It’s easy to understand metaphors that come to us while we sleep. Psychologists tell us that we make them up out of our subconscious minds. Our imaginations produce images that seem bizarre at face value but that metaphorically make sense.
I have been arguing that, in some way, the same process goes on while we’re awake. How can that be? How can life outside of our subconscious minds produce metaphors for our own benefit?
There are psychologists and others, especially those who have studied the Gestalt approach to dreams, who will tell you that, really, life doesn’t produce the metaphors for our benefit. Instead it is we who project onto life what is reflected in our own minds. For example, let’s say that, behind a corner grocery store there is an alley. Two women walk to past the alley every morning. The first woman is an artist, and she loves the alley. Every time she passes, she sees all the play of light and dark and shape and color. To her it is a goldmine of artistic expression. Even its seedy atmosphere evokes strong emotions that could be beautifully captured in an art piece. She has vowed, one day, to paint it. By contrast, the other woman was once nearly mugged in an alley, and she has since developed a dread of dark, isolated places. Every time she walks past this alley, she feels her muscles tense and she picks up her walking pace.
Gestalt dreamworkers would point out that the alley is the same in both cases. It is the subjective attitudes of the women who “read” into the alley their own subconscious life conflicts.
I agree with these therapists up to about 95%. But in my decades of working with waking dreams, I have witnessed another phenomenon all too often to consider it a fluke. It seems that life, itself, is somehow in league with our own subconscious minds, and in some way that I do not fully understand, shape-shifts itself into a metaphor precisely for our benefit and insight. An example of this is the waking dream I highlighted last week. It was about a silly incident in which my wife started repeatedly finding ink blotches in unlikely places around the house. Those who read my blog last week remember that those ink blotches were responsible for her gaining a helpful insight.
Yes, she projected her own subconscious issues onto the ink. But what was it that caused the ink to mysteriously and unpredictably appear in the first place? Was it a fluke? Sorry, but I’ve witnessed this phenomenon so many times that I know these occurrences are not coincidences. There is “a dance” between ourselves and life that is much more intimate and choreographed than any of us really understands.
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