Tuesday, May 12, 2020

What's the use of dreaming?

Most human societies until relatively recently have understood that dreaming is important for three reasons above all. First, dreams give us access to sources of wisdom beyond the ordinary mind - to the God or Goddess you can talk to, to the ancestors, to the animate powers of nature, to the greater Self. "It is an age-old fact," declared the great psychologist C.G.Jung in his last major essay, "that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions." 

Second, dreams show us the future, in ways that can contribute to the well-being and survival of whole communities. They not only rehearse us for events that will happen; they show us possible futures,. If we are able to harvest and clarify the information, and then take appropriate action, we can improve the odds on manifesting a desirable future event, or avoiding an unwanted one.

Third, dreaming is medicine, in several senses. In somatic or prodromic dreams, we are shown what is happening inside the body and symptoms it could develop in the future. So dreams can be a source of vital, even life-saving, diagnosis.

When we do get sick, dreams are a factory of imagery that can help us to get well. Medical science is increasingly receptive to the fact that the body receives images as events, and responds accordingly. Where do we get the images that will persuade the body to adjust in the direction of health? The best images we can use for healing are those delivered by our own dreams. We know they are timely and they are authentic, or own material. The dream image may initially be scary, but I would insist that any image that belongs to us can be developed in the direction of wholeness and healing, if we are prepared to work with it.

Still on the theme of dreams in relation to healing, dreams put us in touch with multiple aspects of ourselves - with the shadow side we may have repressed or denied, with the magical child who may have parted company with us when the world seemed too cold and too cruel, with our animal spirits. Working these connections consciously can help us be stronger, and more. It can lead to soul recovery, which is what happens when we bring home vital parts of our energy and identity that went missing to live in our bodies and our lives. 

Dreaming is an essential human activity, as essential as sex or sleep. If we have lost contact with our dreams, the Iroquois say, we have lost a vital part of our souls. Dreams are important and useful for everyone.

Through our dream radar, we are able to see challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. This is part of our survival kit. Dreams hold up a magic mirror to our everyday attitudes and actions - sometimes in a quite shocking or humorous way - helping us to see ourselves from a higher perspective. In this way (as Dostoyevsky reminded us in Crime and Punishment) the dreams of the night can be a corrective to the delusions of the day.

And then there is the entertainment and refreshment value of dreams, whose gift may simply be a good story or a good laugh. You have access in dreams to a night cinema where the movies are screened  especially for you. You can sometimes step through the screen and become scriptwiter, director and star of your own productions. If you don't remember your dreams, you are missing out on the movies.

Dreaming you can travel without leaving home, not a small thing in the time of pandemic. You can come back with the memories of a delicious vacation. You can rendezvous with friends and loved ones far away, since dreaming is social as well as personal. 

photo by RM

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