Friday, February 11, 2011
Dreams allow us to possess what we cannot have while awake. That's one way to look at our nocturnal wanderings through the unconscious. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes gratifying, sometimes disturbing, sometimes nonsensical, they are how our big old brains sift through the day and what is really eating at us.
We tend to lie to ourselves fair often about our motivations. Our hopes, our goals, we can gloss over a lot in a fit of self deception. While most folks talk of dreams as aspirations, as our goals working out to become reality, in a fine language of hope, and metaphysical lashings to build up dreams as something greater, I tend to take a more...practical approach.
Perhaps it's the psychology that I had to take in teacher's training. Perhaps it's just a sceptical mindset. Perhaps I'm just a cranky bastiche. Been thinking about dreams for a bit--the travels between Colorado to New Mexico, and now back to Maine, and soon to Massachusetts are all in flux. Life in flux, dreams are in flux too. Nightmares and those delicious ones where you have everything you've wanted, to the odd and sometimes disturbing ramblings, they all have sort of congealed over these last few months of tumult. Dreams of my daughter. Dreams of losing my daughter. Dreams that have continued over the years in a weird episodic fashion that pick up just where the last one left off, like some unconscious soap opera that just gets stranger each time it picks up the old thread. Dreams of fights that go horribly, horribly, horribly awry. Dreams of being impotent against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Dreams of holding someone who is far, far, far away, and whose scent remains in my hindbrain and the thought of it can cause me to stop everything I'm doing when I remember it, and the feel her skin beneath my fingers comes unbidden. It's hard to lie to yourself in a dream. Your unconscious tends to cut out all the silly crap and sterling justifications, and pare you down to what you're really feeling. You may say that you don't have feelings for X, but your dreams will slice that particular lie right out. You can possess all the things you want, you hope for in a dream, and that is as telling as the dreams where you lose what is most important to you as well.
Big dreams, little dreams, the random firing of neuron dreams that have us do nonsensical things that TOTALLY make sense while asleep, they are a way of looking at your waking life that condenses down things that you might not have thought of as important, but resonated somehow. Not always earth shattering. Not always a window to the deepest workings of our psyche, we can over interpret dreams--as much as you can over-interpret Tarot cards.
I liken dreams to Tarot in a way.
A lot of folks use Tarot as a tool of divination. My own sceptical self doesn't really let me think that you can predict the future with cards. While I remain a bit of theist, I still have a healthy dose of scepticism that doesn't believe that the Universe tends to conduit itself through laminate cards made in some factory that also makes Aura Reading guides. Newage rhymes with sewage for a reason in my book, and that is perhaps a personal failing and prejudice, but I acknowledge that it's there. That being said, I think that divination tools like Tarot are useful. Tarot and other tools are means for meditation and examination.
Our brains are wonderful for attaching meaning to things. Images to emotion, people to emotion and chemical triggers, events to emotion. We bond our memories in all sorts of fashions, and our brains make connections between these concepts and emotions, and triggers all the time. We attach significance to events and people and places all the time, shifting relationships and meanings all the time. That's what has made us successful as a species. We can attach meaning to concepts with alacrity. We make webs of connection with those concepts with wild abandon. Which is why Tarot is a useful tool. Not to divine the future, but for self examination. The cards have meaning. They each represent a concept, and their position has particular significance as well. When laid out, you can use them to judge what meanings you immediately attach to the cards. In an honest reading, you can see what you attach as signficance as a means to evaluate yourself and your motivations. What in your past attaches most to the concept to this card? What attaches itself most readily to this one? What about that one? Used as a meditation, it can allow you to less worry about your future, but have a powerful snapshot of your current motivations and interior dialogue.
Dreams are another snapshot. For all the high flown language of dreams, and reaching for the sky, dreams are a good way to see first hand what the brain is sifting through. What attachments are most in the fore. What scares us most right now? What makes us happiest right now? What weird crap has managed to sift forward from the last few days in our lives, and impress itself on our psyche. Good dreams, bad dreams, they are snapshots of what the heck is really running through our brains.
We are justification machines. We attach meaning to things, and often we seek justifications and attachments when none are needed or wanted. We are big chemical soups that look for attachments and meanings all the time. We predict behaviors from those attachments. We react to things based on those attachments and meanings. Which is why things like panic attacks are such buggers. Chemical trigger goes off, and we don't know why, so we find reasons for why we are suddenly terrified. We can deceive ourselves by putting on layers of justifications for why do this or that, especially while awake. It's OK to speed because of this. You're not being untrue if you call a friend, right? It's just one more cookie. We find reasons for this, and we tend to gloss over our motivations, because sometimes the truth behind those motivations is scary stuff.
Dreams don't care about that, though. They cut straight down through the web of self deception, and what you've got going on inside, wells up. What is truly important, that gets all fuxxored up with all sorts of other things, and it's often hard to see those things when you have to sift through a mixed up dream narrative--and often that narrative is just random crap bound together by our brains constantly seeking to make connections--but in the end, good dreams or bad, they're an opportunity to take stock, honest stock, of what's actually going on behind our skulls.
In that, I tend to look at dreams as exactly that: opportunity. Good dreams show us the things that we hold important. Bad dreams as well too. While terrifying, they show what is important. What we may have been decieving ourselves about while awake. What connections are important. Our own guilt, our own fears, those are important things to know, what things are rolling around under the surface, and what we can work through.
I tend to dismiss the idea that the Universe speaks to us in dreams. WE speak to ourselves in dreams. We are honest with ourselves in dreams, and if we're smart, we listen to that, and try to not let ourselves be deluded by the layers of justification that we tend to slather on to make ourselves feel better. Rather than look to the mysticism of dreams as a conduit of the Universe, those dream books ARE useful tools for self evaluation. While you can lose yourself in running down what symbols mean in dreams, it is perhaps more useful to examine our dreams with a detached honesty. What drives us, what scares us, what brings us joy, we work all that out in dreams, and hopefully, we're open to not decieving ourselves that X, Y, or Z mean more than they do. We can confront the things that we tend to bury while awake. Good and bad. Love and hate, and all the odd emotions and attachments we make.
A good friend has been having bad dreams as of late. And for good reason, since there's a lot going on her life, and she's got fears a plenty, and heartache, and guilt, and more. I point to those bad dreams as opportunity. Not only for exposing what's going on, but to allow herself to confront her feelings of guilt that she has no reason to feel guilt from. Takes on too much onto herself, and while it is an intellectual exercise to say, "yeah, that's on someone else's shoulders" the dreams tell a different story, that there's more work to be done on that front. For her, I say that even those bad dreams are opportunities. Snapshots that are useful. And in dealing with those snapshots, it leaves room for the sweeter ones to come.
Dreams are tool. A wonderful tool, and to benefit from them, good or bad, you just have to hold that tool right.