By Anupama Bhattacharya
You could seek in it hidden desires, mystical revelations, chaotic thoughts or states of consciousness. Or you could simply cross the threshold, open your eyes and live in the real world as you’ve never lived before. The dream or the vision is yours, so is the choice
Houses: According to Freud, dreaming of houses indicates the desire to visit a brothel. In Jungian terms, a house is a representation of the self and its rooms are personality aspects.
Birds: For Freud, birds are phallic symbols. For Artemidorus and Jung, birds are images of the soul, the desire to be free. And their condition in the dream indicates the condition of the soul.
Flying: For Freud, once again, this indicates sexual activity. Jung suggests that flying symbolizes confidence, liberty and transcendence. In modern terms, flying dreams symbolize exceptional ability.
Exhibitionism: In Freudian terms this indicates a desire for uninhibited sexuality. For Jung, it indicates vulnerability and a message from the unconscious to be less self-conscious.
Being chased: Most dream interpreters agree that this seems to suggest childhood fears or present pressures and threats.
Failing: For Freud, falling symbolizes sexual inability. In modern terms, falling represents a fear of loss of control.
Horses: According to Freud, horses symbolize the sexual drive. Jung noted that horse dreams could often be indicative of health conditions. Horses can also represent clairvoyance and fertility.
Climbing: Freud interprets this as the desire to have an erection. For Jung it is a transition from one stage of life to another. Modern psychoanalysts believe that climbing dreams reflect the effort required to meet a challenge.IT`S A MYSTICAL DREAM WHEN…
There is no connection between your everyday associations or experiences and the dream.
It is surprisingly real. In fact, a part of you might actually wonder if it is not really a dream but vision of a different reality.
Some images continue to recur each time you have the dream.
Though the context or the symbolism may be different, it often leaves you with more or less the same kind of feeling—be it contentment, ecstasy, joy, pain, sorrow or wonder.
It doesn’t make sense if you try to interpret it in ordinary terms.WORK WITH YOUR DREAMS
Keep a small notebook near your bed and each time you wake up from a dream, jot down the key words so that you can remember it in the morning.
Maintain a dream diary. Every morning, write down the content of your dreams in minute detail. Date and time them as accurately as possible.
Try and remember if events of the previous day have any connection with the images.
Take each main constituent of the dream separately. Try free association-write a string of words that come to your mind when you think of a particular dream image.
Leave some space after each dream so that whenever a connection or interpretation strikes you, you can jot it down.
Put all the associations together and see if you can find a pattern emerging that relates to your life.LUCID DREAMING
As you drift to sleep, repeat an affirmation in your mind that you will become lucid in your dreams and will be able to guide yourself through the unsought realm of the dreamworld.
Throughout the day, ask yourself whenever you begin to take things for granted: ‘Could I be dreaming now?’
Pretend you’re dreaming. Use your imagination to create a dream and explore flying, time travel, bi-location, other dimensions, or something equally fantastic.
Several times a day, stop and ask yourself: ‘If what I am experiencing now is really a dream, what would it mean?’
Participate in dream groups. People with a regular forum in which to explore, appreciate, interpret, and share dreams tend to naturally become regular lucid dreamers.
In the stillness of the night, when not a sound breaks the hushed silence, they timorously creep into your mind. Fragile, flittering forms—often more real than reality—seek you out from the deepest abyss of your soul and open for you a vista of visions—nonsensical, terrifying, fantastic—and sometimes, just sometimes, hauntingly beautiful. You wake up with a lump in your throat that threatens to cascade down your eyes, a lingering nostalgia for something near, yet eternity away. But weren’t you closer to believing, even then, that somewhere, all that you saw was real; that, beyond the tangible truth of ticking time, you had lived one moment of timeless infinity? Perhaps that’s the secret. The chance to glimpse beyond. Why else should we take a dream, those phantasms of the chaotic unconscious, so seriously?
Why indeed! It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to figure out that much of our dreams are a cocktail of the obvious and not-so-obvious fancies and aspirations of everyday life. True, they are garnished with exotic ingredients—your dream self might suddenly swap identities with a cat, or the harmless road you are walking on might metamorphose into a kaleidoscope of light—all giving you enlightening glimpses into your psyche. Dreams are, nevertheless, dreams. They wouldn’ even qualify for the preliminary round of an aspiring vision contest. Unless you get lucky…
In the dreamworld, luck is a matter of practice. The more you seek visions, the more you get them. In fact, strictly speaking, even the most mundane of your dreams can be perceived as a revelation. And why not? If all that we do—eat, sleep, laugh, run, work or procreate—is in essence a spiritual quest, shouldn’t each living moment truly be a miracle?
B.S. Goel, Indian psychoanalyst and author of Psychoanalysis and Meditation, agrees. ‘All dreams reflect the desire of the jiva (individual consciousness) to merge with Shiva (cosmic consciousness).’ And since the jiva knows itself as the body, the spiritual desire manifests as a desire to please the body. Not quite what Sigmund Freud would say, but close enough.
Like Freud, Goel also claims that most dreams reflect repressed desires, the strongest being sexuality. But he goes further. ‘Since the spiritual desire of merging with the cosmic consciousness is repressed with birth, erotic dreams are a common phenomenon.’ And a person trying to tap his spirituality is more prone to such dreams. Freud’s latent and manifest content of dreams holds true here as well. ‘We all have a subconscious defense mechanism that makes us hide the yet unclear aspects of our personality.’ And the clues, says Goel, lie not so much in the symbols—which vary from person to person—but in the emotional content of the dream.
He, however, condescends to give Freud his due: ‘Freud could not see the basic spiritual need, but he did see the cluster around it.’ He goes on to describe one of his dreams, where he saw two identical images of himself making love. ‘The civilized man is split inside,’ he explains. ‘The dream shows that the opposition between the two is diminishing.’ It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how Freud would analyze this dream. And there, according to Goel, lies his limitation. But then, Freud was of the opinion that the unconscious contained little more than unacceptable and painful thoughts.
THE DARK PSYCHE
As long as Freud had his way, dreams were limited to quasi-therapeutic analyses. As expected, a lot of muck was vomited out by the psyche. Dreams then were full of giveaways. A tree for secret erotic desires, a hat for Oedipal tendencies, a pillar for adultery, a bird for a phallic symbol. Freud’s student-turned-rebel, Carl Gustav Jung, changed all that. If only Freud hadn’t insisted that Jung’s dream of a house with skulls in its cellar indicated a secret death wish! Though Jung reluctantly agreed with his teacher—even accepted that he may have had a secret desire to see his wife dead—seeds of suspicion were sown. What if Freud was missing the point? After all, hadn’t he distinctly felt that his journey down a house in the dream represented the various layers of the mind?
Freud and Jung. Two masterminds in the field of dream analysis. Ironically, Jung found his bone of contention after analyzing his dreams the Freudian way. What he discovered was equally revealing. Research indicates that a person falling asleep shows a steady pattern of alpha waves on the electroencephalograph (EEG). These are accompanied by regular breathing, slow pulse rate and a drop in body temperature. This is the non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Dreaming takes place in the REM state, which occurs at least five times a night. REM is marked by intense motor activity, increased pulse rate and a brain pattern similar to alert wakefulness.
Jung believed that during the REM state, the mind gets in touch with the unconscious, which not only contains the ‘personal unconscious’, with its repressed desires and fears, but also the racial memory and experiences of the collective unconscious. He also steered clear of the Freudian rigidity of dream analysis, believing that interpretations of dreams was largely based on the personality and circumstances of the dreamer. ‘The general function of dreams,’ he wrote, ‘is to try to restore our psychological balance.’ A theory most modern healing and personal growth systems agree to. ‘In a dream,’ says Fritz Perls, founder of gestalt therapy, ‘we have a clear and existential message of what’s missing in our lives.’ Madhu Tandon, author and dreamworker based in New Delhi, India, would agree. ‘I’ve been working with my dreams for 22 years now. And they’ve given me great insights about my life, my potentials and my path.’
Madhu believed that she didn’t dream. Till Aropa, her guru, asked her to jot down her dreams. ‘That night, surprisingly, I remembered six dreams,’ she recalls. That was the turning point of her life. Aropa, who believes that dreams are the chief vehicle for self-realization, helped Madhu come to terms with her past traumas. ‘It was a dream of Annie Besant,’ says Madhu. ‘I saw her come out of a car with a nine or ten-year-old girl. The girl was dead. When I told Aropa about this dream, he asked me if anything emotionally deadening had happened to me at the age of nine or ten. He also remarked that Annie Besant had adopted the philosopher J. Krishnamurti as her spiritual heir. This triggered off the memories of my emotional trauma when I was told, at that age, that I was an adopted child.’ Her dream, says Madhu, was an indication that she still had to come to terms with this issue.
The catchwords are the numbers. Each time a number occurs in your dream, grab it, sit on it till it tells you something you need to know. ‘Dream images are like puzzles,’ explains Madhu. ‘You have to work hard to decipher their meaning.’ She cites the case of Daya Jetli who dreamt of three people walking towards a house with three windows. ‘Here, number three was the main symbol. So I asked her if anything had happened three years back that she wasn’t comfortable with. She told me that she had been divorced three years back and at that time, they were living in a house with three rooms.’ A dream, according to Madhu, can be your counselor, guide and critic. Depends on what you need. ‘When you are interpreting a dream,’ she points out, ‘you should keep in mind the people, setting, structure of the story and, most importantly, interaction between the dream characters. Gradually, the meaning of the dream will unfold.’
As it did with Keshav Dey. Now in his 60s, Dey had a brush with the strange power of dreams when, as a senior manager of an export company in New Delhi, India, he spent sleepless nights punctuated by visions of a darkness enveloping his house and everybody in it. ‘After many counseling sessions, I gathered enough courage to face the fact that the darkness was a symbol of some unethical decisions I had taken to step over my colleagues. And this was creating unpleasantness at home.’ Dey personally apologized to everyone. Since then the darkness hasn’t returned.
In fact, dreams are now gradually edging their way into the corporate sector as well. ‘Your dreams reflect the unresolved issues in your life,’ says Delhi-based Dr Anjali Hazarika, author of Daring to Dream, who holds dream workshops for corporate executives, ‘and they can have tremendous impact on your work.’ According to Dr Hazarika, dreams offer new perspectives to problem solving, give creative insights and create awareness about life in general. ‘The images in your dreams may appear strange, but they are all deliberate parts of a meaningful story about you and your life,’ says Gillian Holloway, a New York-based dream analyst and author of Dreaming Insights. Gillian feels that when we work with dreams, synchronicity increases in our life since dreams connect the unrelated parts of our existence. They also help battle ghosts of the psyche.
Consider this. As an adolescent, Alfred Einstein dreamt of going faster and faster down a hillside on a sled. As it approached the speed of light, the stars above distorted and changed patterns. Years later, this dream was to form the basis of his theory of relativity. Niels Bohr dreamt of a racetrack that led to the quantum theory. S.T. Coleridge wrote his masterpiece Kubla Khan after seeing the manuscript in a dream. Rene Descartes was convinced through dreams that he was destined to seek the truth.
Let’s get slightly esoteric. Joseph was convinced of Mary’s virginity in a dream. Queen Maya dreamt of a divine white elephant entering her womb before she gave birth to the Buddha. Prophet Mohammed was told most of the Koran in a dream. In fact, even Adolf Hitler was saved by a dream that prompted him to leave his trench minutes before it was blown up in World War I. Clearly, dream guidance doesn’t have moral pretensions.
‘I don’t think dreams are divine influence,’ says Shona Singh, a corporate consultant who has been studying her dreams for years now. ‘Most of my dreams reflect what I expect from my life. So, perhaps it is the God within me who is guiding me to attain completion.’ Possible. But why should guiding dreams occur to some and not to others? ‘We all have meaningful dreams,’ Shona avers. ‘We just don’t take the trouble of deciphering them. ‘
And no, this is not New Age-speak. In the second century B.C., there were around 320 temples in Greece devoted to dream incubation (the system of seeking answers in dreams). Here the dreamer would sleep with a question in his mind. By morning, a dream would provide the answer. That apart, humanity’s favorite pastime seems to have been dream interpretation. Perhaps it was the story factor. Or the novelty. But no culture has been untouched by those mystical sprites of the night. Archaeologists suggest that dream books existed as early as 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. The Sama Veda and the Puranas from the ancient Indian scriptures discuss dream analysis. In the second century A.D., Artemidorus of Rome analyzed about 3,000 dreams in his five-volume Oneirocritica. He went ahead to distinguish two kinds of dreams: insomnium (those affected by everyday life) and somnium (those with profound allegorical meaning). Jung was to make a similar distinction later.
Dream, vision, realEach to his own. That’s Jung’s philosophy. But the temptation to explain further was always there. Artemidorus believed that dreams signify their opposites. That is, if you dream of dying, you are likely to have a long life. But if you happen to dream of a celebration, you better watch your step. And, like all else, when you dream has its own significance.
‘The Indian tradition believes that the pre-dawn moment is the Brahma muhurat or Brahma time. When the last stars are still twinkling in the sky, a window opens in the cosmic consciousness and reaches out to the individual consciousness,’ says Goel. Which is why pre-dawn dreams are given special importance. In fact, early morning dreams often feel tantalizingly real. You wake up, and wonder whether it was really a dream. In New Age terms, this is lucid dreaming step I. Step II begins when you dream of dreaming. For step III, you have to be aware that you are dreaming and direct the dream.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead mentions lamas who would use a potent method of mental imagery to retreat deeper into their souls. Then they would dream, and dreaming, they would explore alternative realities, seek the meaning of existence and travel across light years. Today, this is called lucid dreaming. ‘With lucid dreaming,’ says Gillian, ‘you can explore new worlds, new dimensions, as well as the deepest secrets of your psyche.’ And this can even happen spontaneously. ‘You may dream of something as fantastic as a laughing dog and realize you are dreaming.’ ‘I was doing it much before I knew the term for it,’ says Sohini Ghosh, a Delhi-based practitioner of lucid dreaming. ‘I would hang on to my waking consciousness, and then get into the dreamscape.’ For Sohini, it was more a matter of adventure. ‘I would do it because I enjoyed it. How else could you fly over a vast ocean or walk through walls?’
KINGDOM OF THE SOUL
Let us go then, you and I, where the evening is spread out against the sky. To realms where the mind breaks free. For, as Carlos Castaneda believed, it is all a matter of perception.
Castaneda, New Age guru and author who claimed to have apprenticed with a Yaqui Indian called don Juan, believed that dreaming is an art of shifting your assemblage point (a point of brilliance inside the energy field of the human body). ‘The greater the displacement, the more unusual the dream,’ writes Castaneda in his book The Art of Dreaming. Nothing is impossible here. You could visit strange worlds, soar through primal chaos or simply perceive the world with a new perspective.
‘Every emotion is intensified in dreams,’ says Bhumika Rakshit, a student who maintains a dream diary.
‘A nightmare could be as simple as a dog chasing you. But it takes on a dark, foreboding aura. Or a beautiful dream might turn out to be something as simple as a stroll on a lovely sea beach.’
Imagine this. Foaming waves crash on an immaculate shore. Streaks of lightning dance in the sky. A light, brighter than the full moon, showers upon the panoramic view in resplendent glory. But the reality shocks you into awakening, leaving you with a longing—that returns at odd hours when even a blade of grass swinging in the rain-drenched air can make you nostalgic—for something lost or something yet to be. A mere dream? Think again.
‘All life began in the dream sea. And we’ve been trying to get back there ever since,’ wrote Clive Barker in this book Everville. A fetal desire to return to the womb? Or something much deeper?
‘You can’t explain away dreams that easily,’ says Bhumika. ‘I have been dreaming of a world with a purple sea. One of my friends dreams of strange forests.’ Bhumika feels that dreams might be doorways to different worlds. ‘How else could you explain the strange clarity of these dreams?’ she asks.
You can’t. Not even with the best psychiatric jargon. Dr Sharad Chandra, a Delhi-based psychiatrist, doesn’t even try. ‘Most dreams are based on repressed desires and fears,’ says he. ‘But once in a while you come across a dream that defies all explanation.’
So you dream. Untouched by the grounding consciousness. A vast road stretches forth, merging into infinity. You take a few tentative steps, and take off—towards the sky, scaling a new horizon. ‘I have been dreaming of flying for so many years now,’ says Shona. ‘It’s amazing, this freedom.’
Would a fish dream of running? Would an eagle dream of swimming? ‘Why should human beings dream of flying?’ muses Dr Chandra. ‘It could be a latent potential. There is so much that we don’t understand.’
But it all unfolds. A vision here, a glimpse there. The ocean of love waiting to flow over. The pain, the anger. The joy, the ecstasy. The subtle footsteps of dreams sound in the corridors of mind like a half-forgotten echo—a sadness akin to joy in its intensity.
Have you heard the sound of silence? Or grasped a gossamer vision even as it dispersed in the air? Dreams are like that. They come to you like torrents of light in the untouched void of your mind and take you unawares. You float on the wings of bliss—carefree, buoyant. It draws you, pulls you with a force that is at once awesome and tender, to the core of your reality. You know it’s near, so near that you can reach out and touch it. But the spell breaks. You wake and, like a stranger to yourself, wait for the day when you will return and claim your soul.
But that, as they say, is another story.
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