You, in your dreams
By Virginia J. Pasalo
I have not dreamt in a long time. But that is entirely incorrect, according to scientific studies. According to these studies, everyone ever studied dreamt, and it is generally accepted that all of us dream. These past few days however, I had colored dreams. Not only colored dreams but with vivid action images.
I have a dream journal where I write all my dreams, as soon as I wake up. As I said, I have not written on these pages for a very long time because I cannot remember my dreams, or the nerves that activate these dreams have been incapacitated due to factors I can only guess (diet, perhaps?). The text is a language and is a form of interpretation of the raw experience. The attempt to make sense of dream images, wherever they came from, reveals something about our current psychological process.
Dreaming of smelling bread from Mr. Jagonase’s kitchen from my childhood in Sangilo, for example, doesn’t necessarily “mean” anything, but what I associated about the bread as a child—in essence, its smell, its taste, might have suggested to me then—might have something to say about the struggles I deal with today. Understanding psychological associations to dream images is important, and these associations must be sourced from our own personal life, not from the interpretation of another person who knows very little about our lives.
Making sense of a dream is like doing a sudoku where you fill in the game board so that the numbers 1 through 9 occur exactly once in each row, column, and 3×3 box. In this game, some of the squares have “fixed numbers” that you cannot change (givens). As in sudoku, you have to discover (through logic, concentration and gut feel) the links between all these associations to eventually reveal a connected, integrated and understandable whole.
Interpreting dreams does not solve problems. However, listening to dreams may help us deal with issues and concerns before they overwhelm. Sometimes a dream forewarns of danger, and if we pay attention, take precautions, it may not necessarily happen. Most often a dream’s meaning will be metaphorical, not literal. For example, I dreamt that I was receiving money from someone who in reality cannot part with his money. It would be foolish to conclude that I will receive the money. The dream simply means that I somehow wished he could share me some. Once I recognize the feeling, I can examine my life consciously and honestly ask myself why I want him to share his money and why I feel bad that he does not.
In all likelihood, you may feel you have forgotten an important dream. If the message is really important, this will eventually get communicated in other ways or in other dreams. Not everyone has a gift for interpretation. My friend Mildred Manzano Yamzon and myself strive to interpret dreams, mostly our own, because we know each other so well, and we consider self-knowing a real challenge worthy of our time. According to Freud, in order to work properly with the unconscious, a psychotherapist should be well-educated in literature, history, art, music, and religion, besides having specific psychological training.
Dreams tell us about us. They tell us to be conscious, to act. They point to truths we hide from others and from ourselves. A dream repeats itself because somehow we miss the point or the meaning of the dream. And they come back, again and again, if we see them through self-deceiving lenses.