Each morning most of us awaken with a vague awareness of having been somewhere else. Holding onto bits and pieces of images from a dream state, we often dismiss them as flights of fancy from a creative mind. We then go about our day without giving them a second thought. Often, these wisps of visual imagination are forgotten within moments of arising from our beds.
We might wonder if they do hold any valuable information for us. Certainly, throughout history many cultures from around the world have held those nightly visions sacrosanct. But do they hold anything for us in this modern world today? Dreams, what are they? where do they come from? do they hold any value for us? and how can we work with them? are some of the topics I’ll be exploring over the next few months on this blog.
During each night of sleep, we experience an average of four or five cycles of dreaming. Dreaming is an essential part of maintaining good mental health. If we are denied the dream experience, such as being awakened before the dream cycle begins, we tend to awaken exhausted as though we didn’t receive any sleep. If this were to continue for several days, we would begin to experience dreams in our waking state known as hallucinations. Although science cannot say for sure the exact purpose of our dreams, it does acknowledge that dreaming is an essential part of good mental health. Respecting, listening and understanding our dreams can only enhance our experience in the waking world.
Some people view dreams as an expression of our projective selves. That is the part of ourselves that we deny or that is unexpressed during our waking state. Others view dreams as unexpressed wishes and desires of the dreamer. Some people believe that dreams are “alive.” That they have lives and bodies of their own. That they are not mere projections of the dreamer and that the dreamer is not the center of the dream. Still, others view dreams as divination of the future and others view dreams as the voice of nature and/or the collective unconscious.
I personally believe that all of these and more hold validity and should not be dismissed off hand in a desperate bid to confine something as elusive as a dream to a ridged rule. To distill the meaning of dreams to a simple constrictive definition cuts off our full relationship to this profound and dynamic world.
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a dream is worth even more. When we reduce a description of a painting to words, we lose something of its essence. Words, as very important as they are, still require a reducing or containing of an image in order for it to be conveyed verbally to another. In the process, we lose something. Have you ever tried to tell a friend of a situation that you experienced, only finding yourself defaulting to, “You just had to be there” out of frustration because words “failed” you in expressing the essence of what you were trying to say? Words are very limiting by their nature.
When we try to define a dream through words, we are doing the very same thing. We are distilling it down to what we think is important and eliminating other essences. What we end up with is more like bleached white bread than the stone oven baked seven grain whole crackling wheat bread we started out with. It’s obviously lost a lot of its substance.
Drawing from the inspiration of Dr. Stephen Aizenstat at Pacifica Graduate Institute of Psychology, we can do something about this. First, approach the dream without words if you can do this. Listen to the dream present itself. Do not try to associate the dream with other events that are going on in your life. Do not talk about how you feel about the dream. At this point, this can be very limiting and stop your creative understanding process. Just listen to the dream as it is presented. Later, you can talk about your feelings and associations. For now, just be with the dream in a very still state.
There will be many more writings on dreams. This is a first installment as an introduction. For more information on Dr. James E. Walton you may log onto his website at LAtherapist.com There you will find free affirmation downloads, videos, self-Help CDs and helpful topical pages for you to explore.
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