Saturday, October 12, 2002


Almost everyone has, at one time in his/her life, had an impressive dream that stays in the memory. Whether you declare the dream meaningless or not, the memory lingers and is evoked by particular peoples, places, and experiences. The mere fact that the dream continues to occupy psychic space is an indicator that it has some kind of effect and that the effect is a lasting one even if it is limited to an occasional thought or emotion.

A dream of this nature brings up an important question: Do dreams, in and of themselves, have meaning, or does the dreamer, by reflecting upon the dream and its images assign meaning to it? If the answer to the first part of the question is yes, the discovery of a dream's meaning could be important in that the dreamer will add a valuable content to his/her conscious understanding. Depending upon the impact and weight of the dream, the added value could be considerable. If, on the other hand, the answer to the second part of the question is yes, the dreamer may assume a certain responsibility to create or assign meaning, in which case the result will be the same--a more or less important content is created in the conscious life of the dreamer.

It seems to me that the mystery of the dream presents us with a peculiar and important decision. We can ignore the dream(s) and explain it away as caused by something we ate, saw, heard--a fragment not related to anything important about us or our lives. Or we can take a more empirical approach in which we consider the hypothesis that dreams have, or could have, important meaning, then set out to test our hypothesis by looking deeply into our own experience of dreaming. By adopting the second approach, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose--even if our decision proves to be wrong--for the simple reason that any reflection on experience can provide for enrichment of our consciousness.

The Jungian approach is, of course, the latter. There is no doubt that dreams have been an important factor in the development of peoples throughout history. Until more recent times, dreams have generally been understood to bring messages, warn, enrich, frighten, correct, and enoble the human person. The Bible assigns considerable importance to dreams and their function in the developing relationships of God with God's people. It may even be the case that in the developing/growing covenant between God and the individual, the dream is one of the tools of communication and negotiation.

In working with dreams over the years, I have developed a set of working hypotheses/assumptions for approaching the dream. Fundamentally, I believe every single dream has two purposes: to heal in some way and/or to cast light on the personal situation of the dreamer.

Following are some additional assumptions about dreams that might prove helpful in exploring the dream as helpful counsellor for waking reality and for increasing consciousness because finding/making meaning is one of the primary needs of the human person:

1. Through patient attention to your dreams, you can make contact with and enter into a meaningful dialogue with the unconscious. [By unconscious, I simply mean the source of those factors that influence and impact our lives in unknown ways.]

2. The unconscious is Janus-faced; i.e., it turns to us the face we turn to it.

3. Every dream is given to us for the purpose of healing past hurts, enlarging our perspective, or integrating portions of our personality.

4. The dreams brings new information to compensate or complement our waking attitudes.

5. Our life energy, or ibido is personified in dreams as if the psyche, or the unconscious, wants to draw us into a living relationship.

6. Relationships with inner figures can be as important, enriching, and rewarding as relationships with people in our outer lives.

7. Our inner and outer lives are in some way mirrors of each other. Work with dreams can provide for a more harmonious balance between the two.

8. The psyche has a teleological aspect, i.e., is working toward a goal or purpose. Further, it seeks our participation and cooperation.

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