“This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theatre where the dreamer is at once scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience, and critic.” – Carl Jung

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.” – Carl Jung

“Positive” vs. “negative” dreams

Occasionally, the meaning of a dream seems intuitively clear upon waking. More often, you get an inkling of what it might be saying by writing the dream down and contemplating it for a while. Now and then, some of us will also submit a dream to an interpreter such as Aneta Baranek, whose dream column appears each Thursday on this site. I’ve done all of the above.

I find it easier to accept the “message” of a dream that seems complimentary—such as that of a recent one in which my favorite male singer in the whole world moved into my house—”you don’t need to put him on a pedestal, he’s a part of you, your inner family!”

It’s a little harder for me to ferret out the meaning of, or even be willing to take a truly honest look at a dream that has left me feeling as if a disaster has occurred! For example, in my dream last night, every room was cluttered with sheaves of used paper, yet I couldn’t find a single blank sheet to write on! This is a suggestion, I think, that I need some new activities. It’s a blow to my ego that I’m still assimilating! But it’s as valuable for growth, if not more so, than the “positive dreams” I’m so eager to have.

Marriage: A made-to-order “dream group”

A marriage, if both partners share an interest in the psyche and spiritual growth, is made for collaborative dreamwork. My wife Barbara and I, over the 14 years of our marriage, have often shared our dreams with one another over an early-morning cup of coffee.

This informal practice has yielded many benefits, not the least of which has been, we both feel, a deepening of our intimacy with one another. Other benefits include the simple value of sharing something “private” with someone else. Reading to Barbara a dream I’ve just typed up gives me an opportunity to hear it in a new way. It also allows another consciousness in to a very deep process.

Recently, Barbara and I had one of our most productive of these sessions. It was also our most dramatic! I think it could be instructive for others, because the process was highly eclectic. A little argument in the middle of the conversation seemed to actually play a role in an “aha” we shared a little while later!

My dream and the process

I’m in the kitchen, reading Barbara the dream I’ve just written down. I’m still flush with its energy of a vibrant life in a multicultural “Paris,” in which happy couples pour in and out of the shops and cafés and everyone is constantly embracing!

Finishing my narration, I look up, expecting to see my wife sharing the joy. But she’s not smiling.

“You don’t get it?” I ask.

“You keep saying your dream’s full of joy, but I heard you read me some troubling details.”

“They all just get swept up in the flow of love!” I say.

It’s true that there were such details in the dream. I’d come to “Paris” with Mother because of an unspecified “emergency.” Then, in one of the scenes, I find myself in a shoe shop with her, trying on a pair with ridiculously long, stylish laces. These won’t do, I think. I need something practical. I need some sandals.

I remember a pair that my uncle once bought me. I go to the apartment where he and my aunt live, where Mom and I are staying. I open the pantry in the hallway, where the shoebox is. But the box is empty. My uncle and I have recently had a falling-out because of something he misunderstood. In his anger at me, he has apparently thrown the sandals away.

I mention to Mom that I’d had to get ready for our Paris journey on such short notice that I didn’t have time to bring my passport. “It’s ok,” she says, and leads me out into the lively Paris night. We cross the street to a copy shop where you can go online and print out a valid duplicate.

There’s also some danger in the dream. Grey-uniformed armed guards stand unobtrusively behind the malls, along the road to the parking garages, looking out for terrorists.

“I just don’t feel the joy you feel,” Barbara repeats.

“Well, it’s my dream!” I reply, feeling suddenly defensive about its energy, which still feels so precious to me.

“Fine!” she says.

Like two fighters, we retire to our corners of the room. I sit down on the floor in front of the fridge, fuming over my inability to convey my sense of wonder.

The “aha!” moment

“Well,” I ask Barbara after a little while. “Did you have any sense of what the dream might be saying to me about my future?”

“Wow! Now I’ve got it!” she suddenly exclaims.

The urgency in her voice makes me stand up and face her. I find myself looking into big eyes that I’m able to enter as she continues.

“The dream is not about your future!” she bubbles. “All those details: your Mom dressing you in shoes that would make you trip your way through life, your uncle’s anger, the passport that brought to mind the one you told me was stolen from you in India years ago—that’s all your past! You’ve worked through all that! That’s what the details are saying! You’ve earned the Paris of your dream! Now I can feel the joy!”

We look at one another. It’s one of those times when the veils of ambiguity have parted. Our little spat has somehow opened the gates of the dream.

And, for the moment, of everything else, too.

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image: Dirk Haun (Creative Commons BY / Cropped from original)