“Why do we dream in black and white?” It’s a question I’m often asked, and it always makes me smile. “We don’t,” I reply. “You don’t remember noticing colours in your dreams, so you assume you dream in black and white. And shades of grey. But now you know you can dream in colour, you will.”
Within days – or nights – such dreamers excitedly report colours. A flash of red, perhaps, or a golden sunset, then a sudden rush of colourful details until the dream is as colourful as waking life or perhaps even vibrantly supersaturated, super surreal.
Yet in another sense, we do tend to dream in black and white, the black and white of opposites.
Look closely at most dreams and you will see at least one pair of opposites. A dream might feature good and evil, risk and safety, crowded and alone, deep and shallow, new and old, faith and doubt, the black and white – the either or – of issues that conflict us.
Are you a black and white thinker? Do you see the world in black and white, right and wrong, good and evil? Do I hear a resounding ‘no’? But look deeper, and especially look at those pairs of opposites offered on a platter in your dreams. A dream theme peppered with risk and safety suggests you may – at least unconsciously – look at risk and safety as mutually exclusive alternatives, black and white, no shades of grey. Perhaps you see life as frighteningly risky so you run for certain safety, or you see life as suffocatingly safe so you choose the high adventure of risk. No shades of grey.
When you find your black and white blind spot, ask yourself who, in your early life, influenced your perspective. Continuing the example, you’ll probably find at least one parent or guardian valued risk to the exclusion of safety, or safety to the exclusion of risk, and you either followed suit and took on the same values, or you retaliated in fear to occupy the opposite position. Your current values reflect your beliefs – about risk and safety in this example – and those beliefs are often based on your emotional experiences.
When you are awake to your dreams, you can choose to begin the healing work of finding a balance point between opposites – the Tao, the ‘middle path’.
This deep work begins not with a decision to simply walk the middle path between black and white, but to explore and heal the origin of your beliefs and the emotions that cemented them in black and white. It involves recognising your shadow (what you see as bad, the black to your white), the shadowy urge to take risks which must be repressed in the name of supreme safety, or the shadowy urge to stay safe which must be repressed in the name of adventurous risk. It involves understanding and embracing your shadow, loving that part of yourself, integrating it into your being instead of banishing it from your kingdom, and when you do this, the black and white of your staunchly upheld perspective gives way to an infinity of possibilities etched in far more than fifty shades of grey. Or colour. Why live in grey when you can live in colour?
When you know that you can dream in colour, you do. When you know that you can live in colour, you do.
I’m not really one for shades of grey. I prefer to take poetic licence and see a rainbow spectrum of brilliant colours between black and white. It feels more intuitively correct.
Think of the font colour menu in Microsoft Word: black at the top left leading through a range of colours to white at the bottom right.
Scientifically speaking, white light contains all the rainbow colours mixed together (you only see the rainbow when you shine white light through a glass prism, or when sunlight gets refracted by raindrops), and black is the absence of all colour. But look again. Scientifically speaking, black pigment is made up from different coloured dyes, and white pigment is generally the absence of coloured pigment.
Let’s leave the physics and semantics of black and white, and, while we’re at it, the spelling of grey or gray, colour or color, licence or license, and delve into the poetic heart of the matter.
Let your dreams help you to drop your veils of black and white, and to step through and beyond the rainbow into a world rich in colour.
Related articles you might enjoy