25 August 2016
Cue the elephant..
Disclaimer: No metaphorical animals were harmed in the composing of this blog, and the men on the left acting the parts of humans with dreadfully limited perceptions of reality were all paid union scale for appearing in this essay.
If you're expecting me to retell this parable, you've got another thing coming. If you don't already know it (How long have you been living in a cave?), follow the link in the previous sentence and do some remedial basic cultural education. You're welcome.
The reason I'm trotting Jumbo and his friends out is because their story is the perfect illustration of how to interpret the many answers one will get to the question "What is a dream?"
It's question I like to ask at dreamwork sessions and when I am giving presentations on dreams: What ARE dreams anyway? And people take turns offering up definitions, metaphors and anecdotes:
"Dreams are the mind filing away the memories of the day."
"Dreams are the mind giving symbolic form to bodily sensations."
"They're expressions of our hopes and fears."
"...experiences on the astral plane."
"...visits to other worlds."
"...our hopes and fears."
"...the subconscious speaking to us."
"...the other side of the coin from our daytime experiences."
"...our innermost selves."
"...lessons from our higher selves."
"...an alternate reality."
The list goes on and on. Every time I think I've heard it all, someone comes up with another answer.
Finally, I say, "All of these, and more, are true,"
And I mean this sincerely. Dreams cannot be be confined to one explanation. Dreams are many things. And they can be many things at the same time.
You can have a dream whose background (let's say a large public square in your town where there is a demonstration taking place) is a commentary on the social/historical milieu, where you see your colleague in that funny hat she wore to work today, while the stomach ache you went to bed with is creating the image of a child poking you in the abdomen with a stick, and you have an enlightening and useful conversation with your aunt who passed away two years ago (visits from the dead are common experiences among dreamworkers).
So, just as saying an elephant is like a wall, or a rope, or a tree, misses the big picture, letting yourself be satisfied with one answer to the question "What are dreams?" is equally short sighted.
Questions are more powerful than answers. Keep asking the question.