Dreams For Living

by Jasbinder Garnermann

Chairwoman, C.G. Jung Centre, Ireland

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Failing brakes, crashing planes, muggers and robbers, lions, bulls, snakes and tigers, fire, oceans, journeys, kings and queens, shamans, gods and goddesses, breathtaking events, instant healing, gut-wrenching fear, soaring joy – this is the nightly two-hour show the theatre of our dreams.

Within seconds, our dreams can take us from the most basic to the most profound of experiences.  Cross the threshold of the ego, and such is the richness at our disposal, that its no wonder that art, literature, mythology and religion  all draw their life from this inner well. 

The more we can understand our dreams, the more we can integrate this inner richness into our everyday lives. Our dreams can draw attention to neglected areas in our lives, warn us in advance of a dangerous situation, compensate for our conscious attitudes, carry us through major transitions,  guide and heal us. So how are we to unlock this treasure that we all have?

 Dreams speak to us in symbols. Symbols have their own logic.  When we read a fairy-tale, we know that the events are not literally true, but true metaphorically, they are used to reveal deeper levels of reality that remain hidden from ordinary perception.  In this way, the figures we see in dreams tend to represent parts of ourselves.

 The knacker swigging cider on the canal bank, the mugger, bag-lady, the pervert and the slut are all parts of ourselves that we have split off. Ordinarily we project these parts onto others. That is why we get obsessed by the faults in others but our dreams are telling us that we too have this side.  This is called the shadow, which Jung called 90 percent pure gold, for the reason that the shadow holds the key to our wholeness, containing aspects that we suppressed. But with that we also lose the vitality of our instincts,  drive, spontaneity and wholeness.The challenge then is to find constructive ways of expressingthis side in our lives. Aggression can be channeled into healthy self-assertion, laziness into a more relaxed attitude, suicidal thrill-seeking into  constructive risk-taking, ferocity into the creative drive. The figures in our dreams will show us what aspect of our shadows we need to integrate. .

For our psyches, wholeness is paramount which is why deep down we are both male and female. male and female figures in our dreams can give us access to the opposite gender within us, completing us as human beings. For a man, the women in his dreams will show his relationship to the whole feminine side of being such as empathy, nurturing, intuition, sensuousness, for a woman the men in her dreams will enable her to get a better relationship to authority, action in the world, ambition, independence , focus and logic. Negative figures point to where this opposite sex side is caught in old complexes, inhibiting and distorting our relationship  to ourselves and also to the men and women in our lives. 

Animals in our dreams release deep feelings of hurt, vulnerability, playfulness, strength and healing. Bulls can symbolize rage but also great power and virility, horses energy which if mastered can carry us nobly through life, cats and dogs are friendly, domesticated instincts which also connect us to nature and all its abundant life-force. 

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Some dreams are like a camera turned inward on to our physical landscape.  Are you stuck in a traffic-jam on the motorway to Dublin? As well as looking at external pressures, get your arteries checked out. Dreams of pumps and boilers could show the state of our heart muscles, intelligence agents symbolize the T-cells, the intelligence agents of our immune system, sleazy characters and landscapes could give warning of infection, tree branches are dendrites in the brain. 

Many people also experience dreams in which they have a profound experience of being healed. These are called big dreams, and they occur in times of crisis or transition, when our ego is no longer up to the task, and something bigger than ourselves steps in. We then hear a voice or talk to a guide, or dream of an amazing garden or animal, maybe we are given a jewel, or discover a radiant child. A deep centring principle has been activated, and from now on our lives will become whole.  

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