I am a dreamer. And I don't mean that I like to imagine a rosy future (I do sometimes!) I mean I literally have dreams while I'm sleeping nearly every night. Ask my pour husband who has to hear about them on the regular.
Dreams are crazy, am I right? They can feel bizarre and strange and we wake up saying "What the heck was that was about?!" And yet sometimes dreams can be super meaningful and we wake up with strong feelings or urges to connect with someone or to do something.
I've had some pretty wild dreams in my time: I once dreamt I was being buried alive (think like Kill Bill) and literally woke up calling out for someone.😳 After I had my first child I dreamt of all kinds of crazy things happening like him crawling on the ceiling and me reaching up trying to get him down.😂 Although I will say I have never had "the naked dream"so I'm not sure what that says about me. 🧐
This week on the Arise Podcast we sat down with Story and Dream Guide Jen Oyama Murphy of Paper Crane Coaching to talk about her work with dreams. [You can listen to the full conversation HERE or anywhere you get your podcasts]
"Dreams are God's forgotten language."
Episcopal Priest and Jungian Dream Analyst
When I think of how dreams are made I think of that scene in Disney Pixar's Inside Out when the main character falls asleep, and we the audience are seeing inside her brain working on creating dreams by grabbing scenes from the day, throwing a lens over it and then projecting to her dreaming world. It feels like bits and pieces wrapped up with emotions and desires. Jen thinks of dreams as parables—She says they are stories that the Holy Spirit is co-authoring with our unconscious.
Playwright Marsha Norma says, “Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” For Jen, this is perfect combination of story work, which is about text, and dreams, which are the symbols and pictures that go along with the story. Because she is a cognitive person, she misses or doesn’t pay attention to the illustrations in her waking world. Her dreams are stories with symbols that are inviting her to pay attention to something about herself, something about her world, something about who Jesus is and what the kingdom of God is like. Sometimes, she says, it is something she once knew and had forgotten but needed to be reminded of again. Dreams are a powerful way God is communicating to us.
Dreams are meant to say something to us personally as well as to the collective. If you look at Scripture, dreams are for the dreamer and are also a way for the dreamer to connect to whatever is happening in the community, the collective space. Jen believes that we need each other in order to bear witness to the dream but also to explore what the dream is saying to me about me, what the dream is saying to us about us, what the dream is saying to our world about our world. This is why Jen loves doing this work in groups: you get the reflection, or the idea or the questions from so many people and so many perspectives. There’s not just one or even a right interpretation to the dreams. There can be many meanings and at different times.
I shared a recent dream with Jen about my grandfather, who passed away in 2005. In the dream, just me and my mom were in the living room with him in his home as he was dying. He passed away and all the extended came in to grieve and mourn, to say a few words like you would at a funeral. When it was my turn, my grandfather opened his eyes and said “I made it home. I love you.” When I woke I was like, “Whoa, that was insane!” I had not dreamt about him in a long time. I thought perhaps there was something in the dream that was actually for my mom and so I texted her and told her about the dream. It brought peace to my mom to here it.
Jen says while dreams can be saying something about our community and our collective, they are primarily about us. She says the tendency in dream analysis, when you dream about other people, is to think that it’s about that actual person. Our instinct is to externalize whatever we’re dreaming or reading or coming across. Part of what dream work is focusing on, and asking us to look at, is our representation of our inner world, which is harder for us to look at it.
Jen asked me to tell her about my grandfather and ask myself if there are any parts of me that are like him? She says the real people in our dreams are real people but they are also possibility representations of parts of you that you may not recognize or resonate with. Honestly, when she said this it made me a little bit weepy. I do have some of my grandfather's qualities and there is something so profound in what my grandfather said in the dream. I began to ponder, if my grandfather is a representation of me, then some place, or part of my inner world, an ancient or ancestral part of me, is feeling settled or at home. Like it is where it’s supposed to be.
“Dreams don’t tell us what we already know. They very rarely are confirming or self-congratulatory" Jen says. "I think dreams should be humbling to us, in a kind way not in any way that’s about humiliation, but about a kindness and a curiosity. Dreams, I think, are meant to tell us something that we don’t know, that we aren’t paying attention to or that we’ve forgotten. There should be a tenderness and softness to the exploration."
This conversation will have me pondering and exploring the meanings in the dream for days to come! I already can see how story work can work closely with dream work!
To listen to the rest of our conversation, you'll find it on the Arise Podcast.
Jen sent along some introductory Dream Work resources for those who are interested in learning more about the art of Dream Analysis:
Inner Work, by Robert Johnson
Dreams, A User Guide, by the Centre for Applied Jungian Studies: https://appliedjung.com/root/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/DREAMS-A-FREE-GUIDE.pdf