The Face of My Feminine Shadow

I am currently working toward re-integrating disowned and repressed parts of myself. I will use this blog to talk about my personal journey in hopes of encouraging others to start their own journey toward integration and wholeness.

Prior to the age of 20, I had an extreme resistance to my feminine side. I unconsciously exacerbated my more masculine features because doing that got me more respect from many of my peers and elders. I thought that this was authentic to me but I didn’t realize that this was a result of childhood wounds and repression.

However, the subconscious mind always knows better and gives little nudges and hints back in the direction of authenticity. However, when these gentle nudges don’t work, it takes more extreme measures.

So, at age 19, in the months before my life fell into crisis, I had this dream:

I am in a giant furniture store that is sectioned up into cubicles. The cubicle that I’m in, resembles a living room but has the feel of a psychologist’s office. I sit in a nice chair in the middle of the cubicle. As I’m sitting in the chair, a beautiful Native American woman appears in the doorway. She wears a tight bright red business dress and high heels. Her hair is up in a neat bun. She has the feel of a femme fatale from a Film Noire movie. I am immediately intoxicated by her presence and watch her wordlessly as she saunters over to me. She stands behind the chair that I’m sitting in and looks down at me seductively. I look up at her still entranced by her presence. After a moment of mutual gaze she asks me in a quiet silvery voice, “Are you ready?” Still in my ecstatic stupor I manage to answer, “Yes.” There is a momentary pause. She inhales deeply and almost immediately the breath transforms her into an ancient looking hag. Her hair is long, gray, wiry, and sparse. The skin on her face is barely thick enough to cover the bones. Her eyes are nothing more than two giant holes in her head. Her mouth is a gaping black hole that stretches wider and wider. As she continues to inhale, she sucks me into her giant mouth and I am lost and floating in a void of empty space. I am there for a while just existing until I’m transported to my childhood kitchen where I begin to search through the cabinets.

I awoke with the feeling that this was a really important dream. This was the type of dream that was so vivid I knew that I would never forget it. However, I didn’t realize what the dream was trying to tell me until I began to learn about Jungian Psychology and the archetypes of the unconscious mind.

When we repress parts of our personality and relegate them to the subconscious mind they become part of our shadow. Hags are a common symbol of the feminine shadow, as they possess the traits of a devouring, subtly aggressive, manipulator.  In the shadow, these traits fester and take control of our conscious personality and urge us in multiple ways to recognize and reintegrate them.

This dream was telling me that even though I was eager to accept the beauty and sensual aspects of the feminine principle, I did not want to accept the other traits. I wanted to be a woman on the outside but a man on the inside. The ideal person, from a 21st century patriarchy’s perspective. This was evident in my extreme infatuation with the beautiful woman from my dream. She was also an archetype beckoning me to accept her other side. So, when I told her that I was ready, she revealed her true form and devoured me. This devouring, although terrifying, was my first step toward merging with my disowned feminine aspects.

Since that dream, I have studied quite a bit about shadow work and reintegration. I know that I’m still not 100% comfortable with my femininity. Sometimes I feel absolutely insecure about being a woman, and I often wish that I could be like a man or at least be perceived in the same light. The strength and self-confidence that my masculine persona brought me was so empowering to my conscious mind that I sometimes wish that I could just go back and hold the delusion that I am more like a man on the inside. Masculine people have traits that society smiles upon, so there is less internal conflict and tension between their true nature and their social persona. I know that I still have a learned preference for masculine values too, as this was the milk that I was nursed on. However, I know that accepting my feminine side will make me a more whole person, which will make me much happier than the hollow boon of being smiled upon socially. Also, if I begin to value femininity in all its depth and breadth, then it is one step closer to correcting the problem of the societal devaluation of femininity.