Dreams: Decoding messages from the Higher Self

Every night, when we are asleep, our psyche opens up dimensions to us in which we can confront, explore, and resolve our problems. Sometimes our psyches even gently encourage us to face the unspeakable. In doing this we open up even deeper layers of our inner resources. The wisdom from these depths can take on long-standing and impossible conflicts, leading to astonishing possibilities in our lives.

These transformations happen through the unconscious, which transmits its hidden power to us in the form of dreams. The unconscious contains the full story - not only aspects we might have repressed, but also factors which were previously unknown to the conscious mind. It is this big picture that we need in order to make the right decisions, to balance our feelings, and to shape our lives.

Anxiety Dreams

Some dreams process our day-to-day anxieties, and these are often our most common dreams. Common themes such as missing a plane, being unprepared for an exam, teeth falling out, and dirty toilets are all dreams that can point to a feeling of inadequacy in coping with daily life. We might be anxious about missing an opportunity, or we might be facing a situation that has all the terrors of an exam. Will we pass or fail the interview with the new boss or will we measure up to our mother-in-law’s expectations? 

Teeth falling out in a dream means that we feel defenceless and vulnerable in life. Toilet dreams are very common in our narcissistic culture. Amidst the collective obsession with physical perfection and beauty, what happens to the messy little child within? It cannot find room for its most basic and instinctual needs. Toilet dreams can reflect the guilt and shame we feel around our bodies, our emotions and our sexuality. Anxiety dreams are quite easy to interpret because they often have a clear link to events in our lives. When we discover this link, we can transform the anxiety. 
First of all, we have to acknowledge it and realise that this is a feeling that we often have in these particular situations. The next step is to try and trace it back to childhood fears of not being able to cope. The final step is to realise that the old anxiety is no longer appropriate because the situation is different – because now as adults, we no longer need to be bound by the fears and insecurities of childhood.
Shadow Dreams
Sinister strangers, break-ins, muggings, attacks, sexual perversions, conflicts, battles, riots, fire, ferocious animals, darkness and death are all symbols that belong to shadow dreams. These dreams represent our own dark side, which we spend our lives denying. One way in which we manage this denial is by projecting our shadow onto other people. Then we can safely hate in others what we do not want to own in ourselves. We all love to hate somebody, especially a group of people whom the whole of society colludes in despising, such as the homeless, travellers, refugees and drug addicts. 
When we start having shadow dreams it means that our psyches are no longer content to let us live in blissful ignorance about ourselves. We now have to own our darkness. It is our very own aggression, violence, sadism, greed and sexuality that threatens to destroy us in these dreams. By becoming conscious of our shadow sides, we can release others from our projections and begin to see them for who they are. Jung often said that the shadow is 90% pure gold. That is because the shadow, being part of our primal nature, contains the tremendous energy of instincts and natural drives. Our connection to our bodies, to nature, and to our evolutionary history is all hidden in the shadow.
Jung was always at pains to remind us that we had become dangerously one-sided in our development, and we would become whole only by accepting our animal nature. The treasure of healthy instinct, physical well-being, and a lust for life – this is what we discover in our shadows – all qualities which had become distorted and monstrous through being repressed. Working with shadow dreams can heal our deepest wounds, and transform them into inspiration.
Exploring our Complexes
We all have complexes. They are determined by our earliest relationships and experiences. They affect our present-day relationships and determine how we cope with them. They trap us in grooves of perception and behaviour over which we have little control. Dreams push us to make our complexes conscious. Falling, flying, drowning, getting stuck, running out of petrol, parents, authority figures, trapped and injured animals, addictions, phobias, water, trees, snakes, buses, trains and ships – these are all dreams that show us how our complexes have trapped our energies. 
The big complexes are the mother and father complex. Sometimes we are so fused with our parents’ ways of thinking and acting that we have no independent existence of our own. On the surface we might live out our lives in this way, but unconsciously there will be huge resentment because of course the adult psyche does not consider it right to be so childish. A dream may show us a parent for the bully they really are, or they might show the parent in a very positive light. In each case, the dreams are compensating a one-sided attitude to our parents. They are saying, look this is a more realistic picture of your parent.
Sometimes parental aggression that we might have experienced as children will appear in our adult dreams as a raging bull or a huge digger with menacing jaws. Then we have to see how our childhood feeling of being overwhelmed by a parent’s rage might be paralysing us now, making us impotent in the face of abuse. Or we might have the most wonderful dream about a mother-figure who offers us a plate of food. Such a dream will bring a feeling of inner nourishment and wholeness, giving us a connection to the goodness of life. Working with these dreams will help us to move towards a more independent existence, both inner and outer. This will also remove blocks we might have experienced that stopped us having relationships or the right kind of job.
A journey towards Wholeness
The purpose of dreams is to make us whole. This means we have to go beyond our gender limitations. Each man has an inner woman and each woman has an inner man. But if we are not connected to our own opposite-sex gender we develop in a distorted way. Masculine and feminine are both needed to create a balanced personality. Without this balance, for example, a woman could become totally passive, fulfilling everybody’s needs but her own, or she could become manly in the worst sense – harsh, rigid, cruel, and a total tyrant. The same thing will happen to a man who is oblivious to his feminine side – he will either cut it out completely, taking a pride in being macho and boorish, or he will become more womanly than a woman – peevish, moody, bitchy and sulky.
Cats, dogs, caves, bulls, cows, lions, the sun, the moon, kings, queens, policemen, army personnel, judges, prostitutes, pop stars, the Great Mother, the Wise Old Man – these are all symbols of the masculine and feminine in dreams. When we start having these dreams we have to begin to integrate the inner other half. For instance, if a man dreams of a cat, then he could start paying more attention to the sensuous side of life. 
If a woman dreams of a dog, she needs to take on some of the doggy virtues such as loyalty, physicality etc. If we dream of pop or film stars of the opposite sex, it means that we are still stuck in an adolescent attitude, and our inner man or woman is totally projected outside. (Of course this also happens in love, but that’s another story!) We really need to find a more grounded way of living out these qualities in our own lives. As we do this, our dreams will change, and now the masculine and feminine figures will come from our ordinary, day-to-day lives. Then we will begin to have access to the strength and qualities of the other gender, and also gain understanding of the opposite sex.
Big Dreams
The most thrilling dreams of all are the Big Dreams, so-called because they come at times when our personal resources fail us. Vivid, colourful, moving, unforgettable, these dreams come from the core of the psyche. With them, they bring the wisdom and solace of the ages, drawing on reservoirs of strength that are available to us not just from our ancestral and cultural origins but from the Divine itself.
When we are really up against it, when we feel that there is no way out, these dreams come with their incredible messages. Sometimes it will just be a voice, guiding us, or it could be a beautiful dawn, a supernatural animal like a unicorn, a little bird or a luminous jewel. Whatever the symbol, these dreams have a special quality that makes us transcend the narrow viewpoint of the ego. By showing us realities that are richer and larger than anything our ordinary self could have imagined, these dreams give us a new centre of gravity. They are saying, “look, don’t get so caught up in the narrow picture. When you shift your perspective things will be totally different. You cannot even begin to see the possibilities around you because you are so caught up in your despair and fear. But this is not the reality.”
Big dreams are able to rouse us out of our most despairing states, because they possess an energy of their own. This energy releases us from being the passive victims of overwhelming odds to become at one with the soul’s purpose. 
Increasingly in modern society, we lack the resources that can help us through times of trouble and restore wholeness and meaning to our lives. Now, more than ever, we have come to realise that it is our own inner wisdom that is the most reliable guide in a bewilderingly complex world.


About the author: 

Jasbinder Garnermann is the Chairwoman of the C.G. Jung Society of Ireland. The society holds lectures, workshops and training courses on all aspects of Jungian psychology.

Jasbinder will be holding a workshop on Dreams in August, and a Certificate Course in Dream-Interpretation in September.

For more information please visit jungcentre.com or email [email protected].

You can also contact Jasbinder on 085-7610354 for one-to-one dream-interpretation sessions.

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