The subconscious world is often thought to be normally hidden from our view, except when we dream. I dream alot and often spend the following days trying to understand the meaning of dreams. They never seem to make sense if I analyze them logically, however if I let my emotions paint colors the scenes become more clear.
"Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy."
- Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900.
I have often wondered what exactly the reason is why we dream, and what exactly are dreams good for. Just coincidence or something more meaningful, more necessary for survival, physical as well as spiritual and psychological. This is what Carl Jung said about dreams:
"The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that reestablishes...the total psychic equilibrium."
- Carl G. Jung, Man and his Symbols
Carl G. Jung
The subconscious mind is the seat of our being, rooted in the primitive origins of our nature. Modern civilization has provided us with consciousness which has its many advantages and is absolutely necessary for survival. Unfortunately, consciousness also distances us terribly from our real and absolute selves. This inner self bubbles up during the day and offers us regular guidance and impressions, but it is so very subtle that we tend to ignore it or just plainly misunderstand it. Our waking lives are busy and filled with endless activities. That is why at night the inner self temporarily regains control. The conscious person we are falls asleep and thus loses its domineering awareness to the deeper psychic energy. The subconscious mind consists of a primitive base, and it attempts to express itself through symbols in order to communicate deeper truths about who we really are.
"The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul."
- Carl G. Jung
Traveling is a very common subject which defines the content of many of my dreams.
"I am in a mad rush to catch the next plane flight home. However, I have alot of extra luggage to bring along and not enough room left in my blue duffel bag to put it all in. In fact, this duffel bag is completely filled, and the extra luggage lies spread out in my bedroom. Time is running out and what am I to do? In panic, I open the duffel bag for a final check, and I discover that it is completely filled with paperback books of various sorts and sizes. Every single book has been read, but not finished, as each book has a bookmark which can clearly be seen sticking out of the top. The duffel bag is extremely heavy, but I know I must carry along all these books. In the end a choice must be made, and I am afraid I will just have to leave the other practical items behind. The half-read books are too important to me."
Books, books, and even more books as deeper symbols.
Frustration and haste are important aspects of this dream. On the one hand I have a flight to catch, and if I miss it I will not be able to get back home at all. However, I have chosen to fill my available travel bag with a million books. Each book has only been partly read, none completed. I know that there are way too many books to be able to finish in time, and the weight is not only impractical, but a burden as well. Knowledge, a choice, unfinished work? The dilemma is that I also have to deal with the more practical things in life, namely my clothes, etc. The spiritual versus the worldly, it is frustrating for me to combine both. But are they really mutually exclusive? I cannot combine both completely as I would prefer, rather I will have to make room spiritual available for the worldly goods. This is the imbalance of psychic energy I will have to deal with, as explained in Carl Jung's quote above.
"Once upon a time, I, Chuang-tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, flittering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly...suddenly I awoke... Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man."
- Chuang-tzu, Chinese philosopher.
I had quite an unusual yet interesting dream last night, and I thought I would share it with you all. Struck by this meaningful dream, I feel it sheds some light on the current situation, how I feel about it (subconsciously) and perhaps even the relationships of the other family members to me in this matter. This is how it goes:
It is time for me to take control of my life and grab on to the steering wheel.
"All of us are sitting in the car, the big Cadillac from our childhood days. The mood is just like summer vacation, like when we went to the Alisal Ranch as kids. Dad is driving, Mom is in the passenger's seat, and the three of us kids are sitting in the back seat. I am sitting right behind Dad and can see him clearly. The IV-tubes are still sticking out of in his arms, bags hanging from some metal stand with hooks dangling from the ceiling. The silly contraption gets in his way while he nonetheless attempts to drive. Kathleen and Martine are on my right, but I do not remember in what order (Martine in the middle?). We have just picked up Dad from the hospital, and of course he has insisted on driving back home himself. Somehow he has enough energy and will power to actually do this, but it is obvious that he is weak and cannot hold out too long. I am very worried that he is not in the proper condition to drive safely, and he looks pale and sick. I am sure everyone else in the car feels the very same way, but we are too apprehensive to say anything. Maybe because he might get mad and yell, perhaps because we feel uncomfortable about him having cancer and are afraid to upset him. We do not know how to react to this unfamiliar situation and prefer to remain silent instead. Finally, feeling responsible as the oldest son, I gather up enough courage and decide to take action by saying something. While Dad resists grumpily and there is a minor quarrel, it is short-lived. My fears turn out to be unfounded, and it is surprisingly easy to sway his opinion. He has accepted it all and gives in quietly but willingly. Pulling at all his tangled IV-tubes, he sits in the back seat next to the girls. I take over by replacing him as driver behind the steering wheel, and we continue on our way."
That is when I woke up with a startled feeling. It all seemed so very real at the time. What can you gather from all of this, if anything?
"Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives."
- William Dement
Sunset means a new day will come.
There are so many obvious connotations of this dream that I have to be careful not to make a too trivial analysis. Control of my life is an obvious issue here, and the fact that my father will die some day is symbolic in that I am expected to take over in some way. It is not an easy task, but it takes some courage. All that hospital stuff like IV-tubes and so forth are there because my father is now in real life a cancer patient recovering from surgery with a bleak prognosis. Yes, my father has been a dominant figure in my life, and often a male symbol of who I want to be. Not so much that I have to be grumpy or resistant, but more in that I have to finally face facts as the remaining male to carry on the tradition. My mother and sisters also play an important role, although in the dream they are a bit apprehensive and silent. But the fact that they appear in my dream reinforces the family unit and how we are all in the same boat (Cadillac) together, going in the same direction, in a fun summer mood.
"A dream which is not explained is a like a letter which has not been read."
This is just too bizarre to be true at all.
"I get up in the morning and it is time to go to work. As I walk out the front door and am just about ready to get in my car to drive to work, there is my father walking down the street. I cannot believe it, because he died more than a month ago. What am I supposed to do? I have already told everyone that my father died, and how awful an experience it was for me to go through. I even took a week free from my work in order to fly to Monterey, California so I could be with him up to the very end. And now it turns out that he is not dead at all, but walking ever so healthily in front of my house. What am I going to tell everyone? They will never believe me, as this is just too bizarre to be true at all. My fellow workers and neighbors will think I was lying and never trust me again."
"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream by night."
- Edgar Allan Poe, Eleanora, 1842.
Morning sunrise and the
whole day ahead of me.
I still have not fully accepted that my father is no longer alive. Logically I have witnessed his last days, and the facts are hard and true. However, emotionally I still have not been able to accept this. My father still lives on in my mind, and he manifests himself ever so strongly in my dreams. Why should I then feel embarrassed towards others, being so worried that no one will believe me? It is really my inner self (ego) who cannot believe this while the subconscious is wrestling with it to force the truth to be accepted. Walking down the street in front of me, it could not be nearer than that. Driving my car comes again in the scene, that symbolic gesture that I have to go off to work (the real world) on my own. Notice how in the dream my father is distant and I do not even have the chance nor dare speak to him. It is morning and I have the whole day still ahead of me.
Now this dream of mine is very interesting, as my hero C.G. Jung also had a very similar type of dream after the death of his father, as in the following quote:
"Six weeks after his death, my father appeared to me in a dream. Suddenly he stood before me and said that he was coming back from his holiday. He had made a good recovery and was now coming home. I thought he would be annoyed with me for having moved into his room. But not a bit of it! Nevertheless, I felt ashamed because I had imagined he was dead. Two days later the dream was repeated. My father had recovered and was coming home, and again I reproached myself because I had thought he was dead. Later I kept asking myself: "What does it mean that my father returns dreams and that he seems so real?" It was an unforgettable experience and it forced for the first time to think about life after death."
- Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1963.
Dream symbols play a very important role when trying to interpret the content of dreams. One the one hand these symbols individuate the various archetypes (anima, persona, shadow, etc.), and at the same time also attempt to unify them into a harmonious, balanced whole as well. They are messages to be read, projects from within to realize the aims of the developing personality, pointing to the past as well as to the future.
On the world wide web there are numerous sites which tell you everything about dreams. Beware of those sites which give the answers, eg. definitions of typical symbols (like your teeth falling out). However, there is one very fantastic place to visit, one which I can recommend highly. For a very extensive source of information about dreams, a really great site can be found at:
If you are into nightmares or just plain curious what these dreams might mean or what others have dreamt then you might want to check out the following:
The Collective Unconsciousness Project (TCUP) is not designed to be a finished project, but an evolving framework that is both created and changed through interaction with it. It exists as both and online community and personal space, not as straight forward as an information driven website, but a nonlinear experience based on chance and the user's interactions. The purpose is to view connections between our dreams. By Simon King.