Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Unconscious Mother

The Dream
: I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and when I come back my mother is in my place. She is almost diagonally across the bed, with her head at the foot. I try to rouse her to get her into a better position, but she remains more than asleep, almost unconscious. I am concerned that I am unable to move her.

Mother is lodged, inappropriately, at the root (foot of the bed) of my unconscious. While I want to reposition her—I am unable to. The dream tells me that I've got things exactly backward, upside down. And that I've relinquished too much of myself (my proper place).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Creative Process: Finding the “I”

The Dream: I'm with a group of graphic designers. I see them as very cool, and being accepted is important to me. The “leader” is a small, wiry black man, about the size of a 12-year-old. He's very energetic and charming, and recounts stories by acting out all the parts as he tells them. He also thinks things through very thoroughly. When a project of any sort is mentioned it's apparent he's thought of every angle and is prepared down to the details. “He's the first person I've met who is just like me,” I think, and I'm very attracted to him.

I'm invited on a weekend with him and his two assistants, partially a working weekend, but it's clear I'll be expected to sleep with him. I find this exciting—at first. I hop into the front seat of his small but well made convertible; the windows are up and the roof is down. As we pull away, beginning to go into an urban tunnel passing under another road, we have the appearance of being on a lark, a joy ride. But I start to feel uneasy.

The leader's character changes from charming to peevish. I start to feel uncomfortable about the expectation that I will have sex with him. It occurs to me that this group probably take drugs as a matter of course, and that I will be expected to participate. Suddenly the whole “adventure” sours and becomes a source of anxiety rather than fun.

Interpretation: The “leader” is a trickster figure. He looks like my typical trickster: wiry, energetic, and black, my opposite and yet—“exactly like me” in his approach to things. The dream was inspired by a recent visit to an Alan Ginsberg exhibit that reminded me that the guiding lights of art in my childhood were the rebels who stood against middle class morality, often in self-destructive and adolescent ways. (The “leader” is the size of a 12-year-old.) The dream portrays my discomfort with certain aspects of this art world, the idea that it's a place that demands undisciplined behavior and morals. At the same time, there is something attractive about a life without restrictions. Do I see conformity as my only other option?

A basic conflict has emerged here: creativity and freedom versus the straight and narrow. My experience with the graphic designers helps me  get the picture. As the dream goes forward the creative group attempt to put me in their own kind of straight jacket. Each of the two supposedly antithetical groups demands conformity, each has its “standards” and expectations for the behavior of its members. True freedom exists in neither. A conjunctio (a union, symbolized by having sex) with one of the choices does not take place.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Dreams often try to point out that we are, as Marie-Louise von Franz has said, our own difficulty.
The Dream: I'm at a Rehab center. Most of the attendees are young, and I think, “I'm too old for this.” Some of the rehabilitated leave, through a chute, in enclosed carts. At first I think that these are wheelchair substitutes, but then they get off their little conveyances and walk away. They are children with large heads, figures I've often seen in other dreams.

Interpretation: I think that I'm too old to change, but if I can discover the part of me that's still growing (the child) I might be able to overcome the things that limit me (the things that need rehabilitation: the handicaps a wheelchair symbolizes). Once I go down through the narrow chute (experience such a new way of thinking that it seems like rebirth), I'll be able to walk on my own two feet. The overly large heads and small bodies of the children point out that my capabilities need to catch up with my ideas, and those ideas might be inflated.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

High Anxiety

The Dream: I don't remember the specific dream, but I do remember the feeling: anxiety.

The dream was triggered by attending a presentation given by a friend. While she did a fine job, her work was not well received by the audience. I was on the calendar to give a talk to this same group in a month or so, and no doubt my friend's experience made me uneasy on my own account as well as hers.

Over the years I've found that entering a dream into a journal and then attempting to illustrate the dream, or the feeling that dream has engendered, is a very helpful way to cope with the difficult emotions that are a part of life.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

It Bites the Hand that Feeds It

The Dream: I have a collegial relationship with a cat. We get along. I need to correct her behavior, so I attempt to pick her up by the scruff of her neck. She camps her sharp teeth down on my hand and won't let go. I have a cat dangling from my hand and don't know how to get it to release me.

Interpretation: Symbolically cats are associated with the feminine. People project sweetness, cuddliness, and so forth, onto these animals, but at their base, where they really live, they are hunters and fighters. In today's world the genie is out of the bottle. Docility is over. Obedience is done with. The feminine animal now fights back. The cat is telling me to give my inner woman some freedom or she'll clamp down on me, and it will hurt.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Portrait

The Dream: A woman and I are sitting at a table, across from each other. We're each drawing portraits, straight-on heads. I am the teacher. She's very skillful; my criticism of her work is that it lacks feeling. I take her drawing and, with her permission, make corrections. I change the mouth, making it a vibrant pink and somewhat pouty, or sensual. My other criticism is that the portrait is vague: it's very soft and lacks definition, with one color bleeding into the next.

Interpretation: The Unconscious gives me a drawing lesson! The artist I'm instructing in this dream reminds me of an egg tempera painter who wanted to meet me; she came to my house as an acolyte. When she showed me her paintings it was clear that she was highly skilled—more so than I—in handling the medium. Yet she was not satisfied with her work because, she said, it lacked imagination. This was true. As with many painters, her skill exceeded her conception. Yet she loved painting, and enjoyed her chosen subject matter. Of course I complimented her skill. I said that it only made sense for her to do what resonated with her. I suggested keeping a dream journal if she wanted to develop some original ideas.

In the dream I admire the artist's skill but feel she needs more expression, as symbolized by my “fixing” the mouth, the organ of speech. So the message for me is, of course to express myself.

When I tried drawing the face this artist drew in the dream I learned something about how to use color pencils—that is, very softly and delicately, building up color with gentle iterations. I tend to jump to the finish immediately, and that can make me heavy-handed, a hard thing to recover from! So the dream taught me this about self-expression: take it easy; let it develop; don't jump in with too much clarity and definition. The things I criticize in the dream artist are exactly what I need to do.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


The Dream: I am in someone's house; it's either a rental or a home exchange. We are thinking about staying there for a while. There is a small washer and dryer in the garage. I point it out to Clark; it reminds me of the set my mother got me when I lived in an apartment. I start thinking about how good she was to me, and feel that I didn't do enough for her as she aged and became infirm. I am filled with regret, and my eyes fill with tears.

I hear another washer/dryer going, and I realize there's a much larger set in the kitchen. We go there, and I am struck by how wide the counters are. They are marble, in golden ocher tones. The lady showing us the house seems to empathize with my sadness.

Interpretation: At first I thought this was a straightforward dream about my feeling bad that I was not a good daughter, that I hadn't given back enough to my mother who was so good and so giving.

And I'm sure there's some truth to that. But there is another truth as well. I had the dream shortly after I had seen a manipulative mother in action. Of course the dream might be pointing out the contrast between my mother and this other mother—but at the same time it caused me to notice some parallels; for example, both mothers had a core of helplessness that required others to step up and take care of them. My resistance to helping my mother might have come from my fear that her need could never be satisfied, but could only suck me into an abyss from which I could not escape. I'm sure my mother had no conscious wish to limit me—quite the contrary—but there was a subtext that I found suffocating. That doesn't excuse me for not getting over it, but it does explain the resigned tone of many of us, when, even as adults, we say, “Yes, mother . . . . “