Friday, December 31, 2010

Guest Writer: The New Year as Transition

Thanks to Rob Drew for today's post.

Happy New Year!  We'll be giving and receiving this cheerful greeting the next few days without much thought, yet it is full of cultural and personal significance.  A million people will brave the cold in New York City to watch the glass ball descend into Times Square. Millions of others will watch on TV.  But why celebrate a moment, the transition from one numbered year to the next? 

As humans we are capable of experiencing time. We can look back on the past and forward to the future just as the two-headed Roman god Janus, for whom January is named. As we travel through time we have to leave some things or some people behind, perhaps by choice or perhaps not. The Old Year provides a place to do that, a symbolic resting place for old loves, former jobs, silly fads, passe' fashions, and our own bad habits. The New Year is fresh, alive, unknown and full of potential: new loves, better jobs, and resolutions for one or two new good habits. The stroke of midnight is the portal between past and future, a closing door on the past and an opening door into the future.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What's Bugging Me?

The Dream: A stepped garden leads to my apartment. Some others from the complex are with me; they get to their apartment by first entering mine and then going up some stairs to the right. The space opening to my apartment is separated from the vestibule by a counter covered with decorative plants. My companions, on entering the vestibule, survey my apartment and remark on its attractiveness. The woman says she wishes hers were as lovely. I think her place probably has the exact same layout as mine, and it’s a question of what one does with it.

As they are admiring my place, which does look beautiful, I notice bugs coming out of the pots on the counter. This is distressing and I wonder what caused them to appear. Did I leave some food around? I’m hoping my “guests” won’t notice as I search for the cause. At first I notice that one pot in particular, the one to the far right, has lots of small creatures emerging. But then I notice all do.

Interpretation: The stepped garden represents my personal growth.  My feelings of isolation (apart-ment complex) and I (the dream ego) encounter one another in this dream.  I begin to realize we live in the same space (her place has the same layout as mine). I see that my complex splits off from our common domain (the entry way) and go upstairs to its usual habitation, the intellect (on a higher level, to the right). I am happy with my beautiful apartment until I notice all is not right: something unpleasant and distressing emerges. The bugs represent something I don’t want to accept and can’t control (the fly in the ointment). I need to figure out where they fit in.

Monday, December 27, 2010

No Longer Apart

In this little dream, I deal with some unconscious factors that have put up barriers to my smooth acceptance of others.

The Dream: I go to the mailbox area of an apartment complex to pick up my mail. A large man is looking at a magazine that I think must be mine, since he took it from my mail cubby. I feel territorial; he’s invaded my space and taken something of mine. In time I come to realize that the mail cubby is a shared space, and he has a right to it as well. What’s more, the magazine he’s looking at is his. He is a pleasant enough fellow, and I get the impression that he works in IT (Information Technology).

Interpretation: In the middle ages, combatants were protected by their suits of mail. When I go to pick mine up I confront one of my complexes. Which one? The one that keeps me apart from the rest of humanity (an apart-ment complex). During the course of the dream I realize that my feeling ownership of a shared space is inappropriate. I also see my belief that the large man has taken something from me is not true. Now I can like this shadow figure. Liking and accepting him, I am less estranged from the community of my fellow humans. The whole community, you ask? Why not? The dream told me he was huge (large). Just to give me a little wink and nudge, the dream tells me that this fellow works in IT; clearly his job in my dream was to impart some information.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Metaphorical Meaning of Christmas

For today’s post I thought it would be interesting to use the methods we’ve been using to look at personal dreams on a dream that belongs to our culture: Christmas. This day has been observed as a Christian holiday for over 2000 years. Christianity paired its celebrations with those of older religions, so the birth of the Christian deity was celebrated on the night of the Solstice. Symbolically this dark time of year creates the dark cave of the unenlightened soul, a cave which may be seen behind the Virgin Mary in Orthodox Christian nativity icons. The virgin birth symbolizes the soul’s rescue from this unenlightened dwelling: the spirit is born and becomes incarnate in our previously animal nature. In other words, the birth of the deity to a human mother reenacts the historical moment in our evolution—and the actual moment in each and every life--when we become capable of consciousness.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hanging Grandma

When trying to understand one of your dreams it’s a good idea to see if it contains a paradox. In this dream, grandmother is dead and yet she lives. This is the key to the meaning of the dream.

The Dream: 
An older woman, “Grandma,” has hung herself. At first I’m afraid to look at her, but for some reason her body is left hanging in a public area, the courtyard of a school, and seeing her is unavoidable. All are in a tizzy over this event. Yet she looks very peaceful; she’s in a yoga position with a contemplative expression on her face. As awful as this incident seems, when I see her serenity I am consoled.

Interpretation: When I had this dream I was preparing to go see and admire the great Florentine painters of the medieval to Renaissance periods. Grandma represents the past; in this case not my personal past but the past artistic glories of European art, which have been an ongoing inspiration in my life. She, like the art I love, hangs in public for all to see. I am distressed that she has died.

Is the dream telling me that these earlier periods of art are now dead for me? Yes: at least as far as being at the core of my artistic inspiration. But the dream is also telling me that a new, revitalized artistic energy will emerge. After all, I take comfort in seeing the spirit live on in the dead Grandma (her yoga position and contemplative expression) despite her apparent death. The paradox this dream explores is the common dream topic of new life (energy) emerging from death (stasis).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Studio for Sale

The Dream: An artist friend is selling her two-story studio. The unfinished downstairs smells musty, like a basement. Black construction paper lines some of the walls. The person moving in will use the larger of the two upstairs rooms for her painting. The smaller room, to the right as I look at them, will be for storage.

The downstairs, evocative of a basement with its musty smell, tells me that I’m dealing with an issue that has basic, or primitive, overtones. The black paper evokes a dark cave, perhaps one with writing on its walls (paper is something we write on). That it’s construction paper hints something was built on this obscure foundation. This train of thought leads me to the Lascaux cave paintings. Here these French caves symbolize our species’ early commitment to art, and the dream deals with some sort of unconscious change in my relationship to the art I make.

The dream emphasizes duality: the studio has two stories; the upstairs has two rooms. One part of me is getting rid of her studio; another part who’s moving in seems to be elevating the work, taking it to a higher level (on the second floor) where she will paint in the larger room and store things in the smaller one. I hope the transformed artist will be nourished by the primitive energy from downstairs, and that she can synthesize that energy with the higher consciousness upstairs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Father’s Pen

The Dream: I have picked up a pen and I notice how nicely it writes. I realize it is my father’s pen—possibly also Jerry’s or Clark’s. I want to have a pen like this. It writes very smoothly. It is a ball point, and it isn’t new: it shows some signs of wear.

Interpretation: This dream seems Freudian in the extreme. Pen: penis; and a ball-point, no less. But what does the penis represent? Not so much the organ, but male power in the world. Jung might say that in a woman's dream it represents her animus, or inner man. The dream plays with words:  the pen is what I use to make my mark in the world through drawing and writing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Union of Spirit

I awakened remembering a dream from twenty years ago with new insight into its meaning.

The Dream: Stephen, a very close friend, is in hospital, dying of Aids. He looks ghastly, covered with sores. “Let’s make love,” he says. I am appalled and horrified. “Now?! I say, “Now you want to make love?” As much as we loved each other, because he was gay we had never been lovers.

I found out shortly after having this dream that Stephen had, in fact, died.

Interpretation: Stephen once criticized me for having a “literal” mind. If I could have seen beyond the literal meaning of what he was saying to me in the dream, perhaps I could have been a better friend. Had I been able to spiritually embrace him instead of shrinking from him, perhaps I could have eased both his passing and my grief. Why did I remember this dream now? Aunt Peggy’s declining state has brought to the fore the difficult issue of mortality.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Phone a Friend

The Dream:
Aunt Peggy, who has dementia and recently went into a care facility, has managed to make phone calls and undo most of the sorting out that Clark and I have been attempting on her behalf. I’m not sure if it was in the dream or in a half awake state that I thought, “That isn’t possible. She can no longer make a phone call.”

The obvious interpretation of this dream is that I am feeling anxiety over the many tasks involved in sorting out another’s affairs. I am afraid our work will be for nothing; that somehow my aunt, who has always been a difficult person, will screw things up. But there are dream workers who suggest that a dream does not come to tell us what we already know. If they are right, I have to assume that some part of me doesn’t accept the fact that my aunt has dementia. In this dream, as in a previous one, I struggle to come to terms with the reality of my aunt’s condition.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Not Ready to Go

The Dream: I am at the airport. The plane is at the gate. Its interior has only a few seats; it seems truncated, for example, only the first class section. Yet it feels spacious; the seats are white leather. No one is on the plane—no crew, no passengers, no gate keepers even. I decide to use the toilet but find I can’t go. After a while I must have produced a little something so I decide to flush. Immediately I feel this would be a mistake because the toilets are like train toilets and will flush directly onto the tarmac, which might not be too pleasant for those loading the plane. I stay on the toilet for a while, trying to produce more output and having very little success.

At last I leave the toilet and as I open the door I encounter a maintenance man who had been patiently waiting to clean the room. I’m embarrassed and apologize; he seems long suffering. Had I known he was there I would have cut short my visit.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The Dream: I’m writing and writing—long hand, in a journal--and it is some sort of emotional release.

Interpretation: My unconscious tells me that keeping my dream journal is important for my psychic well being.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cleaning Out Old Stuff

The Dream: I am cleaning out the closet in the bedroom of the house I lived in as a child. Some of the clothes belong to my daughter, and I don’t think I should get rid of them. I must leave them where they are, even though I’d like to finish the job.

Interpretation: Everyone in a dream is an aspect of the dreamer. In this dream I am sorting out which aspects of myself I want to keep, and which I want to get rid of. As I confront an old self (my inner child) I realize that I have shut her out of my life (put her things in the closet: the “close it.”).  But I can’t get rid of her so easily; her clothes (facets of her) remain. My job is to accept this, leaving her things where they are.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Yellow Blanket

The Dream: There is a cheerful yellow blanket with trapunto ducks that I want to put on the bed.

Interpretation: A bed is a place to rest, and a blanket symbolizes warmth and comfort. The yellow ducks imply the homey sort of contentment a well-cared for child experiences. The dream is pointing out that I want to rest and be comforted.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Express Yourself

The Dream: I have a new two-story house, unfurnished. An artist friend gives me a wooden table and a toilet stall. This is a self-contained toilet, like the ones you would find in a public restroom. The slightly curved floor and the walls are composed of wooden slats. I examine this fixture, thinking about cleaning it.

I am on the way toward building a new understanding of who I am (the new house). The fact that the house has two stories tells me that I am attempting to integrate two different versions (stories) of myself that currently reside, at different levels, in my psyche. The house is unfurnished; this hints that I have the opportunity to go in a new direction. In other words, I’m not constrained by a previously set style.

My inner artist (the artist friend) immediately steps in to help. One of her gifts is a wooden table. Since tables are places where people come together for sustenance, she is trying to help me to integrate these varying, often inharmonious, aspects of myself. She also offers an unusual toilet. Toilets represent places where we can express ourselves—let things out—in privacy.  But instead of my using her gift in this way, I immediately think about the chore aspect of having a toilet: you have to keep it clean. My unconscious is pointing out that I miss out on some parts of life by being unwilling to accept the mess that's part of it, and--more to the point--part of me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Guest Dreamer: First Encounter

Today’s Guest Dreamer is Arcadian, who recounts a powerful dream he had as a youth.

The Dream: I had a truly bizarre dream once and I'm baffled as to its meaning. When I was a youngster I dreamed I was in a treasure room and there were valuables of every kind piled up in a pyramid-shaped stack. As I stood and admired the wonder of it all, the most beautiful blond-haired girl, robed in splendor, appeared--standing at the very top and glaring at me.

I told her how amazing the pile was. She lifted an arm and pointed a finger at me, out of which shot a bright beam and I feared for my life. Before the beam reached me I felt myself moving at lightning speed and the next thing I knew I could feel myself returning to my body.

Arcadian has asked me to interpret his dream. As my regular readers know (sorry for being repetitious, regular readers), I follow the guidelines of projective dream groups when I comment on someone else’s dream. In other words, I take on the dream as if it were my own, and tell you what it would mean to me if I had dreamed it. This may or may not be relevant to Arcadian; but perhaps it will spur him to think of his dream in a new light. And of course I hope he will leave us his thoughts after he has read what I’ve written.

In my version of Arcadian’s dream, I feel that I am encountering the figure Carl Jung called the Anima, which represents my soul. First I see a great treasure stacked into the form of a pyramid. The treasure represents spiritual enlightenment, much as the gold on an icon represents divine radiance.  Pyramids (like church steeples) are symbolic mountains, and many religious traditions associate gods or divine wisdom with mountain tops: for example, Zeus and the Greek gods lived on Mount Olympus, and Moses went up a mountain to receive the 10 Commandments. My own personal spiritual truth is embodied in my soul, represented by a beautiful blond-haired girl, robed as a goddess would be, in splendor.

She glares at me, challenging me. I tell her I am amazed by the treasure she seems to guard. I am young, and not ready to grapple with the intensity of my own spiritual truth. Her light (revelation or truth) is too bright for me. I return to the more earthly, material state of my body. But I know from this encounter that my soul is a beautiful and fierce thing, and when the time is right for me to see her again I will not be frightened.

Here is how Jung describes his first encounter with his own Anima: “I spoke to a loving soul and as I drew nearer to her, I was overcome by horror, and I leaped up a wall of doubt, and did not anticipate that I thus wanted to protect myself from my fearful soul.” *
* C.G. Jung, The Red Book Liber Novus, edited by Sonu Shamdasani, translated by Mark Kyburz, John Peck, and Sonu Shamdasani, (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009), 235.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Magic Bike

The Dream:
I’m riding a bicycle on a busy city street. It’s not exactly under my control, and I am uneasy. I’m pedaling on the sidewalk, crowded with people. I worry about slamming into a curb when in a crosswalk, but the bike magically jumps the curb. I’m worried about hitting people, but that doesn’t happen either. Each half of the odd-looking handle bars can move independently of the other. The brakes are in the pedals, but they don’t work; when I try to use them they only spin around.

I’m moving under my own steam (on a bicycle), yet getting from here to there is making me anxious. I’m not in the right place: I’m on the sidewalk rather than in the street. And let’s look at the word “sidewalk:” Am I side-stepping something? When I come to a possible turning point (the crosswalk) I worry about meeting an obstacle (slamming into a curb). As I surmount this difficulty (the bike magically jumps the curb), I have a new worry: I might hurt someone (hit people). I successfully navigate that obstacle, when I’m faced with two new problems. First, my handle bars move independently of each other; this unusual steering device tells me that I’m trying to go in two directions at once. And second, I’d better slow down, because my brakes don’t work.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hidden Wealth

This dream seems perfect for Thanksgiving. Where is your hidden wealth?

The Dream: Money is hidden in the back of a picture frame—between the picture and the piece of tan paper the framer puts in to finish the job.

Interpretation: If I can learn the back story (what’s hidden behind the paper backing) something from the past (back) will yield a nugget (money) of insight, and I’ll get the picture.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scale the Wall

Dream: A wall must be scaled. It looks like the sort of climbing wall you might see in a sporting goods store.

I realize that I need to rethink my relationship to this dream blog. Even though creating it is enjoyable, in some ways it feels burdensome (like scaling a wall). Trying to prepare the illustrations and interpret the dreams as quickly as the blog requires can be frustrating. I don’t want the quality to drop, but sometimes that seems inevitable. On the other hand, I've learned something from this quick production schedule: I’ve  experimented with a lot of new techniques. Perhaps my dream is telling me to put the process on a scale (weigh it) so I can see it in its correct proportion (scale) to the rest of my life.
Why the sporting goods store? Probably because dream work is my hobby, not my profession. The message here: It's your hobby: Don't make it into a chore; have fun with it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Bear Cave

The situation in the previous post helps to explain this dream.

Dream image:
A hibernating bear.

Here’s a good example of the many possibilities a dream image can represent. Am I as grouchy as a bear? Or are my complaints and negative thoughts sleeping, waiting to emerge? Perhaps I can’t bear it.

The Great Bear is an ancient symbol for rebirth. The dream is a double pun: Acknowledging my repressed complaints will enable me to be reborn into a happier reality.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Up in the Air

This dream tells me that I’m in an uncomfortable situation, even though my inner goody-two-shoes tries to deny it.

The Dream: I’m in an airplane with Colleen. She has made the arrangements. The plane has odd windows: no glass, but very small open slats. Nor does it have seats. I complain about all this until Colleen gets fed up and moves to another part of the aircraft.

 I manage to get a seat at last: it's a rust-colored leather office chair. I think some other kind would be more comfortable for the flight, so I join others in the front of the cabin where the flight crew is selling better seats.

Interpretation: My friend Colleen represents what Jung calls the collective conscious, or the part of us governed by the rules and mores of society. Colleen goes to church, volunteers, works hard: in short, she behaves. The dream is telling me that she is the part of me that is in charge of what’s currently going on in my life. (She has made the arrangements.) And I don’t like it. The windows of the place where she has put me resemble the bars of a prison, and there is nowhere to sit (rest).

To make matters worse, my inner Colleen demands a cheerful acquiescence to these unpleasant circumstances—no complaints! After all, we’re on a higher (air) plane here.

The less well behaved part of me is thoroughly frustrated. When I finally do get a seat it’s not a place to rest, but rather a place to work (it’s an office chair). But the situation isn’t helpless; the crew is selling seats, and I’m on my way to try to get a more comfortable one.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Compensation

An elderly relative, Aunt Peggy, has dementia and must go to a nursing home.  Making the arrangements and clearing out her house was left to my husband Clark and me. I had this dream in the middle of that difficult chore.

The Dream: Aunt Peggy’s house is almost empty, but not quite. There are a few pieces of paper lying about and one piece of furniture, a bed. As I stand near it, a cat rubs against my legs. I wonder how it got in, and if it is making the room smelly. I want Aunt Peggy’s washer and dryer, both so new they are still in their boxes. I think that having these will make up for all the disruption she has caused.

Aunt Peggy appears. She has been pronounced cured and let out of the care facility. She has decided to hook up her new washer and dryer. She and some installers unbox the pieces and work on hooking up the water. I wonder what she must think about her house having been cleared out. She seems rational and capable.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Falling Apart

The Dream:
An elderly lady is failing. She is very beautiful and still sought after as a sage and speaker. She is lying on a bed, her hair coiffed and looking quite the grande dame. She is giving a lecture. A man comes over. I whisper in his ear: “Can’t we move her to a better spot, the like podium across the hall?” The lady overhears me and starts to fail before my eyes. Clearly my suggestion, while well-meant, is too much for her. She can’t make the move to a more public forum.

Interpretation: The last dream gave me a warning about too much self analysis. This dream suggests the dangers inherent in publicizing my dreams.  A beautiful and wise part of me is very fragile; it must remain private if it is to survive.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Slice of Head?

The Dream: A young man in a classroom is using a large chef’s knife to slice his head into three layers above his eyebrows. It doesn’t seem to distress him in any way. I am concerned, however, even if he isn’t.

Clark and I are waiting to go into a lecture on dreams in a setting that is part classroom, part theater. An usher seats a lone woman who is in front of us, and we are meant to wait in the lobby for our turn. I, however, decide to sneak in behind them and see how many seats are still available. The room is almost full. I’m excited to see how many people have turned out for a lecture on dreams. At the same time I think Clark and I had better grab a seat because there aren’t too many remaining.

We take our seats, and who should appear but the head slicer. He sits next to me and, again, starts to slice his head into 3 sections. I find this very disturbing, and this time he looks pale, as if about to faint. As he starts the final incision I say, “We must call an ambulance.” The young man doesn’t want us to.

Interpretation: The young man is slicing the part of his head where thought takes place (above the brow) into three sections, reflecting the division of our minds into id, ego and superego (Freud) or conscious, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious (Jung). While the dream character doing the self dissection appears to be unbothered, the dream ego goes from concerned to alarmed. Perhaps my animus (Clark) and I are too eager to go learn from dreams (we are attending a dream lecture). There is no seat (place) for us here, and it is only my pushiness (going out of turn) that gets us in. Once in, the head slicer reappears, and this time he seems to be feeling some ill effects from his work on himself

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Are Things Unconscious?

The Dream:
I am working on an image in Photoshop. The software suggests what part of the image should be cropped out. I don’t like the software making these determinations, but after a while I realize it’s right. The areas it wants me to delete are populated with animals and plants: leaving these in detracts from the main part of the picture.

Interpretation: Our more primitive knowledge and experience, symbolized here by plants and animals, is kept at an unconscious level; so it appears to have been deleted (cropped out). This dream tells me why: consciousness evolved to enable us to focus.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Regal Grandmother

The Dream: I see my grandmother, who died on Christmas eve in 1978. She is wearing a large black hat. I am surprised that her skin is very smooth, without wrinkles, even though she is clearly elderly. She speaks English perfectly, which was not the case in waking life. I go up to her, surprised and pleased to see her and say, “Do you remember me? I’m Carla.” She has the quiet authority and self-assurance of a queen. “I know who you are,” she says. 

Interpretation: Grandmother’s large black hat tips us off that this dream is about mourning. Her skin has changed—no longer is it wrinkled—suggesting the rebirth metaphor of the snake which sheds its old skin. She speaks fluent English. The dream tells me that now that I am older myself I can understand her, and see her for who she really is: someone regal in spirit, someone who rose above the humble circumstances of her life. Her statement to me “I know who you are” seems to say two things at once. On the one hand, it suggests a sort of intimacy; on the other, a distance. After all, in this world we can only get so close to a spirit—and no closer.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mother’s Birdcage Hairdo

One of the most difficult things we do as humans is to try to come to terms with the loss of our loved ones. The grieving process goes on for years, as the next couple of dreams demonstrate.

The Dream: My mother has had her hair done by my hairdresser. It’s something like my style but with an extra feature: a configuration of hair that resembles a birdcage coming up from her scalp. I’m trying to reassure her that she looks good with this “updated” hairdo, but neither of us is convinced.

Interpretation: If hair represents our thoughts, having my mother’s hair done by my hairdresser reflects my wish to make her think as I do. But since she died some years ago, the unconscious lets me know this isn’t possible. Her hair instead becomes a birdcage. Birds represent the spirit; her thoughts, or my thoughts about her, have formed a place where her spirit can dwell (the hair twisted into a birdcage). I am not ready to release her from this earthly life, so I don’t care for her updated hairdo, but I try to accept it for both of us by telling her, however unconvincingly, that it looks good on her.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hair Again

The Dream: Another hair dream last night. This time my hair is short and curly and I realize I have a new hairstyle.

Interpretation: According to Tony Crisp, hair can represent thoughts and attitudes. The dream image of a new hairstyle tells me I’m changing my mind. On the other hand, I have to ask myself, is something making my hair curl?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Wig for Yoga

The Dream:
Several women, including me, are waiting for a yoga teacher. She’s unreliable and on several occasions in the recent past has been a no show. I don’t think she’s coming: but finally she does.

There are two wigs available for class participants to wear. Wigs, it seems, are part of a proper yoga costume. I want to wear one. As I head for the clothesline where one is hanging someone beats me to it. I could have sped up, cut her off, and taken the prize, but I think that would be rude so I don’t. There’s still the other wig, and it’s considered “fair” to remove it from another’s head and claim it. But this one is being worn by a perfectly bald woman who recently underwent chemo—so I feel this would not be the right thing to do. The upshot? No wig for me.

Interpretation: I am waiting for a spiritual advisor (yoga teacher) even though I have reason to believe she is unreliable. Hair, coming out of our heads as it does, can represent our thoughts. In this dream I spend a certain amount of energy running after ideas which are clearly not right for me (the false hair). The dream tells me not to rely on others to teach me the meaning of life, but to look to my own inner voice for spiritual guidance.

Monday, November 1, 2010

On the Bias

The Dream: I am trying on a skirt, light beige in color, when a sales girl points out a spot near the left hip where the garment pouches out between two stitching lines. “That’s not very flattering,” she says. I smooth out the area, getting it to lie properly. “Thank you for pointing that out,” I say. “It’s because it’s cut on the bias.”

Interpretation: I had been reading an article in the American Scholar in which two writers, one black and one white, frankly discuss racism. I see the beige skirt as symbolizing the combination of brown and white; it isn’t working quite right because of bias (prejudice). I try to smooth out the problem. The dream represents the various parts of my psyche trying to accept each other, working toward integration.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Remodel

The Dream: I am remodeling my very large apartment in the city. One room looks quite spectacular. It is the dining room. A large wooden table sits in its center. The walls are covered in a velvet-like pattern, a simplified medieval design in rich shades of green and golden brown with black accents. Brown wood molding surrounds the windows. I think it looks wonderful, but I am concerned this decoration has been slapped on to a base that can’t support it. On the other hand,  perhaps it really is okay.

Interpretation: This dream seems to be a continuation of Not A Black Hole. My psyche is attempting to shift its center; in other words, the Self that Jung talks about is trying to expand in order to include some previously unconscious material. The dining room, being a place where we come together for nourishment, symbolizes this process. But at the center of the room is the large wooden (not pliable, rigid) table (in a meeting to table the motion stops forward progress). I can see there is richness here: the velvet, the warm colors—but I’m not sure I’m strong enough to support it. The jury is still out on this one.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not A Black Hole

The Dream: I’m cleaning the kitchen floor. I notice how much cleaner it is where I’ve mopped so I keep going, even though we have company. As I work across the floor a hole opens up in the middle of the room: a dark, earth-colored, earth-sided hole which descends to depths unknown.

I am alarmed and point this out to Clark. He reassures me that this is nothing to worry about, but I’m concerned that I could have fallen in at any time. He knew the hole was there all along but was not alarmed. He says that it wouldn’t be so disastrous if I did fall in, that it really isn’t so deep. “There’s a spiral staircase and an area with light,” he says. “It’s not a black hole.” I don’t buy it, although I do have a glimpse of what he’s talking about for a moment. Later I notice he’s put a table over the area.

Interpretation: Kitchens in dreams are often places where transformation takes place. I’m busy with a mundane task, cleaning the floor, when it seems I ought to be enjoying my guests. My task is interrupted by an unexpected event: a hole in the floor. On the one hand, this hole smacks of the grave, with its earth color and its scary descent to the unknown. On the other hand, Clark, who represents my other half, is very comfortable with what seems to me a major problem. Clark tells me there is something to be gained from descending into this unknown world; he tells me this is where I’ll find light (spiritual illumination). The spiral staircase he mentions evokes our nightly descent into the unconscious.
Something about this realm frightens me, although I have an inkling that what he says might be true. He does not insist, but “tables” the discussion. The hole (whole) remains, even if covered, awaiting the moment I’m brave enough to explore it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Old Man and the Sea

The Dream: On a cliff overlooking the sea an old man, who doesn’t walk well, is trying to catch a young girl of about seven. It looks as if he will: she is running in his direction, and he’s ready to catch her, running toward her in his wobbly way. All at once she veers inland. Happily, without a care in the world--running for the pure joy of it--she evades him completely.

Interpretation: Old age and infirmity is out to get me. I manage to elude it, at least for the time being.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dead Babies in Boxes

Ever had an awful dream and wondered how truly disturbed you must be? Sometimes, when you stop and think about it, you realize its actual meaning is pretty mundane.

The Dream: Another dead baby dream. This time the “baby” was a little older, maybe a toddler. Three dead babies are in square boxes.

Interpretation: Many dream workers suggest that a “baby” is a new idea or project. Since this one is a toddler (2 to 3 years old) it must be a project I’ve had for a while. Since it’s “dead” it seems pretty clear that it isn’t going well. (I can think of a few projects in that category.) My dream tells me I’m feeling boxed in by these fruitless projects.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Path to Enlightenment

Dreams are said to come to us to tell us what we don’t consciously know. If you ever wonder whether or not you are doing the right thing, look to your dreams for guidance.

Dream Image: A desk that looks like the sun.

Interpretation: I’m getting thumbs up from my unconscious with this one. The sun is our source of light (enlightenment). This dream tells me that my unconscious thinks I’m on the right track with the work I do at my desk, where I write in my dream journal, do many illustrations, post this blog, and so on.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Into the Vortex

Some dreams are mere snippets. Even so, they can give us a lot to think about.

The dream made this pronouncement: "Each dreamer has several dreams which replay, in different guises, over and over again."

I need to look at recurring themes in my dreams. Until I get the message I’ll probably be treated to a lot of reruns!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wheel of Fortune

Dreams are a way of processing and coming to terms with our day-to-day concerns, often commenting on our work-day frustrations.

Dream Image: A wheel-like device made of slats, something like a waterwheel. A turquoise finger-like projection is inserted between the slats.

Interpretation: A client presentation didn’t work out as planned; someone stuck her nose (finger) in, creating a disruption and stopping progress on the project.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Baby Under Water

As you work on your dreams, you may become aware of recurring themes that reflect your psychic progress.

The Dream: A baby is in a pool, face up under the water. It takes me a while to realize that she is having a problem: I am distracted; my attention is not on her. I’m reading the newspaper. When I perceive the danger she is in I rescue her, managing to resuscitate her. This happens again, only I’m not sure I am able to breathe life into her tiny body this time. I hold her nose and breathe into her mouth. At one point I think perhaps I see her eyes flutter. I am afraid she’s dead.

Interpretation: After the rapprochement of my warring aspects in Ménage a Trois, the dead and dumped baby of Death of the Attached Baby reappears: still in danger, but alive. The newspaper I read here (am I too concerned with worldly matters?) echoes the newspaper the baby was wrapped in before being unceremoniously thrown into the garbage. My attempts to revive the baby (my authentic artist self) are tenuous and not completely successful, but there is some small hope I have managed to breathe life into her.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ménage a Moi

The Dream: A woman is thinking, “It’s Saturday night; I should remind my husband this is the night we have sex.” As she thinks this, another woman goes to the man and says, “Remember it’s Saturday night and that’s when we have sex.” The first woman realizes that her husband has two wives. This doesn’t upset her; she has noticed the man’s annoyance when the other woman nagged him about having sex, and she thinks that because the other woman has said something she no longer needs to. She wonders how the night will play out: A ménage a trois?

Interpretation: Taken out of sequence I would have no idea what this dream means. Seen as the culmination of the last two dreams, however, it makes sense. I split into three in Death of the Attached Baby and into two in Both of Them Are Me. In this  potential ménage a trois my various selves try to come together. (Yes, I noticed the pun.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Both of Them Are Me

The Dream:
I have split into two people, who are in conflict. As the dream ego I watch the argument. The two look identical, and I am told that “they are both the same.”

This snippet underlines the realization I came to in my last dream: there’s a conflict between the part of me that gets along in the world by compromising and accepting limits and the part of me that thinks I should express myself—no holds barred--with great passion. Why did I unconsciously choose this turn of speech, no holds barred? I looked it up and found it comes from wrestling and means without rules or restrictions: how apropos! The phrase summarizes the dream's conundrum: wrestling with freedom.

But what to make of the dream message: "They are both the same?" Besides referring to my two minds over the conflict, is the dream telling me that freedom and responsibility are inexorably linked?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Death of the Attached Baby

The Dream:
I am in a dune-like area. The sea is implied, but not seen. There is a modern road through the dunes, with a sidewalk and the sort of empty bus stop often seen in the suburbs. I wander here for a while, waiting for one of my husband’s colleagues. He works at a nearby high-tech scientific installation which will soon be dismissing its employees for the day.

It’s 5:00 o’clock, and the lab workers file out of the simple, modern building, about seven stories tall. I am with a woman who has just had a baby. She resembles an artist friend. She is obviously thrilled with her baby, and at first all seems okay; but it soon becomes clear that the baby is still physically attached to her mother—through the mother’s hand. They share capillaries. Then the shocker: we realize the baby has died.

Some medical technicians come and take the baby away. They wrap the baby in newspaper secured with twine; they throw her off a dump truck into a garbage bin. I am appalled. Why wasn’t the baby returned to the family for a respectful and loving funeral?

Back to the mother: She is now attended by her sister, a plain-looking German woman with short cropped strawberry blond hair. The sister is very upset and doesn’t feel the mother is adequately distraught. I know the mother is upset, but in a less effusive way than her sister. I put my arm around the German woman and walk her a few steps away, trying both to comfort her and to keep her from making a bad situation worse.

In the beginning of the dream I am in an intuitive, unconscious state (the sea, the dunes). But progress soon asserts itself in the form of a road, sidewalk, bus stop, and high-tech laboratory. This symbolically plots my early life, my personal progress between the ages of five and seven, which are the two numbers in the dream. During this time I moved from the idyll of a happy 5-year-old child living in a beautiful rural setting to the challenge of starting school and being subjected to the discipline and socialization that entails. At this age we still hold our mother’s hand. That the baby is not completely detached from the mother reflects the wrench that I felt on starting this new phase of life.

Then the dream veers into the present. How do I know? The mother resembles one of my current artist friends: this tells me the issue here is not entirely in the past. The baby, representing my authentic artist self at a critical juncture of my life (between 5 and 7), is carted away by technicians (the school system) and dumped. The dead baby’s crude disposal reminds me of a scene from the movie Amadeus. When Mozart dies he is given a pauper’s burial. The reusable casket opens at one end like a dump truck and his unsheltered body thuds into an open pit, a common grave. How could my baby artist expect any better?

The mother (my adult artist, the compromiser) accepts the death of her own potential with an equanimity that baffles her sister, the German woman, whose geographical proximity to the home of the Austrian Mozart tells me her opinion is important. But in my role as Dream Ego, I try my best to shut her up and keep her from making waves.

Yet again, the voice that seems most difficult in my dream is the one I need to listen to.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Living at the Ritz

The Dream:
Clark has bought a ski condo at the Ritz building in Manhattan. It is on Central Park South, facing the Park. Our condo is on a top floor and can be accessed only by going up ladders and through openings which look like holes in the ceiling. I find this method of access scary and cumbersome. Once I get up there, I wonder, how frightening will it be to come down?

When we finally get to our condo it’s very large, but dirty—stuffed with old furniture from previous occupants. It’s in need of a paint job, cleaning, clearing out. I’m not sure how this can be done, since there is no elevator and only a small entrance.

I’m in the lobby of the very fancy building, with uniformed doormen scurrying about. At first I feel quite classy for being a resident of such a place, but when I go outside to look at the building I see a marked change between the lower floors and the floor our condo is on. Our floor looks shabby, and it occurs to me that it must have been the servants’ quarters, which explains why it must be accessed with ladders.

I discover, however, that I can take the main staircase up to all but the very top floor. To get to the top I must still use a ladder, made of rope and hanging from the attic. I discover some workmen in the hall who are dealing with the mess upstairs, or attempting to.

Clark is quite pleased with the purchase of this condo, which he made without consulting me. He was uncharacteristically quick to buy it. When I reenter the condo, armed with my insight that it must originally have been the servants' area, I notice that, nevertheless, the ceilings are very high.

In my previous dream I faced my desire for wealth and fame; this dream takes the process forward. The part of me that deals with the world, what Jung calls my animus, is represented by Clark who has bought a ski condo at the top of the Ritz in Manhattan. That’s a pretty clear image of success! But the fly in the ointment soon emerges, as I discover the practical difficulties inherent in this success: it’s difficult to attain (must climb up ropes and go through hoops (holes) to get there, and once I do it’s messy and dirty. And was attaining this sort of success even my idea? The dream hints it isn’t, since my place is crammed with things from the past, put there by others.

To top it off, this success is a sham. My marvelous condo at the top of the Ritz looks shabby when I stand back and look at it, and I discover it once housed servants. But the situation is being worked on. Once my inner workmen clear out the debris left by others and I stop running after a version of success that is not true for me I start to notice the good things about where I am. The ceilings are, after all, impressively high.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grace Kelly’s Pendant

The Dream:
I am in a large discount store with my daughter. We see a necklace pendant that is modeled on one worn by Grace Kelly. It costs $60,000. After we have left the store I realize that my daughter, who is about 3 or 4, has stolen the pendant. I feel I should return it, but I’m torn: after all, it appears we did get away with it. Nevertheless, I return the jewelry.

Interpretation:  There’s something from my past that I tend to ignore (discount), but that nevertheless is part of me (it’s stored). This thing that I have discounted is very valuable ($60,000.00). Its previous owner, Grace Kelly, gives me a clue as to what that might be: my desire for success, fame, fortune, and celebrity.  My child part is perfectly happy to take a short cut to get what I want: she steals it. I’m very tempted to acquiesce in this childish crime, but my adult intervenes in time, and I return the jewelry.

Here’s an example where Jane Teresa Anderson's dream alchemy might serve me well. (There’s a post in the April archive that describes her technique.) In this case, I'll imagine myself having an extra $60,000.00 as the result of my hard work and ability. I'll envision myself going into the store and using this money to buy the pendant (my success), saying, “I’ve earned this and I’m going to enjoy it.”

I’ll try it and let you know how it goes!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Naked at Walgreen’s

Jung tells us we can never bring all our unconscious material to consciousness. With dreams, it’s two steps forward, one step back.

The Dream: I’m going to Walgreen’s. There are showers at the back of the store to the right. I sit on the curb in front of the store and begin to remove my clothes in anticipation of showering. I begin to feel self-conscious and wonder why I didn’t wait until I got to the shower area to disrobe. I go into the store, which has turnstiles near the entrance, hoping no one will notice my nakedness.

Interpretation: Something significant to my psyche is on the cusp on consciousness, but doesn’t quite make it. What about this dream makes me think so? First, the name of the store: Walgreen’s. A wall is some sort of block or impediment. But this wall is green anticipating growth, or a breakthrough. This is emphasized by the showers (water indicates the unconscious) at the back (something from the past) but also to the right (hinting that this material may become conscious). A store, of course, is a place where we keep things, like a storehouse. I’m so ready for this immersion into previously unaccepted material that I throw off my clothes, and immediately regret it.

Self-consciousness intervenes. Jung’s term for the complete person, one who has integrated her unconscious material, is the Self. Self-consciousness here is one of those entertaining little paradoxes dreams throw at us: being conscious of myself prevents me from developing my Self.  I do get past a barrier (the turnstile) but I’m too concerned with my vulnerability (nakedness) to progress further — at least not in this dream.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Blue Eyes

Dreams can acquaint us with thoughts we didn’t realize we had.

 Dream Image:
A middle-aged woman with a round face, very big blue eyes, and fair hair.  She seems a little simple. She is compassionate in a child-like way.

Interpretation: This dream was triggered by spending time with an acquaintance who could be described this way—although before the dream I doubt I would have thought of her in these terms. To go a little further with the dream I ask myself what part of me is a little simple? What is it I just don't get? Or, to put it another shade of meaning on it, is there something I'd like to have that I'm not getting? And am I "too simple" to realize it?

The woman's eyes are blue; the color hints that she's unhappy about something. Her hair is a reference to her thoughts: both come out of the head. Then there's the child aspect of the woman. Perhaps I'm not getting what I want because, like a child, I expect it to be given to me. My dream tells me to think about that. If I want something I need to go out and get it. There it is: "Get it?"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Making Waves

Dream image: A low wave.

Interpretation: Water represents the unconscious, so this dream tells me that some unconscious material has come to the surface (consciousness), but not in a way that’s intrusive, scary, or even very noticeable. Looking at past dreams with similar imagery, I contrast this with a series of tsunami dreams I once had. My unconscious doesn’t think it has to shout as loud as it once did to get my attention.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Notice: A Santa Cruz, CA Workshop

Marsha Hudson has several spots left in her Santa Cruz dream workshop, scheduled for October 2. This workshop is designed for people who would like to deepen the connection between their dreams and their creative expression. In addition to the projective method of dream interpretation (that is, each member of the group comments on the presented dream as if it were her own), Marsha uses drawing, writing, moving, singing, and theater to go into the dream more deeply. Marsha says, “I love facilitating this workshop because it becomes so wonderfully meditative and nourishing.”

Marsha Hudson, Ph.D. is a certified dream work facilitator, social activist, and writer. She has studied projective dream work with Jeremy Taylor and is a member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. Dr. Hudson holds a doctorate in comparative literature from UC Berkeley and is co-editor of The Berkeley Literary Women's Revolution: Essays from Marsha's Salon (MacFarland, 2005.)

The one-day seminar costs $75.00 and is limited to 10 participants.  For more information: telephone: 831-425-8167 or e-mail: email And if you attend, tell me and my readers about the experience: make a comment at the end of this post. (You’ll be able to find it in the Archive.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Guest Dreamer: The Light and the Dark

This dream was donated by BostonBabe, who provides us with both a context and an interpretation for her dream. She has asked for my comments as well, so I’ll add them at the end of the post.

The Context: Nine months ago, I left my corporate job to devote time to my own creative work. Eight days ago, I held an open house in my home to show my recent work, the first public viewing of my art in five years. Two days ago, I spent the afternoon with an artist and his wife (a former colleague). I was introduced to artist friends of theirs, saw the husband’s recent work, and was given some guidance on the business of art. That night, I had some disturbing dreams.

Three Dream Fragments:
  1. A piece entitled Floor Lamp, the first piece in my show--to the left as you enter the gallery--lies in disarray. It has fallen off its shelf and lies on its side on the floor, damaged. The art books that were carefully arranged in a pyramiding stack under the shelf are also in disarray scattered about the floor. Needless to say, this was upsetting.
  2. Out of necessity, I have gathered up some essential belongings and am holed up in the back seat of my car, which is parked outside my house. My house is isolated on a dark, lonely street. As I look towards the end of the road (to the right as you face the house), I see the entrance to a dark woods. I am frightened.
  3. This dream is the most fragmentary: A man is dying very, very slowly.  Not painfully, or sadly, but in a very slow process. 
 BostonBabe’s Interpretation: On one level, the danger captured in these fragments is from my inner critic, who goes back to my father.  I think the stubborn persistence of the inner critic in my psyche is captured in dream  Fragment 3. The destruction in dream Fragment 1 may be my inner critic's response to the "audacity" of claiming to create work that is founded on centuries of art history (represented by the piled up art books) -- the "audacity" of claiming my place as an artist. As for dream Fragment 2, I think I am concerned, not only about managing my inner critic, but also about the couple I visited right before the dreams -- can I trust them? Do they have my best interests at heart? Do I need to protect my self? Will I lose control of my life? Anxiety about becoming more visible to the "serious" art community may have influenced this fragment, as well my concern to protect my creative core.

Carla:  Since interpretations of others’ dreams—as well as of their words or deeds, for that matter—are projections, I will take BostonBabe’s dream on as my own in these comments. My take on it may or may not be true for BB.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Spiraling roots

Dream image: A plant, with its roots spiraling down into the earth.

Interpretation: This dream was inspired by a similar one I heard at a dream group meeting the evening before and also by a painting that I had been working on of Pomona, who represents the fruits of the earth. The dream expresses how I feel about our deeply important connection to the earth.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Bossy Woman

The Dream: A stout and bossy woman, in an office, is talking too loud. She is promoting some sort of “help” she pedals to groups. At first it sounds interesting, and I wonder if she might be a good speaker for a women’s group I belong to. I try--again and again--to ask if she would like to do this, but she won’t let me get a word in. Her over-loud voice is embarrassing, and her bossy manner and unwillingness to listen, annoying. Finally I just want her to go away. She exits to the left.

Interpretation: In my last posted dream it looked as though I were reconciling conflicting parts: the stay-at-home femininity of my youth with the woman-active-in-the-world of my adulthood. But just as I thought progress was being made a shadow figure emerges to let me know that I haven’t finished. And she wants to be heard! (She's very loud.) Jung says shadow figures contain parts of ourselves that we dislike and don’t want to acknowledge. I push this bossy, embarrassing creature back down into the unconscious (she exits to the left). Want to bet she’ll be back?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Exposed: Part 3

The Dream: I go into the subway. I order some tokens and need to go to the left of the counter to pick them up. I pick up a pile containing far more than I paid for and wonder if I should return the extras. As in the last dream segment, I decide not to “do the right thing.”

I see my Aunt Mary, dressed as a gypsy, collecting money for the poor. I give her some change but take back one of my tokens that inadvertently fell into her basket. I ask her for the key to her apartment so I can put on some clothes. She gives it to me, saying Uncle Mike will be there.

Interpretation: My unconscious (the subway) is activated to solve the problem put forth in the earlier segments of this dream: what is my role as a woman in today's complex society?  How do I bring together the role of women modeled by my mother and reinforced by my 50s childhood with the enormous societal change realized by the women of my generation? I “go to the left” or, in dream terms, I don’t try to resolve this rationally. Dreams allow –even insist on – paradox. I don’t have to reject my mother’s path to follow my own.  I accept the “tokens” offered by the “left” (unconscious), with its sly suggestion that I am not doing the “right” thing.

I see my aunt (my mother’s sister: that is, my mother) in a new way. (She gets some change.) At the same time I hang on to the “token” of my new self. She gives me the key (her acceptance) to recovering my sense of worth, symbolized by the clothes I will put on in her apartment. And an animus figure, my uncle, will be waiting for me there, signaling that my psyche will be better balanced between feminine and masculine.