Journey of Love: The Way of the Dream

The Way of the Dream

In March 2009 during a weekend workshop on the theme of Archetypal Dreamwork, I met Carl Gustav Jung for the second time in my life. This time, as luck would have it, there would be no escape or turning back. Although I had been captivated by the way of the dream throughout my life, dreams weren’t something that I had ever considered working with before within my therapeutic practice. However, deeply intrigued by the workshop particulars, I found my unconscious outperforming my conscious as the registration form seemed to fill itself out without me even noticing. Yes, I had decided from deep within, I wanted to learn more about the dark, mysterious world of dreams.

The workshop itself was remarkable. I recall sitting there spell-bound all day as I learnt more about dreams. Despite twelve years’ experience working as a psychotherapist and being familiar with many other Humanistic approaches, Jungian Psychology, to begin with, simply went straight over my head. I have to say it was a complete muddle for me to decipher and I often wondered if I was too old to learn this contemporary yet ancient language of fabled myths and fairy-tales. Naturally, I could recollect the name Jung from reading a book of his during my mid-teens but recollected nothing else about the man, his theory or practice. Little did I know that this second get-together of ours would be the beginning of events that would transform the way I lived forever.

The Way of the Dream

For years I had numerous dreams, many often repeated ones, which fascinated me. Regularly I would wake up enthralled, terrified or surprised by them … sometimes all of these ways at once! I did fleetingly think during the course of the day, “Oh yeah there was this huge tiger in my dream last night” or “Wow, that was just crazy, bizarre!” But never did I record them or know what to do with them because dreams back then were just dreams … weren’t they?! Those nightly visitations that meant nothing, that just disappeared in the morning. However, I do recall, before encountering Jung, looking forward to that night’s dreaming often during the day, yet as for exploring any deeper meaning or unearthing the dream’s ancient symbolism or hidden messages, well that just didn’t figure at all.

In hindsight I realise that the workshop led me to a previously hidden door inside myself, which felt like I had found my way to an interior ‘Tower of London,’ where my own collection of ‘Crown Jewels’ were being kept safe. Despite not being able to gain entry, somehow I knew I was onto something incredible. So when nearly four months later I got an email from the facilitator of the workshop saying she was putting together a Dream Group that she would be starting the following month and was I interested … well wild horses couldn’t have stopped me from joining. I was 45 years old and the timing felt perfect, ripe I want to write. I recalled how often I encouraged my own clients to try out something new, something challenging and here I was finally listening to and taking my own counsel.

In the early months of Dream Group we spent much time learning about the man himself – Carl Gustav Jung and examining his influences, his main theories, centring the work on his philosophies and ideas around dreams. Well this was great and in preparation I had started to record my personal dreams into a notebook so I had something to discuss in the group, as we soon moved onto exploring our own dreams alongside learning the rudiments of Jungian Psychology; the Anima/Animus, Self, Ego and Shadow. The knowledge was rich and deep. When I reflect today on my first year or two in the group I am always astonished to see how hungry, ravenous even, I was for Jung, symbolically devouring his books, manuscripts and art. I remember the joy on my fiftieth birthday unwrapping Jung’s Red Book, a gift from my partner. At last I felt I was unbolting that unseen door within.

How does the Dream group work? Initially after taking a quiet minute or two, the Jungian Analyst who runs our group introduces the theme we are presently exploring. After study, the group and the dreams begin to unfold. In number we are generally between eight and twelve women at each monthly meet up. We listen to each other’s dreams for the next three hours, exploring the symbolism, mythology of those archetypes. Observing the Shadow, Animus, and the Self and let me tell you that it feels like ‘nothing on earth’ which is most fitting I guess. Such richness, such treasure in one’s life. The ceremonious ritual of tea half way through gives the group a wonderful opportunity to pause and catch up with each other’s waking lives. The group wasn’t set up to be a women’s group but that’s the way it turned out. Early on we were encouraged to buy ourselves unique dream books so, a few months after finishing my old notebook, I brought myself the first of many beautiful dream notebooks. It feels perfect to have such a unique, memorable book in which to record my dreams.

How do you gather your Dreams? In practice I leave a pen and my notebook open by my bed on a small round table … luckily for me I can pull the curtains back in the morning without disturbing my partner, so enough light can fill up on the page and I can catch whatever fragments I have of my waking dream. Sometimes I have words and sometimes I don’t, that’s when I will draw a quick sketch of the dreamscape. At other times there’s too much to write, so in order not to lose the dream, I write down keywords only, one line of words. There are occasions when I just grab a pencil in the dark and write anyway. It’s important to share that I only write on one side on the page, leaving its opposite side blank for my later explorations and interpretations. Most significantly, I write. There are also occasions in the middle of the night when I am momentarily aware that I have just had a significant dream yet I know I am about to go back to sleep. This is when I use one or two keywords that describe the dream and hold them in my head for when I wake in the morning.

On holiday I sometimes I forget to pack my dream book, other times not. I’m sure the psyche knows the reasoning behind these times. Initially when I joined the group I dreamt every night, nowadays, more than six years later, I’m lucky to get one detailed dream down a week. On occasion weeks can go by without me remembering a single dream, I do wonder if I dream at all through those times. During my Jungian studies it’s been a revelation to learn that even the smallest possible fragment of a dream, say one image alone, is rich enough to unravel. Later I learnt all about another incredible practice from Jungian Psychology termed “Active Imagination” an infinitely productive type of work which I’ll explore more in a later post. All in all, I have learnt that dreams don’t ever tell you what you already know, they tell you only what you don’t know. It would be interesting to hear how others record their dreams, how they got started and whether they study Jung or not. Let me know by using the comment section below.

Journey of Love

So now let’s turn to dreams themselves, two in particular. The first dream I want to tell you about is a dream that I repeatedly dreamt during my childhood between the ages of seven and twelve years old when the dream finally, and mysteriously stopped. Mostly I was hugely relieved as the dream itself terrified me as a child. The second dream I’m sharing here today happened at the age of forty-nine and was so vivid that not only did I record and walk around the dream further with Active Imagination but decided to also draw its images and lastly, not quite satisfied, I felt compelled to write the dream down into the form of a poem. The psyche obviously refused to let either of these dreams out of my vision, and still they catch my attention today as I write this article, each seeking further enlightenment, and hidden connections, perhaps to each other, yet to be seen.

Childhood Dream: (Ages 7 – 12 years)

I enter a dark woodland and am chased by a huge brown furry dragonfly. The dragonfly is terrifying, it has huge white teeth. She wants to eat me. I try to hide behind the trees, she always finds me and is just about to eat me when I wake up. These repeated dreams frequent my childhood. As I aged the dream slightly changes and I try to hide from the dragonfly under the water of a small pond in the woods. I sit there, underwater, on the branches of an old tree until I can see the stars in the sky above. Somehow I can breathe down there. I poke out my head and always she is there to kill me. At twelve years old I got used to this nightly game of hide and seek and when the part comes to my death I am resigned and accept it. This courage took many years to develop. When I died I entered a nothingness, a blackness, yet I still existed. This was a new world to me and although I took hesitant steps I was not able to access this place and was told to go back, entry was forbidden. The dream stops at twelve.

Adult Dream: (Age 49)

I am dressed in a long sari, it is blue with gold flecks throughout the material. I am walking alone into town when I stop in labour on the path and give birth to a large, dark-haired baby girl. I look at her and notice that she has four arms growing out of her shoulder blades. As she is my baby, I tell myself, it doesn’t matter how she looks, so I wrap her up and continue my journey. The baby is nestled close to me. Only when the head was crowning did I realise I was about to give birth, it was pretty straight forward. On the way to the town I stop once more to look into my baby’s eyes and there I see the dark night sky, I see stars moving and watch as a circle of twelve stars form. In the sky the face of a woman appears, it is as though she is made up of stars alone. She talks to me and tells me to wrap up the child and continue on my journey. I hold the baby closer and continue on my way. Later that day, in Active Imagination, I speak to the sky-woman and from our dialogue I write a poem about this dream.

I appreciate that I am jumping from mid-childhood to mid-life yet sense these two dreams reveal initiations and journeys yet to come and those already taken. The way of the dream invites us all to look closer into that relationship between our conscious and unconscious selves. Encouraging us to explore the archetypal energies that lay hidden behind sleep’s wide and open door. Although seemingly set apart by decades I feel that these great archetypes, within my dreams, knew more about me than I knew about myself. In the second part of this article I shall be exploring my personal interpretations behind both dreams, exploring the rich symbolism and sharing the art, poetry, and synchronicities that each dream brought forth. Before my next post in this series, I would love to hear from others if my dreams or blog post on dreaming has spoken to them, Jungian, or otherwise. Thank you for reading my journey of love.

Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2015

14 thoughts on “Journey of Love: The Way of the Dream

  1. Wow – what a wonderfully informative post and a double wow for all the responses.

    What is this newfound magic you so expertly weave? Lol

    I don’t know too much about Jung and I won’t pretend to either but I must say that the interpretations of dreams is very alluring. What do they mean? Do they ever actually mean anything? Are they truly influenced by our waking selves? Could they just be a collection of images, thoughts & flashbacks?

    Too many questions to answer and yet we cannot answer any of them, and that in itself is the allure that makes us think! And to think is the answer methinks!

    I think, therefore I am – says it all really!

    Enjoyed this one Deborah. . Xxx

    1. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your reflections Bathsheba. I have been deeply intrigued with dreams/unconscious realms for many years now and since encountering Jung for the second time I have been delving even deeper into mythology, symbolism and the collective unconscious. It felt good to stretch my writing muscles with this longer post and am already looking forward to writing the second part, hopefully before Christmas. xxx

  2. Hello Deborah! I read your post last week but am coming to it only now. Thank you. Our past (now dead) chairman of the Jung Centre here in Gauteng (Johannesburg and Pretoria) used to hold dream workshops (I was the ‘secretary’ for the Jung Centre at that time about 25 years ago) once a month on a Saturday afternoon. How fascinating it all was. I underwent a Jungian analysis when we had our first analyst (US) resident here in Johannesburg, this was around 1994 I think and my dreams were the focus of that once weekly meet. I also leave a blank page opposite my recorded dream for elaboration or sketch but hadn’t thought of noting events of the preceding day. I feel dry when spells go by and I don’t record a dream … I’m sure I have them and I always ask the Dream Mother for them before I turn out the light … as per Jean Raffa’s posts in Jan this year. My dream journals are so precious to me …
    Thank you again, and happy dreaming.

    1. Thank you so much Susan for reading my post and sharing your dream encounters. How simply wonderful it must have been to have played such an integral role for so many years in your resident Jung Centre. Friends often ask … so what happens at your Dream Group? And I just find myself smiling and saying … ‘I tend to my soul’ for I can think of no other way of illuminating the richness of Jung’s work.

      For me when my dreams leave me, I feel released, in a way, like I can focus on my waking life more … I don’t know how much sense that will make. It affords me the opportunity to examine older dreams in greater detail or draw an image to breathe fresh life (consciousness) into it. Re: Dream Mother … I’m off to read Jean’s earlier post now, and just noticed she’s posted another today!

      I share your feeling, alongside my poetry, my dream journals are treasured. Warm greetings, Deborah.

  3. Thank you, Deborah. I like knowing about your journey, including first and later dreams. I was introduced to Jung in college and began writing my dreams down then–sporadically. A few years later in 1967 I met my first meditation teacher, Anthony Damiani. He had a group of young hippies on his hands and decided we needed a psychological language. Over many years, we read and discussed Jung. I remember how tricky it was to understand projection, but Anthony persisted. And shadow, anima, animus. Also Self (from my teacher’s perspective, Jung didn’t go far enough with this concept to the nondual Self, so we also studied philosophy at the time–along with lots of meditation). We also told our individual dreams and worked with interpretation.

    In the late 1960s, I got serious about remembering dreams and kept a small notebook and pen beside my bed. I still do that and refer back to earlier dreams often. I have to be vigilant about writing them down or they slip away. I work with a Jungian dreamworker, so also write down what was happening in my life in the days before the dream.

    My first teacher died in 1984, and although I miss him, his death liberated me to find my own way. A group of his women students began studying mythology together and we’re still meeting twice a month all these years later. I did many workshops with Marion Woodman and also Robert Bosnak. Other Jungians, too, but my daily practice feels most linked to Marion Woodman, dreams, and the symbolic life.

    Dreams were a major source of guidance and solace during my husband’s illness and death in 2008–for both of us. Just a few days before his death, he told me his brief last dream. (The Spanish King has died and I don’t know about it yet.) The death of the King was clear, but Spanish? I couldn’t figure it out. A few months later, Robert Bosnak came to lead a workshop. I told him Vic’s dreams since Vic had also attended many of his dream workshops. Robbie suggested that the Spanish Kings were explorers of new worlds. Ah-ha. I got it. The meaning was related to a conversation Vic and I had the evening before about what he could do with his diminished life if he chose to keep fighting cancer. He couldn’t come up with much. That night he had the Spanish King dream and after it he went downhill quickly and died within a few days. Even to the end, dreams were there to guide us. Oh my, I’ve written a whole article in response to your questions. Thanks again.

    1. What an amazing reply you’ve given me Elaine, I am deeply honoured to receive such a treasure trove of words from you. I loved reading all about your life (hmm, there’s another book waiting inside of you, I can tell!) and how you were first introduced to Jung and dreamwork. I found myself nodding throughout as I read ‘need a psychological language’ ah yes! I am so appreciative that Jung has provided such a brilliantly, rich one.

      ‘Writing down what was happening in the days before the dreams’ now that seems like an excellent way of working, I have not considered doing this so thank you for including this in your wonderful response. Your study with Marion must have been simply incredible. To date I have read four of her books, ‘Bone’ being my favourite so far. Her knowledge, wisdom, insights … let alone her articulation and poetic language always, always blows me away!

      How reassuring it is to read that dreams were such a deep comfort for you and Vic. His last dream, so brief, yet as I read ‘gold coins’ flashed before my eyes … the ‘philosopher’s gold’ I expect. ‘Christopher Columbus’ then came to mind and in his name I see that I can spell out ‘Christ.’ A little more Spain, maybe, maybe not. Your deep sharing makes my heart smile, as I too hold dear my faith in the power of dreams. Blessings always, Deborah.

  4. Another beautifully written and wonderfully informative post about your journey of growth Deborah – I was hooked from the first words. I have been fascinated by dreams for many, many years. In my early 30’s I came across a book by Denise Linn called Signposts which I found I could relate to and from that moment I started to record my dreams as well as looking at signs in my waking life…for instance if the car breaks down and then other things stop working I would look at what was going on with my own health. It is only in the past couple of years I have come across Jung’s way of looking at dreams. I previously looked at images and objects within the dreams as signs of something going on in my life but never considered that they could be an aspect of my psyche…until I started to learn of the Jungian approach.

    That awakening has opened up a whole new world to me that I am currently getting to grips with – albeit very slowly. It’s interesting what Jean Raffa says about coming to this learning in mid-life…although I looked at signs in dreams from my early 30’s it wasn’t until my early 50’s that I discovered Jung and even now I struggle with understanding some of the symbolism. I know it will come with time :))

    Your two dreams are fascinating, even more so now that the reference to the quaternary of the wings in the first dream and the limbs of the baby in the second dream. It is almost as if something went to sleep when you were 12 only to reawaken or be reborn in the more recent dream at 49 where you are told to continue on your journey…perhaps the years in between were indeed strengthening and enlightening your ego to enable you to take up that path from 49. It’s all really fascinating and I’m looking forward to hearing your interpretations. I have to also say the image you have used is a wonderful yet very unusual interpretation of Yin/Yang symbolism – light in the dark and dark in the light – I just love it!

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your wonderful come-back to my article on dreaming. I also have that Denise Linn book you refer to and find myself often dipping into it and another I love titled ‘The Book of Symbols’ by Taschen … it’s all about archetypal symbolism and seems perfect for studying dream images. ‘Looking for signs in waking life’ ah so true and a timely reminder for me as I watch a Sparrowhawk circling above the swaying trees (it’s very windy here today!) as I write … on the hunt, likewise I’m thinking as I continue to ‘hunt’ for deeper meaning and understanding within my dreams.

      I’m impressed that you have been recording your dreams for over twenty years, how amazing to be able to look so far back … in six short years I am only now beginning to notice how my dreams are changing and how they illuminate my relationship with those inner archetypal energies. I had not thought of the Yin/Yang connection to the image but having spent the last few weeks considering Jung’s psychological rule of ‘holding the tension of the opposites’ unconsciously I can see that I selected just that! Thanks for pointing this out … the psyche is deep and cannot be fooled! Warm greetings, Deborah.

  5. Hello Deborah, that was great!! I woke up 25 minutes ago from an odd dream which I can’t remember then I come here and read your column. How’s that for coincidence?!!
    I’ve decided to buy myself a new notebook “dream book” and wondered what you thought of my idea this morning of buying my nephew one, he’s only 9? Do you think he’s old enough to write down dreams as he often talks about them?? I’ve decided after reading to write mine down even if I don’t remember much..apart from some horse and waggon last night!!
    You know I’m a huge fan of your poetry and your writings and love your pictures because they bring my copy of your book to life. I find myself mesmerised by this picture above, is it real? Half black, half white, half conscious, half unconscious or dreaming maybe??… like the eye of the dreamy lighthouse is overlooking the huge floating eye.
    I don’t know anything about how to interpret dreams….I wish I did.. and feel I can’t help you but that dragonfly sounds really scary, like a witch or something. I notice you call her a “she” reminds me when I’m being chased in dreams I can never get away.
    Be interested what you think about for my nephew. Another great read Deborah, you’re a star… .going back to the beginning to start reading all over again now. Cheers!!

    1. Thank you so much Claire for reading this post and replying, much appreciated, always! First of all let me say that I think your idea of buying your nephew a special book for his dreams is simply wonderful! You’ve nudged me to look into this because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen dream books for children on the market … hmm, now there’s a creative idea because I have always believed that if an idea is too difficult for adults to follow then write it down in a book for children. I will certainly look into this some more as I think that’s a brilliant idea … especially as you say, your nephew talks freely about them.

      A quick rummage around my book shelves brings up a book written by Jung himself called ‘Children’s Dreams’ which is awesome, and one I notice I’m still slowly reading and digesting. I have also heard about ‘Dream Projects’ being set up for school children and how their dreams have helped them to choose alternative paths in life, away from local gang culture and prostitution. I know I’m going off on a tangent but you’ve really woken up in me a desire to explore how children are involved in the world of dreams … what’s out there for children I’m left wondering, it has to begin somewhere.

      Oh yes I did call the dragonfly ‘she’ didn’t I! Thank you for sharing this and your ‘witch’ associations … both really give me more to work on, I have been deeply fascinated by this dream in particular all my life … for it to be repeated so many times during my childhood makes me feel it was a significant dream. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the image too, yes it is real and the huge eye was positioned some distance in front of a tall black and white lighthouse. In my unconscious mind I like to think I was holding onto this image for a future post that I might write about dreaming.

      Enjoy your dream book! Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings, Deborah.

      1. http://www.amazon.com/lm/R3VQC9IIY4QW44

        Just came across this book list on amazon.com for ‘Books for Children and Parents on Dreams’ I’m sure it’s on amazon.co.uk but I can’t find it … anyway it’s been written by list author Anne Hill. The books look great (I clicked on a couple!) and thought it might be a good place for you to start. Thanks once more for your great comment.

        1. Thanks Deborah I will take a look later tonight. Leaving now for Christmas shopping trip with new notebook for myself at top of my list. 🙂

  6. Good morning, Deborah! Did this post ever speak to me! In many ways. Largely because of the many similarities in our stories.

    For example, you were 46 when you met Jung. I was 47. I think the fact that we were past mid-life when we began our acquaintance is very meaningful. In my experience, most people have no conscious need for his wisdom until after mid-life. Jung himself did not begin forming his theories until 37, and then only because of his major inner crisis….which, of course, is commonly known today as a mid-life crisis.

    This affirms his theory that the first half of life is for developing and strengthening our egos in the outer world, and the second for connecting with our inner, mostly unconscious contents. It also affirms his saying that there is no growth without suffering. So even if we’re exposed to Jung in the first half, few of us find his theories meaningful unless we’ve suffered enough and developed strong enough egos to be able to handle the extraordinary challenge that psychological descent presents to us.

    This is not only perfectly normal, but also archetypal. As I’m sure you know, in the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, she only begins her descent into the Great Below in mid-life, well after she has strengthened her ego by establishing her individuality and authority through work and intimate relationships in the outer world.

    I also love your descriptions of your group dreamwork and your personal practice. These provide great guidelines for those who are unfamiliar with this kind of work.

    Finally, I find it so interesting that your scary and pesky dragonfly had dark fur and four wings, and your new baby had dark hair and four arms. If these are my dreams, I think my fear of the dark dragonfly and the darkness I enter after submitting to it signifies my fear of the unconscious. Years later I see my willingness to love and care for the dark-haired, four-armed baby to which I give birth as my mature acceptance of the same dark unconsciousness and a sign of the strength I have acquired to birth new life by choosing to continue on my journey to wholeness and consciousness. Also, I think of the fourness featured in both dreams as a pre-figuring of the nature of my journey. As you no doubt know, Jung said that four is the number of wholeness: i.e. four directions, four winds, etc.

    Anyway, I know you already know these things but I thought my associations might be interesting to some of your readers. Thank you for the wonderful work you’re doing with your blog in sharing your inner wisdom with the world! Healing ourselves is so desperately needed if we hope to ever heal the world.

    Blessings, Jeanie

    1. Wow! That was just awesome Jeanie, thank you so much for your kind-heartedness and most generous response. I shall be banqueting on your wonderful words for days!

      I have always thought how mysterious it was when Jung, like a crab, came side-ways into my life. I literally had no idea whatsoever when I attended that Dream workshop that was life was about to magically transform forever. I think it’s fair to say that I immediately and promptly fell in love with him, all at once, becoming evermore Jung-at-heart. It was a treasured passage of time, and yes, around the same age as yourself … one that marked another magnificent descent into the realms and riches of the unconscious.

      I love the myth of Inanna and relished the initiatory book for women ‘Descent of the Goddess’ written by Sylvia Brinton Perera. A true classic which deserves, like your own books, many a reread! The Queen of Heaven figures largely in my second dream and I’m so excited about unpacking these remarkable dreams in the next few weeks.

      With my dream group and the practice of how to essentially record our dreams I wanted to share with others how it works, rather than enshroud these practices in mystery. I have a feeling that in years to come I would like to consider running my own group, not yet though, as even after six years of study I still feel ‘wet behind the ears’ and my Jungian Analyst, well she’s on fire and there is much to learn. My passion grows steady and strong.

      Oh my goddess I had never, never made the (obvious now I see it!) connection between the fourness of the dragonfly and the baby! How could I have missed that! This only confirms to me evermore how rich and incredible the psyche is … giving us clues, hints of so many things, even decades apart. I love your interpretation of my ‘birthing’ dream and the acceptance you see that I have acquired. I dreamt this in my ‘fourth’ year of study … it was an incredible dream.

      The synchronicity of ‘fourness’ that I have shared with you this past month has been incredible! Thank you again, so much for greatly illuminating my dreams further with your open-hearted, intuitive associations. I am deeply, deeply appreciative. Blessings, Deborah.

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