Sunday, May 29, 2011

It’s Not Me, It’s Him

Sometimes I think my unconscious is laughing at me.

The Dream: A woman learns that her estranged husband fell out of love with her because she had a facial tick when she was stressed: her tongue would roll out and touch below her bottom lip. I am surprised that this is so devastating to his love, because it is something she rarely does. I mention that she does tend to wipe her nose a lot, however. Apparently this doesn’t bother the husband. I think he’s a shallow perfectionist.

Interpretation: Even as I criticize the overbearing, idiotic, perfectionist part of myself I indulge in the behavior. I may think the husband (my other half) is shallow, yet can’t resist adding my own criticism (she tends to wipe her nose a lot). I guess it’s time for me to get over it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trying to Find the Center

Life is an on-going readjustment, as this dream tells me.

The Dream: I am looking at a picture of a skating woman on a Nook; the orientation is landscape. I try to center the scene on the device, moving the drawing from right to left, but I can’t get the picture properly aligned.

Interpretation: Some part of me is skating (on thin ice?) as I go round in circles trying to adjust my psychic “center."  So far I'm not getting the picture.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Pro Creative Cottage

The Dream: I have a studio in a one room cottage, and I later discover that this room was, in primitive times, a place where couples came to have sex as a rite if they wanted a child.

In the beginning of the dream I am unaware of what the place is. My first glimpse finds it occupied by a lone fellow, who sleeps rolled up in a sleeping bag, on the floor. He doesn’t want to mess up the bed, which is tidily made, so he sleeps wedged in between the bed and the door. I think he’s being silly.

A toilet mysteriously appears next to the “cottage” room, and I am on it defecating large quantities. At this point the fellow no longer occupies the cottage; I’ve become aware of its primitive history, and I know it’s my studio.

Interpretation: This dream about letting go shows a progression from my timid self who won’t sleep on the bed of creativity for fear of messing up to my expressive self who lets it all out. Once I realize that my perfectionism is “silly,” the means of letting go (the toilet) appears.  After I let it all out (defecate) I have the epiphany that the cottage is my studio: my sacred place, my place of creation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Talent in a Limited Sphere

The Dream:
My friend Mary and I, and a couple of others, are sitting around in an oblong room. Even though we are few in number, performers come through to entertain us. First to appear is a mixed-aged singing troupe, very young children to adult arranged in order of age, youngest to the left. Two singers catch my eye, one an adorable black boy of about five and the other a middle aged brown-haired white woman. Plain but not homely, she looks like a sweet “mother” type from the 50s. She has a lovely voice, but the group as a whole is amateurish. Other performers cycle through and we realize they hope for some sort of success or recognition, but they have a long way to go, and they aren’t getting much exposure performing for us.

This dream juxtaposes the young, expressive, appealing child who has no skill with the boring, not particularly appealing middle-aged woman with surprising talent. Her talent cannot develop in the limited world she inhabits. Perhaps she is past the point where her talent can develop at all. Her dark blue dress and brown hair evoke my mother: am I looking at her limited achievement in the wider world, which I (and she, no doubt) regretted? Did she want me to be “famous” as her avatar? Is this what drives me?

The presence of my friend Mary is a hint that this dream is linked to the last post  Who’s in the driver seat?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?

The Dream: My friend Mary and I are in the back seat of a van. A man, with a child of about two years old, sits in the front. I notice the baby is driving, standing on the seat to reach the steering wheel. I am upset and concerned that the father allows his son to drive. I tell the father that I’m “not comfortable” with this baby driving the car. The father gets very angry at me. He talks about his own childhood, telling me how capable he was. He seems to feel his own capabilities were not recognized. I am surprised at his unreasonable outburst. I sit in stony silence, tightening my seat belt and suggesting to my friend that she do the same. Mary, a social worker, tries to engage the father in conversation, and afterward he takes over the driving.

Interpretation: I had been reading Bruno Bettelheim’s analysis of Hansel and Gretel, in which he looks at their actions as choices. For example, finding their way back home after their first expulsion is a regression: the children want to return to the babyish stage of life when parents give all and demand nothing. The mother, once she has expectations of her children, becomes a “witch” to them. The eating of her house symbolizes the children's infantile greediness: they eat their parents out of house and home.* From reading Bettelheim’s interpretations, my unconscious began to deal with the idea of my infantile self being in charge, in other words, with my being driven by the baby. When I protest my “adult,” who has a couple of unresolved childish issues of his own, responds with anger to my suggestion that he take control. Once this conflict is mediated by my social worker friend, who in waking life facilitates communication, a resolution can occur: the adult resumes his rightful place in the driver’s seat.

*Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment, Vintage Books Edition, Random House, New York, May 2010, 208-217.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What’s Making My Head Hurt?

The Dream:
I am in a large house. I hear my child crying out to me in distress. I don’t want to deal with her problem: I feel tired, but the insistence of her call provokes me to look for her. As I wander the hallways “in search of” I begin to feel distressed and worried, anxious to find her. A little panicky.

I find her in a room full of children, a primary school classroom. My child sits off to the left on a narrow table set at an oblique angle to the rest of the children, who sit quietly facing the front. She looks as I did at age seven, with blonde curly hair. There’s a big bandage across her head. She sees me, but does not acknowledge me. She wants no part of mother. I awaken as from a nightmare.

In the dream I have dark hair: I’ve become my mother. My child, with blonde hair (unlike my waking life daughter), is me. The well-behaved children who sit so quietly are passive receivers of instruction: cowed, proper, all alike, a nice row of good children. Something has whacked my (inner) child on the head, and she’s gained some independence, but at a cost. The adults who surround her are benign; she’s enjoying their attention as well as the empowerment that comes with rejecting her mother, who has arrived too late. Was age seven when I began to go my own way? To realize Mother can’t save me?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Baby’s on the Way

The Dream: I am pregnant, about to give birth. A friend has come for the event. The doctor has called and told me the birth will be in about a week. I tell this to my close circle of friends and family, and I begin to fret. I don’t want to have a caesarian and don’t know why I should, since both my previous children were delivered normally. Then I remember my age and how long it’s been since I last had a baby. I remember my Lamaze coach saying that each birth is unique; this experience will not necessarily be like a previous one.

Interpretation: I have just started a new painting and am concerned that my new “baby” might not come out the way I would like it to.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Inspiration from Dreams

As an illustrator who has some published work I sometimes get queries from design students. One of their most frequent questions is “What inspires you?” Since the students usually don’t know about my work with dreams, they are sometimes surprised when I suggest they consider keeping an illustrated dream journal. Besides giving you a safe and private place to practice skills and play with media, a record of your dreams provides a treasure trove of imaginative ideas. When you’re looking for a subject for a painting or illustration you can look back over your journal and develop one of the images your dream gave you.

For example, I recently made a painting from the dream illustration for “The Chinese Bride.” Several important things changed: the shape of the piece, the medium, the pattern on her dress, the colors—but had I not had the dream and created an illustration for this on-line dream journal, that painting would never have been made. I liked the process and the outcome so much that I am already planning my next dream painting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Friendly Fire

The Dream: I’m in a war, but it isn’t vicious--at least when it comes to the combatants’ feelings toward each other. Nevertheless, we are in combat. I approach my adversary, in the cockpit of the aircraft he’s piloting. I am a pilot as well, and we are both men. I approach on foot and remove the nose of the other’s plane, which juts out and surrounds him protectively. Then I think better of it, not wanting to make him so vulnerable. I replace his plane’s nose, and we have a friendly exchange.

Next I’m in a hallway where, near the tail of his bomber, explosives are stored. I have a detonator. I press it again and again, expecting an explosion, but it’s a dud. As I press, I wonder if I will be blown up as well. I try to tell myself I’ll be safe, but it doesn’t seem possible. It occurs to me that if my act succeeds I will kill people, an uncomfortable idea that takes some of the commitment out of my effort.  

The triggers for this dream came from the news, full of the European/American bombing of Libya. I heard two New York Times reporters speak about their capture by loyalist troops; the reporters were mistreated and abused but also, at times, treated as friends or guests.

This imagery points out that what I am expected to do (kill my enemy) has been imposed on me, and in the dream I begin to question this. My “enemy” mirrors me to the point that I begin to realize we are one and the same. Our conflict is not actual, but a part of something larger than we are, something external; something that should be questioned. I begin to understand that to destroy this part of myself—which I don’t even dislike—will potentially destroy me.

Jung says, “If the projected conflict is to be healed, it must return into the soul of the individual, where it had its beginnings in an unconscious manner. He who wants to be the master of this descent must celebrate a Last Supper with himself, and eat his own flesh and drink his own blood; which means that he must recognize and accept the other in himself.”*

*Carl Jung, “The Collected Works of C.G. Jung ” ed. Sir Herbert Read, Michael Fordham, Gerhard Adler, tr. R.F.C. Hull (Princeton: Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press, 1955/56), Vol. 14 “Mysterium Coniunctionis,” 512.