As human beings, we develop in spirals, following our own inner rhythms, passing over the same points, but never in quite the same way. If our developmental spiral becomes compressed into a circle where we repeat patterns without sufficient understanding, and we are unable to make changes, these cycles can feel repetitive. At times we may need to go back and recover abandoned aspects of ourselves. At other times we need to forge ahead into unknown territory using the wisdom gleaned from our past experience. Although we cannot change our past experience, we can change our understanding of it in a way that informs the choices we make now. In order to continue our development, we need to consciously harvest our life lessons.
Aligning our conscious awareness with the curves of the spiral is the work of psychotherapy. Often, shifting the cycle requires both letting go of something old and grasping something new. Dreams can help facilitate this process. Dreams offer information to help correct the limitations of our waking awareness and give us access to the richness of the creative matrix of the psyche. Dream analysis facilitates the integration between our sleeping and waking selves. By translating dream images into stories, we can inform the scope and direction of our lives. Dream work offers an important avenue in our quest for wholeness.
Spring comes every year, but each leaf is different every time just as each daffodil and tulip pushing its way through the soil is different than the one that appeared before. The soil in which the roots of the tree and the bulbs of the flowers live nourishes their emergence into the light. Without human awareness this panoply of nature continues but does not necessarily nourish the roots of our experience.
Dreams quite literally arise through our bodies via our imagination into our awareness. Carl Jung said that a dream untold is like a letter unopened. Our opportunity is to receive and interpret the images that emerge from deep within us so they can inform our daily life.
Ancient wisdom supports contemporary research on dreams. In ancient Greece, Aesculapius, the founder of modern medicine, worked as a healer. The origin of the symbol of the caduceus, two snakes entwined around a staff, is attributed to him. Individuals seeking help would come to his healing center which was called the Asklepios. There they would incubate dreams that might contribute to a cure or alleviation of their symptoms. Once received, dreams could be interpreted in a way conducive to the treatment of the imbalance causing the problem.
Many ways of addressing illness can be suggested by the richness of dream imagery. These images emerge from the individual's own psyche. Research has supported the use of individually derived images (as opposed to generic images) in facilitating the healing process. For example, in the process of healing cancer white blood cells consume and eliminate foreign cells. A general image for this process might be tiny creatures coursing through the blood stream eating affected cells. If an individual were to dream about two warring native American tribes, that image of could be represented by 'braves' from the two tribes engaging in battle.
With the assistance of the therapist, images from individual dreams can be related to collective patterns which then provide a context for individual expression. As dream images are understood through dialog and included within the stories and that inform our lives, we become stronger and better able to deal with the difficulties we face day by day.