Donna Ippolito's Dream Scoop

Understanding dreams is easy and fun...Dreams are the voice of your soul. If you're looking for answers, look within.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Transforming Nature of Dreams

As I mentioned last time, we all dream several times every night. In fact, every mammal (except the spiny anteater) experiences the dream state. I've seen my cats dreaming on many occasions, and I have vivid memories of my dog Blue barking softly and moving his paws in a run while he was sacked out for a nap. As humans, we often feel separate and alone in nature, yet we share the mysterious, vast realm of dreams with our four-legged fellows (and gals).

When people learn of my work with dreams, they often say that, yes, they dream but they simply don't remember their dreams upon waking. Others say that they remember one or more dreams or the tiniest snatches of them, but that these dreams are weird and meaningless, some freak phenomenon of the night. Often, people view these "weird" or fragmentary dreams as not "the real thing". They judge their dreams on some scale of meaningfulness, perhaps imagining that the only important dreams are ones filled with arcane symbols or ancient wisdom figures.

I once thought the same way, and it was only in working with the dreams of people in groups and in individual sessions that I came to understand. I have learned that the dream fragment is often the one that yields up the most treasure once you dive into it heart, body, and soul. I now think of these fragments as a kind of telegram (after the image of "Zen Telegrams," the title of a book on haiku I once read.) These tiny dreams aren't meaningless or even fragmentary but as condensed and packed with energy as the mighty atom. Other times I see them as gifts simply waiting to be opened to reveal their treasures.

But back to you and your dreams. In searching around for ways to understand them, are you hoping to find the answer to the mystery, the key that will unlock the "secret" of the dream, the magic words that will bring forth a genie who will tell you in perfectly understandable English (or whatever language you speak) what the dream "means"? For example, I've seen people sit and methodically "translate" all the "symbols" in a dream, in the end very pleased and satisfied to obtain this wonderful dose of psychological self-help. It is as if the whole function of dreaming is to provide us with good advice, kind of like Hints from Heloise to make our problems a lot less tedious and annoying so that we can get on with the rest of our life.

There may be some satisfaction or even assistance gained from this mechanical approach to dreams, but it is short-lived. It's intellectual. It's analytical. It's about "insight," but dreams don't come to us for that. Dreams know nothing of insight. They exist far beyond that human obssession. Dreams are transforming. If we meet them in the way they want to be met and known, we may learn something, but it is on the level of transformation--the level of emotions and vulnerability--not on the level of thoughts or ideas.

You will emerge a new person from each authentic encounter with a dream. You will be changed, and rarely will you emerge with what you expected to find. That is because dreams come from the realm of the unknown, not the realm of the known. Dreams are here to tell us what we don't know about some problem or conflict in our everyday lives. Dreams let us view our human problems from a deeper, wider, longer perspective--the perspective of the soul.

As Jung taught, working with a dream is like speaking with the 1,000,000-year-old man or the Mother of Days. We tap into a font of collective wisdom, some of it human and some of it the wisdom of our animal nature. He also taught that dreams are a bridge between the world of consciousness and the limitless land of the unknown. Dreams let us pass safely between these two worlds.

Like Jung, I believe that dreams are the voice of the soul.

Copyright © 2005 by Donna Ippolito. All rights reserved.


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