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The Way of the Dream by Marie-Louise von Franz
The Hanged Man
If I travel in a car or train without looking out, it is only the stops, starts, and sudden turns that make me realize I am moving at all. -Marie-Louise von Franz, in Man and His Symbols
Jung called the male personification of the unconscious in a woman’s dreams the animus, which is the Latin word for “spirit. ”
Like the anima in a man, the animus exhibits four stages of development. In Man and His Symbols, Dr. von Franz outlines these stages:
He first appears as a personification of mere physical power, for instance, as an athletic champion or “muscle man. ” In the next stage he possesses initiative and the capacity for planned action. In the third stage, the animus becomes the “word” . . . and finally, in his fourth manifestation, the animus is the incarnation of meaning. On this highest level he becomes (like the anima) a mediator of the religious experience whereby life acquires a new meaning. He gives the woman spiritual firmness, an invisible inner support that compensates for her outer softness.
On this highest level the inner man acts as a bridge to the Self. He personifies a woman’s capacities of courage, spirit, and truth and connects her to the source of her personal creativity. But, like the vampire anima in a man, the animus in his negative form is a parasite. He personifies brutality, coldness, and obstinacy, and paralyzes a woman’s growth.
To transform the animus involves immense suffering, for it means nothing less than forsaking an old identity for a new one. It takes a great deal of courage. But the journey is well undertaken for the rewards are immeasurable.
The next three dreams were dreamt by a woman over a period of three years. In the first dream, there is no masculine figure present; in the second dream, the animus appears, and in the third dream, he makes his presence felt.
At the time of this dream I was the center of an institution called · marriage and I had the impressive title Mother. My beautiful children never asked without getting, and my handsome husband never got without asking. Outwardly, life was joy and bliss . . . .In the dream I am lying flat on an enormous king-sized mattress. I mean huge! It is suspended, floating in the air. There is nothing else around it. No sheets, nothing. Over to my right I feel that something is approaching. It’s a woman walking along at a distance with two Doberman dogs on leashes-black Dobermans. As she comes toward me, I keep watching her. She comes closer and closer. When she gets to about three feet, she looks straight down
at me with disgust. She has a babushka tied around her head. She looks at me, lets go of the leashes, and the two dogs leap—zapl-right at my throat. And then I woke up. I couldn’t breathe. I sat up in bed gasping for breath .
The whole problem is stated in the first sentence of the dream where the dreamer says, “I was lying on a mattress, floating in the air. ” The dream shows that the dreamer has no relationship to the earth. She does not have her feet on the ground. She has no contact with reality. That means also that she has no real contact with her own body. She is living in the world of ideas and illusions, theoretical conceptions of life.
Then a woman comes toward her with two Doberman pinschers. They symbolize the earthly forces, the instinctive forces. A dog represents our domesticated instinct. But here these dogs are hostile. They are associated with the Nazis, who used them as guard dogs. The woman who controls the dogs has a babushka on her head, which reminds her of her mother.
Now, the mother for a woman represents the instinctive basis, the matrix, the whole area of the uterus. If a woman has trouble with her mother, she very often has trouble with menstruation, with her own sexual functions, and with her maternal feelings. The mother is, so to speak, the earth on which she lives. But this mother figure lets the Dobermans loose on her, and the instincts in their fierce, hostile, negative aspect attack the dreamer. So the dream says, “Because you are floating in midair, because you have lost touch with reality, the instinctive basis of your femininity has become hostile and is threatening you. ” This denial of her instincts goes very well with the fact that she became ill afterwards. If one goes against one’s own animal instincts, then illness is in the offing.
Dr. von Franz, is it possible then to diagnose the onset of disease from a dream?
What is your association with a babushka?
Well, I’m Polish, and that’s a very common Polish tradition. Many Polish women wear a babushka either on the head or around the shoulders. My mother wore one. ~Dreamer
I had this dream twice. Shortly after having it the second time, I went into the hospital with a serious pelvic infection. ~Dreamer
After the event one could say so, but I wouldn’t dare to say that ahead of time. I would only say, “You are living against your instincts, and that will very likely end up in some kind of disease. ” It is obvious, if you eat too much or too little, or sleep too much or too little, or if you do anything against your instinct, you are likely to catch a disease.
Is there a significance to the fact that the dogs attack the throat?
Well, I think, first of all, that when a dog wants to really kill, he attacks the throat. He bites the artery in the throat. That is the killing movement. So it shows that the dogs really mean business. They are not attacking playfully. The attack is really dangerous. But we can also look at the symbolism of the throat. The throat, in the Hindu teaching of the chakra centrums, is the center of the world of the Logos, of the spoken word. It is called the vishuddha centra, and that is what is being attacked. She believes in the world of words. She doesn’t listen to what her instincts say when they speak from the stomach or from deeper centers. This refusal to listen goes together with her floating in the air. She probably mirrors herself in her own reflection as a successful woman who lives in a world of ideas and words.
The same woman dreamt this next dream approximately two years later. Here, unlike in the previous dream, her animus, her masculine side, is personified, but it is quite lifeless.
I had this dream following my marriage separation. The fear of taking sole responsibility for my own life and also-this was more disturbing-for the children’s lives plagued me.
In the dream I am in a room with my mother and a male. It’s a very tiny room. There is hardly any furniture except a bed on one side. There is not much going on. Then I get a feeling that there’s a body outside the door. I open it and, sure enough, there’s a body lying in the hallway. It’s wrapped in a sheet, but I know it’s a male. I shut the door.
Now we have to go out the back door. But to get out we have to go down an incredibly steep wooden staircase. It’s just an unbelievable drop. The stairs are not closed in, and it’s really dangerous. My mother goes first, then the male and I go behind her. She starts down a couple of steps. I am coming behind, being very, very cautious. Then, all of a sudden, she does this beautiful leap and lands on the ground with both feet. It’s a beautiful jump! Olympic caliber! I’m just in awe.
Then everything changes. I am by myself walking through a small town. It is quite barren. There’s a lot of sand. As I approach the center of the town square, there is a platform with about three or four steps leading up to it. It’s a hanging man’s platform, an absolute square, made out of wood, an old, weathered kind of wood. There are four pillars at the comers, and in the center there is the hanging man’s pole. I approach it, look at it, and see that there’s a man hanging there. I look again and realize that he’s hanging by his feet. I’m not alarmed. I just look at him closely, and then I walk by. ~female dreamer
Though the animus is often spoken of as a nuisance in the woman, he also performs very positive and important functions, because a woman whose animus is wounded or not functioning is too passive. She is too exposed to the vicissitudes of life. She cannot take her own destiny into her own hands. The animus, therefore, is a very positive figure. This dream shows that the woman is very wrapped up in her mother. She is dominantly feminine and has not developed her own masculin ity. Her masculinity is shown in the dream wrapped up in linen lying dead outside the door. That is the part of her personality which has died and should be resuscitated. She therefore has to leave the place where she is. That is, she has to change her life situation.
The path leads downwards, a rather dangerous step. She has to come down to a deeper level of reality, become more realistic and realize her practical life situation. She succeeds in doing so, and then she comes to a village, an old-fashioned village, which probably mirrors an old-fashioned way of life where women were not allowed to have any initiative of their own. There she finds a man hung up in the center square of the village. In that atmosphere of old-fashioned femininity, all the positive masculine forces in women are suspended, literally suspended. They are killed. They cannot act. The dream, therefore, shows that being in a very difficult outer situation, she might be inclined to think that it’s a matter of bad luck. But the dream shows her that the real trouble is that her own masculinity is dead and has to be rescued and revived again.
Would you amplify that image of the hanging man?
Hanging is, in general, a kind of negative deification. After all, the God of Western civilization is a hanged man. It means the moment of being elevated into the spiritual realm and being recognized as a god, but at the expense of human reality. One is, so to speak, hung up in eternity, and the human reality is dead. That’s why, for instance, the old Germans hung up their prisoners in honor of Wotan. When the wind blew them back and forth on the gallows or the trees where they were hanging, it meant that Wotan, the spiritual god, was taking them to him. Christ also was hung, crucified, because he was accused of wanting to be the King of the Jews. The punishment was a negative deification, “If you want to be King of the Jews, be it! But in a negative form.” Hanging also means being in a suspended state. Suspended means hanging.
So it means that all her masculine intelligence, her courage and capacity for action, exist but are suspended. What’s more, they are turned upside down. They are not touching reality. Where the man should have his head up, so she should have her head up. She should think her situation over and take it in hand like a man. Her masculine qualities are suspended, condemned to inaction, because of an old fashioned attitude toward life on the one hand, and too great an identification with her mother on the other.
Two years later my life was great. I had reestablished my professional reputation and was quite enjoying my children and my newfound independence. Casual dating was fun. Then, unexpectedly, I was in love. I told the man how I felt about him, and he said that his feelings were not mutual. I felt very rejected. That night I had this dream.
I am in the balcony of a theater when suddenly I have to go to the bathroom. I get up from my seat and walk toward the back of the theater. There’s an usherette standing there, and we go to the washroom together. But it’s not really a washroom at all, but a storage area somehow, like a closet. She opens the door and holds it for me, and I enter.
I suddenly realize that if I sit down to pee I can’t lock the door. As I’m thinking that, a man in a suit enters. I’m outraged because this is a ladies’ washroom. So I tell him to get out. Then I see another man coming toward me. He is quite short and stockily built. I’m furious that these men are in the ladies’ bathroom. The stocky man keeps coming right toward me. I turn to the other man who looks over at the stocky man and says to me, “He’s a tae kwon do master. ” I whip around to look at him, and he has assumed a karate stance-the martial arts attack stance. Then in a leap he’s at my throat. I wake up terrified. ~Dreamer
First, let’s look at the bathroom. The bathroom has to do with the whole purification symbolism of water. Baptismal symbolism, for example, is a purification from demonic possession. When people come out of the water, they put on white clothes to show that they are purified and now begin a new life. And in all religions, not only in the Christian religion, water has generally the connotation of being the great purifier. It washes off the sins and the contaminations. Now, just as in concrete life we constantly pick up dirt by working and by rubbing ourselves against outer objects and other people, so we also pick up dirt psychologically. We participate in mass hatred from things we read in the papers, or we get contaminated with what the writer in the papers says, and then we lose our own identity. Then we have to wash it all off till we become naked. Being naked means always to be purely and simply what one is without veiling or covering anything. That’s why we speak of the naked truth. So in the bathroom you look at yourself in the mirror and you see the naked truth, which is not always agreeable.
The dreamer had been terribly hit before this dream by the negative answer of her partner. Now the dream changes that hit, or represents that shocking hit, but in a different form. First, it shows that it happened when the dreamer wanted to pee in the bathroom. To pee generally has the symbolism of expressing oneself genuinely. Peeing is one of the few functions people cannot repress. We can repress sleep for a while, we can repress eating for a while, but peeing is just above us. It rules us, and therefore it is an expression of “Here I am, that’s how I am.” It always means to be genuine. The dream says, “Look here, for once you have tried to be genuine when you asked this man, ‘Do you love me?’ and inferred at the same time that you loved him. That was your true feeling and you got hit, but you did not get hit really by your partner who told you he was not interested in you. You got hit by somebody else. You got hit by this karate hero, by that horrible man who hits your throat with a karate gesture. ”
Now, this karate man is within her. It is as if the dream says, “You did not get the shock from outside. You got it from your own nature. ” It reminds us of what Jung once said, “There is no difficulty that does not ultimately stem from ourselves.” We are our own difficulty. Her love difficulty is within herself. She has such a karate fellow in her. She can therefore develop further or become herself only if she realizes that the terrible shock she fetched from the outer world is something in her own nature. She has to face up to the fact that she has a hard fighting man in herself who devalues her as a woman.
Let’s talk further about this karate figure who attacks women when they become genuine in their feelings. Do you feel this image relates to society in general as well as to the personal psychology of this dreamer?
Well, I would say the modern style in Western societies, and beginning also now in China and in the Marxist societies, is to organize the masses with computers and discourage every personal feeling. In the West, for instance, it’s a rule in big business to rotate men around in different places in order to prevent too much personal attachment. Personal attachment is looked upon as forming a clique. Personal feeling is discouraged.
You see it also in political debates nowadays. One of the most negative things one can say about an opponent is that his arguments are governed by his feelings. “He is not logical”-as if logic were the only way to argue. One can also argue with the heart. One can also protest with one’s feelings. But nowadays, the fashion, the absolute fashion, is to be rational. Many schools of modern psychology are also rational. If something is wrong in the marriage, one has to rationally reorganize one’s sex life, have extramarital affairs, use practical new positions, Kama Sutra positions. One has to fix up the marriage rationally, as if a human were a broken-down car. That is absolutely destructive to feelings, and it hits both men and women. It hits women even more than men because women generally put more emphasis on personal relationships and personal feelings.
Women are hit first, and that’s why women are nowadays so unhappy. That’s why they are in revolt against many things. They feel that their lives are thwarted. Naturally it hits men too, because if women go crazy and become disagreeable and cold, it reverberates on the sons and on the partners. But a man can endure a rationally organized world a bit longer than a woman can. He is not finally happy in it either, but he can stand it a bit longer.
This denial of personal feeling seems to be in violation of a natural human connection. It favors the head over the body. Would you say that the growing popularity of fitness programs such as jogging, T’ai Chi, yoga, and so on is an attempt to restore the balance?
This tremendous emphasis on the body nowadays in psychotherapy is a compensatory movement. Based on my own experience, my feeling is that those exercises to get back into the body, T’ai Chi and all sorts of group experience, are a bit too technical. They’re too intentional. I think that going into nature and living with nature is a better way of sinking back into the body. It’s a more natural way. But not everybody can do that, and those exercises are certainly sometimes very helpful.
What happens when a person does connect the head to the body?
Well, generally when people sink into their bodies, they first contact the emotions, which are the bridge between the head and the body. They probably activate the lymphatic system, which affects the emotions. Generally when people try to get into their bodies through exercise, they first release a wild resentment against father or mother or something like that. They generally contact negative emotions which have been repressed, and the first step is to let those emotions out, to let those come up, not to suppress them with the head. Then generally there is an outburst of tears and sweat and other physical reactions. After that comes a relaxation and then, with it, a better connection with the body.
One can say that what is wrong is that the whole collective consciousness doesn’t value Eros anymore. Eros is personal; it is from one being to another being in a unique and personal way. It doesn’t count for anything in our society. You cannot say, “I do this because I love so-and-so,” or “I do that against the rules because I love so-and-so. ” The rules are the rules. The computer has spelled them out, this way or that way, and that’s the way it has to be. The whole depersonalization and the whole mass organization of modem society is destructive of feelings, and that drives women mad. ~The Way of the Dream, Page 143-153