Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting Around the Block

Like the dream of the mouse lady a few posts back, this dream features what Jung calls a shadow. Shadow figures represent parts of ourselves that we dislike and reject. It’s important that we get to know our shadows; otherwise there’s a danger that we will project them onto others—often with devastating results.

The Dream: There is an unsavory character who owns a shop in the city. I find his shop and then leave it by going North, then West, then South. I realize that I have lived without noticing what is on this block. There is much life, crowded storefronts, and I have passed them by without knowing what’s here. As I walk, noticing all the activity I had not previously seen, I also become aware that I can get back to the shop by continuing around the block—that I will come back to where I started. This is a revelation.

Interpretation: There’s a part of myself that I reject (the unsavory character). He’s central to something I don’t want to see or know (the block). Yet the dream tells me that not seeing (accepting) this part of myself has cut me off from “much life.” My journey around the block gives me a healing insight that feels like a revelation.  As in the plot of a classic myth or fairy tale, I come back to where I started, but the experience has changed me for the better.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

City of Brotherly Love

The transformation that started with the dream of the mouse lady has progressed, as this dream shows. That it isn’t complete will become obvious with the dream I'll post next time.

The Dream: Clark and I have jumped from the back deck of an airplane, where we were guided by a flight attendant. She waves from the deck as we parachute down into Pennsylvania, our arms linked. I’m nervous, but not terrified, and Clark is calm and confident. I get a new worry: what if we land in a lake? Clark says this is a possibility, since there are a lot of rivers, lakes and steams in the state.

We land safely and are enthusiastically welcomed by the locals. We’ve landed in a rural-looking area, but I understand that it is part of Philadelphia.

Interpretation: Myths often have guides--fairy godmothers or goddesses like Athena--that help the hero attain the prize. In this dream, the flight attendant guides me and my other half (Clark) to the spot for the necessary action: learning that jumping in with both feet can be the right thing to do. No mouse lady here, despite my worry about an immersion into the unconscious “state” (Pennsylvania’s water). As we land safely there are accolades from the locals, telling me that I’ve achieved something my inner selves applaud. There is a rapprochement between me and my other half (Jung calls him my animus) signaled by our landing in the City of Brother Love.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Turquoise Box

The Dream: A turquoise box, filled with wriggling people.

Interpretation: This dream doesn’t seem to give us much to work with, just some shape and color. But in the end it has more to say than you might expect. When we dream of square shapes, like this turquoise box, Jung tells us that we have created a temenos, a safe psychic space for transformation. Turquoise, according to Tony Crisp, speaks of intuition and an expanding consciousness.  And what about the colors that create turquoise, blue and green? Blue is associated with religious feeling (the Virgin Mary wears blue for this reason) and new horizons (the vast blue sky).  Green is the color of growth.

The wiggling people? They must be all those inner selves trying to find their proper place in my psyche. There are enough positive symbols in this dream for me to think they might succeed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mouse Lady

Some dreams reveal their meaning best when looked at in a series. A transformation takes place over the next three dreams, but I didn’t realize it until I looked at them as a group. I'll post the rest of the series later in the week.

The Dream:
There is food on the counter, and I see a mouse. As I watch it its tail lengthens. As I scream about the mouse, I notice it has turned into the head of a very unattractive woman with a long dark brown pony tail. It’s socially awkward that I took her for a mouse.

Interpretation: The good things in life (food) are contaminated by something I find revolting (a mouse). It makes me scream. But wait! It isn’t a mouse, it’s a woman—and not recognizing her for what she is has created a problem. (It’s awkward.) The dream tells me that as the mousy part of me transforms into something braver and stronger I have to guard against seeing these newly emergent qualities as unattractive.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Inquisition

The Dream: In a classroom, with several rows of people seated in an orderly arrangement on the Danish modern classroom chairs of my childhood. A Chinese dictator presides. He is very angry because he has opened a package meant for me that has exploded, singeing his brows and mouth, which are the most prominent features of his mask-like face. He wants to know who’s to blame for the explosion. I admit, after a while, that it is my fault. He says, ominously, “You will suffer.” He demands to know the full story, and although I’m reluctant at first to implicate others, I tell it.

I acted at the behest of another authority figure, a white middle-aged man. As I tell my story, the Asian dictator comes to me, and he very gently hugs me. This seems out of character and I don’t know what to think. I don’t trust him, and I don’t think his affectionate gesture means that he will not administer whatever punishment he feels my deed merits.

I’m in a classroom; I have something to learn. The room’s furniture tells me it’s a lesson from my childhood when I did something that caused an explosion (emotional upheaval). As seems to be the case in childhood, the most important thing to the one in charge is to find out whose fault it is. But I am stuck, since my action was demanded by yet another authority, this one a white man. The Asian, being a different race from me, represents what Jung calls my “shadow,” a part of myself that I have not consciously acknowledged. My shadow shows some tenderness and compassion upon realizing my dilemma, but my dream ego is not won over. This issue needs more work, and I expect to see it arise in future dreams.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A New Space

The Dream: We are moving into a new place, and Clark and I discuss whether or not it needs painting. He’s concerned we’ll have to get the place back to its pristine condition before we move out (it’s a rental). I mention we’ll have to do the same with the place we’re currently renting. I tell him I’ll paint the new place in light colors so it will be easy to restore.

Interpretation: In light of the previous dream, populated with dead friends, I think this dream attempts to make me comfortable with my friends' deaths and, in addition, my own mortality. Moving to a new place can be looked at in a couple of ways (at least). It's a metaphor for dealing with an issue: people often say they're "moving on" after they have resolved a trauma. In another sense, the moves from place to place, in rented homes, reflect the impermanence of the body.  Making the new place “easy to restore” symbolizes my hope for rebirth.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Clearing Out

As I was drifting off to sleep last night I was bothered by the low level, but chronic, pain left over from a bout of sciatica years ago. I then remembered other muscular pain over the years: neck, shoulder, arm—and realized all of it was on the left side of my body. Since the left is a metaphor for the unconscious, I began to wonder if I had some psychic pain that was expressing itself physically. It seemed as if the pain lessened somewhat as soon as I had this thought. I requested a dream that would help me see the trigger.

The Dream: I have moved into a very large house that is jammed with things left by the previous occupant. I wonder why I haven’t cleared it out and put my own stamp on the place. Why am I living with these artifacts of another’s life? There is so much clutter that the task seems overwhelming. I wish my friend Stephen were here to help me figure out what is valuable so I can get rid of the rest.

I discover a plushly furnished living room leading to a dining room. I go through the sideboard and find it is full of beautifully made dresses from a previous era. One is encrusted with handmade lace; another, a lovely Claire McCardell plaid. I think I might be able to wear these lovely things until I notice each is flawed: either old sweat stains at the underarms or fabric faded in spots. My friend Alex and I look through folded garments, and I am pleased they have some value.

There is so much to throw away. I wonder if I am limited to one garbage can a week or if I can fill plastic bags with the excess and have it carted away.

The friends who appear in this dream have died, which is a strong clue that the dream deals with my reaction to loss—to my wanting to hold onto things from the past. Because these things are beautiful I don’t want to let them go, even though they stand in the way of my “putting my own stamp” on the life I’m now living (the house I’m in). As the dream progresses I have more energy to face the clearing out process, and by the end I’m filling garbage cans and looking for more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Chocolate Mondrian

The Dream: I see a rectangle, on its side, a beautiful chocolate brown color, with a smaller off-center square superimposed in a salmon or reddish color, and some cinnamon-color stripes. Mondrian comes to mind: a geometric sort of art, but with colors very different from his. The image also reminds me of a wrapped present. I think it is very beautiful.

Interpretation: Looking at this image in Jung’s terms, I see the rectangle as what he called the Self: in other words, as the totality of my potential being. The square represents the part of the Self that is conscious. The cinnamon stripes, one of which intrudes into consciousness, are gateways allowing unconscious material to come to consciousness.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Dream Seminar with Jeremy Taylor

Instead of posting a dream today I’m going comment on a dream seminar I attended last weekend, lead by Jeremy Taylor and attended by 17 very knowledgeable and experienced dreamers whose life experiences run the gamut from analyst, event planner and musician to  priest, accountant and artist. Our topic was “Transpersonal Dreams and Dreams of the Divine.”  Simply put, Jeremy explains transpersonal dreams as those with material that includes the personal, but also has meaning for the rest of us.

Jeremy lectured, and we learned much from his invaluable store of dream wisdom, gleaned over a lifetime of work in the field. We also learned from each other. I hope that other attendees will post to this blog, so I am going to limit myself to commenting on the core lesson of the meeting, for me.  I expect it will be different for each. In my case, it was Jeremy’s emphasis on the crucial role of paradox in our dreams. For example, let’s say I dream of a dung beetle. In trying to puzzle out what the beetle means in my dream I think first that it is a disgusting insect, and then I’m reminded of the Egyptian scarab, a beautiful symbol of creative divinity. Which understanding of the beetle applies to my dream?  Is it disgusting, or is it divine? As Jung explains, when we are trying to bring something counter to our usual understanding to consciousness, “it is never a question of ‘this or that,’ but of ‘this and that.”1 Or, as Jeremy puts it, “all of the above.”

One of Jung’s best known concepts is that of synchronicity (things happening at the same time that may or may not be related but that strike us as if they were). So—the morning after the seminar as I opened my Sunday paper and turned to the book section, I was struck by a review of two books by Hans Keilson that spoke directly to the inner paradoxes we attempt to uncover through our dream work. The reviewer said that “. . . . Keilson performs the difficult trick of showing how a single psyche can embrace many contradictory thoughts, and how naturally extreme intelligence and sensitivity can coexist with obtuseness, denial and self-deception.”2

1 C.G.Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, translated by W.S.Dell and Cary F. Baynes, (San Diego, New York, London: A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc., 1933), 21.

2 Francine Prose, “As Darkness Falls,” The New York Times Book Review (August 8, 2010): 8.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Head in a Lantern

The Dream: A friend has put her mother’s or aunt’s head in a lantern. She has also put my mother’s head in one. I am worried that my mother will starve. She will get no food in this odd cage. A part of me wants her to die so I’ll be “finished” with her; yet another part is concerned and guilt-ridden. After a while I think that she won’t starve to death; she’ll die of insulin shock before that happens. In fact, she might be dead already. I am very worried about her suffering, so her death would be a relief.

My mother died about five years before I had this dream, which sums up all the confused and tortured feelings that centered on my relationship with her. As a child I idolized her. When I was 17 she became diabetic, and I was in terror of her dying. Over the years, every time I saw her I thought might be the last. I saw her suffer through innumerable insulin shocks as well as cancer and heart disease. As anyone with an ill family member knows, all share the pain. In a very real way her death (at 85 in spite of everything!) was a release. Years later, as this dream shows, the unconscious is trying to come to terms with these feelings.

Besides my relief at an impossible situation being resolved, the dream gives me a glimpse of a kind of immortality. Important people in our lives don't die, but live on in us.  Mother's cage resembles a birdcage, and birds signify the spirit. That Mother’s cage is a lantern tells me her spirit still lights my way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Taking the Plunge

The Dream: I am on a high diving board, hanging by my hands. Someone is instructing me in the correct way to do the dive, which of course requires that I reposition myself. I think I could simply let go and drop—that might be easiest. I am afraid of taking the plunge, but feel less fearful once the “drop” idea occurs to me.

This is not the time to fret over the correct way of doing something. This is the time to let go, take the plunge, and do it my way.

Monday, August 9, 2010


The Dream: Black pods—like pea pods only shorter and shiny—are open and attached, in a decorative pattern, to the skin of a woman. It is something akin to a tattoo. In each pod is a small figure of something—perhaps a person or an animal. She is going to change out the figures, but keep the attached pods. I am repelled by this.

Interpretation: I’ve got something under my skin. The reference to the tattoo suggests I’ve been marked by a painful (black) experience. I am willing to change out the players in my pods, but since I keep their receptacles I have to think it’s likely they will be back.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Things are Not What They Seem

The Dream: I am a young woman. A boyfriend takes me to visit his family home, which is near the sea. The homes in his town look a little down in the mouth, with laundry hung in very small front yards no bigger than their driveways. Piles of debris await collection. I am not impressed.

Later I realize that the people here treat their very shallow fronts as backs; they are not concerned about how they look or the social and community face they present. They care about the private back gardens—not visible from the street—where they spend their time. These are large and green and face the sea.

Interpretation: This dream puts everything on its head, turns expectations upside down. What would normally be private (the laundry) is hung out for all to see. The dirty linens are washed in public. Trash is left out in piles. I am not “keeping up a front,” and my dream ego disapproves.

 As the dream progresses, I learn that this is not a bad thing, even if it flies in the face of social expectations. The front, after all, is shallow. The real life of the family (my inner life) takes places facing the sea (the unconscious). In that place the garden prospers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Putting My Skills to Work (Or Not)

The Dream:
I have attained a level of artistic competence, and it occurs to me that I should use it to get a job I would enjoy. I think I would like to be a fashion illustrator, and I become excited about following through on this idea. I am in New York. My first thought is to show my portfolio around, but I’m not sure how to go about it. Who should I show it to? Will anyone look at it if I don’t present some credentials or have a degree? Or connections?

I decide to go back to school at FIT for an illustration degree. Then I wonder who’s hiring fashion illustrators. I realize I haven’t seen many lately. I become discouraged; even if I have the degree it is unlikely there will be jobs available.

While I'm confident in my art skills some part of me thinks I must have validation from the outside world: I need credentials. Then I realize that having them won't solve my dilemma:  It’s difficult to find a practical application for art skills. Yet I think I must.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Box Turtle

The Dream:
I see a turtle emerging from the snake hole of the previous post. First I see its head and I’m alarmed, intrigued. Then its body emerges, which is inside a box. It shuffles itself and its box across the ground. Something about it is off-putting.

Interpretation: I think my unconscious has lost patience with me: “If you want to stay in your box, go ahead! But you look ridiculous!” Change and growth are never easy . . . . 

Sunday, August 1, 2010


The Dream: A dream image of a snake hole, with the reptile’s shed skin emerging. I prod the skin, half afraid it’s an actual snake but realizing as I do that it isn’t.

Interpretation: Because snakes shed their skins and appear to emerge from the earth, our ancestors--close observers of nature--deduced that these animals were reborn, and they became a symbol of regeneration. The removed, cast-off skin tells me that this dream comments on the last dream post. Ready or not, I’ve entered a new phase of life.