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Becoming Hawkish: An Individuation Journey

This was a final paper for Analytical (Jungian) Psychology, a course in my masters in counseling program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. It was written in April 2024.

Hawk's Bad Rap

This paper will focus on a powerful dream I experienced five years ago. At that time I was living in Oakland, California in an apartment complex that sat right in front of a small urban park–a rare year-round creek shaded by live oaks and redwoods. The park was so close that I witnessed many ordinary wonders right from my living room–like that ear-full of cedar waxwings feasting on juniper berries, making out like bandits behind their sharp black masks–but I was easy to lure outside. 

Often, I would hear the distress calls of robin, Steller's jay, and crow, and leap out my door to find the hawk whose presence they were announcing. All of the other birds know who hawk is and not one of them likes it. Many of them dive bomb, just barely missing the raptor. Crows and Steller’s jays are the boldest with this maneuver, but I have seen even hummingbirds participate. Eventually, hawk gets tired of all the ruckus, and as if rolling its eyes, flies off somewhere else.

It is not only among birds that hawk has a reputation. Politicians who favor coercion or aggression are often called hawkish, which is especially condemning when applied to women, as philosophy professor Sally Haslanger described in her piece “On sexism and gender bias”. Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness was thrown in her face during her presidential campaign; she was ultimately unable to dodge the crows of androcentrism and misogyny (Haslanger, 2016). As Jungian analyst Lisa Marchiano (2024) described in her book The vital spark, women are highly culturally conditioned to steer clear of hawkish traits like ruthlessness, shrewdness and authority.

The Dovish Persona

Analytic psychology’s founder Carl Jung (1931/1969) argued that the psychological task of the first half of life is to develop a socially-acceptable identity. As Murray Stein (1998) elaborated in his overview of Jung’s psychology, Jung’s map of the soul, this identity is shaped by familial and cultural norms, creating a personality that is profoundly one-sided. Fitting in is the primary allegiance of the personality in the first half of life, while those qualities that do not conform to social conventions are thrown into the unconscious (Stein, 1998). The authentic qualities that were disowned come into tension with the conscious attitude.

The first half of life, concerned with adaptation to the external world, is managed by a part of the psyche that Jung (1921/1971) called the persona. The word persona was first used to describe the masks of actors, enabling them to play multiple roles, which speaks to a key aspect of this psychological power–a capacity to play the part (Stein, 1998). A mask, as well as the persona, also conceals (Stein, 1998), like the mask of makeup, which is often called concealer. Makeup covers over blemishes, makes the face appear uniform and youthful, the cheeks perfectly blushed, the eyes accented. 

In her book Wounded woman, Jungian analyst Linda Schierse Leonard (1982) described common persona adaptations of women, which belie their true nature, one of which is the eternal girl:

Women have been praised for their compliance, their adaptability, their gentleness, their youthful sweetness, their obedient cooperation with their husbands…Women who live out their lives in this archetypal pattern of existence have simply remained fixated at the girlish level of development…Such a woman becomes the image her lover expects her to be, adapting herself to his fantasies of the feminine. (p. 38-39).

Being made up and pretty, agreeable, and easy going gives such woman a place in relationships and in the culture, but at the expense of her authenticity and independence (Leonard, 1982).

Shadow & Individuation

The disowned aspects of the self, those that do not fit with the image of the persona, make up what Jung (1921/1971) called the shadow. The shadow is essentially a mirror image of the persona (Stein, 1998). Stein wrote (1998), “The shadow can be thought of as a subpersonality who wants what the persona will not allow” (p. 109). Integrating the shadow is a process of admitting to oneself that those disowned qualities are in fact still acting on the psyche, and learning how to embody them consciously in authentic and healthy ways (Stein, 1998).

While belonging is important psychologically, ultimately the psyche longs for the wholeness that was sacrificed to fit in (Jung, 1989). The shadow calls for integration. The psyche will begin to compensate for the one-sidedness of the personality (Stein, 1998). In dreams, in behavior that seems to come out of nowhere, and in the form of projection, the psyche offers images from the shadow, creating a tension of opposites that can only be resolved through transcendence (Jung, 1916/1960). 

The process of submitting to the compensatory power of the unconscious, the shadow, is what Jung called individuation (Stein, 1998). Jung (1939/1969) wrote, “I use the term ‘individuation’ to denote the process by which a person becomes a psychological ‘individual,’ that is, a separate, indivisible unity or ‘whole’” (p. 275). Individuation creates a unique, whole individual because what was relegated to the unconscious in the first half of life is that which is particular and non-conforming, and once reclaimed, brings the fullness of the personality into consciousness (Stein, 1989).

My Story

Like many women, the personality I developed to fit in was quite dovish–accommodating, peace-keeping, and innocent (Leonard, 1982; Marchiano, 2024). Overly-concerned with the well-being of others, my life had very little room for me. Overly concerned with being good, my life had very little room for authentic desires. Overly concerned with looking good, I was afraid to be messy, change my mind, or follow strange impulses. I did not have the aggression to stand for myself, the precision to cut through what was not serving me, or the shrewdness to trust myself. I was living a life that looked lovely from the outside, but was not truly mine. 

I was unconscious to these truths then. However, my dovishness did keep me up at night. I was in graduate school at that time and would toss and turn wondering how I would negotiate my sense of things with the requirements of my assignments, wondering if I even had a sense of things. I often laid awake worrying about dissatisfaction in my marriage, but never considering actually leaving. Truthfully, I had trouble sleeping my entire life, always watching out for the hawks of my childhood–a loud and hostile home, and a predatory and abusive older sister, whose abuse my parents totally overlooked.

In addition to social belonging, the first personality serves to conceal from one’s self those qualities which would be too painful to own (Marchiano, 2024). My sister’s aggression was horribly traumatic for me. To maintain any sense of goodness within myself I had to cut off the capacity to be vicious, disown it, push it into the shadow. I also had to disown my authority and disagreeableness as a little one. My sister and brother were always at odds with my parents, expressing their needs loudly and incessantly, which easily overwhelmed and angered mom and dad. It was best for me to put on the face of everything is great, to wear the makeup of being easy-going, easy to please. 

I am blessed that the individuating impulse of my psyche brought me this dream to support the liberation of my hawkish qualities from the shadow and their integration into my personality. You will notice that I have already amplified and explicated many elements of the dream–the made up face, the hawk, lying awake while others sleep. I have explored the dream through a subjective lens of interpretation, which Jungian James Hall (1984) described in The use of dreams and dream interpretation in analysis as understanding the characters of the dream as parts of one’s own psyche. In this dream, I see the makeup-faced woman as my persona, and the hawk as my shadow. 

I also amplified the image of the hawk on the personal, collective and archetypal levels (Hall, 1984). By providing some context of my conscious attitude at the time of the dream, I hoped to demonstrate its compensatory power, which Hall (1984) noted is a foundational function of dreams: 

The Self, as dream-maker, has dissociated the ego from the inflated complex that it clings to in waking life, and causes it to experience a complex of a very different sort in the dream, as compensation for its inflated dominant ego-image. (p. 129)

In this dream, dream-maker dissociated me from my inflated persona, allowing me to see just how fake it was, how caked in makeup, and also demonstrating its relationship to my shadow, to my hidden aggression and ferocity.

At the time of this dream I was profoundly committed to an organization focused on shadow integration and deep nature connection, Animas Valley Institute (Animas). I would often leave my ordinary life to participate in their five day programs in wild places. Encounters with creatures during these programs often stir up deep-seeded fears and alluring curiosities, which are worked with to uncover psychological and mythopoetic capacities. At Animas programs, dreams are always shared in the present tense to support entering the dream again, and to encourage the dream to keep happening:   

I am at an Animas program and it is the middle of the night. We are all sleeping in beds up high in oak trees–the beds are just floating here. I am the only one who is awake. Across the way to the right, I spot Hawk perched on a branch. We lock eyes. I am delighted by this magnificent wild creature. Hawk soars over to me and lands at the foot of my bed, still staring at me. I become quite afraid. My eyes go wide and I frantically worry what will happen. I think the raptor is going to attack me. I look around for support from my fellow humans, a plea both for help and to affirm my reality, but everyone is still asleep, undisturbed by Hawk’s arrival. The bird begins to pull at the blanket on my bed, its talons entering the holes in the knit. Grabbing, grabbing, gathering up. The more the bird grabs, the more fearful I become. Eventually, Hawk pulls the blanket from the bed and drapes it over its head and wings. As soon as it does so, it turns into a woman with a face caked in makeup. (Author’s dream, 2019)

Not long after this dream, I went to an Animas program. While wandering the land, I found myself floating up high above the river in a stand of oaks. I was speaking out loud about my life, expressing my feelings to this place. I worried about what involvement with Animas would demand of me–it is a path of deep introspection and grappling that usually irrevocably changes the course of one’s life. I wished I would not have to give mine up, fearing many things–divorce, that my career path was all wrong, that my chronic pain was connected with how I had been living. I wanted it to be easier, did not want to have to risk anything for my independence. I felt helpless. As I continued hoping for a way out, a hawk flew straight for my face, missing me by not more than two feet. My heart raced as I looked around realizing what had just happened in awe. I assumed that the content of my words had nothing to do with the encounter, which I imagined happened by wonderful chance. 

I was soon back in a similar place in the conversation with myself. Can I not just live a regular life? The life that looks just fine from the outside? Once again, hawk dive-bombed, nearly knocking me over. At this point I was astounded, but still unconvinced that hawk had any interest in what I was saying. When it happened yet again I admitted to myself that the world was telling me something. I had been doing all the talking and had better start listening. No matter how scary, I had to remove the childhood blanket protecting me. I had to remove the makeup of my agreeableness and I had to turn toward and welcome home my capacities for aggression and authority. I had to be brave enough to claim the life that was truly mine.

Shrewdness & Synchronicity

This type of experience in which the outer world interacts with the inner world in an inexplicable and uncanny way is what Jung (1925/1969) called synchronicity: “clusters of events that are related through meaning and image but unconnected causally” (Stein, 1989,  p. 215). Jung believed that which orders the psyche also orders the rest of the world, and we humans have the unique capacity to witness that relationship (Stein, 1989). 

This inherent order is evolving toward wholeness, toward consciousness. Stein (1989) wrote, “If one is to find meaning in historical events, for example, the implication is that the underlying archetype of order is arranging history in such a way as to produce some further advance of consciousness” (p. 215). This is also true of personal history such that, “personality development takes place by moments of meaningful coincidence (synchronicity) as well as by a pre-ordained epigenetic sequence of stages” (Stein, 1989, p. 218). The archetypal power of hawk produced a meaningful coincidence that urged my personality development toward wholeness.

It was two more years before I was able to leave my marriage. The conversations that resulted in our separation illustrated my tentative attempts to embody the aggression and shrewdness needed to claim my authentic life. I had just returned from six weeks of programs with Animas, which gave me a lot of time to reflect on the relationship. I even moved my wedding ring from my left hand, just to experiment with the possibility of leaving, which I had never consciously entertained. 

I knew I needed a lot more from my husband. We were about to move, and I explained how it felt to me like a last ditch effort. I asked for what I wanted and he agreed. Yet, in between that conversation and the next, I realized I wanted more. I asked for that, and he agreed. In between that conversation and the next I had a most profound realization, something that had been true our entire relationship, but that I was just now admitting to myself. He truly wanted to give me everything I asked for, and he would if he could. What I realized was that he had no idea what I really meant, that the life I longed for was totally out of reach for him, unimaginable. What he thought he was agreeing to was not in fact what I was asking of him. We were on different paths, different planes, and we would never meet. 

I had been in love with his possibility, with the fantasy of what our marriage could be, but ignored what it actually was. I believed in his capacity for growth so much that I forfeited the allegiance to my own. Marchiano (2024) described the liberation of shrewdness from innocence: 

Frequently, we know more than we let ourselves believe…When we can’t claim what we know, we lose access to shrewdness and can become trapped in an innocence complex…If we are unable to imagine that others might not have our best interests at heart, we open ourselves up to being taken advantage of. (p. 68)

With shrewdness, I could finally be honest with myself about the state of the relationship, liberating my capacity to stand for myself. I learned, as Marchiano (2024) taught, “We cannot thrive if we are not willing, at times, to assert our needs, sometimes even at the expense of another.” (p. 210). Hawk is not afraid to take what it wants with ruthless precision. I am still an apprentice to these capacities, but I am on my way.

Dreams and synchronicities are powerful allies on the journey of individuation (Hall, 1984; Stein, 1998). This dream and waking-life encounter urged me to drop the persona that had me compliant in my relationship and liberated from the shadow my aggressive capacity to stand for my authentic self, cut ties, and adapt instead to the inner world. If the crows and jays of the outer world try to usurp me from my branch, announcing my predatory presence, I vow to pay them no mind, or to spread my magnificent wings toward some other corner of the forest where I can express my independence fiercely.

This quality will be essential as I begin my work as a psychotherapist. Marchiano (2024) wrote, “Jungian analyst Mark Winborn has made the point that analysts in training can have difficulty accessing their own wisdom because they are reluctant to confront others or raise issues that may make their patients uncomfortable” (p. 68). With my newfound shrewdness and aggression, I hope I will be able to trust what I know and have the courage to announce its presence.


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Jungian analysis (pp.123-156). Shambala.

Haslanger, S. (2016). On sexism and gender bias. Election insights 2016: Research-based perspectives from MIT.

Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections. (A. Jaffe, Ed.) (R. Winston & C. Winston,

Trans.) (Rev. ed.). Vintage Books. (Original work published 1961)

Jung, C. G. (1960). The transcendent function. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung. (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (Vol. 8, pp. 67-91).

Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1916)

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Jung, C. G. (1969). Synchronicity: An acausal connecting principle (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung: Vol. 8. Structure and dynamics of the psyche (2nd ed., pp. 417-519). Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1952)

Jung, C. G. (1971). Definitions: Soul [Psyche, personality, persona, anima] (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung: Vol. 6. Psychological Types (pp. 463–470). Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1921).

Leonard, L. S. (1982). Wounded woman: Healing the father-daughter relationship. Swallow Press.

Marchiano, L. (2024). The vital spark: Reclaim your outlaw energies and find your feminine fire. Sounds True.

Stein, M. (1998). Jung’s map of the soul: An introduction. Open Court.



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