Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Can Do That With My Eyes Closed

Here's an idea: Sometimes the meaning of a dream that had seemed very obvious isn't the right one. It never hurts to try on the opposite interpretation of a dream, and see how it feels. When I did that with this dream, something interesting came to light.
The Dream: I'm driving a car from the back seat. I've dozed off for a moment. I awaken with a start, happy to realize that no one noticed my lapse. The road is pitch black, and I can't see anything but the opaque night. I don't know how fast I'm going, but I'm afraid I might be exceeding the speed limit. A father figure is sitting in the driver's seat blocking my view of the speedometer. I don't want to ask him about my speed because it might draw attention to my inadequacy. I'm surprised that I've stayed on course, even with my eyes closed. Later I understand that this particular route is not much used; it's only for people wanting to travel between distant places rather than for local transportation.

Interpretation: At first this dream struck me as very negative, and it's easy to see why. There's the black night too dark for vision to penetrate; I'm driving from the back seat and fall asleep. I'm afraid I will be judged. But wait a minute! After thinking of the dream's worst possible meaning, another way to look at it flashed into my mind: I may be in the dark, and it might not be obvious that I'm driving, but I am, and I mange to stay on course even if I make mistakes. This dream is telling me about a big psychic change in progress; the road I'm on is only used to travel long distances, to get to a different place. It's the road less traveled, and I'm getting there even if it's frustrating at times and even if I don't know how.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Something Stinks

Whether we're interacting with a cousin, a parent, a sibling, a partner, or a child, the past is not as buried as we'd sometimes like to think: it's important to look at how old feelings influence our relationships in the here and now.
The Dream: My cousin Barb is visiting. Clark and I are entertaining in the garden, full of brilliant orange and purple flowers. Barb sits with her back to the house, on the lowest level near the family room and kitchen. She looks up at an arrangement of tall flowers, stepped as if they were on a grandstand. To the right is the fountain, surrounded by flowers as tall as it is.

I am mixing with the guests and don't see much of Barb. When I do see her she says, “The garden is very beautiful, but there is a bad smell coming up from under the house.”

I am relieved that she approves of the garden; I had been worried that there were too many of the same flower, and perhaps the arrangement was not exactly graceful. At the same time I'm upset by her comment about the bad smell. “How could I have let her sit there?"  I wonder. I knew about that smell. Or did I? I think I did. I feel judged inadequate.

Later I see her drinking a large glass of red wine. She calls out to me to join her, and I tell her I'm about to, as soon as I find a glass. I call out to her: “The guys (our husbands and male friends) don't drink so we'll have to keep up the tradition of our fathers.” As I say this I'm a little concerned I'll descend into alcoholism.

Interpretation: Two recently watched mysteries triggered this dream about family. In the first, set in Italy, a very attractive priest/detective says that Jesus came not to judge but to save. In the first scene with my cousin I feel judged and inadequate. She mentions a smell coming from under the house, and that was triggered by the second mystery, British, with bodies buried in the basement of a family home. What bodies of our family members lie buried underneath and raise up stinks that appall us even today? What “remains” poison our current relationships?

Having acknowledged the stink of the past my cousin and I take communion: we have wine together, but even then I worry about the legacy of our fathers. Does this communion require we numb ourselves with alcohol? Or is the dream pointing out that I'm letting overblown worries get in the way of enjoying my time with my family?

The imagery of the dream is closely tied to burial rites. The brilliant flowers mask the dark reality of decay, and they point to new growth, a resurrection of the spirit.My cousin sits near both the family room and the kitchen, the first pointing to the issue (family), and the second to transformation (our new relationship).

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Our culturally defined roles play a big part in determining the way we are in the world. Sometimes (often?) our inner self isn't happy with the limitations these roles impose. This dreams demands I take a look at that.
The Dream: A woman is talking up her partner, as wives and mothers often talk up and praise their husbands and children. I think she's overdoing it.

She has beet juice on her face, and she wipes her face on the sleeve of her lovely red wool coat. It leaves a stain. She takes the coat to the dry cleaner and when it comes back there's a cloudy gray-white residue where the stain had been. I go to get a cloth in order to clean up the mark, dampening the cloth with water. But I'm not sure I can remove this stain.

: What is this stain that won't be removed; does it come from being beet red with embarrassment? Could it be the stain of menstruation, symbolizing the “stain” and trials of being a woman? Have these challenges beaten me down?  In the dream a woman is self-effacing, making her partner more important than she is. The day before the dream I had  a conversation with a friend about discrimination against women the the art world: she told me that a famous man's work on the art market gets 30 times what a famous woman's work gets.

This stain is difficult to remove. It's embedded in the fabric. Is this “fabric” cultural or part of our DNA? In the dream it's embedded in a wool coat, a fitting symbol of feminine “sheepdom.” We women have put on the mantle of the easily led. How sheepish are we?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

No Privacy

Before you conclude that every dream is dealing with a weighty personal issue, take a look at what was going on around you, and in the world, the day or two before you had the dream.
The Dream: I'm living with other people in an apartment. The boy in the next room is playing a kind of music I don't like at ear-splitting volume. I'm very angry and go to his door, banging on it with a large pair of garden shears. It occurs to me that if he opens the door quickly I'll probably bang him with them.

At last he opens up, and I tell him how disturbing his music is, that not everyone has the same taste, and I suggest that he use ears buds. He agrees, and the music quiets down.

When I get back to my room I realize there is a window between our rooms. I can see him; he has no privacy. I wonder if he can see me, but then realize it's one-way glass. However, I think there might be another window that I'm not aware of through which another room looks into mine.

A few threads from the previous day's news and entertainment were woven together in this dream. Once I remembered them I marveled at the ability of the unconscious to make a narrative out of these diverse elements. I had the dream on a day when the Snowdon revelations of massive government snooping were being talked of everywhere. I had watched a video on how to use iPhone ear buds. I saw a mystery in which perps were being interviewed and observed through a one-way mirror. The mystery contained a knife attack (the shears) and banging on doors.

Did this dream have any deeper meaning for me? I'd say it pointed to some concerns, but that these concerns have more to do with our society than with my personal life. The issues of the dream are: privacy, peace and quiet, potential threats from strangers. The dream says that I don't like some of the things I'm hearing, and I'm angry about it. It tells me it's possible to cooperate with my neighbor, and that once I see into his world I have more sympathy for him. It seems we're all in the same boat.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


What gets your goat? What can you learn from the things that set you off? In this dream I learned I wasn't an innocent victim.

The Dream: A young boy is tortured and murdered. I am aghast and very sad and upset when I learn about it. Then I discover that he was complicit in doing the same to someone else. I don't know what to think. Then I begin to wonder why I am following this story. Am I getting some sort of enjoyment from these sadistic acts? Am I also complicit?

Interpretation: This dream was triggered by an exchange with a photographer friend. Although his situation and the dream boy's dilemma seem very different, they both deal with an apparent injustice that might not be as unjust as it first appears. My waking life friend was disappointed and baffled by the placement of his photograph in a group exhibit. He said that since the show was hung by artists he couldn't understand why it was in a spot where it couldn't be seen well. Surely they know better? He conjectured it might have been because it was a photo rather than a painting. I said that, in my experience of group exhibits, artists were only concerned with where their own pieces hung. As I said it I realized, but didn't say, that that was certainly true of me. My friend thought about it, then said that made sense: he realized it was true of him. The take home lesson? We just might be complicit in creating what we complain about.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Gifts of Gold

So many different facets come together in your dreams. The jewels in this one represent several things, from a parent's gifts to the many faces of a relationship over time. I bet you can find a few more.

The Dream
: My boyfriend has proposed. He is Dutch: stolid and stern. At first I like him, but over time I discover that he's overly directive and demanding. As I see these traits emerge, I want to end the relationship. He has given me some very beautiful gold jewellery.

I've gone too far by promising marriage, and I realize with some discomfort that I'm already married. I brainstorm with a woman friend about how to break up. “Why don't I just tell him the truth, that I'm already married?” I suggest.

“Oh, no!” she replies. She councils a subterfuge; so I tell the man, as kindly as I can, that marriage is not for me: I want to be free and independent. He is disappointed and appears hurt and vulnerable, a side of him I had not seen before. I feel bad for him. He takes the breakup well, and is not at all unkind.

I still have the beautiful jewelry that he gave me. I say to my friend, “I'm not going to offer to return it.” I'm happy to have these things.

Interpretation: This was triggered by my work on another woman's dream that I saw as dealing with her feelings about her father. The stern and demanding lover, someone I perceived in different ways over time, stands-in for the life stages of the daughter, from adoring small child to rebellious adolescent. As a small child I wanted to marry dad, but as I grew I wanted to escape him and his authority. In this dream I begin to appreciate the gifts of pure gold that he gave me, and I'm not willing to relinquish them. It's significant that he does not ask for them: they are his gifts to me, mine to keep.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Sometimes it will take you a few nights of dreaming on the same topic to clarify an on-going issue that you're subconsciously trying to sort out.  This dream gave me a slightly different understanding of the “actor” in A Long Row of Happy Dead, the previous post. And, since we've been looking at dream images, I'll point out that the dress color plays a role.

The Dream: I'm on an outdoor, open-sided stage, a platform. I fall forward, collapsing face down. My head hangs over the front edge.  People flee in all directions, afraid they'll catch what I've got. No one helps. A doctor comes forward and admonishes the others. “It's not contagious,” he says. I'm dressed in a pretty, feminine style, in a dress with a flared skirt like those from the 50s.

Interpretation: Am I ready to collapse? Actors are performers, and the key to this dream is my realization that I've been straining too hard to “perform.” I am experiencing a feeling of social isolation: people flee, and no one wants to help. I'm dressed in a feminine style that hints at my taxing “role” being mired in the obligations of wife and mother. The blue dress says I'm not happy about the situation. (Am I blue?)

I learned the feminine role in the 50s, from a mother who performed it par excellence, but at a cost to herself and to the family who became disenchanted, over the years, at her tendency to do too much and then play the martyr. My dream warns me not to do that by pointing out that it's exhausting me and has no upside: it doesn't win social acceptance or love.