Dreaming the Whole


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?

This entry was posted in Eileen's Armchair and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dreaming the Whole

  1. Sue Dixon says:

    Weird your blog today should be about dreams as last night I had the most horrific nightmare (very unusual for me) about gangs, murder, etc. I awoke completely unsettled to tell Dave about it. Normally my dreams, which I log in a tiny leather-bound dream journal kept next to the bed, are much more tame and peaceful. What does that say? Hopefully, my old story of peace isn’t morphing into one of chaos and violence. Yikes.

  2. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Hi Eileen, Thanks for reminding me of Carl Jung whose major cases and theory I studied in my college psychology course, “The Person”. I am not much of a dreamer these days, but I do remember when my family of parents, siblings and all of the kids used to gather in the porch of the summer house for breakfast. My Dad, always, started the morning off by asking if all had a good night’s sleep. Then, he would tell us about the dream he had the night before…I could not believe it! Often, it began with “I had a dream that my brother stopped by and…” Everyone listened and then,told the group about his/her dream.

    My mother never talked about her dreams, but she talked to me about the sadness that she remembered, when her 15 year old brother died, a few days after he fell into the cold icy water in Boston, while ice skating. She was 13 years old and said she was very close to him, admiring and respecting him, counting on him and such. I would listen to her talk about her feelings about loosing Sammy. Usually, she was comforted because she remembered something, so emotionally important in her youth. She was never depressed, but she did feel tired at times.

    My parents talked to me about their childhood. I loved hearing the stories. Perhaps, that is what I miss these days. All that I have read about raising children states it is important that parents tell their children stories about one’s growing up years ago. I remember most of the stories I was told. And, I shared many stories with my kids about my wonderful childhood. I returned many times in my thoughts to my past.

    The word: STORIES.

Comments are closed.