The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the psyche, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness may extend. Carl Gustav Jung
Night after night, while we sleep, our unconscious makes up stories and projects them onto the screen in our mind. Whether we recall our dreams is irrelevant to their reality. Without our conscious permission, our unconscious spins out dramas, science fiction thrillers, comedies, epic adventures, murder mysteries, strange mystical messages - projected in full ecstatic color or brooding noir suspense. Our nightly theater - popcorn omitted - is drawn from our own personal past, present and future, as well as from the vast realm of the collective unconscious - way bigger than our personal stories. The collective unconscious is the land of archetype and myth, gods and goddesses, saints and sinners, the forgiven and the damned. Pretty amazing stuff.
Where does the dream come from? What does it mean? We're not likely to journey far into the dreamscape without encountering the work of Dr. Carl Jung, the pioneer Swiss psychiatrist and premier authority on understanding the puzzling inner regions of the psyche. Jung suggests that our psyche - the deepest parts of our-self, our soul - is guided by inner wisdom, the healing transcendent function, which leads us toward becoming all we can be. Paying attention to, and working with our healing inner direction, ultimately grows us into a complete human being - body and mind, heart and soul.
So what are dreams? Most of us are curious about them. And...most of us feel a little weird about them. Dreams are sort of freaky. Mysterious. So otherworldly sometimes, they don't feel manageable or safe. Is there anything to be afraid of? Nothing except believing we are entirely exceptional. So much so, we ought to go out and start a group that revolves around our advanced experiences and teaching. Jung calls such fantastical imagining ego inflation. We're all remarkable. Dreams are a gift...for our personal growth.
I'll admit that in spiritual circles, mystical prophesies are often revealed through dreams (remember Moses?). And with the edge-state conditions in the world most of us are having doozies. For the time being anyway, let's agree that our mysterious dreams are not suggesting we're the Next Great Prophet. Are you with me?
This journey towards wholeness which our dreams lead us toward is pretty simple, actually. But like most self-improvement things that hook us, dedication and commitment are required. First, we have to remember the dream. Just as we set an exercise or any lifestyle program into motion by imagining our ideal selves, we recall dreams by making a plan and putting our back into it.
Profound and practical, dream work is not an effortless task. When I first began dreamwork for myself - and now when I suggest dream work - most everybody says, "I don't dream." Then it happens. If we're curious enough to go along with the idea that we might-for-real-actually dream, and edgy enough to purchase a journal, which we place beside our bed with the mindset of recording the dream in the journal (IF it comes, of course)...we need to prepare to have our mind blown. Like all good friendships, our unconscious thrives on attention. Usually we - the non-dreamer - will be shocked by the flood of dream material. And that first recalled dream is usually a big-time zinger. The likes of which we may be *working* on our whole life.
I'm still amazed, entranced and suitably horrified by the first dream I recorded some thirty years ago: A yellow jacket and red wasp are building nests on the side porch of my house. An extra room I didn't even realize was there. Yeah. Intense. Who wants buzzy, stinging things anywhere close to them? I felt highly motivated to do the work of Active Imagination and allow that story to evolve into a teaching experience, through the guidance and help of a Spiritual Guide invited into the transformative process. The experience vividly altered my belief about reality...healed broken relationships...transforming my inner life into a healing sanctuary.
While dreams sometime give us a clear message, dream information is shrouded in puzzling symbol and images. Unraveling mysteries hidden in the dream takes time and patience, and makes a CSI, True Detective out of you and me.
Once we're written the dream, to crack the dream code we can start by asking questions. Such as: How is this situation like my life? Where are there similar relationships in my life? Who do these dream characters remind me of? When did something like this ever happen? Is it happening now? What is the dream telling me about it? Journalistic questions - even the scientific approach - framed by who, what, when, where and how, can deliver showy insights.
For instance, how about this dreamer's dream: I'm riding down a street from the back seat of a car. The driver doesn’t know the way to our destination. He steers us down a dark alley that dead ends at a high brick wall.
When asked, “How is this like your life?” the dreamer realized after talking about it that HE - his life - was hitting a brick wall and he'd been stuck here for a while. The most shocking part: He hadn't realized that's where he was. As the dream showed, sitting in the back seat and allowing someone else to drive emphasized his powerless predicament. From this insight, the dreamer began problem-solving and eventually got out of the box he had unconsciously built around himself.
Questioning the meaning of a dream is powerful. To get answers we don’t need to restrict dream work to only a writer's method. There is art, and dramatization, and dialogue, and then there is Active Imagination - dreaming the dream forward while we're awake - and on, and on. The solutions for solving dream riddles are as creative as we are. What we're after is insight. The AhHa experience that makes us aware of something we were blind to, unconscious about, a path opening somehow that we never would see if we didn't pay attention to the smart and often quirky, funny information the dream delivers. Humor, more than serious communication, is often the most brilliant because when we laugh we are the most open to new thought. But you know this already. Don't you?
Once we're inside the insightful Inner Door and are walking around in the unconscious, something miraculous happens. If you've done dream work, shamanic journeying, meditation, or trance work of any kind, you know what I'm talking about. The mystery takes over. We're dreaming the stuff of fiction. And like fiction, the plot seldom leads where we supposed it would go.
Home is behind...The world ahead...And there are many paths to tread..Through shadow...To the edge of night...Until the stars are all alright...Mist and shadow...Cloud and shade...All shall fade...All shall fade.
J. R.. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings