DreamTime 26(2): 4-7, 38-40. Spring 2009

 

Those Unforgettable Dreams

– Can They Convey a Collective Message? –

by William R. Stimson

 

INTRODUCTION

In most cases, dreams are fleeting and can only be captured in exact words if written down immediately upon awakening.   But there are dreams that don't need to be written down.   These dreams are so powerful we can't forget them.   I had such a dream when I was six and remember it to this day:

I'm walking home and come to my street.   To my horror, I discover my house isn't there.   I walk up and down the block in panic.   I don't know where to go.   I don't know where my family is.  

For over half a century I've remembered that dream.   Why?   Why would that one dream stay in memory when thousands of others vanish moments after awakening?   The answer that occurs to me with regard to this dream is that it turned out to be true on so many levels.   As it registered and engraved itself successively on each, it got recorded in too many different places, in body and mind, and in too many different ways, to ever be lost.   It's not just true for me individually, but speaks to the story of my family and the times in which I've lived.   I sit down to write this first paragraph and the little dream comes to mind yet again -- this time as an example more fitting than a string of literature citations to introduce the premise of this paper, which is that one single individual, no matter how small that person be in the eyes of the world, can have a dream which is not only personally meaningful but collectively significant.  

Shortly after I had the dream my parents divorced and I was placed in an institution for homeless children.   Undoubtedly there were clues beforehand that the six-year old picked up.   Unconsciously they registered.   The dream assembled them correctly:   I wasn't going to have that house to go home to anymore, or that family.

That would be the end of the story if I were writing this in the period subsequent to the dream.   But I've now had five decades to look back on that dream.   It's remarkable in how many other ways it turned out to be true. The dream caught my pattern and prefigured my life story.   I never was to have a home.   My path was to be that of a homeless person.   After I'd been a year or so in the children's institution, my mother took me to live with her.   She was an unstable individual who couldn't stay for long in the same place.    Every few months we moved.   I was yanked in and out of neighborhoods and elementary schools all over Miami and Dade County.   For a while she boarded me with a policeman and his wife.   Then one day she carted me off to the Isle of Pines, sixty miles south of Cuba.   She moved four different times on that little island, then bought a piece of land and built a house.   It seemed like home at last.   Along came Fidel Castro and his revolution.   The communists took everything we had.   I ended up back to Miami, living with my father.   We didn't get along.   I got a scholarship to Duke University and ran away early one morning before dawn.   For the rest of my adult life I had no home.   Decades later, someone who visited the empty apartment where I lived in New York City with a mattress on the floor and lots of books, commented, "You live like a homeless person with an apartment."

The dream was true in a third way, not just for me individually but for many peoples collectively.   After the Castro revolution, a great many Cubans ended up as homeless refugees in other countries.   The phenomenon was repeated in country after country.   Across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, refugees and boat people fled their homelands.   Displaced populations became commonplace.   Many factors contributed to this, not just revolutions and wars -- but also droughts, famines, economic factors, etc.   In this age, homelessness is the emerging human condition.   Children from broken homes are almost the norm now in some parts of the United States.   Homeless men and women sleep on the streets in large cities.   Corporate employees, as well as university scholars, increasingly live anywhere and work everywhere.   Some argue that the root of the Mid-East crisis and Islamic terrorism is the displacement of Palestinians by Israel and the generations of them, bitter and resentful, who have grown up -- essentially a homeless nation.

In a fourth way too the dream is true -- spiritually.   And in this sense, also, it is true not just for me individually but for many of my generation collectively.   I ended up living the life of what some Buddhists would call a "left home" individual.   Buddha left his home to seek enlightenment.   Being an ordinary person, it took outside events to kick me out of my orbit -- make me and keep me homeless all my life.   Similarly, events have done this to countless others -- including the Dalai Lama and his entire retinue of monks, Tibetan laypeople, etc.   On the spiritual path you have no home and every place is your home.   Homelessness is increasingly the spiritual condition of mankind in these times.   I dreamed it when I was six.

How could an unexceptional six-year old -- whose main interest was playing cowboys and Indians and collecting grasshoppers -- be the carrier of such an archetypal and prophetic dream? Perhaps a better question would be -- Why should it surprise anyone?   Is that little boy cut off and isolated from the whole rest of society, or of the cosmos?   No.   None of us are.   Yet so often we tend to approach dreams as if we were.   We look to the individual meaning of dreams and stop there.   Yet we are all connected in more innumerable ways than we'll ever know.   It stands to reason if we examine the dream of any of us, it's sure to say something about us all.   It remains to be determined if this is even more true of those dreams that linger in the memory and so tend to get told to others.   In this paper such a dream, that a schoolteacher brought to a dream group in Taiwan, is presented because in addition to its individual implications for the predicament of the dreamer, it clearly seems to have a broader collective meaning relevant to these times.

THE DREAM OF A SCHOOLTEACHER IN TAIWAN

In March my wife, Dr. Shuyuan Wang, and I gave a presentation on dreams at the luncheon of an international woman's organization in a major Taiwanese city.   Two months later, in May, an American woman who had learned of our work at that luncheon showed up at one of our weekend dream group workshops in the Department of Social Work of Chaoyang University of Technology.   I'll call this woman Julia.   It is not her real name.  

I briefly explained to the group the Montague Ullman experiential dream group process we use and asked if anyone had a dream they'd like to share.   I specified that I'd prefer a very recent dream in order to demonstrate to newcomers the pivotal importance of remembered events from the day before.

Julia was the first to speak up.   "I have a dream. But it's from two months ago."

Several dreamers came forward with dreams from that very morning.    We ended up doing one of those.   The dream we chose turned out to be long.   We didn't finish in the morning and continued on through the afternoon.   Towards 5 o'clock, we came to a close.   One by one, group members spoke to the dreamer.   Julia's comments were few, but brilliant.   She displayed a remarkable power of expression and an instinct for dreams that was rare.   She approached metaphors with the subtlety and depth of a poet or novelist.

The following morning when I called for a dream Julia was again the first to come forward.   "I have a dream," she said, "But it's the same old one."

"I have a dream from this morning that I really want to work on," another woman pressed.   Julia backed down.   This second dream took us into the early afternoon.   We broke for a very late lunch.   When we came back, I called for the final dream of the workshop.   "Preferably a short one," I said.   "Because we only have two hours left to work with it."

"I have my old dream," Julia announced, crestfallen.  

No one else came forward this time to beat her back.   I invited Julia to tell us her dream and asked when she had it.

She pulled out a journal from her handbag.   "I awoke from the dream at 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning, March 3rd," she said.  

This was Julia's dream:

I wake up suddenly with a feeling of panic and I'm on a single bed with white sheets and the room is small with one light bulb burning and it's an attic room.   So it has sloping walls and it's very dark wood.   And I wake up and sit straight up as I awake and my heart is pounding very fast but I can't open my eyes.   So my whole body is alert except my head is groggy.   So I reach for the door and in my white nightgown I run down the stairs and into the street.   And I'm in a European city, running on gray cobblestones and the rain is pouring down.

I feel like I'm missing something but I'm still groggy and so I'm stumbling through the streets.   So I'm searching for something.   So finally I come to a large, large church, with very high wooden doors.   And I burst open the doors and I look forward up to the altar.   It's very long, like 50 meters.   At the front of the altar there's the baptismal place where they put the baby's head and there's a ring of black hooded men standing around it.   They're performing a ritual but I can't see what they're doing.   But finally my mind clears and at the same time they turn to me and they're holding up a dead baby.   They've just drowned the baby.   They turn to show me the baby and I feel absolute dread, terror because I realize what it is I have forgotten.  

And so I wake up and I woke up the same way I woke up in the dream.   I woke up sitting straight up.   I said in my head when I was awake "See what the church has done!

  "The whole dream has stayed with me these two months now," she said.   "It was so vivid."

  "What I felt in the dream was confusion, then panic.   And, at the end -- terror."

Julia sat back while the group took her dream and explored it for feelings and metaphors.   But when the group gave her back the dream, the imagery was as incomprehensible to her as before.   "A baby is something I don't want," Julia said, to set the record straight on that account.

"In the dream, I knew I was responsible for something, I knew there was something I needed, but I didn't know what -- until I saw the baby dead.   The baby is what I had forgotten. The baby was not mine.   It was not my baby but it was my responsibility. The feeling was, 'I'm too late.   How could this happen?   How could I have let this happen?'"

We set the dream aside and turned to the circumstances in Julia's life prior to the dream.   Here we ran up against the problem that the dream was two months old.   It was unlikely she would remember what had happened the day before.

At this point, the co-leader took out her appointments calendar book and flipped through to the date of the dream.   "You woke up with this dream the morning we gave our presentation at the woman's association luncheon," she said.

Julia consulted her journal.   "Yes, it was that very morning."

"You went to bed the night before knowing you were going to attend the woman's luncheon the next day," I said.   "I wonder if you can remember what was going through your mind that night, just as you dozed off to sleep -- and if you'd care to say anything about those thoughts."

  "I'd spent that evening preparing for a mini-presentation I was to make at the luncheon with Sue, a leader of the organization.   I was to speak in front of lot of women older than me," Julia said.   "I was feeling nervous."

"I hadn't spoken to Sue.   I was very frustrated that she was the one they would all look to, but I'd prepared the information."

"We were sort of squeezed in.   We weren't on the agenda."

"I was taking off from work so I was worried about dressing well enough for the presentation, and leaving on time.   I was concerned about my image in front of those people."

"I knew you two were going to do your presentation on dreams.   I was very excited about going to the dream thing.   Sue had told me about it weeks before.   I was giddy with excitement.   I'd only had one other dream I could remember.   When I heard about you guys I started dreaming hectically."

In this stage we elicit whatever information the dreamer cares to bring forth.   We don't worry whether or not it's connected to the dream and we don't try to make connections.   "Is there anything you remember or would care to say about that day?" I asked.

"It was just a normal day.   I woke up and went to work."

"Would you like to say anything about what was going on in your life during that period?" I asked.  

"My boyfriend and I at that time had been having a series of arguments about me.   He wasn't understanding me and would get upset with me.   I felt I needed to defend myself.   The week before we'd had a long argument.   He put feelings to my actions that weren't true.   Then whenever I started to explain myself he'd turn it into himself."

"Physically I wasn't alone in my life.   But in my head I was feeling very misunderstood."

"Was anything else happening around that time that you'd care to mention?" I asked.  

  "I work for a very authoritarian man.   I'm in charge of a lot of things that keep the school running.   I have to work with him closely.   He had been 'running' me.   We'd had a two-hour meeting and come to a decision.   As soon as I got home, I got e-mails from him changing everything.   We had to have another meeting.   I wanted to scream at him."

"I don't know how to confront him.   He's scary.   He pounds walls with his fists, turns everything into an issue of you."

"Teaching overseas is like an 'old boys club.'   There is no room for me to grow professionally at my school.   I have a Masters degree in Educational Administration but my boss would never put me in charge of anything.   Recently an incapable, insecure male teacher has arrived at our school.   My boss doesn't even know all the things I do to keep the place running but he's very impressed with that new guy and has put him in the spotlight."

"I had just made the decision to stay in Taiwan for another year.   When I first came to Taiwan the plan was that it would only be for two years and then I would go to another bigger school, work full time, do very well and become Principal.   I'm at a very small school here.   My original plan has been delayed.   Which is very good.   Writing has started."

"I signed a contract for next year.   I'll cut back to half a day.   Starting in September I will work from noon 'til 5.   In the mornings I will stay home and write.   But I wonder when I will get to the next level of my career, or if it is even this career I'll choose to stay in."

"Never in my life did I think I could get involved in writing seriously.   I know I can only do it if I give it time.   Cutting back at my job to write is exciting.   But I wonder, 'What if I can't do it?'"

"Is there anything more you'd care to say about your writing?" I asked.

  "I've written my whole life," Julia said.   "I have two computers full of ideas.   A couple of years ago I started writing every day and sharing work.   In September I thought I'd better write for something.   I started writing for a very small magazine that Sue puts out for the woman's organization.   Sue's very interested in writing too and we've talked about forming a writer's group here.   But Sue is now leaving for the States.   I started writing for the magazine in September and it wasn't until March that I got my first real assignment. This month was my first feature article for them."

This was the life context out of which the dream arose.   We turned again to the dream now and went back through it, scene by scene, inviting Julia to take a fresh look at the imagery in light of everything going on in her life at the time and share with the group, if she wished, anything more that came to mind.

"The panic I felt when I woke up in the first scene in the dream was the same panic I felt when I woke up in real life from the dream," Julia said.   "It felt like the panic of waking up late for work."

"In the dream you felt terror, confusion and panic, and when you woke up from the dream you felt panic," I said.   "But when you talked about the events in your life before the dream you didn't mention these feelings at all."

"I definitely felt panic when I signed the contract," Julia said.   "Because it meant another year in Taiwan.   'Why am I staying in Taiwan?' I ask myself.   I wonder if it's the right decision.   I wonder why I can't leave Taiwan.    Am I afraid to go elsewhere?"

Julia continued,   "When I woke up from the dream, I wanted to go down and write a short story about the dream but I didn't.   I went to work.   When it comes to writing, something just clicks in my head.   If I don't write it down, I'll lose it.   I wanted to write about how you wake up from a blindness with sudden insight but something terrible has already happened.   I had the ending to the story.   I wanted to make the church responsible for the death of the baby."

"The church figures prominently in the dream," I pointed out, "And you were thinking of using the dream to write a short story about the church.   But when you talked about events in your life before the dream you made no mention at all of the church."

"My idea of a church is of something authoritarian," Julia said.

"Sometimes I think being part of an organization can blind you.   I have a close friend who is very Christian.   I had a conversation with her about sin."  

Julia paused a moment to gather her thoughts, then continued, "When I moved to Taiwan I had been married three years.   After a year and a half here, my husband and I broke up.   A couple of years later I started dating the person I'm seeing now.   He is from a religious family but is not religious himself.   That I'm divorced doesn't bother him.   His sister-in-law, though, is very Christian.   She is the close friend I got in a conversation with about sin.   She and her husband maintain all sin is the same --the only thing you have to do is ask forgiveness and Jesus forgives you.   To them, whether it's divorce or murder, it's the same.   It's sin.   All sin is the same."  

"My view is different.   The divorce between my husband and me was amicable.   We still care for each other a great deal -- we love each other.   It's just that we're not compatible.   I don't feel that by getting divorced I've sinned.   I didn't like them telling me my divorce was a sin."  

"I feel a sin is hurtful to yourself and others.   I don't feel in my situation the divorce was a sin."

"I think the church is responsible for a lot of good in people's lives," Julia concluded. "It is also responsible for a lot of untruths in history, and for a lot of repression in history -- especially the Catholic church."

I noticed our time was up.   We only had a few more minutes before members had to rush off to the train station.   It was a holiday weekend and seats on all the trains were reserved in advance.   If anyone missed their connection they'd be stranded.   I had to bring the group process to a close.

We seemed to have wandered around and gotten off track.   Neither Julia nor anyone in the group appeared to have gained any definite sense of how the dream related to her life.   Panic about being remiss in relation to her job and to her career was the only emotion that had emerged connecting Julia's waking life with her dream.   That's all we had to work with -- but it was a definite connection.

Sometimes in the experiential dream group we approach the last stage of the process without even having found a single connection.   Even in such cases, though, there is one clue that we always have.   This clue is our own lives, our own experience.   A key to Julia's dream may lie within each of us.   In the very last stage of the process, each of us tries, one by one, the best we can, to find it.  

It struck me all of a sudden that the one thread running through almost everything Julia had told us about her life was her writing.   The images of the dream flashed before my eyes in an instant -- perfectly intelligible.   The dream opened to me because it touched me and it touched me because it explained me to myself.   It wasn't just about Julia.   It was about anyone who set out to become a writer or creative artist.

I'd spent my life trying to become a writer.   I suddenly saw the meaning of the dead baby in Julia's dream.   I'd lost my baby too.   A great many years ago I'd given up my own academic career for writing.   I'd never guessed what a big sacrifice it had been until this very semester when Dr. Shuyuan Wang and I'd been invited to co-teach a course in dreams at Taiwan's National Yang-Ming University and I'd begun experiencing again all the joys of being part of a community of scholars, teachers and students.   I have a gift for teaching, like Julia.   I've always had it.   Yet, I'd let my academic career die in its infancy, along with all my plans and hopes.   For so many years, that had been "my baby."   When I turned around, it was gone -- the victim of my "baptism" as a writer.  

Julia's dream accurately depicts her baptism as a writer -- stumbling through the streets in a downpour searching for something.   In my own case it felt I was "running scared" when every morning before I wrote I jogged around and around the grounds of the General Theological Seminary in New York City.   To this day I remember the chill of panic I felt those mornings, the confusion, the terror.  

I'd woken up so many mornings in poverty, in the bare circumstances of a writer's garret -- like the bare attic room with the single naked light bulb in Julia's dream.   I knew that feeling, when version after version of my novel failed, of wanting to get up and run -- flee back to the secure career I'd abandoned in its infancy.   But I couldn't, because it was already dead.   It was too late.   There was no going back.   Operating in the dark and out of my awareness, like the hooded figures in Julia's dream, the forces of my unconscious had done their work.

A character in the film "Jesus of Montreal" that came out back in those years made a statement that had a profound effect on me -- "The only really religious life left in modern times is that of the creative artist."   The writer, the filmmaker, the actor even -- these are our modern equivalents of the Biblical prophets and wise men of old.   These, and not the clergy, are the individuals in our society today that brave the insecurity, poverty and privation that in ancient times was the lot of those intrepid solitary pilgrims wandering out into the desert to find God.   And it's the creative artist in our society who sometimes garners the reward for such sacrifice, finds what some of those pilgrims in the desert found, and comes away transformed, illuminated.

Sacrifice is the very essence of the creative life, as it is with the religious life.   As a child I thought it silly that the Biblical tribes in the Old Testament slaughtered goats on the altar.   "What would God want with a dead goat?" I thought.   I came to see:   not Jehovah, but the people wanted goats -- wanted lots of them and wanted them alive so they could breed.   The more goats you had the richer you were.   To kill a goat on the altar of God was to sacrifice what was valuable to them so that they might obtain in their lives instead what was valuable to God.   It was a ritual and symbolic way for them to grasp what religion is -- you sacrifice the lower so as to make yourself available for the higher.   You relinquish what's material to gain what's spiritual.

Julia is not a religious person.   She has seen how blind belief has warped the views of her Christian friend.   Hence her exclamation upon awakening from the dream, "See what the church has done!"   The dream doesn't seem to be about the church in that way, though, but about what Julia's own blind belief in writing has done to her career plans.

Julia has no assurance she can become a writer.   "What if I can't do it?" she said at one point.   Writing is not a sure thing.   But her career plan is.   Whether or not she's recognized in this little American school in Taiwan, someone with her intellectual brilliance, academic credentials and organizational skills would definitely have a shot at becoming a school Principal somewhere.  

"I've let writing kill my plans!" the dream cries out with such vivid imagery that it terrifies Julia.   The dream is about terror -- the terror of sacrifice, the terror of taking a step towards a higher calling.   There are two different kinds of growth:   (1) professional career growth -- climbing to a higher social level and (2) real inner growth --the emotional, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual maturation entailed in becoming a more authentic being and thus actualizing one's innate intuitive and creative capabilities.   Ideally, the two ways of growth operate seamlessly together in an integral fashion.   But in practice one may exclude the other.   Or, at least, so it might seem to a beginning writer with only so much energy and so many hours in a day.   To sacrifice the one for the other without assurance -- evokes terror.   It's the death of one way of being that must come before there's a birth into another.  

In the Bible story, the man who is asked to sacrifice his son for God isn't really being called to kill the boy.   That's only a literal reading of the story.   That's not the message the story conveys to one who has lived through a choice like that, as I have.   I have to see the Biblical account instead as a narrative meant to symbolically drive home the point that there is a love stronger even than the love of a father for his son -- or, in Julia's case, of a talented woman for her promising career.   The story like the dream, though it may use strong imagery, is about recognition, not slaughter.

What's being recognized in the act of sacrifice is that the love of the truth that's deepest in us -- personified in the Bible as God or in modern times as the source of our creativity and authenticity -- is vastly higher on the order of human priorities than the love of wealth or the size of your goat herd -- or even your family or career.   This realization comes as an individual reaches a developmental threshold where his values shift.   Julia is at that threshold in her life, and thus receives as an inner illumination, this dream.   The fundamentalist Christian girlfriend with her shallow acquired dogma, who sees what Julia is going through in a literal, merely legalistic way, can't make sense to Julia.   Julia has left that childish way of knowing behind, perhaps a long time ago, and is now on the way up the mountain to encounter for herself, in her struggle to become a writer, the creative source in the universe and in herself.

Julia's spirit may be taking a leap and may have reached the realm of sacrifice.   But Julia's flesh is running scared.   It's terrified in a different, more common, sense.   The issue of physical security, it feels bodily:   maybe something along the lines of, "Am I ruining my career?"   "What about financial stability?"   "What about prestige and status?"   "Will I look like a fool if I fail?"   Julia is a capable woman who has an exceptional mind and a deep, rich and fertile heart.   Is she going to achieve a career goal that reflects her many administrative and academic abilities?   Or is she going to allow herself to be defeated by the old boy's club?   To give up on her career and walk away from the battle, even temporarily, is a big sacrifice when you have what it takes to win.   Julia doesn't want to let her self down.  

And yet that is precisely what is called for if this move in her life is to be successful. The old self must be left to die so that the new one may be born.   This is the real and authentic meaning of baptism, and the other motifs of rebirth, the virgin birth, etc. that run through all the spiritual and creative traditions.   As a mythological concept it's all fine and well -- a bunch of airy ideas in the head.   But when it actually strikes in your own life, and is felt in the gut to be the impending death of everything known and hoped for, then it generates quite another feeling.   That feeling is terror.   Terror is the feeling that was missing in Julia's life, or insufficiently represented -- and it was the feeling the dream gave her.   It is the proper feeling for what she is undertaking, and the only accurate guide to what she will encounter.   Nothing else will do to ensure her success.  

This view of the dream instantly resonated with Julia.   She was very pleased with the work the group had done on the dream.

The next day Julia sent an e-mail saying

I am very touched by your response and ... I am so glad I was able to work on this particular dream, as it had such a vivid impact upon me.   The whole weekend dream group workshop was an amazing experience.   Thank you so much for allowing me to express myself so fully.   You have both made my heart feel so good and my decision so right.   There have been many signs lately.

The above view of Julia's dream is by no means some ultimate truth about the dream.   Others in the group spoke up with their own ways of making sense of the dream.   We can each see only so much as we are.   We see ourselves when we look at someone else's dream.   No one can know the meaning of another's dream.   The real work made possible by the experiential dream group happens in privacy to the dreamer herself after she leaves the group.   Maybe when she's in the shower, or driving to work, it comes to her in a flash what the dream is really about.   Everything we do in the group is only to lay the groundwork for such a moment.  

Julia did have such a flash of insight afterwards.   Some time later she sent a longer e-mail:

As for the dream workshop for me, it really felt like I was coming back to the roots of myself.  I have been interested in the psyche and dreams since childhood, but haven't tapped that part of myself since moving to Taiwan.  It felt really good to reconnect with people who are interested in the same types of things as myself.

The dream was so vivid that I had to share it, and the process was very helpful.  The things I took away from the orchestration process were the following.  The baby symbolized sacrifice and what I have to sacrifice for writing.  Also, the following the body even when the head doesn't know what it is doing tells me that I must go with my intuition more.  This is something that I have known and tried to work on for a long time, but am still struggling with.  The church is authority and I do have a very real problem with people telling me how to live although I also want the acceptance.  Thus the struggle to give up the conventional aspect of my career for the more unconventional - the writing.  The dainty white also shows vulnerability and it surprised me in the dream because I sometimes do take on too much and see myself as strong.  Connecting with my vulnerability is another challenge I have been facing in the last couple of years.

I think the whole dream happened because of the terror of my decision but also because as soon as I made the decision, the writing was hindered, for several reasons in my life.  I have been undergoing a lot of second thoughts in the last couple of weeks as well.  It's almost as if now that I have allowed myself the time to write, I no longer want it.  It is an ongoing struggle, but I am going to follow through with it and see where it takes me.

Part of my struggle is that I absolutely love what I do.  I don't feel caged or trapped in my job.  For me it is very creative already and so I wonder why I want to go elsewhere.  I worry that because my boyfriend is an artist, I want to be creative in the same "free" way that he is, but the times when I feel really free are the times I am at work in my classroom.  So there are some real concerns here.  My job also gives me the freedom to write with the students, for my students, and for myself.  So next year will be a big step for me to see what it is I really want.  I will be committed to both things and I will see what it is that I am ready for in my life.

Julia doesn't need to quit her profession and run off elsewhere to find creativity or writing, like I did.   She can be creative and she can write as a teacher, doing the job she loves and is good at.   This is the deeper meaning of Julia's dream, for it is the meaning she herself found in it.   It doesn't so much negate the other meaning, which also resonated with her, but puts it in perspective.   "I think you're interpretation is just as accurate as mine," She wrote in one final e-mail after I'd sent her this article to look over.   "Yours helped me to find mine, which is the value of the dream workshop."

A DREAM WITH A COLLECTIVE MESSAGE?

I'll never forget, over twenty-five years ago, when I set out to form a dream network, having lunch with a renowned dream psychologist from a distant part of the country who was passing through New York City.   I was very excited to meet her in person because I was modeling my approach to my own dreams after her books.   How deeply disappointed I was, when we met face to face, to discover what I'd thought from the books wasn't in the person.   I realized the books were flat-out wrong, at least for me.   The ideas in them did not apply to me at all or to my dreams because they came from a life lived on a much more superficial level.   Much of what is blindly taken as authority in the world today has no legitimacy whatsoever.   Yet because it is presented as legitimate, and because others unquestioningly take it as so, we ourselves fall prey to doing the same.

Julia wanted to be creative in the same way her artist boyfriend was.   She cut back her teaching to half a day to try her hand at writing. Then, on the morning she was going to hear me lecture on dreams she had this frightening dream.   Two months later she brought it to one of my dream groups.   Projecting my own situation onto the dream, I felt the dream was about quitting her teaching job to become a writer and encouraged her in what I felt was a courageous and difficult step, as I knew from taking it myself.   Work with the dream in the group, though, enabled Julia to realize that it was in the classroom that she felt most creative and free.   Her situation was (1) not like her boyfriend's and (2) not like mine.  

Our examples, our notions, and the choices we made didn't apply to her.   To the extent she imposed them on herself she would do her life damage.   The dream showed that clearly.   Her responsibility was to something closer to her own heart.   Her dream told her she had to rescue that from outside dogma, represented in the dream, not surprisingly, as the church.  

The baby is a pivotal Christian image that represents that rebirth of spirit central to all religions -- the birth of divine consciousness in human form.   For anyone who has followed the various fundamentalisms sweeping through religious traditions in these times, and who is deeply concerned about this development, the dream image of the churchmen killing the baby in their keep has to have so much more than just a personal meaning for this one schoolteacher in Taiwan -- especially since the dreamer herself woke up with the sentence in her head, "See what the church has done!" and even expressed the intention to write a short story about the subject.   How can this not be seen as a dream with a clear collective message?

References

Stimson, William R. and Shuyuan Wang (2004) "Working With A Dream Fragment - The Importance of Dreams and Dream Groups in Taiwan" Chinese Group Psychotherapy Volume 10, No. 1 p. 31-45.

Stimson, William R. (2006) "The Time-Release Capability of Dreams -- Part I: Personal Reflection" Dream Network Journal Vol. 25, No. 3, pp 32-35. 2006

Stimson, William R. (2007) "The Time-Release Capability of Dreams -- Part II: The Ordinary Dream as Numinous" DreamTime Vol. 24, No. 3, pp 8-11, 29-35.

Ullman, Montague & Nan Zimmerman (1979).   "Working With Dreams" 368 pp.    Dell Publishing.   New York

Ullman, Montague (1996).   "Appreciating Dreams -- A Group Approach" 274 pp.   Sage Publications.    Thousand Oaks, California.