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Ask The Dream Specialist

by Ken Kaplan


In this issue, we will begin to take a closer look at dream symbols, how they work, their complexity, and start to explore myths surrounding them. Much of this can be investigated in greater depth in Ann Faraday’s classic books, Dream Power, and The Dream Game. Dreams speak in a language that is composed of images that convey symbolic meaning. Most of our dreams, and even some prophetic or precognitive dreams, are composed of or are supported by images that are selected by the dreaming mind for specific reasons. The dreaming mind is primarily associated with the subconscious but often draws upon or is fused with the unconscious. It is in the unconscious that one contacts the Divine or Higher Self aspect of our being.

The dreaming mind is brilliant and creative in both its awareness and knowledge of issues that affect us and is able in the most appropriate, useful ways to communicate, using our entire history and breadth of psyche, a canvas or drama that will illuminate powerfully those issues. This capacity is nothing short of extraordinary.

The first, and most significant thing to acknowledge about dream symbols is that they are entirely unique to the individual. Although there are certain general archetypes (houses as structure of self and life, water as emotion), how these symbols play out depends on each person’s relationship on many levels to the symbol. Is water a still lake, the bath when you were six years old, a tsunami, a driving rainstorm, a drip from a faucet, etc? Furthermore we have to take into account each person’s individual relationship to water. For some it is soothing, nourishing, life affirming. For others it could be seen as dangerous and threatening. (It is interesting that in the songs of Bob Dylan, rain appears recurrently as an image, dreamlike, often associated with sadness. So we have, among many others, “Hard rain’s gonna fall”, “Tonight as I stand inside the rain”-(Just Like a Woman), “And I’m back in the rain”-(You’re a Big Girl Now), “the Rain Man gave me two cures, and I jumped right in-the one was Texas medicine, the other just railroad gin”-(Stuck inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again).

This unique and personal nature of dream symbols is why I ask for caution in using dream dictionaries. Example- In most dream dictionaries, dogs stand for some aspect of loyalty and principally male energy. In one instance, a man had a dream in which he had two dogs, a black, big, dog and a golden retriever. When we used a technique where he became the dogs and gave them voice, the black dog represented his deepest desire, his joy, and the retriever represented his playfulness. He had just come out of a long situation where these qualities had not been able to be expressed. One can, if pressed create a link to male energy, since he was male, and perhaps some sense of “loyalty” to self, but the primary energy of the dogs was not representative of loyalty. Their energy and meaning was specific to his interior psyche.

Similarly, I had a dream at a potent juncture in my life about two years ago in which a friend was wearing a distinctive pair of shoes. It turned out that the shoes were a significant clue to the dream’s meaning. In a dream dictionary I happen to like, Understand Your Dreams by Alice Anne Parker, shoes represent “general situation, grounding”, and the question she has you ask is, “How well do I connect with the world”. This information was helpful and definitely related to the overall message the dream wanted to convey, but only to a limited extent. Most importantly, the type of shoes and the energy they imparted were vital to their meaning in terms of particular formative events, my feelings around those events in my life, what was happening at the time of the dream that they surfaced as a “trigger”. The import was crucially dependent upon my understanding and connection to my history. Once I grasped that context, the entire dream’s meaning opened up

A most striking example involved a friend who had a dream about hydrogen becoming solid, and able to be touched. This is an extreme rarity, called once the “Holy Grail of pressure physics”. Upon inspection, the hydrogen revealed it was creating an “exception” to a nearly universal rule. (It could ever leave its gaseous state.) In his life at that time, he had, in fact, created an exception to a dearly held principle, out of what he felt was necessity, a willing suspension of a “universal principle” concerning his values. Because he was a person who had a very scientific way of processing the world, his dreaming mind chose this symbol to express the power of his decision. What is of further interest is that he believed this was an impossibility, not a great rarity. Thus his dreaming mind had to conform to his belief system in which that which was universal and inviolable could be breached only for a powerful exception. Thus, unless true precognition occurs, our minds have to work in factual matters with the material of experience and belief. (We will deal with this in more detail in later issues). The greater point, however, is that I think it extremely unlikely, if not impossible, to find “hydrogen” in any dream dictionary or to have any meaning that would come close to this.

In addition, the “hydrogen” was in the form of an egg, which relates to nutrition. The issue in his life was also related to nutrition. Thus his dreaming mind was able to select a highly unusual symbol and create conditions around it that would convey several ideas and themes that were moving through him and his life simultaneously. The great challenge, of course, is in knowing how to decipher and reveal the textured meanings our dreams present to us. This requires dexterity, knowledge, and a willingness to both understand the metaphorical nature of symbols, and the complexity of the layers that are present in them and in the dreams in which they appear.

From our examination, and from these examples, I would like to suggest that our dreaming mind is in many ways like an incredibly elegant inner tarot, one that is highly personal, extraordinarily precise, (even idiosyncratic). Once we understand our personal archetypes and landscape, they yield a richness of information that has incalculable value for us in a myriad of ways.

In the next issue we will continue with dream symbols, and deal more directly with their decoding, concentrating more closely on the issue that all aspects of a dream are you, and how to access that information. Again, if any reader wishes to have a session that can be used for this column, there will be no charge. I can be reached at kenstories@comcast.net

Ken Kaplan has been a well known storyteller throughout the Delaware Valley for over twenty years. He is also a gifted “dream coach” specializing in helping people interpret their dreams, an intuitive counselor and a presenter on many spiritual and metaphysical subjects. His most recent endeavor is the creation of a one man storytelling concert recounting his spiritual journey with a great Indian Guru and the vital life lessons he learned from that relationship.


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