“Dreams are stories made by and for the dreamer, and each dreamer has his own folds to open and knots to tie.”– Siri Hustvedt
During adolescence, I didn’t always like to pay attention to my dreams. They revealed things I saw in myself that I didn’t really like (no surprise at that time of life, right?!). I was: bumbling, naive and underestimated (repeated dreams of being Gilligan); frustrated and anxious (in the dreams where I was running a race at super slow speed while everyone else passes me by with ease); powerless and not in the driver’s seat – literally and figuratively (sitting in the back seat of a car when the driver became incapacitated or simply took their hands off the wheel, leaving me to reach around them and try to keep us from crashing). Eventually, these repeat dreams stopped. I don’t know whether it’s because I’d outgrown the need for them, pushed them into hiding, or my subconscious saw the need for a new approach. It didn’t matter to me; I was just grateful to be done with them. They made me uncomfortable.
Increasingly, however, I welcome my dreams and pay attention to them because there is less and less of a divide between my waking mind and my sleeping one. The closing of the gap began simply. For over 15 years, the people in my dreams have been the people in my life. Not strangers, not symbols, not loose representations. Themselves, in looks, age, and manner.
“A dream is an answer to a question we haven’t yet learned how to ask.”
Maybe part of why I began paying more attention is because I had a dry spell of several years. A few days without a dream are no big deal, but when I couldn’t remember dreaming for months I began to wonder why. Dreams got my attention precisely because they had disappeared. Kim suggests that during this time I was unwilling to listen to my inner wisdom. I think she is right, because when my dreams re-entered my awareness, they did so at a time of heightened inner turmoil and change. I had reached a point in my life where I could no longer deny the ways in which my marriage was diminishing me.
Without scouring through journals, I can’t point to any particular dream or series of dreams that provided any kind of guidance or particular symbolism that helped me through that crisis point. All I remember is that my dreams came back at the same time I began waking up to my inner voice. The people were still themselves, as I had experienced before the dry spell, and now the places were real places and situations were nearly mirrors of my waking life as well.
I have since left my marriage and because this is about my dreams and not the story of my life, I will just say that while I’m confident I did the right thing, the events following my divorce have created the greatest challenge of my life. To say I’ve had to dig deep to find strength enough is an understatement. Thankfully, I had a solid foundation of meditation, exercise and yoga practice established. I saw the challenge as an opportunity for spiritual growth (it might as well mean something, right?) so I amped up my practice in response. Maybe all of that conscious energy inspired an increase in subconscious activity as well.
As a teenager, the outer appearance of my life was of achievement, success, and confidence. I was a good student, participated in extra-curriculars, and was a leader in several organizations. Inside, however, I felt like a mess. My dreams reflected that and intuitively I knew it. Today, my outer life looks pretty different than it did even a couple of years ago; after my divorce I had no career to support myself, an unfinished college degree, and I lost my home and my children. Not the end of the world but a major shake up in mine in many practical and emotional ways. But more and more, my dreams are reflecting an inner strength. In fact, they are feeling less and less like dreams and increasingly like my subconscious and my conscious minds are coming together.
The most recent example is this: the other morning, in what seemed to be a dream, “I” became aware of a female. There was no context for her; no setting, no plot, no relationships. Just a female: relatively young, innocent, happy, without malice or cynicism and incapable of conceiving of them. “I” also became aware of a male. He, too, was without context. Slightly older, disheveled, secretive, lurking, ill-intentioned, not quite evil but definitely experienced in shadow behavior. He stalked her, all his attention on her movements. She was completely unaware of him, and it seemed to “me” that her innocence provided some kind of protection for her; a bubble of energy that kept him at a distance. “I” felt no fear, no sense of danger or urgency, only the ‘signature’ of each of them; their energy pattern, if you will. In the apparent dream state, “I” came to the conclusion that the lesson (or symbol) of the dream figures was that love in its pure form will protect us from harm and that it is good and desirable to align ourselves with that. Easy enough; lesson learned “I” thought. Satisfied and perhaps even somewhat smug, “I” settled back to let the dream go. And then another thought flew into the dream space, as if from outside the dream state… the dream is nothing; you are the observer, the innocent, and the attacker; you are the creator of the dream and you are the creator of your life. Without context, “I” (the observer) could observe the effects of my thought projections without becoming attached or identified with either character. I was not the woman who needed to fear the man; I was not the man driven to attack. I simply watched from a detached place and therefore without judgment or fear. Without realizing it while in the dream state, I had set the stage to recognize that everything going on in the dream was in my hands. I woke from the dream with a heightened awareness that the same lesson applies to my life: to a degree far greater than I can perceive, what I experience in my life is in my hands.
“Dreams are pure thought, an opportunity to discover yourself.”
One dream, or even the series of dreams similar to this one, hasn’t changed my life like the flip of a switch. But each one serves to strengthen my heart and give me confidence as I move forward. I am paying attention to my dreams because, more than ever, I recognize the insights and messages they hold and how I can use them to transform my life and my world. Finally, instead of being uncomfortable with my dreams, I welcome them and the wisdoms they reveal.
This is Jackie Jeffery’s second guest post for Muse In The Valley, this winter she wrote The Crossover, about a series of dreams she had after the passing of her mother. Jackie lives in Minnesota with her sweetheart, knows American Sign Language, and writes part-time. Just recently she enjoyed a writing retreat on Madeleine Island.