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