This is Part 5 of a series about the combining the practice of meditation and dream interpretation.
Please see Parts 2 & 3 for the specific techniques I suggest you use when writing out a description of your dreams and as you begin the process of interpreting your dreams.
This week I will focus on recurring dreams.
Those dreams which recur in identical, or at least a very similar ways, over several years or decades are particularly important. The fact that the unconscious is presenting a certain drama over and over again is a strong indication the issue is of primary importance for a dreamer to work on and resolve.
Here is a prime example of a recurring dream someone I am working with had many times. FYI, I am only discussing this dream as a “case study” because the person gave their consent as long as their identity was not disclosed.
In this recurring dream, the dreamer is sexually attracted to someone. But just as things start to heat up it becomes clear that someone else is nearby and watching and does not approve. Consequently the dreamer feels they cannot consummate the act.
Two key questions in interpreting this dream was “Who is this disapproving person?” “What do they represent and where did this disapproving voice come from?”
In this case it became apparent the dreamer had been affected by the general tendency of the traditional Christian culture they were raised in to think of sexual desire as something shameful and something to be negated.
The disapproving person symbolized an element of both the dreamer’s family life and the dominant religious culture of their society that viewed the body in general, and sexual desire in particular, in a very unfavorable light.
The suggestion given to the dreamer was that they realize the disapproving voice was not coming from outside themselves, but rather was something that had been imposed on them by the unhealthy undercurrents of the family life and the Christian tradition in which they were raised. In addition to these Christian undercurrents, the dreamer was also impacted by similar undercurrents of other religious cultures which have similar body-and-world-negating tendencies.
The first part of the mindfulness practice in this process kicked in when the dreamer reflected on the force and tone of this disapproving voice and the frustration they felt as the desire was blocked. A second mindfulness reflection was to spend time in waking life to discern all the various ways the body-and-world- negating messages were communicated over the course of their life and studies. This investigation let to the way they could begin to disperse this unhealthy influence that had “taken root” in their unconscious.
For some examples:
Psalm 51 from the Hebrew bible, “Indeed I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.””
Also in this vein, St. Augustine, a very pivotal figure in both conservative Catholic and Protestant cultures, believed the curse of original sin was transmitted to the child by the sexual act of procreation.
I know of other people who were told by priests that self-gratification sex was a ticket to hell. In another case a fourteen year old girl was told that French kissing was also a damnable offense.
From another culture there is the example of Bhante Gunaratana, a best-selling Buddhist author. In one of his books he likened the sexual act to the act of a leper trying to stop the itching of his sore by applying a burning hot iron to their sores.
In some forms of Buddhism a primary reward of “enlightenment” is that one finally does not have to be reborn again into a body and this world of suffering. What is one to think of a monastic culture that refers to rebirth in this world as a form of purgatory or punishment? (For an exception to this note the story of a Bodhisattva)
None of this is to imply that celibacy is by definition unhealthy. None of this is to imply there are not also very healthy body-and-world-affirming aspects which are also woven into the very same religious cultures discussed above (See the “Song of Songs” in the Hebrew Bible for a very vivid example).
But for the dreamer highlighted in this post the impact some aspects of their religious culture had on their sex life was an essential insight to uncover. So was the insight that the interpretation of a dream can lead to observations which go far beyond the basic story line of the dream. More on this latter point, which Carl Jung referred to as the “amplification of a dream,” next week.
Have you had any recurring dreams?
Please let me know the story line of your recurring dreams. Please be assured I will not write about the dream unless you give me express permission to do so. But I am glad to talk with you about the interpretation of your dream.
Will Raymond Author or “The Simple Path of Holiness”, host of Meditationpractice.com
will at meditation practice dot com ( spelled out to limit spam)