Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bogart or Redford: Fruition

Continued from yesterday:
Dream Scene 5: Raspberries and blueberries are growing in places where I hadn’t planted them. I say they are growing “in the house,” but clearly they are outside, in the garden. I spot a giant blueberry and eat it. It is amazingly delicious. I am surprised and delighted at how good it is and call out to Clark: “This is the best blueberry I’ve ever tasted!” I notice a raspberry bush laden with berries and think they’ve come in early and unexpectedly, and we won’t be able to eat them fast enough.

Interpretation: The psychic work has come to fruition. Jung identifies the soul with a man’s inner woman (anima) or a woman’s inner man (animus). My animus represents the more forceful aspects of my character. In this long dream I can see my unconscious’ successful struggle to create the animus I need. My dissenting parts (the 2 other women) have been replaced by Clark, my husband (my other half), who is ready to join in the feast.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bogart or Redford: Bogart

Continued from yesterday:
Dream Scene 4: In the pub, I expect to see Robert Redford, but instead find Humphrey Bogart. Bogart is sexy and makes advances as I lie on a bed. After a while I begin to think Redford is not going to show. I feel hurt and decide to go in search of him. I find him in a Western version of a Buddhist colony. He is small, has curly hair, and a young/old face. As I look into his face I see other-worldliness. He has moved on and is no longer interested in earthly things. I begin to think that Bogart might be the better choice.

Interpretation: What sort of masculine energy do I want in my inner man? I thought I wanted the modern, sensitive man: Robert Redford—the sort of man who might go on a Buddhist retreat. But no--I’ll take sex and machismo, the old-fashioned 50s tough guy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bogart or Redford: The Bull

Continued from yesterday:
Dream Scene 3: Now I find myself in cow country. I still want to be reunited with Robert Redford. I decide the fastest way to get back to the pub (where we are to meet) is to ride a bull. And the way to get the bull to run the fastest is to hang in front of him from his horns. I position myself thus, thinking he will be angry and try to gore me, running very fast to get to me—but of course won’t be able to because I go with him. We get to the pub; I scuttle the bull at the swinging doors of the place that now looks like the bar in a 50s Western. The bull sits on his haunches quite tamely, looking rather sweet.

Interpretation: Again hints that I’m struggling with the feminine/masculine continuum. Cow country represents the female side of my nature; the bull represents my forceful, masculine energy. I decide to take the bull by its horns. I harness his energy to get me where I want to go; suddenly he is no longer a frightful creature.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bogart or Redford: The Expedition

Continued from yesterday:
Dream Scene 2:
The pub sits on top of a mountain.  The proprietor of the pub and I and one other woman go outside; we’re now at the base of the mountain standing on a small wooden bridge that straddles a shallow gully. I am lecturing the other women on the difficulties of wallpapering: the need to match the pattern, etc. They are bored. I feel they don’t comprehend the difficulty of the job and that’s partially the reason they do shoddy work.

The bridge inclines upward. As I follow its tilt I decide to take off and fly, surprised that I’m capable of it. After a short distance I decide I will continue to fly up the mountainside back to the pub. I encourage the others to do the same. One resists, saying she can’t, but in time she gets over her reservations, and both women fly up the mountain behind me.

Interpretation: The mountaintop suggests the dream is dealing with something big. Many myths speak of gaining wisdom on top of a mountain; I can expect to gain new insight (a higher level of awareness).  Just as suddenly as I realize the pub is on top of a mountain I find myself at its bottom. Several symbols tell me that this is not the spot where I should be: the bridge of wood hints at unexpressed emotion (a wooden expression); the waterless gully lacks what makes life possible. The saving grace is the upward inclining bridge which I can use to cross over into something new. The surprising decision to fly tells me that I am willing to move to a higher—that is more conscious—level. Up the mountain I go, encouraging my somewhat reluctant parts to come along.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bogart or Redford: The Pub

When you have a very long dream, one way to begin to understand it is to break it down into sections and then work on one at a time. That’s what I’m going to do with this dream. Once you’ve explored each section in depth the meaning of the entire dream becomes clear.

Dream Scene 1: Robert Redford and I are in love. I am Jane Fonda, or someone very much like her. Redford and I are going to rendezvous in a pub-like setting. Sometimes this pub looks like a bar right out of the Old West, and sometimes it looks more like an English tearoom.

The proprietor of the pub has recently redecorated. I observe this as I attempt to use the toilet. Each time I go into the hallway to look for an empty john someone scoots in before me. As I wait I notice that the proprietor has put up Jacobean flowered wallpaper off the hallway in the dining area. The wallpaper and the redecoration are pretty, but look superficial, slapped on.

Interpretation: The first two characters, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, are actors who were in their prime during my young adulthood. If asked to describe them I would say they are attractive, superficial, and representative of the new vision of masculinity and femininity that was evolving at that time.  The pub (public house) indicates the dream is dealing with my relationship to society, and its features again reflect the masculine (50s Westerns) and the feminine (an English tea room). Searching for the toilet indicates I’d like some privacy; I wish I could get away from the social pressure of the “pub.” As for the redecorating—what am I trying to cover up? Are the changes I’ve made so far superficial?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Dumb Blonde

This dream has mythological roots echoing back to Venus emerging from the sea.

The Dream: A blonde woman has a partner who’s like an evil magician. I come across the two of them at the shore, in the water near some rocks. Her partner is trying to get her to stay under water for longer and longer periods of time. She doesn’t like this and finally gets out and walks away from him. I wonder if her partner had been trying to get her to kill herself.

I am pregnant.

The dumb blonde, the one who could not speak, refuses to exist solely in the unconscious, here symbolized—as it often is—by the sea. She walks out of the water, and a new potential life is conceived.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Human Tragedy

There are many dreams that can be looked at from the personal level, and some that can be seen as dealing with what Jung called archetypes. What is an archetype? It is a symbolic representation of something that affects all humanity.

The Dream: A superpower, like Superman, has been thrown in prison. This power has an atavistic quality, something of the ape: a very strong man with short black hair and apelike features.  I see him holding on to the bars of his cell, breathing his freezing breath, his last remaining strength, into a vent to his right.

Interpretation: On the personal level, this dream might be telling me I feel imprisoned; I need to vent; I’m feeling powerless. But if I look at the dream as expressing an archetype of the human condition, it’s about the human tragedy: a spirit imprisoned in a body. By freezing his breath the apelike superpower turns this symbol of the spirit into something concrete that can be seen. Although in the prison of the transient earthly body he still finds a vent through which he can express his spirit.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Plane in a Cave

The Freudians would have a field day with this imagery, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed to me that the dream was about the immortal soul. (An appropriate post for Sunday, no? Unconsciously selected, of course.)

The Dream: I am in a very large cave, made of a reddish stone. It reminds me of the caves in the Dordogne. I see people looking expectant, as if an event is about to take place.  To my surprise I spot an airplane perched among the cave’s rocky outcrops, very neatly wedged into a series of rocks near the top. Did it crash there, I wonder? Yet it looks unscathed. The airplane’s crew are getting ready to do something, we know not what. A little house is set into the rock next to the plane. Some crew members will sleep in the plane, others in the house; they seem to be sorting out the arrangements. I see welcoming lights shining from the windows of the house set in stone, and I am interested to see that it’s used. I had often wondered about its purpose. I spend most of the time in the dream wondering how the plane got in, and how it can possibly get out.

Interpretation: The cave is associated with the Lascaux caves of the Dordogne, a famous repository of Paleolithic art. This tie-in to ancient man implies the dream harkens back to my earliest experience of consciousness. How early? The reddish color of the cave suggests the womb. The “expectant” people include my mother, who awaits my birth. Airplanes are symbolic of our aspirations, and this airplane is my immortal soul. Its location, high above the cave’s floor, is another hint that the dream is dealing with the holy; gods often dwell on mountain tops. How did spirit (the plane) come to be lodged in matter (the inside of the earth, a cave)? How precarious it looks, and yet it’s neatly wedged and seems stable. Some aspects of the soul (the crew) remain in their natural setting (the plane). Others will dwell in the earthly rock house, at least until it’s time to depart. I ponder this wonder: how did the soul get here, and how will it leave?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Working on Your Dreams: Step 2 – Journal

If you’ve decided you’re interested in what you’re up to during the third of your life you spend sleeping, why not start a dream journal? This can be as simple or as elaborate as you like and will probably change over time.  The only consistent rule I’ve heard is that you should write your dream as if it were happening right now; for example, “A grizzly and her cubs are in a chamber orchestra.” And it’s a good idea to jot down what’s going on in your waking life as well. It can help you unravel the dream’s message.

 I started journaling by scratching dreams down hastily in an old notebook I found around the house. When it was full I found I felt more particular about the journal, so I spent some time looking for a notebook that felt right to me. When Jung created his Liber Novus (The Red Book), he transcribed his recorded dreams in calligraphy onto parchment paper and added historiated capitals and carefully planned illustrations. He felt that the work of his unconscious mind was precious, and its manifestation as a physical object should be precious as well.

Over time, my journals also became precious to me. In some, I wrote the dream down on the right hand page, leaving the left hand page of a spread available for interpretation. I began to add illustrations: some were mere diagrams so I could remember the layout of objects; some became more elaborate paintings; many were quick sketches.  I started one journal with the promise to myself that I would illustrate every 2-page spread. I thought that seeing how my illustrations changed over the course of the book would tell me something. If you find long-hand tedious, use the computer. 

If you are just starting out how you do it isn’t important—that you do it is important. Your unconscious will guide you to the way that is right for you. Dream work is perhaps the only area of life that really is all about you.  Anyone out there have a good tip for dream journaling? Please share with a comment or email.

Friday, January 22, 2010

They Sing, I Dance

Jung tells us that the 2nd half of life—in his day after 35—is devoted to the spiritual task of coming to terms with our mortality.

The Dream: Old ladies are singing, taking turns. They are on a stage grouped around a small table upstage left. Three are at the table at a time; others come from the wings (stage right) to replace them and take their turn. Meanwhile I am dancing in front of them in the empty space downstage. My friend Alice is in the audience, amazed that I can dance. It feels almost like flying.

Interpretation: The old ladies are reminiscent of a Greek chorus, their presence a leitmotif on the cycle of life and death as they replace one another at the table. But what about the number 3? It overcomes duality (such as life and death; night and day; good and bad); the 3-woman chorus is hinting that there are possibilities I don’t grasp. After all, the women come from the “wings,” a word associated with divinity: the bird is symbolic of the soul. I dance, with such energy that I practically fly, expressing the unfathomable energy of the cosmos. But here’s the conundrum of dreams: Do I dance with life or do I dance with death?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You Don’t Know Me

Look at the people who populate your dreams and see how they fit into your inner landscape.

The Dream: A friend of my older brother is visiting. She has blond curly hair and is slightly heavy-set with a round face. I like her and feel that she has become my friend as well.

My friend Patsy appears, coming up from the basement. She is pleased with herself for pulling off this surprise visit; her face is very expressive. “Patsy!” I exclaim, “What are you doing here?” She teases me about that ungracious welcome. Of course I am thrilled to see her and realize that I have been wondering how she is. She indicates that she simply decided to make the trip at the last minute. “I can go to the dentist here,” she says. I look forward to a few days of visiting and entertainment and am glad to notice that my compulsion to work, and my usual annoyance or resentment at being interrupted, are nowhere in evidence.

My brother’s friend is leaving, and I want to hug her. I say, “It’s been wonderful getting to know you better.” She says, enigmatically, “You don’t know me at all.”

Interpretation:  My older brother represents my authoritarian, competent part. His friend, since it is someone I don’t know in my waking life, represents my intuitive side. Her light colored hair tells me that she is symbolic of awareness or enlightenment. Another friend appears, unexpectedly, coming up from the basement (unconscious). Her remark about the dentist hints that she is associated with pain.

All aspects of my personality--the work-oriented, the intuitive, and the spontaneous—are coming together here. Patsy hints it won’t be all fun and games—there’s that worrisome trip to the dentist: that might indicate I have to work on something associated with my mouth, like what sometimes comes out of it. Nevertheless we’re all set to party, which sounds like one of Jung’s coniunctios.  At the same time I get a warning from the Enlightened One that lets me know I have work to do before I can call her a friend. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guardians of the Deep

Sometimes material from the unconscious seems threatening and you might decide to try to get away from it, as I did in this dream.

The Dream: As the dream begins my husband Clark and I are sitting in lawn chairs on a cement patio next to the bay. The patio, which has the ambience of a garage, is beneath a house on slats. Suddenly a gray boat that looks like a cross between a fish and a submarine starts to tear about the bay near us, making tight circles.  I think it must be the Coast Guard. Then another vessel arrives: it looks like a large truck pulling a long trailer. Like the first one, it also tears around the bay in circles near us. This nearby activity makes me nervous, and I suggest to Clark that we move back from the edge of the bay before these water craft come crashing into us.

The Interpretation: I’m on a cement patio, dealing with a heavy issue. Since I’m close to—but not in--water, I can guess that this material is on the cusp of consciousness. The patio is where the basement would be in most houses, and even resembles one, looking like a garage. Symbolically, basements are where we store unconscious material, such as old wounds and feelings we aren’t aware of; but also a place where the life force, or libido, dwells. This unconscious material is becoming very animated and threatening to break into my conscious awareness (come on shore).

What about the strange vessels? In Jungian terms, a vessel is a place where transformation takes place. The first vessel is a cross between something very militaristic (a submarine) and a fish, a symbol of the inner treasure held in our unconscious. To me this signaled a conflict between the authoritarian “controller” part of me and the natural, less structured, unconscious part. I’m trying to resolve the conflict with the combination submarine and fish, but the emergence of the trailer truck indicates there’s too much “stuff” being pulled in my wake for this resolution to occur. So I retreat.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Visitation

This very long dream has an unusual ending, especially since I’m not religious.

Dream: I am going to a party in a big city, in a car with several other women. We are going over an old-fashioned bridge. Although the road is strewn with logs and other hazards we manage to avoid them.

The party is set in someone’s apartment, a railroad flat with one room leading to the next. There are a lot of people, but I don’t seem to connect with anyone. The lights are turned off in the front room, and only small, dim bulbs are throwing an oblique light from some corridors off the main rooms. An older Asian man, the janitor, lives in one of these corridors. Through a mirror in the front room, before it’s completely dark, I see a reflection of the other side of the apartment which looks out onto an upward space, a rising hill. At this point I realize I am in Berkeley, saying to myself “Isn’t it interesting that there can be such a natural setting, so much open space, in an urbanized place?”

I am wandering about in the very dark front room not having a particularly good time, when one of the people I’ve come with whispers to me that she is leaving. I feel a surge of relief as I realize that I too can leave. I go to find my purse, which had been left in a pile with the purses and jackets of other party-goers in the dark front room. My search is hampered by the fact that it is so dark that I can’t see anything. I feel around, at times thinking I have found my purse and then realizing it’s the wrong one. I begin to get anxious and almost frantic as I search and search with no success. At one point the hostess comes in, a rather smug young woman. She hands me something; at first I think she’s given me my purse, then realize to my disappointment that it isn’t. I tell her this and she says, “Just listen to you, whining away over a missing purse.”

I fume to myself, wondering how there could be a woman on the planet who has no sympathy for the panicky feeling of having lost one’s purse, with driver’s license, credit cards, etc.

I become aware of feeling very sleepy. I walk through the apartment to its other end and go out on the deck. The area is filled with smoke from cannabis. All the party goers are here, and it is crowded and lively. I marvel that they can smoke pot so openly with no worries about reprisals; then I remember we are in Berkeley, and freedom prevails.

I look at the sky, and it’s filled with stars, brilliant and jewel-like. I gasp at the loveliness, and then return to the front room to resume the search for my purse.

I am so tired that I stretch out and fall asleep, thinking as I drift off that my friend must have left by now.I am lying on my back, asleep. I feel a gentle touch about my shoulders and face. Someone has put her hands over my eyes, as a child might do before saying “Guess who?” At first I think the person has said something like, “I am Jesus Christ, come to give you a prophecy.” Then I become aware that the touch is my mother’s, and I very strongly feel her presence although I can’t see her (she is behind my head). At this point I think she is saying something like, “Through the intercession of Jesus Christ I am here to see you.” I am aware she died several years ago yet her presence is so palpable it startles me awake.

I won’t attempt to interpret this one, except to point out some interesting symbols.
Bridge: A halfway station between one reality and another; enables the traveler to cross over
Road: my path to the place where the visitation takes place is strewn with obstacles
References to darkness: I’m in the dark about something. I don’t see directly but through a mirror (“through a mirror darkly”)
Janitor: original meaning: guardian of doors
Purse: my sense of identity
Cannabis: something that can cause a slip into the irrational
The brilliant sky:  another realm
Christ: a symbol of the union of man with the divine

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mother and Child Reunion

The Dream: Sara has been visiting us, and her son John has been with a sitter. When the sitter brings the baby to us I am excited and want to hold him. I am leading him by the hand and somehow drop him on the concrete. I am upset, but John doesn’t cry. I pick him up and carry him. Later I give him to Sara.

Interpretation: The Divine Child archetype reappears in this dream. I take the baby too literally (drop him on the “concrete”). The dream is telling me to look beyond the literal meaning of things. Ultimately the child (my inner child) is where he belongs: united with his mother. This reunion of two things which should be together tells me that my own protective abilities (my inner mother) will take care of my vulnerabilities and creative potential, symbolized by my inner child. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pictures in an Exhibition

The interesting thing about this dream is the relationship between two paintings: one made up in a dream while sleeping; the other designed in the normal way while awake.

The Dream: I have some pictures in an exhibition. The space is not very elegant—something like a community room. The work is poorly presented. After the show has finished I go to retrieve my paintings, and only one is still hanging. I secretly hope this means they have sold, as unlikely as that would be in this venue. I keep looking for my paintings. Finally I find one: looking at it I consider it inept and wonder why I put it in the exhibit. The upper portion has four angular biomorphic shapes in strong colors. There is a line of writing underneath, with a circular flower-like motif to its left. The writing is obscure, and I don’t get the meaning. The lower portion of the painting has less defined shapes and softer colors.

I’m embarrassed by this painting as I continue to look for the others. I’m told, at last, that they are in another room.  I go into a storage room and find paintings stacked on top of one another, lying in a heap on top of a counter. I wonder why they have done such a sloppy job dismantling the show. Why aren’t the paintings carefully tipped against the wall, as is usual when an exhibit is struck? I look through the stack and find The Portal. I am very relieved to find it, despite my earlier wish that something had sold. The painting has a drop of water on it. I’m afraid it’s been damaged, but I think I can rescue it.

Interpretation:  Oh dear, quite a lot of artist’s anxiety on display in this one. I am showing inept work in a cheesy, badly run gallery where nothing sells and the work is not respected. Could it get any worse? But one thing is interesting, the painting that my unconscious offered up in the dream and the one I had painted previous to having the dream both have a similar construction—notice the levels.

To analyze this dream in Jungian terms, it’s presenting two pictorial representations of the mind’s organization.  The painting reproduced from the dream and The Portal both depict the layers of conscious and unconscious material that combine to make up the totality of the psyche, what Jung called the Self. In The Portal the small figures at the bottom represent the unconscious in its attempt to communicate; in the dream picture the amorphous regions of the unconscious give way to the structured biomorphic forms. The dream picture turns The Portal’s structure upside down. The drop of water that I fear has damaged The Portal? I think Jung would call this contamination with unconscious material.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Not Ready to Take the Plunge

As you work with your dreams, you might find they comment on the process of working with dreams—in other words, with the process of beginning to understand normally unconscious material.

The Dream: I’m at the gym, but it looks like a hotel room. I’m with my mother, and we have stopped in to have a bath. My mother bathes first, in a small bathroom with a shower curtained tub and a toilet. When I am ready for my turn, I notice she has left many towels rolled up in the tub. I start to remove them, looking for a place to put them. I run out of room and patience when I spot a beige and brown granite tub in the bedroom. It is rectangular in shape and shallow. I wonder if it’s clean. When I am ready to get in, the tub disappears.

Interpretation: This dream is about working out (I’m in the gym) a way to access unconscious material. While the action takes place in the gym it looks like a hotel, a temporary residence, hinting that I’m neither here nor there. We have come to this place to bathe: going into water symbolizes immersion into the unconscious. Even though I thought I was ready for the experience, difficulties show me I’m not.  First, my internalized “mother” places so many obstacles in the tub that I give up trying to remove them. Then I move on to the bedroom, where a font-like tub appears. Would immersion here be a sort of baptism into the realm of the unconscious? I’m not comfortable with this tub, finding it unclean, and it doesn’t trust me either: it disappears at the moment I’ve overcome my resistance to it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Tangled Forest

Your dreams work on several different levels at the same time. While a dream might comment on a current problem, it also might—at the same time—hint that this current problem is part of a deeper pattern.

The Dream: I’m with a group of people in a classroom setting. We are about to leave on a field trip to a museum. I get separated from the group. I see a very long queue for a packed bus and look in vain for my classmates. I don’t see any, but nevertheless decide this is the right bus. In desperation not to be left behind I want to squeeze in at the head of the queue, but then notice the inside of the bus has lots of space.

I get on the bus which pulls away before I realize my group is not on the vehicle, and I’m heading I know not where. I pull the bell to get off. I doesn’t “ding” so I keep pulling, feeling the panic of speeding off in the wrong direction. The bus stops in a desolate area. My plan is to cross the street and take the bus back in the other direction. I think I am on a footpath, but soon realize I’m in the middle of traffic. I dodge the on-coming cars and make it to the opposite side of the street where I find myself in a park.

The park is covered in snow, but it is artificial snow. It has a grayish cast and an odd grainy yet slick quality. I rub it between my fingers. It is very cold. I wander through this snow-covered landscape for a while, and then come to a wooded and brambly area where the snow abruptly stops. I don’t think I can get through the tangled forest. I turn around and head back for the road.

Interpretation: I had this dream after taking an art class with an artist whose work and aims were very different from my own. Trying to assimilate what I admired about the artist’s technique while not rejecting my own style created a conflict—and this conflict pointed to a deeper issue that needed to be resolved.
At the time of the dream I was working on a piece using the art instructor’s techniques. Many images in the dream tell me not to follow the “collective” path: that is, the path of engaging in an art based on someone else’s standards, or—by expansion—to live a life based on someone else’s expectations and ideals. In the final dream image, after separating from the group but still going in the wrong direction, I find myself stuck (“park”ed) and facing an insurmountable obstacle. The dream is telling me I got into this position because I wasn’t ready to go look at some old stuff (in the museum).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Two Stags

In this dream my husband represents what Jung calls the Animus, a woman’s inner man.

The Dream: Clark is on a large rock. Two stags wearing goggles approach him. They become threatening. I am afraid he will be gored or fall off the rock, which is about one story above ground. Instead he jumps to a nearby taller platform, making himself very tall and frightening the stags away. It later turns out they are dying. They were wounded, which is why they attacked.

Interpretation: Clark, my Animus, gives me the strength to withstand domination by societal patriarchy, symbolized by the stags. The dream offers some insight into the reason males attack: it comes from their vulnerability.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Artists in the Garden

In dreams sometimes a friend is a friend, and sometimes the friend represents some particular part of you. I often dream about two close artist friends, Jane and Lillian. Over time I’ve come to realize that when these friends appear in one of my dreams they represent the artist in me.

The Dream: I am going to be leaving, and I am with Jane in the garden. Swiss chard is growing in a peculiar, leggy way from under a raised wooden walkway. “Look,” I say, “You can eat this.” Then I remember the squash, adding, “And don’t forget the squash.”

Lillian has appeared, walking behind us carrying a huge bunch of Joseph’s coat roses that she has gathered and is taking from the garden. She looks somewhat pleased with herself, and happy, holding this glowing mass of color. When she sees me I sense, however, a little discomfort. I wonder, very briefly, if I feel proprietary, as she walks away with most of my rosebush. But instead I realize I realize that I’m happy that these things will be used. I point to the squash, mentioning that they are very prolific, and suggest to Lillian and Jane that they share them.

Interpretation: I have been stingy with my artists, causing them to struggle to survive. As one bursts forth in a glorious resurrection I offer to squash them both.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some Extra Toes

This is one of those dreams that seems inexplicable until you get past the literal meaning of the words and action.
The Dream: I am in need of an operation. Clark and I are being hosted by some people we don’t know very well, who are very kind. One of them asks me what I’ve learned from the experience, which has been stressful due to the medical part. “I’ve learned the kindness of people,” I say. One of our hosts, an androgynous older person, gets  teary-eye.

I notice that I have three extra toes on each foot. They are from the middle toe out to the pinky toe, and sit directly beneath the toe they are replicating, on a flap of extra foot. I can’t believe I’ve never noticed these toes before.

I have some work I must do: the “operation” I require tells me that. Do you remember the "wise old man / woman" of fairy tale? When they appear in dreams Jung tells us we've encountered a guide.  My guide, the androgynous older woman, is pleased with my progress so far, so I am rewarded by being given something extra. I am now aware I have of a new part of myself (the toes), and this realization requires integration into my idea of who I am. So it signals both progress and some work remaining. 


Monday, January 11, 2010

Abducted by Aliens:The Chosen

Not to be outdone by my brother (see yesterday’s blog), I also have an encounter with aliens—but mine ends in a party instead of a fight. You can probably put that down to the difference between boys and girls. (Oops, I think I’d better duck!)

The Dream: I’m wandering around the streets of NYC on a bright sunny day, preparing for a move by loading things into a big open cart placed near the curb. Mother is helping. I’m in a residential part of the city, with tall apartment buildings and wide streets, somewhere on the upper West side.

In the next scene a group of us (we’re young adults or teenagers) have been abducted by aliens. This is a sort of privilege; we don’t understand much about what’s going on but we know we’ll be informed as events unfold. We know a party is being planned; our group will meet with other similar groups in a “mixer.” The entire group is attractive and smart: the chosen.

Interpretation: Clearly, I’m ready for some sort of large change (a move). The street symbolizes my path in life. The change is probably some sort of spiritual move since my possessions (worldly goods) are being “curbed.” West can be a symbol for the unconscious, and upper a symbol for consciousness. So the upper West side suggests some unconscious material is integrating into my conscious awareness.
As in my brother’s dream, the aliens stand in for parts of me that I find, well, alien. Since we use only a very small part of our potential brainpower, it stands to reason that quite a bit of what’s going on within us is alien. The dream tells me that getting to know these aliens within is a good thing. Let’s party!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Guest Dreamer: The Cement Men of Mars

The following dream was sent to me by my brother. He was very young when he dreamt it, during the era of the competition between the US and the USSR to conquer space (the 1960s).

The Dream: It started with me watching the first manned Mars landing on TV.  But as it progressed, I became one of the astronauts landing there.  (Note:  I had this dream at the height of the race to the moon.) In my dream Mars was perfectly habitable, and we found a nice little circular grove of trees to camp in for the night.  But in the middle of the night we were suddenly attacked by Martian Cement Men who would step out from behind trees and throw spears at us.  We, of course, were armed with submachine guns (I mean, what else would you take to Mars?) and started blasting away.

As our bullets struck them, the impacts looked exactly the way bullets hitting a cement wall look.  That is, there’d be a puff of smoke and dust and a shallow crater from the impact would be created: thus the name Cement Men.  Of course it also meant that it didn’t kill them, so we had a lengthy battle on our hands.

I remember being touched (in the dream) when I saw one cement man leaving the safety of the trees to grab a fallen comrade and drag him back to safety. These guys were big, built a lot like the comic book version of the Incredible Hulk. I’m still waiting for Spirit and Opportunity to find them!

Interpretation: One truism about dreams is that every character in them is us—or a part of us—no matter how alien the dream creatures sometime seem. A character we have a particularly bad reaction to is called our shadow; it shows us some part of ourselves that we need to come to terms with. This is similar to the ogre under the bridge or the wicked witch of fairy tale: a handy screen on which to project all we hate or fear.

You might notice that this dream reads something like a mythic adventure, and there’s a well documented relationship between dream and myth. Joseph Campbell analyzed the myth’s basic plotline as the hero’s journey: each stage parallels an important life passage. In this case, the passage is from childhood to young manhood.

An important part of dream interpretation that hasn’t yet come up in this blog is that the dreamer is the final authority on the meaning of his dream. When I put forth a comment about his—or anyone else’s—dream I am inevitably talking about what the dream would mean to me had I dreamt it. So I’ll discuss my brother’s dream as if it were my dream.

I am young and full of curiosity about the world. The news is full of an exciting global competition, and I’d like to take part in it. My dream takes me to Mars, where I encounter a planet that closely resembles the world I know.

And yet: there’s some interesting symbolism here. The circle, in Jungian terms, represents the integrated self. Jung felt that the circle expressed the totality of our being, containing all our sometimes disparate elements. Perhaps because I’m young and need to grow—both mentally and physically—I cannot bask in this bliss for too long, but must meet the next challenge. It’s symbolized by the confrontation with my shadow in the form of the Cement Men.

The fact that these cement men are attacking me with very primitive weapons (spears) makes me think that I’m doing battle with a primitive part of myself, a part that I feel I must conquer if I want to become a civilized adult. I’m well armed for this confrontation, maybe a little too well-armed (am I too defensive?) pitting my sub-machine gun against their spears. Nevertheless, these creatures, being made of cement, are not easy to kill. That I can be touched by the compassion of one of the Cement Men for his comrade is a very good sign that I’m on the way toward humanizing—therefore integrating—this tough and violent part of myself.

The dreamer always gets the last word, so here’s Bro’s Interpretation: Earlier that night I'd watched an episode of “The Untouchables” in which a machine gun had sprayed a cement wall. I believe this dream was inspired the space race and that evening’s episode of the Untouchables.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

See the Pyramids


You might associate dreams with the negative: such as the anxiety that produces nightmares or the unresolved issues that confound us night after night.  But often dreams are little treats, letting us know we’re on the right path. In this dream what Jung calls a coniunctio, or a union of opposites, takes place.

The Dream: This one is set on the Nile, with the Pyramids in the background. Interspersed with the pyramids are large stone 18th century heads (such as George Washington). It is sunset and an orange glow suffuses the scene.

Interpretation: The Pyramids, symbolizing the mysterious, the hidden, the subterranean, are interspersed with giant heads from the Age of Reason. The two forces co-exist: reason and mystery. Both are blessed by the life-giving flow of the Nile. The orange glow suffusing all joins these seemingly incompatible forces.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Chicken and the Egg

When someone you know appears in a dream you have to puzzle out whether the dream is about that person and your relationship or that person as an aspect of yourself. In this dream, which I interpret as being about my development as an artist, I see my husband symbolically as “my other half.” In this role, as my Animus, he supports my desire to “steal” some creativity. There’s often a parallel between myths and dreams: in this case it’s Prometheus stealing fire from the gods.

The Dream: I’m walking with my husband Clark in a large garden. I pass by a chicken and a rectangular box of eggs, but then have second thoughts and call it to Clark’s attention. “Look,” I say, “You don’t have to buy chickens. You can have a wild one.” The chicken is very colorful, looking more like a rooster than a hen. It is small and struts behind the box of eggs, apparently guarding them. I suggest to Clark that we take some of the eggs; meanwhile I’m worried about the chicken’s reaction. I wonder how she sits on them to hatch them; they are spread out in a rectangular box and she would have to sit on them sequentially. As we begin to cull the eggs I have a new worry: what if some of the eggs have begun to develop into chicks? How awful would it be to open an egg and see a partially developed chick! We select some eggs. They vary in size. We try to avoid the ones with developing chicks in them.

Interpretation: The incubating creativity is here and available. It’s up to me to be aware of it. It is part of the deeply instinctive. It is guarded by the Eternal Maternal, in herself very beautiful, but a force that needs to be worked around and placated because she represents both the good and the bad of the traditional. A rigid conventionality, represented by the box, could hamper the potential of the eggs, some of which are developing in a conventional manner. We want the ones that have not started to develop: infinite potential.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kept Under Wraps

No matter how old we get, there may be issues from the past we haven’t resolved. This dream brings one front and center. According to Jung, a man in a woman’s dream represents what he calls her Animus—the part of the woman that expresses what were thought of, in his time, as male traits: ambition, assertiveness and intellect.

The Dream: A young person, a teenager or someone in his early 20s, is being zipped into a clear form-fitting plastic bag, something like a heavy garment storage bag. The dream image shows his shoulders, a bit of his torso and his shaved head. He has a tattoo on his left side. It is clear the young man has transgressed and this zippering is his punishment. I think this treatment is harsh.

Interpretation: The part of me that is ambitious, that would go out and make its way in the world, is represented by the figure in this dream. This part has been confined by being zipped into a plastic bag. The event occurred at a formative stage of my life: teenage or early 20s. The tattoo represents some remaining rebelliousness. My forceful part has been overlaid by a phony “plastic” persona and stored (placed in a heavy garment storage bag.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Working on Your Dreams: Step 1 – Remember

The first step in working with your dreams is to remember them, and it’s possible to train yourself in dream recall. I’ve found that it helps to do some sort of dream work right before going to sleep: for example, try reading a book about dreams. (In a future post I’ll recommend some books I’ve found helpful.) You can give yourself the suggestion that you’re going to remember a dream several times a day and before drifting off to sleep. Sooner or later it will work! Many people recommend having a notepad right next to the bed so that you can jot your dream down the moment you wake up, and that’s a great way to capture even those middle of the night dreams.

I don’t like to do anything much before my first cup of coffee, however, and I’ve noticed over the years that if something isn’t pleasurable I won’t do it; so I’ve devised a ritual that I find enjoyable. When I awaken I mentally rehearse any dream I have a snippet of. As I replay the dream in my mind, sometimes I remember whole sections I had forgotten. I keep going over the dream as I dress and make coffee. Once the coffee is ready I enter the dream(s) into my journal. If you’re rushing off to school or work, try jotting down a few notes about your dream; then set aside a little time for yourself later in the day when you can flesh out the dream in your journal.

If you have a useful technique for dream recall, please share it with us by posting a comment or sending me an e-mail.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Only the White Silhouette Remains

Jung says that dreams show us the way forward; they sometimes deal with emotional pain, expressing it through symbols. These sorts of dreams help us, over time, to accept what we must.

The Dream:
There is an icy river: big chunks of ice and snow predominate, but the river flows, nonetheless. A woman falls in and is carried downstream. She is near the edge of the river, and I try to pull her out but she keeps eluding me, moving downstream. At last I succeed. She is like a paper cut-out doll: a white silhouette that looks like a 1950s fashionable woman, complete with the broad-brimmed hat of the era. Only the silhouette remains, but it is her.

The icy river symbolizes my emotions, frozen in their inability to come to terms with my mother’s death. The fashionable woman in the water (my mother) is in danger, and I desperately would like to save her but it’s difficult. Finally I think I’ve succeeded, only to discover that she is not a real person, only the ghost (white silhouette) that exists in my mind.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Divine Child

Jung discovered that some symbols are what he called archetypal. He felt that these were so basic to human experience that all cultures created myths about them. One such prevalent symbol is the Great Mother; another is the Divine Child. Often dreams refer only to our day-to-day activities, but the occasional dream touches a deeper level, as I think this one does.

The Dream:
A friend has recently had a baby. Since she has several other children and is very busy she gives me the baby to care for. Although the baby is a newborn, she can talk and walk. I’m very entranced by this child. I tell her that she’s as intelligent as a 3-year-old, although in fact she seems far more intelligent than that. I don’t feel the parental anxiety my own children engendered, and I find myself becoming quite attached. The dream details are foggy, but I do remember a lot of discussion about giving her a bath. At one point her arms break out in a rash. The child explains why and pulls out a salve which cures her the moment she applies it. There’s a lot of moving around from place to place, sometimes up and down stairs.

This dream is a visitation from the Divine Child, the part of me that holds my untarnished, limitless potential. The Child is self-healing, representing my ability to heal myself. We move together through various levels of consciousness, shown by our movement from place to place and up and down stairs. The bath is symbolic of my baptism into a new life: some sort of transformation is at hand.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Medieval Poisoners

Two women in a woman’s dream can allude to two conflicting parts of herself, as in this dream, where it’s a fight to the death.

The Dream: Two women have a rivalry. One is young, attractive, and dark-haired. I pretend to be her friend. The other has dark blonde hair and looks about 50; she is slightly stout. I don’t know her very well. I know about their plots and machinations but saying nothing, letting events take their course. Both the women wear medieval costume:  the younger one in dusty mauves and pinks, the older in autumnal rich ochres. The beautiful dark-haired woman has been poisoned and dies in my arms while I watch without much reaction. The other woman has also been poisoned, and I know she too will die soon. I look at her face and see a kindly older person. It’s like a small revelation. So I suggest that, if she is capable of it, she try to vomit. Once I have given her this heads-up I realize that she was the one responsible for poisoning the other woman. So how kind could she be?

Interpretation: I see a conflict from the past, as symbolized by the medieval costume. On the one hand I have the part of myself that cleaves to the roles inculcated in my youth: the beautiful young woman refers to the beautiful aspect of woman in my girlhood. How lovely she was, in her elegant Vogue splendor: hats, gloves, chic costume—and what fun it was to be completely preoccupied with fashion and elegance.
The older woman symbolizes the “older and wiser” part of me, the part that rejects being limited to a superficial and decorative role. (Not to mention the part that, being older, would have a hard time pulling it off.) So, inevitably perhaps, the older self kills the younger. But she must face the possibility that in killing off her younger self she also poisons herself. The dream ego steps in just in time to save her, but not without some reservation.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Power of Moonlight

When a character in your dream does something you feel is very alien, it might be your shadow. Shadows express parts of ourselves that we have repressed.

The Dream: Walking Indian file, in a narrow procession, returning from an event in Hampshire. We go over hills and downs, snaking under the moonlight. My neighbor Jenna is naked as we head toward Hartford House (her home). Her body looks lithe and young, like a slender adolescent. I notice myself adjusting my ruffled collar blouse, making sure I am covered. I think she’s being scandalous, showing off her body. I, of course, would never do such a thing. She is completely free, unselfconscious.

Interpretation: I would like to feel freer and be less self-conscious.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Woman in a Box

Sometimes a dream image is so simple and direct it needs no interpretation.
The Dream: A woman is in a box.