And Tigers – Oh My! (aka the power of symbols)

Every once in a while I’ll notice a theme repeated in my life. I knew enough to realize that when a theme appears three times, it is something to pay attention to. Over these last few weeks the Tiger has been one of those themes. Which, for me is strange, because I’ve never felt a connection to Tigers. Although I admired their beauty, they were always too big and powerful for me to find any type of connection with. Since the Tiger presented itself three times, I knew I had to bring it up with my therapist. Being able to unpack this with my therapist was really helpful, and I am glad she extended the invitation to do so.

The first Tiger came when I spoke with my father before Christmas. He had been feeling a lot of physical pain over the last few months, and despite this, managed to make 20 dozen tamales for Christmas When I asked him how he felt, he responded “Like a Tiger!” In this case, the Tiger is a symbol for strength and energy. It is giving and replenishing.

The second Tiger came when I watched “Life of Pi”. In this film, as with most great films, each person takes from it its own meaning. For me, I identified with the story of loss. After losing my ego identity (my job, apartment, dog, and relationships, and distancing from family and friends), what I was left with was having to look at my raw self, shadows and all. In this case, the Tiger represents animus energy, fear, and all my shadow parts that I have fought against. It is the process of accepting the self with gratitude.

The third tiger came in the form of song. I knew nothing of “Les Miserables “, so when I heard Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream”, my heart felt like it would explode. Like “Life of Pi” I identified with this song and its intense theme of loss and despair. When she sang the lyrics “But the tigers come at night. With their voices soft as thunder. As they tear your hope apart. As they turn your dream to shame.” I felt raw and exposed. This Tiger is the shadow part of animus energy. It is the rage of my family and the rage I flagellate myself with. It is also the powerless “life is happening to me” perspective.

After sitting with these three versions of the Tiger, I noticed that they seem to represent the journey to the integration of strength, power, and self.

  • The shadow aspect of strength. This is the aspect that destroys.
  • The light aspect of strength. This is the aspect that provides energy and is giving.
  • The journey of the integration of strength, which holds both equally and finds balance.

Understanding this, I looked up the symbol and meaning of Tigers.  Here is what I found.

“The tiger symbol is associated with power, passion, ferocity and sensuality. In addition to these it represents beauty and speed, cruelty and wrath and its appearance in dream is usually a sign of new power or passion that has awakened within an individual.” (http://www.animal-symbols.com/tiger-symbol.html)

Some people may consider this simply as a coincidence. And although it may be, it is my subconscious and conscious mind that has picked up on the symbol of the Tiger. I mean, I see stop signs everyday, so why not think “Stop signs. Hmm, what does it mean??” For me the answer is, that the everyday things may be just that until there is a meaning meant to be seen. I believe that the mind will tune into what it is ready to see, and it is a disservice to ourselves to turn a blind eye. I wasn’t out looking for Tigers. I simply noticed them because there was something I am now ready to learn. Like the practice of meditation, one cannot make symbols and themes visible. You simply have to notice.

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