(Note to reader: Since 1986, I have been recording and working with my dreams. I have found my dream source to be direct ( pinpointing the essential issues, when I am offtrack); and panoramic – offering me a multi-layered, expansive viewpoint. Dreams invite creativity, and it is often when I am willing to let go of my conscious need to control and have fun that I discover the deepest meaning.
This page is dedicated to the messages that have emerged from the dreamtime.
Most recent posts will appear at the top – scroll down for earlier works.)
Dreams: A Vehicle for Self-Reflection
I’m waiting in the RV for my husband to finish shopping and drive us away.
This is how a recent dream begins. For over thirty years now, I have been recording and working with my dreams as a means to personal growth. Often, where the dream takes place establishes context. For me, currently disabled and dependent on others, this opening line paints a clear picture of where I am right now.
Dreams, however; are not intended to simply reiterate the obvious. The messages that bubble up from our unconscious offer us new insight, if we are willing to open them.
A small child climbs aboard, and take a seat…she wants to come with us…but I am worried that her mother will be looking for her, and think we kidnapped her. I tell Ric we can’t bring her with us.
When we purchased the RV, it awakened in me a new sense of adventure. After three years, primarily home bound, life seemed to be opening up; I felt a kind of youthful hope, and at the same time, I was flooded with concerns: Are we being practical, or irresponsible? What right do we have to even consider traveling under our current circumstances?
Then I notice there are two other women aboard …. also intending to come along for the ride…and the RV is now a yacht and more people have imposed on our space and Ric is enjoying himself while I am trying to gain control of the situation.
What started out simple enough, has now become very complicated, and even as I type this I recognize my role in all of this – I have an uncanny ability to blow things out of proportion. I just don’t seem to be able to sit back and relax and enjoy the moment. Part of it is this disease, I know, and much can be attributed to life experience.
Incensed that no one is listening to me, I decide to investigate further and find that the uninvited guests are sleeping in our beds….and there is even a dead body in our bathtub. Who is going to clean all this up? I wonder.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and propose that the uninvited guests are all the excuses and obstacles that I put in my own way, sabotaging any attempts at autonomy or personal success. What makes me draw such a conclusion? Dreams use exaggeration, as well as humour, to illustrate a point. This dream is poking fun at my over-worked sense of responsibility – “Who is going to clean all this up?” Indeed. As if I could ever be responsible for the shenanigans of a boat load of adults. Assigning responsibility to myself makes me look like a victim, and if I look like a victim, who can ever fault for me for my failures?
It’s a clever trap I weave for myself, and I might not have gleaned it from the dream, if it were not for the dead body in the bathtub.
The odd, the perverse, the horrific, are all gifts from the unconscious. I could not shake the image of the dead woman in my bathtub. Of all the places for her to die, my bathtub is the most personal.
I decided to dialogue with her, imagining myself seated beside her, and allowing the conversation to flow (rational interpretation set aside). She had much to reveal, the gist of which inspired the poem: A Body in the Bathtub.
The main message I came away with from this dream is that no matter what our circumstances, financially, or otherwise, there will always be challenges to potential happiness. Most of those challenges are self-imposed. The problems of the dream could have been avoided by the setting and assertion of clear boundaries.
There are things I want to accomplish in life – and that we want to accomplish as a couple – if I can only get out of my own way.
What If Dreams Are Answers
Daily functioning requires a healthy ego to navigate the protocols and expectations of society, however; at night, the ego becomes an observer while the tapestry of our wholeness unfolds in the language of symbols and metaphors.
While I have been working with my dreams since 1986, I still find much of what they have to express is a mystery, and often, will carry a dream around until I find some connection or aha moment.
Recently, I decided to approach a particularly haunting nighttime missive as if it was a response to some unacknowledged questions I had been carrying around with me. I created a dialogue between my imagined dream source (DS) and myself (Me) with the goal of discerning those questions:
Me: I have looked for love, been rejected, want to believe in love’s power, but have only found hurt, pain, lacking.
DS: Look to the source of your seeking.
Me: I follow a lover home, see I do not belong there, realize his immaturity, forgive him and let him go. I still feel unfulfilled. (The opening scene of the dream.)
DS: You are describing love in term of romantic relationships.
Me: Well, no…er, yes. In this case, I am…actually, in many cases, if I’m honest – much of my writing is about the failure of relationships and, therefore, the absence of love. Whoops…I guess I should be asking: What is the nature of love?
DS: Move on with the dream.
Me: I feel alone, in this stripped down existence, now that I am confined to a bed.
DS: What have you left out?
Me: That my home is a castle-like structure and my bed is in the middle of the living space.
DS: What can derive from that?
Me: That loneliness is a perception. That I am still amongst the living, and there are an abundance of places to explore.
DS: Okay, anything else? Is the home in the dream your current home?
Me: No, I assume it’s symbolic. I always think the house is where spirit dwells – the intangibles that define us – beliefs, values, character, psyche. So, maybe I should be asking how it is that I limit myself (we have already determined that my definition of love is lacking) and what aspect of self or spirit is left to explore.
DS: What’s next?
Me: The figure in the window – a doll-like puppet that I have seen. In the dream, I discover that the perpetrator is a nosy neighbour and I suspect that the doll has a camera inside. Sounds a bit paranoid.
DS: On the face of it, yes. What could it be saying about your life?
Me: The first thing that comes to mind is that being on disability means that I am under surveillance from the insurance company. While I have nothing to hide, I can’t help but be anxious. If I look at this on a broader scale, what others think of me does make a difference, as much as I wish it didn’t. In this case, the perp is using a puppet to spy on me – a wooden doll – so, in other words, he is spying on me through the lens of a soulless construct. The question would be: Why do I care so much about what others think, and what is it robbing me of? This answers how I might be limiting myself, and I think it relates to the love question.
DS: Carry on.
Me: I consider selling my home, convinced no one will be interested, so do no prep work, and put up an Open House sign. To my amazement, many people come: doctors, families, a diversity of races and cultures. I am scrambling to ready the place, view my home with new eyes,
DS: Interesting, what did you discover?
Me: First, that I have undervalued myself – intellectually, spiritually, and in terms of what I have to offer (this has been a lifelong struggle, I confess). By inviting others in, I discover that there is more to me (my house) than just this one-roomed confinement. I get excited for once about how much there is to explore, am expressing value, selling myself, and truly excited. In sharing, I find that there is history worth exploring, and more stories to tell than I have visited before.
DS: So, what is the question here?
Me: I think I see both answer and question here: Why is it that I need others to allow me to appreciate the gifts of self? Perhaps, it is lack of love of self. I live to be validated by others. Interesting to me that I put out the welcome sign, even though I feel I have nothing of value.
DS: Something else propels you, maybe?
Me: Maybe. I step outside in the dream, and from this perspective remember that the house was originally a barn converted by a man to be a castle. This to me has spiritual significance – the barn, symbolic of the birth of Christ, is a humble place, accessible, simple. Man has built castles out of religion, fortresses to defend their believes and keep out others. Religion is a complex institution which I have tried to distance myself from most of my life (another reason why I only live in one room?)
Does my fear of religion confine my beliefs/spirituality? And, therefore, my definition of love, difficulty with relationships, lack of self-value and feelings of loneliness? I feel like we are weaving a tapestry here – ideas flowing into ideas, creating meaning.
Me: The next scene is set on a hilltop, overlooking the water’s edge, where large water birds have come to feed. (I watched a blue heron just the other day, fish in the waters next to an old mill. The effect was spellbinding, mesmerizing. If ever I held a definition of spirit it is the force of nature – raw, instinctual, a dance of harmonics.) My guests and I watch as a large brown bird – big enough to be an eagle, but not one we can identify – attacks a smaller, also bird of prey. Before we can react, the bigger bird grasps the head of the other and flies off – it’s catch firmly in place.
DS: How did watching this make you feel?
Me: Horrified, helpless, and at the same time reminded of the force that is nature – the food chain, how death and rebirth are part of the natural cycle. Seeing it up close was unsettling.
DS: And then?
Me: The surface of the water starts bubbling, and a black-bodied entity with gold markings emerges, writhing, and we realize that it is a snake, also looking for a meal – one of the remaining birds is a target. A man from the crowd that has gathered jumps from atop the cliff we are standing on in an attempt to rescue the bird. I watch, horrified that he would dare to confront such a beast (the snake is huge) and am certain he had just committed suicide, but the man resurfaces and is fine.
DS: Lots of imagery here: what do you think it is saying, or asking?
Me: I don’t like the brutality of confrontation, especially physical. These animals are merely carrying out acts of survival. Men, however, have free will, can rise above their base natures, like the man who wittingly jumps in to save the bird. Do we not have a greater responsibility? To ensure life, liberty and the values we say we espouse?
The world right now is currently in conflict – threats of terrorism, mass shootings, civil wars – and American politics is stirring the pot. My son recently converted in order to marry his beloved, and it has brought conflict closer to home – I am reeling at people’s reactions, feel as if this beast of racism and fear is preying on the innocent – like the monstrous beasts in the dream. I am not willing to risk my life for the rights of others, like Malala Yousafzai, so how can I make a difference in the face of these rising issues?
DS: A question many could be asking themselves.
Me: If I tie it together then I might conclude that I need to redefine my concept of love, broaden its capacity to include all relations, find value and trust that the gifts I have been given have worth, stop worrying about the judgment of others (judgment is a soulless construct), delve deeper into my own psyche/spirituality to reconnect with a simplicity of values/beliefs that help me address conflict in a more humane and effective manner.
Patterns in Dreams
I have noticed recently that many of my dreams begin innocently enough and then end in panic, with the need to call for help. Recently, for example, I dreamt that I was shopping with two of my best friends from high school, and, as we would back then, we were teasing the one friend, who was never able to venture out and take risks: always wore the same clothes, kept her hair the same, and had trademark John Lennon glasses. In the midst of this lighthearted excursion there is suddenly an attack: a sword-wielding male who leaves his victim lying in a pool of blood, the weapon protruding from her neck – an emergency situation.
While not all my dreams end in such bloody violence, the pattern of alarm and panic at the end of each episode is undeniable; enough to make me question my relationship to bad endings.
“Your whole family are man-haters,” my former husband once told me. “I feel as if everyone is always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
He had a point. The women in my family are overly cautious of the other sex, for valid reasons – many of us have been let down. Even this husband left me destitute when a much younger model showed him attention.
His words have stayed with me, though – do I live in anticipation of the worst case scenario? If I’m honest with myself, I do. It comes from living with a father whose nature was unstable at best, violence always lurking beneath his carefully controlled exterior: a tyrant who ruled with intimidation. But that was many years ago, and he is long gone, and yet still the fears persist. How do I shake this condition?
Sometimes just by rewriting the dream we can alter our perception of outcomes. In this case, I would finish my outing with my former friends by joining them in a quaint restaurant, sharing a bottle wine and good memories. That is how most of our visits go these days.
And if an intruder struck, I would usher us to a safe place, away from the violence and bloodshed, leaving dramatics to the proper authorities – let go of responsibility. An ‘aha’ moment.
No wonder my dreams end with me having to call 9-1-1. I am always in rescue mode: a shoe-in to take responsibility, cannot tear myself away from pain (mine or others) without feeling somehow obliged to take action. Apparently, according to my dreams, this is interfering with my own life’s progress.
It’s as if I’m addicted to crisis – a pattern I will happily replace if I can just figure out how.
If I write a new dream for myself, it will include confidence in my own acceptability, and allow a belief in the fortitude and capability of loved ones to defend themselves: faith that each of our paths bears lessons worthy of the challenge. I will celebrate and support, rather than rescue those in need – a risky proposition, for a co-dependent – knowing that we all have the right to fight our own battles, and that in taking responsibility for others I am robbing them of that right.
Hopefully this insight will change the patterns of my dreams.
Dream Offerings: New Perspectives
I saw you in my dream; you were across the street and I caught myself hesitating – should I wave, acknowledge you, or keep on going? Then you headed towards me, crossing what is now more a river than a street, there is so much water that has passed between us. You gave everything to me, and what did I give in return – this is the source of my guilt. You believed in me, and I feel as if I used you.
You could have walked right on by, and I would understand, but you didn’t. You acknowledged me, then and now, as if you have faith in where I am going (I don’t even know where I’m going). You told me to make myself public, to register with an accredited organization.
How is it that you could put yourself out for me, again? Is it that you see something in me that I cannot?
I feel like I am pregnant, about to give birth to something, need to put safety measures in place, need to be embraced in the way that will support my labour – you know, that inevitable trial before success. I have always been good about helping others fulfill their dreams, but not so much for myself. This time though, it feels as if this one is for me: my child.
I saw you across the street, looking sorrowful, hesitant. I hoped it wasn’t on my behalf. We had so many good times together and I learned a lot during those years we were so close. I know things ended abruptly, but it had nothing to do with you – sometimes life turns corners. It was time for me to make a change.
I crossed the street because I wanted to tell you not to give up on yourself. I think that the work that you did was useful and if you can connect with a more established environment, I think you can be successful. I helped you because I believe in you.
We each have a gift, you once taught me, and to hold that gift back from the world is arrogance. I pursued my dream, with your encouragement; I hope you are following yours.
Wishing You Well,
An old friend
Dear Unborn Child,
I do not know when, or how you were conceived, I just dreamed that your time is drawing near. How can I prepare myself for you? What blessings, challenges will you bring? I have raised my children; am greeting grandchildren now, so I know that you are metaphorical; but as I spend most of my days confined to home, disabled, I cannot possibly imagine what I might be giving birth to. What can you tell me about yourself? What message do you bring?
Your life has not been a barren field; many seeds have been planted along the way, and while you may feel that success is an accidental phenomena in your case, this in not so. In the stillness of your disability, your mind and spirit have had opportunity for renewal. Renewal begets new life. There is no reason to go it alone, to be a martyr for others, or give up on your dreams. They are very much alive within you, and indeed growing.
We both acknowledge that I am metaphorical, but my arrival will not be without pain, although you and I are accustomed to pain – have known sorrows and rejection – and gained faith in the ultimate outcome, so; be confident.
What is important now is to give up reign over the lives of others (stop feeling responsible for their happiness) and focus on what gives you joy. Feed your passion and watch it bloom. Nurture the potential that is flourishing inside.
I am here, inside you, and as you heed my presence, so shall I grow.
In loving kindness,
Note: Dreams offer us alternative ways to view our life issues, whether it be an opportunity to let go of guilt, or a reminder that there is always more to be experienced/accomplished. Creativity is the key to unlocking the messages of the dream time. It is advised that when working with dreams, always look for growth and positive development. Sometimes a shift in perspective is all that is need for healing to begin.
Table Talks – A Dream Guide
I dream that Ric has removed our dining table. There has been no discussion, no explanation, just an empty space to mark his actions. Even in my dreams, I am asking questions: Is he having it repaired, or replacing it? Surely, not replacing, I think, as the table was his mother’s. I conclude that all I can do is wait and see.
The dream seems simple enough, and I could conclude that it is how I am feeling about Ric’s heart attack, but the symbolism of the table haunts me – I’ve dreamt of tables before, just not in this context. A table, I recognize, is a good object for discussion about the role of symbols in dreams.
Dreams use symbols and metaphors as a way to convey a multitude of meanings through a single image, in this case, the missing dining table. Tracking your own symbolic meanings makes for the best dream dictionary.
A table can represent many things: a gathering/ celebration, family time, negotiations, agendas. We talk about what we ‘bring to the table’, do business ‘under the table’, or take a gamble at the tables. King Arthur had a round table, signifying his desire to be a fair and respectful ruler. I have ‘tabled’ ideas that are not worthy of putting into print yet. All of these are considerations when examining the dream message.
More importantly, I need to look at what a table means to me personally, and to us as a couple. Since moving to our current home, we have only had one table (we downsized to a one bedroom cottage with a kitchen, dining area, and sitting room). That table, as I mentioned earlier, was inherited from Ric’s mom, and used to be her formal dining set. When I was first diagnosed with ME/CFS, my doctor recommended removing the table and replacing it with two Lazyboys, as sitting up to eat meals was too taxing on my system. Instead, my husband set up his home office there, rendering the table unavailable for family meals. Eventually, we built an office wall in the living area and the table became available again for family visits. Occasionally, we will dine together, at the table, but only when I am up to it. Although I can’t explain it, I like to have the table available and cleared – as if it is waiting for me – a symbol, perhaps, of normalcy and health.
While pursuing a divorce from my children’s father, I had many dreams about a broken table – warnings that the negotiations would not go well (and they didn’t). He just wouldn’t come to the table. Ironically, throughout our marriage, we never had a dining room table, so I set up a portable, fold out table when guests came – it was higher and narrower than a regular table, so somewhat awkward – reflective of how our visiting guests felt in our home (as they conveyed post marriage). At one point, I decided that we would never have a real table, if I continued to use the makeshift one, and on the very day I moved it out my parents arrived and announced they had just bought a new dining set and would we like their old one. It was a lesson in manifestation: if you want something, make room for it in your life.
So, with all this said, what could my dream be telling me?
Ric has removed the table.
Is he making room for something? Has he withdrawn and become inaccessible to me? Does this mean a certain topic is no longer up for discussion? Whatever his reasoning, he does it without talking to me first, leaving me powerless in the situation. This is not like Ric. His mind may be constantly running through ideas, but usually he at least shares what he is thinking before acting on it. We have not discussed changing the table.
Since his heart surgery, Ric has been understandably moody and depressed; it has been unsettling for me, not knowing what he may do next. Some days he is so withdrawn, I have to tiptoe around him, not wanting to provoke him. I wonder if he thinks about me at all, whose life has also been affected by this recent turn of events. In this context, the table being removed does represent the lack of communication between us. If this is so, what can I do about it?
So, I talk to him. He may not want to bring anything to the table at the moment, but what I have to offer is still in tact. I voice how difficult this time must be for him, having almost died, enduring five hours of anesthetic – living off machines – and facing the steep incline to recovery. All the while trying to continue to work and support us. We are talking. The table is not gone.
My speculations here assume that the dream is alluding to our marital relations: that Ric is Ric and I am me. The actor and the recipient.
What if Ric is also a symbol, and the ‘I’ in the dream is ego? Then I might ask myself, what part of me (represented by Ric) has removed the dining table, taking away my ability to ‘come to the table’, offer myself up, or host possibility? Possibly, the part that used to be so in charge, was reliable, trustworthy, and is now struggling to recover from loss? Whoa, can you feel the energy in this? I know this part intimately; it’s the me that ran the show prior to falling ill. Why has she removed the table? I’ll ask her:
Ego: Excuse me, former self, why have you taken the table away?
Her: You mean the table you only sit at when company comes?
Ego: Yes, that one, and well, it’s not fair to judge really. What have you done with it?
Her: Nothing really, I just wanted to clear the space.
Ego: And do what? Leave an empty hole in the house?
Her: No offense, but there is a hole here, with or without the table. I am drawing attention to it. Thought I might clean up the space, maybe make room for something else, or the old, if you want it back.
Ego: Oh, well, I don’t know.
Her: Thing is I can swap out the table for another but what you bring to it really doesn’t change.
Ego: Suppose not. I do like to have one though. I like to think I am ready to entertain, have guests at a moment’s notice. It’s a social thing.
Her: Not willing to give up on yourself, you mean?
Ego: Nor life. Not willing to give up on any of it.
Her: Good, then I can bring it back.
It was just a test, after all. The table stays.
Give Your Dreams a Title
Keeping a dream journal is more than just a diary for me, it is a way to connect with my inner self, make sense of the my sometimes garbled thought processes, and focus on what is important in the here and now. It is also the inspiration for much of the poetry I write.
Having studied dream work and followed my own nightly forays for thirty years, I can confidently say that there is always something to be gleaned from the process. I trust my dream source probably more than anything else.
There are countless ways to approach dream work, which all begin with keeping a journal. I always write my dreams in present tense, as if they are happening as I write – this keeps the energy of the message alive. It is also important to give each dream a title.
A fun and easy way to work with dream messages, is to compile the titles from a given time period and see what results. I remembered this technique this morning and decided to look back over the past year, at the titles of the poems that were dream-inspired. Here is what I came up with:
Pleas(e), knightmare shattered,
gridlocked – damn you, hindsight!
Presently seeking peace,
all the little pieces changing
direction; accepting self –
labyrinth: dump truck, death threat,
a room of my own – oh, to dream.
Open to healing – fleeting libido
a sorry state; spider woman
re-righting the past; chasing
mermaids – grateful pause (paws)
The red box: driving passion –
celebrate with me – love
a husband and a son.
Disability’s rant juxtaposed –
maybe leave me out of it?
Daughters be free…
Rehabilitation scheme –
canine calamity –
Turning point: What is it about me?
Under (re)construction, woulda, coulda, shoulda –
paradise rattled, fall from grace…salvaged.
Move me to understanding, Soul Stalker –
leap froggin’, dragon attack – imagining genius.
Seasons of love need a big ass truck,
out of step: lights, camera, heartache.
Hope, like a breeze, in communion prevails.
Herd or heard – scorned woman’s rage, response
to scorned – the ocean awaits, levitating,
birthing the heroic.
Beauty and the beast revisited:
portrait of a waitress, bad birthday,
freak show’s in town – choices lacking
evolution, anchored in morbidity –
too far gone – they’re just family, after all.
Shadows echo – ready, set, go – not dead yet.
Branded loser, I stand in the doorway,
establishing a front. Isolation’s hold casting
call, love, like shoes, checked out.
(While I did not alter the titles themselves, I did take liberty with punctuation.)
Dreams of Flying
The ability to be able to take flight is a common theme in the dream time, eliciting many different interpretations, dependent on context. It might be an indicator that we have the ability to “rise above” a certain problem, have chosen “flight” over “fight”, are avoiding certain issues, or may be illustrating something else. As always, with dream images, the circumstances in both the dream and outer life should be taken into consideration.
Last night, I dreamt that I was flying, gliding past my husband conducting business in our front room, and floating past neighbours unseen. Only a black dog, off his leash, spotted me and took chase. I panicked for a moment, until realizing that all I had to do was fly higher. Back at home, my doctor and a co-worker gathered in my bedroom where I asked if they thought something was wrong with me. On the contrary, they both wanted to learn my technique, tried to hold me up and lend me a supportive hand. It wouldn’t work, I told them, while they were hanging on. As I always do in my dreams, it is just a matter of jumping and letting go, surrendering to the flight.
Levitating is the poem that arose from working through this dream. It alludes to the condition of invisibility that accompanies my illness, and the ability to dissociate from reality; escapism.
I know there is more to the dream; have experienced this sensation before.
This past weekend was Easter, and as a family we gathered at my eldest daughter’s for a feast, after which I decided to stay on overnight while my husband returned home. Conversation during the day had turned to the new health threat hovering over him – a potentially dangerous heart condition (test pending). Alone with my children, they began to ask me serious questions: What will you do, Mom? Where will you live? Who will look after you?
Like my ego in the dream, I prefer to “glide” past the business aspects of these questions, “float” ideas for living accommodations in my mind, cannot settle on a solution. I am constantly trying to outrun the “black dog” of depression, tell myself it is just a matter of attitude – keeping “up”.
The women in my dream – my doctor and co-worker – are representative of the logical, traditionally-minded part of self, and the spontaneous side, lacking focus. Neither can help me at this moment – in fact, I am bogged down by their attempts. In the dream, my need is to ascend, disappear. It echoes the way I am feeling.
Dissociation is a pattern that I learned at young age – faced with issues for which I had no coping mechanisms, I learned “to fly”. It is a tendency I have carried into adulthood, preferring to believe in magical interventions (some call it faith) rather than deal with cold, hard facts. The dream is reflecting my emotional response, and telling me what?
What struck me most, in working with the images presented, was the fact that it is only when no one is helping or touching me that I “take off”. I need the presence and support of others to remain grounded. In dialogue with my children, I was quick to state that I would not be a burden to any of them – it is an old reflex. Truth is, my current state dictates that I cannot survive alone.
And this strikes a deep resonance within me. As a child, surrounded by insurmountable chaos and often left to my own devices, I would rock myself to sleep, declaring between sobs: I don’t need anyone! I don’t need anyone!
As childish and impractical as this knee-jerk reaction is, I still revert to that position when afraid. Which leads me to another possible interpretation of dreams of flying: arrogance.
Pretending not to need anyone else, playing at not wanting to be a burden, is an arrogant refusal to accept current circumstances and leaves all parties feeling belittled.
Time, I set my feet back down on the ground, and get real, I’d say.
Dreams illustrate the themes being played out in waking life. (Interpretation of dream messages is always personal, so keep that in mind while reading.) Last night, I dreamt about being in a store, within a mall, initially with a group of friends, and then on my own, staying behind because I felt that something needed to be finished.
When considering a thematic approach to dream messages, always look for ties to current life situations. Apart from a recent trip to a mall with a friend who was willing to push me, I have not gone mall shopping for over two years. So, the context (as with most metaphors) is not literal. Even when well, I prefer shopping out of need over browsing for recreation.
So my connection to shopping is that it is a necessary means to an end.
To what end am I “shopping” now, I might ask myself. Off the top of my head, I would say I am looking for some understanding of my current life situation. Who am I now that my profession, role within the family, and ability to socialize are gone? I am shopping for a new sense of self.
In the dream, I start out with a group of friends, which reflects a time when I was very socially active. Friends are mirrors that help us see ourselves, support our esteem and growth, and are often representative of our goals and aspirations. When I became ill, many people moved on, as they do in the dream. It is at the moment (in the dream) when I run into a former colleague, a man I admire for his commitment to others and the compassionate way in which he deals with students, parents, and others who come to him for guidance. Dreaming me was shocked to see that he is a shadow of his former self, moving lethargically and needing to be helped along by others. I want to hug him, but am overwhelmed by what I witness.
Even as I type this, I realize he is me: I was the compassionate teacher, always looking for a solution, mediating turmoil. This must be how my colleagues view me: someone they only barely recognize and no longer know how to relate to. It is certainly how I see myself.
In the dream, it is ego that lets everyone go on ahead, compelled to finish something up – intending to catch up later, but as in life, everyone is gone by the time I am ready to join in, and when I finally do, I am an awkward outsider. Story of my life. The question that arises for me is whether the dream is representative of my feelings of not belonging, or the reality of being a loner? I have never been afraid of letting go of the crowd to pursue individual interests – while gregarious and outspoken around others, I have a strong introspective impulse too. Maybe, I have just never reconciled my feelings with the reality of my actions?
What is it, I wonder, that I need to finish up? The setting for this part of the dream is the dressing room: the place where to try on outfits, privately, before going public. When I shop for clothes, I want something that is both stylish (fits in) and comfortable (puts me at ease). Not long ago, the doctor told me it was time to start socializing again – an important element in wellness, she advised. Last week, I heard from three people who have been out of my life for quite awhile, all of whom were unaware that I’ve been sick. It sent me into a bit of a panic.
“I am afraid that they are expecting me to be something I no longer am,” I explained to my therapist. “I can’t be that old person any more.”
Emotionally, I am vulnerable, and don’t feel as if I can handle further rejection. I am metaphorically hiding in the dressing room – waiting for a more confident self to emerge – coming to terms with the fact that I don’t like who I see when I look in the mirror, and none of the “clothes” I try on “fit”. I have not yet come to a place of acceptance, and it is holding me back.
I do catch up with the others in the dream, and my colleague is there, silent while his spouse does all the talking. She is talking about changing her identity (obviously a topic I’ve been dealing with) and when I say I can relate, she totally misreads me. I am caught off guard.
This reminds me of my attempts to socialize – the silent (almost invisible) disabled self, compensated for by my fore-mentioned gregariousness, who worries that others misread me.
Isn’t anyone else noticing how pathetic I am starting to sound?
Dreams also use humour to illustrate meaning and help us laugh at ourselves. The more I work on this message, the more I am seeing it: I take myself way too seriously.
After all, everyone shops. Not everyone misses out on life because they are obsessing in the dressing room! Damn!
I dream that I am sleeping and am awakened by the phone ringing. Half awake I hear Ric call me to say it is Ian on the phone – or I think that is what he said. I stumble from the bed to find a handset, past my daughter who is holding the line open (assuming she wants to listen in) and when I finally get the phone, the connection is bad.
“Will you be home tomorrow?” The voice asks. I strain to listen for an English accent. My cousin Ian lives in England.
“Yes.” I answer. I am always home, doesn’t he know that.
“I am sending you a red box,” he says. “You need to be there for the delivery.”
Immediately, I picture a large lift truck lowering a big, shiny, red box on my driveway. Why would he send me a gift, I wonder. It must be for the kids.
“Will you be coming too?”
“I will follow the day after. You do know who this is?”
“Yes,” I respond, although I really am not sure. I don’t want to appear ungrateful. “I look forward to seeing you then,” I say, quickly ending the call.
Then I start to panic. I hadn’t really known who was calling- might have been my cousin Ian, might not. Do I know another Ian? I have a vague recollection of someone I met up North once – someone undesirable – maybe dangerous. Have I just invited someone dangerous to my home – fallen for the “free gift” ploy?
I wake now for real.
Notes: This is a classic dream – a dream within a dream, not unlike Shakespeare’s “play within a play” – asking the existential question: What is reality? Is it all a dream?
I noted as soon as I woke up that my mind immediately went to the big red box, even though that was never stated. Is the dream saying something about my expectations? Do I always expect the biggest, brightest, shiniest, and set myself up for disappointment? Or is it demonstrating how the mind plays tricks and how gullible I am?
I also noticed the swing in the dream from excitement over the red box to fear that I had not protected myself: opened myself to danger. This is a classic me: second guessing myself.
Ian is a cousin with whom I have had little connection for many years. When I was younger, I loved the idea of him: a year older, handsome (looked like James Bond), super smart, and related to me! We corresponded from the time I was twelve and I went to see him at twenty-one, then he came here – there definitely was a crush going on. But then there was a falling out with the family, and Ian joined ranks against me, and that was that. It would be unlikely that he would call me, and even unlikelier that he would send a gift. So who does Ian represent? A part of myself that was once attractive, smart, and that I crushed on, but that turned against me, or appeared to? I was smart once – IQ 145 – and for a short while, I was proud of that, but then it became the source of torture and I turned my back on it, and now, with inflammation on the brain, it has turned it’s back on me (or so it seems). There is definitely a poor connection (as I look up every other word for spelling now that my mind fails me.)
“I’m sending you a red box.” This is the part that haunts me from the dream. What is the significance of a red box? Well, it’s a vessel, a container. It’s what is in the box that defines it. The box on its own is alluring, mysterious, and if meant for me, exciting. In the dream, I immediately think it must be for the children – children before self: a mother’s mantra. Why did I assume it was going to be big – it might be a small box, or a medium box, and faded red instead of bright and shiny. My mind went to the best case scenario (typical me) and then to the worst (also typical me). I tried to write about the big red box, but nothing really materialized, so I decided to wait. See what showed up the next day. And guess what? I did receive a red box!
Mid-day, my husband casually handed me a small (3 x 5) box with red trim and a red floral motif. It contained three hand made necklaces. He had won it for me at a golf tournament, but forgot to give it to me. (Me being me, it took me awhile to connect this to my dream.) I was in the middle of writing, and so thanked him dismissively, and pushed the box aside.
It wasn’t until later that I realized the connection, and heard the words from the communication again. What the “caller” was saying was :
“I am sending you a red box; you must be present to receive it.”
I received the red box, but was not present. I received a present from my husband, and dismissed it, instead of honouring the thoughtfulness of the gesture. I immediately sought him out and thanked him, with presence.
I’ve heard it said that Spirit works through each one of us, and that if we look for God in the day to day actions, S/He is there. I like to think the delivery of the red box was one of those moments in which synchronicity was a reminder that life is a Mystery, and there is always more to it than we see.
I dream it’s my first day back to work and I’m teaching at an elementary school, although the
day is structured like high school, with four periods. Period one goes okay, but then my second class is in another teacher’s room. I am feeling unprepared, disorganized and the class reflects this back to me: students out of their desks, mini-disasters happening and little learning going on. I am angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I realize that a planter has been knocked over and there is dirt on the floor near the teacher’s desk. In another corner, students have let a tap run and water is pooling. In my most authoritative voice, I command that the students stay and help me but as soon as the bell rings they are gone. Hard as I try I am not putting a dent into the mess, and I know the teacher is going to be angry. Do I stay and keep working to right the situation or move on to my next class? The bell rings again and I am already late, and I realize I have no idea where or what my class is anyway, so might as well continue cleaning. Turns out, I had third period prep, and I duck that problem.
The theme of returning back to work and being unprepared, or discovering it is more than I can handle, is common for me. It’s like an inner argument between my conditioned worker-self (“You can’t slack off”) and my current reality (on disability). Not being able to work goes against all my principles, upbringing, and ambitions. At the same time, there is no more fighting this illness, I am physically, mentally, and emotionally incapable of handling the demands of teaching. So what message might this dream be bringing me?
Dreams use themes, metaphors, or symbols as a means of communication. If I put an “as if” in front of the dream theme, I might get a better understanding of the meaning. It’s as I am trying to return to work without any preparation, such as lesson plans, or even time spent setting up classrooms and learning my schedule. That would be a nightmare! “Winging it” is not a good idea as a teacher – the ensuing chaos I experienced in the dream would be a reality. Students (and my stress threshold) respond better to a well-organized and planned out day. So what in my life feels this way – “unplanned” and “without knowledge of important details to help me plan ahead”?
The answer is easy – this disease. As much as I try to create a routine, and therefore, some predictability, I can never tell what will happen next. It is a nightmare. Living with chronic illness feels a bit like trying to clean one mess up while another is brewing elsewhere – I might be working on exercising and strengthening my muscles, when my stomach will kick back, or an unexpected excitement will throw off my sleeping patterns. I don’t have the stress of day to day teaching, however; the stresses imposed by illness are as real and disconcerting.
So, is the dream just helping me accept my condition? (My doctor who has suffered the same illness says she has similar dreams.) I like to think that dreams don’t just help us isolate the issues in our lives, they also offer alternatives for growth. What might be suggested by this recurrent dream?
Off the top of my head, I would say that the dream is saying: Don’t over commit yourself. This seems too obvious. What if I rewrite the dream? Maybe change it up so that I have more control? What would I do differently?
– I’d get all the details before agreeing to the assignment – the 5 w’s – who, what, where, when, why (and how!) I am learning to do this in my life, but often miss something – for example, my husband and I tried to go out for dinner a few weeks back. We went by cab, so I could be delivered to the front door, went early to avoid crowds, called ahead to ensure quick service, and pre-screened the menu to save time, but we did not count on the cab driver wearing strong cologne (I am extremely scent sensitive.) Overall though, all the planning did help and we had an enjoyable night out.
– Easing myself in would be better than throwing myself in. Visiting the school at first to see if I can even tolerate the sounds, sights, smells and other stimulation. Trial runs are a good idea. Our first time visiting Costco after a year of being housebound did not go well because we didn’t have an exit strategy. We both ended up angry. I can do a short visit to Costco – targeting certain aisles – but not the whole store.
– setting ground rules for others, as you would in a classroom. Sometimes I forget to tell friends what to expect and catch them off guard. One friend who offered to take me out for a tea was surprised when I wanted to return home after only a half hour – the coffee shop was way too noisy. Preparing others just makes sense all the way around.
– avoid others whose expectations I cannot meet – choosing not to put myself in a precarious situation. The “Carole” of the dream reminds me of a few women I have known who run a tight ship – I don’t need rigid, inflexible people in my life right now. Pleasing others is not a good way to use my energy, and attempting to please others who are “not please-able” just doesn’t make sense – at any time. This is probably the hardest lesson for me to get, and an important one.
Dreams use repetition and exaggeration to get their point across. At the moment, I am trying to learn to live differently – with health and healing as my priority. It is a way of being in the world that is counter to my conditioning, as mother, daughter, wife and teacher. I am a good girl (a 57-year-old good girl, mind you) and that means keeping the peace, rising to the occasion and not upsetting anyone in the process.
It is as if I’m getting up each day and going to work, without the preparation or necessary tools to do so. Accepting and adjusting to living with chronic illness (life-altering illness) is every bit as stressful and there are no guidelines or procedures to dictate the way.
Understanding the dream this way gives me new compassion for my situation.
I pay particular attention when animal symbolism shows up in my dreams, as animals operate on an instinctual level and the appearance of one can be telltale for how I am acting at the moment, or what is going on.
Please note that as with all symbols in dreams, there is no single interpretation – and personal connections/ associations are more valid than dream dictionary explanations – so use these cautiously. I have found it more useful to create my own dream dictionary, collecting symbols from my dreams and making my own associations.
Recently, I have been dreaming about spiders. Huge spiders! To further emphasize the importance of this symbol in my current life situation, I have had two spiders drop on me in the past week. (One of my teachers once told me this kind of synchronicity is the universe’s way of letting you know you’re on the right track.)
In order to begin to understand the significance of spiders for me, I need to look at all the possible meanings.
Personally, spiders have become a powerful symbol for me of overcoming my fears. From early childhood into my early 20’s I was arachnophobic. The thought of a spider in my surroundings would paralyze me and set me to screaming – embarrassing, but true. I knew this phobia was irrational, and also knew that this sort of thing, if I didn’t find a way to conquer it, could negatively affect my life going forward, and possibly be passed down to any children I might have, so I was determined to overcome it. So, I intentionally spent the night in a cobwebby room, where I knew spiders had free range. With adrenaline pumping, I willed myself
to stay put, eventually falling asleep in the wee hours of the morning. When I awoke two hours later – unscathed- I knew my fears had been ungrounded. I even went out and bought a pair of spiders earrings that wore as a reminder that fear truly is: False Evidence Appearing Real. Spiders and I now have a new relationship.
Knowing this, could the spiders showing up now be telling me to hang in there, this current state of ill health will pass, and all will be well? This could be one interpretation, when doing dream work, the idea is not to take the surface/ or ‘easy’ translation, but to dig a little deeper, until there is a greater ‘aha’.
Spiders have been central figures in children’s stories and rhymes, key players in horror films, and featured subjects of mythology. The fascination comes from their practice of weaving webs – such delicate artistry. Some see them as symbolic of creativity and writing (which could also apply to me, as I am in a creative period) and others as predators, maliciously setting the trap and ensnaring their innocent prey. So, in order to understand this current onslaught of spiders in my life, I need to dig a little deeper.
Setting, in dream work, is always an important clue. In the first dream, I am in my Uncle’s dining room – a place from my childhood – where I see a magnificent spider web which fills the whole room. I am mesmerized to see such a spectacle (spider in residence) when my uncle walks in and, totally unaware, walks into and destroys the web.
My Uncle’s home is a place I have not visited since a child, and which has particular significance at present as I am working on a novel based on my life, and presently at the part where I stay at my Uncle’s house. It is a time in my life in which there are many holes – why I am there, and what is happening to my parents and siblings while I am away. The dining room in his house has specific meaning, because that is the one place I felt accepted (at least by my uncle). By imitating Lily Tomlin, I could always make my Uncle laugh, which made me feel accepted – at the time. In retrospect, I now see my Aunt’s forced laughter and my cousins repulsion (I learned many years later that they all hated me). My sense of self was built up in that house and later shattered, just like the spider’s web. Maybe I need to investigate further what went on in that house. My Uncle was an alcoholic and I did learn later that his wife and children disapproved of his habits – could I have just personalized their attitudes? Could it be that their home, like mine, was also on fire at the time, and therefore, not a valid testimony to my loveabilty? I was so young and vulnerable the year that I was sent to live with them, and yet I hadn’t thought much about this affected my development. Was the spider gifting me this revelation? Interesting.
Last night, my house was invaded (in dream time) by several extremely large spiders – one with a bright red body. I was both fascinated and repelled – there are limits to what I will tolerate even now. In the dream, I am ill-equipped to deal with them, possessing only a spray bottle of Windex as a weapon. The spray does encourage a retreat – the spiders withdraw into a hole in the floor – but I am certain this isn’t a long term solution.
The themes of this dream are unwanted invaders, being caught off guard and ill-equipped to deal with the problem, and temporary reprieve. How does this thread tie into my current life?
Disability, and illness, has certainly invaded our home over the past eight years, and like most people, it has not been anything we have prepared for, so we have dealt with it as best we can. Currently, things have quieted down, but I am feeling that this is not a long term solution – and fear the return of further problems. Could the dream be helping me deal with my emotions, sort out my current fears?
The spiders are over-sized, and exaggeration is often a mechanism of dreams – drawing special attention to areas of importance.
If the spiders are representative of creativity and writing, then this has meaning too. I feel like my creative juices are in overdrive right now, and it is a little unnerving. I don’t have the energy to respond to every creative impulse, and fear I am losing focus on what is important – the novel – and spending to much time addressing all the other thoughts. Is the dream mockingly telling me that I can suppress creativity only so much before it will spring forth again?
One more way of considering the symbols in a dream is to personify them, becoming the symbol and owning it’s meanings with the “I am…” For this exercise, imagine that you are the symbol, in this case the spider, and describe yourself to an alien who absolutely no context for who or what you are. This means breaking down your physical appearance, role in life, relationships, and purpose. It helps if you have a skilled interviewer to do this, but can be effective if you are willing to be objective and follow it through. Look for the poem entitled “Spider Woman” to see the outcome of my exploration.
A Room of My Own
” I have a recurring image in my dreams of a house with two floors that I have either forgotten about or abandoned. Both have separate staircases, and while others are aware of the one set of stairs, the other is only known by me,” I tell my therapist. “I get the irony of having two stories hovering over me,” I add. “But haven’t really worked with it. The one floor has many bedrooms and bathrooms and feels overwhelming.”
“What’s on the other floor?”
“A single room, like an attic, that sits at the front of the house. A room with a view,” I joke.
“What’s in the room?”
“A lot of cobwebs, as if I haven’t been there for a long time, and only two pieces of furniture. I think that it represents my spiritual connection – a kind of sacred sanctuary that I have neglected.”
“I think that should be your homework,” she advises me. “Decide what you want to do with that room – create a visual of a room that brings you peace or whatever else you need to maintain equilibrium. I think its’ especially important at this time.”
It’s not that I disagree with her, but I find this exercise difficult. Born fifth of six children, I have seldom experienced a room of my own. Even after I left home, I had roommates, or husbands, then children, and the focus has been on compromise or pleasing others. What would a room of my own look like?
I picture myself back in the dream, in the room with many cobwebs, and in my mind’s eye that’s where I begin: cleaning away the cobwebs. I would paint the walls lavender, I decide: a soft, comforting colour, reminding me to be tender with myself. And I’d have three windows – one facing forward and two on the sides to create a cross breeze, so the wind would always blow and the thoughts that normally crowd my mind could follow the wind. And I’d have crisp, white lace curtains, to add a touch of delicacy to the room. There would be no window looking back.
One of the pieces of furniture is an old cedar chest that once belonged to my mother – her original hope chest. Battered on the outside from years of use and being moved frequently, the chest’s cedar interior remains pristine – aromatic and well-constructed. It reminds me of a time when I believed in magic and mystery – childhood fantasies of what the chest contained; although my mother always reassured it held nothing fancy, I liked to imagine otherwise.
The other item in the room is a Bentwood rocking chair. “Rocking is a comforting motion,” my therapist reminded me, “something mothers do with their babies.” “I still like to rock,” I agree. Why a Bentwood, I wonder?
Like my mother’s hope chest, my Bentwood rocker was the first thing I brought into a marital home. It symbolized my wishes for a cozy home life, and the children that would follow – a woman’s hopes and dreams. Why are they in this room? Is the dream telling me that it is important to hang on to one’s dreams – or at least one’s values? So much has happened throughout the years that I wonder if that’s possible. How many times does a woman get knocked down before she stops believing that family, harmony, and peace can exist?
I’ll trust my dream source and keep these two pieces of furniture. What else does this room need? Music, I instantly think, I need a source of music, and not just my cellphone playlist – I will not have a cellphone here – that’s for certain. No wi-fi either. I’ll need a word processor, and if I need to look something up, well I can go return to the life of electronics by leaving my room.
If I’m going to write here, I’ll need a desk, or one of those lounging sofas so that I can sit comfortably while I compose. Shelves for books, too, so I can surround myself with inspiration.
An easel. I’d like an easel. Not that I’ve painted in a very long time, but maybe I could dabble – it’s something I always wanted to learn to do. Sketch books, of course, and art supplies. I wouldn’t restrain myself. This is my room, after all.
I would need art on the walls – water colours of beautiful landscapes, or seascapes – or maybe works of my own creation – making sure the view out my
window is always a beautiful one.
A view. Whose heart doesn’t yearn for a view? I’d have a big old willow tree, constantly reminding me of long ago summers, whiling away lazy days in on the uppermost branches. And water too – although my cravings fluctuate from the laughing chorus of a trickling stream, to the lulling waves of the ocean – water is a must. No roads, or buildings. Just green as far as the eye can see, or fields of wildflowers – nature at its best.
I’m enjoying this exercise. Even as I write this, I can feel the tension in my mind easing, and the possibilities singing inside me. A place of peace, of sanity, and restoration. A safe place where I can explore my creativity or just sit and soak in the beauty and tranquility. A place where time stands still and there are no disruptions. A kind of heaven.
Next step: Who would invite in this room with me? Hmm, more contemplation needed.
What would your room look like?
* * *
I prayed last night, not a long, convoluted prayer, laced with begging and negotiation, but a simple prayer, resurrected from a more innocent time:
“Now I lay me down to sleep….”
It was a prayer of desperation, wrought with the agony of meaningless existence,
suffering and disconnection –a void of body, soul, and mind. I prayed out of need to sleep and a yearning for release.
I prayed last night and when welcoming sleep overcame me, dreamed. I slept and I dreamt, awakening with a sense of renewal – the images of the night tugging at the corners of my consciousness like beckoning awareness, pleading for my perusal.
What if those dreams were answers; a cryptic response from an intelligence more enlightened by objectivity, compassionate and forgiving? What if my prayers were heard and answered? What messages would they bring?
I decided to view them as conversations with a Higher Force. Here is what emerged:
Me: God, it feels like I am standing on the edge of an ocean, the ground below me shifting even as I write, and it is overcast, and while the lapping water is calm, it is also ominous, because I cannot see the horizon – there is no indicator of what is to come. I feel alone, God, and even when I come upon a flock of others, I am an outsider, and unintentional intruder, and if someone does see me and reach out to me, it is to mock me; or abuse me.
God: When have you felt this way before?
Me: Standing on uncertain ground – many times. I am old enough to know there is always a horizon even if I can’t see it, but I can’t shake this feeling of not belonging. The scene in this dream takes me back to adolescence, when I crushed on a boy, who played at returning the feelings then turned on me – I was literally monsooned with bullying because of him.
God: You were caught in a vulnerable position, yet you did not drown.
Me: No. I survived. We moved away, but I was never able to shake the trauma.
God: Look to the blue bird in the dream. You might find a key there.
I think back to the beautiful aqua blue bird with the orange belly that, in the dream, sees me and comes to me. I address it:
Me: You are so beautiful, bird, and stand out in the crowd of your peers, so why did you notice me?
Bird: Alone and looking so desolate – what a target. You looked like you could use a friend.
Me: Maybe I could. Surely. Not someone like you: you are beautiful and don’t have to try to make friends.
Bird: Ah, yes, but I am bored. Look around me – everyone else is so dull, common.
Me: Compared to you, I suppose.
Bird: Now, you. You are fresh meat. I spotted a bit of fun, and I went for it.
Me: You made me feel very uncomfortable, and then you shit on me. How is that fun?
Bird: Isn’t that what you wanted?
Me: To be marked out? Made a fool of? Why would I want that?
God: No one with any self-worth would. Have you checked your sense of self- worth lately?
Me: Touché! It’s never been very good. Is that why I am always attracted to the ones that stand out? Am I shallow enough to think that who I am with can make me feel better about myself?
God doesn’t answer. She doesn’t have to.
Dream fragment #2
Me: God, I feel as if I’m about to give an important presentation, only I can’t find the right clothes to wear. I am running around between my present state of temporary lodging and places I’ve lived in the past, and no matter where I go, I cannot pull one suitable outfit together.
God: You are not comfortable in your own skin?
Me: No. Can’t say as I’ve been so. This is a bit like the last dream theme, isn’t it?
God: A bit. Tell me about your presentation. How do you feel about that?
Me: Fine. Good. It is something I feel passionate about, and am excited to share. I am confident that it will go well.
God: If only you find the right thing to wear?
Me: Sounds petty doesn’t it?
God: A little. Do you always focus on the trivial to detract you from your purpose?
Me: Ouch! Okay, maybe, but isn’t it true that first impressions make a difference? Won’t I throw off my audience if I don’t look my best?
God: Maybe for a moment your attire will amuse them, and then they will focus on what you have to say. Is your goal to please your audience esthetically, or stir their minds and imaginations?
Me: Definitely to tug on their heartstrings – appeal to their minds. I feel I have something important to share.
God: Let’s look at the dream again. Where is all your time spent?
Me: Racing through the closets of my past. Looking for something of value that I can don.
God: Are you successful?
Me: Not really. I even borrow from others, but what works for them doesn’t work for me.
God: Do you think it would be better to work with what you have now, and focus on the present-ation?
Me: Ha, ha. Very good. Good point. Quit digging around in the past. Hard to do, when I am writing a memoir, but the point about balance is a good one.
Dream fragment #3
Me: It feels as if I am working in isolation, underground, unseen and unappreciated, my only ward an odd Benjamin Button creature – and old man in a baby’s body, who blabbers in some foreign language.
God: Can you bridge those feelings to your current life?
Me: Of course. I am housebound, and the only work I do is writing this blog, which only a handful of people see.
God: What is represented by the man/child?
Me: My disease, maybe – it is a strange phenomenon that few doctors know about, and even they have little information. I am told to pay attention to my body, but its language is very garbled, and I feel older than my years, yet still young at heart. Should I talk to the symbol? I started to in my dream.
God: Go ahead.
Me: Little man, I cannot understand you when you speak. Do you speak English?
Little man looks at me considering for a moment, then blurts out: What am I doing here? I am a carpenter!
Me: Well, I am assuming you are here in my care because you are such an oddity. I work with misfits – like myself. What do you mean you are a carpenter?
Little man’s look is critical: Misfits, it says, I am not a misfit. I am an accomplished tradesman.
Me: Sorry. It’s just that you are kind of odd.
Little man: So I don’t fit the mold. Who’s judging? I just want to get back to work. First, I need to get out of this place.
Me: I hear you, but where would you go?
Little man: Back to my workshop. How did I get here in the first place?
Me: I imagine you were placed here because they didn’t know what else to do with you.
Little man: Who is they?
Me: School authorities. They determine classroom and teacher allocations according to a set of criteria.
Little man: And you’re saying I ended up here with you.
Me: Looks like it.
Little man: Alone?
He looks around. The environment is clean, but sterile. Not a lot of resources to work with. How am I supposed to work here?
Me: I know how you feel.
He looks me up and down and then glances down at his shriveled, naked body: I am sure you do not.
Me: I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m just trying to figure out how we came to be in this predicament and how I can help you out.
Little man: Well, you and I both know I am not who “the authorities” think I am. That’s a start. Now, you just have to convince them I don’t belong here, and I’ll be on my way.
Me: I am not sure that is how this works. This is my dream, after all, and I think you are supposed to be here to bring me a message, or offer some transformative perspective.
Little man smiles for the first time: You mean like this. The pint-sized figure suddenly stands upright, unfolding into a tall handsome young man with shocking blue eyes.
Me: Are you mocking me?
Little (now big) man: Should I be?
Me: It’s just that I don’t know whom to trust anymore. And you are starting to remind me of the bird in my first dream.
Little (now big) man: Why should you have to trust me? Aren’t I supposed to earn that?
Me: Well, yes, of course. (I blush. It is such an obvious statement, but not always true for me – I tend to trust others too easily.)
Little (now big) man: Appearances are often confusing, and seldom reliable.
Me: You know, sometimes I can find the greatest things about people that others might not see, and then I confuse that greatness with superiority and I set myself up for disappointment. Wow! That was an ‘aha’ moment! I need to learn to see the greatness and appreciate the dark side also. It would help me be less vulnerable.
God: What if you thought of each person you met as a reflection of yourself?
Me: Really? You mean both the good and the bad?
God: I prefer the beautiful and the evolving.
Me: Oh, right – not so judgmental. Interesting. Can we move on to the next dream?
God: If you like.
Dream fragment #4
Me: I feel as if I have observed and absorbed the possibility of great teaching but that I am missing the essential ingredient, whatever this ‘banana education’ is that is mentioned in the dream.
God: Well, let’s look at the two terms separately, as they really are an odd combination.
Me: Okay. Well, bananas happen to be a personal aversion of mine. My mother always sent blackened bananas in my lunch bag along with my tuna sandwiches and the smell would overwhelm me and make me gag. I’ve never like bananas since then – even to this day I feel sick if I accidentally get banana in a baked good or smoothie. My son is violently allergic to them.
God: So you are saying that bananas represent something vile and disgusting to you?
Me: Basically. Education, on the other hand is the foundation for life and progress, as far as I am concerned. It is the very thing that can set a child free from a life of poverty or abuse. Education can unlock doors, open imaginations, and create a basis for lifelong learning. It is essential: a catalyst for change.
God: So pair the two. What in your life is transformative – a catalyst for change – and yet difficult to swallow at the same time?
Me: My illness! It is not something I would have chosen for myself, and yet it is an education.
God: Not all things are as they appear, remember.
Me: Banana education! In everything there is a gift waiting to be discovered!
Wow, so much to unravel in such short dreams! I notice that I skimmed over the bit about the old man/baby being a carpenter. Hard to miss the biblical significance there. Ah well, every dream has multiple layers of meaning. Time for me to dream again.
* * *
Dreams speak to our non-rational self: our emotional, instinctual, conditioned unconscious, and experiential selves. They reach beyond our carefully construed ego self to bring new insight and understanding with the purpose of positive growth. While they speak with the language of metaphor and symbols, using a symbol dictionary limits the interpretation, and is, therefore, not recommended. The best way to look at dreams is to break down their elements and look for the associations that can best be bridged with our outer lives, remembering that it is the symbology, and not the literal translation that has relevance.
Let me demonstrate using my own dream from last night:
I am seated at a round table with my ex husband and his wives. The occasion, it seems, is the funeral of my present husband. The three of them have just returned from a cruise (their first) and were so taken with the experience that they have bought me a gift certificate from a travel company so that I can go with them the next time. I am taken aback: not only is this unexpected, it is highly inappropriate given all the circumstances. Jay’s sister-in-law (who we jokingly call his other wife) is quite animate and friendly, as is my ex. His wife does not look at me. I examine the gift certificate. Is is for just under $900, and from a travel agent who is on the verge of bankruptcy, so not guaranteed. I mention this and they say that is why we have to act now. I see my husband, bed-ridden in the next room and tell them he is not even dead yet. This is all so wrong. The women leave but my ex stays. He hands me some pieces of clothing that his wife wants me to have. They are used, but obviously washed – red satin pjs with hearts on them. The first two garments are size small. “I have never been a small” I tell him, handing them back. The last piece looks large enough, but is just the top, no bottoms. “Accept that, at least!” he commands. I do and as he leaves I wake up feeling the ludicrousness of this dream.
1. Setting – Where the dream takes place is a good starting point. When considering setting, notice whether it is familiar or unfamiliar. If unfamiliar, draw out any associations or memories that the images conjure.
My dream takes place indoors, at a round table
– the round table makes me think of Arthur and the knights of the round table. (I’ll come back to this symbol later.)
– I had table dreams regularly when going through my divorce, while I was negotiating a settlement, as in what both parties brought to the table. (Dreams often use puns to illustrate a point).
– indoors might indicate something inside myself.
– this is supposed to be the occasion of my current husband’s funeral, and the setting appears to be more ‘back at the house’ than the funeral parlour, so the indication is that it has to do with something in my own home, or inside myself.
– time of day seems to be late afternoon, early evening – if there were other mourners, they are gone. Age-wise, I am in the later years.
2. Actions – the movement in dreams can help us understand progress, or see where things are going.
The action takes place indoors, at a round table, with three other people, then moves to the sitting area with one and eventually alone.
Associations or thoughts – Three’s a crowd: the feeling of being ganged up on. (this draws an aha for me. I am feeling ganged up on by my friends and family who keep asking me why I haven’t had an MRI.) Then sitting face-to-face with my ex – facing the issue full on, and then alone – A reminder that in the end we are all alone – it is a place we need to be most comfortable in.
3. Themes – It sometimes helps to insert an ‘as if’ here:
It’s as if my ex-husband and his wives have offered to take me on a cruise – this would be totally inappropriate under any circumstances, for so many reasons, and reminds me of the time when we first separated, and he wasn’t paying support but offered to take me on a $350 balloon ride for my 40th birthday – it was so inappropriate as I needed the money for food and shelter at the time. Is there something here about how others are not always sensitive to what you need in the moment? This certainly ties in with the pressure I’m getting from others to get another opinion. It is their agenda, not mine.
It’s as if I am holding ceremony for my current husband and he is not actually dead yet.
Big aha here! I worry about my husband all the time: his eating habits, lack of exercise, and alcohol consumption. I am burying him, before he is even dead. Boy, I need to let this one go!
It’s as if I am reluctantly being handed a gift (the clothing from my ex-s wife): not sure about the connection here. Will have to give it more thought. Is someone offering me a back-handed gesture of help? Reminds me of a term my father used : watch out for Philadelphia lawyers- meaning be wary of people who have nothing invested in your issue.
4. People – Keep in mind that the people in dreams are also symbols, so consider the character traits and behaviours of the people represented. Gestalt therapy suggests that all elements of a dream are parts of the self.
Ex-husband – narcissitic, anti-social, self-serving – what part of me is this? Certainly my fearful self – when cornered or attacked, I will defend me at all costs. How am I negotiating with this part of myself?
Ex-husband’s sister-in-law: outgoing, Russian bride, in an abusive marriage – what part of me is this? The reason we call her the ‘other wife’ is that she spends more time in my ex’s house than her own given the circumstances of her marriage. She is the twin sister of my ex’s wife, the more outgoing of the two, but is making poor choices in her life. This reminds me of my own mother who could never leave my father despite the abuse that went on in their marriage. I am aware of the baggage I carry as a result of my parents’ marriage. Good to be reminded that I bring that to the table.
The Russian bride: bitchy, demanding, inflexible: Yes, my ex married a mail order bride (I always joke that he had to go all the way to Siberia to replace me). She is the anti-thesis of me – a fighter, who stands up for her rights, and won’t back down no matter what – this is me when backed into a corner. This was me the night before last when Thor and I had a fight about his health. I lashed out with a vengeance. Like the wife in the dream, I couldn’t look at myself after, I felt so ashamed.
Thor – in the dream he is sick and dying, or originally thought dead. Thor is driven, thoughtful, giving, a caretaker and provider. He is all the parts of myself that I like. Have I given up on them? I am not able to be caretaker or provider right now which causes no end of grief. But, like Thor in the dream, I am not dead – just sick in bed. The end is not here!
5. Symbols: Dreams, like symbols, have layers of meaning, some archetypal, some societal or cultural, but mostly they are personal. It is important to examine personal significance.
Table – for me, the table has historically represented negotiation, as in “What do you bring to the table?” This table is round, which reminds me of the Arthurian tales in which the table was round to signify equality – no head of the table. Round tables at school allow for more communal discussions.
Cruise – Thor and I love to cruise, but have been unable to because of our illnesses. Going on a cruise is what we hope to do as soon as I am able to travel. It offers comfort, luxury, and a variety of destinations, as well as lots of entertainment – all without having to move from hotel to hotel. The dream offer of a cruise holds no allure. It is my husband I want to travel with – in the dream and in life. (An aha moment).
Used pjs – in the dream they signify a peace offering, albeit not well thought out, almost as if last minute. Pajamas are associated with the bedroom, and intimacy. That the Russian bride would offer me pjs is curious. Things that are odd in dreams often hold important messages – I will come back to this.
6. Feelings – this is important. Our ego tends to filter emotional responses and regulates them so that we behave appropriately, however; the dream time allows for expression of anger, remorse, fear, etc. Understanding our underlying feelings can help us to make healthier decisions, and heal old wounds.
disbelief , incredulousness – where am I feeling this in my outer life? Not sure.
incensed – the feelings here are for my ex-husband, and while it has been many years since our divorce I suspect I am still harboring some resentment for the way the marriage ended and how he treated me in the aftermath. When I lashed out at Thor, it was undoubtedly with some of this leftover resentment.
7. Questions: what questions arise from the examination of the dream?
Why would I be entertaining my ex and his wives? Or more importantly – How am entertaining my ex and his wives (parts of self)? How have I enabled self-centered, explosive, foreign aspects of myself to persuade me? How have I allowed myself to even contemplate fulfilling my dreams without my husband ( I confess the thought of divorce did cross my mind – knee-jerk reaction).
Why pajamas? Which leads to another thing to consider:
8. What is odd? All dreams are odd, admittedly; but what is odd even for the dream? Dreams often use exaggeration to get our attention, so it may just be something that appears “over the top”.
The red pajamas.
An exercise to do here, would be to describe the object, as if to an alien, who has no concept of the item, its use, its origin, or social application.
These pajamas are used for night wear; women wear them to sleep in, or for lounging at night, usually when company is not present. These are red, satiny, so light weight and comfortable on the skin. They are fashioned after a man’s shirt, with matching pants, typically, although the only one that fits me is missing it’s partner. They have long sleeves, and button up at the front. They are modest.
After having exhausted the description possibilities, the next step is to take out the references to the object and replace it with “I am”.
So: I am used for night wear; for sleeping, or for lounging at night, not when company is present. I am red, and satiny, and light weight. I am comfortable. I am fashioned after a man…..etc.
Note: Work with a dream until you reach an ‘aha’ or breakthrough. Always work until you have a positive outcome: a resolution, a healing, a new insight that inspires positive movement.