When the lights go out, you slip into something more comfortable for your nightly blind date. Who will you meet in your dreams tonight? Cozy under the covers, we surrender our daily roles and concerns to dive deeply and boldly into our feelings and memories in dreams. What can we learn about ourselves and our relationships from our dreams?
“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each others’ dreams, we can be together all the time.”
Cupid and Psyche, Thorvaldsen
The art of relationship is one of the most creative acts each of us engages in. Some dimensions of the self are experienced only through our relationships with our mates, friends, children and even opponents. The dance of relationship reverberates in the soul offering opportunities to reinvent our self and become a more balanced and whole human being. The coniunctio, or sacred marriage, is one of the concepts from the ancient art of alchemy Carl Jung applied to the psyche. For Jung, this marriage was an internal union on the journey to wholeness – the path of individuation which demands we become more conscious human beings.
Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”“
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
Jung discovered dreams are essential guides on the sometimes rocky road of individuation. While we’re on that road, relationship scenarios sometimes have us tossing and turning while dreaming and scratching our heads while awake. Here are a few examples:
WARNING – HAZARD AHEAD!
In sleep the curtains come down on all the external stimulation of our busy lives and, in that quiet stillness, the dreamer has a front row seat in the Theater of the Unconscious Mind.
“Dreams can betray the secret. Most crises have a long incubation, only the conscious mind is not aware of it.”
Kathy had just become engaged to Sam when her blissful union was disturbed by nightmares that featured her beloved Sam misbehaving with a bad case of the roving eye. Kathy would awaken in a panic and soon these dreams triggered a tsunami of angst. Even if it was “only a dream,” Kathy worried that these deliveries from the unconscious to her mind’s inbox were actually a “sign” of Sam’s fading devotion. Although the dreams defied everything she knew about Sam sometimes they prompted a fight between them. During dream work Kathy began to ask herself this question: “Is this really about him or is it all about me?”
Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”
Kathy was offered this question that is useful for any dream: Does this dream seem to reflect a current challenge or choice in my life? In response to the question, Kathy wisely wrote this in her dream journal: “It’s like my dreamer has been whispering in my ear ‘Hey, you’re heading into a lifelong commitment with Sam. It’s important to consciously face the part of myself that has been insecure most of my life.”
Kathy realized it was her internal critic and not Sam that was cheating her out of fulfillment in love. Everyone has a team of inner voices and one of Kathy’s had insisted for decades that she was never quite “good enough.” Although she now had a devoted lover externally she still did not fully believe internally that she was worthy of love. On the cusp of commitment, her dreams were a warning not about Sam but about making peace with that critical inner voice so it didn’t undermine her future with Sam. After tending to these dreams, Kathy realized she had turned a corner in her life and was ready to confidently move forward with Sam. As Jung would advise, an important step towards happiness in the external union of marriage is a reconciliation, or inner union, between aspects of our self that are in conflict.
STILL DREAMIN’ OF YOU
“All days are nights to see till I see thee. And nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.”
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 43
Dreaded dreams of “The Ex!” are some of the most disturbing dreams. Just when you thought you were over them, the one you once hoped was your dream lover is now stalking you like a zombie in your dreams.
Frida Kahlo’s “The Dream”
By day you’ve been moving on but, by night, an under-the-covers part of you is quietly re-hashing any unfinished business with your ex. Persistent “Ex” dreams can stir you to wonder if you should track and tweet to rekindle the flame. But chances are something in your life now is simply reminding you of that prior relationship in the service of a better chapter next time for Life’s Little Book of Love.
We’re attracted to people who offer life experiences quite different from what we could create solely on our own whether it’s more excitement or more comfort. Sometimes we’re divided about what we want – is it more comfort or excitement? Can we have both? Can we marry the opposites at war within us as Jung advised?
“Electric Beach” sculpture by Rudy Autio
For most of his love life, Kirk was attracted to a colorful parade of creative but troubled lovers who brought emotional chaos and even financial loss into his life. Like a heat-seeking missile Kirk was now feeling driven toward an impetuous musician. But he soon experienced a flood of puzzling, erotic dreams about his recent ex-lover, who was his ex for a very good reason. Kirk’s unconscious mind was setting out the orange cones of caution to remind him of past choices so he wouldn’t repeat them.
Dreams often reveal to us our unfulfilled dreams from daily life. Kirk was offered these questions about the dreams of his ex: Could these dreams reflect my heart’s desire? How would I live differently if I choose to honor this desire of my heart?
While working with his dreams, it dawned on Kirk that his attraction to these creative but unreliable types was an attraction to his own unfulfilled creative life that he didn’t dare pursue. Sometimes an erotic dream reveals a desire to possess a quality of the lover’s rather than the actual lover. Kirk expressed this: ”I’m really the unreliable one. Sure, I’m Mr. Reliable at my boring job but I’ve unreliable with myself. I’ve left behind my creative dreams for a false sense of security. I’ve felt my artsy lovers have threatened my security and wasted my time. But I need to rely on myself to fulfill my creative dreams. And it took my nighttime dreams to tell me that!”
When Kirk decided to stop repeating the same behavior expecting a different outcome his lust for the musician fizzled. His nighttime dreams had awakened a new dream for his daily life, pursuing his creative dreams. Not long afterwards, he met Mari and the two of them built a successful creative venture together.
A cheaper and more satisfying option to hiring a personal coach is to listen to your Dreamer. When a dream figure provokes a strong response within you, either attraction or repulsion, a useful question to ask is this: What if my life was more like that?
Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, Hokusai, 1814
“MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL…”
“Dreams generally point to our blind spot. They never tell us what we already know…the trouble with interpreting your own dreams is that you can’t see you own back.”
Marie-Louise von Franz
The poet Rumi said “You cannot see yourself without a mirror; Look at the Beloved. He is the brightest mirror.” One viewpoint among dream enthusiasts is that the characters appearing in our nightly dream theater can be viewed as a reflection of ourselves, a snapshot of our soul. Sometimes these nightly selfies are quite revealing.
Mirror, mirror on the wall…who’s starring in my dream, after all? You, of course, in all your miraculous manifestations! As the poet Walt Whitman mused, “I contain multitudes.” And so do you. In Dream Discovery you learn that, if you mistake a mirror for a window, you’re looking outward when you could benefit by looking inward.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” Carl Jung
Picasso’s “Girl Before A Mirror”
One night Monica had a dream that startled her awake. This is the part that really upset her about the dream: “My sister sat in my favorite chair and it bust into flames!”
Monica revealed the wisdom of her disturbing dream using the Dream Discovery™ approach here at My Dream Life. Carl Jung created Active Imagination, a method that encourages the unconscious to reveal itself by using the imagination to give it form. The technique of “Dream Re-Entry” is the form of Active Imagination that essentially brings a dream to life in your present experience. That is why it’s called Dream Re-Living™ at My Dream Life.
To bring your dreams to life in the present moment practice using the present tense when telling a dream. One of the first questions to ask yourself about any dream experience is “How do you feel in the dream?” Monica found her answer to this question disturbing. Using the present tense, she said, “I’m laughing! My sister is on fire and I’m just howling with laughter.“
Another basic question to ask about a dream experience is “What action are you taking or not taking? What choices are you and others making in the dream?” To this question Monica responded, “I’m doing nothing to help! That’s not like me. I would NEVER…!”
To understand a dream image, you can get down to the basics by asking this question: Imagine you’re telling someone from another planet about a dream image and they ask ‘What is that?’ Describe what it is as simply as you can, as if this person has no idea what it is. Monica‘s reply about the chair in her dream: “A chair is something you sit on. It’s just there for you to sit on. That is it’s only purpose.”
Next, move on with specific personal associations. Monica was asked, is there anything particular about this chair? “Actually its my favorite, old easy chair,” was Monica‘s response. Can you stretch your imagination for a moment and describe it as a personality? What are its unique qualities? Monica replied, “It’s comfortable but worn out.”
Monica was asked to trust her imagination even more: “Do you have anything in common with this chair?” Monica began to smile and nod as she revealed “I’m pretty worn out from feeling taken for granted and sat on!” During Dream Re-Living Monica was asked if she’d like to experiment with giving her dream chair a voice. She responded laughing,“Do NOT sit on me!”
Monica was new to Dream Discovery™ but quickly realized the soon-to-be toast chair in her dream is a mirror of herself as very easy going, comfortable and accommodating. This was the case in the relationship dynamic with her sister, who was in the dream, but also with other people. Monica revealed she sometimes felt “sat on” like some familiar, worn out chair instead of a person with feelings and needs. Monica admitted she was often secretly irritated by people who freely act in more assertive and direct manner because she was so emotionally invested in being “always nice.” But underneath the comfy cushions, Monica was actually smoldering in a passive-aggressive way. Her “comfortable but worn out” dream chair contained a fiery energy she actually wanted to express.
While working with this dream, Monica acknowledged the absurdity of trying to be “always nice.” Now she uses a personal motto “The Chair Has Spoken!” to playfully remind herself to activate the fiery energy she discovered in her dream.
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” Carl Jung
Poet Robert Bly used to tell the story of how as children we assume we must hide “in the bag” anything we think people we care about won’t accept in us. We struggle to carry that bag with us throughout our lives but we forget what’s in there. We’re offered an opportunity to remember what’s hiding in the bag when our attention is riveted to something in another person that provokes strong feelings in us, either attraction or repulsion.
Jung called the aspects we’ve hidden in our bag and attributed to “the other” the Shadow. Dreams reveal to us how to reclaim what we’ve disowned and projected onto others. This process frees immense energy for ourselves and helps us acknowledge more of our own humanity and that of everyone else.
Cupid and Psyche, Canovaa
Dreams look inside our bag. When Monica looked inside her bag, she decided to trust herself more to authentically express her feelings. Kirk discovered his creativity. Kathy reclaimed more self-worth.
If you look inside your bag, you may see the stranger who is you and discover you can“give back your heart to itself,” as this poet expresses.
“Love After Love” by Derek Walcott
The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the others’ welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows your heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel you own image from the mirror.
Sit, Feast on your life.
Got your Dream Discovery Workbook? It’s a guided dream journal! Find out more here: DREAM DISCOVERY WORKBOOK: A GUIDED DREAM JOURNAL.
Dream Circles offer fun and accessible opportunities to learn about dreams with the synergy and support of a small group of dreamers like yourself allied with a professional mentor. Individual dream consultations are also offered at My Dream Life. For more information: CONTACT MY DREAM LIFE
All photographic art by Ahmet Unver, L’Officiel Turkey
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Dream Mentor & Dream Blog Author