Tagged: Death

“Race, Africa, Zombies, Clothing, and Skin.” A Dream Interpretation.

Dear Satya:

Q: I’m in Africa with another young woman and a black man who’s our guide. We’re running down a hill and realize there is a group of people on a pathway below. Some are black and some are white. We know they have heard us so we must approach them. As we get closer, I realize they’re zombies. Only the woman leading the group is conscious. We approach her with fear, but I am confident in my guide. Later, I see my guide eating cooked body parts. I realize he has killed and cooked the woman who was leading the group. This is a good thing. I feel better knowing this. He also skins her and drapes her skin over his shoulders like a cape when he’s done eating her. Then, a strong black man from the group breaks from the line and joins us, gaining consciousness as he does. We are stronger now that we have him and I am relieved. I am not afraid of these people anymore.

A: Excellent! No pun intended, but this fine dream of yours presents a buffet of some of my favorite concepts in depth psychology. The psychological meaning of race, for starters. And the method and value of expanding one’s consciousness.

We’ll start at the beginning. You are a white woman. Simply put, the figure of a black man in your dream can be seen to represent that which is opposite of your conscious attitude and identity. If you are a thinking type, for instance, he might represent a feeling function. Your specific descriptors of him would tell us more, but your relationship with him in the dream is indicative of some very dedicated inner work already undertaken. You’ve explored “the other” within and you don’t shirk when facing aspects of yourself that you might have once rejected as “not me!”, uncomfortable, or strange. This is evidenced by the fact that you are not only in a respectful relationship with this man, but that you are following his lead. You’re allowing him to guide you in areas of life where your ego identity is not very familiar.

A similar figure in the dreams of the majority of white people raised in white dominant cultures will likely appear with violent or disheveled aspects. These characteristics are likely to represent the rejected parts of themselves, those parts of themselves with which they are not likely to identify. The very unfortunate consequence of this lack of relationship with “the other” within ourselves, is that these unwanted characteristics end up being projected outward, in this case onto literal black men in the world versus worked with internally and viewed symbolically. This is a critical and sadly under-appreciated argument for the importance of psychic hygiene. When we learn about our own unconscious, we naturally integrate the projections of our own disliked and disowned characteristics, thereby relieving others in society of the burden of carrying those pieces for us.

For an easily understood example of this kind of projection and discrimination, think of all those rabid anti-gay activists who have been caught with their pants down. We all project the parts of ourselves of which we’re ashamed onto others, and then demonize those characteristics externally. If this concept is ever widely understood, discrimination, violence, and wars could be subverted on a broad scale and intentional human evolution could actually proceed. So cheers to you, dreamer! You’re leading us all.

Your dream suggests that you have entered unfamiliar territory in your life and that another side of you kicked into gear to guide you through it. In the dream, you encounter a band of zombies. Zombies, as we now know well from TV, are the walking dead. Psychologically speaking, they represent aspects of consciousness that are dissociated, only half-conscious, and dangerous. Very dangerous. Zombies are like viruses and may represent in this dream a person or a situation that has come into your life which is dangerous to your well-being. Review the days prior to this dream. What stress or encounters can you remember? Luckily, due to your strong inner work already undertaken, your psychic immune system is strong and healthy. Where your conscious identity might have left you vulnerable to serious harm in this situation, you have developed backup.

Without fear, your guide moves into the group and kills the leader. He depotentiates a former threat, just like antibodies. The threat is not only nullified, however, but its former power is integrated. Like killing an enemy in a video game, this symbolic kill means your consciousness advances forward. Your guide cooks and eats the leader and then cloaks himself in her skin. As if stewed in an alchemical cauldron, this unconscious aspect has been broken down and digested. Its nutrients have been integrated into you, and the skin cape provides you with new tools with which to walk around the world. Your persona has been strengthened. (You can read more about the images of cooking and eating meat from a previous dream interpretation.Finally, “a strong black man from the group breaks from the line and joins us, gaining consciousness as he does.” You’ve liberated more of what was once unconscious within you and brought it into consciousness. 

The whole point of dreamwork is to expand our consciousness. When we engage in understanding our personal unconscious, we engage in very real work to bring into light that which was once in the dark, in ourselves and in the world. If we imagine that our possible awareness and consciousness is as vast and deep as the universe, our conscious minds are infinitesimal in comparison. Our job? To intentionally, devotedly, respectfully continue to learn about ourselves and that universe in which we’re immersed. You’ve clearly been engaged in this work for some time, dear dreamer. May you continue to battle the walking dead — for yourself and for all of us.

Do you have a question about your dreams? Send me an email! satya@quarterlifecounselor.com

Satya is a 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. For more information about therapy services in Portland, visit www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com

“What I’m not saying.” A Discussion of Dream Interpretation.

The night before the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, I dreamed that someone calmly walked up behind me and began shooting me with a semiautomatic rifle. As the bullets went through my back, I contemplated what was happening. I thought about how my body was being torn apart by the dozens of bullets passing through my torso. I wondered about dying. And, a moment before waking up, I considered (and hoped) that I might be dreaming.

Perhaps it’s common that on the heels of an emotional week, one’s routine gets altered a bit. I’ve started, stopped, and tried again, but it seems I just cannot bring myself to work on a dream interpretation this week in the same old way. Is it because I am too affected by the shootings? Maybe, but I’ve gone about all of the other tasks in my life more or less as normal. I do feel a certain level of exhaustion and some sadness that I can’t name though. I’m aware that there is something else going on beneath the surface. New emotional layers have been touched and engaged.

I had to inquire: what is the unconscious asking of me right now? Why is my creative space blocked to the point that I cannot write? In all areas, I realize, things need to shift a little, and get real. I can’t be phony or robotic, continuing on with the same old routine and not expect to feel inauthentic. In my writings here, I realized, there’s something else to be said, a new space to be explored. In the dreams I choose to write on each week, there is an absence. What am I not saying here? Without context, it may falsely appear that what we explore is the totality of how dreams and the unconscious are explored. But there are things not written about, things not said.

There is so much in dreams that often feels too dark or too serious to engage in this format. Too sexual or too strange. Too chaotic or too violent. I am not writing, for instance, on the dreams I occasionally receive that seem to convey hidden trauma. I don’t want to engage those dreams that appear to have something nestled within the imagery that should only be stirred delicately and in a safer space. I dare not unravel such dreams here. I do not want to expose too starkly memories that someone’s psyche has spent years attempting to forget.

Some dreams, if the interpretation is listened to, require a complete reorientation of behavior, perhaps the canceling of plans, or the trust to jump into the complete unknown. Sometimes, dreams are seemingly prophetic, mirroring instincts around danger that our conscious minds are likely to dismiss. In the same way, they can also state things exactly as they are, picking-up on what the conscious mind has missed. Without careful attention to a very literal interpretation of some dreams, a symbolic exploration is misleading. As with danger, dreams can sometimes reflect our awareness of ruptures in relationships, betrayal and lies, when a person’s consciousness is being duped. Without a therapeutic environment or very careful exploration, it is hard for us to know when those dreams appear here.

Dreams are not always concise enough to present in a single paragraph, nor explore in four or five. A single dream is often only one installment in a series of hundreds: a single page in a volume on one relationship, one memory, or one hope. Before things come into consciousness, we may chew on them for years. Seen in that context, one dream may show only an evolution of an image or a part of a person, reflecting transformation over time. Without those other dreams, we cannot know what we are missing. We cannot benefit from what those other dreams would illuminate. We cannot watch, inspired, as a person evolves.

In this format of dream exploration, we also cannot easily see how different people may dream the same incredible, poetic, nearly identical image. The same yellow bird arriving at that same juncture in emotional growth. Or the solitary snake showing up to mark a return to an instinctual, embodied awareness. I cannot easily share with you here what I experience as a therapist, witnessing people speak on images I know well from my own dreams, or reporting an inner experience that perfectly mirrors material I’ve studied for years. It is not easy here to stand in awe before the mystery of what is hidden inside of us and shared between us.

Finally, I do not write here about dreams that leave me utterly bewildered. I do not share with you those dreams that I cannot even begin to crack. What is absent here, therefore, is an ocean of dreaming in which I am out of my depth. In relationship to the unconscious, almost everything is beyond our ability to grasp, even after years of learning its language. It is this extraordinary complexity of dreams and the vastness of the unconscious that keeps me intrigued, endlessly. It is this intrigue that I hope to share with you here.

Happy holidays to all of you, and thanks for reading! It is solstice today, a time for renewal that we don’t always remember to honor. Take care of yourselves and of each other as we move into 2013. It will be a great year.

Do you have a question about your dreams? Send me an email! satya@quarterlifecounselor.com

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Satya is a 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. For more information about therapy services in Portland, visit www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com