Insights from Ireland: My Associations to the Dream


opossumNow that I’ve related my dream from the night we arrived at the Jungian conference in Ireland, I’d like to use it to demonstrate how I work on my dreams.
Every year I start a new file on my computer and write out dreams in the order of their arrival, giving each one a number, date, and title. I try to include every detail, image, event, color, plot change, behavior, thought and emotion I can remember.
Next, I go through the actions and symbols and record my personal, cultural, and archetypal associations to them. I also note my dream ego’s emotions throughout the dream.
Finally, I look for connections between the dream and what’s happening in waking life. When I don’t understand something, I jot down questions. Sometimes this is enough to give me a sense of closure. Other times I’m left wanting more. When this happens I might think about the dream for days or even weeks, watching for more insights and adding them to my journal so I won’t forget them.
Following are my associations. Next time I’ll share what I think the dream was saying about my inner and outer life at the time I had it.

  • Fred: My husband. He often appears in my dreams. Sometimes as himself, sometimes as my animus, sometimes both. I associate my positive animus with qualities like self-discipline, ambitious goal-oriented activity, clear logical thinking, and persistence in heroic striving for psycho-spiritual growth. I’m annoyed at him for creating this mess.
  • Interior designer: An aspect of my animus that’s helping my ego re-design the interior of my psyche.
  • House: Me, my psyche, my personality: the place where I’m living now.
  • Golden urn: An alchemical vessel, container for my inner work.
  • Dining Room: A place to take in nourishing food so it can be transformed into useful energy.
  • Filling in holes on the pin board: The pinboard was like a household bulletin board that holds notes, schedules, lists and reminders. Smoothing out my persona, my outer social personality.
  • X doesn’t want me to see what lies beneath the list: X is an intense person I know whose extreme attitudes and behaviors sometimes make me uncomfortable. A shadow aspect of my animus.
  • The other designer arranges antiques into a still life on the right side of the mantel: An aspect of my animus which sees some older parts of me as valuable qualities that should be displayed in a prominent place. He arranges them above the hearth/heart, the center of my body and its chakras, the source of compassion and inner fire. I like many of my older qualities too, and think this is the right place for them. I assume that once they’re arranged they’ll be still and I won’t have to make any more changes. Hah! Joke’s on me!
  • Possum: A primitive, instinctual, and very alive aspect of me that’s been hidden from my ego’s awareness. My ego doesn’t want it messing up my psyche and I don’t want to clean up after it.
  • Excrement: Alchemy’s prima materia: raw, disowned, instincts and emotions.
  • Electric blue zig-zagged lines: Spiritually transforming energy like lightning bolts and electricity.
  • Beautiful patterned carpet: The underlying pattern of life; archetype of the Self; my god-image. I want my spirituality to be clean and pure, not marred with possum excrement (my flawed, human, physical, instinctual self.)
  • I know it’s my job to clean this mess up: Like it or not, I’ve accepted the responsibility to deal with this situation.

Any more thoughts?

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18 Responses

  1. …Possum: A primitive, instinctual, and very alive aspect of me that’s been hidden from my ego’s awareness. My ego doesn’t want it messing up my psyche and I don’t want to clean up after it….
    Can you hear hands clapping all the way from Australia? 🙂

  2. There is a reference to a golden vessel in Ecclesiastes, which was the title for a Henry James novella, The Golden Vase.
    Too early to remember exactly where, bu it’s there.

    1. Thanks, Viv. I found it: Ecclesiastes 12:6. It’s a call to humility….To remember that even if the container breaks, its spiritual essence remains, the implication being that the worldly contents of the human psyche are transitory but spirit is eternal! This would be in accord with the teachings of alchemy that our magnum opus is to distill our prima materia in the alchemical vessel until all that is left is pure spirit.

  3. Jean, thank you so much for this very instructive post on how you work with your dreams. I keep a dream journal but am lazy about taking them further, and in fact joined a dream group / forum to push myself to do deeper work. Reading your methodology is most inspiring! Best, Kat

    1. Hi Kat, you’re very welcome. I’m so glad it’s of use to you. One problem with dreamwork is, of course, that you have to find time for it. When I started doing it in earnest, we no longer needed my income so I’d decided to quit teaching after 25 years. Plus my daughter had left for college, and my son left the next year. By this time I finally knew my passions were self-knowledge and writing, so I devoted all my “work” time to these pursuits. Not everyone is that fortunate, but then, this is my life work, and the only thing I’m really good for!!! I know lots of people who manage to do some dreamwork in the midst of very busy lives, and I know that every little bit helps. There’s also the element of readiness: I had a lot of learning and living to do before I made the commitment to depth work. Jung thought of it as the work of the second half of life, and this was true of me, although not everyone.

      1. Thank you for these thoughts, it is true, time is the big obstacle. Love the Jungian insight about the 2nd half of life too. My boy is still at home, but in first year university, so it is not long til he flies away… 🙁 Presumably more and more time will be available for dream work soon enough.

  4. This methodology is so helpful, Jeanie. You have such a clear and precise way of communicating these concepts. I am so very grateful to you and this work you do. It provides such a rich foundation for further depth exploration. I know it has for me!

    1. Thank you, dear Therese. As you know, there are many approaches to dreamwork but this has always worked best for me. I’m very glad it’s been helpful to you too. Blessings on your studies and work, my friend.

  5. Hi Jeanie, Thank you for sharing more of your insights and the way in which you read dreams. In my own inner work I am learning that it is often in the opening of a dream that the ‘problem’ presents itself and in the ending of a dream that a ‘solution’ is then offered. Just wanted to add there’s a real ‘Sufi’ feel to your cleaning duties. Looking forward to reading and learning more. Blessings, Deborah.

    1. Thanks for your input, Deborah. Can you elaborate on what you mean by there being a Sufi feel to my cleaning duties? Do they take on duties like this as meditations on gratitude and humility? Something like that?

      1. Hi Jeanie, After reading the wonderful book ‘Daughter of Fire’ by Irina Tweedie I think of Sufi’s as ‘spiritual cleaners’ and so when I read at the end of your dream that you were accepting the fact that you were to clean up the mess, it made me remember the book and left me feeling the inner revelation of your ‘acceptance in surrender’, which for me gave it a ‘Sufi’ feel. I hope this goes a little way in words to help where language often fails this INFP! Two quotes spring to mind….Llewellyn was Mrs Tweedie’s student.
        ‘From heart to heart the secret of divine love is silently told. Words, so easily bring confusion and misunderstanding, belong to duality and are easily caught in the complexities of the mind. The light within the heart communicates directly. Silently, hiddenly, His lovers work in the world, sweeping away the dust of forgetfulness, the darkness of disbelief. Sufi’s are traditionally known as ‘sweepers’ because they clean the hearts of people. In the words of Shabistari, “If there are no sweepers in the world, the world would be buried in dust”.
        Said a philosopher to a street sweeper,”I
        pity you. Yours is a hard and dirty task.”
        And the street sweeper said, “Thank you,
        sir. But tell me, what is your task?”
        And the philosopher answered,”I study
        man’s mind, his deeds and his desires.”
        Then the street sweeper went on with his
        sweeping and said with a smile,”I pity you

        1. Thank you, Deborah. I didn’t know this about Sufis. I love these thoughts: Sufis clean the hearts of people, and “acceptance in surrender.” This sounds like a book I’d like. I’ll check it out.

  6. I enjoy watching your process with a big dream or a dream that comes at an important time. I dream often, so can’t explore all dreams in this depth, but watch for those recurring images or the dreams that stay with me. I spend two hours every other work exploring dreams with a therapist and she’s good at helping me remember and find new connections and patterns. I enjoy reading about dream Fred’s attributes. I’ve learned that a worthy animus/husband figure sticks around in dreams. Five years after my husband’s death, he’s in my dreams often. When I’m under stress or struggling, he might appear nightly, usually as the helpful animus and sometimes still an upsetting dream that he needs me and I can’t find him–animus needing to be found. Look forward t the next installment of your dreamwork.
    Thank you,

    1. Thank you, Elaine. I love your comment “that a worthy animus/husband figure sticks around in dreams.” How beautiful to know that Vic is still helping you and needing your help! To my joy I’ve found that after years of taking my nightly adventures seriously, inner realities like this bring as much comfort to my waking soul as to my sleeping one. Much love, Jeanie

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