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Ask the Dream Specialist

by Ken Kaplan


This column will now appear on an occasional basis as inspiration and opportunity dictate. One piece of business. If you want help with or advice on a dream, you must email me at kenstories@comcast.net.  I had a reader recently asking for help with a dream but it was in the “comments” section. Dreams are so unique and specific to the dreamer and particular life circumstances that I could not address the dream properly in a column and I had no way to contact the person who wanted help. Dreams are best dealt with verbally by phone, so if need be, contact me at the address below to set up an appointment. Keep in mind I do charge a reasonable fee for services depending on time spent.

In previous columns we have covered some significant ground. In this one I would like to address more fully the recurring dream. My philosophy of dreams includes the foundational belief that the Self is unitive. That is, beyond the sense of separation and the predicament of the distortions, fears, and other difficult attributes of the human experience, our true nature, our essence, is boundless, inviolate, and complete. However, in this world we have experienced a primal disconnect from that inner wholeness and much of what goes on in life are forces within that subconsciously attempt to move us to achieve return to that sense of unity and completeness. Often, this need takes on shadow form, such as addictions, power drives, and violent behavior. The Course in Miracles clarifies this dilemma quite well, stating that all behavior ultimately is a “call for love”, for fulfillment, the true nature of our being.

If this is the case, then my view of dreams psychologically , which I have shared before, is a mechanism of self beyond the physical, combining the elements and intelligence of the subconscious and unconscious minds. (the unconscious most linked to higher self, or Divine aspect) This incredible inner intelligence seeks to consistently offer information that will lead to integration of self, healing of separation issues, and return to that wholeness of essence. And as we have seen, this activity carries within it a genius of clarity, explicitness, and precision that is remarkable, often breath taking. Our great problem, however, is in not only discounting this treasure of assistance from within (“dreams have no meaning”), but not being able to properly delve into them and understand their language and the message they wish to convey.

Therefore, the recurring dream is one that is an aspect of the insistence of the self, usually around a crucial issue. However, not all recurring dreams are addressed to problems. Dreams at their core express the feeling and intuitive nature of self as it is occurring in present time, influenced powerfully by many past and formative experiences, but pure and unfettered by the conscious or waking mind. Therefore a recurring dream can be one of intense pleasure, such as in flying, in which the feeling of inner freedom in the waking life is so predominant, we subconsciously choose to express that feeling often in the dream life as a reflection of that waking reality.

In this column, I am more concerned with recurring dreams that constantly reappear around unresolved issues. The fact of their continual emergence is an expression of urgency on the part of the self, alerting us to those issues that so significantly interrupt or disrupt our inner emotional and psychological lives that they literally will not leave us alone. The greater the frequency of the dream, even if the exact form (different houses for example) is not the same, the more the self wants the issue to be faced. Such dreams are truly sending a signal of the Soul’s distress.

Years ago I had a recurring dream that was deeply troubling. I had just moved to a new location in Media, Pa and felt isolated and had not yet developed the support of community I now enjoy. In the dream, which took place in a wintry, desolate, cold landscape, I stood on a hill overlooking an iced river leading to the valley below. From the valley, a gang of teenaged boys, about four or five were throwing extremely sharp “frisbie knives” at me, one after the other. These were quite dangerous and I had to expend a great deal of effort to avoid them as they came whistling toward me from below. I had this exact dream about once every six weeks to two months.

What to make of it? Knowing what I know now, the meaning of the dream is abundantly clear. The arena is one of desolation and isolation: winter. Snow and ice is everywhere. There are no houses. The river (water often symbolizes emotion and in this case the flow of life, of life energy) is frozen. The boys are “below”. “I” am “above”. (The conscious mind appears to hold more control in daily life.) Who are the boys and why are they so angry as to attack me with fearsome weapons? And these “weapons” ordinarily would be associated with play: frisbies. But in this case their use is inverted, a shadow aspect of their original purpose. The boys represent my own youthful teenage energy, the part of me that wants to explore life, connect to excitement, passion, connection, freedom, and yes, play. Yet that energy within me is being repressed, dispossessed. Therefore, it is letting me know in no uncertain terms how much anger is stored in this self-repression. And the issue is important enough, even crucial, that it lets me know quite regularly that in effect a part of me that I am not conscious of is pretty “pissed off” and needs attending to.

This again is the “ruthless honesty” of dreams. As it so happened, as I began to integrate a more meaningful social life and sense of connection, the dreams abated, but not for a generous amount of time. Dreams let you know when an issue is resolved. They don’t depend on the conscious mind’s desires, or dictates about timing and convenience.

One of the most common recurring dreams is the motif of being lost, late, disorganized, or confused in either familiar or unfamiliar locations. (The movie “Risky Business”, which was a break out movie for the young Tom Cruise, starts with this type of dream: he is incredibly late-one minute left- for his SAT exams after being seduced by a beautiful young woman in a shower.) Time after time in consultations, this type of dream is exceptionally prevalent. What is clear, is that for a great many of us in our hurried, performance oriented culture, we feel inadequate, not able to get or keep things together, not “up to snuff’. Often in various cases, these dreams intensify for people when life presents strong challenges, or unexpected pressures arise. When this happens, the dream is calling for us to inspect how in our inner lives we are nurturing ourselves and where we have fallen into patterns from the past that truly do not serve us. They push us to see where we might investigate more deeply our “programming” and options for greater emotional health that in our “day to day business” we tend to ignore.

An interesting variation of this recurring dream was recounted to me by a young woman at a library. At least once a week she had a dream of tripping and falling down the stairs, but at the last moment, instead of crashing to the ground, she found she could fly and swooped upward and saved herself from harm. As we began to explore the relationship of dream to waking life, it became clear very quickly, that the feeling of loss of control, of not “having herself together” as much as she would have wished was quite strong in her life. But what was interesting is that her life history (as much as could be shared in a short time) reflected a particularly strong inner resilience. This had manifested early in her life when she was either in pre-med or medical school. Family conflicts had prevented her from becoming a doctor, but she had found the inner strength to rebound and had found meaningful life work in the biological sciences, a directly related field. As we talked, she realized that this resilience, symbolized by catching herself and finding the ability to fly out of the danger of the fall has manifested itself often specifically in her life as an inner strength. By discussing the waking life manifestations of the falling, her loss of control, she had a better grasp of what core issues for her were most apparent and could be dealt with more completely. Because this dream occurred so regularly, this feeling of loss of control was vital and her inner self was pushing her pretty hard to deal with it. As it is with most of us in similar dream situations.

Next time, I want to revisit in greater depth the relationship of the dream to the waking life. I have found some confusion about this, even among some dream specialists who are quite adept. As always, remember this column is about my worldview on the subject. Read from other noted dream specialists and take what resonates for you. Every gifted dream worker, from my experience, has some piece or viewpoint that is unique and offers something others may have missed.

I would also like to take this space to honor some of those pioneers who have come before me and to whom I owe a great debt. In particular I would like to cite the great Ann Faraday, whose work and books Dream Power and The Dream Game were seminal in creating a giant leap in our understanding and the popularization of dream work. I would also like to cite Gayle Delaney and her works, especially her original work, Breakthrough Dreaming. Her web site is www.gdelaney.com/ Her take on Jung is particularly interesting. In addition I owe a debt to Paul Meier and Robert Wise and their book Windows of the Soul for bringing to light the four stages inherent in every “feature length” dream.

Ken Kaplan is a dream specialist, intuitive counselor, and presenter on spiritual topics. If you wish to inquire about his services, or especially if you desire to work with him on a dream you have had, he can be contacted at kenstories@comcast.net


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