Here’s how I work with my own dreams. Because I’ve done this for so long, my unconscious is usually very clear with me about what imagery to examine upon waking. Often I am not moved to consider anything and I just appreciate that the human experience includes this magnificent opportunity to fly around the world of the infinite. Then, usually about once a week, I move into wakefulness with a full dream, single image or particular scenario that calls to me. I remember it vividly and it sticks in my consciousness like a small remnant of corn-on-the-cob that screams to be flossed out from between my teeth.
So last night was one of those nights where I remembered so many dreams, that when I woke up, there didn’t seem to be anything particular to land on. It felt like I could remember every single dream I had with a clear evenness that didn’t push anything up to the surface to demand my attention. However, I didn’t dismiss them entirely and as I took up the task of morning exercise, I allowed myself to ruminate on them and see what came up.
But rumination wasn’t enough. I needed to turn to the very next tool for interpretation in the dreamer’s arsenal; calling forth more connection to the unconscious by sharing the dream with someone else. Fortunately, I had a close friend nearby to do this with. And what this looks like is less like a conversation and more of a recitation. By telling my friend some of the dream images that were rolling around my waking consciousness, I was grounding the experience into the present and not allowing them to recede into the ethers as I stepped fully into my day.
A theme definitely emerged and it turned out to be very revealing. The strongest image that percolated in my memory was that my mother had died in one of the dreams. Dream-death is always about some measure of transformation; some aspect of the personality dies so that another, more advanced aspect can be born. Since most human pain can be easily divided into Mother-Wound and Father-Wound, I wondered if there was anything in the dream that might connect to either my father directly, or to something that resonated with the masculine principle in general.
I found that image in the memory from one of my dreams of being in a tearful embrace with a man. I recall very little about this image except that there was great love and acceptance and the unknown male figure in my dream was professing an enormous amount of relief at finally being able to accept the love he had for me and the ability to return that love to me in the form of this embrace. So the father stuff was present too, but by now I sensed that the real juice lay in what had occurred with my mother.
That she had died in the dream was not enough. I need another image to round out the experience and make some sense of it. Halfway through my stationery bike ride, I had another flash of a dream that took place earlier in the night, when my mother was still alive, but suffering from some malady that was likely to (and indeed, later did) kill her. She wrote out a letter to me expressing her love and acceptance of the man I turned out to be (notice that this is the same theme as with the embrace with the man). However, in the note she referred to me as Mr. Michael Lennox.
Hmmm. Mister. That’s interesting, I thought. Instead of Mike (as she usually calls me) she is using the very formal Mister, which is, essentially, inaccurate because the appropriate formal address for me is DOCTOR Michael Lennox. I wasn’t annoyed by this in the dream, but I was hyper aware of this perceived slight.
So, here is a little about my own personal wounds. If I were to break it down to its simplest expression, the wounds around my father are that I never felt truly loved by him. With regard to my mother, it’s all about feeling a desperate need to prove myself to her. In fact, it is conceivable to say that the fact that I got a doctorate in the first place is connected to that desire.
In order to get a bit deeper, I turned to one of the tried and true techniques of dream work; voice dialogue automatic handwriting. This involves sitting down with a piece of paper and a pen, getting still and quiet and asking your unconscious to speak with you. To do this, you must have a particular character aspect from a dream in mind with whom you wish to connect. In this case it is my mother. This is not my actual mother who is alive and well and living in New Jersey, but the mother-inside-my-psyche who lives in my dreams and happened to have died there last night. You use your dominant hand to write out the questions, then switch the pen to your non-dominant hand and see what comes. You just write without thinking. You may just be amazed at what happens. Here’s what came for me this morning.
Me: Ma, why did you call me Mr. instead of Dr.
Mom: Because I forgot.
Me: But Ma, I want you to be proud of me.
Mom: Oh my god, Mike, I am SO proud of you.
My mother has very severe Attention Deficit Disorder. As such, I grew up with her having a lot of difficulty ever really focusing on me in a way that made me feel seen and validated. She is also extremely forgetful; another quality that, as a child, left me wanting. This wound in me is deep and has been exacerbated throughout my life in so many ways that are profound. In fact, it is safe to say that I have created a life with a measure of visibility in it to help compensate for this wound. Now my mother is a loving person and I’m no longer seven years old. One of the things about this time in my life as I continue to expand my work in a more and more public way is to take on the role of witnessing my own life and seeking less and less the validation of others.
Now to put these dreams into the context of my life, it is important to note that I have spent the last three days in retreat in the place that I go to in order to get away from my day to day life and reconnect to myself and recharge my spiritual batteries. This morning I am heading back into town, so last night would naturally reflect the integration that has been going on over this weekend during which some fairly powerful decisions were made and life changes put into place. As these changes connect to expanding my life and my work, the dying of my mother in my dreams is likely connected to me allowing the part of me that desperately needs to be validated from the outside to be released on a deep level.
If there is a message here it is this: There is very little separation between the dream world and the waking world if you let it. The satisfaction of letting your dreams speak to you is potentially enormous and for me at least, when I allow this conversation between my conscious and my unconscious mind to flow with grace and ease, I find my waking life much more interesting and inviting; I am able to face the work I have chosen to do with discipline, curiosity and most importantly, enthusiasm.