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.