Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Into the Well of our Dreams

At the beginning of this year, I slipped through the fissures of my changing life and into my dream world. I have always had vivid dreams, especially at times of major changes. When I shifted from India to the States a few years back, my dreams were filled with symbolic images. One of them was of weddings taking place. While I was newly-married myself, these images continued to appear over the next three years. This was a time of change for me, a time when different parts of my psyche were coming together and something new was coming into being.

Then, in the course of the last year and a half, I stumbled upon Dream Work, the process of paying attention to our dreams and working to understand their deeper meaning. An essay that I was writing at that time led me deeper into Carl Jung's work. There they were again -- dreams and their meanings. 

Dreams are extremely important in Jungian psychology. They are the gateway to the unconscious, a space that contains not just our repressed aspects but also the underlying matrix of what it means to be human. It is from this space that sparks of creativity shoot up. The image that comes to my mind is of a deep, dark well. You can't see what's down below. But when you draw the rope and send a bucket down its depths, you can hear the splash of water. When you pull the bucket up, you have something that nourishes you. You still can't map out the depths that lie below, but you have an idea of what they contain. 

One of the dream images that has appeared in my dreams are houses. They look like they are either breaking down or are in the process of being constructed. We could all hazard a guess at what this means. The metaphor is clear. Something new is being built in the psyche. Some new change is afoot. 

Recently, I came across an article by Thomas Moore in the July/Aug issue of Spirituality & Health magazine that instantly interested me because Moore was talking about houses in dreams. Moore is a psychotherapist who is best know for his wonderful book Care of the Souland he practices depth psychotherapy that is largely centered on dreams. This means that he knows a lot about them! 

Moore talks of the symbolic meaning of houses under construction in both his own dreams and those of his clients. 

"I remember a dream I had in my late thirties. I was walking through a house in the early stages of construction. I had to be careful because it was so unfinished and fragile. I remember walking on a bouncy two-by-four and knew I could easily fall and get hurt. This was an intense period in my life. I had just been denied tenure at the university where I had hoped to spend my life teaching. I wasn't sure where to go from there and was trying to become a good psychotherapist. I had had considerable training for this work, but it's the kind of profession where the necessary skills are personal. You may have to go through several emotional trials and deep changes to be good at it. It was at this point that I had my house-under-construction dream."  

He tells us that it is helpful to know when something in us is being built. 

"You can then better understand the unusual feelings of being incomplete and going through unintended changes. You may feel your world shifting and not yet ready for projects and developments in your life. You may need to prepare for the arrival of a relatively new self."  
He talks of the specific meaning inherent in images of houses as compared to other images that depict change. 

"In similar situations you may have dreams that have general feeling of change: waiting for a train to depart or a plane to take off. But these images are quite different. Construction is the specific condition of something being built. You're not on a journey; you're being remodeled or fabricated." 

Moore talks of how writers on the soul often quote John Keats who said: "Call the world, if you please, "the vale of soul-making." 

"The word is "make," rather than "journey" or "discover." It's in the spirit of Keats to say that our souls are constructed, like a house being built. Piece by piece, nail by nail, the structure of our being goes up and makes a space in which our lives can play out and find meaning."     

We need to have patience during this process. We are under construction. We have to wait to see what's being built. In Moore's dream of the two-by-four, that construction was ongoing. Some things were ending, while a new structure was being created from the ground up. He says that naturally, like any other person, he was more aware of the endings than the beginnings. 

What getting intimate with the inner recesses of our psyches gives us is an understanding of where we are in the process. We realize that these are tender times. These are times when we have to let the forces that are working in us build us. We can be idle for a while "so the crew can do its work." The creative force is moving through us and creating a shape and a form. 

We might feel fragile during these times, but as Moore tells us, this is also a period full of promise and hope. The new is opening up like petals. We are alive, humming with life. We might feel incomplete, but our full possibilities are being drawn out. 

Engaging with our dreams can give us this awareness of  our psyches. We are starting to listen to the language of symbols and images, and in turn, it is giving us signs and guideposts to tell us where we are and where we are headed. 

Does working with dreams interest you? You can start engaging with your dreams by keeping a diary beside your bedside and writing down the dreams as soon as you wake up. Even minutes after waking up, dreams tend to disappear into thin air, so writing them down as soon as possible is essential. 

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