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The Dream: Friend and Mentor

“Through the remarkable phenomenon of human consciousness, the species is constantly reflecting on its condition and talking to itself–especially in dreams which are the ‘pillow talk’ of the ego with the Self. In the course of this conversation, new versions of old symbols are constantly introduced.” (Stevens, 83)

Whether a terrible nightmare, a pleasant scenario, a simple image or a ‘3 act play’, the dream is our friend. Through the input of the dream, we gain insight into our own state of mind and emotions, while we are also given new perspectives, choices and paths to take as problem solvers. Without the dream process, our own conscious awareness and thought would be fraught with entanglement and misunderstanding.

The language of the dreaming brain is made up of symbol and drama. As Stevens puts it: “All symbols are the product of interaction between phylogenetically prepared propensities and personal experiences.” (41) They arise from a natural inner ordering process, as do works of art and synchronistic events. Some dreams are more personal than others. The more ancient a symbol, the more it relates to collective meaning. The more the dream contains particulars of time, place and specifics known to the person, the more likely it is a personal dream. One dream can often be understood on different levels: the personal, societal, and/or universal. Dreams also address different aspects of our lives: spiritual, psychological, practical and /or physical.

Working with the dream in order to extract its precious messages, requires mental and emotional discipline, and acceptance of the possibility that our conscious way may not be working, that we are not allowing other possibilities to weigh in on important decisions or that the conventional way things are done doesn’t get the desired results. The work requires a sort of personal bravery, honesty, individual integrity and faith in the benevolent impetus behind the dream. Discernment rather than judgment yields meaning more easily; humility before the whole origin and process of the dream also helps. All that said, we could then look at some ways in which a dream may be understood to unlock its store of knowledge.

Paying attention to the dream process could be as simple as keeping a notepad by your bed and jotting down the dream when waking, or asking for some response to a dilemma or concern before sleeping. Once the pattern of recall, attention and logging is set, dreams often come to mind more readily.

Working with your dreams can range from just noting it down, to playing with and developing ideas you find in them, drawing images, asking questions to characters (even to yourself in the dream) about what is happening in the dream, considering feelings associated with the image or scenario, or talking to someone about the dream. If a meaning does not reveal itself immediately, just the attention you give it will trigger some movement in the psyche that can resolve the issue or present an explanation of the dream.

Symbols in dreams must always be considered within and relative to the context of the person who is dreaming. Usually when a ‘true’ meaning is arrived at, the dreamer has a sense of its ‘rightness’. Working with dreams is not an ‘exact science’, but once the character of a person’s dreams are understood, the person becomes capable of understanding the messages quite well.

Conscious awareness and patience are both very important practices for working with your dreams. Many people do not remember dreams, probably because their conscious life is thriving in accord with their life energy and path. There are impediments to remembering dreams such as over indulgence in alcohol and recreational drugs, and certain medications. However, even in these circumstances, if the need is urgent enough, a dream can break through the barriers. A person who chooses to live in accordance with dream input tends to enjoy a creative path through life–one that is unique to that person. Thus Carl Jung’s understanding of human history: “The true history of the spirit is not preserved in learned volumes but in the living psychic organism of every individual." (CW 11,56)

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