Stroll on over to Seattle Review of Books and see my new column featured every Friday of my dream comics. These comics are a collection of dreams over the course of an entire year. Recently I picked up where I left off and the posts will eventually catch up with where I am today. Extremely delighted about this news, enjoy!
"The unconscious is like the vault of a great bank in which is stored all the wealth inherited from our ancestors and in which we, as individuals, also have deposited our own coin. All of this treasure belongs to us, and we like to think that it is at our disposal, but the trouble is that we cannot withdraw on demand." Singer, June. Boundaries of the Soul. New York: Anchor, 1972. Print.
The dream image of the basement is easily the most common representation of the subconscious for me (and for a lot of people, I assume). My grandparents' basement was the the setting of a lot of family gatherings in my youth. This lower level had almost everything needed to entertain a family of a thousand, and it happened very often. There were other rooms in the basement less frequented during visits. The unfinished room, in particular, was a storage of tons of stuff collected over the years by my grandparents. Anyone who has visited grandparents in their long time residence knows of the toys that dwell there. They are universal toys, vaguely familiar with strange personalities, meant for whatever grandchild happens to be visiting. They are almost always there when you visit and provide strange entertainment and excitement. You always leave them behind, as an unspoken rule, for the other grandkids to use during subsequent visits. These toys in this dream are like what June Singer describes in the passage above. I want to share the hidden gems in my unconscious, through these comics, but at the same time I worry that people may not understand.
Something important must have proved disappointing to provoke a dream like this. I've always mostly liked Michael Jordan - he's undeniably one of basketball's greatest players and has legend status, but there were times (when he was up against the Utah Jazz in the finals twice), that I really wanted to hate him. But in the end I look back and realize that the Chicago Bulls weren't better than the Utah Jazz - it's more like Michael Jordan was just better at defending his talent. So I have a pretty good opinion of him to this day. Anyway, I never knew much about Michael Jordan as a person, so maybe that's the main element that is happening here. I guess this dream really says to me that no matter the amount of influence a superstar has on you, they are still just a goddamn human being and have all the boring qualities the rest of us have.
Sleep Comic #39 in which I box not only a person's ears, but also a cat's ears. The hilarity of this dream really obscures any deeper meaning. This has always been a problem with the way I present these dreams to readers - precisely why I've chosen to annotate them. Here, however, I am going to just leave it alone. Enjoy this offering from my unconscious!
"It was said that Dr. Jung's favorite story went something like this: The water of life, wishing to make itself known on the face of the earth, bubbled up in an artesian well and flowed without effort or limit. People came to drink the magic water and were nourished by it, since it was so clean and pure and invigorating. But humankind was not content to leave things in this Edenic state. Gradually they began to fence the well, charge admission, claim ownership of the property around it, make elaborate laws as to who could come to the well, put locks on the gates. Soon the well was the property of the powerful and the elite. The water was angry and offended; it stopped flowing and began to bubble up in another place. The people who owned the property around the first well were so engrossed in their power systems and ownership that they did not notice that the water had vanished. They continued selling the nonexistant water, and few people noticed that the true power was gone. But some dissatisfied people searched with great courage and found the new artesian well. Soon that well was under the control of the property owners, and the same fate overtook it. The spring took itself to yet another place - and this has been going on throughout recorded history." Johnson, Robert A. Owning Your Own Shadow. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991. Print.
The Republican security guard is the powerful and elite trying to control the bubbling waters. Intriguing that this is happening from day one at this art school. Not a good sign. How are we supposed to create the original and impactful art where whistling uniformed men regulate? How much order is necessary at an institution like this? At what point does the integrity of the school start failing and a new artesian well bubbles up elsewhere?
When I was in junior high my parents took me to this art school I might possibly attend. The woman who ran it was smitten with my work and we toured the studios. The work the students created was amazing, and I got the impression that the curriculum was rigorous and disciplined. When it came time to sit down and discuss the idea of me attending - the woman made it clear that the decision must be mine, not my parents'. Sitting there I could hardly grasp what a large decision was being handed to me. As I hesitated at this I must have asked a wrong question, and the woman said, "Oh, he's letting the left brain in, this has to be a right brain decision!". In the end I chose not to attend, moreover I feel like the woman chose for me not to attend. This event has always stuck with me - it was like someone laid a trap for me in the place I trusted the most.
I did not know it at the time, but this dream was beckoning me to confront my shadow self. The ex-boyfriend threatened me and I reacted. The results were negative and I ended up feeling bad (and like a bad person) for unknowingly 'boxing' his hearing aids. How was I supposed to know? Moreover, why does this suddenly negate the wedgie administered by a complete stranger? He's still a jerk, but suddenly I'm an idiot? If this were real life, and I could do it over again - I would box the ex-boyfriend's ears and deal with the fact that I ACCIDENTALLY hit his hearing aids. I would tell Jessixa I'm leaving, ask her to come with and be very assured that she broke up with him because he is an asshole. Bonus of leaving early is that the punk rocker would not have the chance to come down the stairs and address my "homely" qualities because my punk rock side (shadow self) walked out the goddamn door with my wife.
This dream happened during election time (2012) and naturally exhibits some political anxiety I was having. The feelings run deep - noting the frigid water and possibility of loss of life. This makes a lot of sense as I asked myself the other day why I fear politics that oppose mine. The answer I came up with is that (I feel) ideals which differ from what I consider benevolent have potential to cause suffering for other people.
Identifying with politics, causes, and movements is quite a trap. Jung: "A group experience takes place on a lower level of consciousness than the experience of an individual. This is due to the fact that, when many people gather together to share one common emotion, the total psyche emerging from the group is below the level of the individual psyche. If it is a very large group, the collective psyche will be more like the psyche of an animal, which is the reason why the ethical attitude of large organizations is always doubtful." Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Princeton: 1959. Print. Here is a good time to address projection - "The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relation to it there is now only an illusory one. Projections change the world into a replica of one's own unknown face." Jung, Carl. Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Princeton: 1958. Print.
People keep getting caught in these frigid waters and people from these two ice floes keep trying to save them. Yet nobody has any sort of control, and at the end of the dream it is revealed that the voters have control! However, the voters are no where to be found in the arctic environment. How could they possibly affect the fate of the freezing diver?
More from Jung about trees: "Taken on average, the commonest associations to its meaning are growth, life, unfolding of form in a physical and spiritual sense, development, growth from below upwards and from above downwards, the maternal aspect (protection, shade, shelter, nourishing fruits, source of life, solidity, permanence, firm-rootedness, but also being 'rooted to the spot'), old age, personality, and finally death and rebirth." Jung, Carl. Alchemical Studies from the Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 13. Princeton: 1967. Print.
The tree, as stated above, has a broad range of meanings. I like to break it down into three parts: roots, body/trunk, and branches. They all serve a purpose and have great metaphorical meaning. Most simply the roots are the unconscious, the trunk - the ego, and the branches are the spirit.
In the case of this dream the tree is a cause for the grounding of a fast flying plane. I have to add the airplane into the interpretation along with the tree taking over my friend. When Apollo chased Daphne through the wood and he gained on her she asked her father, Peneus, to help her. He changed her into a laurel tree, to Apollo's dismay. Perhaps Martin becoming a tree was a needed change in order to ground the plane, albeit a tragedy. The plane landed safely, but Martin was lost. A sacrifice has been made here.
It's common for an analyst, especially a Jungian analyst, to encourage you to write down your dream from the night before your session and bring it with you. I have been in this habit for quite some time and it is very productive. It has helped me to be able to confront emotional problems much better by sitting with my feelings and sending the intention to my unconscious that I would like help understanding them better. Many times have my dreams profound from setting such intention.
This dream is from last week, and deviates from the order in which I'm posting (my dreams form 2012), but I wanted to share it because it has very numinous qualities. Here I am confronted by the shadow, play a game with it, and then confront it - all in a lighthearted way. This is usually not the case. The shadow can be the most frightening aspect of the psyche to wrestle with. This is a good starting place, as I by no means solved the shadow dilemma, I simply started the process of integrating it. At the end, the shadow figure reveals himself to me and is wearing a colorful primitive looking mask. This is interesting -- the reveal of the thing hidden reveals another hidden thing. There's still so much more!
This is fun: Umbrella - 1. dome of the sky; 2. verticalisation: the cosmic tree, the phallic father; 3.a sun-emblem; cf. parasol and sunshade; 4. divine and royal power, protection; 5. mourning; 6 folklore; it is unlucky to open one when not needed. De Vries, Arthur. Elsevier's Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery. 2nd. ed. Bingley: Emerald Publishing, 2009. Print.
A couple thoughts: In the dream the umbrella is put to good use even though it's not used for what it's intended for - protection from rain. Umbrellas are synonymous with floating or flying (to most of us) even if we haven't seen Mary Poppins. The more I look at this dream, the more I feel like the umbrellas are trying to tell me something. Like they have an anima that has a goal of leading me toward something.
Holy crap. The tree. There's just too much. This dream means business. First of all, in Norse myth the ash tree, Yggdrasil, is where the gods hold court each day. Yggdrasil's branches and roots extend all over the world. But most interestingly is the well of Mimir where wisdom and intelligence are contained. One cannot acquire this wisdom without giving up your eye in exchange, which is why Odin has only one eye. Odin's horse has eight legs, so I guess that makes up for it. It's only natural to make the connection in this dream of the well (or roots of the tree) to the rooms below the tree on the hill. After all "the entire tree is an amazing resource".
"Trees, like fishes in the water, represent the living contents of the unconscious. Among these contents one of special significance is characterized as an "oak." Trees have individuality. A tree, therefore, is often a symbol of personality... It is a prototype of the self, a symbol of the source and goal of the individuation process... The secret hidden roots is a spirit sealed inside a bottle. Naturally it was not hidden away among the roots to start with, but was first confined in a bottle, which was then hidden." Jung, Carl. Alchemical Studies, The Collected Works of CG Jung, Volume 13. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967. Print.
I recall that the tree in my dream was neither ash nor oak. But this makes little difference. It was something like the Joshua Tree which fits a mythical description and one appropriate as the metaphor for the self. It's very fascinating how blind I was to the symbolism of these dreams when I originally sketched and inked them. Looking back just two years later so many pieces are fitting together. The dream ending in darkness seems very scary. Fitting since the process of individuation is the scariest thing a person can do. All heroes' journeys are missions of self discovery, and we are all heroes if we attempt this undertaking. One of the most defining moments of my life was in high school humanities class when studying Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The class was bored and apathetic and as the teacher was helping us to analyze the story I became very interested. All of the symbolism and subtext was suddenly interesting. This was a rare moment for me as I was usually day dreaming or drawing. The teacher was saying something about Sir Gawain returning to the court and how the other knights didn't understand what he had gained. Then she asked the class what he had gained and I poked my hand up. "Wisdom" I answered. The way I remember it was that the teacher had a dumbfounded look on her face, but I'm certain I am just projecting my own feelings onto her. This was pivotal in how I started to see the world. Suddenly everything became a quest for wisdom. The hero's journey suddenly made sense. It was a perfect introduction to how solitary self discovery can be, because nobody else in the class seemed to care what was happening, just like nobody in King Arthur's Court seemed to get it.
This sort of reads like a fever dream (even though it's not), but without the nightmarish aspect. I love fever dreams. Yes it sucks to be ill, and yes there are unsettling aspects to a feverish nightmare, but these dreams always live on as legend for me. Fever dreams seem to take elements from waking life and really amplify them. For example, when I was about 12 I had a fever dream where I was Link from The Legend of Zelda. It was fantastical and terrifying. I'll never forget the feeling from this dream. It did have nightmarish aspects, but how could I complain about being in my favorite video game? Even the underworlds were fascinating. The dream has stuck with me forever, and I recall being so intrigued with this dream that a fever - albeit unhealthy - seemed to also serve a constructive purpose from then on. This also happens to Robinson Crusoe in the eponymous book, but to a more severe (and religious) degree. I guess you could say that religion was Robinson Crusoe's Zelda.
One of the first dreams I can recall was a fever dream about my Pound Puppy, named Pow Wow, being taken by a band of nefarious monkeys. It was up one of Salt Lake City's many canyons in the winter - snow everywhere and my Pound Puppy locked in a cage by these evil creatures. I've never looked at Pow Wow the same since.
The gymnast, Roberto, was actually an acquaintance of mine (in real life). Like I've stated earlier - the only people whose identity is true to real life are Jessixa, my parents, and an occasional other friend. At some point I chose to make word bubbles black for the people that are unfamiliar to me, but this is inconsistent throughout the project. Anyway, Roberto (whom I know, but not very well) is dead by the end of the dream, which makes the impact more profound. I haven't spoken to this person in a while - so the events in this dream are really bizarre. I recall not having any waking compensation for why my unconscious would choose this person to pop up. It's natural to go over and over in your mind what possibly could have lead you to dream about this or that. I'll talk more about compensatory dreams later.
"At an early stage of his intellectual development man deems himself naturally immortal, and imagines that were it not for the baleful arts of sorcerers, who cut the vital thread prematurely short, he would live for ever. But in time the sad truth of human mortality was borne in upon our primitive philosopher with a force of demonstration which no prejudice could resist and no sophistry dissemble. Nevertheless, even if he reluctantly acknowledged the existence of beings at once superhuman and supernatural, he was as yet far from suspecting width and depth of the gulf which divided him from them. The gods with whom his imagination now peopled the darkness of the unknown were indeed admitted by him to be his superiors in knowledge and in power, and in the joyous splendour of their life and in the length of its duration. But, though he knew it not, these glorious and awful beings were merely, like the spectre of the Brocken, the reflections of his own diminutive personality exaggerated into gigantic proportions by distance and by the mists and cloud of ignorance upon which they were cast." Frazer, Sir James George. The New Golden Bough. Garden City: Anchor, 1959. Print. (Bold type mine)
More talking animals and more people with basic-shape-heads. The bonding with the Orca gives me a great feeling of resolve, as I think they are very majestic but extremely terrifying. Clearly this is still the case in the dream as I have to act as a liaison between the basic-shape-heads and the other Orcas. Trying to keep the delicate balance and be peaceful together. Dance!
This dream offers everything I love about dreaming. Rife with symbols, complicated and psychedelic in its pacing, and at the same time full of humor and emotion. And let's not overlook - water slides! I've found that the pedestrian "dream encyclopedia" often has an entry for water slides. I'm not a fan of dream dictionaries (especially online versions) but they are useful in gathering an idea of what people commonly dream about. Water slides happen to be one of those common themes. What the dream dictionaries will tell you about water slides can't offer you the personal connection that you have with water slides. The water slide presents a perfect opportunity to dissect a layered metaphor. We must look at the state of the water - flowing, in a tube, at a theme park, particularly for fun. This is general; my idea of water slides is that they are the greatest thing ever. I yearn to go to a water park every summer. The montage in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure where Napoleon visits the water park is, for me, gripping. Yet, Dreambible.com describes the appearance of a water slide as "Playing with uncertainty or feeling good ignoring the consequences of your actions. A waterslide is a sign that you may know that you are doing something wrong or risky and are enjoying it anyway. Having fun behaving bad." 'Water Slides.' Dream Bible. Copyright 2010-14. Web. 20, July, 2015. Another site, Dreammoods.com puts it more simply: "To dream that you are on or see a waterslide suggests that you are being carried away by your emotions. You are being engulfed by your subconscious. Alternatively, the dream indicates that you are going with the flow of things without any objection or resistance." 'Waterslides.' Dream Moods. Dream Moods, Inc. P., 28, March, 2015. Web. 20, July, 2015. I'd go with the Dream Moods entry, but it's so broad. It takes the idea that water serves as a symbol of the unconscious and emotions and vaguely pairs it with the actual concept of a water slide. Going with the flow of things could also be said about a river. We need a clearer distinction - a personal one.
Let's get to the juicy part of this dream: a dream within a dream. Freud asserts that dreams are disguised or "latent" versions of our innermost desires. Thus, he logically sees a dream-within-a-dream as a double negative where the the dream in the dream is actually the latent desires unveiled. This just sounds like the ravings of a megalomaniac to me. (It's easy to be a Freud-hater because most of his work, taken as psychology, is one massive extension of his ego and latent desires.) Jung didn't seem to think this at all. In fact, he hardly viewed the dream-within-a-dream as a significant dream event. Rather, as Hall sums up in Jungian Dream Interpretation, "...such shifts within a dream can be seen as movements of various ego-organizations, some of which claim for themselves the status of full waking consciousness, although the complicated dream structure reveals them to be only partial integrations. To some degree, the dream-within-a-dream is a more complicated form of the frequent shift from scene to scene withing a single dream" (90). Jung (via Hall) couldn't be more spot on concerning this dream. In my dream I am trying to tell several others about my dream (so technically this isn't a dream-within-a-dream, even) but everybody else keeps cutting me off. When I finally get to tell my dream it is clear that I am satisfying the need to tell a story. Much like this very project! The aspect of the dream-within-a-dream here is very ego based and naturally integrated into an already complicated dream. It's not as though (as Freud thinks) the mask is suddenly removed. It's still just a dream even though we want it to be more, even though the EGO wants it to be more.
After we went to Paris I returned home and dreamed about Paris consistently for over a month. It would pop into my dream every night. The trip was great, and the unconscious imprint was substantial. It was 21 nights of consecutively dreaming about Paris.
"...In every other great city the forgotten child becomes the deboshed man, and whereas nearly everywhere the child left to his own devices becomes rootless and immersed in open vice which destroys in him all conscience and sense of probity, the Paris urchin, we insist, however footloose and disreputable he may appear on the surface, remains in himself almost unspoiled. It is a magnificent phenomenon, splendidly manifest in the honesty of our popular revolutions, a kind of incorruptibility born of the instinct that resides in the air of Paris like salt in the waters of the ocean. To breathe Paris is to preserve one's soul." Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables. Paris: Folio Press, 1862.
I could have easily left the quote at "To breathe Paris is to preserve one's soul", but that would be like throwing sand in Hugo's eyes, and contrary to the spirit of Paris.