This fall I had the students in my English class at the local community college read “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” by R.L. Stevenson as well as Marie-Louise Von Franz’s writings about the shadow in dreams.
Fall is the season to get to know our shadows! At the literal level, on gray autumn afternoons our shadows grow long and moody beneath the soles of our feet.
Metaphorically, our shadows come out to play on Halloween in the form of witches, ghouls and monsters.
And as I’ve been discussing with my students, if we don’t find a way to make friends with our shadows – the repressed or rejected parts of our selves – they will cause trouble for us. If you don’t believe me, just ask poor Dr. Jekyll.
In Stevenson’s classic Victorian novel, the upstanding and privileged doctor is so tormented and intrigued by his shadow side that he creates a potion that separates his good and evil sides completely. Each has its own body and its own personality and they live in deadly conflict with one another.
If you are not acquainted with your shadow, begin by looking to your dreams. You’ll know it when you see it. The shadow is the character (usually the same gender you are) who haunts, taunts, disturbs and distresses you. But if we don’t find a way to befriend the shadow safely, we’ll be beset with nightmares and unsettling dreams … not to mention disharmony in our waking lives.
This fall, take advantage of the extra hours of darkness and get to know your shadow. When she shows up in your dreams, invite this stormy figure in for tea. Find out what message he has for you. What can you learn? How can you find a safe way to express your shadowy impulses? (Hint: Potions to unleash your own Mr. Hyde are to be avoided – on the other hand, creating art, poetry or dance to express the shadow are recommended.)
For a whimsical take on shadows, take a look at R.L. Stevenson’s poem, “My Shadow” … yes, this is by the same man who brought us the horrific “Mr. Hyde!”
Wishing you all sweet dreams … but if they turn shadowy instead, take it as an invitation to explore a little-known part of yourself!
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