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.