Author’s Note: The following is a draft of a conference presentation I was due to give at the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) in 2019. Life, as they say, intervened, and I was not able to give the presentation. The draft below is way too long, and was set to be edited a lot before prime time, however I do think there is material of interest here, perhaps especially for men (and hopefully women) in mid-life.


The dream examples in this presentation lean heavily toward “anima” dreams, as this is my own experience. I hope that in the discussion period we can re-balance this weighting.

Advance Notice:

This presentation contains frank discussion about sexuality within the context of the main topic.

Postulate I:

The “mid-life crisis” is no less universal and acute than the challenging teenage period. It’s predictably is such that it is better termed “re-orientation” than “crisis.”

Postulate II:

Dreams can provide advanced warning and guidance about how to navigate this period.

Postulate III:

Following Carl Jung, the anima archetype (most commonly in the male) and the animus archetype (most commonly in the female) are the most commonly associated archetypes with the mid-life period, and therefore deserve especially close attention.

Postulate IV:

Although it is not clear how changing norms around gender (e.g. increased visibility of non-binary and other identities) might impact our understanding of the anima and animus in mid-life, we are advised to make space for the possibility that these archetypes develop/ evolve alongside culture.

Question #1:

What dreams have you had that might relate to the anima/ animus archetypes, and to what extent have they predicted/ informed a mid-life re-orientation?

Question #2:

Jung stresses the universal or near-universal nature of the anima/ animus archetypes (as well as other archetypes). To what extent is holding to Jung’s universalistic perspective helpful/ unhelpful for understanding the play of these archetypes today?

Question #3:

Jung says that “when a situation occurs which corresponds to a given archetype, that archetype becomes activated and a compulsiveness appears which {…} gains its way against all reason.” This not a very hopeful prognosis, even if it has an ample experiential basis. To what extent can understanding and attention to our dreams and unconscious decrease the force of an activated archetype?

Question #4: What other kind of dreams/ dream archetypes might also predict/ presage a mid-life re-orientation?

Postulate II expanded:

Dreams, if treated as basically integrative, give us both a heads up and also a faith/ confidence that we can survive and navigate mid-life re-orientation, although when we are in it we can feel totally overwhelmed.

Dream #: 1


I am in a battle with some quasi-army people, running around a rainy landscape, ducking behind and in and out of cars. I am carrying a very small pistol, possible a “Derringer.” This action goes on for a long time. Finally, the two army factions meet in a parking lot. I am off to to side of where two groups are arguing heatedly. I try to fire my weapon to get everyone’s attention; it makes only a small sound and no one pays attention. However, just then a group forms beside me, to my right. There are quite a lot of people, more than the two factions combined. These people are aligned with one or the other sides in the battle, and are now trying to bring the two sides together. One women, middle aged or a little older and Caucasian, speaks to me very passionately about reconciliation, and grabs me. I put my hands on her shoulders and look deeply into her eyes. The argument is still going; there is a contest to see which group’s energy would prevail.

I disengage from the first women, and there is a younger woman, maybe early 20s with blondish hair. We embrace deeply; I am holding her and stroking her hair. She is “Dusty.” As with the first woman, Dusty and I are involved in some kind of structural reconciliation–we are not simply two people but representing two sides of a conflict.

Dusty has a friend, a thin girl, also in her 20s. The thin girl and Dusty are loosely connected to the older women’s movement. However, the thin girl seems like the prime mover and Dusty is just along for the ride. I get the distinct feeling that Dusty had been around a bit, young as she is. The three of us retire to a sofa—the argument is left behind. Dusty is on my lap, stretched out, while the thin girl, who is also sort of tanned, is to our left. We chat casually, as if we had all known each other for ages. I say, “you are foot soldiers in the women’s movement,” and the thin girl laughs and says yes. I am not in love with Dusty, rather I feel happy and blessed to be able to be connected with her for any amount of time.


Dream #: 2


I arrive late to a pool party with a very deep swimming pool. I am wearing a suit. A lady in an elaborate purple gown falls in the pool (or maybe she jumps in on purpose). In any case, she begins to sink to the bottom. She is underwater for too long, and I decide to jump in and try to save her. I hesitate for a fraction of a second, either because I am fully dressed, or because I am afraid. I feel shame with this delay and dive down. The dive is successful and I go to the bottom of the pool. The woman is only a few feet away however when I try to swim over to her it is like I am swimming through jelly. I can barely move through the water. She drifts away slightly, and I keep trying to make progress aware that my own breath is limited. I resolve to take a few more hard strokes and in so doing try to kind of push the water under her to lift her up because I can’t reach her. Then I head back for the surface and emerge with labored breath—I have used about 90% of my capacity down there. The woman has already surfaced and has been pulled out of the pool by several people on the other side of the pool (the pool is quite large). She is seated on a raised platform kind of similar to a throne. I get out and only one or two people notice that I have been in the pool at all. Later though the woman thanks me for my efforts.

A few noticeable things about this dream are that I had the sense that the woman threw herself in on purpose and also that I knew through the dream that she would get out OK one way or the other. In fact, it was me that was in more danger than her even though she was under water for much longer.


Dream #: 3


I am at an underground concert/ art event late at night. There are multiple acts playing in a series of narrow hallways and spaces between pipes as such with an audience, including myself, who is kind of milling about. All the acts are simultaneously being fed into an audio feed and there is a second audience in a separate, possibly more subterranean, room. I am not in this second room however somehow know of and can visualize it. The audio feed is being controlled be either Richard Branson or Jann Wenner or someone of that stature. This is kind of a big deal in a weird way—definitely an art event.

I am attached to a show that is beginning. The group is the Red Krayola, and the leader is a youngish female with short hair, creamy skin, a little Asian, probably in her mid-twenties. At first, I am appointed to be the lead singer, which is terrifying. Fortunately, the first part of the first song has a long, chugging, guitar and bass buildup which is transporting and awesome. Also fortunately, for me, the leader starts to sign or hum, no words only sounds. Maybe she will be the lead vocal after all? I begin to try to harmonize as best I can and it goes OK. I am deeply hopeful that my harmonies will stay down in the mix and that at no time will I need to be the lead singer as I know I will not be equal to the task.

The lead-in to the song goes on for several minutes, at least three or four, and it is the best music I have ever heard, which is amazing because the act is almost totally unknown—perhaps this is our debut? I start to fall in love with the leading lady, slowly, totally.

Suddenly, the electricity cuts off and so does the music. I hear a voice from the other audience room ask for our band’s signal to be brought back up. People are asking for more. However, Jann’s voice comes over the speaker and says we have lost power. The show is over.

I am both relieved (because I don’t need to sing anymore) and disappointed (because I wanted to hear the rest of the song). The disappointment registers in my stomach. Before she gets swept into the crowd (which is large and active), I approach the leading lady. She is gorgeous, slight, with earrings. She has a range of cards like small index cards with Taoist symbols in front of her as well as some jewellery and beads, not ostentatious—very tasteful. She asks me where I am from, where I live, and my spiritual orientation. I tell her, wondering if I should describe myself as a Taoist or whether she would see that as pretentious. I tell her I am a new-ager, but only in order to access ancient wisdom—things we have always known and have forgotten. As I tell her, we lean closer together and I am falling head over heels for her. I am sure that she has a line of people waiting for her and will move me along soon, however instead we began to kiss as we lean together. This operation is made difficult by a single metal spike in her lower left lip—a piercing that you sometimes see. The piercing is difficult for me to navigate and a little painful.

Scene cut and we are in bed together, unclothed, coupling. However, it turns out she has multiple piercings all over her body and no matter what arrangement we make the operation is too difficult. The dream ends, with a memory of the music.


Dream #: 4


I am in a parking lot with somebody, perhaps the parking lot of a gas station. There is a van that a woman is living in, traveling around in. I know this before seeing the woman. The woman leans out of the van which looks a bit like a food truck and may be. She is Asian but also not Asian and she leans right down in front of me. I kiss her, briefly, and she kisses me back, briefly. Then she pulls back and talks about her life on the road. She says her name is Mary. She is very attractive, with curls in the front of her pretty short hair and big cheeks. She gives me a business card that is handmade. The business card calls her “Wild Mary” and there is a drawing of a map which is full of squiggles and impossible to follow. She says this is a map to her live music event which I need to come to. I want to go, however feel like there is no way I will decipher the map.


Dream #: 5


I am in a pool like a large whirlpool, maybe 8 feet deep or so, with a bunch of other people, mostly Japanese women. One woman is kind of sleeping in the pool and she leans on me like people sometimes will on trains. She is in a bathing suit and young and pretty good looking, wearing glasses. I allow her to lean on me, she floats away, then comes back. She appears to be relaxing. Then, everyone is getting out of the pool which appears to be closing. The woman becomes totally horizontal and looks at me. She asks for a doctor—just says “doctor.” She is unwell and can’t move herself. I scoop her up and swim to the side where various people are getting out and starting to dress. I tell another woman she needs a doctor and then repeat this in Japanese. Several people move off to find a doctor who will be downstairs (we are in some kind of complex and a doctor will be on hand.) The woman is laying comatose by the side of the pool and I hope the doctor comes soon. Then, my wife is there and I try to explain the situation with the woman. While I am doing this I look up and the woman is gone. She has rallied and disappeared without a word. The doctor never arrives.


Dream #: 6


I have been chasing a man I think I know up to the 7th floor of a tall building. Although I am athletic and running hard, I can’t catch him, and face a variety of set backs. Giving up, I retreat to the back of a dentist’s office where there are an assortment of rooms up some steps. Entering the highest room all the way in the back of this building I see a woman I know. She is from my college and I have a longstanding relationship with her. She is wearing a beige blouse which is buttoned at the neck and looks to be of Asian design. She comes over to me from the wall where she has apparently been waiting. We embrace and are very glad to see one another. We will spend the next few days together and I know in the course of those days I will be unfaithful to her in some way. I hope not to lose her as a consequence.

After waking briefly I try to renter the dream space to find her again. I am unable to do so–instead I see a bunch of filament-like strands in space. A voice says “maybe everything is connected.” It is possible that a single strand connects all elements in the unconscious and in the universe. Still, no woman.


Dream #: 7


I have a distinct feeling I am being called. This is not the first time I have had this feeling however this time it is as or more insistent than ever.

I dream I am seeking wisdom from some underground women spirits/ half women half spirits. They are locked behind a door and only accessible through an intermediary, also a woman. The intermediary takes my request for wisdom and something more to the women and comes back empty handed. She says the women rejected my request because I have the keys to the door. This is not saying that I have the wisdom, only that I have the keys and need to unlock it myself.

Later I dream of a teacher. I am walking down a hillside and there is a kind of encampment on my left. Here there is a teacher. The teacher quickly vacates the encampment. I see a man in purple on the far shore. He is bearded and serene. Perhaps he is a fisherman. I get a full body chill because he is the teacher. Then, another man appears closer to me on a more accessible bank. He is wearing flannel and also bearded. It is clear that the first man, though dignified, is not the teacher and this second man is. I consider approaching him but instead wind up in the encampment. There is a youngish woman, not so young but younger than me, there. She is the real teacher and she is in town for only a day or so. I go over to her and am ecstatic to be with her. She allows me to nuzzle her neck and we begin talking. She has signs like the dao on her body—not exactly tattoos more sort of birthmarks. A man is there who is kind of her minder and he lets me be close to her. I will take her teaching in a day or so.

I am seeking wisdom and instead of getting it from the underground women I need to make my own way. I see a vertical rectangle with three square boxes at the base. In the boxes are letter like SO, XOS, SXO. These are a symbolic alphabet and indicate a deeper knowledge that I should have access too. I understand that these symbols are the key to unlocking the door to the underworld.


Dream #: 8


I am skiing on a smallish yet pretty steep hill. There are some very good skiers who are blasting down and somehow also skiing back uphill, quite quickly. I am getting down ok but can only ski-walk partway back to the top each time. I am capable yet not fully confident on the skis.

A tall young Asian woman is there and I need to protect her a bit. Probably it is her first time on skis. Later, it is suggested that she does a ski jump. The ski jumps are supposed to take place over a 4-5 foot spiral cone of water but the cones aren’t ready today so I hold out a pointed object like a stick laterally at chest height instead. This seems a little dangerous and also I want her to succeed so I resolve to lower the stick as need be without telling anyone. There is a bit of a crowd around and some delay. Then, she is ready to go.

Suddenly I look up and realize that we are in a carpeted room which is only about 10 feet in depth and that there is a wooden ceiling closing the room from the ski slope. To do the jump, she will need to come across from the left side, jump diagonally, and stop almost immediately on carpet. This seems impossible so I try to call off the jump. The crowd protests and the skier also indicates willingness to continue. This is madness, so I try to demonstrate how little space she has by simulating a landing. I feel like I’m calling attention to something super obvious and the others are dense and irresponsible.


Dream # 9:


Last day in Bali. Dreams here have been intense and long. This dream is loaded with metaphysics. I will try to describe it carefully.

The dream starts with an image of a large whisky bottle. The bottle is very fat and also ceremic. So in fact it looks nothing like a normal whisky bottle. It is perhaps of Suntory brand. I know before I know that a story of some kind will unfold inside the bottle. I am reminded somehow of a ship inside a bottle. Suddenly I am inside the bottle itself. There is a whole word here and all sorts of people in a city-scape. I come to understand that everyone lives in relative fear of a species or group of overlords.

The overlords are both omni-present and also very distant. They rule by fear and have the power to rub out anyone at any time. Sort of. When a person is marked for removal their status is updated. Their status is displayed on a kind of glowing chip in their shoulder. There are basically theft types of statuses. First is “needing to have the life wrung out of them.” There are marked people and their time is limited. Apparently they are political criminals, thought criminals. Oddly, even when marked these people continue to circulate and take part in oppositional activity. I never actually see one of them removed, although their actions do take on a greater sense of urgency.

The second category is another worded status. This one is more elliptical and I forget the wording. Though safer than the first, this is still a status to be avoided if possible.

Third is a number. A voice tells the city that statuses will be updated and that anything under 40000 is a safe score. I check my update with bated breath, fearing the dreaded worded status. My number is 49500. Not bad I think—although not under 40000 this is perhaps for young people. 49500 seems reasonable for my age.

Suddenly the view shifts and I can see into the bottle from the outside. All of the people and various creatures and scrambling for the mouth of the body. The bottle begins to approach a wall into which is will soon merge. Here, the entrance to he bottle will be sealed. The I character in the dream is also scrambling for the exit although he doesn’t seem to stand much of a chance. Creatures spill over one another and one baby creature somewhere between a human baby and a little mouse slips through the mouth of the bottle to the other side of the wall. The bottle snaps closed and I am once again staring at the large ceremony bottle from the beginning of the dream. I feel a sense of relief that the perfect creature has escaped.


Dream # 10


Car crash dream

Dream # 11


Only the second real dream since August and the first since the car crash dream three months ago.

I am in a large and ramshackle house which is apparently part of a larger complex of cabins. This may be some kind of resort, certainly it is out of town. There is a ranger hut as well so I guess we are in the woods.

After some interactions with the ranger which are painless (it is clear that I am welcome here) I begin exploring the house with a small team of people, maybe three or four. We are doing some kind of catalogue or space survey, and every space I see I have to climb in and have my picture taken in it. This means like alcoves, cubby spaces, closets, skylights, etc. Sometimes one of the other people also gets in the space, but I always do. It is unclear what the survey is for, however it is obvious that we need to do it. This process goes on for a long time and we cover much of this large house.

Eventually we come to a kind of alcove carved above a hallway, a space that doesn’t really exist in nature. An attractive Caucasian women in a white swimsuit climbs into the space and someone takes a picture. This picture becomes the definitive record of our whole trip. I don’t think I enter this space.

The group moves to a basement floor and suddenly there are a lot more people, maybe 20 or more. It’s crowded and a little noisy. The complexion of the group has changed. There is a trap door to a sub-basement and I open it and drop down. One person at least follows me, perhaps two, an older couple maybe. The sub-basement is about 4 and a half feet high and I have to stoop. It is full of junk, large foam blocks, other boxes. There is barely any room to move and nothing to see or find. I feel immediately claustrophobic and also have a flash of fear that one of the larger group will close the trap door. This fear comes and goes quickly, but it’s enough for me to ask myself why I have to always be the one exploring the spaces. If there is a group of twenty we can share the load. And, I don’t want to be in this claustrophobic sub-basement anymore.


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