A Glimpse Into Our Dreams
In the Bible, specifically in Genesis (“Bereschit”) we have become aware of Joseph’s dreams. In spite of having been discarded and thrown into a crater, he had dreams and a strong will for survival. The will to live pulled him out of his unhappiness and his dreams gave him a future. His wishes become reality as he dreamt about the seven plentiful and the seven lean years (The love that his father has for him, which was exemplified by the coat of many colors, sustained him through the trials and tribulations that he was exposed to and which appeared to be his fate). The good overcame the evil and he was rescued from almost certain annihilation and death. As he matured, he became a dream interpreter and was very useful to the Pharaoh. The evil brothers were compelled to bow before the favored brother, who became a most powerful man.
We all have “dreams.” Some are when we are awake and others are when we are asleep. Our daytime dreams are for success and happiness. We dream that our children will be healthy, have a good future, will be honest and respectful; will “do us proud”. As Jews we want what all of humanity desires: to have what we need, to experience an existence of equality and freedom, be well, to live the “good life”, whatever meaning that this has to our unique selves, our loved ones and our friends. The slumbering dreams are of a different nature. Rarely are they of a wish fulfilling nature. More often they deal with something that happened to us, something that disturbs us, something that is in our unconscious mind, or some interpretation of our feelings about reality. An example of the last is when we feel we are floating in a cold body of water, perhaps an ocean, when in reality the blanket slipped off our feet and our body is cold.
Another slumbering dream can frequently be a conglomeration of a number of pieces of our unconscious mind that bring troubling or past events into being. It may be a wish fulfillment. Like the long time deceased Dad who was always somewhat aloof who in his adult son’s dream tells the “boy” that he loves him. There is the grown older woman who feels frightened that her loved one will leave her who sees the beloved boyfriend of her youth. She is shy even in her dream and is finally able to verbally recognize him when he is diapering his infant and thus connect with him through a child. She is able to see him again in her sleep and feels that she once was important to another. There is the dream of an octogenarian who dreams of a new ugly house that she is directed to occupy. In her sleep she objects, wants to remain in her familiar surroundings, but has little choice. Her waking mind is threatened by a lack of control over her own wishes and her own decisions. The dream reinforces her insecurities about her limited future.
There is the child who is coaxed to overeat to keep him strong and “healthy”. In his nightmare the oatmeal cereal overflows from his bowl, gets larger and larger and runs toward him out of the house into the street, down the block, travels up his legs to his abdomen, near his shoulders and is about to drown him. This dream expresses his helplessness, his inability to stop the domination that is forced upon him by his “loving” mother who insists on guarding her child’s intake against his will. Or the child whose parents are very religious and strictly adhere to their principles, one of which is attending church services every Sunday morning. They leave the house exactly when the church bells begin to chime. In the dream the child is frightened by the loud noise of the bells and dislikes sitting still in the church for too boring a period of time. In the dream there is a bell ten times the size of the young boy. It follows him very closely. He runs faster and faster but the clanging noise with the enormous iron bell does not stop persecuting him, catches up to him and is about to crush him when he awakes in a cold sweat!
The late and great psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was a strong believer and interpreter of dreams. His interpretations were a major part of his understanding of growth, of feelings, of attitudes within each unique individual. Let us not be afraid of our dreams but let us better understand them in the context of each of our thoughts and realities.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).