I’ve had monsters on my mind. I described the archetype of “the monster” in the last post (“Monsters In My Dreams”) as primal energy: the life force itself, taking the form of change. All change involves the death of something and the beginning of something else. The monster is the aspect of change we fear most—the ferocious energy with which the life force destroys in order to create.

Monsters take many forms in mythology, and in dreams. Some, as in the dream I described in “A Nightmare Is An Incomplete Dream,” are formless—or at least they remain unseen or undefined by the dream-ego (the “I” character in the dream). Other monsters are the semi-human creatures popularized in the media: zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc. Some are monstrous combinations or distortions of other creatures. Some are apparently ordinary things, but made horrifying by the context of the dream (as in some horror movies): an animated toy doll, a bunny, a flock of birds. Monsters are what we make of them. While their essential nature may be universal, the form they take is usually based on individual associations and projections.

There are some key features of monsters, however, that are pretty consistent:

  • Monsters always threaten us with death (or at least the death of our sense of self) and usually death by some horrible means.
  • Very often, monsters destroy their victims by devouring or dismembering them.
  • Monsters are frequently hapless beings, human or otherwise, who have been transformed into monsters against their will.
  • They thrive in the dark, and often fail in the light.
  • Killing a monster is usually difficult if not impossible, because they are already dead and/or immortal or semi-immortal.

All of these characteristics have something to do with how we imagine death. It devours and “tears apart” our lives. It haunts us late at night, when we may be most unsure of ourselves, and tends to fade away in the light of day. And its power is not only the power of literal death, but also the power of change, the losses and symbolic deaths we encounter throughout our lives. It is beyond time, relentless, indestructible.

What do your monsters look like? What have I left out? Ask your kids. They might know. We adults are pretty good at keeping our monsters in the closet and forgetting they are there.