Friday, April 30, 2010

Redefining the Mission

What’s really important? Your dreams will let you know.

The Dream: A male friend and I are doing an art project. He is about my height and we work well together. I have reworked our mission statement. One had been given to us when we started, but I feel my understanding of the project has surpassed what we were told, and I am very pleased with our newly defined “mission.”

My friend can’t type, but wants to show me how to shade a figure. I want to learn this, since I feel that my shading has been somewhat botchy. But I am so excited about the mission statement that I also want to run off and write it down. Again he wants to show me shading. I say, “I suck at shading.” He demonstrates a simple way to do it, using the side rather than the tip of a sharpened pastel stick. I feel a great sense of relief at casually admitting an area I’m not good at, thinking, “I don’t have to be perfect anymore. I can be accepted as I am. I can accept myself as I am.”

The two sides of the brain--one verbal, the other visual--seem to be having a dialogue here. When I can accept their teamwork I have a revelation.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Dancer

Dreams often point out when it’s time to reevaluate how we’re going about our lives.

The Dream:
A young man is giving a group of us dancing lessons. His impresario says he will dance for us. He begins his dance, and I am stunned by what I see. It isn’t the steps he takes; it’s the astounding and achingly beautiful grace of the way he moves. As his performance continues it doesn’t match his beginning. He seems to drift off and lose focus. I want him to get back to the wonder of his opening.

A little girl dancer has a cupboard stuffed with ribbons; they have been used as parts of her costume in many performances. I feel I should sort the ribbons for her, and I begin taking them out of her cupboard. The more I take the more I can see jammed in, and I wonder if I can ever get this sorted out.

Interpretation: The action of the dream shows that what started out as perfect art has degenerated into a chore. I need to rethink my approach to my work.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Next Step

I was completely stumped by this dream, but when my friend Beth heard it she knew exactly what it meant.

The Dream: There is a pattern on the floor made of oval-edged shapes. One motif to the right looks like a flower; the others are amorphous. The overall shape is a rectangle. I stand in front of this as if in a Step class and I do a step-like routine. I must place my foot on each of these shapes in a certain sequence. I do it perfectly.
Later I am called upon to do this again, and I find I have completely forgotten the routine. I stare blankly at the pattern on the floor and try to remember it. Someone wants to make a video of the step routine I can’t remember. I’m afraid it will be pornographic.

Beth pointed out that this dream is about performance anxiety. There is a progression of “freezing up,” revealed by my reaction to three different levels of scrutiny:
  • Level 1 No Scrutiny: I’m perfect when I’m working on my own, with no one to observe.
  • Level 2 Some Scrutiny: Someone asks me to do something and I choke.
  • Level 3 Invasive Scrutiny: Someone wants to video my performance, and it feels like pornography.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Wailing Wall

The Dream:
I look at the wall between the stairs and the guest room, and it is water stained. There is a leak coming from the guest room wall, and it has spread to a large area. I wonder why we didn’t notice it earlier. I talk to Clark about fixing it, and I am concerned that he will put it off and it will get worse. I think, “This is a disaster.”

Interpretation: My mother’s furniture is in the guest room. Something leaking from that room is contaminating, ruining my house (self). At first I thought this symbolized my mother’s influence over me, but Clark pointed out the symbolism of the Wailing Wall and suggested the image symbolized my inexpressible grief at her death.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The Dream: I see an Egyptian figure with the head of an animal and the body of a man. This is how it looked visually, but in the dream I describe it as the head of a man and the body of an animal. A song plays over and over: “Unbreak My Heart.”

Interpretation: An ancient (Egyptian) question: Are we spirit or consciousness (the head) trapped in matter (the body), or matter that acquired spirit? The song refers to the heartbreaking cycle, replayed in each life, of life and death.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Manikin and the Dress

The word play in this dream tipped me off to its meaning.

The Dream:
I see a manikin. It looks as if it is my size and shape. I see it again later when it has become like a mirror reflecting my dress, a velvet shift, which fits it perfectly. I point this out to my friend, who says, “Oh, you really aren’t small,” as if she had always thought I was but now sees me differently.

There’s a shift in my self-image.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Scary Ascent

An ancient myth replays in this dream.

The Dream: I need to get between levels in an old deco style building, a 20s relic in a big city like New York. Instead of an elevator I must climb a treacherous ladder that get narrower as I ascend. Once at the top I must pivot on the narrow top step with no hand holds to access an adjoining ladder. The nearby 2nd ladder is for descent into a different part of the building.

I am frightened and grouse loudly about this problem. Why isn’t there a better, safer way to do this? I fall into a very black area that is full of a soft material, like heavy stage curtains. I don’t know if anyone can hear me holler, if anyone knows I’m down here, or if I will ever be rescued.

I split into two “me’s.” One is trapped; the other runs around, aware of the situation but not in it. The second me tries to get help for the first.

Interpretation: Two things came to mind as I looked at this dream: one was the spiritual injunction that “Narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” The other was the Icarus myth. In both cases, punishment is meted out to seekers who don’t quite make the grade. My unconscious is letting me know that my personal spiritual journey, through dream work, is not without peril. Can I rescue myself? I don’t know yet.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Stormy Weather

Have you ever had a dream that feels otherworldly? Jung believed that dreams connect us to this mysterious realm.

The Dream: The weather descends like a spirit: erratic, tumultuous, capricious. There is a lot of rain and I wonder if all the people who have visitors—for it is the Christmas holiday season (even though the dream takes place in the spring)—are feeling the need to apologize and make excuses for the weather. “But isn’t it glorious?” I say.

At times the sky clears, and there is a patch of brilliant blue. At another time there is what looks like the stem of a funnel-shaped cloud, white, moving across the land. I am excited by, and enjoy, the quick changes and dramatic landscape.

Interpretation: This dream feels like a visitation from a divine spirit. The symbolism of the Christmas holiday, with its concept of the divine coming to earth, reinforces the feeling of the dream.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jung's Typology Test

Have you ever met someone and said, "She's just not my type?" Jung must have since he invented a method, still widely used (often by prospective employers), of categorizing humanity into "types."  To see the result of what this important psychologist was doing when he wasn't working on dreams, you can give his test a try, for free, here. Jung's Typology Test

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shine a Light on It

Jung and other symbol experts tell us that water represents the unconscious mind, and light is a symbol of  awareness, or consciousness.

The Dream: I am sinking in a bay which surrounds a park. The water level varies from place to place. I sink below the surface, holding a flashlight in my left hand. I am not worried about going down, knowing I will come up again, but I am worried about letting go of the flashlight. Can I hold onto it?

When I come up I try to get to Clark, who is standing in a shallow area near the shore. I struggle a little to keep my head above water. “Put out your hand,” I say, “I can’t see.”

Interpretation: The dream is about illuminating an aspect of my unconscious. I’m shining a light on it. Can I keep it up?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Taera of the Waterfall

Dreams are very good at turning ideas into images, as this one does.

The Dream:
A woman tells me about an art gallery where she is exhibiting her work. She thinks I should also exhibit there. We look at several of my very large paintings. One in particular catches our attention: on the left is an abstractly rendered waterfall with discrete patches of color suspended in space; on the right sits a female goddess. The picture is called Taera of the Waterfall.

Interpretation: Over the years I’ve come up with an idea about why making art is difficult. It requires two contradictory qualities: control and abandon. The waterfall in the dream, with its flowing water made out of rigid shapes, is a pictogram of this concept. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Put on the Stockings

Sometimes the things we dislike about ourselves need to be recognized as gifts, of a sort, as this dream tells me.

The Dream: We are trying to escape the Nazis, but using an odd strategy. We’re running away from them by going back to the place we used to live even as I think, “Won’t they be able to find us here?”

One woman accepts a pair of silk stockings from a Nazi soldier with the idea of reselling them to get money for something useful, like food. At first I think her acceptance of a gift from the Nazi is morally dubious, but later feel that in transforming the gift into something useful she’s done something sensible.

Interpretation: I learn that something good can come if I can accept a gift from my inner Nazi.  My tiresome attention to detail and tendency to perfectionism are not all bad, but can and do enable (feed) my creative side.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Circles in a Square

Jung tells us that a circle in our dreams symbolizes our psyche. What we see in the circle reflects our many complex and interacting facets. A square, he says, symbolizes the temenos, a safe and sacred place where transformation can take place.

The Dream:  A visual image of circles within a square.

Interpretation: I’m working to balance my new center.   

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kaleidoscope Mandala

Societies across all cultures have created religious art based on a circle: in the West we see halos and rose windows in cathedrals; in the East are the mandalas of Hindu and Buddhist temples. Jung considered this an archetypal symbol of what he calls the self.

The Dream: A young royal with many connections is arranging a Christmas party for some even younger relatives. He has set a table with a linen cloth and much fine, if rather arbitrarily chosen, china and silver. It’s as if the prince has furnished the event with items he found discarded in the palace basement. The seat of honor, a throne-like chair, is old and very delicate. Nevertheless, it’s very pretty. Two children are in attendance, one on either side of the rectangular table. I am helping the attractive young prince, although I’m not sure why. Am I toadying to his rank, trying to gain favor or status? I’m not sure. 

I offer to serve the cream to the children and go to retrieve the pitcher. When I return I ask each child in turn if he or she would like some. They are very polite little British children and say, “Yes, please!” with their adorable accents. I pour a large quantity of a thick yellow goop onto the little boy’s plate, then feel I’ve overdone it and scoop some back into the pitcher hoping my action has gone unnoticed. The other child also gets an over-large quantity. I look at their plates, everything obscured by a thick layer of cream, and I feel embarrassed; but the children don’t seem to mind.

I hear a distant voice approaching. Pavarotti, one of the famous 3 tenors, is singing. The young royal who organized the party pressed him into service for the event.

All at once I’m at the table with the children, in a seat with a rounded hood like a bassinet. There’s a dome over my head, and I see a beautiful kaleidoscope of color. To my left I see Santa Claus. He is very beautiful, perfect. Everything is perfect and theatrical. For a brief moment I think I can again believe in this child’s land of wonder—then the alarm went off. 

According to Jung one of the functions of dreaming is the attainment of the self. Briefly put, the self is realized potential. This almost never occurs completely; it is as rare as sainthood. But when we make some progress in the right direction our unconscious gives us thumbs up. By joining the children at the table I’ve integrated my child--one of the fragmentary, shadowy, unconscious aspects of myself--so my dream shows me symbolically that I’ve made some progress, in this case by producing a mandala.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Animal Instinct

When your dreams reward you with an encouraging symbol on one night, you can be pretty sure they’ll throw you a challenge the next.

The Dream: I’m running around a group of buildings at a campground. The buildings form a rectangle surrounded by a covered porch with a wood floor. A tribe of nearby apes seems very human in its social organization and behavior, but nevertheless its proximity is frightening. I am both intrigued by and leery of the apes.

Interpretation: A couple of symbols stand out here. Jung talks about the temenos, which is a contained space in which transformation can take place. In this dream I’m not inside the space, but running around its perimeter. Now that I’ve made peace with my inner child, my next challenge is to integrate my inner ape: my natural, impulsive, and uncivilized inclinations.

This doesn’t mean that these inclinations should lead me or be given free reign—on the contrary. It means I need to be aware that I have these inclinations. I’m probably on my way toward accepting this part of myself, even though I’m frightened, since one of my reactions to the apes (to be intrigued) is not wholly negative.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jane Teresa Anderson’s Dream Alchemy

Have you ever wondered how you might take a dream forward; in other words, how you might use dream images or symbols to help you reach some of your goals? Jane Teresa Anderson, an Australian dream worker, has developed a technique she calls Dream Alchemy.

Medieval scientists believed they could discover a process that would turn base metal into gold. These scientists were called alchemists, and modern chemistry derives from their work. Carl Jung looked at the metaphorical meaning of their processes and discovered in them a spiritual path toward greater consciousness. Jane Teresa Anderson brings these concepts into the 21st century, giving dreamers a method of transforming the dross of their dreams into personal growth and enlightenment.

I’ll make up a simple example to illustrate how this technique works: Let’s say I have a dream about not having enough food for my guests. My alchemical assignment might be to imagine a laden banquet table with plenty for all. By re-envisioning the situation I change the negative perception underlying the dream (I don’t have enough to give) into a positive (I have lots to offer). Effectively changing my thoughts will change my life. Jane demonstrates this technique and goes into the specifics of applying it in many of her podcasts. Start with Episode 28 found on this page of her podcast list. Here Jane talks about the effect on her life of her own dream alchemy process. For more about the technique listen to Episode 41 with Kitty and Episode 39 with Kate.