Dreaming is a pathway into the mysteries of our psyche. Dreams and dream analysis help us establish an illuminated relationship with our unconscious. Our relationship with our unconscious is important as our unconscious is often in the driver’s seat affecting many aspects of our life – even if we don’t realize it. Our conscious mind may be, at times, in the backseat as our unconscious emotions, drives and impulses take over. Dr. Carl Jung, a brilliant dream expert, teaches us that the unconscious mind is a powerful internal force that must be responded to and respected or it can flood us – resulting in a feeling of being overwhelmed by our own inner thoughts and feelings. When the psyche is not reckoned with, it may express itself through a persistent variety of physical and mental symptoms that we have difficulty understanding. Tuning into our dreams is a way to develop a relationship with our unconscious; to listen carefully to the messages we receive in our dreams.
Our dreams are helpful in many ways. When we lift the shadowy veil between the conscious mind and the unconscious, we enter into a relationship with our psyche and soma that helps amplify our awareness and understanding of ourselves. Jung viewed our unconscious as an inner spiritual teacher; he delineated the functions of the psyche, one being a guide – a voice of the Self. We don’t have to seek direction repeatedly from a spiritual master or teacher as we have inner guidance as well. Our dreams give us direction and clarity during times of confusion, revealing possibilities we may not have consciously considered.
Dreams reveal deeper conflicts, unexpressed thoughts and feelings that reside ‘underground’. Our dreams offer us a rich sensibility about our lives. A dream may illuminate an important creative idea; it is common knowledge that inspiration and discovery of a critical piece that solved a challenging problem came to the inventor in a dream. Dreams can provoke us in many ways, as important scenes are played out and emotions are revealed. We receive guidance from another level of consciousness that gives us access to our deepest Self. Dreams may offer solace, support and inner direction. Another function of dreams is to balance our external ego identifications by offering a balancing opportunity. If we tend toward grandiosity in our daily life, our dreams may reflect our inadequacy issues. Dreams attempt to remedy our daily compensatory defenses.
Dreams exist in a liminal space where time and space are malleable. These spaces where past, present and future merge in consciousness is where dreams emanate. Many of us have had dreams that cross the lines of time and space and then we realize we had a significant dream. Dreams can illuminate the future in a precognitive way; we may see a scene played out that hasn’t yet happened in real time. We may have a dream in which someone we love is close to death and the dream gives us a chance to say goodbye. When we are close to death we may have clear visions of those that have already died and interact with them in visions and dream states. Dreams create an arena where those that have died may enter our consciousness. In this liminal space, we may experience pain in our body simultaneously when a close friend or family member has had a serious accident. We may have a dream that foretells an illness. Our dreams give us access – a portal to other levels of consciousness that we do not normally have.
Dreams offer us a way to know our Self and have a viable relationship with our interior. We are habitually externalized as our attention is continuously drawn outside of ourselves. We live in a highly active world with work, friends, family and social connections and we may become preoccupied with others at the expense of our inner life. We run away from ourselves and focus on social media exchanges, video games, the Internet or watching TV incessantly, and lose connection with our own inner process. Within the silence of our dreams, rich inner activity is revealed: visual scenes, old and new friends that seem randomly picked by our unconscious psyche, animals, foods, lost lovers, sexual encounters, and emotions of sorrow and joy give us access to deep, rich material within.
Dream analysis is an essential activity of the therapeutic process. The therapist learns critical information from the patient’s dreams, as the dream speaks from the interior of the patient and gives both parties a wealth of knowledge that might not have been known with such clarity. Dream analysis is collaborative. Handy guidebooks that give us simplified dream object definitions are not necessarily relevant as the dream is woven from the patient’s unique subjective experience of his dream figures and objects. Jung wrote extensively on the collective unconscious and the universal symbols that are relevant and part of all our psyches. Intensive study is necessary to utilize collective archetypes and symbols. For our purposes in this post, it is the associations and mix of interplay of objects and dreamscapes that gives context, historic memories and other information by association that makes sense of the initial jumble of images. A patient’s life context plus specific elements that come forward in a dream create a myriad of possibilities as the dream is analyzed. As the therapist and patient study the components of a given dream, emotions will emerge and the dream message becomes clear to both parties. I value dream analysis as an absolutely critical aspect of the treatment process. Dreams illuminate what we cannot rationalize; dreams illuminate what needs to be faced in a language of metaphor, analogy and allegory.
How to capture your dreams? First of all have an intention to dream; tell yourself you will dream and remember them. Have a pad in the bathroom or by your bed and record your dreams upon awakening. We can have a vivid dream and be convinced we will remember it, as it was so striking. Next thing we know, it has dissolved into a tiny fragment of what it was. Write down your dreams capturing the minute details. See what you feel with the dream; look at what comes to you about your dream. Maybe discuss it with your spouse or good friend and see what sense you make out of the various elements. If you are in therapy, you will have interesting sessions – as dreams become the third contributing party in the room. Cherish your dreams, as they are most important in connecting you with your interior. If you never remember your dreams, it may be that you are avoiding inner connection and are too dependent on externals. You may be running away from deeper awareness and recognitions by your chronic hyperactivity.
Let’s discover our inner life, as that guidance is critical to our development.