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.