Following the Wisdom of Dreams

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“The creative process has feminine quality, and the creative work arises from the unconscious depths—we might say from the realm of the mothers.”~ C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 170.

The journey into wholeness is essentially an act of creation. In order to create anything, we must be willing to trust the source of our creativity.  In psychological language, that source is not our rational, masculine, thinking mind. It’s the feminine unconscious.

Many one-sided, Logos-oriented, rational thinkers find it difficult to trust Eros-oriented, intuitive, analogical thinking enough to explore their unconscious selves. To them, it’s an impractical waste of time. Usually, the only people willing to look within are artists, mystics, and dreamers. And aren’t we just a little suspicious of these borderline malingerers?

What we do not realize is that to become more whole, exterior work must be balanced with interior work. Unless our outer life is an expression of our true, authentic Self, we’ll be dissatisfied. Bringing as many unknown or disowned shadow qualities into the light of consciousness as we can is the answer.

Of all the ways I’ve discovered to get in touch with my unconscious contents, the most helpful has been to attend to my dreams. To me, dreams are real events that influence me every bit as much as events in the outer world. I’ve loved them since I was a child. But because I was taught that only outer events are real, and because dreams are so baffling, my logical ego considered them unimportant for a long time. But when I realized they could connect me with my fuller Self, I began to record every one I could remember upon waking each morning. As of this writing, I’ve recorded over 5,578 dreams.

To me, the unconscious is like a sacred, mysterious river that flows deep beneath the surface of my waking, conscious mind. The best way to access its revitalizing water is through a metaphorical well—a direct connection between my conscious and unconscious worlds. When I’m asleep and my ego is no longer in control, the bucket dips deep into this well and brings back portions of the river to relieve my ego’s thirst. These drafts from my unconscious depths are dreams. My choice to respect and record them 31 years ago was a signal to my unconscious Self that I was serious. In turn, the Self began to honor me with helpful insights.

For example, while I went back to school for my doctorate, and for some time afterward, I often dreamed I was in a car that was moving forward dangerously fast. I had to put on the brakes, but for some reason it was always a struggle. I’d try to climb from the backseat into the front. Or I’d strain to push the brake down but it was too far to reach. Either way, I couldn’t stop the car.

In another dream I’d be scaling a steep mountain. When I neared the top I’d suddenly be in a dangerous situation, dangling precariously over the edge or too high for comfort. In my terror I’d wonder what had compelled me to make this dangerous climb when all I wanted was to be safe on the ground.

In a third recurring dream I’d be walking through a house I disliked and realize that I had, for some inexplicable reason, sold the house I loved and bought this one. This realization was always accompanied by a profound sense of sadness and loss. I didn’t understand these dreams then, but the meanings are clear to me now.

The driving dreams represented my drivenness—my inability to put the brakes on my ambitious course. Unconsciously I wanted to stop my headlong dash down the road I had chosen, but I was simply unable to. I was, indeed, driven. The climbing dreams dramatically depicted my obsessive need to get to the top of my chosen profession:  to become a full-time college professor. The unsuitable house dreams were saying that the place where I was living, my psychic life, was unsuitable for me. I had neglected work I had always felt at home with (writing) to inhabit a house that was not right for me (college teaching.) These dreams were telling me I was aspiring to heights and a kind of success that were wrong for me, maybe even dangerous to my psychological health. But I didn’t know that until long after I received my doctorate and taught at the local university.

Finally, after years of dreamwork and dissatisfaction, I got the message. With mingled resignation and—somewhat to my surprise—relief, I left teaching and began my first book. That’s when I remembered my deeply submerged dream of being a writer. I had abandoned it at the age of ten in the belief that I could only ensure my security by finding a safer, more practical job like teaching. I was wrong. Writing brought back all the joy and passion I’d been longing for all those years.

My dreams  have taught me that no authorities in the outer world know how to get within the heart of me and direct me to the life I was made for. When I discovered my dreams, I found the only guide who possessed the wisdom I had always sought: the Self.

Art Credit:  Dream Journal by Jake Baddeley

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.

 

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Comments

13 Responses

  1. What a wonderful, inspiring post to read on this ‘day of hearts’! Thank you Jeanie for sharing your own rich insights and in-depth knowledge on following the wisdom of dreams through one’s life. Your recent quotes from your first and second books, ‘Dream Theatres of the Soul’ and ‘The Bridge to Wholeness’, have inspired me to add them to my book wish list. I may not get to them for several months but I’m already looking forward to doing so. Happy Valentine’s Day my dear friend, my soror mystica! Love and light, Deborah.

    1. Thank you, Deborah, and Happy Valentine’s Day to you my soror mystica! I’m loving your wonderful new book, by the way. It’s filled with such beauty and wisdom. I’m taking my time to savor it and will write a review as soon as I’m finished. And thank you very much for adding Bridge and Dream Theatres to your wish list. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy yours! Love, Jeanie

  2. That is, for sure, another essential point you are addressing, dear Jeane. It is beneficial to keep our dreams and learn to find the key to open the unknown corners of the soul. I just thought that (as you mentioned up there) in our dreams, we may not be afraid so much as we are waking. Our soul might be more aware and free to discover what we fear to know in the waking time? Perhaps, in this fearless condition, we can remember the forgotten!
    PS: I am already listening to an online meeting with young Persians about women’s rights and living in a rainbow society; courageous! However, it is a longtime process.

  3. Thank you, Aladin. Your point that we may not be as afraid in our dreams as we are in our waking lives is a very interesting one. I’ve never thought about it. It occurs to me that sometimes I do find myself doing things in dreams that I’d be too afraid to do in my waking life. But on the other hand, if I’m frightened of something in a dream, my dream terror is usually much stronger and more intense than it is in my waking life. Maybe that’s because I learned to repress many of my fears it an early age, so now my unconscious compensates by exaggerating them in my dreams. Maybe it does that to let me know I’m far more afraid than I’m usually willing to acknowledge. Perhaps the whole question of whether we are more afraid in waking life or in dreams has no one-fits-all answer. Maybe it depends on the individual who’s dreaming? I don’t really know, but I’d be very interested to know other peoples’ experiences…. The courage of these young Persians you mention is remarkable! But yes, sadly, it may take generations for their dreams to come true.

  4. Thank you Jeanie for the reminder of the value of dreams. A friend has recently returned my M-L VF The Way of the Dream and I’m enjoying dipping into it every now and then.
    I remember my dreams of driving fast, maybe recklessly, often at night, reversing, headlights not working – real wake up calls from my unconscious that I had to attend to – how could I say no to the wisdom of the dream.
    Love, susan

    1. Yes! Did I forget to mention that my driving dreams were always at night too? I understood the metaphorical meaning of the message but for years I couldn’t understand how it related to my life. I honestly thought I was doing just fine…you know, toughing things out whether I liked it or not and paying no attention at all to my real feelings. I was good at that. I remember you saying once that you were taught to be very stoic too. I did that at the expense of my feminine side: my feeling life. I’m just so glad I finally found it. It’s good to hear from you. Love, Jeanie

  5. I love this: “When I’m asleep and my ego is no longer in control, the bucket dips deep into this well and brings back portions of the river to relieve my ego’s thirst.” So fine.

    I’ve had fewer dreams in the last three months than during any time since the 1960s. My ego pouts and feels abandoned by Dream Mother, but I’m trying to accept what is and assume my energy needs to be more extroverted for now. With hearing difficulties and living in the country, it’s easy to spend time alone, so I’m making more effort to say yes to invitations and ask friends to join me for walks. Thanks for bringing out the central insights of three dreams. Dreams before this winter were predominantly about being lost, losing my purse or keys, not being able to find my car, and similar themes. Hmmmm… Those keys have to be somewhere around here. Sending love to you in your world of FL flowers.

    1. Thanks, Elaine. Glad you liked this. I’m having fewer dreams at the moment, too. I seem to go in cycles, but I’ve heard that this is common as we age. One thing I’ve recently discovered is that if I make more effort to “say yes” to new experiences, as you’re suggesting, that seems to provide more fodder for my dreams. I’ve had all the dreams you mention at various times over the years. As I look back from this distance, I see them about me feeling “lost”, in terms of what’s happening in my life at that time. Not knowing where to go from here, or how to get there, etc. I imagine you’ve come to a similar conclusion. It’s not a fun place to be, but in retrospect, I can see that eventually these issues seem to resolve themselves if I tolerate the tension and stay with it. I went through that after The Soul’s Twins was published but now I’m finding new energy and inspiration again. Blessings to you my sister traveler. Love, Jeanie

  6. Hi Jean,
    What a wonderful and inspiring post. I would love to understand my own dreams on a deeper level and I’m curious about how you learned to interpret your dreams? Entering analysis is not feasible for me at the moment, but I am feeling the call to learn this sacred art and I would appreciate any advice you might have to offer.

    Thank you,
    Avalon

  7. Hi Avalon, Thank you. I learned how to work with my dreams by reading several books on dream work by Jungian authors. But I never found the one I wished had been around to help me as a beginner, so after three years of recording and working on my own dreams, I wrote it! It’s called Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dream Work. By “Feminine” I mean the feminine principle in all of us. There aren’t many copies left, but you might find one or two on Amazon. Amazon also has it on Kindle. If you decide to get it, I hope you’ll let me know if it helped! Thanks so much for writing. Jeanie

    Here’s the address where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Dream-Theatres-Soul-Empowering-Feminine-ebook/dp/B00H5XFSKM?ref_=ast_author_mpb

    1. Hi Jean,
      Thank you for your reply. I have gone ahead and purchased your book and I’m excited to get reading this weekend. I will let you know how it goes!

      Warmly,
      Avalon

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