Dreams are fun to play with. They often provide me with valuable insights. I use a technique adopted from Carl Jung and Fritz Perls for understanding them, where I play with various parts of the dream in first person. In this way, rather than trying to figure the dream out from my head, I let the meaning find me.
I had a dream recently about Paul’s and my former house in San Francisco where we raised our sons for the first decade of their lives. The house has a sub-basement on a slant of bedrock that was once part of a cistern. It was one of the few houses in that area when the 1906 earthquake struck, and survived, undamaged. Yet, despite its apparent strength and durability, I always felt unsafe in it. The sub-basement felt like a dungeon, and the square shape of the house, with its dark wainscoting and stark white walls and ceilings felt too masculine and confining for me. Very little light shone in the house, except for in our youngest son’s room and in the kitchen.
Here’s how I told my dream to Paul:
I am in the sub-basement of our old house in San Francisco, and the slanted bedrock and exposure to the rest of the house feels unsafe. I go out the kitchen door and see our youngest son in the side yard, as a four-year old boy. Paul and I want to do something fun with him, but I see he is tired and needs a nap first. I take him upstairs to his sunny bedroom, convincing him gently that a nap will refresh him, so we can play afterwards.
As I tell Paul about being in the sub-basement I feel a familiar anxiety of an old story rise in me. I picture my childhood; the lack of safety I felt in every moment, afraid of being rejected, confined to rules that didn’t fit or support me, and feeling I didn’t deserve to have a voice. The tears streaming down my cheeks as I spoke let me know I’ve hit the bedrock of my old story.
As I tell Paul the part of my dream about taking our youngest son to his sunny room for a nap, I feel my body soften and fill with light and warmth, just like the way the sun warms a room. I see that the child in my dream represents what I have come to know as the inner beloved in me. This is the part of me, usually represented in my dreams by the opposite sex, which connects me to the universal spirit of the Eternal.
I awake to my new story: to love, to heal, and to hold space for myself and others to do the same. My will is building a new foundation for both the old and new story to dwell together in harmony.
The next time you have a dream, try playing with it. Tell it to yourself or someone you love in the first person and see what emerges for you.
What is your old story?
What is your new one?