Ego Development: The Initial Stage of Inner Work
Contrary to popular ideals the inner journey is no blissful path. Rather the inner journey takes one down through darkness and confusion, throughout the paradox of the opposites and up into the searing light of Self realisation. The inner journey is a passage of death and rebirth. One must be fit, psychologically fit, in order to meet the demands of the unconscious.
It is for this reason that the dream places a great importance upon the health and integrity of the ego. For no real exploration of the unconscious is possible when the ego is either damaged or only partially developed. Just as one would never set out across an ocean in a leaky boat, the dream is careful to ensure that the ego is balanced and solid. In fact the dream will always forbid a premature exploration of the unconscious. The conscious realm must first be set right before the true depths of the unconscious are revealed.
I remember one young man who was a devotee of various eastern teachers, who came into dream analysis with the hope of developing an even more expanded state of awareness. His dreams, however, had another agenda in mind. The first set of dreams focussed on the need to come down out of the heights of his philosophies whilst the second set pointed toward a need to find a job and earn an income. In one dream he went to attend satsang with his chosen guru yet he was refused entry for he looked like a derelict. To his initial disappointment his dreams focussed solely up his material life and seemed to ignore his more spiritual aspirations altogether. Later he realised it was all part of the process.
So what is a solid and balanced ego? Basically the state of one’s ego is reflected in one’s life. How is your job? How are your relationships and finances? What is your physical state of health like? Are you happy in your job? Can you afford to live? Is the state of your relationships satisfactory?
Problems in any of these areas must be dealt with first. Possibly it is such problems as these which cause one to seek assistance in the first place. And the dreams will assist – but they will take you much further as well.
This healing capacity of the dream was one of Jung’s greatest discoveries. In his psychiatric practice Jung was faced with all types of psychological disorders. Through working with the dreams, his patients ego state was brought back into health and the person was able to return to and function in the world once again.
Yet their dreams did not stop. Having brought the ego into a state of health and balance the dream would now bring up issues previously unmentioned and often more challenging.
Something in the psyche knows when we are ready to move on and enter into the depths of the unconscious. When our affairs are in order, and there is nothing which threatens to disrupt or cut short our journey then the gates of the unconscious will begin to open. Typically snakes and downward directions will begin to appear in one’s dreams.