Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time for My Own Vision

The Dream: I am subletting an artist friend’s apartment. The main room is square, and I’m very busy preparing food for a large group. A lot of clean-up work is generated. Some guests offer to help but I tell them not to; they have to go to work tomorrow and will need to get up early, whereas I can sleep late. Nevertheless I’m not happy being stuck with all this clean-up by myself.

A very large computer with many components is in the middle of the kitchen. It has a giant screen, of amazing clarity, on a moveable arm. I imagine watching movies on it. But the system is too big, and when we move it out of the kitchen the room is much nicer.

In the course of our rearrangement I discover an image that takes up most of one wall. It’s made of red clay, like the walls of a cave. In its center is a thick, waterfall-like seepage.  To the right is a recessed area: at first I think I’m seeing into outer space, as if the recess is a window into the universe. Later I’m not sure: it’s ambiguous. Am I looking at something near or far?

This dream further develops the theme of Relieved of Duty. In that dream I was determined to do a boring and impossible task, and in this dream I jump in to be helpful at a boring task and then feel taken advantage of. The computer (the rational mind) in the middle of the kitchen (a place where transformation takes place) needs to be moved before a more personal, deeper (cave-like) image can be revealed. While the rational mind shows us a very clear picture (its screen has amazing clarity), it’s also impersonal and external, like a movie I’m watching. The more personal image is only revealed once we get this contraption out of the way. The ambiguity of seeing something near and far at the same time tells me that what is “out there” is at the same time “in here.”

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beached and Yoked

The Dream: An artist acquaintance is a yoga teacher. She’s teaching at the beach and having some difficulty getting the class together.

Interpretation: Whoever we dream of represents some aspect of ourselves. I associate this particular artist with someone who has managed to be successful in the very demanding fine art arena. In my dream she stands for the part of me that would like to achieve this. I see from the dream that I don’t yet have a “following.” I am stranded (beached) and yoked (yoga) by the choices I've made. At the same time I can see that I’m in a beautiful place, doing something I love.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Relieved of Duty

The Dream: I have a very unglamorous job, something like cleaning up after a party. It requires being in two places at once. This seems impossible, but for some reason I want to do it. There’s a man in charge of the project who finally determines that I am not the person for this job. He’s a nice fellow, practical and pleasant. He asks me how I feel about being let go, and I say that I’m disappointed, but also relieved.

Interpretation: I hope this dream is showing some progress toward resolving a bad habit: I often take on things I really don’t want to do—or at any rate have mixed feelings about--and then slavishly do them par excellence. The dream shows me that being free of this sort of work is not a bad thing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dancing with Baryshnikov

The night before having this dream I asked my dream generator to give me the dream I need, and this is what I got.

The Dream: He isn’t doing his famous leaps or anything outstanding. It is more a sort of walking, a dancer sort of walking, where the trick is not to look like a dancer. At first I’m disappointed; I want drama. I want to see the impossible. “This looks so natural,” I think.

Baryshnikov chooses me as a partner. My job is to anchor him. I stand in the center as he dances around me, holding my hand. I use my arm muscles to steady him and, while it takes some effort on my part, I think he is being careful not to tax my strength. I could handle more force, I think. I could do more.

Interpretation: In the dream, my first reaction is disappointment in the dancer’s (my inner artist’s) performance. I’m an on-looker at this point, wanting to see the leaps of “White Nights” or “Turning Point.” Is he getting old? I wonder. (Am I?) Then I come to see his natural-appearing movement as the artistry it is: the confidence to appear to be doing nothing—but just try it!

When I “help” he is considerate, but I realize I could do more: as could he! I’m left wondering what’s the right amount of effort, the right amount of display? What’s the relationship between effort and performance? Is my dream telling me to simplify? In other words, not to push it?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Next Step

Why do we women tend to down-grade our capabilities? This dream shows me I do it; I hope a future one will show me how to stop.

The Dream: Over time my yoga instructor morphs into an art critic. In both roles he tries to encourage me. The yogi gives me a role in the yoga hierarchy; the critic makes a great fuss over my paintings, the ones in the living room which, in my opinion, don’t merit his enthusiasm. I’m uncomfortable and embarrassed.

Interpretation: Both disciplines, yoga and painting, delve into the spiritual; both require a high level of skill. My unconscious thinks I’m on the right path but points out that I’m not comfortable thinking of myself as an adept.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It’s Not Going to Work

A further development on the theme of The High Cost of Femininity

The Dream: I am about to be married and I have just met my intended. He is extremely tall: our size relationship is that of an adult (him) to a 3-year-old (me). I look up at him as I might look up a redwood; his head is so very far away. I want to love him, because we are supposed to be getting married, but I realize I can’t. We kiss, and it has none of the passion of my kiss with the clerk in the previous dream, who is much closer to my size.

I am sitting at a table when I realize this marriage can’t go forward. I have a sinking feeling as I say, “This is like an arranged marriage.” I know it’s said one comes to love one’s spouse in these situations, but I don’t see that happening. He looks kind, and he is clearly ready to love me, but I announce—in spite of the social pressure to conform—that I can’t do it.

Interpretation: Can there be love, freely given, when such a disparity exists between would-be lovers? I reject love under these circumstances. I think Bettleheim would see the dream as a resolution of an oedipal conflict, the re-enactment of a young girl’s realization that her father is not an appropriate love object. On another level of meaning there's Jung's archetype of the father symbolizing the collective conscious, in other words, the values of society. Is some part of me rejecting these? Do I find them inapplicable to my life as a woman? That I look up to him as to a redwood implies some anger: I see red, and he's thick as a post.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The High Cost of Femininity

The danger of being a woman was on my mind: the evening before the dream I had read about the incessant rape by invading Tartars of indigenous Polish women, followed by their subjugation at the hands of Teutonic knights. Coincidentally, I had seen a history program on television that featured the rape committed by the Danes when they invaded England in the late middle ages.

The Dream: I have been taken somewhere to be given in marriage. There are several other women in the same situation; they might be my daughters, although we are all the same age. We spend some time buying beautiful, feminine clothing. The clerk is a very attractive person, with dark hair, and at one point we meet in a passionate embrace. The clothing is very expensive—I am surprised at how much it costs. I buy one blouse.

Interpretation: While I enjoy the beautiful things about being a woman, as symbolized by the lovely clothes, I become aware that they come at a price. I’m very attracted to whoever is selling me this concept (the salesperson); I embrace what he has to offer but I’m left thinking about its high cost, and I limit how much I buy (into it).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

So What Does It All Mean?

Readers often ask me how I go about interpreting my dreams. An interesting technique I’ve come across recently has been developed by Scott Sparrow. While many techniques emphasize dream images, Sparrow’s focuses on the action of the dream, and he suggests we’ll learn a lot by looking at the choices we make as we create our dreams. As part of his method he teaches a technique for paring the dream down to its essential action, which can lead to a quick insight. The paring process is as much about what you leave out as it is about what you put in. Things to leave out: descriptions, images, specific actors. What to put in: what happens in the dream.

For example, here’s the pared down dream action of the dream Criticism Resolved: Someone is working on a project. She is angry when someone criticizes her, yet later realizes accommodating the criticism is trivial. For more information about Scott’s technique, which he calls the Five Star Method, click here.

For information about other ways to interpret your dreams, see these earlier posts:
  1. For a way to get started using the techniques in Robert A. Johnson’s Inner Work and some helpful websites for beginners, click here
  2. A simple way to get at the dream’s meaning is to write about the dream right after you’ve recorded it. For more about this technique, which I call a write-around, click here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Criticism Resolved

The Dream:
I am preparing the design for a square in a new city, putting in trees and plants along the border. I enjoy the project, which is part of a new and exciting cityscape: a beautiful urban place full of art and park-like features. There’s an accidental mound of soil in one of the planting areas.

The director of the project comes by, just as I feel the work is “coming together,” and he is very displeased because the design lacks one of his specifications. He wants a mound, partially covered in bark, with a tree at its center. I return his anger, very annoyed that he isn’t pleased and that he isn’t looking at the over-all design. “Well!” I storm “I’m not finished, am I?” As soon as I’ve said it I feel anxious about my blunt reaction. Then I notice the accidental mound already in the design and realize I can use that space to do what the director wants without having to change anything.

I am relieved. I pretend I had kept his brief in mind as I worked, but I realize it’s just luck that it has turned out to have the feature he had asked for.

Interpretation: Here I’m dealing with my internalized critical father. As a child I often felt he enjoyed pointing out my mistakes. My anger about this surfaces in the dream, but I also realize that I am able to accommodate his expectations without actually changing the way I do things.