How I Learned Dream Analysis
My Journey and Life Lessons
I grew up in Switzerland with no interest in psychology whatsoever. I had a facility for maths, enjoyed reading and got fascinated by music in all its forms (learning an instrument, writing music, recording, attending shows and festivals, …). While graduating towards college and a STEM degree, I spent most of my time learning to play the guitar. I took great pleasure in composing music and I aspired to be part of a group that would tour and play that music. After a whole decade of countless hours of practice and great financial investment, this sadly did not amount to much. Among 20 or so odd tracks, my proudest achievement is to have composed and recorded one full album, mostly by myself. Curious people can check the album down below.
One other notable event is that, somewhere around 20 years old, I read about lucid dreaming and this made me pick up my first dream journal. However, I wasn’t mature enough and the content of my dreams disturbed me greatly. I gave up on my dream journal very quickly.
Looking back at these two events, the first lesson I have learnt is that if you are too young or your ego is still developing, you might not get much out of dream analysis and depth psychology. Surprisingly, despite nothing coming out of my musical project, I have greatly benefited from giving my all to music for a whole decade. It developed my creativity, gave me much respect for artists and taught me discipline and resilience. Thus the first step of self-knowledge is always supportive ego-development.
Growing up wasn’t easy. I felt unable to build intimacy with normal people and ended up befriending outsiders or bullied kids. To compensate for that, I became an elitist with a cold intellect and a dismissive attitude. I wasn’t fun to be around. I was also immersed in music, books and video games, which I regard now as formative years of my inner world.
In my early twenties, I gave up on hoping for a career in music but I discovered YouTube. Because of the years spent on music, I realized I was an auditory learner. Listening to people was much more intellectually stimulating than reading books. I spent countless hours listening to podcasts, enjoying topics such as evolutionary psychology and biology, gender dynamics and advice for younger men.
At some point, I got around Stefan Molyneux’s content. I was deeply impressed by the content of his videos and went through his back catalogue. His listener’s call-in show was therapeutic as I could find myself in most of them. Most strikingly, I discovered that in some of his early videos, he would do dream analysis. This struck a chord with me and I listened to everything he put out under that category, learning as much as I could from this very niche subject.
While dream analysis was a surprising topic, sometimes his call-in show would turn into a role-play between him and the listener, usually around a parental issue. These role-plays fascinated me: the person was completely different when speaking for his father or mother. This introduced me to the multiplicity of the psyche and how we are made, if not haunted, by subpersonalities that have their own feelings, desires and idiosyncratic behaviors. Another life-changing podcast was his interview with Richard Schwartz which introduced the Internal Family System (IFS) model.
This multiplicity of the psyche was named ‘mecosystem’ by Stefan Molyneux, or ‘parts’ in the IFS model. Much later, I learnt that they are called ‘complexes’ in analytical psychology.
Finally, there is a lost podcast where Stefan Molyneux shows his process of shadow work. If you are feeling adventurous, you can check it out [part1 and part2].
These podcasts are dear to my heart and I will forever be grateful to his show for this gentle exposure to therapy, discovering IFS, learning dream analysis and to a lesser extent understanding shadow work. Thus the second lesson I learned was that we are multiple and we are responsible for our inner world.
While exposed to this therapeutic material, I had to face my own emotional challenges.
One of them was the void that I was feeling after watching a movie or finishing a video game. It felt like my life would never be as meaningful as the media I was identifying with. This existential lassitude evolved (maybe not unsurprisingly?) into a romantic fixation for a female fictional character. This ideal relationship was of great psychological benefit and kept me uplifted for the best part of a year.
One day however my attitude changed. I felt a pained anger at the nonexistence of the relationship and wanted to get rid of it. Puzzled by these ups and downs, I asked myself what exactly happened: how could I fall in love with a fictional character? Was this normal? Is there any explanation to this? Slowly it came to me that this imaginary relationship was a protection of my psyche that prevented me frombecoming depressed.
Startled at this revelation, I ended up looking online if this phenomenon had any explanation. I discovered this video:
What a shock it was to learn that a Swiss psychologist took that phenomenon seriously and studied in great detail! This is how I discovered Jung and, after experiencing anima projection first hand, I have kept studying his works ever since.
I got Man and His Symbols and found it quite shallow, moved to Aion and everything went over my head. Not discouraged in the least, I read Jung’s Map of the Soul by Murray Stein and watched all YouTube videos and podcasts I could find on Jung. After this, I decided it was time to read The Red Book.
Before coming back to The Red Book, I want to talk about my situation at this moment in time.
I obtained my MSc in Electrical Engineering and felt scammed by how fifteen years of formal education was unable to meet the demands of the real world. I was alienated socially and romantically. My musical dream was over. Last but not least, I was going through difficult times with my family as I wanted to become independent and was resentful of the mistakes my parents made.
The only positive thing going on for me at that time was coming back from a month-long trip to Japan. I went there alone and greatly enjoyed the freedom of planning each day the way I wanted. Most importantly, in the dead of the night on the other side of the planet, I realized that I cannot flee from myself as my problems were always with me, no matter how far I was from home.
In those circumstances, I went in therapy. First I started with Talk Therapy for a few months as I needed someone to talk to to manage the complexity around me. This stabilized me but I felt the need to go deeper and went to an IFS therapist for a few months.
It’s at this moment that I was reading The Red Book and my situation crystallized into long nightly active imagination as well as weekly supervised IFS sessions. I discovered myself in depths and transgenerationally through a long list of visions including the anima, the shadow, the inner father, the inner mother and much more. I felt for the first time that I was anchoring myself in something that was real, profoundly intimate and emotionally nourishing.
After a few months of IFS, I felt the need to change once again the modality of my therapy. I went to Somatic Experiencing (SE), which is more focused on assisting the body to heal itself. At this point, my two previous therapists have been great but the SE one was fantastic and I credit her for being able to help me to reconnect to my body.
Thus the third lesson I learned was that we need to heal the mind and the body and they both need different modalities. While it is essential to learn to be autonomous in self-knowledge, nothing will ever replace a therapist that you trust and that hold the space for you to rediscover yourself.
I want to emphasize that this time was a kairos. I finished my long and arduous studies and could finally enjoy time by myself. By being able to go for a trip to Japan, work on my own emotional issues and be exposed to three different model of therapy with people that I trusted, I was at the right time at the right moment with the right persons. There is no guarantee that reading The Red Book or going to therapy will benefit you in a similar way. I cannot overstate how singular this moment in time was for me.
After therapy, I felt good about myself. I became a self-driven person aimed at accomplishing myself professionally and socially. Sadly this attitude lacked humility and gratitude. Looking back at it, I was motivated by resentment and did not care about others. This attitude was very dangerous and I ignored the few warnings I had about it. I was single-minded: I needed to establish myself at all costs and I was not going to be stopped!
Yet something was off, I could never get close to any job. Every time I was making progress, the goal moved further away from me which exacerbated my insecurities and perfectionism. Determined to make it work, I spent a lot of money to attend a coding bootcamp. This time I was going to make it!
Not much later I was in burnout and my ego was psychologically defeated. My future was not going to happen. My health was at the lowest it had ever been to the point where eating was a challenge. All the efforts that I had done in the past appeared nullified. This was a time of great upheaval where all my foundations were questioned.
Yet things are never as they seem. Instead of blaming my circumstances, I revisited the previous years and all the seemingly unfair challenges that have been laid in front of me and while still incapacitated by the burnout, I started to ask myself fundamental questions such as “What if reality was trying to help me by putting larger and larger walls in front of me? What if I was so blind and so stubborn that I needed to be stopped? What if what is happening is fundamentally good but I cannot understand it? What if I have something to learn from this?” I credit this way of looking at life to Jordan Peterson.
This most profound ego-defeat taught me a lot. Despite my situation, I learned to be grateful for the support given by my family, which fully healed my resentment. I also learned that this situation had been a trap of my own making and I should never look past my blind spots ever again.
Most strangely, I felt the need to move my center of consciousness away from my head as I could not live in it anymore. My head was heavy from the burnout so I found myself forced to relocate my center of consciousness in my body. I settled into my heart and observed that a different kind of intelligence was in there, discovering Heart-Brain Coherence before I knew it had a name. I took a leap of faith by trusting my heart more than my head and it opened up a flow of synchronicities that shook me to my core. I would later learn that this was my “Encounter with the Greater Personality“, as Edward Edinger puts it.
After so many destabilizing moments, I needed time to process what just happened. Afraid to fall in more holes because of my own blindspots, I had to make many changes in my life.
The first one was to treat dreams with religiō. I knew that dreams have the ability to correct the conscious attitude and I started to analyze mine assiduously.
The second one was to evaluate my decision with more than a single intelligence. In other words, my head thought a certain way, my heart felt differently and my gut also had its say. Being an intuitive person, this act of negotiation between these three intelligences was very slow at first but became easier as I kept with it.
Finally, when this inner alchemy was done, I would act and observe carefully around me for any kind of verbal or non-verbal feedback from family or peers. We are constantly judged on our actions by our social surroundings and this feedback is most important to not get stuck in our own ways.
This three-step process of alignment was designed to avoid blind spots by working at different levels of resolution: first the unconscious would have it say, then I would work with the different psychic functions in me and, finally, social feedback kept me on track when I got inflated or failed to meet my responsibilities.
I also had to revisit inner work, specifically shadow work. With the help of my background in IFS and my dreams, I have been able to work on myself somewhat autonomously. I have also benefited greatly from the support of mentors and therapists when I felt like I had reached a personal limit.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Because I wanted to be authentic about my challenging circumstances. It took me more than twenty-five years to get over my failure to launch and had many setback. But I am now at a point where I feel that my foundations are finally and strongly established.
Since my burnout in late 2017 and with the changes I have made, my life feels on track. My health is back. I have a good grasp on my dreams and have successfully helped other people with theirs. My understanding of my inner world has deepened. Last but not least, I have moved from Switzerland to Australia where I have met and married my wife. This would not have happened without getting approval and guidance from my dreams (see dreams two and three). My wife and I have achieved a lot in little time: in less than two years, we married, moved together and had a kid.
I keep on the look-out for maintaining my responsibilities towards the inner world and the outer world and, despite the increasing problems of the world, I can honestly say that my life is good and I am ready for the future.
I feel it’s time for me to make myself available online in this way. And, if it wasn’t obvious by now, I would not be doing this without a few dreams indicating it ;)
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