“An unexamined dream is like an unopened letter” - Talmud
This morning’s shower was a particularly long one: while warm water woke me up, I interpreted last night’s dream. It was a vivid and long one, and quite intriguing: I was traveling to Belgium, a city whose name I had forgotten and was trying to remember, the streets lined with restaurants with tables on the street, serving varieties of dumplings fried in non-stick pans, no green salads, fruit, or vegetables. The streets had no trees or flower beds; just beautiful, extremely clean, opulent architecture, with some buildings modern, huge, and all illuminated with warm amber lights (it was night-time). I was afraid of walking on one of the large arteries where there were bright lights but no people, and I stuck with the pockets of population that revolved around the restaurants. I sat down at a table with several other people. I was searching my memory to remember my flights, where I had come from and the abbreviation of the name of the city I had flown to – with no success. I looked up Google maps on my iPhone, but could not make anything out of the names and language. I tried to reach out to the people at my table, who were friendly, smiling, nodding; one of them, a young man put his hand on my back; but everyone was speaking Flemish, no-one spoke English or French, and I could not communicate with them. They looked eager to help me, as I reached out, and could not connect. I hoped this place was close enough to Brussels and call my old friend, Dana, who lives there, to come and pick me up.
Countless books about dream interpretation cover the bookstore shelves; and countless well-meaning individuals will offer to interpret dreams in an “intuitive reading”. But there are some problems with these interpretations – and let me explain why:
Dreams are windows to the soul and the individual’s unconscious mind; the language they speak is a highly symbolical one, with all sights, sounds, feelings and characters metaphorically representing aspects of the dreamer’s psyche. Some symbols are universally shared: for example, a book represents knowledge in all cultures, at all times of humanity’s history; a bridge symbolizes communication between two worlds, or two beings, or two aspects of existence; a key represents “access”, etc. Other symbols are cultural: dogs, for instance, represent loyal friend in some cultures, and threatening enemy in others. Furthermore, dreams, just like daydreams, or fantasies, are laden with personal information that only makes sense to the dreamer. To interpret a dream in a genuine and useful way, the decoding can only belong to the dreamer himself or herself.
Each individual has reached a certain stage of psychological development – for example, pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional; or ego-centric, ethno- or socio-centric, world centric – worldviews changing with each level just like the view changes each time one climbs another rung on the ladder, causing the individual to interpret any experience according to those views. For example, let’s suppose three different individuals, one is ego-centric, another is ethno-centric and the third one is world-centric, dream about a savior on a white horse. The ego-centric dreamer will interpret that help is coming from a difficult situation (“It’s all about me”); the ethno-centric interpretation might be “The Messiah has arrived to save my people from the other people”; and a world-centric interpretation might be: “Humanity, or all sentient beings, are being saved and liberated by our awakening and emancipation of consciousness which prompts us to wise and kind actions in the world”
Besides stages of psychological development, each individual tends to look at the world either through a subjective lens of feelings, thoughts, and emotions, or the objective lens of facts and behavior. Each individual has his or her personality type, cultural biases and preferences, personal biases and preferences, and temporary states of consciousness which color their experience each moment.
Thus we see that each individual has their own unique Kosmic Address which dictates how the individual’s dream is correctly interpreted. This is the reason I am very careful of having another individual offer me intuitive “readings” or dream interpretation of any kind – because they can only offer an interpretation according to their own kosmic address, and not necessarily mine. Someone from your own cultural background, who shares your psychological altitude and thus, your worldviews, is likely to offer you more valuable insights that you can use than someone further away from your kosmic address.
The most valuable facilitation in interpreting dreams is in the form of an interview, where a skilled facilitator asks you relevant, open-ended questions which elicit insights within your own mind. An interview may bring questions such as: How did you feel? What does this person / being / object represent to you? Where in your wake life do you feel…?
A facilitator can be a skilled therapist or a trusted friend, who refrains from offering their own interpretation unsolicited, but listens to the dreamer’s narrative; interpretation can be self-facilitated (the shower works best for me, perhaps the flow of water elicits movement in my thoughts), but a good listener can catalyze the process of accessing insight.
Integrating split-off aspects of the psyche that have been cast away in the dark corners of the unconscious mind is an important daily practice for healing and growth, and a valuable component of exploring and working with dreams. In general, all dream characters that are “other” than you, are really elements of yourself in the Shadow, and you can run the 3-2-1 Shadow Work protocol (see “Integral Life Practice” book ) – Face it, Talk to it, Become it – with the characters of your dreams.
My Dream Interpretation
I travel, which means I am not home, which is how I still feel in life, partly because I am an immigrant from a very different culture, partly because I do not feel I belong, or at home in my personal life. Europe is part of my past, so I travel to Belgium, where I travelled in my wake life, which means there is familiarity to it, enjoyment – as I enjoy traveling – and I don’t belong. Everything in the dream is man-made, the dumplings in the restaurants are processed, there is culture but not nature, and without trees, flower beds, and salads in the restaurants, everything seems to be clinical, sterile, artificial, which adds to my feelings of alienation because I connect best when in the presence of nature. I reach out to people, in my dream, asking for help, and there is a communication glitch: I can’t remember where I am coming from or to, and I can’t understand or be understood by the otherwise friendly locals because a language barrier, which symbolizes cultural differences, and my “savior” is an old friend who shares my cultural background (she speaks Romanian) so she can help. In my “awake” life I do spend quite a bit of time on skype and phone speaking Romanian with old friends.
Running the 3-2-1 Shadow Integration protocol, I find that the well-meaning Belgian people want to help me, but lack the skill (language) to do so; all they can do is feel with me and care for me in a non-verbal way. An insight shows me that I am in a similar position with my husband, who reaches for me emotionally, and I want to help, but I lack the skills to do so, and all I can do is feel with him, care for him with non-verbal communication.