If there is one thing you can count on dreams to provide, it is plenty of paradox. In every dream you will find opposing forces having out their mythical arguments like night and day, compassion and withdrawal, pursuer and victim, death and birth. While it is our habit to pick a side and snub the other, dreamwork is all about Yumming the Both.
You’ve heard it said that opposites attract, but have you ever considered why that is? In the Jungian tradition, we learn that the Other contains something that we need to integrate, and so we seek it out unconsciously in order to marry that pairing together in ourselves. For instance, the night, with all her quiet dreaminess and contemplation, might need the daytime’s extravertedness to put her imagination into action. That said, action with no contemplation can be hollow and destructive. He needs her substance to make his running around worthwhile.
The pursuer might be chasing the victim only because he is running. If he learned to turn and face his pursuer, it might have something valuable to get off its chest. As for death and birth, I’ve always wondered if the light at the end of the tunnel is actually the birthing room.
Ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus once said, “That which differs with itself is in agreement: harmony consists of opposing tension, like that of the bow and the lyre.” This elegant paradox shows how the music made from opposites meeting is consciousness itself. So if the victim stops running, the pursuer can stop chasing and they will both be compelled to more interesting roles. In this same way, some of the most difficult relationships are the ones from which we receive the most learning. It is through the contrast the other provides that we see ourselves more clearly. We discover what we will stand up for and also where our limitations are.
If the opposites are not held together to create a third thing, what you produce instead are factions within the personality, and also in the world. For instance, if you are in a position of power and are careful to consider your own contradictions, you will be a quiet leader whose people are leaders themselves. On the other hand, if you identify only with the power you have been given, the nation you will create will be one of disempowered followers. In Hitler’s case, unspeakable atrocities resulted from one man’s terrible lack of integration of the opposites.
Dreamwork itself is often pitted against so-called “reality.” But as anyone who has delved into this work knows, one is form and the other is the passion. As Martín Prechtel so eloquently puts it, “If this world were a tree, then the other world would be the roots – the part of the plant we can’t see that puts the sap into the tree’s veins.”
I don’t have to tell you which world we have favoured for the last 4000 years or so, but let it be said that it is no better to follow the imagination without relating back to the rational world, than it is to insist upon empirical reality, impoverishing one’s life of meaning.
“The beauty of one form is akin to the beauty of another,” Plato once said, “and beauty in every form is one and the same.” So the next time you are tempted to pick sides, remember the ‘and’ between them.