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Ask The Dream Specialist

by Ken Kaplan


Last issue we began to explore the primary reasons for the importance of dreams in relation to our lives emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and the value they present to us as tools for awareness and growth. In this issue, and in moving forward, I thought it instructive to look at case histories and parts of them to more concretely illuminate principles and aspects of this work. In this case, I chose a set of dreams that demonstrate the extraordinary transformational power dreams can have in initiating understanding and providing a catalyst for movement and change.

A woman I will call “Gloria” in her early 40’s had come to a presentation I did at a local library. We worked on one of her dreams there. The basic motif was of entering a large house that had many new unexplored rooms, but she was always hindered by a person or situation from starting that exploration. This dream was fairly straightforward in showing that new vistas were available to her within but that issues, symbolized by the recurring people and situations that were keeping her back. (Houses, very prominent in many dreams, most often represent the “body” of self, and it is quite common for this type of dream-new or different rooms in a house- or variations of it to occur.)

She called me after the presentation and it became clear that she was on the cusp of a change. “Gloria” was highly intuitive and was a person who actually at times had true “precognitive” dreams, dreams that foretold events and was being drawn to more “new age thought”, but tentatively. She had anxiety about these gifts and was ambivalent. I suggested ways in which she could enter environments in which she was not seen as a “kook” and that would validate her intuitive abilities. She joined a dream support group I began and told us of a dream in which she was getting messages on a screen in a language she understood in the dream but could not remember or decipher when she woke up. She wondered what that was about. I told her I thought she was getting information from her “higher self” but seemed not ready to receive it on the more conscious level. She wondered “Why would that be”, and “What do I do about this?” I encouraged her to ask her “dreaming mind” to give her information on the first dream, to clarify why she could not receive the messages from inner self.

The next group, she brought in the dream she had gotten from her asking. At first glance, it seemed bizarre, nonsensical and completely irrelevant. A gnome was sleeping on a shelf in a shoe store. She calls the gnome’s boss who forces the gnome to leave, saying he “can’t come back”. She watches him leave through a screen.

The scene shifts and a voice from the clouds says angrily, “cheese is a bad habit, don’t promote it, its bad for the heart”. Next to a TV are magazines. She walks into the next room where there is a girl in the middle of columns. Suddenly khaki army tents pop up, down, up in different spots. She is afraid to move or they will “see her”. In a different room there are clothes for the girl (7 or 8) but they are more “boys clothes”, farm overalls, but with pink socks. The girl comes in but she is naked. She tries to get her dressed.

At first glance, one could say, how does this bizarre, crazy dream have any relevance to anything, much less her predicament and the previous dream which it was supposed to clarify? But as we shall see, as I mentioned last column, dreams are incredibly precise and detailed, and go directly to the heart of the matter even when initially they seem to make no sense. The process I used was a combination of direct questions, i.e. “What are your feelings about cheese?,” the “Dream Interview Technique” developed by Gayle Delaney (pretend you’re an alien from another planet and describe dispassionately the symbol and see how it relates to daily life), and a gestalt technique where a person “becomes” the symbol or event and allows it to speak and reveal its intent in the dream. In this way, the dreamer, with assistance unravels the meaning.

In what follows, I am presenting a synthesis of the information we derived.

In working with the dream, which took about 45 minutes with the group, the gnome was found to be symbolic of magical energy, the energy that she was attempting to integrate into her life. (At this point I used a very good dream dictionary, Understand Your Dreams, by Alice Anne Parker, to help clarify the meaning of the “gnome”. In general I caution against using dream dictionaries as a primary method to understand a dream, for many reasons we will explore later, but often can be very helpful in an ancillary role.) The motif reminded her of the story “The elves and the shoemaker” in that the gnome (magical being-energy) had been working for her in the store (symbolic of daily life) at night and was present for her, but not consciously. The boss, however, (inner critic and authority) did not want this magical energy around. Why? As the gnome left she could only see through a screen. (screened off).

The voice or person in the sky I suggested, and seemed appropriate, was the voice of her religious upbringing which she revealed was very old school and strict. (Old Testament God-God in the sky, not within) But why “cheese”? Dreams like to pun and in this dream her beliefs from the past (Old school religious thought from family) were telling her that this new approach or energy was “cheesy”, non authentic, not in alignment with “truth” as she had been taught and internalized. Cheese, as dairy could also be seen from as not particularly healthy. (Dream images can condense information in this way presenting several layers at once.) Also bad for the heart seemed to indicate two things: first, that from the “old paradigm” view, the “heart of the matter” might be damaged, contested in a negative fashion. Secondly, cheese is most associated with the “heartland”, and the “heartland” (of the country) is the place within that may be thought of as aligned with tradition, traditional values. Television and magazines reinforced images of traditional American culture. Therefore the problem was coming from the past holding her back. (Which I have found is very universal but expresses itself uniquely for all.) In her case the power of her religious and family background.

The army motif of random tents that popped up showed that she felt that to reveal this new part of self was dangerous, “they’ll see me”. She never knew when the tents would “pop up”, demonstrating a sense of instability over when criticism or disfavor might come her way. Armies can be powerful symbols of authority and they “take over” territory. The girl trapped is the formative self when the implantation of belief took place most strongly.

The “boys” clothes” represented a rejection of the female-intuitive side of her nature-the old religion also stems from a Patriarchal order and the “boss” was also male, (although the pink socks established that this feminine energy was present to a degree.) “Gloria” also grew up in a more rural setting, so the farm clothes reinforced “voices” and feelings from her past. The girl was naked, expressing her (as grown up) very strong fear of vulnerability should she disregard the “clothing “ imposed on her and the anger from the “old voice” should she attempt to integrate the magical energy of her intuition and true higher aspect.

A striking feature that happened in this session is that as it was unfolding, “Gloria” realized suddenly that it was she, herself that had been doing the masking of the messages from the first dream, not some external force. Now we knew why. For “Gloria” (or anyone) to be able to get such a clear message from self can be extremely powerful in shedding limitations and moving forward because the authority and information so clearly comes from within. Therefore it resonates and has effect on a cellular level that other types of addressing issues may not have.

“Gloria” used the powerful revelation of the dreams and the context in which they appeared to loosen the grip the past had on her. She now had brought to her conscious mind in an incontrovertible manner the core of that which had been holding her back. Armed with that knowledge, and given that the timing in her life was right to receive it, she acted upon it in many healthy and fruitful ways. She turned to several intuitive counselors to work with and began an intensive exploration of Native American spirituality. She had found a new, pronounced feeling of freedom. In her case, the dreams were pivotal.

In coming issues we will explore in greater depth the nature of dream symbols, recurring dreams, the four stages of dreams, myths that block understanding of dreams, the deeper layers of dreams, and more. I would like to encourage readers to contact me for sessions that can be used to illustrate many of these issues. For the time being, there will be no charge. You may contact me at kenstories@comcast.net


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