Insights from Ireland: Dreamwork as a Vessel


Moths_to_a_flameWe arrived at the conference on “Jung, Yeats and the Creative Imagination” on Sunday afternoon. At our first gathering that evening, Jungian analyst Monika Wikman spoke about the third world between spirit and matter to which Yeats and Jung sought connection because, in Yeats’ words, “a fire was in my head.”
The third world is the realm of creative imagination. The fire in our head is that realm. It is a natural faculty of the mind that we experience as a call to explore Mystery.  Many do not feel its warmth; others are as attracted to it as a moth to flame. Drawing too close can be risky, even dangerous. In Monika’s words, “The beings of the third world have their own life. We do not manipulate the presences; we just open up and allow the inspiration to come.” We’ve heard about the torment, addictions and self-destructive tendencies of writers and artists who’ve been burned by it; and we’ve marveled at the divine madness of saints and holy fools who see the gods and hear their voices in it.
I am one who feels the call to this fire. I didn’t ask for this. It’s simply an inner reality I cannot ignore any more than I can ignore my needs for food or love. Harnessing its life-changing impact on my unsuspecting ego has been a major challenge of my life. Luckily I stumbled on the vessels of writing and dreamwork. These keep me in a middle space that is neither too close nor too far from the fire. Either alternative would be intolerable.
I tell you this so that you might understand why I find my dreams so compelling and why I try so hard to extract meaning from them. I also tell you to introduce the strange dream I awoke from on Monday morning.
Dream #4434: “Electric Blue Possum Excrement”
Act I: Fred’s got several spring cleaning and remodeling projects going on. I’m annoyed at the mess, the workmen, and Fred for not letting me know he’d be doing this. An interior designer shows me a large square picture of a huge golden ceramic urn superimposed over a stately gray mansion. He wants to paper the dining room with this design he’s created and asks my opinion. I’m not sure I want to look at this every day. It feels strange and ungraceful for wallpaper.
Act II: There’s a shiny rectangular portion of a wall in one room that’s been used as a pin board. X has taken off most of the notes that were stuck to it and the surface is riddled with pin holes. I start filling them in with putty and smoothing it across the surface. I envision sanding it when it’s dry so it will look perfect. There’s one sheet of paper left that contains a list of some kind. I start pulling it off to get to the holes beneath. There are a few smaller pieces of paper there too. X doesn’t want me to remove the sheet of paper or see what it’s covering.
electricbluelightningvoltAct III: Another designer piles an armful of primitive-looking antique objects on the right side of a mantel. He moves them around to create a still-life arrangement. I like it. Startled by the movement, a possum hidden beneath the objects darts out, jumps onto the beautiful patterned carpet, and starts running through the rooms. He leaves a trail of excrement in thin, zig-zagged lines. I’m surprised to see that they’re electric blue. As I chase him I yell in angry frustration to anyone who can hear, “I’m not cleaning up this possum shit!” Even as I say this I wonder where I’ll find a pail, water and cleaning rags. I know cleaning it up is my job.
So there you have it. Are you suitably befuddled? So was I at first. Only gradually have I come to see the meaning it holds for me. I’ll tell you about that in upcoming posts. Until then I invite you to share any associations you might have if this were your dream.
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15 Responses

  1. Oh Jean, last week I dreamt of coming (not too!) close to a fire as I was preparing a day workshop for next Saturday entitled ” Am I an Old Hag? A women only workshop investigating a Rite of Passage into Cronehood” Your blog has given me energy to keep on keeping on 🙂
    Ring tailed possums are native to Australia and protected. However, I’m a Kiwi at heart, and back home possums are introduced, destructive, messy pests! My hot-water bottle has a soft luxurious possum fur cover.
    So they are animals that belong in one territory/land and not in another. They are wild, untameable animals that need to live ‘outdoors’.
    For me, blue can be a sacred colour.

    1. Catherine, I’m smiling at your possum-covered hot water bottle!! Who knew that goofy-looking fur was soft? From afar it looks wiry and scraggly. I, too, think of possums as wild and untameable…like my animal instincts…and of blue as a sacred color.
      It sounds to me as if you’re approaching preparations for your workshop with just the right amount of creative fire: not too close, not too far. I’m so happy to know that my blog is fueling that fire and I wish I could be there Saturday to feel its warmth.
      Thank you for your associations, my sister. They give me energy to keep going on. 🙂

  2. A masculine projection on an imaginary anima encounter
    Act I:
    Freda (… my contrasexual self …?) has several spring cleaning and remodeling projects going on. I’m annoyed at the mess, the workmen, and Freda for not letting me know she’d be doing this. (… Is she granting me an awareness of how it is that I regularly find my ability to improve my conscious ‘effectiveness’ quite impossible …?) An interior designer shows me a large square picture of a huge golden ceramic urn superimposed over a stately gray mansion. ( … Is this what I’m striving for consciously, container and contained merged, hoping to ultimately achieve this beautiful subjective goal …?) – She wants to paper the dining room with this design she’s created and asks my opinion. I’m not sure I want to look at this every day. It feels strange and ungraceful for wallpaper. ( … Am I caught between the potential of attaining seeming perfection held beyond reach within a frame (…In my Father’s House there are many Mansions …?) … but somehow sense that the external application of this beauty may be seen as less than perfect when exposed to the collective …?)
    Jean … An underlying ripple for me in ‘Healing the Sacred Divide’, is that which brilliantly conveys your subjective, (and often unconscious) experiences before the readers critical reality. ‘We don’t listen to what others are trying to tell us’ you write, … and we continue our quest and hang our wallpaper out for them to view when they are in another room in the mansion … when they perceive our experiences, which to them may appear as thin and temporal as wallpaper, some will undoubtedly ‘poop’ over them , not having the awareness that … ‘ Reason, always seeking to avoid what to it is unbearable … convulsively seeks to hold fast the values it has once chosen … precluding any symbolical view of itself …?’ ( Jung – On the Nature of the Psyche) … Thank you for allowing us to assimilate your ‘universal’ experience …
    I look forward to learning of your realities as you journey through the Acts …
    Blessings, Andi

    1. Oh my, Andi. Your intuition has touched a level that runs deeper than most of the associations I’ll be sharing in upcoming posts, and I thank you for the gift of this meaning. As you obviously know, soul-making work is daunting enough without the additional risk of exposing some of the lessons learned. Yes, I regularly find my ability to improve my conscious ‘effectiveness’ quite impossible. Yes, I’m striving for container and contained merged. Yes, reason walks a narrow path between the spirit of the times and the spirit of the depths. But thoughtful comments such as yours and Catherine’s remind me that I’m not alone in this unbearable witnessing of symbolical views of myself, and these reminders bring me to tears. Jeanie

  3. Thank you for this powerful post and thoughts about the middle place. I immediately thought of The Guest House by Rumi and of course was struck by shit of the possum, archaic animal who knows how to surrender and play dead, being electric blue like a gem or spirit or the color of the Virgin Mary’s robes. This chaos resonates because my own inner home is being rearranged in mysterious ways by Meniere’s Disease dizziness (comes and goes, but thankful for a week of balanced days). I’ve had many many dreams to accompany these strange symptoms and often Vic appears. Until the last few months, he visited less often in dreams, but here he is again in many roles–dead, alive, helping with the mess, making a mess, broken, healed.. The days I had my worst Meniere’s symptoms, my day world dog vomited many times on the rugs and I found a beautiful but very dead rose breasted grosbeak lying on his back with his red heart and red underwings splayed out on my back porch in a posture of surrendered sacrifice. Destruction, remodeling, making a mess and cleaning it up, surrendering and weeping in response to chaos, wiping my tears and getting on with the clean up. Welcome it all, I remind myself. Welcome it all. So appreciative,
    The Guest House
    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.
    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.
    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.
    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing,
    and invite them in.
    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.
    ~ Rumi ~ (The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

    1. Wow, Elaine. It’s mind-boggling to realize how in spite of everything you’ve been dealing with over the past couple of years, you still remember to welcome it all. This truly is holy work. The Guest House could not be a more beautiful or meaningful way of describing the tensions and blessings of living in this middle space between the opposites on a moment to moment basis. Thank you for introducing me to this poem, which I will copy and keep close. With gratitude and blessings, Jeanie

  4. Dear Jeanie, What a clear channel of communication you are! I read your words and somewhere in the distance a bell rings, bringing with it a new feeling of strength and connection. Thank you. In your dream I felt that your heart was being opened and a new space, an inner emptiness, was being created within.
    The repeated pattern of the paper left me with a vision of many souls all potentially gathering in that nourishing (dining room) space, glowing around you and that collectively they were showing you them-‘self’-es (golden urns) and their understated (grey) royal (stately home) heritage.
    I wonder if the Possum could be a trickster ‘mercurial’ figure as the excrement appears at first to be one thing, then turns out to be another? Something appears to be coming into consciousness and surprise, surprise (or not!) your job seems to be to clean it all up. Thank you for inviting us to respond to your dream. I shall look forward to reading all about the rich meanings it holds for you. Blessings, Deborah.

    1. Dear Deborah, Thank you for telling me of the impact my words have on you. Your own words are beautiful and heartwarming. 🙂 Thank you also for your associations to the wallpaper and possum! Both are insights I hadn’t considered. I’d noticed the patterned rug, but missed the connection to the wallpaper! I associate the “Self” with, among other things, the underlying patterns of life, so this is especially meaningful. Possum as Mercury/Trickster resonates too. And yes, for the last 6 months I’ve had a strong feeling that something new is coming into consciousness. Naturally, it will be my job to clean it up!! I just hope I’ll have the consciousness to “Welcome it all.” Blessings, Jeanie

      1. Oh I completely missed the carpet! I guess that we all focus on what grabs our attention and the thought of a repeating ‘gold urn’ grabbed mine. ‘Welcome it all’ I have written down in my diary to help with my own spiritual house cleaning. Looking forward to your next post to see how the dream unfolds.

  5. Possum as a (nocturnal) mercurial trickster….Deborah, I loved the association. Our magnolia tree is in full late autumn bud and they are about to feast on it ..groan!

    1. After the seminar in Sligo, Tim and I had the opportunity to visit Dublin. We discovered an exhibit at the National Library on Yeats. At the entrance of the exhibit there was a display of the actual questionnaire completed by Yeats in 1930 on his position on creativity. The questionnaire was from Elliot D. Hutchinson on Creative Effort. He later published a book on the subject, but did not include Yeat’s responses. While Yeats did look to his muse, daydreamed, delved into the occult, and did not discount the existence of fairies, Yeats saw the creative effort usually being under his control, subject to failure, but so compelling it required him to continue with the process until an adequate expression was obtained. He said that inspiration for the work was a matter of intuitive insight as if not unforeseen, it was not inspired. The “critical” as well as the creative ability both were active at the time of the execution of his work. He always worked systematically regardless of inclination and considered this to be his highest form of creative value. And he always revised his work. Yeat’s responses to the questionnaire may not be internally consistent or supported by his body of work or actions in his life but it provides a cognitive attempt to explain his creative process by Yeats.

      1. Hi Eufrona, It’s great to hear from you! We also attended the Yeats exhibit, but missed the questionnaire. Thanks for sharing its contents here. It’s fascinating to get a look into a writer’s creative process.
        As you say, his responses were not always internally consistent, but a lack of consistency seems to be true of many original thinkers. For example, Jung and Freud may have been inflexible about certain basic tenets of their theories, but over the years they made many seemingly contradictory statements, having apparently left the door open for growth, change, and paradox. A good thing, I would say! Life is nothing if not a labyrinth of growth, change, and paradox—now left, now right; now forward, now backward; now heaven, now hell! Some of my opinions seem to change with the weather, my mood, and what I dreamed last night! I suppose if everything remained static, life wouldn’t be life and there would be no such thing as creativity.
        Best wishes for your important work with American Indians. I’d love to hear more about that some day.

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