Saturday, 27 August 2016

A Dream About A Butterfly On Her Nose: Concluding Post



A dreamer named Sue had a dream about a butterfly. When we worked through the symbols, there seemed to be two themes running through the imagery. One was a sense of free-spirited independence. It portrayed an image of deliberate separation from the constraints of structured life.

The other theme suggested that she might be receiving a nudge, easing her out of this near-idyllic freedom. There was also a sense of urgency: the part of her initiating the nudge was temporary.

What follows is Sue’s restated dream.

The dream
There is a part of me that is soft and pliable. It’s forgiving. I’m in a place within myself that is untamed and unencumbered. It’s free-flowing. My own inner space is lovely for its own sake. There are no agendas or obligations. I’m free-flowing with no restrictions. I have shut out all the external parts of myself in order to be with myself. Then something quietly calls my attention. I feel it on a prominent part of myself that defines how I appear to all the other parts of me. This aspect of myself is light and ethereal. It’s never stationary. It’s single-minded in its quest for its own nourishment. It has to get food to keep itself going. It’s beautiful, but I have the definite sense that it won’t be around for long. It has to make the most of the time available. I take all this in stride even though it’s uncomfortable. But it’s necessary for seeing really close in.

What was the dream telling Sue?
Dreams are snapshots of our inner-most thoughts, motivations and feelings. They are valuable because, if we examine them, we see ourselves in a more objective, somewhat detached way; it is often easier to see conflicts or dilemmas we are facing when they are presented to us from a slight distance.

That was the case with Sue’s dream. As she and I chatted about her dream’s message, she readily identified with her preference for living in an “untamed, unencumbered, free-flowing” manner. She told me that she dislikes being jolted into the turmoil of every-day life and prefers to avoid it.

I asked if she thought the dream was trying to tell her to leave the idyllic space which she likes to occupy. She answered that she didn’t know. So I ventured a suggestion: I said I doubted that her dream was nudging her into some sort of daily, plodding drudgery. But I also suggested that there might be other kinds of constructive growth that she was missing by simply being oblivious to all but the most pleasant input. I pointed out that growth is often accompanied by discomfort. Certainly we all need peace and respite. But we also need to expand and grow within ourselves.

Sue acknowledged that she often delays looking at her innermost self, just because of the effort it takes. I suggested that perhaps the dream was notifying her that the time had come to make the effort. It would pay off.
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Friday, 26 August 2016

A Dream About A Butterfly On Her Nose: Post #3


I’ve been working with a dreamer—“Sue”—about a short dream in which a butterfly landed on her nose. (Scroll down to my last posts.) Sue was not accustomed to thinking about metaphors. But I asked her to imagine that she was the butterfly in her dream and to tell me what was on the butterfly’s mind. She was then able to give replies that were full of metaphors, even though she didn’t realize it at the time. She did this without prompts which meant that her thoughts were her own and not influenced by ideas that I may have offered.

Sue’s answer while pretending to be a butterfly
’m light and ethereal. I’m never stationary. I’m single-minded in my quest for my own nourishment. I have to get food to keep myself going. I’m beautiful, but I have the definite sense that I won’t be around for long. I have to make the most of the time available to me.

The rest of Sue’s dream symbols
Her response was wonderful—full of what she considered the metaphoric essence of a butterfly. With that encouragement and using that technique, we worked through all of the symbols of her dream:

Grass:  Soft and pliable. Forgiving.
Meadow:  Untamed and unencumbered. Free-flowing.
Beautiful day:  Lovely for its own sake. No agendas or obligations.
Drifting in my thoughts:  Free-flowing. No restrictions.
Eyes closed:  Shutting out the external world to be with myself.
Vague sensation:  Something quietly calls my attention.
Nose:  A prominent feature that defines how I appear to others.
Butterfly:  (See above.)
No surprise:  I took it in stride.
Crossed eyes:  Uncomfortable, but necessary for seeing really close in.

Reassembled dream
With this input, we reassembled the dream in standard fashion, replacing Sue’s symbols with her own guided-imagery descriptions of them. As always, I would insert phrases to remind Sue that all the symbols of her dream were facets of her own psyche:

There is a part of me that is soft and pliable. It’s forgiving. I’m in a place within myself that is untamed and unencumbered. It’s free-flowing. My own inner space is lovely for its own sake. There are no agendas or obligations. I’m free-flowing with no restrictions. I have shut out all the external parts of myself in order to be with myself. Then something quietly calls my attention. I feel it on a prominent part of myself that defines how I appear to all the other parts of me. This aspect of myself is light and ethereal. It’s never stationary. It’s single-minded in its quest for its own nourishment. It has to get food to keep itself going. It’s beautiful, but I have the definite sense that it won’t be around for long. It has to make the most of the time available. I take all this in stride even though it’s uncomfortable. But it’s necessary for seeing really close in.

What was this dream telling Sue? Was it suggesting change or staying the course? We’ll find out tomorrow!

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A Dream About A Butterfly On Her Nose: Post #2


I have been examining part of a dream—the section of the dream that the dreamer remembered—about a butterfly landing on the dreamer’s nose. I worked with the dreamer, Sue, to see if we could understand the various dream symbols. But Sue, though extremely bright and anxious to participate, was not accustomed to thinking in this way.

My problem
The problem for me was to try and find a way to ask her questions about her dream symbols without leading her on. That’s always a danger in dream work. Whenever working with a phenomenon so close to the subconscious, one has to guard against exploiting the dreamer’s suggestable openness. Suppose I  asked a question like, “Do you think a butterfly might symbolize fragile beauty, a beauty that only lasts a short time?” The dreamer might well agree with me without examining her own quiet feelings on the subject. On the other hand, if I were to ask a more direct question, such as, “What do you think a butterfly might symbolize?” The chances are good that the reply would be, “I really don’t know; I’ve never thought about it before.”

Often what I do in a case like this is pretend to be a small child. For example, I might ask the dreamer to explain a butterfly to a five-year-old who has never seen one before. I might get a response like, “Well, a butterfly is a small, flying creature that goes from flower to flower looking for food. It’s really lovely to look at, and it’s delicate. It never stays in one place for long, and it lives only a short time.”

With this response, there are already the beginnings of a metaphoric understanding. There is the sense of beauty. There is mention of the quest for nourishment. There is a description of the butterfly’s transitory nature, and its fragility. All of that is valid.

A solution
But in Sue’s case, I decided to try a different approach. I asked her to close her eyes and think of the butterfly in her dream. Then I said, “See if you can imagine being that butterfly. What are you thinking? What’s on your mind? What’s important to you?”

At first, Sue was taken aback by this. We had been calmly discussing her dream with me asking her the “Tell me about it” question. She was happily offering me her honest feedback, and she had no reason to suspect that I was interested in a different kind of answer to my question. To suddenly be asked to do a guided visualization of this kind seemed to her odd at first. But she soon became comfortable with the process, and what she had to say was far more relevant for the dream’s interpretation. As she talked, I became excited (and relieved). That encouraged her more, and soon we were directly on track; her answers were given freely and were exactly what I was looking for.

On Friday, we’ll see what she said.

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Monday, 22 August 2016

A Dream About A Butterfly On Her Nose



This week I want to examine a dream that is probably less poignant than others I have posted. It is really only a snippet of a longer dream. It’s about a butterfly landing on a woman’s nose.

I want to work with this dream because, during my session with the dreamer, an interesting problem arose, one that is, unfortunately, more common that I would like. As the dreamer and I were going through the few symbols that this dream-snippet contained, I offered her my usual “Tell me about it” prompt. But her replies contained no metaphors, thus defeating the purpose of our dialogue.

But first, her dream:
Well, I don’t remember all of it, just a little, but what I got was so delightful that I wanted to ask you about it. 

In my dream, I was lying in the grass—not a lawn, more like a meadow. It was a beautiful day. As I was drifting off in my thoughts with my eyes closed, I happened to feel a vague sensation on my nose. I opened my eyes, and a butterfly had landed on my nose. I wasn’t surprised or anything. I just remember that I had to cross my eyes in order to see it better. That was it. Then I woke up.

Working with symbols
If you look at the symbols in this dream, they certainly contain images that can imply a meaning deeper than the literal definition of the word. Meadow, for example, can conjure up a feeling of great peace or luxurious, unfettered relaxation. (Or, to a person who suffers from pollen allergies, a meadow might symbolize torture!) The same is true of all the symbols in this dream: butterfly, nose, beautiful day, eyes closed.

A dialogue with Sue
To someone accustomed to thinking about metaphors, analyzing the symbols in this dream would be easy. But not everyone’s mind works that way, and this dreamer had a hard time at first. What follows is an excerpt from our initial dialogue (I’ll call the dreamer “Sue.”)

David:  Sue, tell me about butterflies.
Sue:  Oh, I just love them!
David:  OK, but can you tell me anything more about them?
Sue:  They remind me of the time I was a girl, and I was on a trip with my parents out in the country. We must have been near some sort of butterfly breeding ground because we came to this field and it was full of butterflies. I remember, there were the typical ones—you know, pigmented like Monarch butterflies. And there were the ones that were predominantly black—those are so beautiful. But then there were these red ones that I had never seen before. I was quite taken with those.
David:  Can you tell me anything about the butterflies themselves?
Sue:  Well, they were all pretty typical.

Sue came up with lots of words and participated enthusiastically. But she offered no metaphors. It was incumbent on me to change tactics.

Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post!

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Saturday, 20 August 2016

A Dream About Breathing Under Water: Concluding Post



I have been examining a dream about being buried by a huge wave. In the dream, the dreamer wondered at first if he would be able to gain control of the situation. But then he started to breathe under water and realized that he was safe; there was no cause for concern.

Dreams come to us in order to provide us a glimpse—a snapshot—of ourselves at a given moment in our lives.  When our lives are running smoothly, we dream, but our dreams make only a small effort to bring themselves front and center to our attention.

By contrast, when we are ambivalent about something, then our dreams express themselves more emphatically. They do this by using startling imagery.

The majority of these startling dreams are trying to make us look at a dilemma within ourselves: Are we conflicted about a decision? Are we fundamentally against some action which we are pursuing just from momentum? Are there philosophical or spiritual issues that we haven’t fully thought through?

But that’s not all that dreams do. They can be equally forceful in letting us know about a change we have made that is bringing constructive results. The irony is that, even with these encouraging, congratulatory dreams, the images are unsettling. That is because the dreams want to be remembered!

That was the case with this dream about being suddenly submerged by a giant, tsunami-like wave. (You can scroll back to the last three posts to see how we analyzed this dream.) In the dream the dreamer felt out of control and momentarily battered by the event. He wondered if he was going to die. Then he realized that he could breathe under all this water.

From the perspective of interpretation, the big question was what the water represented to him symbolically. Was it good or bad for him?

His descriptions of the water were telling. His first comment was that the water was about “stress.” But then he went on to talk about how it was “awesome,” had a life of its own, was larger than any other aspect of himself, and was something he couldn’t live without. To him, it was a vast, expansive area within himself that he was just now experiencing fully, after only “getting his feet wet” before.

I asked him what was going on in his life. He explained that, at 20-years-old, he had been focused on studying, sports and, more recently, girls. He described himself as well grounded, perhaps even fixed in his ways and not particularly adventurous.

Then he met his current girlfriend whom he described as nearly antithetical to himself. She was constantly exploring—often outrageously. She was fearless, outgoing, volatile, and lots of fun. He found her a breath of fresh air in his life. While he grounded her, she was opening him to whole areas of his own persona that he had previously been blind to. And his dream was admonishing him to stay the course of this new exploration!

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