Because the dream came outside the local territory, we can’t study it from our viewpoint. It must be approached from its own logic.
A dream shows what the unconscious is concerned about, what it sees, how it sees it, and all of that is expressed with his own symbolic language. Because this material comes from below the threshold of consciousness, it cannot be understood unless we attempt the perilous task of interpretation.
In the process of understanding a dream, there are many traps laid out in the open.
- The first trap is to do nothing and resume life, unconcerned.
- The second trap is to care about the dream but, lost in aesthetic contemplation or overwhelmed by its content, do nothing substantial with it.
- The third one is to work too much on it, refusing to let the dream speak and forcing our own viewpoint on it.
- Another one is to intellectualize everything (“This is my anima. This is my shadow. This is my mother complex.”) and never deal with the emotions of the dream.
- Yet another one is to take symbols literally (“I dreamt about my ex, this must mean it’s about my ex.”), as if the psychic nature of the dream was the same as material reality.
Let’s focus on the dream quoted above. It shows that an old couple has taken over a room I was renting without much success. It concludes that I should start to pack my things because something is happening very soon. There is a change in how I should occupy myself, maybe how I operate, and there isn’t much time to get ready.
Connecting to the emotions of the dream, I feel a gray, somewhat sorrowful situation followed by a surprising announcement. I feel shocked, taken by surprise, urgency, maybe a bit of sadness. I have to prepare for change, it’s happening soon.
Working with a dream should not be an intellectual exercise exclusively, that would be missing the core of the experience. It’s about being informed by the symbols, to feel what it means to be surrounded by them, to experience their transformations as the dream progresses.
One must let the dream tell its story. It’s true that it often requires filling in the blanks with spontaneous associations, personal context, and amplification (see my template for a step-by-step process) but there are dreams like this one that do not need it.
Putting together the insights extracted from the dream, we now have an interpretation. How does one know that the interpretation is the right one?
The interpretation must not feel aggrandizing, it must feel humbling. A good interpretation doesn’t make one float, but it drives one into the ground. Instead of inflating the ego, the interpretation should deflate it.
If you are connected to your body, the body will confirm or deny the interpretation. When one comes close to what the dream says, the body reacts with shivers, sudden gasps, some kind of cellular vibrations or activity, etc. We are naturally and spontaneously engaged; it feels like we are onto something. On the other hand, if the interpretation is incorrect, one feels hollow no matter how sophisticated it sounds. A lack of interest or emotional engagement is a reasonable reaction to something untrue.