Dreaming of a Holy Family

Matthew 2:13-15; 19-23

29th December My first blog!

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday, you will join us. And the world will live as one.”

John Lennon

Welcome to my first tentative blog. If you visit in the future, you will often find me saying things like ‘There are no coincidences’ or talking about nudges from the universe, Holy Spirit, conscience [insert other]. When I first thought of sharing my reflections on the Catholic Sunday Gospel, I could not believe the coincidence of this first one…

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This Sunday is known as Holy Family and although many homilies will explore the concept of marriage and family, I am struck this time by the references to dreams. I can say that it is my exploration of dreams, nigh on twenty years ago, that first led to my interest in symbols, the collective unconscious and all things Jungian. I’m not talking about the type of dreams where you mind sorts through recent events. Occasionally, you may have a dream that is ‘charged’. It is steeped in emotion and leaves you wondering. Analysis of these dreams, listening to your most symbolic thought, can help open up your life. (You know – not always – life is a tapestry and I get it may sound nuts – bear with me).

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Listening to God, dreams and fulfilment have much meaning for me.

Whilst training to be a teacher, I had been working on my dissertation where I was determined to explore why teachers bullied children. (I know!) At the time and during my four teaching practices, I had witnessed several incidences of teachers, at times, being very nasty to children. Now, you could argue whether this was just my perception, but we see what we see, and what I saw caused me emotional dissonance. Luckily, I was coached by a tutor who understood patterns in my perception and behaviour and encouraged me to look at ‘my own material’. At the time, I had no idea what he meant and was both deaf and blind to his attempts to get me to explore why I saw the world as I did. Later, I learned he was a trained counsellor, which was why he had so much insight. However, his encouragement opened up a world that I had been absolutely unaware of and psychology that has piqued my interest ever since.

Over coffee, I mentioned to my tutor that I had been dreaming about injured animals. The dreams repeated the same narrative: an injured animal, that I attempted to ‘save’ that then seemed fed up with me. The dream would end in a sense of loss, frustration or some other calamity (in one dream, for example, there was a landslide revealing a cave, another a freak wave) although the animals, in the end, were fine. I was thinking they were to do with me ‘messing in other people’s business and saving people who did not want, or need, to be saved.’ “Perhaps,” I thought, “I was barking up the wrong tree.” With the best of intentions, I tried to always be a good girl (perhaps a remnant of my Catholic upbringing – no child wants to go to hell). I was fiercely independent and expected the same of everybody else. Why the world ‘just didn’t sort itself out’ was a conundrum for me. These dreams occurred over a length of time that I can no longer remember, but guess to be around six months – until I suddenly had a revelation…

“You know,” said T one day, “animals are often said to represent the dreamer.”

My initial reaction, “BS – there’s nothing weak or injured about me!”

Turns out, of course, there was. The animals I dreamed of all represented aspects of my character that I had denied and suppressed: a fox (sly and cunning), a goat (stubborn), a white horse stuck in a pit (noble, but useless), a parrot (mouthy and squawky), a tiger (at times, ferocious).

Image by Mi Minhaz from Pixabay

I didn’t want to be any of those things. Yet God only knows why we are made the way we are. I embarked on shadow work (for those unfamiliar with the concept of the shadow – I will certainly be writing about that again) and now better appreciate the power in accepting yourself exactly as you are, according to God’s [insert the universe, the cosmos, the collective unconscious, the force – whatever works for you] Plan.

And herein lies the concept behind this blog. We are often taught that reflection is the key to spiritual, emotional, personal growth – self-actualisation, in a phrase – or for the more religious ‘growing closer to God’. Self-love is as much a key as the love of others. But we can only reflect on what we are conscious of. For all of us, there are elements of our Self that are too challenging, too hard, too painful to look at and are therefore buried deep in the unconscious. This blog is about using a different way of seeing and bringing the hidden to light. When light shines on dark places, we learn – with courage – to tend, tidy and love them whole again. Burying the less desirable, caging a wild animal, ignoring the dark – does not work and left to fester causes trouble. They must be loved, healed, transformed and enveloped into the wonderful thing that you are.

Trust your dreams – sometimes it is the only way God can be heard. I’m glad Joseph did.

If this is something you are interested in, I’ve three books to recommend [no commission is being earned – I just thought it would be easy to find]:

Ariadne’s Clue: A Guide to the Symbols of Humankind by Anthony Stevens https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ariadnes-Clue-Humankind-Princeton-Bollingen/dp/0691086613

Man and His Symbols by Carl Gustav Jung https://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Symbols-Carl-Gustav-Jung/dp/0613922670/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=carl+jung+symbols&qid=1577554985&s=books&sr=1-1

The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self by Chopra, Williamson et al https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-Effect-Illuminating-Hidden-Power/dp/0061962643/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=shadow+deepak+chopra&qid=1577555031&s=books&sr=1-1

See – books – they’re another thing. I remember a lecturer once said that nobody’s life was changed by reading a book. Really?!

“There isn’t a child alive who didn’t meet ‘The Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe’ and go into a wardrobe hoping beyond hope that there was more than the ordinary.’

Frank Cotterell Boyce December 2019 Speaking on Radio 4’s Beyond Belief.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Go Shelley! Your journey will speak to many I am sure and your search for the authentic within the mess if life will encourage others to do the same. Congratulations. In a time of feeling deep within my own shadows and an emptiness of soul in many ways, I look forward to your musings and will read on.

  2. Thank you, Nancy. Only the brave feel deep. In it together x

  3. I think trying to put meaning in life is the hardest thing it is something I struggle with everyday. Write from the heart #goodforyou

    1. Thank you, Steve…er – might tab you up for some tech help. You might want to avoid me for the next few weeks…

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