February 3, 2012
I’m sitting on a horse, the wrong way (tail-facing). I am facing a woman who I don’t know well but have long loved, reaching to embrace her. As I hold her in my arms and feel her energy entering me, I feel the horse starting to move. The question arises: “can I hold my balance on this animal once it’s fully in motion and still not let go of this precious woman?” It is a disturbing enough thought to wake me.
Dream interpretation is arguably the most hacked and bumbled activity of our pop-psych, superficial, Dr. Phil culture. It is as rare to find competence in this arena today as it is to find, say, an honest politician. Curiously, however, it’s one of those activities of which we are all capable, because facility in dream interpretation requires not training but rather unlearning. That is, we have to strip away or release intellect’s choke-hold on our original poetic nature, on our inborn ability to see past appearances and penetrate the veneer of logic into the liquid world of the supra-rational. In short, it isn’t hard to do, and with regular practice has benefits that reach well beyond a better understanding of your unconscious mind’s night life. Allow me to provide this personal illustration.
We begin with what Freud called the “day residue.” Too often, though, Freud focused on external events, relationships, and ideologically-framed thinking in his work with the day residue, or the current and recent personal issues that may have been the subject of the dreamer’s images. A better focus for day residue is an orientation of another direction, from within outward. Allow me to work a little on last night’s dream, quoted above, in that context.
My “day residue” begins with a simple emotion common enough to many of us in this time, this culture, this economy: worry and dread of the unknown; a prevailing anxiety that shakes deep beneath the landscape of external events and appearances. In this context, psychological life is a conversation between a molten core of feeling and the troubled rationality of what I call The Coper — the rider of life attempting an uneasy movement through a flat, monoplanar, yet vaguely threatening countryside, with no other tools than the crop of logic and the blinders that permit vision only for what is seeming and seemly.
The tremors of this feeling-core are both a response and a warning to the actors it sees in the landscape above. In my case, there is plenty of plainly-visible substance for the tremor: I’m unemployed and fast approaching the shoals of financial ruin; viable and visible options have been sliding off the table of the external like dinnerware on a storm-tossed ship. But that, again, is merely the manifest.
Returning within: my late-night response to all this outer turmoil, which is meant to complement the ordinary round of day-work (phone calls, emails, interviews, networking, etc.) involves working on some of my writing projects, both existing, completed books and in-progress work. I’ve made the mistake of imagining that these two are different realms requiring opposite or divided skillsets and means. I’ve also vaguely sensed a fundamental mistrust of the guiding, invisible motion that makes any creative act possible.
The dream’s images reveal this more clearly than my more manifest and conscious intuition had: the mistrust is so pronounced as to make me turn my back to the direction of life’s natural movement and to make me force myself to face and hold this energy, as if it could not hold and guide me instead. Here is the unconscious serving its corrective purpose: using a very potent metaphor to point out an error of orientation and perspective. It asks: “how can you expect your life to move, how can you expect anything but danger both to you and your invisible Companion, when you are facing the wrong way out of fear and mistrust, leaving the reins untended?”
As I sat in meditation this morning, contemplating these images, the message became clear: turn around, face forward; trust the invisible; feel that presence guiding, supporting, leading you from within. What is truest and clearest within your nature, your life-space, your personality, is exactly that which is least manifest, non-empirical. Affirm the Formless within you; trust it well enough to feel her lunar, feminine presence within — connected, supportive, whispering the inspiration to the creative response to every moment, regardless of its time, place, or reasons. Even as you draw energy from what is inward, you must face forward.
I’ll put this a little more bluntly, especially for the benefit of New Agers like myself who may also have made this mistake of perspective: inward turning without outer focus is stereotypical navel-gazing. A mature inward turning involves and inspires an outward re-turning. The whole object of nurturing inner life (if we are to speak of a goal or object in this sense) is to wear down the division between inner and outer, so that they are no more separate than the two ventricles of your heart or the two sides of your brain. You can’t truly survive without both, because they are not by nature divided.