Sunday, December 27, 2015

Taking Things In In Its Own Way

A Caltech lecture on a new direction for robots inspired today's dream, one that provides an example of how we can look at an image in the same way we look at a narrative.
The Dream: The dream is only an image. It is a fly with a long snake-like tongue that it uses to capture its prey.

Interpretation: A lecture I attended focused on how biology is the model for robots as tiny as a white blood cell or an e-coli bacterium. One trigger for the dream was a slide of white blood cells going after a virus. In my image a fly, a loathsome creature, has a kind of appeal. With its long tongue it has created its own way to take things in. The dream tells me that even the things I dislike and find repulsive have their own purpose, and I shouldn't be too quick to think I know what they're about. And it hints that I might be using my own unattractive traits for protection, even sustenance.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Party for Emily

Sometimes dream events seems downright mysterious. A friend and I appeared to communicate through our dreams the night after I posted The Unmade Bed . Each of us “sees” a part of the other's psyche in a surprising way.
The Dream: I am at Emily's house. A group of her friends are preparing a party for her, scurrying around. Emily suggests to me that we go outside. When we were inside the house it was raining, but we know that when we go outside the sun will shine.

While I am glad to have an excuse to get out of helping with the party prep, at the same time I feel guilty about leaving the work to others. I look over at the rest of the group, and I can sense that they want me to take Emily outside so they can surprise her. This is a relief. I get to do what I want to do with no discomfort.

As we start to head outside, Emily offers me slippers. She puts a couple of pairs before me so I can choose. One pair is much too big, and other is only slightly too big.

Interpretation: Emily has been a frequent contributor to this blog; over the years she has shared many valuable insights about dreams via the comment section. The interesting thing here is that just as I was dreaming that Emily was so loved that a group was preparing a surprise party for her, she was dreaming about feeling alone and unloved. At the same time Emily's comments took The Unmade Bed in a spiritual direction, an interpretation I had not thought of.  In today's dream, which I had before I read her comments, together we walk out into the light (the spiritual realm or consciousness) after a stint of being in the unconscious (the dream world, symbolized by the rain).

Emily gives me the shoes I need for my spiritual journey (the slippers) even if it's clear I still need to grow into them. And my dream helps her to realize that she is surrounded by love in the here and now.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Tricky Operation

Ancient wisdom has said that the sins of the father are visited upon the children. This dream seems to be saying that the sins of the parent are perpetuated and passed down, over and over again.
The Dream: My mother-in-law, M, is experiencing some symptoms. Her mother sits her on top of a kitchen counter and cuts out her heart and lungs. M doesn't seem to experience the sort of pain one would expect from this. M and her mother, accompanied by M's daughter carrying the organs, board an ambulance and head for the hospital. The doctors put back the removed parts and explain to M's mother, who seems sweet and well meaning throughout, that this was the wrong thing to do; nevertheless, she clings to her belief that she did the right thing. Years later M is in an old folks' home where I visit her. She recounts this story, her eyes full of pain.

Although M herself has been a very difficult person and caused her family a lot of pain, I feel a new empathy for her and, while I can't overlook the effects her own bad behavior has had on her children, I now have compassion for what she went through and wonder if it might have been responsible for triggering her own cruelty.

: Metaphorically the heart is the place of feeling; we often say that something is heartfelt, or that something broke our hearts. The lungs enable us to cry out. We yell at “the top of our lungs.” In this dream, the sweet mother inflicts serious damage unwittingly, unknowingly, convinced that she is doing the right thing. Worse than what she has done is her refusal to acknowledge that she was wrong. She clings to her beliefs about the correctness of her behavior, even in the face of clear evidence that she made a mistake, and these deeds travel down the generations from parent to child.

M is my avatar in this dream, and I begin to understand my own lapses as grounded in a time when I could not speak (yell out) to defend myself, and so I lost heart. I ignored and suppressed my pain, creating the possibility that I would someday blindly lash out at my own defenseless child. At the same time the dream warns me not to be too convinced of my own rectitude. The bright spot in the dream is my new found compassion, and the hope that it will enable me to forgive the guilty, and, at the same time, protect the defenseless.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

An Odd Bird

Most of our issues live in an inner conflict. We want “A” and “not A” at the same time. This dream explores, but does not resolve, one of these conflicts for this dreamer.
The Dream: I see a flock of birds taking off from a lake. I've never seen a bird that looks like this. It's something like a goose or heron, with a black and white striped crest and tail feathers. It has a white body and a large bill. It's awkward and ugly and appealing all at the same time.

I'm in a very beautiful park, and I see two gay men. I ask one about the bird. He is a birder and knows all about it, telling me about the creature in great detail. After a while I begin to sense his lover is jealous; he assumes that I'm trying to pick up his boyfriend. But I'm not. I'm only interested in the bird. As he tells me about it I say, “I picked the right person to ask!”

This is a dream about fitting in. Both the odd bird and the gay men represent social difficulty. The lover's jealousy is a metaphor for the fear of being left out. While it's awkward and ugly to be an outsider, there's also something about it that I find appealing. And both the bird and the men have found a place—the flock and a relationship—where they are part of something bigger than their own isolated selves.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Friend Likes What I'm Building

When people you know appear in your dream, think of their most dominant quality and ask yourself if they might be representing the part of you that shares that trait. You'll see that question and answer play out in the following dream.
The Dream: A friend pulls something I've discarded out of the trash from my studio. On one side is a splash of paint, a color test. On the other is a drawing of a building. My friend likes the drawing of the building very much, and I tell her that I did it. She smiles and puts it into her purse.

Interpretation: This particular friend is very critical, and so I tried out the idea that she represents my own inner critic. But she likes my building (the thing I'm building, or creating). She shows this by putting my work into her purse, a place where valuable things are kept. That can only mean that my own inner critic is satisfied with the direction I've taken. This dream, like the last one I posted, point to the fact that I'm on the right track, despite my conscious confusion and misgivings.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Can Do That With My Eyes Closed

Here's an idea: Sometimes the meaning of a dream that had seemed very obvious isn't the right one. It never hurts to try on the opposite interpretation of a dream, and see how it feels. When I did that with this dream, something interesting came to light.
The Dream: I'm driving a car from the back seat. I've dozed off for a moment. I awaken with a start, happy to realize that no one noticed my lapse. The road is pitch black, and I can't see anything but the opaque night. I don't know how fast I'm going, but I'm afraid I might be exceeding the speed limit. A father figure is sitting in the driver's seat blocking my view of the speedometer. I don't want to ask him about my speed because it might draw attention to my inadequacy. I'm surprised that I've stayed on course, even with my eyes closed. Later I understand that this particular route is not much used; it's only for people wanting to travel between distant places rather than for local transportation.

Interpretation: At first this dream struck me as very negative, and it's easy to see why. There's the black night too dark for vision to penetrate; I'm driving from the back seat and fall asleep. I'm afraid I will be judged. But wait a minute! After thinking of the dream's worst possible meaning, another way to look at it flashed into my mind: I may be in the dark, and it might not be obvious that I'm driving, but I am, and I mange to stay on course even if I make mistakes. This dream is telling me about a big psychic change in progress; the road I'm on is only used to travel long distances, to get to a different place. It's the road less traveled, and I'm getting there even if it's frustrating at times and even if I don't know how.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Something Stinks

Whether we're interacting with a cousin, a parent, a sibling, a partner, or a child, the past is not as buried as we'd sometimes like to think: it's important to look at how old feelings influence our relationships in the here and now.
The Dream: My cousin Barb is visiting. Clark and I are entertaining in the garden, full of brilliant orange and purple flowers. Barb sits with her back to the house, on the lowest level near the family room and kitchen. She looks up at an arrangement of tall flowers, stepped as if they were on a grandstand. To the right is the fountain, surrounded by flowers as tall as it is.

I am mixing with the guests and don't see much of Barb. When I do see her she says, “The garden is very beautiful, but there is a bad smell coming up from under the house.”

I am relieved that she approves of the garden; I had been worried that there were too many of the same flower, and perhaps the arrangement was not exactly graceful. At the same time I'm upset by her comment about the bad smell. “How could I have let her sit there?"  I wonder. I knew about that smell. Or did I? I think I did. I feel judged inadequate.

Later I see her drinking a large glass of red wine. She calls out to me to join her, and I tell her I'm about to, as soon as I find a glass. I call out to her: “The guys (our husbands and male friends) don't drink so we'll have to keep up the tradition of our fathers.” As I say this I'm a little concerned I'll descend into alcoholism.

Interpretation: Two recently watched mysteries triggered this dream about family. In the first, set in Italy, a very attractive priest/detective says that Jesus came not to judge but to save. In the first scene with my cousin I feel judged and inadequate. She mentions a smell coming from under the house, and that was triggered by the second mystery, British, with bodies buried in the basement of a family home. What bodies of our family members lie buried underneath and raise up stinks that appall us even today? What “remains” poison our current relationships?

Having acknowledged the stink of the past my cousin and I take communion: we have wine together, but even then I worry about the legacy of our fathers. Does this communion require we numb ourselves with alcohol? Or is the dream pointing out that I'm letting overblown worries get in the way of enjoying my time with my family?

The imagery of the dream is closely tied to burial rites. The brilliant flowers mask the dark reality of decay, and they point to new growth, a resurrection of the spirit.My cousin sits near both the family room and the kitchen, the first pointing to the issue (family), and the second to transformation (our new relationship).

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Our culturally defined roles play a big part in determining the way we are in the world. Sometimes (often?) our inner self isn't happy with the limitations these roles impose. This dreams demands I take a look at that.
The Dream: A woman is talking up her partner, as wives and mothers often talk up and praise their husbands and children. I think she's overdoing it.

She has beet juice on her face, and she wipes her face on the sleeve of her lovely red wool coat. It leaves a stain. She takes the coat to the dry cleaner and when it comes back there's a cloudy gray-white residue where the stain had been. I go to get a cloth in order to clean up the mark, dampening the cloth with water. But I'm not sure I can remove this stain.

: What is this stain that won't be removed; does it come from being beet red with embarrassment? Could it be the stain of menstruation, symbolizing the “stain” and trials of being a woman? Have these challenges beaten me down?  In the dream a woman is self-effacing, making her partner more important than she is. The day before the dream I had  a conversation with a friend about discrimination against women the the art world: she told me that a famous man's work on the art market gets 30 times what a famous woman's work gets.

This stain is difficult to remove. It's embedded in the fabric. Is this “fabric” cultural or part of our DNA? In the dream it's embedded in a wool coat, a fitting symbol of feminine “sheepdom.” We women have put on the mantle of the easily led. How sheepish are we?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

No Privacy

Before you conclude that every dream is dealing with a weighty personal issue, take a look at what was going on around you, and in the world, the day or two before you had the dream.
The Dream: I'm living with other people in an apartment. The boy in the next room is playing a kind of music I don't like at ear-splitting volume. I'm very angry and go to his door, banging on it with a large pair of garden shears. It occurs to me that if he opens the door quickly I'll probably bang him with them.

At last he opens up, and I tell him how disturbing his music is, that not everyone has the same taste, and I suggest that he use ears buds. He agrees, and the music quiets down.

When I get back to my room I realize there is a window between our rooms. I can see him; he has no privacy. I wonder if he can see me, but then realize it's one-way glass. However, I think there might be another window that I'm not aware of through which another room looks into mine.

A few threads from the previous day's news and entertainment were woven together in this dream. Once I remembered them I marveled at the ability of the unconscious to make a narrative out of these diverse elements. I had the dream on a day when the Snowdon revelations of massive government snooping were being talked of everywhere. I had watched a video on how to use iPhone ear buds. I saw a mystery in which perps were being interviewed and observed through a one-way mirror. The mystery contained a knife attack (the shears) and banging on doors.

Did this dream have any deeper meaning for me? I'd say it pointed to some concerns, but that these concerns have more to do with our society than with my personal life. The issues of the dream are: privacy, peace and quiet, potential threats from strangers. The dream says that I don't like some of the things I'm hearing, and I'm angry about it. It tells me it's possible to cooperate with my neighbor, and that once I see into his world I have more sympathy for him. It seems we're all in the same boat.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


What gets your goat? What can you learn from the things that set you off? In this dream I learned I wasn't an innocent victim.

The Dream: A young boy is tortured and murdered. I am aghast and very sad and upset when I learn about it. Then I discover that he was complicit in doing the same to someone else. I don't know what to think. Then I begin to wonder why I am following this story. Am I getting some sort of enjoyment from these sadistic acts? Am I also complicit?

Interpretation: This dream was triggered by an exchange with a photographer friend. Although his situation and the dream boy's dilemma seem very different, they both deal with an apparent injustice that might not be as unjust as it first appears. My waking life friend was disappointed and baffled by the placement of his photograph in a group exhibit. He said that since the show was hung by artists he couldn't understand why it was in a spot where it couldn't be seen well. Surely they know better? He conjectured it might have been because it was a photo rather than a painting. I said that, in my experience of group exhibits, artists were only concerned with where their own pieces hung. As I said it I realized, but didn't say, that that was certainly true of me. My friend thought about it, then said that made sense: he realized it was true of him. The take home lesson? We just might be complicit in creating what we complain about.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Gifts of Gold

So many different facets come together in your dreams. The jewels in this one represent several things, from a parent's gifts to the many faces of a relationship over time. I bet you can find a few more.

The Dream
: My boyfriend has proposed. He is Dutch: stolid and stern. At first I like him, but over time I discover that he's overly directive and demanding. As I see these traits emerge, I want to end the relationship. He has given me some very beautiful gold jewellery.

I've gone too far by promising marriage, and I realize with some discomfort that I'm already married. I brainstorm with a woman friend about how to break up. “Why don't I just tell him the truth, that I'm already married?” I suggest.

“Oh, no!” she replies. She councils a subterfuge; so I tell the man, as kindly as I can, that marriage is not for me: I want to be free and independent. He is disappointed and appears hurt and vulnerable, a side of him I had not seen before. I feel bad for him. He takes the breakup well, and is not at all unkind.

I still have the beautiful jewelry that he gave me. I say to my friend, “I'm not going to offer to return it.” I'm happy to have these things.

Interpretation: This was triggered by my work on another woman's dream that I saw as dealing with her feelings about her father. The stern and demanding lover, someone I perceived in different ways over time, stands-in for the life stages of the daughter, from adoring small child to rebellious adolescent. As a small child I wanted to marry dad, but as I grew I wanted to escape him and his authority. In this dream I begin to appreciate the gifts of pure gold that he gave me, and I'm not willing to relinquish them. It's significant that he does not ask for them: they are his gifts to me, mine to keep.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Sometimes it will take you a few nights of dreaming on the same topic to clarify an on-going issue that you're subconsciously trying to sort out.  This dream gave me a slightly different understanding of the “actor” in A Long Row of Happy Dead, the previous post. And, since we've been looking at dream images, I'll point out that the dress color plays a role.

The Dream: I'm on an outdoor, open-sided stage, a platform. I fall forward, collapsing face down. My head hangs over the front edge.  People flee in all directions, afraid they'll catch what I've got. No one helps. A doctor comes forward and admonishes the others. “It's not contagious,” he says. I'm dressed in a pretty, feminine style, in a dress with a flared skirt like those from the 50s.

Interpretation: Am I ready to collapse? Actors are performers, and the key to this dream is my realization that I've been straining too hard to “perform.” I am experiencing a feeling of social isolation: people flee, and no one wants to help. I'm dressed in a feminine style that hints at my taxing “role” being mired in the obligations of wife and mother. The blue dress says I'm not happy about the situation. (Am I blue?)

I learned the feminine role in the 50s, from a mother who performed it par excellence, but at a cost to herself and to the family who became disenchanted, over the years, at her tendency to do too much and then play the martyr. My dream warns me not to do that by pointing out that it's exhausting me and has no upside: it doesn't win social acceptance or love.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Long Row of Happy Dead

Sometimes the only part of a dream that you'll remember is an arresting image. It's particularly important to attempt to illustrate these dreams if you want to penetrate what the dream means to you.

A Dream Image: This was part of a longer dream, but I don't remember it—except that there was a man, about 48, sitting in a chair. He had a few days growth of beard like a contemporary actor, and looked like one. He was someone's father. We went to where he was sitting and realized he was dead. Then we noticed a row of seated people with very large heads and over-sized, odd faces. They were all dead, leaning comfortably and companionably on one another.

Interpretation: Since what I remembered of this dream had no narrative, its meaning could only be unlocked by thinking about the image it created. As I developed the image a couple of things surprised me. First, the characters were indeed comfortable, and second, I chose to paint them in cheerful colors. Could these dead characters represent parts of myself that had had a “life” and were satisfied with what it had been, in other words, fulfilled? If that's the case they could indeed lounge comfortably and companionably, leaving behind the things I sometimes associate with the past: mistakes, failures, losses. It's as if they are saying, “That's over now.”

The one differentiated character is an actor, and aren't we all actors in our own life drama? He's “contemporary,” so he's been alive for me until this dream. My dream is telling me to follow the path of authenticity—the “actor” is dead, and that's a good thing. Since he was someone's father, he was instrumental in giving birth to the one who goes on, but he and his fellow dead, with their distorted heads (over-sized intellects) won't be going forward into my future. The light and bright colors tell me this is a happy development.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Learning My Limits

Many dreams are about work. Sometimes they can solve a problem that your waking mind couldn't.
The Dream: Someone is looking through my artwork, rejecting most of it. Some pieces he “doesn't get;” others he dislikes for technical reasons. Finally he comes to a grayscale painting, an under-painting that is finished as far as its values go, but has no chroma. He almost likes this one. He still doesn't “get it:” the subject, based in dream or myth, eludes him, but he likes the pieces formal qualities: composition and value. I haven't paid too much attention to his criticism, but I have an aha at this one. “Oh,” I say, “ I should limit my color palette, perhaps to 3 colors.” I am excited about trying this and think it will improve my painting.

Interpretation: I am working on a painting that has become fraught with color and design problems I find I like more simplicity and organization in my designs now, and don't think I can rescue this one from its chaos. I started it as an experimental piece, and the dream tells me to let it go—to learn the lesson it's teaching and move on.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Making Room for All

Dreams are grounded in your day-to-day life. If you take a look at what you've been up to recently, you'll get some good clues about the meaning of your dream.
The Dream: I'm in a large house, and many young boys are sleeping, dormitory style, in my bedroom. The other bedrooms are full, and a couple has just arrived who need a place. I revisit the sleeping arrangements, and as I do, my bedroom turns into a vast field, with the boys' beds, now chaises longues, lined up against an embankment.  I see I have all the room I need after all, and I suggest that we move the boys' beds back in and put the couple in an area to my right. I a choose a spot near the door for myself in case I want to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. It  seems that this new arrangement makes room for all, with some privacy, and it's comfortable.

I had a lot of activities going on when I had this dream. They were things I was happy about and wanted to do, but how to make room for all? The dream reflects in a simple and graphic way my attempt to fit together many interests, and shows me a solution: I need to do some rearranging. There are a couple of new things (the pair that just arrived) that I need to make room for. I also need to be sure I leave myself a path for release, or self-expression (the bathroom).

The boys (new undertakings that require some care because they aren't fully developed) and the color I unconsciously chose for the drawing (green) hint at the growth my new interests promise.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How to Start Sketching Your Dream

If you think it would be fun to sketch a dream, but don't have a clue how to get started, this post is for you. Here's a simple way to give it a go.

  1. Think about your dream. Don't try to interpret it, just keep the narrative in mind. In this approach you'll be guided by your unconscious. Each step will lead to the next.
  2. Start doodling on a piece of blank paper with a light colored marker. Don't pay a bit of attention to what you're doing.
  3. When you feel you've doodled enough, use some stronger colors to emphasize some sections of your doodle. This is when I added the areas of solid red and black to  the example above. I layered a couple of colors in the red section while I waited for the color to feel right. Then the intensity of the red felt as if it needed to be balanced by filling in the shape near the bottom of the page with black.
  4. If any of the shapes suggest something to you, put in some details that make that suggestion clear. In this example, the inner shape suggested to me a body falling into an abyss so I gave it some facial features and hands. Then the hands began to look like birds, so each one got an eye.
  5. Now the illustration wanted something that felt lighter, so I began to decorate it with the squiggly black marks near the top.
  6. Finally, the strong black at the bottom demanded to be balanced by a heavy black line at the top.

The most important part of the exercise is not to judge what you're doing as you do it. If you can let that critical parent/teacher part of yourself go, you'll be able to get into the process and I bet you'll find it enjoyable. It might shed some light on your dream's meaning, too.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Boy Baby

Your dream will often have a back story; don't be too quick to think you've pinned down its meaning. Most of the time you will need to lift more than one veil.

The Dream: My daughter has had a baby. She arrives at my house with her husband and hands me the baby, who has a crabby little face. Nevertheless, I gladly receive the child. After a few moments I realize I don't even know the baby's sex. I ask, and my daughter tells me it's a boy. I am slightly disappointed and say, “I'm not sure I know what to do with a boy.” All my experience has been with girls.

I seem to be in charge of the creature; he goes everywhere in my arms. If he cries, I wonder, will I hand him back to his mom as most people do with a baby? My daughter is glowing, very happy. She looks very thin, and I'm concerned. She tells me she weights 150 pounds: is that enough? “You don't look it,” I say.

Even though I'm  enjoying holding him, part of me is concerned that I'll get saddled with this child to raise. I wonder if my daughter will leave him with me and go along her merry way, unencumbered. I don't think I can take on children at this point. One quiet baby is one thing; a couple of active toddlers would be exhausting.

Interpretation: The day before I had this dream I had a visit from a friend cataloging a list of recent losses: one of her aunts had died as well as a very good friend. Being presented in waking life with her pain made me question my ability to nurture her. Part of me wanted to fob off the responsibility; someone else should be taking care of her. As long as the “baby” is quiet I can manage; if he becomes activated it's too much!

What's behind this unwillingness to comfort and console, to take care of a friend? My own “baby”that becomes activated in this situation is the underlying thing that frightens me. An incident that coincided with the visit from my friend was the more important dream trigger. We found three dead birds on our property, all victims of the neighbor's cats. Seeing the mangled birds brought back memories of seeing dead baby bird fetuses as a child. At the time it upset my child sensibility terribly, and the dream reminds me, once again, why it's difficult to deal with another's pain: it taps into my own reservoir.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Messenger

One reason it's a good idea to illustrate your dreams is that the illustration itself will elaborate on your unconscious process. Don't think about the illustration too much as you do it; follow the dictates of your unconscious. Once you've created your illustration--a doodle, a mandala, a collage, whatever you feel like--look at the shapes and colors for more information. 

The Dream: I am in a Victorian house, standing in its large, high-ceiling entry. The bell rings, and through the door's frosted glass I see a messenger holding a fat manila envelope. I open the door to take it. I think he's going to leave, but instead he pounds on the door, cracking it, and then extends one hand through the hole he's made. At first I think he's about to give me “the finger.” Instead, he grabs me, forcing himself in. As he attacks me I scream for Clark. I know he's not in the house, but I'm hoping that if the intruder thinks he is he will be frightened off. I awaken in terror.

Interpretation: This dreadful dream ushered in my birthday. I'm being giving a message in a very forceful way. Will I get it? The frosted glass hints at my lack of clarity. The “finger” reminded me of these lines from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
My conscious awareness, here represented by Clark, is not at home. The dream is pointing to something deeply unsettling that's important for me to grasp. The timing, on my birthday eve, tells me this issue is a matter of “life or death”-- metaphorically—for me: I must come to terms with my mortality. The colors I unconsciously chose to illustrate the dream tell me where I am in my acceptance of my inevitable death. I'm in a gray and black space (not happy with the idea), but the messenger and his space are green, the color of growth. At some point I'll be able to accept my part in the cycle of life.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Am I Dark?

The Dream: A woman, a teacher, lives nearby. She has an Irish/German/American face, but dark coloring. She is looking into her family history and says that her ancestors come from Nom, a country she has been unable to locate on a map.

I go home and look at a map and, to my surprise and delight, very quickly discover that the province of Nom is inside Egypt. I go to her place and bang excitedly on the door. (Her house is a white stationary trailer.) She answers, and I enter the narrow building. “I've found Nom,” I say. “It's in Egypt.”

I either think or say, “That explains why you are so dark.”

Interpretation: This woman has something to teach me. Nom in French means name. This--plus the woman's mixed ancestry, her family history research, and her inability to locate her family's geographical origin--tells me that this dream is dealing with where I fit into the human family. Where do I come from? And beyond that, what does it mean to be human?

The dream tells me that the “dark” aspects I carry within (and that are clearly visible to all) are ancient (like Egypt) and very rich (like the Pharaohs). If I disavow these parts of myself I'm left with a life that is white and narrow, like the woman's trailer home. This is another way of saying that my self-understanding doesn't own up to the complexity of the human psyche and experience. At the same time, while accepting my atavistic human traits is an important step in developing the sort of human being that doesn't wallow in self-righteousness, it's not an excuse or justification for bad behavior.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


How does the Psyche  incorporate a society's shift in values? This dream illustrates the process.

The Dream: My mother and I wander through a morgue. We come to a man's body, his head uncovered. With his buzz cut gray hair and square jaw he looks as if he might have been a Marine in the 50s. His color is that of the dead—and clearly he is—but my mother says to him, “If you're not dead you'd better get up, now!” I can see that she doesn't realize he's a corpse, and I try to lead her away.

According to Jung, the father represents society's values, and there are echos of my father, who worked with the Marines, in this figure. With his buzz cut and Marine bearing, the dead man represents the old order, the social framework of the 50s. This social order is dead in the contemporary world, and yet the inner mother part of myself, the part that has inculcated my parents' values, can't quite except it. The part of me that accepts the vast social changes that have occurred since my childhood tries to gently lead “mother” way from the past.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Do You Say “No” to Yourself?

The Dream:
I am telling Clark about Bill Cunningham, the New York Times fashion photographer who has been photographing the Paris fashion shows since 1957. This inspires me to create some fashion designs, and I say to my mother, “I'm going to put a group of 12 designs together and send them to someone.” I have the idea that this might get me some clients. Mother says, “Oh, no one would take them.” I respond, “We can't say 'no' to ourselves before someone else does. Don't you see how that limits us?”

Interpretation: This transparent dream reflects my shaky self-esteem, but also shows that I'm fighting back against it. It was probably triggered by an invitation to submit some work to a competition. I've sent them submissions for several years and have never been accepted. (In the end I did submit something, and my piece was included in their publication.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015


As if to form a counterpoint to the previous two “laughing” dreams, last night's was horrific.

The Dream: My best friend from high school is going to be tortured and killed. She will have her skin removed and then be executed. I am distraught and hope that she will be killed before she is flayed; thinking of this procedure has made me hysterical with anguish.

After a while she returns. She has obviously been hurt, tortured, beaten, but she's alive and has her skin. It seems her ordeal is over. I am afraid she's going to tell me about her experience, and I don't want to know: it's too upsetting.

Interpretation: A friend from the past is having her skin removed; the friend is from my vulnerable teenage, high school years. One of the triggers was someone else's dream that I had read the night before that featured underwear falling down. Both the skin being removed and the underwear falling down represent an exposure. At the same time, I was reading Elaine Pagel's book on the gospel of Thomas (a name similar to my friend's last name). Pagels lists the tortures and ignominious deaths meted out to Christians.

This distressing dream tells me something I had not realized: that my distancing myself from the suffering of others (not exposing myself to it) comes from my reaction to their pain and, at a deeper level, to my own. I turn away; I try to ignore it—because it is so fundamentally upsetting. Just as my friend has survived the dream ordeal,  I can survive becoming aware of  painful events that occurred long ago. And once I can accept that, I will be a more compassionate person.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

There's a Sock on Your Hat!

The Dream:
I'm visiting one of my brothers, about to leave. I need to get to Heathrow Airport for my journey home. I go to a travel kiosk that looks like an old-fashioned counter at a train station: the clerks are behind a grill. I ask for directions to Heathrow. When I approach the counter the woman is very friendly and congenial, and says to me, “Did you know there's a sock on your hat?” It's placed the way a decorative flower might have been. We both roar with laughter, and I say:”My brother could have told me!” I feel he's played a brotherly prank on me, and I have to admit it's pretty funny.

Not all dreams deal with heavy issues; most, in fact, reflect day to day concerns. After my recent trip to a foreign country to visit one of my husband's childhood friends, I had two dreams featuring laughter. My relative (in waking life my husband, not my brother) played a prank on me by subjecting me to his very self-involved friend for a few days. (I was “grilled” by the ordeal.) In the dream I laugh it off. This releases tension and points out that I shouldn't take the situation, or myself, too seriously.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It's All About Me!

The Dream:
Clark and I are acting in a play. At one point he says, very melodramatically, “Tell me you love me!” I say, “I love you!” Then he says, “Me! Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!” He is doing a parody of self-involvement. I laugh and laugh.

: We had just spent an exhausting couple of days visiting one of his childhood friends, a woman who displayed a relentless self-involvement. The dream helped me get over my annoyance at the experience by providing the tension release of uncontrolled laughter.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A New Model

The Dream: A long line of gay couples, all women, are getting married. They are on a platform that looks like a model's runway. They file past and are married by the time they reach the spot where I stand. Each couple is accompanied by a friend, so I'm not sure which of the three is the newly married couple. All women are tall.

Interpretation: This dream was triggered by a  gay friend's wedding. This type of marriage is a new model. The friends that accompany the newly married couples represent social acceptance, and their tallness symbolizes that now all loving relationships can “stand tall.”

Sunday, July 12, 2015


The Dream:
This dream builds on and resolves the two previous. I'm at a banquet with Clark and others. I keep refilling my wine glass. I don't know why I'm drinking so much. At one point I take a nearly empty bottle and attempt to drain it into my already full glass. Clark gently admonishes me with a comment on how much I'm drinking. I know it's too much, yet it seems a sort of compulsion. To try to justify my behavior I say, “The bottle was almost empty. I was just trying to finish it off.” I show him that there is very little wine left in the bottle. Nevertheless, there is more than can make it into my glass.

Interpretation: In Hunger there is not enough to satisfy basic needs. In Thirst  there is too much, more than I can consume even though I greedily attempt it. The night before this dream I had watched one of Jung's clips on Death, in which he says we must live life as though it continues. To think so makes us feel better and live better, so it is the natural thing to do. Hearing his thoughts between the two dreams changed something in my thinking. From a place of no satisfaction I go to a place of excess, more than I can safely indulge in, or take in.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


The Dream:
This dream centered on hunger that can't be satisfied. In the first fragment, a man wants to have sex with two women. The woman who's mind we're in wants marriage in return, or at least fidelity, but neither is on offer. The man more or less says, “All I want is sex; I'll get it from you or from someone else.” The woman acquiesces.

In the second fragment, a woman cannot satisfy her hunger, even though food is available. It is said, in explanation, that she had once gone through a period of starvation and could not now feel satiated, no matter how much she ate.

Keeping in mind the previous dream, I see religious overtones here. I thought of the Biblical phrase about those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. My rejection of the religion I grew up in has left me hungry for spiritual nourishment. The dream uses the carnal, food and sex, as symbols of this need. The first segment of the dream points out that the thing on offer doesn't fulfill my needs. The man's demand for sex on his very unpleasant terms stands for my reaction to my religious experience. Yet as the dream character I acquiesce. It seems I've decided this pathetic offer is better than nothing.

In the second fragment, the dream points out that there is plenty of sustenance available. Just because I “starved” in the past doesn't mean I must go hungry now.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Rape

The Dream: A woman is friends with a man. We are living in a shared space. I leave them to go into another room. Soon I hear the woman screaming for me, horribly distressed. I find her in the bathroom. The toilet seat is up and she has immersed her bottom in the water, which is tinged with blood. It's clear to me that she has been raped by her “loving” friend. Shall I call 911?” I say. She doesn't answer. “I'll call 911,” I say, leaving her to look for a phone. This nightmare awakens me.

: At the time of this dream I belonged to a book club sponsored by a Christian church. The meeting devolved into a discussion of the participants' personal beliefs. As I listened to others talk about “faith” and “belief” and “Christianity” I realized how alien I find these ideas. While the dream was triggered by media stories about rape, and certainly reflects the vulnerability that women face, the underlying issue for me is the rape of the intellect that I feel as a participant in a Christian group. I feel I'm not allowed to express my honest thoughts. This leaves me feeling my intellect (logical mind) has been raped; who I am (my self) denied.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

All In It Together

The Dream
: A woman has been tasked with beating a man who lies face down, prone. He is covered with a blanket, and she must beat him with a whip until his blood runs black. She is appalled at this thing she is doing, but does it anyway. The power that set her to her dismal task is Christian.

I am an onlooker, also horrified. At some point his blood does run black, and she begins to rail against Christianity for having one set of rules for its followers while the hierarchy behaves quite differently. She is very angry, but never questions her own acquiescence, in other words, why she did as she was told rather than follow her conscience.

: First I'll look at some things that triggered this dream: At the time of the dream I was reading Eric Kandel's The Age of Insight, and was at the place where Freud analyzes one of his own dreams and feels it has pointed out that he has suppressed his own guilt, just as my dream beater does. This was around the time of the horrific terrorist shooting at a mall in Kenya, following close on the heels of a shooting by a mentally ill person of people at an American Navy installation.

I feel guilty when I hear about these, and other, world situations, as well as disappointment and anger that the country I was brought up to believe had some sort of moral superiority now appears as venal and self-serving as the rest of the world. In the dream, Christianity stands for bankrupt values and hypocrisy on a national scale, and I ponder my own guilt as a citizen, even though I, like the dream actor, go along with it and feel powerless to stop it. I feel forced, as she does, to participate in things I find morally reprehensible. The dream implies my guilt and asks me why I don't  stop.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

In Memoriam

The Dream
: I had this dream the night of my brother Greg's birthday. My other brother Nick and I are at a memorial service for  Greg. We are sitting about four rows back, on the left side of the chapel. I call it a chapel: it is nonsectarian, like the place where Greg's actual memorial was held. We are separated by some others, not sitting next to each other. I hear Nick weep. I weep as well. We don't interact.

Interpretation: Nick and I, united in a grief we cannot talk about. We are separated, yet also together, in the same place. Kubler Ross's 4th stage of grief (we are 4 rows back) is depression, sadness. My unconscious is telling me where I am in the grieving process.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Two Different Sides

The Dream: One boob is cute and perky; the other larger, saggy and floppy.

Interpretation: This reflects the two sides of my artistic life (the thing that nurtures me). One side is controlled and attractive; the other is not so acceptable and well-behaved. Yet the two are part of the same body (of work). This image represents a conjunctio or coming together, in the psyche, of two opposing inner forces.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Women and Children

Dream image: Three women in empire dresses and turbans hold two babies.

Interpretation: All babies are our babies, the children of our common humanity. All women are sisters. In this dream the women of the world unite to nurture the children of the world. I hope this image is precognitive!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Disappointing Holiday

The Dream: I'm not hosting the holiday this year; I'm at someone else's house. I wonder about the friend who has celebrated with us for so many years. Where has she gone this year? The food at this feast is perfunctory: a bare bones meal with grocery-store preparations. It's not the way I would have done it.

This might be an example of Freud's concept of wish fulfillment gone wrong. I might wish to be relieved of the responsibility for the holiday, but once that wish is fulfilled, as in the dream, the result is an unfulfilling event—with the play on the word “full” duly noted. The food is inadequate, and the friend who represents my inner wounded child has been neglected. To mother my wounded child I must be a mother, in other words, take on the responsibility of hosting the event. Only then will I be happy with the outcome.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Looking for a Florentine Cathedral

The Dream: I am wandering around in a vast underground space trying to find the entrance to a particular Florentine Church. Often I am misdirected. I ask people, and they send me to areas of a labyrinthine building that I have already fruitlessly explored. At one point a college friend is with me, very pleased because a man has given her an open bottle of wine with about a third remaining. She happily swills from the bottle. I suggest she's being foolish: who knows what contaminant it might contain?

At one point we're directed into a particular church, and it almost seems almost right, but not quite. The decoration is Florentine; there are very large flowers around the interior. We peek inside another church and see a performance taking place—that's not right either. I feel anxious. I'm going to be late. I hope to get to the right church before time runs out.

Interpretation: Florence is associated with the Renaissance, rebirth. I'm searching at an unconscious (underground) level for my spiritual rebirth. No one can direct me; their suggestions lead to dead ends. I'm running out of time to find my spiritual home, the place where I feel I am expected and have a role to play. The wine offered by a person who has no guidance to give might be dangerous. One part of me wants to enjoy its superficial pleasure, while another is cautious.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Incapacitated Father

The Dream: I am waiting for my father. A white van drives up. I see my brother and sister-in-law, looking very serious and sad, and I see my father isn't driving but is asleep in the front passenger seat. They lead him into the house, and my sister-in-law tells me that he must go into an Alzheimer's Care facility. I am shocked and very sad, and also concerned for myself: will I get this dreadful disease?

My father died long ago, at a young age with no sign of any sort of mental impairment. Here he represents my animus, the part of me that deals with the world, and perhaps the part that keeps my inner “mother” from taking over. This dream and the last point out that now I am the adult: these imagos from the past, mother and father, can no longer serve today's adult. The inner mother is unconscious; the inner father can't function effectively. Time for me to put myself in charge, or I risk becoming incapable (I'll get the disease.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Unconscious Mother

The Dream
: I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and when I come back my mother is in my place. She is almost diagonally across the bed, with her head at the foot. I try to rouse her to get her into a better position, but she remains more than asleep, almost unconscious. I am concerned that I am unable to move her.

Mother is lodged, inappropriately, at the root (foot of the bed) of my unconscious. While I want to reposition her—I am unable to. The dream tells me that I've got things exactly backward, upside down. And that I've relinquished too much of myself (my proper place).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Creative Process: Finding the “I”

The Dream: I'm with a group of graphic designers. I see them as very cool, and being accepted is important to me. The “leader” is a small, wiry black man, about the size of a 12-year-old. He's very energetic and charming, and recounts stories by acting out all the parts as he tells them. He also thinks things through very thoroughly. When a project of any sort is mentioned it's apparent he's thought of every angle and is prepared down to the details. “He's the first person I've met who is just like me,” I think, and I'm very attracted to him.

I'm invited on a weekend with him and his two assistants, partially a working weekend, but it's clear I'll be expected to sleep with him. I find this exciting—at first. I hop into the front seat of his small but well made convertible; the windows are up and the roof is down. As we pull away, beginning to go into an urban tunnel passing under another road, we have the appearance of being on a lark, a joy ride. But I start to feel uneasy.

The leader's character changes from charming to peevish. I start to feel uncomfortable about the expectation that I will have sex with him. It occurs to me that this group probably take drugs as a matter of course, and that I will be expected to participate. Suddenly the whole “adventure” sours and becomes a source of anxiety rather than fun.

Interpretation: The “leader” is a trickster figure. He looks like my typical trickster: wiry, energetic, and black, my opposite and yet—“exactly like me” in his approach to things. The dream was inspired by a recent visit to an Alan Ginsberg exhibit that reminded me that the guiding lights of art in my childhood were the rebels who stood against middle class morality, often in self-destructive and adolescent ways. (The “leader” is the size of a 12-year-old.) The dream portrays my discomfort with certain aspects of this art world, the idea that it's a place that demands undisciplined behavior and morals. At the same time, there is something attractive about a life without restrictions. Do I see conformity as my only other option?

A basic conflict has emerged here: creativity and freedom versus the straight and narrow. My experience with the graphic designers helps me  get the picture. As the dream goes forward the creative group attempt to put me in their own kind of straight jacket. Each of the two supposedly antithetical groups demands conformity, each has its “standards” and expectations for the behavior of its members. True freedom exists in neither. A conjunctio (a union, symbolized by having sex) with one of the choices does not take place.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Dreams often try to point out that we are, as Marie-Louise von Franz has said, our own difficulty.
The Dream: I'm at a Rehab center. Most of the attendees are young, and I think, “I'm too old for this.” Some of the rehabilitated leave, through a chute, in enclosed carts. At first I think that these are wheelchair substitutes, but then they get off their little conveyances and walk away. They are children with large heads, figures I've often seen in other dreams.

Interpretation: I think that I'm too old to change, but if I can discover the part of me that's still growing (the child) I might be able to overcome the things that limit me (the things that need rehabilitation: the handicaps a wheelchair symbolizes). Once I go down through the narrow chute (experience such a new way of thinking that it seems like rebirth), I'll be able to walk on my own two feet. The overly large heads and small bodies of the children point out that my capabilities need to catch up with my ideas, and those ideas might be inflated.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

High Anxiety

The Dream: I don't remember the specific dream, but I do remember the feeling: anxiety.

The dream was triggered by attending a presentation given by a friend. While she did a fine job, her work was not well received by the audience. I was on the calendar to give a talk to this same group in a month or so, and no doubt my friend's experience made me uneasy on my own account as well as hers.

Over the years I've found that entering a dream into a journal and then attempting to illustrate the dream, or the feeling that dream has engendered, is a very helpful way to cope with the difficult emotions that are a part of life.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

It Bites the Hand that Feeds It

The Dream: I have a collegial relationship with a cat. We get along. I need to correct her behavior, so I attempt to pick her up by the scruff of her neck. She camps her sharp teeth down on my hand and won't let go. I have a cat dangling from my hand and don't know how to get it to release me.

Interpretation: Symbolically cats are associated with the feminine. People project sweetness, cuddliness, and so forth, onto these animals, but at their base, where they really live, they are hunters and fighters. In today's world the genie is out of the bottle. Docility is over. Obedience is done with. The feminine animal now fights back. The cat is telling me to give my inner woman some freedom or she'll clamp down on me, and it will hurt.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Portrait

The Dream: A woman and I are sitting at a table, across from each other. We're each drawing portraits, straight-on heads. I am the teacher. She's very skillful; my criticism of her work is that it lacks feeling. I take her drawing and, with her permission, make corrections. I change the mouth, making it a vibrant pink and somewhat pouty, or sensual. My other criticism is that the portrait is vague: it's very soft and lacks definition, with one color bleeding into the next.

Interpretation: The Unconscious gives me a drawing lesson! The artist I'm instructing in this dream reminds me of an egg tempera painter who wanted to meet me; she came to my house as an acolyte. When she showed me her paintings it was clear that she was highly skilled—more so than I—in handling the medium. Yet she was not satisfied with her work because, she said, it lacked imagination. This was true. As with many painters, her skill exceeded her conception. Yet she loved painting, and enjoyed her chosen subject matter. Of course I complimented her skill. I said that it only made sense for her to do what resonated with her. I suggested keeping a dream journal if she wanted to develop some original ideas.

In the dream I admire the artist's skill but feel she needs more expression, as symbolized by my “fixing” the mouth, the organ of speech. So the message for me is, of course to express myself.

When I tried drawing the face this artist drew in the dream I learned something about how to use color pencils—that is, very softly and delicately, building up color with gentle iterations. I tend to jump to the finish immediately, and that can make me heavy-handed, a hard thing to recover from! So the dream taught me this about self-expression: take it easy; let it develop; don't jump in with too much clarity and definition. The things I criticize in the dream artist are exactly what I need to do.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


The Dream: I am in someone's house; it's either a rental or a home exchange. We are thinking about staying there for a while. There is a small washer and dryer in the garage. I point it out to Clark; it reminds me of the set my mother got me when I lived in an apartment. I start thinking about how good she was to me, and feel that I didn't do enough for her as she aged and became infirm. I am filled with regret, and my eyes fill with tears.

I hear another washer/dryer going, and I realize there's a much larger set in the kitchen. We go there, and I am struck by how wide the counters are. They are marble, in golden ocher tones. The lady showing us the house seems to empathize with my sadness.

Interpretation: At first I thought this was a straightforward dream about my feeling bad that I was not a good daughter, that I hadn't given back enough to my mother who was so good and so giving.

And I'm sure there's some truth to that. But there is another truth as well. I had the dream shortly after I had seen a manipulative mother in action. Of course the dream might be pointing out the contrast between my mother and this other mother—but at the same time it caused me to notice some parallels; for example, both mothers had a core of helplessness that required others to step up and take care of them. My resistance to helping my mother might have come from my fear that her need could never be satisfied, but could only suck me into an abyss from which I could not escape. I'm sure my mother had no conscious wish to limit me—quite the contrary—but there was a subtext that I found suffocating. That doesn't excuse me for not getting over it, but it does explain the resigned tone of many of us, when, even as adults, we say, “Yes, mother . . . . “

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cast Not the First Stone

The Dream:
I'm in a living room with a long mural that I had painted, made up of several separate pieces the same dimensions as a series of family history embroideries I had made in waking life. My brother and his friend have painted over the mural to shift the color to a different, warm shade of brown. They are pleased with themselves and feel this is an improvement. I am incensed, perhaps even more so because it is a rather nice shade. I yell at them enthusiastically, but it seems they are impervious to my attacks; as people used to say, “They couldn't care less.” I'm as frustrated by their lack of seeing the insult they've perpetrated as I am by what they did. “You have denigrated my work!” I say.

Getting no satisfaction from them, I declare that I will never again come into this room. The next scene, however, finds me in it. My brother is now without his mocking friend. I try again to get him to see the gravity of his sin, and he says, “Now you know how I felt when you . . . . “ I don't remember what he accused me of, but I do remember I had done what he said, and that I, like him, had been unaware of its impact on the other.

The dream was triggered by a falling out between a couple of distant family members, and my realization that their anger and frustration with each other is rooted in their shared past (the family history embroideries).

The dream has an interesting resolution: I go back into the living room (the place where I live) and realize that I have done exactly the same thing that I was angry at my brother for doing. In other words, I've taken on the role that a family member once played: since I do the same thing that my dream brother has done, I am the critic who denigrates my work. I am doing it to myself.

The dream tells me a few important things: First, it's time to lighten up. Second, it is time to learn how to accept a good criticism (the new color is actually an improvement), and third, my family history holds the key to my overly critical thoughts.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Parked in the Wrong Spot

The Dream:
I am driving my convertible in Livermore, a nearby town. Its downtown is deserted, covered with a foot or so of snow. The car skids out of control and I almost hit a parked white truck, but it drives away right before I would have run into it. I leave downtown and find myself on a stretch of road that that resembles what you might see driving along the ocean. There's a sidewalk on one side with nothing beyond it. No sea in sight. My car slowly flips over.

I'm unhurt, mostly embarrassed, feeling as if I've done the wrong thing. Some fellows come over to help. We right the car and then easily push it to the side of the road.

I don't want to leave it there, unattended, and—having seen how easy it is to push—think that I'll push the car through the snowed-under downtown and then back to where the streets are clear. My first challenge is to maneuver the car out of the “parking spot” the guys have left it in. I think it would have been easier if they hadn't put the car here.

Interpretation: Everything seems to be wrong in this dream. I am driving a convertible that I'm unable to control in snowy weather. I have the wrong vehicle at the wrong time and in the wrong place. My well-meaning helpers make my goal, that of protecting my vehicle, more difficult. Yet once I give up “driving” I discover that “pushing” is not difficult. The implication is that I need a different way to approach my difficulty. And the dream is pointing out that others won't solve the problem for me; they are willing to help, but then it's up to me. If I want to avoid being stuck in a place that others have chosen for me, I'd better get out and push.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Shaken World

The Dream:
Four girls, two of them my daughters, are in a one-story Victorian building when an earthquake breaks it in two. I am very worried about the girls, but it turns out they are fine, unharmed. After a while I think I should survey the damage, thinking most of my crystal will be broken. When I look, all seems intact, surprisingly. I do find evidence, however, that a piece has broken, there are some pieces of glass on a shelf that hold the goblets. I can't figure out, however, what broke.

Interpretation: Dreams have a way of taking what is going on in our interior world and merging it with images from waking life. One of my daughters had been abroad visiting her primary school (a Victorian building). A recent television show had featured buildings with destroyed interiors. The dream tells me that I've been shaken up (the earthquake), so my question to myself is: “What threatens me?” Both my daughters had been traveling, and I had been worried, perhaps subliminally, about their safety. The dream shows me my parental concern and asks me to decide whether or not it's realistic. While their being away may have shaken up my interior world (my serenity), the dream points out that no damage has been done, even though I'm expecting it and go so far as to look for it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Can I Live with Mother?

The Dream: I am with my aunt and my mother. They tell me that Mother is coming to live with me. I realize they've mentioned this once before, and that I had failed to respond, hoping the request would go away. This time there's no ducking it. I am annoyed that they've told me rather than asked me, and I envision myself as the old maid daughter living with her mother. I feel that her close proximity is a threat to my autonomy. In the dream my mother is youngish and attractive, and I'm a young single woman.

I can't see how to say no, or get out of it, and I wonder what sort of sex life I'll have. Will she accept my adult sexuality or will I never be able to spend the night with anyone? I say to her, “You can stay with me, but you can't be too bossy.” She looks surprised that anyone would think she's bossy.

She says, “We can move into Grandma's neighborhood. It will be nice and inexpensive.” My heart lifts at this idea. Grandma's neighborhood has become arty and trendy. I think I'll enjoy the area and meet interesting people. Suddenly I'm excited about the thought of a move.

Interpretation: The dream was inspired by a piece that Helen Hwang wrote about her relationships with her mother and grandmother. She had been closer to her paternal grandmother than to her mother, and at a point in her life she realized she needed to connect with her mother. In the dream I become happier and stronger when I connect with my maternal ancestor, my mother's mother. The dream is a step in my working out my own autonomy. In the dream I confront who I am as an adult with my now internalized “mother.” Can I live with what I've inherited from my ancestors and still be myself? The dream tells me that I can: I learn that I can be in the place I want to be even with Mother in my life. She has been integrated into my psyche to the point that we both want the same things; I unconsciously realize that at this point in my life she does live with me, even if not physically, and I'm getting the two of us in sync.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Family History

The Dream: We are visiting acquaintances, a little older than we are. They are very nice, salt of the earth, mid-Western. As we converse it becomes apparent that the man, slightly heavy, quiet, almost dour, is a keen genealogist. Clark doesn't immediately let on that he is as well, but I say, enthusiastically, “Oh! So is Clark!”
I go on to say how either you're interested in this sort of thing or you're not, and I'm not. And I tell him it's because I know everything there is to know about my family, and I proceed to tell him.

“My grandparents are Russian, my father's family from Belo-Russe; my mother's were Russian speakers who lived in what was Austria Hungary at the time, now Poland. There was all sorts of ethnic, political complexity at the time, I explain. “My mother's father died when she was 2, and my grandmother worked cleaning office buildings to keep the family together.” I find I am getting choked up as I say this, fighting back tears. My listener is impassive. “She was a hero!” I say.

Meanwhile, the wife's large family of sisters have arrived. They remind me of the women in my exercise class: pleasant, but I feel I have nothing in common with them.

Interpretation: The mid-Western people I have nothing in common with represent the larger American society and culture that, as a child, I felt too ethnic to be a part of. My estrangement is echoed in the present by my feelings about the women in my exercise class. The impassive mid-Western man understands nothing of the immigrant experience and really isn't interested; he's very comfortable in his own deep experience of endless American ancestors.

What the dream brings up about my feelings for my poor, overworked and very kind grandmother is new to me. I hadn't been aware of this sadness lurking inside over the difficulty of her life. I'm not sure why I'm telling the man about it: it's as though I'd like him to understand, but he isn't interested. With the appearance of the wife's large family at the end of the dream I'm thrown back to a women's group (like the members of my exercise class) that I can never be part of: they are sisters and I'm not. This dream points to one of the reasons I have often felt somewhat alienated.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

What's Going on Here?

The Dream: I hear a very young child, 2 to 3 years old, screaming in a bathroom. I fear she is being molested. I bang on the door, saying I will call the cops. I push the door open. She is standing next to the bathtub, fully clothed. There is a man with her. I leave them, and make no report. Then I wonder if I've been remiss: I should have checked her for evidence of whether or not she had been molested.

Interpretation: This dream was very disturbing; the child was screaming in terror. It seemed she was not being harmed, but I didn't take any action to make sure this was the case. The dream was triggered by a snippet of a television show I'd watched the night before on PBS about a Chinese woman who had been raped and then abandoned by her family. I remember thinking how typical it is to blame the woman for her own misfortune. In a book I'm reading, Trollope's Vicar of Bullhampton, a young woman is ostracized for “prostitution.” It seems to me, the reader, that she was either seduced and abandoned or raped.

The child's scream is the scream of womankind at the injustice of centuries of abuse. Her youth emphasizes her innocence. The water of the bathtub represents the water of the Unconscious, where these terrors lie submerged. I turn away, just as society turns away, from what is clearly wrong, but inconvenient to acknowledge and difficult to deal with.