Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Indignities of Old Age

The Dream: Clark and I are in LA, going to see Clark's mother. When we get to our destination it is my mother we see, not his. She is incredibly old, tiny, and practically hairless. Clark keeps trying to get her to talk—she's lying curled up on a bed—and he wants her to get dressed so we can take her out. He is being kind, but I can feel the desperation in his voice. She seems more dead than alive, but she pulls herself out of bed saying, “I get enough exercise lurching around here.” When she “walks” she is bent over at a 90 degree angle.

She goes over to a nearby toilet and sits down, with no self-consciousness whatsoever. Her dark blue trousers are at her feet as she sits on the toilet. I go over to her. She laughs. She's laughing at finding herself in this ridiculous situation: elderly, frail, sitting on a toilet in front of others. It's a short burst of cognition. I put my arms around her and say, “You're a good sport; God bless you.” Then I feel myself ready to dissolve into tears.

Interpretation: This dream, like most dreams, is trying to come to terms with life's difficulties. In this case the problem is the inevitability of aging, of watching those we love diminish, and of making the connection that as they go so will we. The animus figure Clark wants to overcome the problem with practical action—get dressed, talk, go out: in other words, carry on. The desperation in his voice tells me that even he doesn't think these measures will work. It is the aging person herself, accepting the inevitable with humor and a dignity that transcends her situation, who shows the way.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Can I Tame the Lion?

The Dream:
I'm in a maze of cages, like the ones you might see in an old-fashioned zoo, with a lion tamer and his lions. The cages connect to each other, and from where I am all I can see are the bars of the cages and the cement floor. The atmosphere is dim.

I am supposed to learn how to tame a lion. I am uneasy and not at all sure that this is something I want to do. The lion tamer demonstrates how he can put his head into the lion's mouth and emerge safely. I'm not convinced I can succeed at this.

Feeling closed in and with limited vision (the light is dim; I see only bars and cement), I am given a task that I feel unprepared to perform successfully. Thinking about what the lion's open mouth suggests to me, I come up with my father's anger (the growling lion) and the gaping jaws of death. These two forces might have seemed like the same thing to me as a child. One part of me is now strong enough to overcome these fears (tame the lion). Another part still quakes in her boots.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guess I'll Go Eat Worms

To figure out what a dream like this means, I have to look at what is going on in my life that is triggering behavior (or a feeling) that I don't accept.
The Dream: My husband, Clark, has found an insect in the garden that we know is destructive. He shows it to me, and I go to get a plastic bag to put it in. I ask if he wants a thin or a heavy plastic: what is necessary to contain the pest, to keep it confined so it won't spread and multiply?

I come back with a small bag. Clark puts in the insect that he's already wrapped in newspaper, and then the bagged creature goes into yet another waste plastic bag and into the landfill trash. I think it's too bad that we have to put all that recyclable plastic into the landfill bin, but it's important that this bug cannot get free and spread.

My neighbor Irene comes over and starts to talk about the bug. She mentions that we have been removing and eating its larvae. This is true, and I am embarrassed that she was aware of it. I hadn't made the connection between the larvae and the bug, and I feel uncomfortable about her knowing so much. But then I remember how snoopy she is, and that not much could happen without her knowledge. I feel weird about our having eaten the larvae. One part of me thinks, “We deep fried them, and they were crispy and tasty.” Another part thinks, “Disgusting.”

This dream deals with a deep ambivalence. Something is bugging me. I think it's destructive, and at the same time it's nourished me. I want it not only contained and destroyed, but hidden, even though one part of me regrets the cost of so much concealment. (The recyclable plastic, a potential resource, could be put to better use elsewhere.) I feel uncomfortable about the rewarding aspects of something that I don't think is socially acceptable. (I'd rather my neighbor didn't know.) I have to look at what is going on in my life that is triggering this unacceptable behavior or emotion; then I need to figure out what about it has some sort of payoff. Once I become aware of the unconscious conflict I might be able to resolve it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Getting to the Warmth of the Kitchen

Dreams can resolve issues we aren't aware we have.
The Dream: I am walking along a sidewalk. I come to a barrier. On the other side is a patch of ice, running down the center of the sidewalk and tended by a boy, about 12 years old, whose dumpy middle-aged mother tells me he likes to play on it. The “tending” consists of spraying the patch with water to keep it smooth. After we chat I cross over to my side of the street. The sidewalk on my side is circumscribed by a tall wood fence around my home. A gate opens to my garden. When I open it I am surprised to discover snow piled as high as the wall.

I wonder how I will get back to my house. I think I will attempt to jump up onto the snowbank. The boy offers to help. His mother watches. He moves as if to lift me up under my arms; at the same time I seem to effortlessly rise to the top of the snow. We're all pleased, and I tell the other two that now I will roll down to the house. The kitchen looks out over this snow-laden garden. Clark is inside, cooking.

Interpretation: Something that I don't often look at (it's a side walk, in other words, something that's not part of my usual preoccupation) is a barrier to me. Some part of me is frozen, and the 12 year old in me likes it that way; this part works at maintaining the freeze and smoothing it over. The two images, of barriers and ice, recur in the form of a tall wood fence around my home (me) and snow as high as the fence.

There is a gate, however, even if it opens onto a pile of snow so high that I don't think I can get into my house. This inability to gain access to my own home symbolizes an alienation from my true self. Once I let it be known that I intend to attempt to conquer the snowbank, my inner 12 year old changes from the care taker of the ice to my willing helper. Now in sync with this inner force I effortlessly surmount the obstacle. And having come this far, I can accomplish the rest by coasting ( I roll down to the house). Once inside and in the kitchen (symbolizing a place of both warmth and transformation) Clark, my other half, is cooking—yet another symbol of transformation. I've found a place where I am nurtured and can grown (the gate that opens to my garden).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Days are Numbered

I had this dream the night before I received the shocking news that one of my brothers had died unexpectedly.
The Dream: I have received medical news that my days are numbered. I try to deal with it, both internally and externally. For myself, I work to accept the reality with some sort of equanimity. For others, I worry about how much trouble my condition will cause. I feel very much “the other,” as one with a death sentence hanging over my head. I think of my friend Don who had pancreatic cancer and how—at least in public—managed a robust cheerfulness, an ability to keep living.

Then I contemplate what life would be like with no death, and I realize that life would lose its sweetness, its poignancy, in some way.

Interpretation: Was this dream precognitive, or was the timing merely coincidental? If not precognitive, was there some sort of mental telepathy going on? These issues come up with dreams, and I don't think we have the answers.

Looking at the dream in its own terms, the interesting thing about it is that it tries to deal with the concept of mortality and even comes up with something positive about our finite existence. It seems the dream is trying to prepare me for the inevitable.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Guest Dreamer: A Man in My House

This dream is from Firequeen, who recently published Dream Diary of a White Witch.
As usual with dreams contributed to this blog, I will interpret Firequeen's dream as if it were one of my own

Firequeen's Dream: I dreamed I went to a large house where I met a man. I felt very drawn to this man and we sat and relaxed and talked a long time. We sat close together and I felt sexually attracted to him. He was talking in an authoritative way and said ‘We must get you a car, a red one’. I said that would be nice but I had never learned to drive. He said that was not a problem as he would teach me.

Then it was next morning but there was nothing in the dream concerning the night, where I had spent it, whether with this man or not. I was getting ready to leave the house to go to work, but it was filling up with other people who were all coming there to see the man or to do business with him. It seemed that he was an important person and some of what he did was directing films, so he had to see everyone and tell them what to do. He was very busy, with this and other things.

I began to feel left out of this side of his life, and wondered what was going on. When I wanted to speak to him it was not possible, he was too busy. Then someone unseen (or a Voice) told me that this was my house and that he was taking it over, and that I should not allow this to happen, it was foolish of me.

But inside I had this wonderful feeling like when you are tremendously in love and all you want is to be with the other person, and I knew this was worth anything, any sacrifice, because it is the most marvelous feeling in the world, which money can’t buy. And I woke up with the feeling, the urge, the longing for this person still with me, and I felt its full force.

And now I cannot even remember what it was like, I cannot call up the memory of that emotion. I only know I felt it once again, as I must have felt it in the past. Only it is long gone.

Carla's thoughts: In this dream the house represents me, and the man I meet there is a part of myself that I haven't integrated. Jung tells us that a sexual encounter in a dream can be a conjunctio, a coming together of two aspects of the Self that have been alienated. My attraction to this man indicates that I am getting ready to accept this strong, engaged, authoritative part of myself. When he offers me a vibrant red car, my animus is offering me a new zest for life. Since a car represents our way of negotiating the road of life, when I tell him that I have not learned to drive I am expressing my fear that I am unable to actuate my life. But this unrecognized part of me is not afraid at all; he will teach me.

In the second and third paragraphs of the dream I begin to see why I have resisted accepting this animus figure as part of myself. The man is very busy and must lead and direct a lot of people. If I completely accept this role, I feel that I am taking on a burdensome amount of responsibility. As I become so busy supervising others and working in the outside world (the realm of the animus) I feel I am losing the other part of myself, the the spiritual place where I customarily live. I don 't want the strong, directive part of me to take over at the expense of the more sensitive, intuitive part.

In spite of my conflicted feelings, my longing in the final paragraph of the dream tells me that I want to make room for this emerging part of me—the part that leads and is in charge, the part that enjoys driving the red car. My animus is generating excitement in me and uniting with him will give me renewed passion for life. With this dream my unconscious tells me that at this point in my life I am able to unify and balance what have been, until now, sparring aspects of my psyche.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lady in Red

As you work to figure out what a dream is trying to tell you, one thing to look for is conflict.
The Dream: I send my daughters red net fabric so they can make themselves costumes. I'm not sure they will be able to. I think I will also make myself a costume from this fabric, and I become excited about the prospect. A playful occasion is coming, some event that calls for these outfits. One part of me resists the idea of the work involved.

Interpretation: The conflict here is between work and play, and perhaps there is some confusion about the two. I am giving my (inner) children the means to be creative in a playful way, and I'm enthusiastic about joining in the fun. Then I realize that work is involved, and I am not quite so eager. This is one of the dichotomies of a life devoted to the arts. On the one hand, it's fun. On the other—it really is a lot of work. My unconscious is telling me not to get bogged down.