The Meaning of Dreams - The Holographic Key
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
When talking to people about the specialized psychology training I’ve been doing in the past 5 years with the multidisciplinary, Jungian based school, the Assisi Institute, inevitably, we start talking about dreams. I often try to stop the dreamer from telling me details about their dreams right off the bat in the course of a casual conversation. The deeply revealing, personal meaning of dreams is the reason why.
For a person who has had a reoccurring dream their whole life, from a Jungian perspective, there is a persistent underlying pattern in the dreamer’s life that is speaking to the person’s ego, their waking consciousness. Psyche, the totality of a person’s energetic, conscious, unconscious, and spiritual being, speaks through dream images. A dream is an opened door, offering the dreamer an opportunity for insight, integration, understanding, learning, and change.
The context of the details of the dream provide the dreamer, and the dream pattern analyst a complete, holographic image as to how it relates to the dreamer’s past, current situations, and possible future outcomes. So that dream where you go to school with no pants on? Of course it is about exposure and vulnerability and embarrassment. It also speaks to coping and defense mechanisms or symbolic packets of energy and information (also called complexes and schemas), that were formed during the time the dreamer was attending that level of schooling. This level of approach to a dream is more holistic and encompassing than the reductive method of a dream dictionary.
Humanity has been fascinated with dreams since the beginning of history with recorded dreams from classical authors such as Heredotus in the Wars of Persia, Homer in the Iliad, and biblical references such as Joseph’s dream. Research since 2010 has shown what the ancient Greeks have purported for 2,000 years, that dreaming consolidates and enhances both memory and learning (Stickgold, 2013). Sleep also enhances the importance of particular memories, affecting what an individual values when awake. Finally, in a 2004 study, researchers showed that dreaming improved problem solving and insight (Stickgold, 2013).
A creative state, called flow, by creativity expert, Csikszentmihalyi (1996), is a state that allows for new information to be integrated from the unconscious. This state is a working state that requires effort, but studies have found that individuals experiencing flow consider this state to be productive, enjoyable, and rewarding (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). Both creative engagement and dreaming engaged the individual to create a conduit between conscious and unconscious engagement (La Nave, 2010). Furthermore, the interplay between the creator in art therapy, his or her art, can be like a waking dream that stimulates the imagination in order fro the individual to gain insight (Schaverien, 2005). Working with dreams through the creative process is a natural fit, which gives honor to the dream image and engages the creative potential of the unconscious, from which the dream arose!
Dream meaning and symbolism has been an interest of mine since I was a child. I remember saying often in elementary school, “I love going to sleep every night. My dream life is just as important as my waking life!” No joke, I was always a nerd about this stuff! Now, as an adult approaching middle age, I continue to engage in a rich personal practice with dreams that provides insight, warnings, assurances, and meaning to my life.
So that reoccurring dream that you still haven’t figured out? That dream that seems vividly alive and garners your attention for hours or day or years later? Those dream images are keys to the locked doors of self-knowledge with in you. Those dream images are keys to the locked barriers at dead ends you find in the labyrinth of life. Do you step through the door? Do you cross the threshold into a new world, with new challenges and adventures?
Your dreams are giving you keys. Let’s figure out what doors they can open for you.
I offer online and in person dream analysis and art therapy for individuals and groups. Pleasant dreams!
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: The psychology of discovery and invention. New York: HarperCollins.
La Nave, L., (2010). Image: Reflections on the treatment of images and dreams in art psychotherapy groups. International Journal of Art Therapy, 15(1), 13-24, DOI: 10.1080/17454831003752378
Schaverien, J. (2005). Art, dreams and active imagination: A post-Jungian approach to transference and the image. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50, 127-153.
Stickgold, R. (2013). The Function of Dreaming. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 93(2), 11.