Posts Tagged ‘dream interpretation’

What Are Dreams?

Monday, August 26th, 2019

what are dreams?

On a rainy morning in November, Alberto Puerto Vallarta, Paul Windsor, and Herschel Steinberg share a table in Mona’s, the one and only bakery/café in Carmeline Creek, a small town on the far north coast of California.

Alberto is seventy-four, a performance artist with wavy black hair turning gray, Paul Windsor is fifty-nine, a writer and musician with short wiry gray hair, and Herschel Steinberg is seventy-two, a dream interpreter with spiky gray hair.

Alberto: I was walking the dogs on the beach yesterday and it came to me that maybe the purpose of dreams is to balance the mundane with the fantastic, the fantastic with the mundane.

Paul: Not sure what you mean.

Alberto: If you have a boring life, your dreams will be exciting. If you have an exciting life, your dreams will be about feeding your cat or doing the dishes. Maybe the psyche needs to maintain an equilibrium of…

Herschel: Excitement and mundanity?

Paul: I would think just the opposite, that an exciting life would give rise to exciting dreams, a dull life to dull dreams.

Herschel: It’s an interesting idea. Psychic equilibrium. After all, we need the right amount of salt to function properly. Not too much, not too little. The same is true of sugar, exercise, affection. Maybe dreams provide psychic sustenance, and different kinds of dreams provide different kinds of stimulation for proper neural functioning.

Paul: I think dreaming is the way our subconscious tells our conscious mind the truth, tells us things we’re unwilling to accept when we’re awake.

Herschel: Are we unwilling to accept them or simply unaware of them?

Paul: Might seem like we’re unaware, but we’re really unwilling.

Alberto: Which might be another way the mind is attempting to reach psychic equilibrium.

Herschel: I think dreams are the way we tell stories to ourselves, stories with messages that can help us if only we can decipher what those messages are.

Alberto: Are all dreams symbolic?

Herschel: Not necessarily. I have one client who has dreams he says are indistinguishable from his waking life.

Paul: Maybe he’s attained a perfect equilibrium between the fantastic and the mundane.

Alberto: I wonder if his waking life is both fantastic and mundane.

Herschel: Well… in a way everyone’s life is both fantastic and mundane, and depending on our state of mind, the mundane can be fantastic.

Alberto: So true.

Paul: I often dream I’m trying to get somewhere, but I never quite reach my goal. And by often, I mean almost all my dreams are about being diverted or obstructed from some destination, and yet I don’t feel I’m being obstructed in my waking life.

Alberto: Are people obstructing you in your dreams or is it things getting in your way?

Paul: Usually people. I’m often trying to reach a stage so I can perform. Tell a story or play the piano. But I don’t ever reach the stage because there’s always someone in the way who wants to talk to me or show me something, or there’s a huge mob blocking my way.

Alberto: I used to have those kinds of dreams before I began performing regularly. When did you last perform?

Paul: Three years ago.

Alberto: Aha.

Herschel: Aha what?

Alberto: Perhaps these dreams spring from his subconscious desire to perform, and his conscious self is the obstruction. As long as he doesn’t perform, his dreams will be about not being able to.

Paul: But I have no desire to perform again.

Alberto: Or so you think when you’re awake.

Herschel: A client once recounted to me an incredible dream that she had over the course of several consecutive nights, a saga of epic proportions involving huge battles and complicated love affairs and long journeys and countless brushes with death, all of which she remembered in fantastic detail. And at the end of this monumental odyssey, she arrived at an animal shelter where she chose two kittens and took them home.

Alberto: So did she go in her waking life to an animal shelter and get two kittens?

Herschel: Two kittens and a puppy.

Paul: And was that the end of her epic dreams?

Herschel: No, but ever after in her dreams, she was accompanied by two lions and a wolf.

Alberto: She found spirit allies to accompany her in both the dream world and the waking world.

Herschel: I think so.

Paul: Last night I dreamt I was at a party trying to get to a table laden with guacamole and chips and shrimp on skewers, but I could never get to the table because I was waylaid by one person after another.

Alberto: What finally happened?

Paul: I woke up, went to the kitchen, ate a banana, and went back to bed.

Alberto: I would have made guacamole.

Paul: We had no avocados.

Herschel: Dreams are often full of things we want and things we don’t want. Things we have and things we don’t have. Much like life.

Alberto: I think dreams are every bit as real as so-called waking reality.

Herschel: Yes, and isn’t it wonderful how often we dream of being in this lovely café together?

Paul: Shall I order us some guacamole and chips and a plate of spicy prawns?

Alberto: So sayeth your dream. And should anyone obstruct you on your way to place the order, I will come to your aid.

Herschel: I will too, Paul. In this dream no one will stop you from attaining your heart’s desire.

fin

 

Carma

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

(This article originally appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser: April 2010)

Yesterday a tree fell on our car. Fortunately no one was in the car when the wind snapped the top third off the pine tree and a thousand pounds of soon-to-be firewood fell twenty feet though the crystalline springtime air and smashed the roof, the windshield, and the hood of our dearly beloved cello-toting 1996 Toyota Corolla wagon.

We had just gone for a brief spin in our old pickup truck, eschewing the wagon because she was low on gas, and I had just said to Marcia regarding the formidable westerly winds, “This is a trees-falling-on-power-lines kind of day if I’ve ever seen one.” Upon our return from the spin, there was Zephyr (so named in a fit of poesy when I bought her five years ago) half-buried under the glossy needles and sappy timber of the former upper reaches of a quasi-stunted pine doing his best to survive in that nutrient-stingy soil known hereabouts as Pygmy. The bottom two-thirds of the still-living tree loomed over the wreckage; the scene only lacking a raven perched on the stub cawing, “Nevermore.”

We were in shock. When we got married two plus years ago we not only exchanged rings, we exchanged cars. I needed a pickup for pruning jobs and toting manure, Marcia needed a zippy little car for the aforementioned cello toting and friend toting in all sorts of weather. Now Zephyr was totaled. Marcia immediately called AAA and within the hour we were on our way to Fort Bragg to pick up her rental car so the cello toting could continue unabated. Say what you will about the decline and fall of the American Empire, if one has comprehensive auto insurance, the system will seamlessly keep you rolling along. Now if only health insurance would work so seamlessly when trees, as it were, fall on your health.

What does it mean when a tree falls on your car? Well, the most mundane interpretation is that a tree falling on your car means that a tree has fallen on your car. But why did that particular tree fall on that particular car at that particular moment in our lives? Is this a sign? An omen? A message? Was this an act of divine intervention or an attack by the forces of evil? We will almost certainly never know. However, when things like this happen to me, I like to interpret them as I would interpret a dream. What for? Fun, of course.

I’ve read numerous books about dreams and dreaming, countless articles both scientific and fanciful, and I’ve even taken a dream interpretation class, which is the only class of any sort I’ve taken since dropping out of college forty-some years ago. My father was a Freudian psychoanalyst and cursorily introduced me to dream interpretation when I was twelve by giving me a copy of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, a tome I found to be largely useless for my adolescent purposes. But what really got me interested in dreams and dream research was/were beagles.

I was a freshman Anthropology major at the University of California Santa Cruz in 1967, the campus just beginning to spread its concrete tentacles over the former cattle ranch and throughout the third and fourth-growth redwood groves. One of my favorite extracurricular activities was to head off into the largely unexplored woods and hope to get lost, so that in trying to find my way home I would have an adventure. This was a free and fairly safe way to experience the thrill of being lost, because going downhill from anywhere on the campus eventually brought me to a road; and I knew all the roads in that watershed.

So one sunny day I got lost in the forest, had a splendiferous daydream by a sun-dappled pool in a grotto of ferns, and at day’s end I headed downhill. I emerged from the forest in a place unknown to me and espied a cluster of a one-story buildings and a cyclone-fenced enclosure containing several dozen beagles. Curious about this remote installation, I made my way thither. The dogs saw me and charged en masse to the cyclone fence to bark at me. But their barking made no sound. I could see they were barking, but no noise was emanating from their mouths. So, yes, I thought I had gone deaf if not mad.

Totally freaked out (to use a popular expression of that era), I continued my approach and when I was within twenty feet of the pen, several of the hysterical dogs hurled themselves against the cyclone fencing, and I heard the noises their bodies made striking the fence, though nary a sound emerged from their furiously barking mouths. At which moment, a man emerged from one of the buildings, deduced I was the cause of the commotion, and said to me, “Looking for something?”

“I’m lost,” I said. “What is this place?”

“Dream research,” he explained. “We’re using the dogs to map sleep patterns, REM sleep and…”

“What’s REM sleep?”

“Rapid eye movement. Indicates dreaming.”

“What’s wrong with the dogs? Why can’t they bark?”

“We snip their vocal cords,” he said, inadvertently touching his throat. “Impossible to work with the constant din of their barking.”

“Oh,” I said, aghast at his nonchalance about taking away the dogs’ voices. “Why not use humans?”

“We’re laying the groundwork for that,” he said, somewhat condescendingly. “Establishing baselines. Things you probably wouldn’t understand.”

My reports of this canine gulag failed to incite my classmates to storm the lab and rescue the dogs, but something about that encounter and the dreamlike experience of coming upon a pack of silently barking hounds got me reading about sleep and dreams, which took me to Jung and back to Freud and eventually back to Jung, with my simultaneous readings in anthropology leading me to the Dreamtime of the Australian Aboriginals and the Bushmen of the Kalahari who believed there is a dream dreaming us.

Meanwhile, my pal Rico was en route to becoming a psychotherapist, and he, too, was fascinated with dreams and dream interpretation. It was Rico who taught me to recount my dreams out loud in the present tense, which technique invariably improved my recall of important and otherwise overlooked details of the dreams.

Eons later, I would enroll in a ten-week dream interpretation class taught by a brilliant man who was not keen on interpretations that deviated from his, so we butted heads, though I learned many things from him and appreciated the consistency and clarity of his system. And what I especially loved about his class was that we got to act out our dreams, with my fellow students and I taking parts of people and things in each other’s dreams, which enactments often exposed hidden emotions underpinning the dreams.

Then some years ago I caught the end of a radio program featuring a wonderfully articulate woman taking callers’ questions about dreams. A man called to say he wished he had a dream for her to interpret, but that he had never in his life remembered even the tiniest fragment of a dream. And the articulate woman said, “Then tell me what happened to you today and I will interpret that as a dream.”

I don’t remember much else about their interaction, but I have ever since interpreted puzzling and momentous events in my life as I would interpret dreams, from which many groovy insights have emerged. Thus I recommend the practice to you.

Here is the dream version of the tree falling on our car.

Marcia and I emerge from the house we rent and walk toward the Corolla (definition of corolla: the inner envelope of floral leaves of a flower).

“Oh,” says Marcia, “can we take the truck? The wagon’s low on gas.”

“Sure,” I say, noting the Corolla is parked in a place where we almost never park it.

So we take the truck and wend our way along a winding road through the forest, the spring day gorgeous and sunny. The next thing I know we are parking the truck on the side of the road and walking down a wooded driveway to a beautiful house set in a lovely park of old trees and verdant meadows. We pass the house and come to a vast barn-like structure, a fabulous studio on the shores of a lovely lake. In other words, paradise.

“If only this were ours,” we say and think and feel.

We get back in the truck and drive home, each of us lost in fantasies of such a paradise belonging to us. And as we arrive home, we find that a tree has crushed our car.

In short (and drawing from a variety of interpretive schemata): the car (low on gas) represents the means by which the ego navigates the outside world. The tree represents the intelligence and power of Nature. To acquire a house (self) so much larger and more magnificent than our current house (self) and to own (control our destiny) rather than rent (accede control to others) such a grand home (self) would require an entirely different way of conveying our egos in the outside world.

So the question is: do we get another wagon or a sedan? Another Toyota or a Honda? We’re thinking something around three grand.

Todd’s web site is UndertheTableBooks.com.