“Will dream interpretation involve digging up my past?” asked Adrian. “I want my nightmares to stop, but I don’t want to go opening up any old cans of worms.”
It’s a common concern. Many people have invested years into burying and forgetting uncomfortable experiences, preferring to look ahead to a bright future, unhampered by unsettling memories. It’s an ideal, and it’s achievable, but it only works when you first make peace with your past. When you are at peace with your past, you can focus freely on today and tomorrow. When you are not at peace with your past, it distorts your vision of the future and affects how you respond to the world.
You don’t get peace by burying discomfort. You don’t get peace by denying your past experiences. Burial and denial simply move your discomfort from your conscious mind into your unconscious mind, where the experiences live on in a more subtle form, powerfully influencing the way you automatically (unconsciously) respond in your every day life, while you go about your life under the illusion that you’re in conscious control.
Think of it this way.
Imagine you were born in 1964. Now imagine opening a cupboard filled with sunglasses. There’s a pair for every year of your life, starting from 1964. Each pair has a label identifying the year, and each pair reflects the fashion of the time. There are huge aviator glasses, tiny John Lennon spectacles, diamante-swept frames, wraparounds – a veritable history of sunshade eyewear. Pick a pair, any pair. 1974, perhaps. Since we’re imagining you were born in 1964, you would have been ten years old in 1974. Imagine looking through your 1974 glasses. Let’s call them Tardis sunshades. Time travel glasses. When you wear your 1974 sunglasses, you see today’s world through the eyes of the ten-year-old you were back in 1974.
What you might see? How much did you understand about life when you were ten? As that ten-year-old looking at your life today, how much would you understand? How much would you misinterpret? How would the attitudes of your ten-year-old self affect the way you see your life today?
Let’s be really simple here. Imagine that, at age ten, you were a shy child, afraid to speak up for yourself because your parents always reprimanded you for expressing an opinion. You learned to keep quiet, fearing the consequences. Now fast-forward to today, and here you are, looking at your life today through those 1974 eyes. How are you going to respond to life? Quietly and shyly, for fear of being hurt if you express yourself.
If you have grown since 1974 to understand where your parents were coming from when they reprimanded you for speaking up, you may have reached a sense of peace about your upbringing. At peace with your past, today you speak up without fear of being hurt in return.
If you have not had the opportunity to look back and understand, you carry that fear into your life today. You may still be quiet and shy, or you may tackle your fears head-on every day, ploughing ahead, speaking up, but somehow always expecting people to respond negatively. You may cope with this by building defence into your speaking up, delivering watertight arguments, or developing a thick skin to repel the barbs you expect to receive in return. This is what happens when you are not at peace with your past, when you bury or ignore your childhood experiences, erasing them from your conscious mind but succumbing to their power through your unconscious actions and attitudes.
Imagine popping on sunglasses from other years. Pop on your pink 1985s to view your life today. It’s like time travelling from 1985 into the future – today – and trying to understand what you see. Your only experience is the sum total of your life until 1985, so you interpret everything you see today in 1985 terms. If 1985 was the year that your fiancé left you and you vowed never to trust a woman again, you will see your wife of today with distrust through those pink 1985s.
In reality, most people handle their painful past experiences in several ways. They may find peace with some experiences, keep others alive by retelling the pain, and bury or ignore others they would prefer not to face.
Imagine picking up last year’s Tardis sunglasses to view this year. In reality, some areas of those lenses will be unchanged since 1974 if you have not updated your views since then. Other areas will be recently updated reflecting shifts in your perspective or new experiences. Still other areas will be strange blends between 1974 and 1985, perhaps, an outcome of experiences blended from those two years. All in all, last year’s specs provide a time trippy psychedelic perspective on your world today.
Now imagine taking off today’s sunglasses. What? You didn’t realise you were wearing sunglasses? Of course you are. The world you think you know today may be quite different from the one you experience through your psychedelic lenses.
This is where dream interpretation comes in. Your dreams reveal the make-up of those sunglasses you wear today. Your dreams, once interpreted, show you the difference between the way life is and the way you see it. Your dreams pinpoint experiences from your past that affect the way you experience your life today, especially highlighting those experiences you thought you had successfully buried. Your dreams, once interpreted, help you to remove your sunglasses so you can understand your past, and, in understanding, find peace.
In this way, dreams are the route to peace through understanding, and that route may include opening and examining a can of worms or two to clear your vision. Fortunately, when you look closely at those worms through ever-clearer lenses, you finally see them for what they always were – angels in disguise. And that’s where nightmares stop, and beautiful dreams begin.
[Copyright Jane Teresa Anderson, Aug 2007. First published as a Dream Sight article.]