Monday, July 4, 2011

Dreams 101

Dreams 101: I need to say a few things about dreams before I share any in a public way. Dreams are extremely personal. Thus my hesitancy  to present some of  them publicly. They are a deep part of my, and I think of others, most inner life. I will choose carefully what dream material to share but will try over time to give some sense of one person's dream life.

Our Western culture simply does not place any high value on dreams; whether school, church , family etc. Dreams are not considered anything like a 'voice from God ' to most people. We have not been taught that way even though our most common Sacred American text the Bible holds dreams in high esteem, both in the Old and New Testaments.
Joseph Interprets The Egyptian King's Dreams

Typical statements about one's nightly dream life are: 1. I don't have dreams 2. When I do I do not recall them when I awake 3. my dreams make no practical sense whatsoever. 4. I have occasional horrible night mares so I do not want to dream. I can identify with all of these. But as I gave genuine attention over time to dreams they became a more natural part of my living process. I became more adept at intuitively 'seeing' a significant meaning to most dreams I have. I must say that nearly without exception when I first become conscious of a dream I think, ' this makes no sense. It is not worth even thinking about. I would never share this with anyone for it is completely non sense.' A dream I had last night struck me again that way. But I decided long ago that I would give high value and honor to any dream that made it through to my consciousness. And like taking a person seriously, one learns about the person only when you wholeheartedly attempt to hear what they are communicating to you. This is a central criteria for actually loving another person. Dream work is about listening, not just to words but for impressions.  It means to take any and every dream as something personally important and worth recalling and reflecting on. Once I lock a dream in, it comes in and out of my mind throughout the day, no doubt having an effect on my daily living. If one can find a reason to attempt to capture their dreams I think most would find dreams becoming an important part of the balance of ones total life.

Early on I read all of what Sigmund Freud said of dreams for he is the personality in the West who first brought back the notion of the importance of dreams and the reality of the unconscious. However I have found Carl G. Jung's, a close colleague of Freud but a relationship that later fractured, attitude toward dreams to be far more helpful and positive than Freud's. Basically Jung believed the primary purpose of dreams is to bring balance and compensation to a person's daily waking conscious attitude. The dream, when reflected on and 'taken in', will bring some kind of change in conscious disposition and help a person to have a more total and whole conscious attitude about whatever they are experiencing in waking life. The first rule of honoring ones dreams, after truly desiring to let them in is to let oneself  'feel' any emotion the dream is seeking to present or stir up, no matter whether the feeling is positive or negative. ( Note: If dream material is extremely upsetting or frightening, one should seek out a professional helper and not try to deal with it alone. Such 'bad dreams' can be an indication that there has been some trauma in ones life that is seeking your attention. But if dreams feel more like getting acquainted with a stranger then keep at it.)
He Helped Recapture Dream Importance For The West

Dream language is different than waking language. If you are aware of dreams then you are aware of the basic meaning of symbolic language. It is, if you will, 'soul language.' It speaks to or about your inner life. Be slow to think it is primarily about outer events or telling you secret things about another person. It usually is not. But we Westerners, even if religious, tend to not value the reality of inner life, and thus are likely not valuing 'Soul.' By soul, I do not mean some feathery substance in us that flutters off to heaven when we die. But to what is alive in our most inner being, our deepest Self. We can intuitively know that we are soul but it can never be something that we fully capture. We can only live out of and take seriously this aspect of ourselves that we intuit. This is not the same thing as what we are 'thinking' or 'even feeling' though both are a part of soul. It is more like what and who we actually and fully are. This area of reality is glimpsed and can be communicated only in symbolic language, not literal words or concrete history. For sure what one learns and embodies from this 'soul language' on the inside has a most important connection to the outside life. But to honor the dream one needs to discipline him/herself to take it as a message primarily concerned about inner reality. And its purpose is to shape or balance our conscious attitudes about all things, including every aspect of our outer life.

As a side note, Sacred stories of a culture, which for most of us is the Bible, I think can be far more useful as a spiritual resource when it is also viewed as primarily symbolic,not historical, and it generally uses the same kind of  symbolic language as our dreams. A downside of  Western culture's  discovery of  'objective reality'(and all that science has brought)  impact over the past 300 years  has been the attempt  to force symbolic language into literal objective  language or to discount it altogether. This is in the opposite direction of  Soul development. Symbolic language requires of us to ponder, to wonder, to explore, to reflect, to imagine. It requires a humility that is lacking when we believe we are only dealing with 'certain' objective facts of materialistic  reality.  It requires listening not with just our heads but with our hearts. Paying attention to dreams helps develop ones skill to do that. Such training is noticeably  missing in our typical American education.

Over a period of time one's dreams can become more natural as one becomes more in tune to the symbols that are used. Dreams' meanings or intended effects become more a matter of personal intuition. In my case I find that symbols, such as specific people of my past, do not stand for the actual person but for something else that I have learned by their being repeated in dreams. Jung made a great contribution by showing how dreams can be on a scale from speaking of ones 'personal inner life' to speaking of the 'collective inner life' of one's culture. So seeking our dreams is not just about enriching our personal selves but about supporting the families and  communities we are a part of.
Jung Recaptured The Spiritual Significance of Dreams

Dreams can come from the deeper layers of the Collective Unconscious which is often indicated by the dream containing very ancient, foreign seeming images and ideas. Jung was able to show how similar  symbols are found in dreamers across all different times, cultures, ethnicities and religions. This gave rise to his concept of the 'Collective Unconscious.' It implies that below our personal life histories, some of which may be forgotten or repressed, we all share a Collective reservoir of constructs that spin our dreams in a most human way and in a way that connects us to the whole human family. He called these living psychic structures as the source of all collective symbols the 'archetypes.' I have found that concept very helpful in moving toward the practice of living daily life out of the dream images that come to us. Most people also, I think, would agree that dreams 'seem' to come from some source 'other' than what we would have thought of consciously ourselves. Dreams give most people the impression that they come from 'another source' other than conscious awareness or rational thought. A good word that describes the feeling that something is coming from 'the other world' is numinous. Dreams are numinous experiences. This is their nature. Where else do we post-modern folks get such an experience, an experience that has always been a part of being fully human? This is one reason that ancient humans easily took dreams as coming from the 'unknown' realm or from their gods.

It is not the purpose of my blog to attempt to directly assist in interpreting individual dreams. I'm encouraged anytime a person begins to take their dreams more seriously for I think it honors their own life. I don't think a person will be disappointed at making the effort. If one becomes interested in their dreams they will likely find the appropriate avenues to work with them. The suggestions above may be all that one needs to begin. To jump start my dreams I kept a flashlight and tablet by my bed and recorded dreams as soon as I was aware of them. It works. Wouldn't you feel listened to if someone were waiting to write down everything you said? Jim

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