There’s something about the human mind that inclines us to look for patterns. We infer faces where none exist. We’re really good at seeing patterns of causality, when faced with coincidences. This is, in essence, where all superstitions come from, and why we end up with lucky socks and obsessive compulsive disorders, sometimes. The ability to find meaning is of course also the basis for all science. Let’s pause a moment and enjoy the beautiful irony that superstition and science may both depend on the same human qualities!
Post a dream on a social media site and in minutes, someone will try and interpret it. We can’t resist. Surely, amidst all the weirdness, there must be sense and significance? Surely those bizarre happenings must have symbols in them, and once we get to the symbols the madness will turn back into coherence. You can easily see the benefits this could confer as a life skill, but dreams are not regular life. I remain suspicious about the degree to which intelligible meaning can be squeezed out of the strangeness that is dreams. I think we risk reducing the dream to something less than its splendid whole when we try and make it mean something.
The sharing of dreams is also a partial process, and that’s very human, too. I’ve shared two dreams publicly, of late, where I have changed the whole impression the dream is likely to give by deliberately missing out some details. It’s tempting to skip over the embarrassing, awkward bits to get to the funny anecdote. It’s advisable not to name the people involved, frequently. Or why it was that we didn’t have any trousers on in the first place. And what we were doing, exactly, that meant this obsessive fixation with doors that won’t lock properly really came into focus.
Usually (at risk of too much information) the unlockable doors in my dreams are on toilets. A recent occasion where they weren’t raises interesting thoughts for me around ideas of boundaries, privacy, personal space and secrets. And there it goes again, that all too human urge to make sense of a dream, coupled with the equally human urge to withhold from you all of the most private and secret parts. Without the unwritten content, no one else has a shot at making sense of it – and of course that’s deliberate too, because while I might be interested in what you think about the possible symbolism of unlockable doors, I don’t want you dwelling on the symbolism of what I was trying to lock in, or out, or why.
There are all kinds of things we can do in response to our dreams. Looking for meaning is just one option. There’s a lot we can learn just by looking at which aspects we want to draw other people’s attention to, and which bits we will never admit to. Secret urges of which we will not speak. Things that do not sit well with our waking personas. Images of shame, guilt, lust, and all the other vices that we wanted to tidy away and find, awkwardly, that really we haven’t.
Pagan Dreaming… in case you want more of this sort of thing.