Dream Interpretation Incidental | Dream Meanings
Don’t get worked up about whatever one is looking at.
If our mother is unable to develop a feeling contact with us, we may lack the confidence to meet our emotions.
Our maturation as a man or woman calls us in some way to meet and integrate our childhood desire, which includes sexual desire for our parent of the opposite sex, and rivalry with, mingled with dependence on, the parent of the same sex. Even a missing parent, the mother or father who died or left, is a potent figure internally.
An absence of a father’s or mother’s love or presence can be as traumatic as any powerfully injuring event. Our parents in our dreams are the image (full of power and feeling) of the formative forces and experiences of our identity. They are the ground, the soil, the bloody carnage, out of which our sense of self emerged. But our identity cannot gain any real independence while still dominated by these internal forces of our creation. Heraclitus said we cannot swim in the same river twice; attempting to repeat or compete with the vinues of a parent is a misapprehension of the true nature of our own personality. Sec individuation.
Family group: The whole background of experience which makes up our values and views. This background is made up of thousands of different obvious and subtle things such as social status; amount of books in the home; how parents feel about themselves; how they relate to life outside the family; whether dominant roles are encouraged; what nationality parents are; what unconscious social attitudes surround the family (i.e. the master and servant, or dominating employer and subservient employee, roles which typified England at the turn of the century still colour many attitudes in the UK). Simply put, it is our internal ‘family’ of urges and values; the overall feeling tone of our family life—security, domination, whatever it was, the unconscious coping patterns of the family.
Parents together in dream: our general wisdom, background of information and experience from which we make important decisions or gain intuitive insights. Parents also depict the rules and often irrational disciplinary codes we learnt as a child which still speak to us from within, and perhaps pass on to our own children without reassessment. These include everything from ‘Don’t speak with your mouth full’ to the unspoken Masturbation is unholy/
Dead parent in dream: the beginning of independence from parent; repression of the emotions they engendered in us, our emotions regarding our parent’s death; feelings about death. See dead people dreams.
Example: ‘My father was giving me and another woman some medicine. Something was being forced on us. I started to hit and punch him in the genitals and, when he was facing the other way, in the backside. I seemed to be just the right height to do this and I had a very angry feeling that I wanted to hurt him as he had hurt me’ (Audrey V). Hurting, burying , killing parent: in the example Audrey’s height shows her as a child. She is releasing anger about the attitudes and situations her father forced down her throat’.
To be free of the introverted restraints and ready made values gathered from our parents, at some time in our growth we may kill or bury them. Although some people arc shocked by such dreams, they are healthy signs of emerging independence. Old myths of killing the chief so the tribe can have a new leader depict this process. When father or mother are dead’ in our dream, we can inherit all the power gained from whatever was positive in the relationship. Seeing parent drunk, incapable, foolish: another means of gaining independence from internalised values or stultifying drives to ‘honour’ or admire father or mother.
Generally positive: authority; ability in the external world; family or social conventions, how we relate to the ‘doer’ in us; physical strength and protectiveness; the will to be. Generally negative: introvened aggression; dominance by fear of other people’s authority, uncaring sexual drive; feelings of not being loved. See father under archetypes; man.
Generally positive: feelings; ability in relationships; uniting spirit of family; how we relate to feelings in a relationship; strength to give of self and nunure; intuition. Generally negative: will based on irrational likes and dislikes; opinion generated by anxiety or jealousy; domination by emotions; lack of bonding. See Great Mother under archetypes; woman.
siblings and children
Whether brother, sister, daughter or son (see below in this entry), the most general use in our dreams is to depict an aspect of ourself. However it is almost universal to believe with great conviction that our dream is about the person in our dream.
A mother seeing a son die in her dream often goes through great anxiety because there lurks in her a sense of it being a precognitive dream. Vinually everyone at some time dreams about members of their close family dying or being killed—lots of mothers dream this, and their children live till 80. But occasionally children do die. Is the dream then precognitive, or is it coincidental?
Example: ‘I was walking along a rather dusty track carrying my younger son who would be around 10 months old and I was feeling rather tired. Suddenly I met a man who stopped to talk to me and commented I looked rather weary carrying the baby. He said, come with me and look over this wall and you will see such a sight that will gladden your hean. By standing on tiptoe I could just see over the wall and the sight I beheld took my breath away, it was so beautiful’ (Johan E). Here Johan’s son depicts the weight of responsibility she feels.
The beauty is her own resources of strength in motherhood.
Example: ‘I have just given binh to twins and they lay on the floor. We started to care for them. My mother took them to the doctor for his advice while I went to see my married sister who has two children. I met them there with the twins so that my sister could give her opinion on the babies. She had recent experience of childbirth and could tell us if the babies were good specimens’ (Miss E). Miss E has no children of her own, so she is uncertain of her own capacity to have and raise them.
The mother depicts her own mothering abilities, which seek confidence from an authority figure. Her sister is her own nearest experience of childbirth. So out of what she has leamt from observing her sister, she is assessing her own qualities.
Most often the family member depicts the qualities in ourself which we feel are part of the character of the person dreamt of. So the passionate one in the family would depict our passions; the intellectual one our own mind, the anxious one our hesitations. Use the questions in dream processing to define this. Having done this, can you observe what the dream depicts? For Miss E it would be questions regarding motherhood.
Example: ‘My daughter told me the only positive part of my work in a helping profession was with a woman who had turned from it to religion. There followed a long and powerful interchange in which I said she had as yet no mind of her own. She was dominated by her mother’s anxiety, and the medical rationalism of her training. When she had dared to step beyond her own anxieties to integrate the lessons of her own life, then I would listen again’ (Desmond S). Desmond was divorced and struggling with his own pain and guilt about leaving his daughter while still a teenager. His daughter depicts this conflict between his feelings and his rational self.
Oneself, or the denied pan of self, meeting whatever is met in the dream; feelings of kinship; sense of rivalry, feelings about a brother. Woman’s dream, younger brother: outgoing but vulnerable self; rivalry. Woman’s dream, older brother, authority, one’s capable outgoing self. Man’s dream, younger brother: vulnerable feelings; oneself at that age. Man’s dream, older brother: experience; authority, feelings of persecution. See boy; man. Idioms: big brother, brothers in arms; blood brother.
Feeling self, or the lesser expressed pan of self; rival; feelings about a sister. Man s dream, younger sister: vulnerable emotions; rival for love of parents. Man’s dream, older sister: capable feeling self; feelings of persecution. Woman’s dream , younger sister: one’s experiences at that age; vulnerable feelings, rival for parents’ love. Woman’s dream, older sister: capable feeling self. See girl; woman. Idioms: sisters under the skin.
One’s relationship with the daughter, the daughter, or son, can represent what happens in a marnage between husband and wife.
The child is what has arisen from the bonding, however momentary, of two people. In dreams the child therefore is sometimes used to depict how the relationship is faring. So a sick daughter might show the feelings in the relationship being ‘ill’.
In a mother’s dream: often feelings of suppon or companionship; feelings of not being alone in the area of emotional bonds; or one’s feeling area; responsibility; the ties of parenthood; oneself at that age; one’s own urges, difficulties, hurts, which may still be operative. Also a comparison; the mother might see the daughter’s youth, opportunity, and have feelings about that. So the daughter may represent her sense of lost opportunity and youth—even envy, competition in getting the desire of a man.
In a father’s dream: one’s feeling self, the feelings or difficulties about the relationship with daughter; the struggles one’s own feeling self goes through to mature, how the sexual feelings are dealt with in a family—occurs especially when she starts courting; sister, parental responsibility; one’s wife when younger. Someone else’s daughter: feelings about one’s own daughter, feelings about younger women.
Example: 1 am standing outside a supermarket with heavy bags wearing my mac, though the sun is warm. My daughter and two friends are playing music and everyone stops to listen. I start to wnte a song for them, but they pack up and go on a bus whilst I am still writing. I am left alone at the bus stop with my heavy burden of shopping, feeling incredibly unwanted’ (Mrs F). Such dreams of the daughter becoming independent can occur as soon as the child starts school, persisting until the mother finds a new attitude. See child; woman.
Extroverted self; desires connected with self expression; feelings connected with son; parental responsibility. Mother’s dream: one’s ambitions; potential, hopes; your marriage—see example.
Example: ‘My wife and I were walking out in the countryside. I looked around suddenly and saw my four-year-old son near a hole. He fell in and I raced back.
The hole was narrow but very deep. I could see water at the bottom but no sign of my son. I didn’t know whether I could leap down and save him or whether it was too narrow. Then somehow he was out. His heart was just beating’ (Richard H). Richard had argued with his wife in such a way he feared the stability of their marriage.
The son represents what they had created together —a child, a marriage.
The marriage survived, as his dream self-assessed it would. Death of son: a mother often kills off her son in her dreams as she sees him make moves towards independence. This can happen from the first day of school on. Example: T am on a very high bridge over an extremely wide and deep river with steep banks. My son does a double somersault over the railing, falls into the water. I think he is showing off. I am unable to save him. My son is 18 and has staned a structural engineering course at university’ (Joyce H).
The showing-off suggests Joyce feels her son is doing daring things with his life, and the relationship in its old form dies.
Father’s dream: yourself at that age; what qualities you see in your son; your own possibilities, envy of youth and opportunities; nvalry. Someone else’s son: feelings about one’s own son; feelings about younger men. Dead son: see dead people dreams. Sec boy. See also man; first example in falling.
Depicts how you see the relationship with your wife; your relationship with your sexuality; sexual and emotional desire and pleasure; how you relate to intimacy in body, mind and spirit; your feeling, intuitive nature; habits of relationship developed with one’s mother. Example: ‘My wife was trying to get me out of her life, and out of the house. It was as if she were attempting to push me into a feeling of tension and rejection which would make me leave’ (David P). Out of childhood experience, in which his mother repeatedly threatened to give him away, David was finding it difficult to commit himself emotionally to his wife. In the dream his wife represents these feelings, so he sees her—his anxiety and pain —pushing him to break up the marriage.
Example: I was standing with my wife at the end of the garden of the house I lived in as a child. We were looking over the fence to the rising meadow beyond. She said, “Look at that bird in the tree there.” On our right, in a small ash tree, an enormous owl perched. It was at least 4 feet high, the biggest bird I have ever seen. I recognised it in the dream as a greater hooded owl, which was not native to our country. I was so excited I ran into the house to telephone someone— zoo, police, newspapers?—to tell them about the bird. I cannot remember contacting anyone, but felt the bird was there in some way to meet me. Also it was hungry and looking at next door’s bantams. So I wondered what I could give it to eat’ (David P). This shows the positive side of David’s relationship with his wife.
The garden is the boundanes which arose from his childhood. But he is growing—the garden— and looking beyond them in connection with his marnage.
The amazing bird is the deep feelings he touches because he has a mate, like any other natural creature. Out of his mating he becomes aware of drives to build a home—nest—and give himself to his mate. These are natural and are a pan of his unconscious or spiritual nature.
The bird is a hooded owl which can see in the dark—the unconscious—because David is realising things he had never seen’ before.
The bird is masked, meaning putting the ego aside, which is a necessity for touching the wider dimension of life or the unconscious.
The hunger of the bird shows an intimate detail of what David has learnt from his wife. She had been working as a waitress and bringing home pieces of chicken for him, saved from her own meal.
The spiritual side of David wants to develop this quality of selfgiving, which his wife’s love had helped him see.
Example: ‘1 have been a widower since January 1979, having married in October 1941. I continually dream I am in London where my business was. I am walking the streets with my wife and suddenly I see her ahead of me in a yellow raincoat and hat. I call her and try to catch up, but suddenly she vanishes. In spite of calling and searching I cannot find her’ (Douglas G). This is a common theme dreamt by widowers or widows, disappearance of spouse. Douglas has ‘lost’ his wife. His dream shows the paradox of love after death of panner. His love is still there, years after her death. He is possibly still trying to love his wife as an externally real person. so his feelings can make no connection.
To meet what actually remains of his wife, within himself, he would need to face his own internal grieving, emotions, and all the feelings, memories, angers and beauty which make up the living remains of his wife within him. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
If the former is the case, it may be obvious to you: recent encounters with your brother or sister, or some piece of news about him or her may be recognized as prompting the dream. Always be on the look-out, though, for those dreams where a brother or sister plavs a symbolic role. The dream source may choose its materials - its images - from your recent external experiences, but what those dream images represent is nearly always some part of yourself. So please read on.
(2) In early childhood a brother or sister is a natural object of jealousy and hatred. In the eyes of a small child the mother may seem to be favouring his or her sibling. When a second child is bom, the firstborn is especially likely to develop hostile feelings towards the new’ rival for mother’s attention and affection. Sometimes w’e carrv such jealous grievances (at an unconscious level) into adult life, w’here they continue to affect our behaviour and attitudes.
It is then imperative that w’e sort them out, face up to them, acknowledge them for w’hat they are, and so liberate ourselves from their damaging influence (see (3) below, second paragraph, on projections).
(3) An elder brother or sister (brother for a male dreamer, sister for a female dreamer) may represent your ‘other self (‘alter ego’), that side of your personality that has so far been neglected and undeveloped. Jung called it ‘the Shadow’’. We start adult life w’ith a self-image that is usually some sort of compromise between what w’e w’ant to be or do and w’hat parents or society at large seems to require of us.
If this self-image corresponds to our actual abilities, all may be well for a while; but a time mav come w hen wre need to give attention to other facets of our (potential) self. These other facets - our Shadow- - will show- themselves to us in dreams; and one form they take in dreams is that of an elder brother or sister.
People often project their shadow- on to a sibling of the same sex as themselves; and if it is not projected, it may express itself in all kinds of aw kward and embarrassing ways - astonishing rudeness, for example, or other antisocial behaviour. The contrast between your conscious ego and your alter ego mav be as startling as that between Jekvll and Hyde. Don’t be alarmed, though: remember alw-ays that your unconscious is vour ally - vour best friend - and even the most frightening or appalling things that reveal themselves in dreams as parts of vour unconscious are frightening or appalling, first, because of their unfamiliaritv and / or secondly, because, having been neglected and locked away in the dark, they tend to behave like a neglected child and mav become mutinous (on this phenomenon, see Demon). Pay proper attention and proper respect to them, and their threatening features will disappear; they will prove themselves valuable supplements to vour personal equipment for coping with life and achieving full satisfaction and wholeness. Introduce them into your consciousness, identify them and their needs, and give them a controlled and appropriate part to play in your waking life.
Incidentally, one test you can apply to check whether you have a neglected shadow-self is to ask yourself if there is some characteristic that you particularly dislike in other people (particularly your partner): a domineering tendency’, perhaps, or an over-liberal attitude, or whatever.
If there is (and of course you need a lot of honesty’ to admit this), then that characteristic is likely to belong to your shadow-self. We tend to project on to other people the dark, ‘nasty5 things that live in our own unconscious.
If something is going wrong in our life, we tend to put the blame on to other people, the government, or our parents; we look for some scapegoat to carry the blame. The blame, how ever, is ours, because we have not put our own house in order: we have not paid due attention to the demands of our unconscious and have not allowed our ‘other self proper scope for expression in our life.
(4) When a female dreams of a brother, or a male dreams of a sister, the brother / sister may represent w’hat Jung called the ‘soul-image’, w’hich is the masculine side of a woman’s personality (her animus) or the feminine side of a man’s personality (his anima). There would seem to be very basic differences between man and woman arising out of different biological functions (as well as less basic differences that owe their existence to social conditioning). There are w’hat have traditionally been called feminine qualities and capacities (such as gentleness, a caring disposition, creativeness, cooperativencss and relatedness, intuition) and, similarly, what have been called masculine qualities (such as aggressiveness and competitiveness, rationality’, and a tendency to analyse and look for differences). However, it is widclv accepted nowadays among psychotherapists that the male psyche also contains feminine qualities and the female psyche also contains masculine qualities, albeit often dormant and neglected, or repressed.
If you arc a man, do you admire the ‘masculine’ tv pc of woman? If vou do, vou may be in need of redressing the balance in vour psyche: vour feminine side
has possibly swamped your masculinity, and you now need to promote the latter. In your case, the anima will be rather masculine. This is just one instance of a general rule: the animus / anima will have the opposite characteristics to the conscious self-image.
Either male or female dreamers may find themselves in a dream in an heroic relationship to an anima / animus figure. A man may, in a dream, rescue a damsel in distress; a woman may waken a dead prince with a kiss. These should be seen as invitations to incorporate your anima / animus into vour conscious functioning, to rescue it from oblivion and neglect: to make Cinderella or the Frog-Prince your partner in life. Personal wholeness cannot be achieved without this. See also Cinderella, Frog, section (3), Marriage.
(5) A sister in a man’s dream or a brother in a woman’s dream may take the dreamer into some frightening abyss, to the bottom of the sea, or into a dark forest. This may represent the man’s anima or the woman’s animus leading the ego into the unconscious, to discover, for example, the deep emotional causes of a psychosomatic illness; the repressed rage that lies at the bottom of a chronic boredom; or the fount of energy or wisdom that can furnish a more fully satisfying existence. Literary and mythological representations of this can be found in the examples of Beatrice, who led Dante safely into hell and out again, and Ariadne, whose thread enabled Theseus to find his way out of the Cretan labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur. Both hell and labyrinths are symbols of the unconscious. See also Labyrinth, Monster, Underworld.
(6) Sometimes the anima / animus figure in a dream may appear in some way hostile or threatening. For example, in a man’s dream the anima may take the form of an enchantress, a femme fatale, seducing men into a lake or ocean. The watery depths may be seen as symbolizing the depths of the unconscious. The meaning of such a dream may be that the dreamer needs to explore his other - unconscious - self, despite (or, more accurately, because of) its frightening and threatening aspect. Water, however, is a symbol of the feminine, too. The meaning of the dream, therefore, might be that die dreamer is too heavily fixated on his mother and needs to liberate himself by asserting his masculinity and independence; in extreme cases the man might be in danger of being “possessed’ or ‘swallowed up’ by the feminine within his psyche. Such a dream may be, however, not a warning, but an invitation: the unconscious may be urging the man to get on better terms - equal terms - with the feminine side of his psyche. Give your anima / animus equality, and it will cease from its mutinous attempts to take over the whole of your psyche.
In the case of a woman, a dream may contain a male seducer: some Pied Piper animus figure. Again, the dreamer will have to decide whether such a dream is a warning or an invitation: a warning against being carried away by her masculinity (perhaps she has not resolved her early father fixation), or an invitation to discover and utilize her neglected masculinity. Commonsense and, above all, honesty should guide her to the correct understanding of the dream; and in any case, bear in mind what was said above about giving equality to the anima / animus.
(7) The unconscious compensates the conscious mind. It contains those qualities and capacities which the conscious mind lacks. In this sense it is the opposite of the conscious mind; hence its otherness, its alien appearance.
It follows, therefore, that the image that represents anima or animus in a dream may be the opposite of the psychological type to which the dreamer belongs. For example, if you are a woman of the intellectual type (i.e. if thinking is your strong point at the conscious level), your animus may be represented in dreams as a sentimental type (a romantic Don Juan, for instance).
If you are a sentimental woman (moved at the conscious level mainly by feelings - including moral feelings), your animus may show itself as a bearded professor or other intellectual figure.
If you are an intuitive woman (an artist, for instance), your animus mav take a muscular he-man form in dreams (the sensational type, functioning most strongly at the sensory level).
(8) If brother and sister appear together in a dream, this may symbolize either the tension of opposites, or the union of opposites. The opposites are the conscious and the unconscious contents of the psyche. Their union and interfusion are the means by which the self- the true self that is already within you but waits to be unfolded - is realized.
The appearance of this symbol will usually be an auspicious sign, meaning that, despite all appearances to the contrary, there is within you a latent and attainable order and harmony. But of course you - the conscious ego - must make that latent order real by paying loving attention to the needs of your unconscious opposite (like the prince who wakes the sleeping beauty with an embrace).... A Dictionary of Dream Symbols
If you lose the ticket, you may feel insecure and confused regarding your destination, or you may not consider yourself sufficiently prepared. However, depending on the type of ticket in the dream, the oneiric sense will vary: if it is from a bank it announces incidentals and litigation for economic reasons that you will likely lose; if it is a lottery ticket, danger by leaving your affairs at random; a train ticket, patience when social climbing; and a theater ticket, willingness to escape everyday reality.
If the dreamer is traveling in economy class with a first class ticket, it indicates the dreamer’s perception of her social or work position as being well below the one she really deserves.
You will receive news that will clarify your situation.... The Big Dictionary of Dreams
This is one of the reasons why many people believe we only dream in black and white. Some people do only dream in black and white, but many of us also dream in color.
If you are one of those people who notice and appreciate colors in waking life, you are far more likely to notice them in your dreams. Yet because most of us regard color as being incidental to the action, we don’t pay attention to it in our dreams and tend not to remember it when awake. However, focusing more attention on the color aspect of your dreams may help lead to a richer, more accurate and fulfilling interpretation.
For example, let’s say you dream of a statue that falls from its place on the mantelpiece and crashes to the floor. Your interpretation would probably initially focus on the symbolism of the statue crashing, but if you also recalled that the statue was actually green in your dream, then another possible interpretation could be added using the color symbolism of green, which is typically associated with jealousy. So could your unconscious be warning you that your jealousy, or someone else’s jealousy, will lead to unhappiness if it remains unchecked?
Color is a vibrant part of symbolism. This is partly due to tradition and partly due to the vibratory frequency each individual color possesses. Research has been carried out to discover the effect of color on people, and it has been shown that working with color can impact your mood, your thoughts and even your behavior. The effect is so significant that psychologists use color testing for emotional intelligence reports. Not surprisingly then, the colors in your dreams can tell you a great deal about your emotional state. So, if an individual color, or collection of colors, dominates or features in your dream (such as wearing a color you never usually wear), its symbolism will be significant, as color always evokes a strong emotional reaction. Try to work out exactly what that color could represent, as it is likely your subconscious is trying to comment on something by using that particular color as a symbol. Since many colors have archetypal feelings and emotions attached to them, the approach taken by Jung is considered helpful. However, it may be—because of an experience you have had with it—that a particular color transcends a Jungian meaning Dream colors have symbolic associations attached to them but, as is the case for all dream images, their meaning can vary from person to person because you may have your own personal and special associations with that particular color. It’s important to bear these associations in mind. Ask yourself whether the color reminds you of anything or anyone: a specific person, a body part, a childhood toy or some other object? For example, the color red may remind you of the first bike you ever rode, which was red, or the bunch of red roses your partner gave you on your first date together.
In a nutshell, the message from your unconscious when color features in your dream may be connected to your personal association with that shade, or it may have archetypal significance. Take a look at this chapter for some clues to its symbolic meaning and to ascertain your personal association. In this context, it might help to think about how you would describe the color to someone who is blind. What personal feelings and thoughts arise when you think of red, blue or yellow, for example? Bear in mind that as well as human emotions, colors also emphasize and reflect positive or negative forces in your life; so when you are considering the implications of color in a dream, you also need to think about where they appear: on animals, trees, birds, people, yourself and so on. As with all dream interpretations, trust your gut reactions first and look for the associations that make sense to you.... The Element Encyclopedia
Once upon a time not so long ago, an inventor was struggling with a major problem. His name was Elias Howe, and for years he had been trying to solve this problem, so that he could complete a machine he was building—a machine that would in time change the world. He was missing a small but vital detail, and, try as he would, he just couldn’t figure it out. Needless to say, Howe was a very frustrated man. One night, after another long day of fruitless work on his project, he dreamed he had been captured by fierce savages. These warriors were attacking him with spears. Although in the dream he was terrified he would be killed, he noticed that the spears were unusual looking: each one had an eye- shaped hole at the pointed end. When Howe woke up, it hit him like a brick: he had actually dreamed the answer to his problem. His nightmare was a blessing in disguise. He immediately saw that the eye of the spear could be an eye in a sewing needle, near its point. Elated with the discovery, he rushed to his laboratory and finished the design of his invention: the sewing machine. The rest, as they say, is history.
The list of what dreams can do for you seems endless. We’ve touched on a few of these benefits of dreaming in the preface and introduction. Now let’s go into a bit more detail. I want you to get really excited about your own dream potential. And, once you realize the possibilities, I think you will.
The history of dreams is filled with stories of famous people who have called on their dreams for help, or who have received help unexpectedly from their dreams. Here are a few more interesting stories to illustrate the point:
The physicist Niels Bohr, who developed the theory of the movements of electrons, had a dream in which he saw the planets attached to the sun by strings. This image inspired him to finalize his theory.
The great Albert Einstein reported that the famous theory of relativity came to him while he was napping—a good reason for taking frequent naps!
Author Richard Bach, who wrote the bestseller Jonathan Livingston Seagull, was stuck in a writer’s block after writing the first half of his now-famous novel. It was eight years later that he literally dreamed the second half and was able to complete his book.
Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman told reporters that his classic film Cries and Whispers had been inspired by a dream.
Another writer, the well-loved British author Robert Louis Stevenson, was quite dependent on his dreams for ideas that he could turn into sellable stories. Stevenson has related in his memoirs that after a childhood tortured by nightmares, and his successful efforts to overcome them, he was able to put his dreams to work for profit.
A born storyteller (though he started out as a medical student), he was accustomed to lull himself to sleep by making up stories to amuse himself. Eventually, he turned this personal hobby into a profession, becoming a writer of tales like Treasure Island. He identified his dream-helpers as “little people,” or “Brownies.” Once he was in constant contact with this inner source, his nightmares vanished, never to return. Instead, whenever he was in need of income he turned to his dreams:
At once the little people begin to bestir themselves in the same quest, and labour all night long, and all night long set before him truncheons of tales upon their lighted theatre. No fear of his being frightened now; the flying heart and the frozen scalp are things bygone; applause, growing applause, growing interest, growing exultation in his own cleverness . . . and at last a jubilant leap to wakefulness, with the cry, “I have it, that’ll do!”
Stevenson wrote his autobiography in the third person, not revealing that he was the subject until the end.
Stevenson further states that sometimes when he examined the story his Brownies had provided, he was disappointed, finding it unmarketable. However, he also reported that the Brownies “did him honest service and gave him better tales than he could fashion for himself,” that “they can tell him a story piece by piece, like a serial, and keep him all the while in ignorance of where they aim.”
Stevenson’s Brownies are a perfect example of dream helpers just waiting to be called upon. A particularly famous example of the work of Stevenson’s Brownies is the tale The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As he explains:
I had long been trying to write a story on this subject, to find a body, a vehicle, for that strong sense of man’s double being, which must at times come in upon and overwhelm the mind of every thinking creature. [After he destroyed an earlier version of the manuscript . . .] For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterwards split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers. All the rest was made awake, and consciously, although I think I can trace in much of it the manner of my Brownies.
Although Stevenson did the “mechanical work, which is about the worst of it,” writing out the tales with pen and paper, mailing off the stories to publishers, paying the postage, and not incidentally collecting the fees, he gave his Brownies almost total credit for his productions.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a British poet, was accustomed to taking a sedative derived from opium (legal in those days). One afternoon after taking a dose he was reading and fell asleep over his book. The last words he read had been, “Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built.” When Coleridge awoke some three hours later he had dreamed hundreds of lines of poetry, which he immediately set to writing down. The opening lines of this poem—one of the most famous of all time—are:
Unfortunately for posterity, after writing only fifty-four lines of the two to three hundred he had dreamed, Coleridge was interrupted by a caller, whom he entertained for an hour. When he returned to complete the poem, he had lost all the rest of what he had dreamed! In his diary he noted that it had disappeared “like images on the surface of a stream.” Even so, he had written a masterpiece. This true story, however, emphasizes the need to record dreams upon awakening, a subject we will take up in chapters 5 and 6.
Not only artists and writers give their dreams credit for their ideas and inspirations, but many scientists as well (as we saw in the examples of Bohr and Einstein). Psychologist Eliot D. Hutchinson reports numerous cases of scientists receiving information through dreams and says of dreams that “by them we can see more clearly the specific mechanism of intuitive thought,” and that “a large number of thinkers with whom I have had direct contact admit that they dream more or less constantly about their work, especially if it is exceptionally baffling . . . they often extract useful conceptions.”
I personally can attest to this statement, as it mirrors my own experience writing books. For example, when I began work on this book about dreams, I noticed that my dream production immediately doubled; and I have had Stevenson’s experience of “little people,” whom I call my “elves,” and whom I write about extensively in my book for teens called Teen Astrology, telling about how they came to my rescue when I was quite stuck (see chapter 9, pages 249– 252 in that book).
One of the most astonishing as well as fascinating stories is that of Hermann V. Hilprecht, a professor of Assyrian at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. It seems to be a characteristic of those who receive dream help that they have recently been working long and hard and are frustrated. In Hilprecht’s case, he was working late one evening in 1893, attempting to decipher the cuneiform characters on drawings of two small fragments of agate. He thought they belonged to Babylonian finger rings, and he had tentatively assigned one fragment to the so-called Cassite period of 1700 B.C.E. However, he couldn’t classify the second fragment. And he wasn’t at all sure about the first either. He finally gave up his efforts at about midnight and went straight to bed—and had the following dream, which was his “astounding discovery.”
Hilprecht dreamed of a priest of pre-Christian Nippur, several thousand years ago, who led the professor into the treasure chamber of the temple and showed him the originals, telling him just how the fragments fitted in, all in great detail. Although the dream was long and involved, Hilprecht remembered it all and in the morning told it to his wife. In his words: “Next morning . . . I examined the fragments once more in the light of these disclosures, and to my astonishment found all the details of the dream precisely verified in so far as the means of verification were in my hands.”
Up until then, Hilprecht had been working only with drawings. Now he traveled to the museum in Constantinople where the actual agate fragments were kept and discovered that they fitted together perfectly, unlocking the secret of a three-thousand-year-old mystery by means of a dream!
How did this happen? Clairvoyance? Magic? Who was the priest? How was it that Hilprecht seemed to make contact in a dream with someone who had lived so long before him? We will never know the answers to these questions; but we do know from the professor’s own words that this is exactly what happened to him. (It makes you wonder whether Professor Hilprecht was in the habit of paying attention to his dreams!)
No doubt one of the most famous dream sources of scientific discovery was experienced by the German chemist Friedrich August Kekulé, when he was attempting to understand and model the molecular structure of benzene. Like Professor Hilprecht, Kekulé had been searching for the answer for many years and was totally immersed in the problem. He told of a dream he had while he napped in front of his fireplace one frigid night in 1865:
Again the atoms were juggling before my eyes:
My mind’s eye, sharpened by repeated sights of a similar kind, could not distinguish larger structures of different forms and in long chains, many of them close together; everything was moving in a snake-like and twisting manner. Suddenly, what was this? One of the snakes got hold of its own tail and the whole structure was mockingly twisting in front of my eyes. As if struck by lightning, I awoke.
This dream led Kekulé directly to the discovery of the structure of benzene, which is a closed carbon ring. A dream had presented a realization that served to revolutionize modern chemistry. Later, reporting his discovery to his colleagues at a scientific convention in 1890, he remarked, “Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then we may perhaps find the truth.” Not the sort of comment one generally expects from a scientist!
Here is the story of another scientist. Otto Loewi, who won the 1936 Nobel
Prize in Psychology and Medicine for his discovery of how the human nervous system works, credited this discovery to a dream. Prior to Loewi, scientists had assumed that the body’s nervous impulses were the result of electrical waves. However, in 1903 Loewi had the intuition that a chemical transmission was actually responsible. But he had no way to prove his theory, so he set the idea aside for many years. Then, in 1920, he had the following dream:
The night before Easter Sunday of that year I awoke, turned on the light, and jotted down a few notes on a tiny slip of thin paper. Then I fell asleep again. It occurred to me at six o’clock in the morning that during the night I had written down something most important, but I was unable to decipher the scrawl. The next night, at three o’clock, the idea returned. It was the design of an experiment to determine whether or not the hypothesis of chemical transmission that I had uttered seventeen years ago was correct. I got up immediately, went to the laboratory and performed a simple experiment on a frog’s heart according to the nocturnal design:
Its results became the foundation of the theory of chemical transmission of the nervous impulse.
Interestingly, Loewi had previously performed a similar experiment, which combined in his dreaming mind with the new idea, creating the successful result. This is an excellent example of the ability of dreams to combine with previous dreams, or with actual events, to produce fertile new ground.
These are some of the stories of famous people who have used dreams to solve problems, enhance creativity, and even make money and win important prizes. They are all evidence of the vast human ability to make use of dreams. As you draw upon your own dream life and develop skills in both dreaming and interpreting your dreams, you will become an advanced teen dreamer. Think of your dreams as a school where you are continually learning new skills and developing new aptitudes, reaching ever higher levels of achievement.
As you pay conscious attention to your dreams, and then use your dream symbols in your waking life, you will be integrating yourself, creating the greatest artwork of your life: your whole and unique Self.... Dreampedia