No inherent meaning?

 

0-OjGDnLhuGSc7buHG

Not too long ago I had someone pooh-pooh the idea of there being any inherent meaning to dreams.

What I asked him was, “What evidence do you have that there is inherent meaning in anything?”

He then proceeded to give me the meanings for things and I asked after each one of his assigned meanings, who gave that meaning to the object, or event? “Someone did, an expert, everybody agrees that’s what it means!” He exclaimed in frustration. I then went on to point out how many times in history the meaning of something that was created by an expert, or accepted by the collective turned out to be wrong. I also talked about how something can have several meanings depending on one’s point-of-view, cultural view, values, and experience. “Do you not have thoughts that you commit to words that you have given meaning to and then you put them out into the environment and leave it up to the listener to interpret? Are the words really independent of the speaker, or of the listener? If something can have so many meanings, what is the inherent meaning?”

What I was trying to get at was that there is (prepare yourself) no inherent meaning.

You and I are meaning machines. We are constantly giving meaning to everything we see and every event that we experience. And these meanings are uniquely personal, uniquely ours. Seen this way, the discourse between individuals can be a discovery process, a learning–an expansion toward enlightenment.

This is why I constantly caution the dreamer to follow his own meaning for the persons, places and things in their dream and to use the analysis of an outside interpreter as only a guide.

The meanings of events, things and people in our dreams are no different than they are in our waking lives. Yes, when we are awake the story-line seems to flow more smoothly and follows some kind of logic, but the dream story-line also follows its own logic and the discontinuity that often forms the story-line in a dream seems to be a function of the REM eye movement.

Now you might say that some dream events can be quite bizarre such as flying, or fighting dragons, but so what? Most of us don’t spend much time noticing the bizarreness of ordinary life because we have a built-in bias, a predetermined explanation that deletes anything that doesn’t fit the accepted cognitive paradigm (personal or collective) i.e. it doesn’t even register into consciousness.

In the dream state, that filter is shut down and what is not noticed consciously is released from the subconscious (no, I’m not saying that there are dragons that you’re not noticing, at least not real ones). If these unnoticed events are not brought to consciousness through the process of dream analysis they will be dumped, deleted, trashed. Dream analysis is nothing more than doing to the things of life that we normally do when conscious, only we are doing it with the unconscious material picked up while awake and exposed through the dream.

In our waking lives people and events are often mirrors to ourselves in that they reflect the image we project. If we project fear, then we see fearful things in the mirror of the world. In short, when we hide the essence of who we are, then we can only see the image that we project reflected in the world.

A poem for the heart

Alone one morning last week I sat outside under the broad canopied and cascading Elm that’s taking on new leaf as Spring brings warmer days, though the morning’s are still chilly so I was bundled in my favorite throw blanket across my legs. As I do virtually every morning I was playing around with words and concepts on my laptop hoping for some inspiration to visit and this poem made itself known and demanded that I write it down.

 

3SyK.gif

 

Hidden deep in my heart I hear a plaintive cry, find me, I am here, can you not see?”

What you are looking for is also looking for you. It has always been there waiting for you to show up.

What is it that binds us all together it asks? Surely it is not your illusions of separateness.

What would happen if you were not so interested in your own personality and were grateful for all who come your way for they are your teachers and mirrors to your Self.

You were born of love in a space where there are no boundaries. It is the head that knows boundaries. Not so for the heart. That magic knows no boundaries.

I look closer at the ideas visiting me and see that magic is always my companion if I had but the eyes to see it and the heart to walk with it.

When I see the magic in another person I know that it is my own magic as well that I am seeing.

Tolerance, compassion, and patience are doors into this magic and this magic is never loud for it dwells in the silent places within my heart.

But I struggle to see the magic let alone to be it. And sometimes it is just so hard, and I tire of the scuffle and my body slides down into the chair losing the energy to sit upright.

But then that bossy Spirit that never lets me stay in a good slide for very long pulls me up and I find myself saying that I need embrace the struggle for it is like a fire to the metal beaten by the blacksmith’s hammer and anvil. It makes me pliable to change. The change I need to see the magic.

When the goal is to be open to all the magic that is around and within me, in time I will hear what I am ready to hear and see what I am ready to see. And I whisper to myself,

“be patient, I am here!”

 

Crises can have silver linings. They can open you up to yourself.

self_awareness_920x400_c.jpg

 

Because the human psyche is designed to respond to any kind of threat with an either/or response of confront or flee better known as fight or flight we have a tendency to avoid upsetting input e.g. bad news, negative thoughts and negative feelings such as upsets, worry, anxiety, sadness, grief, desire, even hate or anger. But sometimes we get stuck and perseverate in one or more of the negatives and then we try to handle them (think get rid of or avoid or fight them) by essentially stuffing them, “I won’t watch the news”, “I will think only positive thoughts”, “I’ll meditate, or yoga or exercise the feelings into calmness, Aum” or some such variation. This is not to say that these techniques should not be used because sometimes we need to calm down in order to hit the pause button. If these exercises are part of your regular routine then you’re already well positioned for what comes next.

But for most of us the sporadic use of centering techniques is a kind of hiding from the negative and is not very effective or only temporarily effective. Why? Well, just because you’ve stuffed something out of sight doesn’t mean it’s gone it’s just waiting for another trigger to bring it out again. As most who practice regular centering know, life happens regardless of how centered, wise or enlightened you think you are.

Next time instead of trying to flee the feeling as though it were something to avoid or despise try holding your feelings with respect and compassion after all they are a part of you and the reason they are there at all is the psyche’s attempt to care for and protect you.

Next time you might just “feel” them without trying to figure them out or to dismiss or demean. Try not to diminish their reality by stuffing or explaining them away just accept them as they are without judgment or condemnation. Look at them and actually feel them. They are real and they are a part of you and just as real and necessary as any other part. Don’t engage them or go into agreement with them, just have the feeling, observe it, observe where in the body it is located, how vivid it is. Does it have a color? Does it have a shape? Is there a sound to it? Observe all aspects of the feeling.

When you are able to do this, it tends to reset your consciousness about feelings and their service to you toward your health and well-being. You may also notice that when you are just able to have a feeling without it having you, you become more present in your life and when you become more present life becomes more magical.

Dreams in the time of the pandemic lockdown

anxiety-dream-theme.jpg

Are you having more dreams or at least remembering more than usual during these long and stressful days of the pandemic lockdown?

Many people are reporting not only increased dreaming but more emotionally laden dreams, anxiety dreams, scary dreams. Their dreams are more intense and vivid as well.

These dreams are what some psychologists are calling “quorandreams” or quarantine dreams and can reflect vividly what you’re experiencing during the day and are part of the mind’s system for dealing with high anxiety (especially in the waking state suppression of it) and in some cases trauma. Given that most of life is so far out of the normal right now it is indeed like a trauma.

So, what is happening?

Typically, our dreams tend to be metaphorical reenactments of our daily lives and/or our responses to these events. In times of high stress our dreams can become more vivid, intense and emotionally laden. We seem to get more of them because for many of us we are sleeping longer than usual and not being awakened by that infernal alarm clock right in the middle of a dream causing us to lose the dream upon awakening.

Because dreams often reflect our emotional state many folks are experiencing metaphorical symbols related to ones emotions such as tornadoes, floods, tsunamis/tidal waves, and drownings. If they are in quarantine or lockdown they may also be experiencing dreams of being trapped, caged, or tied up. Some may experience being attacked or threatened in a dream or of being in a car or airplane that is out of control. Overcoming an attack in some way can represent ones desire to take back control as is any dream theme of taking back personal responsibility for what is happening in life e.g., driving a car in a dream versus being a passenger in it.

Some people dream of running to the bathroom or searching for a bathroom which can be symbolic of the need to get rid of unwanted negativity. Some dream of falling or the fear of falling. Others dream of killings that often reflect the desire for something to end.

So, what can you do about these anxiety, fear, and stress related dreams? For starters realize that you are not alone in this in that many, many people are experiencing these kinds of dreams right now as well as increased stress and anxiety. Sometimes the mere act of writing them down can be immensely cathartic/calming and the act of writing/journaling itself can provide a sense of increased personal control.

I would also suggest that you may want to wind down before going to bed, shut off the TV, the cell phone, and computer. Also if you have a place where you have some privacy light a candle, find a quiet space within you (mine is in a Redwood Forest along the California coast recreated in my mind as the default quiet space within my meditation) and meditate allowing whatever comes to mind to just pass on through without engaging it. In other words just be with whatever comes up for you without resisting or judging or entertaining it. Just keep coming back to whatever non thinking space you have chosen to enter. Don’t let your thoughts carry you off and if you do come back to the quiet space. Though you can meditate as long as you want I personally do a 20 to 30 minute meditation ending with a deep breath taken in to the count of 4 and a deep breath blown out to the count of four done three times (this can be done both at the beginning and at the end as a means of centering and cleansing the body of any residual stress).

Hang in there folks, as my grandmother used to say, “This too will end!” In the meantime listen to your dreams, get plenty of sleep, and stay safe.

On becoming real

 

IMG_0588.jpg
Pinocchio standing guard over my dream journal.

My most important lesson in life I learned from Pinocchio

In this time of seeming unreality I was reminded of the story of Pinocchio where a wooden puppet dreamed of becoming a real boy. The Blue Fairy promises him that if he is good and his heart is true and honest he will become a real boy. Of course he suffers all the wrong turns in his journey toward realness and many characters and circumstances try to steal parts of his soul along the way. He becomes lost, abused and alone at times but eventually he finds his way home by taking the ultimate risk to his life to protect his mentor and creator, the loveable old toy maker Geppetto, by being willing to sacrifice himself for love.

The story is a mirror of the path we are all on as we grow toward wholeness and self-actualization. I believe that at our core our hearts are true and that we can only experience this when we are willing to let go of our ego selves, to sacrifice our self-centeredness by the giving of our heart and mind to something other than our self and when we are willing to open to love.

Pinocchio is an allegorical tale of the Heroes Journey that we are all on, a journey toward reality and wholeness, awareness and redemption where we struggle, die to our old self, and are then resurrected anew. Nearly every story worth its salt has a hero, or heroine, striving for something of great value e.g. life, justice, a golden fleece, freedom, transformation, and/or redemption. Each is tried in the crucible of what life has to throw at them and all are convinced that to attain the goal will bring them wholeness and make them real.

We are all on Pinocchio’s Journey, all trying to find the gold of our core being. As we set out we look into all the nooks and crannies of life, down all its dark alleys, or pray to all its gods and Blue Fairies hoping that somewhere out there are the answers to becoming real. But with some luck and perseverance we can learn that the answer to becoming real has always been within us– that reality is a function of what’s in our hearts and not what is in some temple. Life can steal the parts of our self that we have given up to others so that we can feel safe, but Life cannot steal our heart for it is immutable.

The real you lies at your core being and is available to you when you give up your need for ego survival. This is the lesson of Pinocchio.

______________________________________

For another story on becoming real see the following: https://thebookofdreamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/an-example-of-the-power-of-intentionality/

 

This is a new ad for the book Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting. For those who are either just starting out working with their dreams or those who are more familiar with the unconscious terrain of their dreams this book covers more than 5000 dream symbols collected from over 3500 dreamers across more than 140 different countries and cultures. Though it cannot cover all the possible meanings it can point the dreamer in a direction for exploration.

 

 

Loss of the Soul

th.jpeg
“Le Vol de l’âme”–by Louis Janmot (1814-1892). It is said that in a dream the soul of a man is symbolized as feminine and with women as masculine.

Because it is not the point of the article, I am not going to go into what the soul is or is not or where it goes when we die. When I speak of Soul Loss I’m speaking to what happens to our souls when we abuse them or when we injure them.

Whenever you’ve said to yourself, “I wish I were dead” we’ve sent a part of the soul to the land of the dead. Every time we give up on a dream or when we lose trust in ourselves we give up a part of our soul. When we play small in our life by giving in to our fears or pride or greed we injure the soul as well for the soul only wants to play large in everything we do. We are constantly banishing pieces of our soul.

In fact many of us cause harm to the soul through our self-destructive habits–drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, self-criticism, overeating, arrogance, etc..

But the soul also leaves us when grief has become so painful that we shut down or when fear becomes too great. Even certain life changes can bruise the soul such as a relationship break-up, a death in the family, or a change in jobs or life style.

Immigrants and refugees suffer this kind of damage when they leave their homes, especially when they are not leaving out of choice. This is of course compounded when their freedom destination has been blocked.

Soul loss is chronic in societies where there’s a small but dominant group of people who control the lives of others such as in autocratic, totalitarian or theocratic cultures or subcultures (this can happen here in the U.S. in villages, small towns, or in peoples homes with an oppressive element). It also happens in cultures and subcultures where opportunities are restricted on an ethnic, class or gender level, or where there is a huge and widening gap between those who have and those who have not. We also see it in cults or with the rigid dogma of some religious sects.

And some jobs are so stifling because of certain oppressive management practices that the soul begins to retreat to the darker parts of our being. The fact is that the soul thrives in creative environments where the individual’s independence is honored and nurtured.

Some say that only trauma will trigger soul loss but isn’t that what I’ve outlined above? Do not all these little traumas whittle away at our souls?

Have you suffered soul loss? It’s possible. Look closely at yourself for a moment do you, or have you, suffer(ed) from depression, constant anxiety, low energy and constant fatigue (any chronic sleep disturbance)? Does the world look gray around you regardless of the weather? Do you suffer low-self esteem, emotional numbness, helplessness or are caught up in and can’t let go of a negative past or some past event? Do you stress over many little things? Are you extremely overweight (or affected by some eating disorder), given up your dreams, or suffered or acted out abuse? Those who have suffered extreme abuse and who have been diagnosed with PTSD are on the rise globally.

Have you ever suffered a loss of self-esteem from a failure or at the hands of a bully personality? Most of us have and most of our negative soul-damaging experiences have been unavoidable. But it’s what we do afterward that can make all the difference to their healing. Often it’s the degree to which we let the hurts steal a part of our souls and when we go into agreement with our darker aspects that the loss was deserved that determines the depth and longevity of the experienced loss.

When we try to stuff the stink of soul loss i.e., suppress it or try to change it by adding perfume to it through a change of narrative the smell becomes buried but isn’t gone. It continues to foul our inner atmosphere until we bring it out of the darkened depths and into the light where we tell the truth about it without drama, judgments, and self-criticism.

Did you know that in some studies in the U.S. almost half the adult population has reported suffering some kind of childhood abuse (this includes neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse)? 1 Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident in their lives and that 28% of teens 14-17 have reported sexual victimization.2 Children who live with domestic violence regardless of whether the family is intact or not have a higher risk of abuse and I contend not only suffer psycho-emotional damage but soul loss as well.

But we do not lose our soul permanently or any part of it for that matter. What does happen is we lose touch with it and/or build up barriers to its expression. Meditation, dream work, creative expression, poetry, art, giving, and yoga are some means for healing a damaged soul.

In the fictional novel by R.J. Cole, “The Archipelago of Dreams” is an exploration of how damaged souls are healed in the spirit world.

_____________________________________________

1deMouse, Lloyd, The Evolution of the Psyche and Society, Journal of Psycho-history v. 29, #1, 2002, pg.239

2 http://www.victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics

Be Gentle with Your Dreams: An excerpt from Morpheus Speaks

51rjyGkN00L._SX404_BO1,204,203,200_
The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting

Be careful as you walk through the hidden forests of your dreams. They compose the unprotected essence of who and what you are. They are the messengers of your soul and your deeper self.

They harbor all your worries and fears, your dislikes and rejected aspects, your hopes and desires laid bare. They are born of the irrational, the imaginative, and the intuitive—a world of being as real and as informative as the rational world of science.

Both the outer masks that we all present to the world and the masks turned inward so that we don’t look too deeply at the mysterious inner self are stripped away during our sleep, allowing us to see our most beautiful faces and darkest shadows.

Through our dreams we get a glimpse of what God sees in each and every one of us without judgment or condemnation. Dreams are a grace unearned and a gift to those who learn to accept and interpret them.

Treat them with care, respect, and compassion, for they reveal the best of us and the worst of us. They represent our guide through life and the equilibrium and balance that all living creatures need in order to survive in what is often a chaotic world. Our dreams are our inner saviors.

Dreams reveal a truth about our emotional state of mind, our physical well-being, our psychological health, and our sense of the spiritual. They are our deepest connection with everything, one another, and God or the universal spirit.

Dreams create a nightly map to the experience of being human, and if read properly, they can guide us to worlds not dreamed of through the conscious mind. And they do all this uniquely for the dreamer who has them.

Interpreters can hold our hands briefly and point to the way of the psyche, but the individual needs to walk this path alone. It is about the person’s story and life narrative, and only he or she can know the true meaning of dreams.

In a way, how we interpret our dreams may be about how we interpret ourselves and how we think and imagine ourselves into being.

Knowing your personality type: Excerpts from Morpheus Speaks

51rjyGkN00L._SX404_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Available at Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and Amazon

Looking for patterns within a single dream or across a number of dreams can be a useful way to decode the dream’s meaning.

Whether or not you are able to see a theme or pattern may be affected by your individual personality traits. Whether you are perfectionistic, possessive, image conscious, self-absorbed, secretive, anxious, engaging, scattered, self-confident, willful, easy going, or self-effacing these traits are at some level going to affect your interpretation of dream themes and patterns.

 

The more you know about your traits, the more you can spot what the pallet you’re using to create your dream picture looks like.

Knowing something about your emotional makeup is also going to help in understanding your waking world behaviors as well as your dreams.

There are several personality type indicators with each focusing on different foundational philosophies of personality and personality development. For the purpose of this book I’m highlighting two that I have the most experience with—The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram type indicator. Both will provide the user with rough, though usable information.

I’ve taken the liberty of sharing these links to sites that I believe to be useful:

 

 

Both these sites can be quite useful at an entry level to getting a handle on how you respond to the symbols, circumstances and events of your life and make the process and results of dream interpretation all that much richer and meaningful.

In both the books The Dragon’s Treasure and Morpheus Speaks I discuss in some depth some of the variables that affect our relationship to both the sleeping and waking consciousness.

Not only does your personality determine the symbols and the interpretation of those symbols, so does the extent to which you have immersed yourself in the beliefs of a religion and the values of a culture.

The Quran, the Christian and Jewish bible, the Vedas and other books of religion are used to interpret one’s life and to attempt the understanding of God, so why would they not influence your dreams? The danger in this is that rigidly narrow interpretations can sometimes only give you information about what you already know and not what you don’t know.

In any event, I’m not sure that the ‘self’ of the unconscious adheres to any religion, though it may use your belief as a way of communicating to you. This may add yet another layer of complexity to be unpeeled before getting at the small kernel of truth hidden within.

Active Imagining: Allowing your unconscious wisdom to express through fantasy.

images.jpg
Dicken’s Dream by–Robert William Buss  (1804–1875) 

Back in May of 2017 I wrote and article on Embodied Cognition a means for “acting out” material to be learned or discovered and thought I would catch up to myself and expand on the usefulness of this as a dream tool.

What do I mean by Active Imagination? You might think, don’t we all have an active imagination? Yes, that’s probably true to varying degrees, but that not what this is all about. Active Imagining is a dream study/therapeutic technique used by some analysts to assist people in their exploration of their unconscious motivations.

In this technique the ego remains fully conscious. The ego gets to observe and even feel unconscious content, but gives up critical content to be open to what might be available. Once the unconscious has downloaded its content with respect to certain dream images, the ego can then elaborate (activate its imagination), then after doing so as completely as possible, it then determines the meaning. This last part is critical, just enjoying the elaboration isn’t enough.

If done properly, the process can lead to a transcendent experience where as Ibn Arabi, 13th century Andalusian Muslim scholar, mystic and poet suggested, “Spirits embody themselves through the power of imagination.” He thought that form is related to spirit in a significant way and to relate to the forms within the imagination can lead one to go beyond the boundaries of the psyche. If there is no difference between spirit and the imaginal form then this technique can actually lead one to the divine. We all have this potential within the latent self.

Key to this process is to not allow the ego to manipulate the process any more than it usually does. To do so would cause a degeneration of the outcome. Which is why I would recommend doing this process with a qualified therapist. Some groups can also be helpful if they understand the parameters and possible outcome of this self-exploration technique. Note, however that beliefs can bias the material that comes from the unconscious.

At first the material will be comfortable for the ego, but later the unconscious will begin to challenge the boundaries of the ego, thus becoming an important psychological and spiritual healing tool.

There is also the possibility that the ego will resist the process because it can be threatening to the ego’s status. Many objections might show up, “This doesn’t work!”, “It’s too boring!”, “It’s stupid!” and other ego impatience and critique. Stick with it and wonders can unfold.

This is an incredible technique for exploring that, which troubles us. So don’t wish your troubles away, show the courage and grace to transform them. This way, as Carl Jung suggested, one can transform oneself as an inner partner.

 

“Active imagination requires a state of reverie, half-way between sleep and waking.”

–Carl Jung

_____________________________________

For more on this technique the website of Tony Crisp might prove useful.