THE LANGUAGE OF DREAMS
“Dreams are impartial, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche, outside the control of the will. They are pure nature; they show us the unvarnished, natural truth, and are therefore fitted, as nothing else is, to give us back an attitude that accords with our basic human nature when our consciousness has strayed too far from its foundations and run into an impasse.”
Learning A New Language That is Uniquely Your Own
When delving into dreams, at first, one may be quite confounded by the imagery which is what we call the “language of the dream”. Even though they belong to you, are created by you and manifest in your sleep realm, they are at first, until you learn their unique language, unclear in what they may be pointing toward.
In order to grasp the language of a dream, one must become aware of the feeling associated with it: the individual symbology of your dreams. This language is unique to you. The linguistic content can’t be discovered anywhere else but from within you. It’s made of images, numinous feeling-tones and seemingly mystical combinations of persons, creatures, events, colors and lights and sensations. Dreams are not bounded by the restrictions of morality and narrative that are imposed in daily life. Often, we are confounded by our apparent behavior and thoughts that arise in dreams. It is most important to keep in mind that what you call “You”, self-perception, is not present in the creation of these remarkable dream presentations.
How is one to understand the essential language in all of this?
Firstly, it is important to understand that not all dreams need immediate analysis. Some are only to sit with, let ruminate, settle and perhaps, at a future time, erupt of their own volition into meaning. But we are frequently perplexed by last night’s dream and have a pressing desire to find its deeper purpose.
Transforming these natural images into purposeful actions can be challenging.
How To Begin Translating Dream Language/ Imagery
Here are a few guideposts that are helpful in learning our personal dream language:
- Write down the dream as soon as possible.
- Be with it as soon as it comes up, whether upon awakening or later in the day and let it seep from sleep, the unconscious from which it arose, into your waking consciousness. Be patient. Don’t force it.
- Write down anything at all that you remember. Don’t worry about being precise.
- Read through the dream narrative that you wrote down. As you read through the dream, allow yourself to become sensitive and aware of the physical sensations that arise in your body, wherever they may occur, that indicate a “rising” or “increase in energy” or a “quickening” or even just call out to your awareness, and circle the word(s) that you were reading when that sensation arose and you became aware of it. A single word will do.
- Take a look at the words you wrote down and consider the question, “What’s going on in my daily, waking world; where do any of these words relate to people, places, events, emotions or physical sensations I’ve experienced?”
- At this point relax into the sensations, thoughts and feelings that bringing the ‘dream words + daily reflection’ may bring. Where is it in your body? What emotions arise? Write down anything that may come up. Don’t struggle. If it comes, OK. If nothing comes, OK.
- It is a very effective practice to transplant the unconscious dream material into consciousness with a physical act. This is called “concretizing the dream”. For example: If I dream of a blue shirt, I go to my closet and put on a blue shirt. If I dream of flowers, I pick some and put them on the kitchen table. It’s as simple as that.
This is only a beginning of learning and working with your own personal dream language. You will soon have the experience that your dreams become much easier to recall. Additionally, you will begin to recognize and become aware of aspects of your conscious daily living that you may have been previously unaware of. Aspects like “blind-spots”, thoughts and actions that have been coming up without much consciousness around them become more apparent.
Bringing Consciousness and Balance Though Embodiment of Your Dreams
When brought into consciousness, the dream brings into balance and unifies the disparate aspects of the psyche, but in doing so one must learn to hold the tensions of opposing desires and not act out until a new consciousness emerges. This is the work of engaging this method. Dropping one of the opposing sides results in unconscious acting out. For example, one my think; “On one hand I love my partner. She/He is my stability, my hearth and home, the parent of our child and a wholesome person. On the other, I must have a paramour who is passionate, sexual, unpredictable and fires my wild imagination.” Living within the tension of these two opposites is akin to the symbolic image of a crucifixion. Pulled in one direction by loyalty and presupposed right behavior and torn in the other direction by the desire of a fiery, exciting affair. To act out unconsciously is to allow one side to drop creating further separation within the psyche. During this time to engage the imagery arising in dreams which seeks to bring into balance and wholeness these seemingly opposing desires is to create the consciousness-vessel in which authentic and meaningful personal awakening may occur. This “holding the tension of opposites” is what allows the new consciousness around this psychic energy to manifest.
This is to live fully, and deeply within the reality of psychic wholeness and understanding.
Initially, the ego reacts to this work by criticizing and rejecting it. The ego says, “This is bullshit! What a waste of time! We don’t need this! Get on with your life!”. You see, the ego often exists in conflict with the unconscious; its hope is to preserve and further itself alone. The ego thinks it can “kill you and still survive”. Bringing ego and the unconscious into balance requires a descent of sorts, a reckoning, if you will.
The work to be done is fruitful but absolutely requires an experienced mentor or guide to minimize erroneous and sometimes dangerous acting out on the part of the dream practitioner. The descent into the psyche, necessary for the alchemy of transformation to take place can, at times, feel being possessed by an unmanageable force. If unguided and misunderstood, it can lead to potentially damaging behavior.
As the dream work deepens you will certainly garner more subtle understandings of the dream’s meanings and imperative call to action. The psyche has a natural gradient to wholeness and dream work is the practical method for facilitating this process.