Q: I am inside a very wealthy estate home where a family lives, a white family. I understand that an Asian-American woman and her daughter are also part of this family, although they are not integrated. It’s as if the family hasn’t known that they existed. I learn that the woman and her daughter have a fortune. The Asian woman has known about this money of hers, but the rest of the family has been oblivious until now. Then there is a big meeting, as if to decide the future of this money. It’s understood that this money belongs to the whole family and they need to decide how it’s distributed. The meeting room is filled with mostly white men. The woman and her daughter aren’t there. A man arrives with his son who is in his late teens. The man is very blonde and white and he’s to serve as the judge at the meeting, which will be like a trial hearing.
A: Last month, I wrote a dream interpretation that dealt directly with the meaning of race in the unconscious, as well as one that explored a motif similar to your dream in that it featured a well-to-do Japanese man. I’ll explore more of the meaning of these issues and symbols here, but I’d encourage you to read through both of those interpretations as they’ll help to stimulate your own associations and thoughts about the meaning of your dream.
Your dream opens in the setting of a family estate. This setting suggests a couple of things to me. First, it indicates the plurality within psyche: our single personhood is made up of many different aspects of being, just like a single family is made up of different members. We are not just the “I” character in our dreams, and the image of a family estate renders this beautifully and simply. Second, this image also makes me wonder if the problems with which this dream wrestles may be ones that your whole family wrestles with. So much of our individual psychological viewpoint is rooted in the values, culture, and themes of the family in which we were raised; we are deeply influenced by our environments, and just as a plant will thrive or die, grow tall or grow crooked, depending on the conditions of the environment in which it was planted, so will we. While this may be stating the obvious, I offer it here because I think it’s an oft forgotten aspect of our own psychology when we’re exploring our individual dreams or individual growth. We are products of our environments. Important to keep in mind, however, is that our personal evolution will invariably effect the evolution of our family and culture as well. We each have the power to be change agents, just like those little mutant genes in Darwin’s theory of evolution that start to pull a species in another direction.
The most basic cast of the characters in your dream are: you, the white men, and an Asian woman. For our readers, I’ll report that you are a white American. Broken down simply, you represent the conscious ego attitude of your psyche, the white men represent the rational, masculine, intellectual viewpoint that dominates your psyche, and the Asian woman represents the under-appreciated, “irrational”, feeling, feminine, yin standpoint. For Western psyches, Asian characters in dreams often represent that which is opposite the dominant standpoint of one’s psyche (East versus West) which in America almost always means the artistic, feeling aspects as we are such a thinking, information, goal-oriented culture. If an Asian character arises in a dream, it’s worth exploring how it portrays one’s underdeveloped feeling type. (Of course, one would need to explore their personal associations to all the racial and cultural parties represented, as well as take into account one’s personal heritage.)
From the Jungian view, and certainly my view, the goal of psychological development is not “health”(whatever that is) or to function seamlessly within one’s social environment (most modern societies are pretty unhealthy!). The goal is more aptly described as wholeness. To pursue wholeness means that we are frequently trying to accept parts of ourselves that our dominant attitudes do not initially perceive as being valuable. This dream seems to be dealing directly with this issue, and it’s sending you a very lovely and validating message that there is great wealth to be found in parts of you that are just becoming visible. She has “a fortune” — she’s rich! Her value is undeniable. Also, money can represent energy. Think of the mythological relationship between Gold and the Sun. Or the modern parallel of Black Gold, Oil, where the tie between money and energy is evident. Money and energy are archetypally and literally linked. This wealthy part of you is a storehouse of energy, and her value for you is tremendous.
Now, what you’ll want to be attentive to is the fact that “the ruling principle” of your psyche continues to be the dominant white man, rational, thinking, legal perspective. Your feminine, feeling aspects are increasingly being recognized for their value, but they’re still not being included in decision making. They’re not even in the room. The result is that this part of you that the Asian woman and her daughter represent is being violated, de-valued, stolen from. Their perspective and authentic voice is not being honored. It suggests to me that while you may understand that the feminine, feeling, relational, instinctive, yin aspects of your character are important (they’re being recognized as part of the family), they are not yet deeply affecting your being. The value that the rest of your psyche is starting to recognize is not yet at the stage of altering the whole system.
The revolution that will need to take place within your psyche is akin to the social revolution of including the feminine perspective in land ownership and voting. The Asian woman who represents these different functions in your psyche will not only first need to be brought into the room where decisions are made, but she’ll need to be able to alter the process as well. She can’t just join the courtroom proceedings that is being run, and was established, by the dominant lawyerly masculine function. They’ll need to learn from her and allow her to help establish the proceedings under which decisions are made about her money for the sake of the whole family. Like the meeting of Native American tribes and the White Men that riddle our history, all “deals” that were struck between the two within the legal framework of the white men were a charade. The only fair deals that these two peoples could have struck would have required profound evolution of each population as the two grew to understand and value the very different cultures and systems of justice they each brought to the table. The fact that one simply dominated the other was not ultimately a win for either side. As we’re recognizing more and more, the dominance of the white culture over the Native American resulted in tremendous loss of wisdom and heart based thinking. We’re needing to reclaim much of that for ourselves now.
What does this mean psychologically? This aspect of your being that the Asian woman represents cannot simply be incorporated intellectually. You can know that you are needing to feel more and think less, for instance, but until you get in a non-intellectual way how to do that, the value and energy she carries won’t be released. She’ll need, over time, to affect your whole character.This will initially be scary for the more intellectual, rational aspects of you, but as you learn to incorporate what she has to offer and ask her what she wants and needs, you will be transformed, and you’ll be the richer for it.
Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!
Satya is a Jungian psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their late teens, 20s, and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com
Q: In my dream, I am walking through a concrete landscape holding hands with Chris Harrison, the host of The Bachelorette, as if he’s a father figure. He leads me to a warehouse space where a lot of men work. When I walk in, I see a big fish in a tank in the center of the room. One of the men is reminded to change the water in the tank when I look at it. When he does, I see that the fish has turned into a robust mermaid, almost filling the whole tank. She’s still fishy, but her top half is definitely more human. She revels in the change of water and the movement it causes, and then settles back down, blissfully content.
A: Fabulous! I love how pop culture and archetypal imagery interact in this short dream. When we began exploring your dream together, you told me you had no idea what it meant, nor could you imagine where the dream’s characters had come from. You couldn’t remember any recent references to mermaids or The Bachelorette in your daily life. So where does that leave us? We begin our exploration of the dream with the shared assumption that it is not just a nonsensical collection of faded memories or forgotten thoughts. There must be more going on here.
In digging into the meaning of this dream, let’s begin with the fish! When fish or sea creatures arrive in dreams, we’re often seeing something coming out of the depths of the emotional, watery unconscious. This fish, appearing front and center in your dream, represents some feeling-based part of you that is not yet entirely familiar, but which seeks your attention. The fish’s transformation is critical. Like the alchemy of making gold from stone, something very valuable is emerging from something seemingly less valuable.
So what’s emerging? As in a good fairy tale, the plot and direction of a dream can often be seen by what is absent at the outset. What’s missing in your dream, at least at first, are female characters. You are the only female in a dreamscape of men. As the dream progresses, however, we see a rebalancing of things when the mermaid, a partial human woman, begins to emerge. I suspect that some aspect of your femininity is beginning to develop more fully…
The appearance of Chris Harrison gave us a good clue that this dream is also reflecting issues related to relationships and dating. As the host of The Bachelorette, Chris Harrison is a guide to love and romance. So let’s talk about your dating life… You shared with me that you have, in fact, started seeing someone recently who you’re pretty excited about. Congrats! When we start new relationships, old feelings, fears, and fantasies that we haven’t seen for a while can come to the surface, like fish from deep waters. (!) This dream is likely exploring some bit of inner transformation that this new relationship has evoked. When we dream, our life experiences get mulled over and integrated into our consciousness. Our conscious minds may well be offline when we sleep, but our brains are still digesting things, just as our stomachs do with food long after we’ve forgotten a meal. You’re chewing on something big, it seems…
I was heartened to hear that your associations to Chris Harrison were positive. You commented that his role on The Bachelorette is to support the woman looking for love — “he’s on her side,” you told me. Good. If your associations had been negative, we might have been looking at a different interpretation. Just as he does on the show, he’s acting as a guide in your dream. It is he who holds your hand and brings you into the building where you meet your mermaid, an important, evolving part of you.
Okay, so how does all of this come together? And what about the mermaid?? After all, that was the part of the dream that most thrilled you and piqued your curiosity.
Mermaids have appeared (however fleetingly) throughout the history of human storytelling, across cultures and centuries. There are seemingly endless mythological references, from Irish fairy tales to Greek legend. And in nearly all these myths, from the Sirens to the Merrow, mermaids are represented as sensual feminine figures, associated with their relationships to human men, sometimes in ways that bewitch and cause danger, and other times expressing loyalty, love, and devotion. These myths are an important part of what Jung called the collective unconscious, and they hint at the role of this fish-lady in your psyche.
For you (as you mentioned to me), the strongest association to mermaids is of having watched the Disney version of The Little Mermaid as a girl. The Little Mermaid, of course, is about a young mermaid, Ariel, and her desire to become fully human so she can be with the human she loves. Given the father-figure relationship depicted in your dream, I asked you about your thoughts on the father-daughter relationship in the Little Mermaid. Your associations were that her father is well-meaning in his love for her, but he’s also blinded by it. “He can’t see what she truly wants and needs,” you told me, “and she doesn’t want to disobey him to get it.” When you reported this, it was evident that it had struck a chord for you. The same dynamic applies to your inner mermaid. This feminine, sensual, romantic aspect of yourself is well-enough taken care of, but she’s also quickly outgrowing the space in which she’s held. In your description, the men seem to care for her, but she’s not free to roam. She must express to the men around her what she truly needs to thrive. Let’s not forget too that, initially, the price Ariel had to pay to join her prince was the loss of her voice. Don’t make that your price in seeking love. For this part of you to become fully human, to come out of the unconscious and into consciousness, you’ll need to make sure her voice is her own, and that the men around her hear with their heart what she’s saying. When Ariel learned to declare what she needed, for her, her father was able to see that her joy was paramount and lovingly set her free. She joined her prince, with new legs and her voice restored.
A deep part of your feminine being is evolving. Something to do with your new relationship seems to have awakened a confidence in your sensual and romantic self. When I mentioned this, you nodded yes. You know what’s going on. You’re learning, little by little, to express your needs and wishes more fully. You can feel yourself discarding old layers of the conventional expectations of womanhood for a way of life that feels more authentic, more you.
As in the ritual of baptism, the immersion in water represents a rebirth into a higher state of being. You’re cleaning some old stuff, it seems — inner detritus and pollution — out of yourself, and purified waters are flowing in. In the new waters, this new oxygen and life, your mermaid revels in bliss. This dream portends deep changes for a subtle, embodied, authentic feminine. For this new element of you to become fully human, fully integrated into your conscious life, she’ll need to validate herself and her emotions more completely. As your dream seems to be telling you, no roaring or shouting is necessary to give her what she needs, just a quiet, confident way of being.
Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!
Satya is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their 20s and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com