Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Chatting with a friend yesterday, I ended up on the subject of dreams and we were soon comparing the colorful products of our subconscious minds. Dream analysis has become something of a fad in recent years, with a proliferation of books and internet sites devoted to interpretation, some of it so programmatic and superficial that one can imagine the Old Testament figure of Joseph spinning in his grave. (My sons recently watched a Veggie Tales version of the Joseph story, retold as a western in "The Ballad of Little Joe." Very entertaining and thought-provoking for little boys who are just now starting to remember their dreams.) But back to my conversation . . . Naturally, we tried to find the veiled meanings in this eclectic dreamscape.

Upon comparison, we quickly learned that both of us had experienced some pretty standard types, dreams that affect most people: dreams about falling or being chased, for example. During times of stress I also have dreams in which I'm back at the Virginia Military Institute, getting ready for a parade or inspection. Invariably, I'm running late and can't find all of the pieces of my uniform. So I'm running about looking for shoes, or belts, or pieces of brass, in a panic that I won't make the upcoming formation. Over the years I've talked to a number of VMI graduates, including alumni from the 50s and 60s, and we all have the same kind of dreams under stress. Whether we graduated five years ago or 40 years ago, we all find ourselves back at the Institute in the same situations. Funny how the experience affected us - down to our subconscious selves - in such a similar fashion. (Oddly, I don't recall having had nightmares in which I've revisited the traumatic experiences of that first year, a subject which would seem fair game for a subconscious reaction to fear and stress.)

Several months ago in this blog I talked about the recurring dream that I've had intermittently - and unpredictably - over at least two decades, in which I'm stuck in a multi-story house. These houses - smaller and simpler in the early years, and incredibly large and complex in the last decade - always have a dark, locked upper level, in which there's something menacing and malevolent. I never actually make it onto this level, but sometimes approach the door, with the feeling of malevolence growing as I get closer. I've been told that the house represents me and my life, which like the dream-house, has grown and become more complex over the years. The dark attic represents the darker aspects of my personality - anger, for example - which I don't want to let out into the open. A friend well versed in Jungian dream analysis almost salivated over this scenario because it so closely reflected the Jungian interest in the "shadow" aspects of our subconscious selves.

More recently, my dreams have returned to the house imagery, but without the darker aspects of my old nightmare. For example, in one recent dream I was trying to go on vacation with my family but we couldn't find all of the things we needed to leave. Much of the dream was spent searching through my "house" - a fantasy residence with a rabbit warren of rooms and no relation to my current housing situation.

Two weeks ago I dreamed that I had found a house for sale on Virginia's Eastern Shore - a ramshackle, white clapboard Victorian home - that was being offered for the unbelievably cheap price of $22,000. The exterior and interior of the house needed considerable work, and I recall the elderly woman who owned the place showed me through rooms that were stuffed full of curio cabinets containing "depression glass" and countless examples of cheap pottery and ceramic items. Ironically, many of the items tucked away in the curio cabinets were pieces that I've collected over the years, but are now in storage! (I'm still not sure what to make of this one!)

Finally, over the weekend I dreamed that while visiting family I attended some amorphously-defined fair or fundraiser and won a contest in which the prize was a house. I can still remember from the dream how my name was announced loudly on a speaker system . . . with my wife and I running to see what we had won. Weird . . . but interesting how houses have become a dominant symbol in many of my recent dreams. I'm not sure what the underlying meaning is in all this, but I welcome any thoughts, whether Freudian, Jungian, or your own personal take. I'd also love to hear about any recurring dreams you've experienced.


BooCat said...

BrianC, I often dream of flying. (I am convinced that the person who did the Superman movies has had similar dreams.) I always start by jumping, but as I jump, I extend my hands forward and my feet lift off behind me. As long as my hands are outstretched, I am airborne. If my hands stretch slightly upward, I gain altitude. I turn by leaning in the direction I want to turn. It is exhilarating. Many times my brother is flying beside me. My brother was not only a mathematician, but also a pilot and flight instructor. I flew with him many times when he was alive, but these dreams date to our childhood, before he flew planes and before either of us had actually been in an airplane. I have no idea what any of that means, but I love the flying dreams.

Concerning your house dreams: Do you think you are longing to move out of your apartment in the city and into a house where you have room to ramble around and can unpack the collections you currently have in storage? That is not very Freudian or Jungian, just a very concrete explanation.

One Wink at a Time said...

Brian, you know this is a favorite subject of mine. Your house dreams are goldmines. I have some ideas for you but you may not want them aired here. LMK if you want my interp mailed. I'll need to know a couple of things that are going on in your life right now for an accurate interpretation.
You don't even want to know about my dreams! ;-) Some are doozies!