I woke up with a dream this morning. That is, when I came to, dream images sat in the forefront of my awareness and wouldn’t go away. Interesting how they can be so bothersome. We try to understand (analyze) them or let them drift away so we can get on with our day.
What if I gave dreams the same weight as non-dreams? What if it was decreed that days are real and nights un-real. What would you say if I told you that I habitually dismiss one third of my life’s experience? And that the only thing “real” is what I perceive, touch, feel, and experience during the other two thirds? Silly concept, right?
I figure that the things that occur while dreaming are part of this “me” that is continually exploring the meaning and purpose and pleasure of things. Dreams simply use different language and images (what we call symbols). Young children dream their lives most of the time: making up stories of imaginary friends and boundless possibilities. Somewhere along the way to adulthood we decide (or, more likely, are told) that such playing is no longer appropriate. So we sweep dreams under the carpet, dismiss them as unreliable, mysterious, and of little purpose.
Once, during a stressful time of loss and grief, when I reported a series of nightmares to my Zen teacher, she suggested I see them as “wake-up calls.” Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist and former pupil of Sigmund Freud, gave a lot of thought to the purpose of dreams. He writes,
Dreams are impartial, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche, outside the control of the will. They are pure nature; they show us the unvarnished, natural truth, and are therefore fitted, as nothing else is, to give us back an attitude that accords with our basic human nature when our consciousness has strayed too far from its foundations and run into an impasse.
source: “The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man” (1933). In Collected Works 10: Civilization in Transition, p. 317.