Sunday, August 5, 2012

Guest Dream: Knitting Myself Together

Today' guest dreamer is Robin Whitmore, who also records and illustrates his dreams at Robin's Dream Diary. I'll respond to his dream as if it were my own. The dreamer always gets the last word, so please look at the comments following the dream for Robin's take.

Robin's Dream: I am in a huge builders merchants' yard. Workmen are milling around, busy on an important task - something has to be found out, uncovered. I pick up a plastic bag with plumbing connections in it."Leave them alone," I am told, "don't want you meddling with that." I just seem to be in the way.

Then I find a stack of old papers, all in handwriting that is not easy to decipher. It goes back years. I am convinced this has the answer to everything the men are searching for and I say to one of them,"Let me look through these, I am sure I will find the truth here." The men are a bit dismissive, they don't share my conviction but they are happy for me to take this dusty heap away. As I start to look through it my heart sinks, there is so much there and it's really hard to read, I'll never get anywhere.

Slowly I begin to sift through the paperwork, writing down each tiny detail. A woman (about 30-35 with long straight hair) sits with me. "Let's work out what this is all about. Someone's life is at stake- its about someone's life, a record." (I see an image of Beachy Head cliffs.) The documents seem to be about this woman.

Now I find pictures and objects within this pile of papers- there are three knitting needles, maybe 2'6"long, and they are covered in knitted wool in soft,"feminine" pastel shades of flame. The needles remind me of bullfighting spikes or spears or something to do with electricity like lightning rods.

"This was the beginning - one of many projects that never led anywhere." The woman laughs and admits it was another fruitless project. (Am I slightly contemptuous of her? Do I think she doesn't have it in her to create anything deep, anything meaningful?)

There are receipts in this collection. She must have been working, she must have earnt this - sums like £320 and another for a bit less. Modest sums. "Is there a date?" I ask the woman. We look and I arrange them in order.

The pictures I find are black and white newspaper cuttings collaged together and now a heap of old sepia family photos that I drop on the stone floor. I try to pick them up in order but muddle them a bit - never mind, I should be able to sort them out.

I am annoyed that I wake up before the puzzle is solved. There are pages of this novel, for that is what it is, that are maybe in german or russian. (So many times I start a book only to give up because the language is too hard.) This will be difficult language to decode but I know I can and must do it.

Carla's thoughts: This is a very complex dream, and I'm not going to pretend that I can unravel it without help from the dreamer. I have no way of knowing the allusions to Robin's waking life that play out  in this dream, so I will leave it to him to decipher those. Nevertheless, I hope my reactions will help Robin look at his dream with fresh eyes. For me (taking on the dreamer's masculine sex as I look at his dream), the dream is about coming to terms with my anima, a Jungian term for the woman who lives in every man.

The first paragraph of the dream sets the stage: I am working on uncovering a long forgotten aspect of myself. What is to emerge is connected to an unconscious process (the plumbing connections) that I have not recognized as authentic; these deep (we plumb the depths, after all) connections are covered in plastic, a material almost synonymous with phoney. The workmen have an ambivalent role. On the one hand, these manly men (and what's more masculine than a workman in a builder's yard?) are the masculine force in search of its feminine counterpart, and they don't want me to stand in their way. On the other hand, by not allowing me to help, they are obstructing the process. It's not unusual for dreams to have things two different ways simultaneously; after all, if there were no inner conflict we probably wouldn't be having the dream.

The second paragraph introduces a mini resolution, a first step on my way to a kind of internal integration: the men who didn't want me looking into things a moment ago are now ready to accept my help, and I know that I've been given access to the materials that will allow me to uncover the truth. I find out that something buried in the past is responsible for repressing what the the dream is trying to free. Did I keep a handwritten (or drawn) journal at some point in my youth? If so, the dream might be trying to get me to take a look at this time, a period when psychic events occurred that I am still having trouble understanding (the old papers that are hard to read, hard to decipher).

I need to think about the woman who is 30 to 35 years old. Who or what does she represent? Does the woman's long straight hair belong to an actual person or does it stand in for abstract qualities? For example, hair, coming out of the head as it does, can symbolize thoughts. Does this character's straight hair represent straight (and narrow) thoughts? In that case, since every part of my dream reflects some part of me, I am looking at my own straight and narrow thoughts. The woman symbolizes my own inner woman, and the dream is about my attempt to integrate her into my psyche. (Is the dreamer 30 to 35 at the time of this dream?) The men who are dismissive reflect a typical masculine reaction to women, and the dream makes it clear that I share these feelings. Did I let this cultural bias divorce me from my anima who is, in Jungian terms, the source of my spiritual self? In the past Beachy Head cliffs was known for its high number of suicides. By introducing this image my dream is pointing out—rather melodramatically in the way of dreams--how my anima feels about the issue: ("Let's work out what this is all about. Someone's life is at stake- its about someone's life, a record.") The life that is at stake is the inner life of an important part of me.

The knitting needles present a conjunctio, a marriage of opposites: a positive development in this conjoining of the masculine and feminine within my pysche. Knitting needles are associated with a feminine activity, and their function as a feminine symbol is reinforced by their feminine colored covering in the dream. At the same time, the dreamer tells us that “the needles remind me of bullfighting spikes or spears or something to do with electricity like lightning rods,” all very masculine symbols. Put together, these divergent symbols and the flame (enlightenment) that covers them represent the spiritual truth I've been searching for. The project that never led anywhere was my attempt to integrate these two seemingly irreconcilable aspects of myself.

The contempt that I express toward this anima figure encapsulates my dilemma: As an artist, I need to be on excellent terms with my anima! If Jung is right, then she represents the wellspring (there are those plumbing connections again) of my creativity. And yet—that is what I don't trust her to do. I question whether she can “create anything deep, anything meaningful?

That she has earned some money signifies that I have begun to give her some of the credit that is her due. Not too much; the sums are modest. But at least I've been able to move from seeing everything in black and white to a more nuanced sepia. I'm still confused (I've muddled the picture) and frustrated by the novel (new) and incomprehensible (in a foreign language) puzzle, but I think I'll be able to sort it out. I've made an important beginning with this dream.


Robin said...

Wow I need some time to absorb this and to reflect on your perceptive observations.

Thankyou for doing this - what a luxury!

I will get back to you in the next few days with my side of the story!


Carla Young said...

I'll look forward to hearing from you, Robin. Thanks for sharing this fascinating dream.

Aleks said...

Carla great commentary on the dream thank you! Robin, thanks and great to see you that you are systematically collecting your dreams.

My guess would be that there is a connection around 30-35, and may be precisely 32 (informed by the price), and may be also closely tied to 2'6" (30") - either your age now, or the age at the origin of the events (more likely).

There is lots of material to decipher. And the language is strange German or Russian - meaning an added dimension, a 3rd/depth dimension to understand the pattern of your own llife.

Russian has to do with an emotional centre, a lower chakra. German is a thinking, mental, intellectual space. And the clues come from both ends, and make the history difficult to see.

My guess is that you have plenty of raw material in your dream diaries but you have not gone deeper into it, and now you must. For the benefit of personal wholeness that is.

Veronica said...

it is interesting in the dream the urgency of the task and the appearance of 3 needles. 3 is always appearing in connection with the "tertium non datur" and has to do with adding a depth to the story.

I think the man has a somewhat distorted or unilateral image of the feminine - he has a stereotypical perception of some colors (pastels) being feminine. The dream tells him these are really bullfighters spikes or lightning rods and that he mustn't hold to this false perception - these knitting things 2'6" are really also weapons.

In the bullfight these short spikes - banderillas - are placed in the 2/3 of the process. They are in bright colors and very close to 2'6" in length.They could represent establishing the relationship to the bull and thus a feminine component. For the men approach the bull with no protection to insert them over the shoulder blade - a completely irrational process...and one where connection to inner animal nature is essential.

The 1st 1/3 is where the toreador establishes the temenos, frequently giving his back and with the large cape doing broad circles (called veronicas, true image). And the 3/3 is the union of opposites, where the bull is conquered.

The dreamer is challenged to go back in time and weave his story as if new - since age 30? 32?, or from this many years ago. The challenge is that he must combine bits of German and Russian, the higher rational functions/or head chakra perhaps; and the lower chakras where he must find his emotions, the bull, the blood. In the dream he says "my heart sunk" - where he literally must fee l his heart.

The initial part of the dream dealing with the pipes, plumbing and what not is what occupies his conscious mind - possibly constipation or some form of blockage in the body is a symptom and the real cause lies in dealing with this problem, not recognizing his emotional blockage.

Carla Young said...

Thank you Aleks and Veronica for commenting on the numbers in Robin's dream. Numbers are always significant, and they needed more attention than I was able to give them.

Thanks also for demonstrating the benefits of "group" dream work. Working together we can more efficiently mine the riches of our dream world.

Carla Young said...

Robin has asked me to post his very interesting reactions to our work on his dream. Since they are too long for Blogger to deal with in one comment I will split them among several.

Thanks so much to all of you for your generosity of time in helping to unravel this dream.

Where to start?

Initial reactions. 

I had a very big AHA! moment with your comment, Carla, that of course the woman is myself or my anima and my negative thoughts towards her are my feelings about my own creativity. Yes that feels absolutely correct.
Now you put it so plainly , (and why did I not see this myself?) I look at her and see that she embodies all kinds of elements from my past.

I was thrown initially by this woman. She is very present although in the background, and yet shows little interest in this investigation despite it being her life story. I am aware of her sitting at the opposite corner of a large table or board in this dark dusty room.  She resembles no-one in particular although different images are connected to her. Your emphasis on the straight hair was the clue for me, Carla. 

These thoughts came to me:

Myself as a little boy playing Princess with my girlfriends, wearing a jumper on my head with the sleeves hanging down like long hair framing my face. There was always guilt attached to this play as it was not the behaviour of a proper lad.

A beautiful girlfriend (aged 10?) who had long straight hair who was so cool but who showed slight disdain towards me.

My childhood obsession with drawing long hair on my fashion pictures of women- I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was prepubescent - how gay is that! More guilt though and all the drawings were destroyed by my teenage self- very clever, Carla! That set a pattern for destroying different collections of my drawings throughout my early life.

In my early twenties I made a video with a friend about Cher and Dusty Springfield discussing their boots. I was Cher with long straight hair. I remember laughing a lot and feeling I was hopeless at her accent although I think that added to the humour. 

I think of long hair on men as power – Samson on one side, but also the power and courage of the drag queen- let me remind you that it was drag queens who were at the forefront of the Stonewall riots who changed the way the Western world perceives gay rights.

The other image is of a painting I did from memory of one of my best  female friends. Her hair is very straight in the painting. It is a portrait of her face set against a flower garden. I remember when I painted it I felt great love for her and wanted to place her in a beautiful setting, but I’m a bit crap at painting and the colours of the flowers turned brown and looked like they were fading. Now this woman would be the age 30 to 35 and it was painted at a key point in my life because this was the time my boyfriend of seven years was dying. In fact she would have been 33 at the time I think, the same age as he was when he died. That was 19 years ago. I am 5 years older than them.

Carla Young said...

More from Robin:

I remember feeling pleased with the painting, thinking that it was quite interesting despite not feeling paint was my medium. I made a number of drawn and painted images at that time, all connected to memories. They felt exciting, but not good enough to exhibit. At this time my emotions were very extreme having to deal with my boyfriend’s death, and this gave my artwork a clarity of purpose.  

“Straight and narrow thoughts”… maybe yes, the hair acts like blinkers: labeling yourself gay - which I do - is a necessary evil in a homophobic society where one needs to take a political stance, but labels can be limiting too. I think I always had a certain arrogance knowing I was right and society was wrong and that the day would come when I would prove myself. Well I suppose I feel I have proved myself on a number of occasions but not enough, and I am realizing I have to make more of a dynamic effort and that’s where these rods come into force.

The spears or lightning rods are at the heart of the dream – I feel excited thinking about them. Yes, I agree they symbolise a “spiritual truth” . I see them as hidden power with their soft knitted outer casing- who would imagine such dynamic force could be held within (just like the drag queen)? I thrilled to your description, Veronica, of the banderillas, and the connection to the depths, to animal nature. Scarey and brutal. Yes to use them suggests a nakedness. They are very tactile in the dream, smooth, strong, and yet so thin - the mysterious metal of which they are made seems indestructible- and yet I know I doubt it. 

I disagree with Veronica's idea that I have "a distorted view of femininity".  I absolutely dispute this! I should say that I am a gay man who has spent quite a large amount of my artistic life exploring  gender  politics and am acutely aware of the nonsensical way that society polarises the gender roles. The reference in my dream to the pastel shades was deliberately put in inverted commas meaning feminine as proscribed by our society at present. A few years ago I created a massive set for a Gay Pride event - we call it Gay Shame - which satirised notions of femininity - everything was in pastel shades! 

Carla Young said...

Final segment of Robin's thoughts:

Specific events the dream alludes to

The flame, yes of enlightenment, relates to the Olympic torch. The day before I had been with a friend to watch the torch being carried through London streets. I must admit my feelings towards the Olympics had been quite cynical – (I’m a bit more positive about it now) I love the idea of the torch being carried by local people who have somehow earnt that position and are applauded as they run through the streets. That is a great idea I think. But as I expected, when the torch arrived the proud young man carrying it seemed swamped by the corporate coaches handing out free Coca Cola. It seemed such a great opportunity to really champion unsung heroes and I felt the occasion had been hijacked by greedy commercial giants. I still think the torch bearing through the whole country is a wonderful image though.

The sepia images refer to an old relative I hadn’t seen since childhood, who my family met up with recently. I am very fond of her – she produced old sepia photographs of her family and we all chatted about the family history. I am aware that my homosexuality is a slight embarrassment and is not referred to, whilst every cousin’s relationships are lovingly described. As we discuss our ancestors I think about those who maybe were gay but whose lifestyle is and will not be discussed- there is no record of why they were single or why they shared with a same sex friend. My late boyfriend is never alluded to in any family conversations unless I mention him. I hate the fact that our gay history is ignored and buried. 

The bag of plumbing connections – I used to work in a builders merchants when I was a young teenager. It was a very masculine place but I really enjoyed the work. Yes “plumbing the depths” seems right, and somehow this refusal to acknowledge the authenticity of this process rings true. The bag is grey plastic , flat , square, and yes I think they are white plastic fittings rather than copper. 

Plumbing connections are sexualised in that they have male or female names. In the dream I am not allowed to touch them - a reference to my own sexuality - it is that they are male and female together in the bag, that somehow makes me feel redundant. That bag is the sort of thing you would get heterosexual pornography in.

I remember struggling with the concept of animus and anima when I was much younger and just felt it seemed an oversimplification of how I experienced life. It seemed a heterosexual construct that didn’t seem to be relevant to me. 

Oh dear I can see now how i might come across as a blinkered bitter stubborn old queen!!

Recently I have begun to draw more regularly and am slowly getting re-enthused by the unexpected dialogues with myself that drawings always engender. So I am conscious of “uncovering a long forgotten aspect of myself”. Now I am a middle aged man I fear that I have never really uncovered this force that I believed I carried within me and that I worry that it is too late, that yes, I question whether I can create anything real or meaningful. The dream is telling me the force is still present and I so want to believe it, and I do but aaargh there is still so much doubt! I know I just have to get on with the work and keep those power rods in their knitted sheaths in mind!!

Carla Young said...

Thank you Robin, for doing so much work on your dream and for sharing it with us. Middle age is an excellent time to discover your hidden strengths--please don't think for a moment it is too late! If we humans have a goal in life it must be our on-going spiritual development, and that sometimes only begins in middle age. Creation is a process, not an end goal. Clearly you have already created something real and meaningful, and I know you will continue to do so.

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