison. Retrieved from wikiart.org
Toyen. (1937). The abandoned burrow. Retrieved from wikiart.org
Toyen. (n.d.). Eclipse. Retrieved from wikiart.org
Von Werefkin, M. (1907). Покинутый [Abandoned]. Retrieved from wikiart.org