This is because at the deepest level of our lives, each of us wants the same three things and has never changed: 1) to belong, 2) to have some influence over what we do or say, and 3) to love and be loved — in some fashion. These three things do not magically drop down our chimneys or appear on our doorsteps. Quite the opposite. Most often our yearnings to belong, to influence and be influenced, to love and be loved appear only after some effort, some courage, some trial and error. And once achieved, the cycle must be traced again and again as we spiral through the stages of life — its many stages if we are fortunate enough to avoid the more catastrophic calamities of traumas and accidents, illnesses, and pre-mature death.
How do we bear this? How do we "keep our chins up?" Well, of course, most often there are many joys along the circuitous spiral-way. We delight in our loves, our creations, our discoveries, our accomplishments, our friends, our growing consciousness of life's depth and wondrous meaning.
And if we tune in, really tune in, we become aware of the archetypal powers that convey a sense of wonder, beauty, courage, and purposiveness. Also, if we take time to pay attention, we become aware of "signals" that give us guidance in our needs to belong, to matter, and to love.
What "signals" am I referring to, you may ask, to which I respond — our dreams. Yes, I believe it to be true, having analyzed thousands of dreams in my fifty years of paying close attention to dreams of others, having recalled my personal dreams each night — I tell you with reliable confidence that our dreams come to us each night and offer signals about where we are off course, or conversely, where we are on course.
I have known those signals while observing my personal dreams, and I have witnessed signals in the lives of others who seek to belong, to matter, to love and be loved. In their symbolic language, dreams tell stories of the good and the bad, the pretty and not-so-pretty, the places of safety and the nightmares of deep fear, the obvious and the not-so-obvious.
For example, consider the dream I am about to share with you. Watch closely the "signals," the images. This is the way we become aware of the archetypal powers that come in the service of our physical and mental health. We observe our changing identity as we pass through stages of life in which we lose old friends and hopefully acquire new ones, leave our old homes and find new ones, grow in self understanding including quirks of personality that make our worlds a kaleidoscope of changing patterns.
So these archetypal powers, like instincts of our animal friends, nudge us along the way, out of sight of our waking mind. But in the dramas our dreams present lie the clues to where we belong, how and why we matter, and the wonder of love. What a fascinating part of our life.
It may well be that our parents and teachers did know to teach us this mostly unknown fact that dreams compensate our conscious life, that they endow our existence with the quality of experience which may be described as spiritual or sacred — or, in any case, worth remembering and paying attention to.
So it is with this dream I am about to share with you. The dreamer is in his mid-thirties, at the mid-point of a successful career, contentedly married with a child, but restless with the uncertainty of the world around him in which there is an ongoing threat of upheaval in his rapidly changing society which he expected to have been stabilized with educators, clergy, reputable and responsible politicians, and a government committed to the Jeffersonian ideals of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
I describe his state of mind as "restless." He would say something is "wrong," but he found it difficult to verbalize what might be wrong, clinging to his expectations of what society would be like in a rational world. He wondered if he might be clinically depressed as he found himself with the feeling that something was wrong. Then he had the following dream.
I am sitting at night in my Volkswagen Beetle convertible. I look out my window
to the left and see a building, a residence or office. But there are no lights on
in the building which I thought was strange at this time of night. Suddenly a light
appears from somewhere above. On the ground is something like a platform
between me and the dark building. Two figures appear on the platform-like structure.
The two people seem to be moving around. Is it a dance, a ritual, a movement
without any suggestion of feeling or meaning? The puzzling movement seems
regressive in some way. I feel contempt for the actors in this soulless drama of
some sort. Then, I hear in the distance the sound of something like a rushing wind.
It is a tornado approaching my car, and I have no time to escape.
The tornado, a powerful whirlwind, hovers over me. I feel it sucking the air out
of my lungs. I know I am going to die, and I know this is God.
What are we to make of this dream, the dreamer and his life situation, but also what it might mean for each of us today? The drama of the dream moves toward a frightening climax in which the dreamer believes he will die. What are we to make of the dark building with no lights, a mysterious light shining "from above," the ritualistic movement of the two figures, the whirlwind the dreamer refers to as a tornado, and the dreamer's conclusion that this is "God?"
These are archetypal images. They have teaching relevance, and they offer glimpses into our pursuit of the universal needs to belong, to matter, and to love and be loved. In what way do the dream's drama and striking images throw light on our three universal needs?
I will return to this question in my next blog.