Friday, December 31, 2010

Guest Writer: The New Year as Transition

Thanks to Rob Drew for today's post.

Happy New Year!  We'll be giving and receiving this cheerful greeting the next few days without much thought, yet it is full of cultural and personal significance.  A million people will brave the cold in New York City to watch the glass ball descend into Times Square. Millions of others will watch on TV.  But why celebrate a moment, the transition from one numbered year to the next? 

As humans we are capable of experiencing time. We can look back on the past and forward to the future just as the two-headed Roman god Janus, for whom January is named. As we travel through time we have to leave some things or some people behind, perhaps by choice or perhaps not. The Old Year provides a place to do that, a symbolic resting place for old loves, former jobs, silly fads, passe' fashions, and our own bad habits. The New Year is fresh, alive, unknown and full of potential: new loves, better jobs, and resolutions for one or two new good habits. The stroke of midnight is the portal between past and future, a closing door on the past and an opening door into the future.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What's Bugging Me?

The Dream: A stepped garden leads to my apartment. Some others from the complex are with me; they get to their apartment by first entering mine and then going up some stairs to the right. The space opening to my apartment is separated from the vestibule by a counter covered with decorative plants. My companions, on entering the vestibule, survey my apartment and remark on its attractiveness. The woman says she wishes hers were as lovely. I think her place probably has the exact same layout as mine, and it’s a question of what one does with it.

As they are admiring my place, which does look beautiful, I notice bugs coming out of the pots on the counter. This is distressing and I wonder what caused them to appear. Did I leave some food around? I’m hoping my “guests” won’t notice as I search for the cause. At first I notice that one pot in particular, the one to the far right, has lots of small creatures emerging. But then I notice all do.

Interpretation: The stepped garden represents my personal growth.  My feelings of isolation (apart-ment complex) and I (the dream ego) encounter one another in this dream.  I begin to realize we live in the same space (her place has the same layout as mine). I see that my complex splits off from our common domain (the entry way) and go upstairs to its usual habitation, the intellect (on a higher level, to the right). I am happy with my beautiful apartment until I notice all is not right: something unpleasant and distressing emerges. The bugs represent something I don’t want to accept and can’t control (the fly in the ointment). I need to figure out where they fit in.

Monday, December 27, 2010

No Longer Apart

In this little dream, I deal with some unconscious factors that have put up barriers to my smooth acceptance of others.

The Dream: I go to the mailbox area of an apartment complex to pick up my mail. A large man is looking at a magazine that I think must be mine, since he took it from my mail cubby. I feel territorial; he’s invaded my space and taken something of mine. In time I come to realize that the mail cubby is a shared space, and he has a right to it as well. What’s more, the magazine he’s looking at is his. He is a pleasant enough fellow, and I get the impression that he works in IT (Information Technology).

Interpretation: In the middle ages, combatants were protected by their suits of mail. When I go to pick mine up I confront one of my complexes. Which one? The one that keeps me apart from the rest of humanity (an apart-ment complex). During the course of the dream I realize that my feeling ownership of a shared space is inappropriate. I also see my belief that the large man has taken something from me is not true. Now I can like this shadow figure. Liking and accepting him, I am less estranged from the community of my fellow humans. The whole community, you ask? Why not? The dream told me he was huge (large). Just to give me a little wink and nudge, the dream tells me that this fellow works in IT; clearly his job in my dream was to impart some information.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Metaphorical Meaning of Christmas

For today’s post I thought it would be interesting to use the methods we’ve been using to look at personal dreams on a dream that belongs to our culture: Christmas. This day has been observed as a Christian holiday for over 2000 years. Christianity paired its celebrations with those of older religions, so the birth of the Christian deity was celebrated on the night of the Solstice. Symbolically this dark time of year creates the dark cave of the unenlightened soul, a cave which may be seen behind the Virgin Mary in Orthodox Christian nativity icons. The virgin birth symbolizes the soul’s rescue from this unenlightened dwelling: the spirit is born and becomes incarnate in our previously animal nature. In other words, the birth of the deity to a human mother reenacts the historical moment in our evolution—and the actual moment in each and every life--when we become capable of consciousness.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hanging Grandma

When trying to understand one of your dreams it’s a good idea to see if it contains a paradox. In this dream, grandmother is dead and yet she lives. This is the key to the meaning of the dream.

The Dream: 
An older woman, “Grandma,” has hung herself. At first I’m afraid to look at her, but for some reason her body is left hanging in a public area, the courtyard of a school, and seeing her is unavoidable. All are in a tizzy over this event. Yet she looks very peaceful; she’s in a yoga position with a contemplative expression on her face. As awful as this incident seems, when I see her serenity I am consoled.

Interpretation: When I had this dream I was preparing to go see and admire the great Florentine painters of the medieval to Renaissance periods. Grandma represents the past; in this case not my personal past but the past artistic glories of European art, which have been an ongoing inspiration in my life. She, like the art I love, hangs in public for all to see. I am distressed that she has died.

Is the dream telling me that these earlier periods of art are now dead for me? Yes: at least as far as being at the core of my artistic inspiration. But the dream is also telling me that a new, revitalized artistic energy will emerge. After all, I take comfort in seeing the spirit live on in the dead Grandma (her yoga position and contemplative expression) despite her apparent death. The paradox this dream explores is the common dream topic of new life (energy) emerging from death (stasis).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Studio for Sale

The Dream: An artist friend is selling her two-story studio. The unfinished downstairs smells musty, like a basement. Black construction paper lines some of the walls. The person moving in will use the larger of the two upstairs rooms for her painting. The smaller room, to the right as I look at them, will be for storage.

The downstairs, evocative of a basement with its musty smell, tells me that I’m dealing with an issue that has basic, or primitive, overtones. The black paper evokes a dark cave, perhaps one with writing on its walls (paper is something we write on). That it’s construction paper hints something was built on this obscure foundation. This train of thought leads me to the Lascaux cave paintings. Here these French caves symbolize our species’ early commitment to art, and the dream deals with some sort of unconscious change in my relationship to the art I make.

The dream emphasizes duality: the studio has two stories; the upstairs has two rooms. One part of me is getting rid of her studio; another part who’s moving in seems to be elevating the work, taking it to a higher level (on the second floor) where she will paint in the larger room and store things in the smaller one. I hope the transformed artist will be nourished by the primitive energy from downstairs, and that she can synthesize that energy with the higher consciousness upstairs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Father’s Pen

The Dream: I have picked up a pen and I notice how nicely it writes. I realize it is my father’s pen—possibly also Jerry’s or Clark’s. I want to have a pen like this. It writes very smoothly. It is a ball point, and it isn’t new: it shows some signs of wear.

Interpretation: This dream seems Freudian in the extreme. Pen: penis; and a ball-point, no less. But what does the penis represent? Not so much the organ, but male power in the world. Jung might say that in a woman's dream it represents her animus, or inner man. The dream plays with words:  the pen is what I use to make my mark in the world through drawing and writing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Union of Spirit

I awakened remembering a dream from twenty years ago with new insight into its meaning.

The Dream: Stephen, a very close friend, is in hospital, dying of Aids. He looks ghastly, covered with sores. “Let’s make love,” he says. I am appalled and horrified. “Now?! I say, “Now you want to make love?” As much as we loved each other, because he was gay we had never been lovers.

I found out shortly after having this dream that Stephen had, in fact, died.

Interpretation: Stephen once criticized me for having a “literal” mind. If I could have seen beyond the literal meaning of what he was saying to me in the dream, perhaps I could have been a better friend. Had I been able to spiritually embrace him instead of shrinking from him, perhaps I could have eased both his passing and my grief. Why did I remember this dream now? Aunt Peggy’s declining state has brought to the fore the difficult issue of mortality.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Phone a Friend

The Dream:
Aunt Peggy, who has dementia and recently went into a care facility, has managed to make phone calls and undo most of the sorting out that Clark and I have been attempting on her behalf. I’m not sure if it was in the dream or in a half awake state that I thought, “That isn’t possible. She can no longer make a phone call.”

The obvious interpretation of this dream is that I am feeling anxiety over the many tasks involved in sorting out another’s affairs. I am afraid our work will be for nothing; that somehow my aunt, who has always been a difficult person, will screw things up. But there are dream workers who suggest that a dream does not come to tell us what we already know. If they are right, I have to assume that some part of me doesn’t accept the fact that my aunt has dementia. In this dream, as in a previous one, I struggle to come to terms with the reality of my aunt’s condition.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Not Ready to Go

The Dream: I am at the airport. The plane is at the gate. Its interior has only a few seats; it seems truncated, for example, only the first class section. Yet it feels spacious; the seats are white leather. No one is on the plane—no crew, no passengers, no gate keepers even. I decide to use the toilet but find I can’t go. After a while I must have produced a little something so I decide to flush. Immediately I feel this would be a mistake because the toilets are like train toilets and will flush directly onto the tarmac, which might not be too pleasant for those loading the plane. I stay on the toilet for a while, trying to produce more output and having very little success.

At last I leave the toilet and as I open the door I encounter a maintenance man who had been patiently waiting to clean the room. I’m embarrassed and apologize; he seems long suffering. Had I known he was there I would have cut short my visit.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The Dream: I’m writing and writing—long hand, in a journal--and it is some sort of emotional release.

Interpretation: My unconscious tells me that keeping my dream journal is important for my psychic well being.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cleaning Out Old Stuff

The Dream: I am cleaning out the closet in the bedroom of the house I lived in as a child. Some of the clothes belong to my daughter, and I don’t think I should get rid of them. I must leave them where they are, even though I’d like to finish the job.

Interpretation: Everyone in a dream is an aspect of the dreamer. In this dream I am sorting out which aspects of myself I want to keep, and which I want to get rid of. As I confront an old self (my inner child) I realize that I have shut her out of my life (put her things in the closet: the “close it.”).  But I can’t get rid of her so easily; her clothes (facets of her) remain. My job is to accept this, leaving her things where they are.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Yellow Blanket

The Dream: There is a cheerful yellow blanket with trapunto ducks that I want to put on the bed.

Interpretation: A bed is a place to rest, and a blanket symbolizes warmth and comfort. The yellow ducks imply the homey sort of contentment a well-cared for child experiences. The dream is pointing out that I want to rest and be comforted.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Express Yourself

The Dream: I have a new two-story house, unfurnished. An artist friend gives me a wooden table and a toilet stall. This is a self-contained toilet, like the ones you would find in a public restroom. The slightly curved floor and the walls are composed of wooden slats. I examine this fixture, thinking about cleaning it.

I am on the way toward building a new understanding of who I am (the new house). The fact that the house has two stories tells me that I am attempting to integrate two different versions (stories) of myself that currently reside, at different levels, in my psyche. The house is unfurnished; this hints that I have the opportunity to go in a new direction. In other words, I’m not constrained by a previously set style.

My inner artist (the artist friend) immediately steps in to help. One of her gifts is a wooden table. Since tables are places where people come together for sustenance, she is trying to help me to integrate these varying, often inharmonious, aspects of myself. She also offers an unusual toilet. Toilets represent places where we can express ourselves—let things out—in privacy.  But instead of my using her gift in this way, I immediately think about the chore aspect of having a toilet: you have to keep it clean. My unconscious is pointing out that I miss out on some parts of life by being unwilling to accept the mess that's part of it, and--more to the point--part of me.