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Dream Language: Path to Personal Transformation
by Bob Hoss, M.S.
Is there a message in your dreams? Do your dreams help with conscious and spiritual evolution and transformation? There is a wealth of evidence that your dreams do play a role in human transformation and do perform an inner balancing function through what Carl Jung called a compensating message. Jung indicated that, who we are as individuals (our ego self) evolves out of the collective unconscious in cycles, under the influence of an organizing force he called the Self. He observed that dreams not only reflect this process but act on a natural tendency towards balance or wholeness in order to help bring it about. Jung related human transformation to a symbolic death/rebirth, a death of the existing ego state in order for the new self to emerge or be born. This cycle of renewal might be represented as a four stage process:
1) Death of the Ego: a stage of turning within in which the ego abandons the old view of self which no longer works (which I will call the old myth).
2) Search for Self: a search for a new self, a new decision about who we are in relation to life that will work (the new myth). Here the ego encounters its shadow and other rejected or unacceptable parts of self. The natural balancing and organizing forces from within foster integrations between who you believe yourself to be and these alienated parts, in order to bring about a greater self (all you can be). The organizing forces of the inner Self appear as primal patterns (archetypal characters) that lead the way, or as compensating events that reverse the beliefs, myths and fears that stand in the way of integration.
3) Rebirth: as the ego accepts the new view of self and the newly integrated parts of self, the old self is transcended and the new ego self emerges.
4) Self Actualization: the new self emerges into waking life and, assuming that it is put into action and experienced, becomes actualized. Dream imagery reflects this process. When our ego self is faced with abandoning some non working belief it is holding on to, the dream may reflect this as death imagery, fear of death, a loss, being trapped, impending storms, moving into darkness or darkening (Fall or sunset) and descending.
Symbolic death is followed by a period of searching, which can appear in dreams as a journey, a search, being lost, underground, or winter. We turn inward to face our shadow and other elements of our instinctual nature. We experience encounters between opposing sides of self.
At some point the natural balancing forces within the psyche appear in order to re integrate the fragmented self in a way that is more consistent with the higher order inner Self. The eventual transcendence (integration and acceptance of new parts of self) is accompanied by imagery of release, emergence, celebration and joy. Increases in nature imagery, beauty, light and color are experienced.
The transformation stage is not evidenced in all dreams, in fact it occurs in very few and typically only after many attempts at trying to accommodate the differences between inner and outer reality. The primary objective of any one dream may simply be closure on unprocessed emotional business of the day.
Dreams have been observed to attempt closure in a number of ways:
a) reaffirming the existing myth
b) strengthening an unconscious counter myth or shadow self
~or if neither of these works~
c) altering and transforming the old self in a way that works (adopting a new myth).
Jung stated that this eventual transformation stage is brought about through compensation. Compensation is a dream event that brings about a reversal of an old misconception (old myth) that the ego self is holding on to.
It appears in dreams in the form of:
b) voice or words
d) surprise events
e) surprise imagery combinations
f) dream parables as well as positive endings that project new alternatives.
Examples of compensating dreams are as follows:
a) Guidance: I was wandering all night looking for the book of truth. Suddenly I saw a wise old man sitting on the left, who pointed down a descending wooden spiral staircase. He said, truth lies within.
b) Voices or Words: I dreamed it was the end of the world and water was rising all around me. Suddenly a voice said the water is your unconscious, jump in and you will be fine.
c) Humor: I dreamed I was in front of a crowd, about to give a speech, when I was introduced to a man named Willy Pisstoff. I was trying to control myself to keep from laughing.
d) Surprise Events: I was running through a field trying to get away from people who are laughing at me. I looked back, and from within each footstep I took, I could see flowers spring up.
e) Surprise Imagery Combinations: I have a recurrent dream of being terribly angry with my husband, who I am walking away from. These dreams continued until one night I turned around and faced my husband and looked at his face it was my father's face.
f) Parables with Positive Endings/Projections: I dreamed all night that I was on a long journey as a passenger in a boat going nowhere, just aimlessly moving through underground tunnels. At one point a shadow like character urged me to take charge of the boat's direction. When I did, the boat emerged from a white ice cave onto a crystal stream in a beautiful, sunlit colorful land with trees and mountains.
Recognizing these compensating actions in the dream can be important because you can then use them to help transform inappropriate decisions and myths that the dream is dealing with. Understanding the dream is a helpful first step but in order to transform the old myth it must be understood along with the compensating direction that the dream is proposing.
Exploring the Dream
The first step in using your dreams for personal transformation is to understand what situation in your waking life the dream is dealing with. Many effective approaches are available for understanding a dream. I recommend an approach I call Image Activation Dreamwork (or 6 magic questions) which permits the dream image to speak and quickly reveal conflicts and misconceptions that have you stuck. The format of the role play helps to reveal conflicting beliefs or fears in order to better understand more specifically what the dream compensation is dealing with.
A) Pick one or more dream images that seem important, or emotionally significant.
B) Let the Image Speak: Go back into the dream and become the dream image. Speak as the dream image in the first person as if you are re experiencing the dream, and record your statements.
1) I am ___(describe yourself and how you feel)______
2) My purpose or function is to _______
3) What I like about being this dream image is ______
4) What I dislike about being this dream image is______
5) What I fear most as this dream image is _______
6) What I desire most as this dream image is________
Note: it is easier if you pick a dream object and avoid picking a person you know in the dream. If you do pick a person you know then substitute step #1 with the following: 1) As that known person: a) describe your personality; b) in what ways are you like the dreamer; c) in what ways you are different.
C) Relate to a Life Situation: Do one or more of the statements sound like a way you feel or a situation in your waking life? Recall a specific situation and define your feelings at the time.
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About the Author
Robert Hoss, M.S. is the author of Dream Language, Executive Officer and Past President of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, and faculty member of the Haden Institute for Dream Leadership Training and adjunct faculty of Scottsdale College. A scientist, and former researcher in the field of light energy, he was a pioneer with multiple patents in the field of optical communications, and was corporate vice president for global communications at both American Express and IBM. He now devotes his science and management skills to dream studies, for which he has been a frequent guest on radio and TV, and an internationally acclaimed lecturer and instructor for 30 years. His unique, simple but powerful dreamwork approach is based on his training in Gestalt therapy and background in Jungian studies, the neurobiology of dreaming, plus his pioneering research on the significance of color in dreams. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.