Monday, November 29, 2010

Guest Dreamer: First Encounter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Magic Bike

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hidden Wealth

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scale the Wall

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Bear Cave

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

Dream image:
A hibernating bear.

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

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Up in the Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Compensation

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

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

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Falling Apart

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

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Slice of Head?

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Are Things Unconscious?

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

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Regal Grandmother

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

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

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mother’s Birdcage Hairdo

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

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

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

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hair Again

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

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Wig for Yoga

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

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

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

On the Bias

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

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