Have you ever had a dream so real that you could swear it wasn’t a dream? Or one so clear and vivid that when you woke up, things seemed less familiar than when you were dreaming?
Most of us pretty much take our dreams for granted. We’re exhausted after a busy day and are just happy to be able to fall asleep at night, let alone dream. Some of us think we don’t dream much at all. Others have vivid technicolor dreams that stay with us throughout the day. Most of the time we’re so involved with our waking life that we just brush those dreams off without a second thought. Then one day, a special dream appears out of nowhere that we can’t forget. It stays with us and may even appear over and over during a period of weeks or months as a recurring dream. Numerous times throughout the day we might have sudden flashbacks of scenes, or recall tiny fragments of the dream as we try to retrieve it. We might even find ourselves frustrated, as we long to remember the smallest of details. I believe those kinds of dreams are important to pay attention to. Maybe they were disturbing or downright scary or its potent storyline woke us up suddenly like a bolt of lightning. Maybe what we call nightmares are really dreams that are trying to get our attention and are not there to scare us, but to bring us greater wisdom.
After my mother’s suicide I had many scary dreams and at a certain point I began to draw and paint them. I was starting to gain confidence in the idea that bringing my thoughts and feelings to life was critical, as well as my dreams. They were all equally important in the healing process. I noticed that the more I painted my dreams, the more I remembered them. As I painted them, I began to think that they might even give me clues to another meaning and to see the dream in a completely different way. The dreams became another road map.
The definition of a dream is: A succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.
When I read this definition, the word involuntarily stood out to me as key. Just as trying to create images without a specific result in mind during waking life, dreams effortlessly appear from within, unprompted and free to emerge from the psyche. There’s not much we can do about our dreams to change them. They are totally authentic. We don’t really know where they come from. Some people say that dreams are pictures of feelings. I also believe they originate from such a deep subconscious place inside us, that accessing them is like finding a hidden treasure, a treasure that is us. There is such a wealth of information about ourselves in dreams. Trying to access them is like self-excavation. Who knows what we will find?
I had a dream one night that I was walking down a lonely road. It was dark out and suddenly a giant creature popped out of a trapdoor in the road, much like a jack in the box. I suddenly woke up. The dream frightened me quite a bit, as I was already feeling wounded. After staying with me for days, I began to paint it. At first I did several loose drawings, then painted a fairly raw image until it transformed into a more finished version. As I continued to work on it, the dream image began to take on a different meaning for me. The once scary monster, became a symbol of a helping warrior. The warrior was powerful but had a heart that was broken. It was still standing strong while at the same time was non-threatening to me. But it was only in the action of engaging with the image that this occurred. By giving it life and bringing it out into the open air, it transformed before my eyes from a frightening beast into a benevolent being.