Discovering What My Dreams Want Me To Know Through Archetypal Dreamwork
I dream I am living in a household with lots of people. I want to take a shower so I go to the bathroom. I'm naked, about to get in the shower when I see that a man is already in there. He is handsome and younger than me. I grab my nightie and cover my front and walk back to my room. I know he can see my bare butt as I walk away. I want to get in the shower with him, but I am too shy. I feel sad.
What Is This Dream Saying?
I started recording my dreams in my twenties. During that time I was a seeker trying many paths: I traveled; went to acupuncture school; attended women's groups and transformational workshops; took classes; did therapy, bodywork, and yoga; went on retreats; and wrote and published a book. I had ah-ha moments and peak experiences. I cleansed and danced, exercised and ate organic — all good things — but nothing brought about real or lasting change. Nothing touched the place in me that fueled my seeking.
Nothing, that is, until, in my late thirties I found someone who did archetypal dreamwork who helped me begin to see what it is my dreams want me to know.
On the outside, my world looked pretty good. I had lots of friends and a successful acupuncture practice and I'd written a book. I hadn't gotten married or had kids, but I usually had a boyfriend; I just hadn't found the right guy yet. It all looked okay, but the following dream showed me how my world really was on the inside.
I dream that a girl lays me down in the desert and walks away. I get up and look down a deep hole. It is rectangular and narrow, like a well, but dry. There is a bird standing at the bottom. I feel sad and desolate.
The girl is an aspect of my soul showing me the true state of my inner world; it was a desert. The bird is also my soul. The sadness and desolation was the way I truly felt because of this separation from my soul, which left me living in isolation in this barren landscape.
Back to my dream of the man in the shower. I have a lifelong longing for closeness and intimacy and an instinctive aversion to these things. This leaves me with a feeling of profound isolation, even in the midst of people I am close to. I feel as though everyone else knows something that I don't.
My dream, however, showed me that I was choosing to stay stuck, that I was walking away from what I wanted and choosing isolation and sadness. I knew what I wanted (to take a shower with the man), and I turned and walked away despite my knowing.
Dreaming Clear As Day
Grabbing my nightie to hide shows the shame I lived with. The dream showed how I chose shame, sadness, and isolation over the risk of vulnerability, connection, and intimacy. Although I was foggy about how this pattern operated in my life, here it was in the dream as clear as day. The habitual pattern was shown and the possibility of doing something different was offered.
The possibility of doing something different required that I feel something I habitually avoided, feelings the voice of shame protects me from — fear, naked vulnerability, insecurity, inadequacy, exposure. Yikes...no wonder I walk away! But the cost is terrible: isolation to avoid the risk of rejection and the possibility of connection.
This dream gave me a big opportunity to break open this stuck place, and as it turned out, was a turning point in my work. All the pieces needed for real change were present in the dream: I was naked, which means I was undefended; the stuck place was evident; my habitual pattern was clear; and I felt the desire to do something different. Most important is the presence of the man, the archetypal figure called animus, who was there loving and supporting me in my naked vulnerability.
I worked with this dream by revisiting that moment in my dream. I did this throughout my day, remembering that this was what was really happening in my psyche, under all the outer goings-on of my life. Despite my initial resistance to the vulnerability of the shower dream, I kept returning to it a couple of times an hour, imagining standing naked with the man, feeling what I wanted.
As I began to feel how deeply I wanted to be with the man, the choice of staying with him became easy. As I practiced this throughout the day, I began to feel joy, lightness, ease, and trust. I felt loved, recognized, and seen by the man. I began remembering who I am at a deep level and the innocence of wanting to be loved. It felt so natural and simple. The emergence of this place of innocence was the emergence of my soul.
Making Dreams Come True
Facing my fear and not walking away had an impact on my outer life. I began experiencing an increased capacity for closeness and intimacy with others. The irony of this piece of work is that in trusting what the dream asked of me and not running away, in staying and feeling the thing I am afraid to feel, I actually get what I want.
Several weeks after the shower dream, I had this dream:
I am in the back of a truck with a couple of friends. We are carrying something with us that is a relic of Christ. I mention this to the truck driver, and he gets angry and throws us out of the truck. Now we are walking, and I am carrying the relic. We sit down and the woman next to me can't bear the feeling of being so close to the relic. I pass it to the man on my other side. Still she can't bear the feeling of being so near it. I do not feel this way.
The relic in this dream is my Holy Grail, my heart that is opening to the love of the divine, to feeling intimacy and belonging. As everything in the dream is a part of me and about me, the woman who cannot bear the feeling of being so close to the relic is the part of me who grabbed the nightie and walked away from the man in the shower. She is the part of me that has spent my life walking away from my desire. She is the part of me that does not want to feel the devastating loss and so she does not get to feel the love.
In the dream I am separate from her and do not feel the way she does, which shows the growth that has begun to happened since the dream of walking away from the man. Suddenly, bearing the relic of my holy heart, I am becoming who I have never been.
Continuing to discover this love means continuing to be willing to have my world turned upside down. It seems my dreams want nothing less than the complete recovery of who I was born to be.
Deb DeGraff is a student of the dream and one of the original members of North of Eden, a community of Archetypal Dreamwork therapists and educators in Montpelier, VT. Deb is an Archetypal Dreamwork therapist-in-training and an acupuncturist. She can be reached at 802-279-6829 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.northofeden.com.