Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dreams and Their Meaning

As I sit propped up by pillows in my bed, I wonder if my slumber will be interrupted by yet another nightmare.  This week I've been plagued by nasty dreams that have left me tired and confused.  I've always been a vivid dreamer.  So, when my dreams turn ugly, they can be very frightening.  One could argue that the subject matter I research and story plots I construct, perhaps provoke series of night horrors, but according to my "Beside Dream Dictionary," my subconscious is sending me a message.  Were the past 3 nights of fear-filled imagery the result of falling asleep while watching a special on Charles Manson, or do I have a bone to pick with myself?

Just like in a story, symbols in a dream represent something meaningful.  According to The Bedside Dream Dictionary, "The dreams [we] dream are the key to [our] hidden inner life."  Imagine if you will, that these symbols are like 'signposts' that pop up along life's journey.  So what are the signposts in my dreams trying to tell me?  What road are they hoping to lead me down?  I've decided to consult my dream dictionary and share my inner subconscious road map.

Dream #1:  The Airplane Crash
In this dream 3 key symbolic, concrete, images present: an airplane, water and a floating bridge.  The airplane while in distress attempts a water landing on the 520-floating bridge in Seattle.  Luckily, everyone survives, but we all must swim out the tiny plane windows to be rescued.  What might this mean?  A commercial airplane, which was the type in my dream, represents the groups of people or organizations that support a person throughout their life.  Crashing suggests anxiety about lack of support from these people.  Water is the conscious day-to-day experiences, particularly emotions.  A bridge symbolizes transition.  The condition of the bridge in a dream is important.  In my case, the bridge is floating.  This represents how I am reacting to the change or emotions in my life.  When broken down, and coupled with my recent visit with family this nightmare actually begins to make sense and becomes less overwhelming.

Dream #2:  The Surprise Divorce
This may seem obvious, but it can represent more than just fearing a spouse leaving.  Divorce dreams can mean the end or completion of a project, or closure in a phase of life.  Although I'm not fond of worrying about my husband leaving me, I think this particular dream has more to do with completion and ending a phase of life given that I have recently finished two lengthy novels and sent my first born child off to college.  A phase of my life has come to an end, and admittedly, I'm having difficulty adjusting to the empty nest.

Dream #3:  The Rat in the House
Unfortunately, a rat is a reoccurring figure that appears in my nightmares.  Since this happens, I was really curious about what it might mean.  According to the dream book, a rat represents what the dreamer believes is their negative qualities.  In my nightmare, I am trying to hide or get as far away from the rat by locking it out of various rooms in a house.  A house represents the different aspects or activities in a person's life and the rooms are organized in a similar fashion.  Of course, attached to each room is a specific meaning.  In my case I only remember 3 areas of the house:  bedroom, bathroom and hallway.  The bedroom relates to the private, intimate and sexual parts of the dreamers life.  The bathroom suggests a need for spiritual or emotional cleansing and much like the bridge in dream #1, a hallway symbolizes a transition from one stage of life to another.  In other words, I might be worried about keeping what I think are my negative qualities away from these areas of my life.  Again, given my recent family visit and my anxiety about my son leaving home, this makes perfect sense.  Lastly, my nightmare ended with me crawling out a window to get away from the rat.  Since the window in this dream provides escape, it is more telling.  The book says the only way to end the nocturnal escapades is to confront fears in waking life.

 I'm still skeptical about dream interpretation; however, as a writer I find the meaning attached to places and things useful in constructing thematic symbolism.  It gives yet another perspective and provides greater depth to plot, scenery, and character.

1 comment:

  1. I share your skepticism of dream interpretation. This is because I do not believe in correspondence theories (dream of a cigar = you-know-what), because you don't know. It depends upon the individual dreamer.

    Once I was in an argument with James Hillman, who is in the Jungian fold. He was addressing an audience of pshchology students and saying that the moment you wake up from a dream, you must write it down.

    I commented that I prefer to sit up in bed, meditate, and host the memory of my dream on a non-verbal level.

    He countered that this was being narcissistic and told of a Greek myth wherein a young fellow got hold of a golden helmet that allowed him to remember his dreams perfectly.

    I countered that it was not my intention to remember the dream perfectly so that I could write it down and interpret it according to some correspondence theory or authority, but to see where it leads. I said that if I write down a dream, it is translating it into another language.

    He said, "Why is it that every time I come to California, people are against thinking."

    Then one of his students piped up saying that he never writes down his dreams but rather dances them out (in the manner of some Indonesian tribal peoples) to see where they lead.

    Mr. Hillman again said that we must write down our dreams.

    I shot back that if your dreams wanted to be written down, they would not arrive in our minds as images, but out be typed out in 32-page reports, with footnotes to books by Carl Jung.

    The lunch bell then rang, and Mr. Hillman seemed quite exasperated.

    I thought he was wrong, because by positing a correspondence theory he was positing what Derrida calls a "transcendental signified," which is to say he seemed to believe that the dream symbol REALLY means something else that is transcendental to it and final.

    Yet, in the area of the subconscious mind, there is no final symbol. If you contemplate a dream, meditating on it on a pre-verbal level, you will notice that one dream symbol leads to another and that there is no end to it. So, why the effort to finalize the dream and reduce it to language, arresting the spontaneous and infinite play of symbols.

    Through conscious participation in that continual play of symbols, the mind and body can heal. One can then lucid dream in the sense that one's dreams open to pure spirit. However, that does not happen if we arrest that spontaneous and healing play and yank the dream symbols into the realm of intellect.

    A few years later I piced up a paper just penned by Hillman, and he had adopted the play model od dreaming similar to the one I have just written of.


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