Navigating the landscape of our dreams
That which the dream shows is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man, even if during his waking state he may know nothing about it…. We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things, and are asleep in regard to that which is real within ourself.
It bites me like a dog who draws no blood. It always has an identity and I am always helpless. It feels bigger than a Yeti and my fruitless efforts are diminished to a pea.
I’m dreaming again. Not the kind of haphazard adventure I can usually break out of where lucidly turning on a light switch (when dreaming, on turning off a light switch, you can still see the components of the dream) — it makes no difference to what I can see and it shows me it’s just a dream. This one weighs heavy upon me, my chest hurts and I can’t breathe.
On waking this time, I am exhausted. I am convinced that I am reduced in social stature and my self-esteem has plummeted. It was only a dream, but, as Paracelsus warns us, it “is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man.” What wisdom can be revealed in the beating down of my abilities, the removal of my voice and the apathy of others to help?
Dreams are interesting things and I don’t mean getting hold of a dream dictionary (eugh) and trying to decipher them according to someone else’s belief system. They are part of the filing system of your brain — and usually comprise the details that don’t fit into your values or beliefs. The images you see are those relating completely to you and only your experiences. For example, dreaming of a giraffe might relate you to a safari you once went on, or a TV program you might have watched about giraffes; for me, giraffe is the programmed moniker for Good. G for G. I have trained my brain to talk through the covert messages of the mind.
I once attended a lecture on dreaming where it was suggested that each of us learn an alphabet of meanings in order to be able to read our dreams. A = AVARICE B = BEAUTY C = CRIME D = DOGMA E= EXCELLENCE and so on. (I have changed the original alphabetical meanings to suit myself). So, I see a giraffe. I look around my dream and see if there are any other items beginning with G. There is a glove, a glovebox of a car, a photograph of a gorilla. On lucidly asking my mind what else can I see, the brain provides links for interpretation. (If you want to know, G = GOOD in my alphabet). Am I searching for that shadow of wisdom? Do I want to take something from the dream, a teaching, a learning?
Jung and Freud famously agreed upon the role of repression in the structure of dreams. However, of the content, they differed in opinion. Freud saw neurosis played out in dreams relating to sexual repression. Jung wrote, in contrast:
From my practice, … I was familiar with numerous cases of neurosis of which the equation of sexuality played subordinate part, other factors standing in the foreground – for example, the problem of social adaptation, of oppression by tragic circumstances of life, prestige considerations, and so on.
I don’t think I have dreams due to sexual repression as Freud once might have insisted, but perhaps repression and anxiety of social standing, the leftover emotions of trauma and the anticipatory anxiety of life in the future — in other words, average, conventional and predictable worries. I believe my personal filing system doing conscious, waking moments is lacking at times and what is left-over from my subconscious (which organises brain-data), becomes the realm of superfluous details, of dreams.
Jung came up with the notion of Archetypes to explain meanings in dreams.
Archetypes are innate universal pre-conscious psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge.
He saw these motifs, these themes as being universal to humans as they represented activity and interaction with the outside world. Furthermore, he mentions that:
The existence of archetypes can only be inferred indirectly from stories, art, myths, religions, or dreams.
Ah, there we have it — a code for interaction that is same for every human being. Surely seeing the local shaman in a tribal culture cannot relate to seeing a local doctor in a “civilized” society. Whilst I can take on board common needs, I don’t believe in Jung’s archetypes being universal (e.g. the Self, Shadow, Anima, Animus et al). Furthermore, his archetypes meld into one another and are images or totems which relate to one specific culture, his own, rather than explanations of universal meaning.
My alphabet is there to make sense of what remains of each 24 hours as well as my experiences throughout my life, perhaps which have not had any previous terms of reference. What I equate with freedom might well seem like oppression to another. Our terms of reference must be different — our filing systems, different; our subconscious’ inferred meaning, different.
If you are interested in the Alphabet so that you can train your mind to speak to you in the language of your dreams — you could always make your own alphabet up or you can use mine. all that is required is a moment of meditation or self-hypnosis to read and absorb these combinations. The combination of letters in your dreams will lead to the meanings being your own. You will just have devised your own code for reading them.
A = Avarice
B = Beauty
C = Crime
D = Dogma
E = Excellence
F = Fear
G = Good
H = Hope
I = Injustice
J = Justice
K = Kill (like killing off characters in my book – not actual people; kill or finish)
L = Lie
M = Mother
N = Neil (Husband)
O = Opulence
P = Peter (brother)
Q = Quick
R = Rich
S = Sadness
T = Thought
U = Ugly
V = Victory
W = Weary
X = X-Ray (see through situations)
Y – Youth
Z – Zimmer (frame – old age)
Although I still wake, wracked and sweating, at least I can decipher my own subconscious — why don’t you try tonight?
C.J. Jung: Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Vintage Books New York p 147
Wikipedia – Jungian Archetypes