Dreams are a naturally occurring activity of the mind – which includes the body. Over the course of history there have been many theories about why we dream. Each theory has had its value and has added to our appreciation for the capacity of the mind to dream.
The current understanding of western psychology is that most dreams have an anticipatory function that helps prepare us for something. In other words, dreams groom us, enlighten us, and help transform our conscious attitude. For example, the night before a test, a student may dream about a math formula – or being late to class. An attorney may dream about arguing a big case, a pregnant woman about nursing her infant, a physician about caring for a patient. Anticipatory dreams may be emotional or just thoughtful. Often we awaken and sense what anticipatory dreams mean.
Other dreams arise from a wounded place in our life experience and have a healing function that presses to get our attention. Healing dreams are the attempt of the psyche to bring about a transformation in our mostly unconscious feelings. For example, a young woman may dream about feeling left out of a clique of popular students because she was left without friends when she moved to a new school at age ten. An adult may dream repeatedly about being robbed since the family car was stolen. A solder may dream about the horrors of war or the survivor of a hurricane may dream about flooding. In each case, the traumatic feelings are a place where the psyche is stuck and pushing for transformation of affect.
Nightmares are not pathological, they are purposive. They are expressions in images and emotions of an alignment with an archetypal field. The change that can unfold in relation to dark psychic material can be transformative to the personality. Understanding how transformation occurs in relation to dark archetypal material can explain how change occurs in relation to any psychic material, even those elements that are not as noticeable. Change occurs not in the archetypal alignment, not in the field in which the individual is embedded, but in the individual’s relationship to the material, the attitude toward it, the way in which the individual resonates with the material. Just as every subatomic interaction between two particles causes the destruction of the two original particles, each interaction between therapist and client causes a change within both the client and the therapist. Healthy transformation reflects a new resonance, a new attitude that is generative. Finding a generative alignment is the healing process. Transformation occurs not by eliminating the archetype, or the symbol, or the field — that would be impossible. Transformation occurs when an individual begins to resonate generatively with the archetype.
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A symbol is the best possible expression for something unknown. Symbols are perceived by the senses. They evoke feeling and thought. The ability of the mind to form symbols has a function, the “transcendent function”, to unite conscious and unconscious and transform unconscious contents.
Symbol of the Shell
Shells suggest life, emerging from the deep of the unconscious. They are symbols of fertility, growth, death and rebirth, of prosperity. Shells are associated with pearls and thereby with transformation, wisdom, and prosperity. The Chambered Nautilus reflects the natural symmetry of the Golden Mean. The Chambered Nautilus reflects a constructive form of the spiraling energy of Nature. Other manifestations of spiraling energy are experienced as destructive when they strike us where we live.