Why We Dream?
The dream is a gift from the soul. A brief glimpse into what is going on below the surface of your normal everyday identity and awareness. Jung said that "image is psyche". That these images and fantansies and imaginations emanating in the night are metaphorical hints about where your inner psychic interest would like to head or is heading.
But who cares? Why does it make any difference if I know this? My answer would be that it is "as if" there is a flow of life energy like the flow of a river, that often begins to go in a different direction than we (our everyday awareness or ego) would like to go. We tend to get over identified with a style or way in life, often becoming quite one-sided. We also tend to push off painful or conflictual parts of our life, again repressing these aspects of ourselves into the darkness. Dreams again act "as if" someone is saying "No, this part of you must be remembered and redeemed from the dungeon of repression. As Jung said so poetically, "dreams are a conversation with the 2,000,000 year Old Man or the Old Woman of Days" who have been through the travails you face since the dawn of time.
Lets look at an example. A young psychiatrist was about to give his first major talk at a large national seminar on psychosis. He was quite prepared and knew his material well but was thinking he would make a mistake and forget important information. He kept going back to his room and practicing the presentation. He began to get more and more nervous and started to forget parts of his talk. He laid down on his bed to rest and when almost asleep he heard a song from his adolescent years. "Your not listening to what I say, if you want to know if he loves you so, it's in his kiss" The psychiatrist awoke hearing the meaning, you are too caught up in your fears of failing and not listening to me( the Old Woman of Days), it is your passion( the kiss) that the audience will love! The talk was wonderfully successful.
Though dreams take practice to understand, just by incorporating into your daily routine a writing down and reflecting on them, a wonderful lifelong dialog with your soul can begin. In this time of cold, secular abstraction and power orientations, that may be the best reason of all for "Why We Dream"
Lost and Don't Know What To Do Next?
In the middle of our life journey I found myself in a dark wood. I had wandered from the straight path. It isn't easy to talk about it: it was such a thick, wild, and rough forest that when I think of it my fear returns.... I can't offer any good explanation for how I entered it. I was so sleepy at that point that I strayed from the right path.
~~ Dante, Inferno
How many times in a course of one's life can and do some of us get to a place where we feel lost? A marriage on the rocks, work that is no longer fulfilling, hobbies that have lost their joy and pleasure. Many a client comes to me for consultation with these opening complaints, much like a modern Dante from hundreds of years ago. Often, many want a quick way out, a medication, or advice that rids them of this state of having lost one's bearings. Some times each one of these methods can work just fine and the person is back on track. But sometimes a deeper solution is sought and called for.
When this is the case, I have one standard answer: " What does the 2,000,000 year old man have to say?" What do the images in your dreams point to? What do the moods that overwhelm you say when you personify them as the "little people of the soul"? Where do your body experiences take you when you amplify them from symptoms into signals and messages? The wisdom of the psyche is everywhere if we look for it and realize it has been through the struggles we are experiencing thousands of times before. The North West indian tribes new this when they talked in wisdom stories to their young tribal members. David Wagoner has taken one of these teaching stories and turned it into a beautiful poem called “Lost".
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand Still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
Stopping is the key. Bringing your awareness to the powerful stranger that is trying to communicate through dreams, moods, body symptoms and synchronicities (meaningful coincidences in the world). Then, often the period of disorientation and lostness can turn into a re-awakening to life.
The Poetry That Heals
Poetry as a mental health tip? What has happened to this doctor? All I can tell you is that one of the quickest and deepest ways to your soul is through poetry. Especially when you find poems that move you emotionally. Don't worry about whether you understand them intellectually. Their purpose is many fold, but more than anything to move you, inspire you, and bring a touch of the universal and eternal in life. It is this eternal something we often lose connection with in our busy day to day existence. Possibly this loss of connection to the universal and archetypal is the biggest culprit in mental and emotional unrest.
I have recommended a book on this site by Kim Rosen called Saved by a Poem. This book explores how poetry has transformed people's lives all over the world and ways that it can affect yours. Another source would be the CD's of David Whyte. Look on his web site manyriverspress.com. His reading of the great poets is awe inspiring.
Find a poem that touches you or excites you, then memorize it. Say it over and over again while driving your car, or brushing your teeth. Watch how it changes the way you feel and the way you habitually see things. I was having a tough time with my motivation and wondering which way to go when I came across a poem by Rumi. I memorized it and say it often when I am tired. The poem is called "Passion".
Passion burns down every branch of exhaustion,
Passion is the supreme elixir and renews all things,
No one can grow exhausted when passion is born,
Don't sigh heavily your brow bleak with boredom,
Look for passion, passion, passion, passion.
Futile solutions deceive the force of passion, they are bandits that exhort money through lies.
Marshy and stagnant waters, no cure for thirst,
However limpid and delicious it might look,
it will only trap you and stop you looking for fresh rivers
that could feed and make flourish one hundred gardens.
Just as each piece of false gold prevents you from recognizing real gold and where to find it.
False gold will only cut your feet and bind your wings saying "I will remove your difficulties",
When in fact it is only dregs and defeat in the robes of victory.
Run my friends, run far away from all false solutions,
Let divine passion triumph and rebirth you in yourself!
Find your poems and let them Rebirth you in yourself.
Run Towards the Roar
There is a natural tendency we all have in dreams to run away from perceived danger. Of course it is very useful in daily life to be aware of dangerous situations and avoid them when we can. However when it comes to our inner life, courage, coming from the latin root word cor, meaning heart, is crucial to our healing. Many people who come to see me are struggling with aspects of themselves and life that are hard to face. It is important to help them find the heart to look unflinchingly at their issues. This applies ten fold when it comes to anxiety disorders. The vast majority of anxiety problems that clients deal with, have to do with something that is so frightening and overwhelming they begin to use avoidance as the main way to make themselves feel better. Though it works in the moment, in the long run the anxiety symptoms get worse and worse. That is why I tell this African tribal story to all my patients when I begin treatment. The children of the tribe were gathered every year with the elders to hear this tale.
" Children you know that as the lion gets old, it's teeth become lose and their bite is not as strong as it once was. They also don't move as fast. But their roar stays strong. So the lions figured a way to use this to catch their prey, the gazelles and wildebeests. The young lions sneak around to the other side of the prey and the old ones stay so the animals are between them. The old lions start to roar and all the gazelles and wildebeests run away from that roar right into the waiting jaws of the young lions."
Here the elder looks at the tribal children and says very clearly," In your life, RUN TOWARDS THE ROAR. Run towards your fear, not away from it!"
Writing Down Your Dreams
Today I would like to focus on remembering and writing down dreams. In the 36 years I have been in practice, I have heard many patients say, “Doc, I can’t ever remember my dreams, so I can’t bring them to you.” Well here is the solution to all you dream forgetters.
Dreams probably are occurring all night long, but we have our best chance of noticing them when we are in REM sleep. This is a very shallow stage of sleep when our eyes are moving rapidly and we are processing the visual material. In fact it stands for rapid eye movement. This stage occurs about every one and a half hours through the night, and usually for the last time right before waking in the morning.
The last REM cycle is the easiest dream to remember. Just set your alarm for 20 minutes before you usually wake naturally. You will wake up in the midst of a dream. Let yourself stay in that dreamy state. Do not go into your day world ego of ‘what do I want for breakfast’ or ‘what does work hold for me today?’ Instead stay in the state of rest and openness and your dream will come to you. Have your dream journal or a little notepad and pen by your bed and write the dream down, even if it is only one image.
There, that is all there is to it. Enjoy your dream journeys.