VIII. Examples of Dream Interpretation

Two examples of how to use the dream interpretation method outlined in this Crash Course. I've been interpreting my own dreams and those of my friends for years. But I never tried to teach anyone how to use my methods until my friend Mark asked me to do so back in the early 1990s.

We were traveling on vacation together in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado. The trip involved a lot of driving. To while away the hours, Mark shared his dreams with me and I interpreted them--not only offering what I felt to be their meaning, but also trying to articulate my method. Mark taped these sessions with a portable tape recorder. Most of the material presented in this Crash Course derives from these tapes.

In this section, I transcribe two portions of the tapes more or less word for word. The first excerpt demonstrates my manner of working with one of Mark's dreams--a seemingly unpromising one, in that it appears to be little more than a fragment. Note the kinds of questions I ask in order to draw out more information about the dream than Mark wrote down. The second excerpt from the tapes deals with one of my own dreams.

MARK'S DREAM. "General. 'You don't know what they look like.' The general is shown three patches of colors. I don't think the general listens."

Kurt: How did you perceive this general? Was there just the sense that you were in the presence of a general--someone in a position of authority?

Mark: I didn't perceive myself as being the general. I was just an observer perceiving an interaction between a general and someone who said, "You don't know what they look like." I don't know who the someone was.

Kurt: You don't know who it was, or you didn't see who it was? Was it just a voice speaking?

Mark: I think so, yes.

Kurt: But you did see the general.

Mark: Yes, but I can't describe the general to you. I see the general as gray--I don't know why.

Kurt: That's important. Gray has a number of implications. First of all, gray is the way your life is when you're not doing interesting and adventuresome things to increase your willingness to be here. Gray is also the color of the Confederate uniform in the Civil War.

Mark: Right. That's the impression I had, too--a Confederate general.

Kurt: Civil War imagery appears in my dreams when I'm involved in a battle with shadow logic, which pits one part of myself against another. So now we know who the general is--the part of you that has come under the influence of shadow logic. This part of you tries to tell you that your dreams don't mean anything, and you shouldn't listen to them. That's why you say, "I don't think the general listens." The soul is often the source of disembodied voices in dreams. Thus, the soul says, "You don't know what they are" (what they "look like")--"they" being your dreams. Now we have the three colors. What colors were they?

Mark: I don't know. I think one of them was yellow.

Kurt: There are three primary colors that make up the colors of everything else. So, if one of the dream colors is yellow--which is one of the primary colors--then the other two are probably red and blue. The fact that you didn't remember what the colors were means that they're not important as colors. It's the number three that's important.

Because there are three primary colors, the fact that there are three colors in the dream was meant to lead you to the idea that there are three primary somethings, and that they mix in a variety of ways to create a whole world--in the same way that the three primary colors mix to create the world of color. I would assume that because these three colors come after the statement, "You don't know what they look like," the dream is trying to tell you that you have three primary types of dreams. Every dream that you have is going to be one of these three types, or a mixture of more than one. Now we have to figure out what three kinds of dreams they are.

[After some discussion, we decided that the three categories into which Mark's dreams fit were: dreams that seem like everyday life; action/adventure dreams, or those with a plot (including nightmares); and image-based dreams like this one, with no apparent plot.]

Kurt: One final point. The ego often behaves as if it's in complete control of one's life, ignoring the higher authority of the soul--in the same way that the Confederate generals ignored the higher authority of the president during the Civil War. So, here we have the eternal battle between soul and ego--or the shadowy, resistant part of the ego.

Finally, looking at the dream rebus-style, there's an implied pun: General stands for "in general." So the dream's message, succinctly put, is this: "In general, you don't know what your dreams are. You ally yourself with the shadow (Confederacy), creating an internal conflict (Civil War) between soul and ego. The net result is that you can't hear (don't listen to) the messages of your dreams. You're afraid of what they'll tell you [yellow, the one color Mark remembers, is associated with cowardice]."

The purpose of this dream is to show you that there are three categories of dreams, which, in combination, make up the whole world of your dreams: dreams of everyday life (event-driven dreams); action/adventure dreams (plot-driven dreams); and apparently fragmentary dreams (image-driven dreams, which may be eventless and/or plotless).

KURT'S DREAM. I wrote the dream down this morning [while Mark and I were still traveling together] in the following way. This is just a quickly jotted scribble after I woke up. "Water fun. Races beneath a lodge. Circular water track. All sorts of watercraft in the shape of animals--swans, geese, fish--go round and round in circles. Some kids and old people go backwards. Steps up to a higher level, where it's possible to avoid all this."

Now, that might seem like just a jumble of stuff. But once you write the dream down, it's not the images that are important. Not even the plot is important. This dream doesn't even have a plot. It's just an image.

As we've been traveling together, we've seen a bunch of these water-fun places. One of the images that I recall, but didn't write down, was a lot of people crashing into each other. Remember the bumper cars we saw in the water at the Wisconsin Dells?

What gave me a clue as to what this dream was about was the phrase: "Steps up to a higher level where it's possible to avoid all this." Now to me that symbolized achieving the soul's perspective.

The next thing I looked at was the fact that this track was circular and that everyone was going around and around in circles. From the soul's perspective, that's pretty much the way we humans are.

Once I got those two clues, the dream started to unravel itself. I started thinking about how there were three kinds of animals: swans, geese, and fish. At this point, I did a little free association. Fish are well adapted to living in the water. And the water wasn't static, it was flowing through the track. Life force is also a kind of flow. So the flow of water and the flow of life force are symbolic equivalents for me.

Fish are well-adapted to the flow of water, so that would symbolize people who are well-adapted to the flow of life. Then there are geese--and there's the phrase "Wild goose chase," which can also be referred to as "going around and around in circles."

Here we have the people who are wild goose chasers--people who are desperately pursuing whatever they think will make them happy.

Then there are the swans. The free association I have with swans is the story "The Ugly Duckling." The ugly duckling was ugly when it started life, but then ended up being a swan. So that's a person who doesn't get what life's about at the beginning, but figures it out later. What makes them beautiful--the swan--is the grace that they acquire through realizing themselves.

As you can see, I started from just a couple of images in the middle. Whatever struck me, I went with it, and another piece fell into place. Eventually, all of them fell into place.

This is the interpretation I came up with: "A dream that uses the image of water parks to describe how the soul perceives human life. There's a flow of life force (the track). People can go with it or against (some people were going backwards). Going against it may be the result of ignorance (as kids are often ignorant about certain aspects of life) of the proper direction. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop the symptoms of aging that accrue when one resists the flow of life force (the old people).

Some people are better adapted than others to this flow (fish). Others are always going around in circles on wild goose chases, pursuing what they think will make them happy. Some people start out confused, but then eventually figure out what the soul expects of them, becoming beautifully realized human beings (swans).

The dream points out that while there are many pleasurable things that can be done while going with the flow of life (the people in the dream are having fun), many people take pleasure in competing with each other (races) and obstructing each other's pursuit of happiness (bumper cars), creating a lot of confusion. The dream says that the only way to rise above this silliness (another association with geese--"silly goose") is to see things from the soul's perspective.

Achieving the soul's perspective is a step-by-step process (steps leading upward). The lodge reminds me of a place in Boston where it's possible to rent canoes. There are tunnels underneath the building, where the boats that are not in use are kept afloat. (In the dream, the races are taking place underneath the lodge, in these tunnels). The place is called the Charles River Canoe Service.

Charles is the name of the entity who has provided the material on life-force flow (neatly summed up in the image of the Charles River). The lodge is above the water track, just as is the higher level reached by steps. It could be said, therefore, that the Charles material is a way to achieve the soul's perspective.

But why a lodge? I associate lodges with the road sign on freeways: "Gas. Food. Lodging." Hence lodging oneself in the belief structure represented by the Charles material (any building can be perceived as a belief structure), provides both spiritual nourishment (food) and an increased amount of life force (gas--fuel).

[Note the combination of free association and rebus techniques in the foregoing--also the fact that no images were left out in the interpretation.]

This completes the Crash Course on Dream Interpretation.