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Introduction to Chase Dreams
A quick internet search will reveal what those dealing in dream work know: that nightmares about being chased, stalked, or pursued in some manner are among the most prevalent nightmares that dreamers experience.
While the exact details vary from dreamer to dreamer, in general, chase dreams involve a similar, recurrent theme and recurring cast.
The theme is that of panic and powerlessness; the cast consists of either wild animals or people from waking life chasing the dreamer, or the starring stalker is an invisible, unknown, or masked pursuer.
Whether the dreamer is pursued by an invisible or unknown stalker, chased by someone known in waking life, or run down by animals, nightmares about being chased also share a feeling-tone that is different from the panic and powerlessness often experienced in chase dreams.
That feeling-tone is one of frustration stemming from a knowledge, even in the dream, that this nightmare is not new, the dreamer knows this nightmare well, yet is unable to prevent or stop it once started.
The obvious reason for such feelings is that chase nightmares are merely mirrors of waking life situations, of things or situations from which the dreamer is fleeing. However, it is also possible that these dreams feel familiar because they are expressions of an ever present part of the psyche--the Shadow archetype.
The Shadow Archetype
What is the Shadow archetype?
The Shadow is that part of the unconscious that contains the parts of ourselves that we suppress and deny. It is that place within ourselves where we hide all the traits, characteristics, and patterns of behavior we find so deplorable in others. It where projections flourish. Most of all, it is the primary source of what holds us hostage to ingrained, dysfunctional patterns of behavior.
The Shadow is often stereotypically maligned as the psyche's "dark side." To be sure, the Shadow can be an intense, uncomfortable, and unpleasant place, however, dismissing it as nothing more than's one's "dark half" is a mistake.
Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, highlights the truth that there is more than black in the Shadow when he wrote,"In the Shadow is the gold."
Jung's commentary on the gold in the Shadow alludes to a concept known as "Shadow Gold"--the idea that within all the parts of ourselves we have exiled, there is hidden treasures, talents, emotions, and power mistaken for junk and cast away to the Shadow realm.
All the treasure in the Shadow was usually relegated there in childhood, usually due to some form of trauma or a perceived threat.
For example, if the art instructor of a child with a prodigious artistic talent sexually molests that child, the child might cast all that talent into a hidden corner of the psyche along with the feelings of horror, shame, guilt, and fear experienced as a result of the molestation--talent and molestation are linked together.
But even if one can confront all that one has abandoned or guarded for protection or out of fear, incorporating those hidden gifts and talents into one's life means the end to old patterns of behaviour and contentment with simply settling instead of living.
The reason many people never get that far is because starting over, making a whole new life, even one that one knows will be better, happier, and more fulfilling can actually feel like a threat to one's survival.
When Shadows Attack
As much as one might hope to repress, suppress, ignore, project, or otherwise keep the contents of the Shadow at bay, the fact is, they are a part of one's self.
There exists no surgery for the amputation of psychic limbs. The contents of the psyche are always a part of the Self, even when they are hidden in the Shadow realm.
Sooner or later, that which is sleeping in the unconscious will begin to wake up.
When this happens one can begin the process of healing, transformation, and integration or one can fight to keep sleeping Shadows lying.
The more one attempts to keep one's distance from the Shadow, the more the Shadow demands attention and acknowledgement.
In short, when one runs from the Shadow, the Shadow has no choice but to follow which gives rise to feelings of being pursued.
These unconscious feelings can then find expression and manifestation within one's dream life, sometimes as nightmares of being chased or pursued.
Furies Pursue Orestes
Invisible, Masked, or Unknown Stalkers
If Shadow activity is manifesting as nightmares about being chased, it may very well be that the dream figure pursuing the dreamer is invisible, masked, or otherwise unknown or unidentifiable.
In dream language, the unknown pursuer is the closest approximation the unconscious can find to communicate to the conscious mind what is going on in an area of the psyche that doesn't use words to communicate its activity.
The unknown pursuer symbolizes a primal fear that some ominous, hidden, and unpredictable event or person is coming closer, closing in, possibly bringing complete destruction of the waking world.
What is actually coming closer are the contents of the unconscious. What the contents of the unconscious are bringing is change.
The change can be a complete alteration of the way in which one views one's self and alterations may need to be made to accommodate these new views or the changes one makes after clearly seeing one's shadow.
The change may come as a complete alteration of one's waking life.
One may find that after integrating the Shadow that the comfortably numbed out existence that has allowed mere survival is no longer acceptable.
Integrating the pursuing Shadow brings empowerment.
Empowerment gives one the ability stop existing in survival mode.
Empowerment make one ready and able to stop running from life and start chasing it instead.
The Unknown or Masked Pursuer
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Aisling Ireland
Jennifer from Lost...In Video Games and Stories on December 07, 2012:
I had to think about this for a little while and, I think for me, just forgiving those who had neglected and abused me is something that I needed. It took me awhile what it was I was looking for and forgiveness, I believe, is the answer. I probably won't be able to meet with them face to face because their current location is now unknown but I had to learn, and have learned, to let go of the past.
Aisling Ireland (author) from Savannah, Georgia on December 06, 2012:
Thank you so much! I'm not a professional therapist, although I did work as a psychiatric counselor for a number of years and I have been studying Jungian psychology for about two decades--I love it.
Not to publicly delve into your personal life, but do you have any idea what might give you closure? I had childhood abuse issues for a long time and it took me forever to figure that part out. All I knew was that something was wrong, that I wanted something to change, but I had no idea what it was that I wanted. You are far ahead of where I used to be because back then I didn't even know I wanted closure!
I finally realized that what I wanted was to hear someone say they were sorry. That was it. And that was something I knew would never happen. But just figuring out what it was I wanted, what I was looking for allowed me to have closure because once I knew what I wanted, I could take the power back that my unfulfilled wish held over me.
Know two things: you are fine exactly as you are and you always were and know that one day you will believe that with all your heart and soul because you will know it is true.
Jennifer from Lost...In Video Games and Stories on December 06, 2012:
I definitely have dreams of being chased and I do have dreams about my past as a neglected child coming back to haunt me and those are quite frequent. Some kind of closure is more than likely in order...(I know you're not a therapist, as far as I know, I'm just expressing what I think I need) Thumbs up for a very useful hub! You hit it right on the head for me!