Monday, May 31, 2010

Yellow Ochre

What can you learn from a dream fragment? Sometimes they are surprisingly fertile.

The Dream: Yellow ochre.

Interpretation: Yellow is the color of illumination, and ochre is an earth color. The dream expresses what Jung calls a conjuntio, a resolution of opposites: spirit (illumination) and matter (earth).

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Jung tells us that “The ancestral spirits play an important part in primitive rites of renewal. . . . This atavistic identification with human and animal ancestors can be interpreted psychologically as an integration of the unconscious, a veritable bath of renewal in the life-source . . . .” *

The Dream: Near the door of the house is a totem, going from the top of the entry way to its floor. The entry way is very tall; the style of the house a combination of Spanish hacienda and 20th c. contemporary. The totem is a bas relief. The shape near the door first appears to be a tear-drop, but part of it morphs into something like the head of a bull. Other shapes flow from this to the ceiling where the totem wraps overhead. Colors are rich: reds, greens, ochres: a painted wood look. One shape is an antique looking sun. It’s modernist and old-fashioned (primitive?) at the same time.

I don’t like it and wonder if Clark put it there without consulting me. Then I realize it came with the house and is the work of a famous architect. I try to like it.

I come out of my house (myself) through a door (changing from one state of awareness to another) and see this very ancient complex representation of myself: a totem. I am an expression of my genetic history:  a carrier in time and space of the life force of my ancestors. I try to dissociate from this unfamiliar way of seeing myself (I blame my other half for putting up the totem) but soon realize it came with the house (it’s who I am). Reconnecting with the archaic part of my psyche will result in a kind of rebirth. Jung again: “The case before us proves that even if the conscious mind is miles away from the ancient conceptions of the rites of renewal, the unconscious still strives to bring them closer in dreams.”**

*C.G. Jung, Dreams, translation by R.F.C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX from The Collected Works of C.G. Jung Volumes 4,8,12 16 (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1974) 205
**C. G. Jung, op. cit., 211

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I See Differently

This short dream illustrates the technique I described in my last post.

The Dream: I’ve noticed a change in my vision. I’m less near-sighted, especially in my right eye. The vision in this eye has greatly improved, but I’m afraid that might mean I’m getting cataracts.

Interpretation: As a result of my careful attention to my dreams I see things differently. Jung tells us that the right refers to what we’re conscious of; the left to the unconscious. The dream uses the change in my right eye (the conscious I) to symbolize an expansion in my point of view (I’m less near-sighted).  This sounds positive until I get to my worry about having a cataract. Is the improvement in vision temporary, to be followed by a dimming?

I looked up cataract in the dictionary and discovered that it is “a large waterfall; a cascade upon a great scale” and “any downpour like a cataract; a deluge.” Only when I get to the third definition: “in medicine: opacity of the crystalline lens of the eye” do I find the meaning I was aware of. The unconscious is often symbolized by water imagery, and this puts a different shade of meaning onto the dream’s ending. Instead of reflecting my worry over my new found sharp vision deteriorating, it is more likely the conscious mind’s (the right I) being concerned that it will be overwhelmed by unconscious material.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Unprepared to Go Forward

I try to keep these posts short, but in analyzing this dream I discovered a simple new technique which enabled me to glean some surprising insights. I describe it here in case it might help you mine your dreams for their often elusive meanings. When I start to unravel a dream I usually write down key words and then  list what each one suggests to me. I started this way with this dream and then discovered how to take that technique further.

The Dream:
  1. A nightmare, a relentless anxiety dream, awakened me about 5:30. I am preparing to go to a convention. I had looked up the driving directions—the location was in Napa—and knew the drive would take 20 minutes. It is 9:00 am; the meeting convenes at 10:00. This convention is in some way important to my career, and I need to make a good impression. I realize I can’t find the directions, which I was sure I had put in my purse.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


The Dream: The manzinita bush in the back garden is covered with butterfly cocoons and emerging butterflies. I look at them analytically to figure out what kind of butterflies they are. I’m a little worried about the fact that they are so plentiful.

Interpretation: Traditionally butterflies have been a symbol of transformation: the soul emerging from the body as the butterfly emerges from the cocoon. I try to understand this wonder with my intellect (analytically). When I can’t, I become uncomfortable. The unconscious is pointing out that I cannot understand everything using reason and logic. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Under Water

Some dreams are inspired by waking life events in your past. When this occurs ask yourself, “Why did I revisit this particular incident now?” The answer? Something happening now—in the last couple of days--evokes a similar feeling.

The Dream: I am on a rubber raft on a fast river. Someone shouts a warning about the dangerous currents and I topple out of the boat. I am under the water about 6 inches, but traveling so rapidly, face-up, that I can’t save myself. I can see the bright blue sky through the sparkling and clear rushing water. I think, “I’m going to drown.”

Interpretation: Something like this happened to my daughter many years ago when she was three. We were in an inflatable boat, and she fell off the back. Her father grabbed her foot; in the several seconds it took to retrieve her she was dragged behind the boat, looking up with a startled and terrified expression.

Why did I dream this now? When I look at what’s going on in my life, I see that I’m feeling under water. I’m drowning under too many deadlines and obligations. Time to come up and breathe.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Mouse

The Dream:
A mouse is hiding between the wall and the sofa. Only two small parts of the animal can be seen: a bit of nose and tail.

Interpretation: A timid little part of me hasn’t revealed much of itself, at least not so far (sofa). It has, however, come out from behind its wall. It’s curious—it’s sticking its nose in. And it isn’t completely spineless; we can see by its tail it has one.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Beautiful Bird

Do you dream in color? Dream specialists attach significance to the way we color our dreams.

The Dream:
A beautifully patterned bird flies overhead, its flight path a half-circle. The bird is brilliantly colored: red, green, black and white.

A bird is symbolic of the spirit and indicates my awareness is expanding. Its half-circular flight, however, suggests the expansion is incomplete.  The colors in the dream are complementary pairs: red/green; black/white. As such, each intensifies the other. Red signals that this dream is important. Green is a color of growth and transformation; here it points to previously unconscious material becoming (growing into) consciousness. Black represents the unknown, the unconscious, the things I’m not aware of; it’s paired with white, associated with consciousness.  This pairing of opposites gives a strong hint that I must resolve something that’s pulling me in two directions. If I can I will complete the circle, becoming whole.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Only the Shadow Knows

Sometimes you just can’t get rid of those pesky imperfections.

The Dream: I am in an office building and a hobo is on a ladder outside the window. He puts out his hand, in a supplicating way, as if requesting money. He is unstable, and his ladder falls away from the window. I am glad, not bothering myself about his probable fate after falling from a considerable height. I am relieved to be rid of him. Moments later he is back.

Interpretation: This shadow figure, as Jung would call him, is appealing to me (he puts out his hand in supplication). I may reject him; I may think he’s dead and gone. But nope—he’ll be back until I give him what he wants: the acknowledgment that he is part of me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Incubi

Sometimes you’ll find that a dream invites you to revisit parts of yourself you once rejected.

The Dream: We are hunting for snails, which we are going to eat. We pull them out of a messy, amorphous background and put them in a red pail containing rocks. The snails climb up the pail, and I snatch them and throw them back down. They disgust me. They have soft shells which I am afraid of crushing. It occurs to me that we are not planning on cooking them, so how revolting will it be to eat them while they are crawling around on the plate?

I go over to a boarded up and rotten structure, looking for a trash area. I crank off the feeble and rotting wooden lid and see what I at first believe to be a pile of murdered babies. They are frozen. Their bodies look something like plucked turkeys; something about their faces looks girl-like, but they have no features. They look like flesh colored mummies, getting bird-like toward the bottom. Clark spots them and hollers, “Carla!” in shock, also thinking they are murdered babies.

Interpretation: At some very young age I made the determination that parts of me were disgusting. These undeveloped selves (babies) have been stored and frozen, apparently “murdered.” As an adult I might judge these incubi less harshly; my dream invites me to integrate them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What is my Niche?

You might notice that your dreams tend to illustrate a point by going over the top. In this dream I get a message from my inner drama queen.

The Dream: I have been ill, and it is determined that it is time for me to die. I am in India, wearing a flowing costume, but the street looks like the one I live on. My “father,” who looks and acts nothing like my real life father, accompanies me on the journey to my burial. This father is very tall, relatively slender, with a fair complexion and close cropped hair. We are escorted by a large rabble of young children who are merrily running, frolicking, and occasionally falling down, scraping a knee, and crying. I note to myself that they are behaving exactly like children. This odd procession walks through streets now citified and comes at last to my gravesite.

The site contains an open tomb, a simple rectangular box with no lid. Inside the box are the do-whap songs of two early rock groups. The songs have been shredded and are being stirred, with the expectation that they will turn into a peanut-butter like goop. Father, holding a copy of one of Nietzsche’s works, becomes intellectual and starts to lecture about the writer. He tells me his name is properly pronounced Niche these days. I am exasperated. “Must they change everything?” I say.

I tear the binding off the back of the book so it can be shredded and added to the coffin with the songs. Father opens the partially destroyed book and shows me a list of questions Nietzsche thought people should ask themselves. I read the questions, which invite introspection, and realize I’ve never asked myself these things. “I want to live,” I exclaim, with a certain desperation. “I want to live!”

I had this dream seven years ago. At that time I was recording my dreams, but had little idea what to make of them. In a rather histrionic way, the dream tells me to find my niche (Nietzsche). It tells me that life without introspection is not life at all.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Small Dark Pool

Your dreams are cleverer than you might think. After you write one down, take a good look at the words your unconscious has given you. In this dream, a shift in the word used to describe a body of water holds a clue to the meaning of the dream.

The Dream:
I’m outside on the back deck of a house, overlooking a small dark pool entirely contained in our back garden. I am throwing trash, some empty containers, into the pool. Then I realize there is other trash, of a similar sort, already on the bottom: empty plastic bottles and milk containers. I’m not sure why I threw the 3 pieces of trash into the lake. I expect it to sink to the bottom, and when it does I notice the trash already there. I think we had better clean up this mess before we swim.

There are things I don’t want (trash) submerged (at the bottom, in the dark) in my unconscious (the pool). Some of it is phony and trivial (plastic); some connected to things I should have outgrown (milk). I need to do some clearing out (clean up this mess) before I can enjoy the benefits of a better relationship with the unconscious (swim in the lake). A subtle but meaningful shift in terminology: the body of water changes from a pool (implication of man made) to a lake (natural) as the dream progresses. This implies a return to a healthy state once the cleanup occurs.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Lampshade

Have you ever had a dream that interpreted itself for you? I haven’t had many, but this one did.

The Dream: A lampshade features prominently. It is colorful, made of translucent geometric forms in shades of yellow, green and orange. The dream explains its own symbolism: it tells me that the lampshade’s significance is that it both conceals and reveals illumination.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Another odd little creature emerges in this dream, which seems to reflect the 3-tiered organization that Jung and Freud attributed to the mind.

The Dream: The bathroom’s vanity counter is clear. I am surprised and wonder where my things have gone: Clark has re-organized. A new tube of shampoo and other items have been moved to a shelf underneath. I start to place the shampoo back where it was, and Clark intervenes. “No! No,” he says, “If you move that everything behind it will tumble down.” He puts his hand over mind to stop me.

“That’s a new tube,” I say. “If I can’t see it I might forget about it and buy another one.” I leave it where he’s moved it, but soon come up with a solution.  I see a 3-tiered plastic organizer, which I think will solve this dilemma. I will be able to see my stuff when I open the vanity door; the stuff will be off the top of the counter; it will be organized, and--important to me—I’ll be able to retrieve it when I need to.

I must clean the organizer before I use it; it has been sitting under the counter for quite a while. I take it out and run a finger along one edge. I discover a compact white webbed mass, like a spot where a spider lays eggs. I am alarmed when I see a black shiny spider leg, thinking it’s a Black Widow. I call out to Clark and then notice the spider has a different pattern on her back, in shades of beige and brown. I’m relieved.

Next I see a very unusual insect, something in between a lizard and a beetle. It is beautiful in an odd sort of a way, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I call out to Clark again to tell him he has to see this interesting bug.  I don’t want to kill it, but I do want it removed.

Interpretation: A re-organization is taking place in my mind. The ego is not the primer mover in this re-org; that role has been assigned to Clark, who represents an unconscious force, my animus. The ego works to come to terms with a process that is taking place beneath its awareness, as symbolized by things being moved under the counter. The 3 tiers reflect the classical model that layered the mind into the unconscious, the sub-conscious, and the conscious.

I’m afraid of some of the neglected elements that might be coming into consciousness, as seen by my reaction to the spider. Once I have integrated the spider by deciding it isn’t so fearsome after all, I am ready to confront the lizard part of my brain.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Inner Frog

That little inner voice that lets you know when you’re on the right—or wrong—track might be more humble than you'd expect.

The Dream: A little girl is sick. She has a frog living inside her. This is not the cause of her sickness but does cause some symptoms. When she goes to the doctor the frog is discovered. An illness is also discovered and treated, so the frog has saved her life.

The doctors want to remove the frog, which would kill it, but the little girl will not allow it. It is said, several times, that because the doctor said to her “The frog is bad,” and her mother had said to her when she was four, “You are bad,” the girl identifies with the frog and doesn’t want him hurt.

Later the girl has some abdominal pain and goes to the doctor. A nurse tells her nothing is wrong with her. The girl insists, standing up to an adult which is unusual for her. Again, the frog has alerted her to an illness. Again the doctor treats her, and she is cured.

Like the frog that turns into a prince in the fairy tale, this frog has an important role to play in my life. My child accepts him, and so must I; he is important to my health and well-being. Listen to your inner frog!