CONFRONTING SHADOW: The Work of Self-Discovery

Sep 30, 2021

Psychotherapy is essentially the work of making shadow conscious—all that we have not discerned then disowned, or projected onto others. We seldom welcome shadow, for it is marked by emotions and motivations that deflate, disturb, and dethrone ego. From family scuffles to political hostilities and outright war, we most often meet our shadow in others. Its presence is signaled by a strong urge to take action, with feelings ranging from judgment to antagonism, from pity to self-sacrifice, and from obsession to disgust. If we have the courage to face and relate to the inner world of another, we experience and expand our own inner world. Shadow is the dark doorway to renewal and development, creativity and compassion. Jung said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” 

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I am in the backyard of my grandparents’ house. It’s night and very dark out, and I can see the lights on in the house. I have a bird feather in my hand that is luminescent with green and purple. I stick it in the ground, and a bird appears—a dove, I think. It flies away, and I stick the feather in the ground a second time. Another bird appears and flies away. I do it a third time, but this time I take a feather from the bird that appears and replant it in the same spot. When I do this, the ground trembles. Something big is happening, and I’ve started something I can’t stop. The third bird flies back to me and tells me to find a swan to make something called svala. Then I’m at some sort of school party, like a reunion or homecoming. I see an Indian woman I knew and used to be friends with. We haven’t seen each other in a long time and are no longer close, but I think she might know the meaning of svala and how I am supposed to make it, and what it will do. I keep trying to talk to her, but things keep getting in the way. Finally, she invites me to her room. There is beautiful music playing in the background, and her room is full of soft, golden light. I tell her about the dream with the feather and needing a swan to make svala and that I don’t know what it’s about. She laughs and says, “What is a swan but transformation? The hardest part in making svala is finding the swan.”


Swamplands of Soul: New Life in Dismal Places by James Hollis.



Learn to Analyze your own Dreams:  https://thisjungianlife.com/enroll/

Link to Lisa’s lecture and workshop: https://ofj.org/event/another-whom-we-do-not-know-dreams-as-the-voice-of-the-inner-companion/


  1. Marie

    Thank you, enjoyed this one. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on psychedelics and the recent boom and promising results in research. From a Jungian perspective- what did Jung think? And what is the impact on the psyche?

  2. Kate Madsen

    Svale comes from the Norse ‘swallow’, and can mean ‘he who moves here and there’, the fluttering one.
    And the svale/svala means different things; when sailors went out to sea before, they tattooed a svala on their arm for a hope and a promise to return to the mainland. Since the svala always return, they therefore stand for loyalty and credibility. They also symbolize love for family and friends.

    • Joseph Lee

      Super interesting!
      Thanks for the amplification.
      ~ Joseph

  3. Mamie Krupczak Allegretti

    Hello Joseph, Deb and Lisa,
    I often think about the idea that when I don’t like someone I may be projecting something from myself onto that person and that that particular quality also exists in myself. That may be true in some or many cases. My mother was a lawyer (mostly criminal defense) and she couldn’t stand it when a pedophile would say, “The 1 year old seduced me and wanted it.” Something in her was constellated by this and that was her own reaction to it. But that doesn’t mean that what that person did was right or that she had the same impulses in herself. I also can’t imagine a time in the future when this would be considered appropriate behavior by a man. I can try to understand the factors that came into the making of the pedophile or the serial killer (or whatever heinous behavior you can think of), but I’m not necessarily sure that those particular impulses exist in myself. In some cases, yes, of course, I have the same impulses but in some cases, maybe not. So, I struggle with this idea in some ways. I think the older I get and the more things change in myself and my life, the more loosely I hold on to the ideas I have about myself. It’s a strange paradox that the more I lose the concept of myself and what I am, the more I am confirmed in my idea of who I am. There is “something” there that is me but that shifts and changes, too. But then again, Jung said that all great truths are paradoxes. The more I watch my own reactions and emotions and think about them, the more accepting I become about everything, in a way. And then a kind of calmness comes. I almost just come to the feeling that this is the movement of life and that movement includes both good and evil and both are the same in many ways. Lisa, I’m looking forward to your presentation at OFJ. Thank you for a great episode again.


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