So the last post was about the context for my dream. This post will formally analyze the actual dream. Well, as formal as I can be when I am both the client and the analyst. I'll have to switch back and forth between hats here.
Analyst: What would you say was the point of strongest feeling in the dream, the place where the emotions and sensations were the clearest, the part you'd remember the longest if you hadn't written the dream down?
Client: Probably the part where I couldn't get the car to stop. It was scary. And I've had dreams like that before, where I couldn't stop my car.
Analyst: OK, that's a strong part of the dream. It seems, then, that there are two central problems in the dream. One, you wanted to find the right teacups (that kept coming back). And two, you couldn't stop the car.
Client: That sounds right
Analyst: As you know, dreams are often "holographic" in nature. By that I mean, every part of the dream kind of reiterates every other part. You can remove one part of the dream and still get the basic meaning of it based on all the other symbols. Each part just adds more granularity. Anyway, for the sake of time we can look at the major themes and problems, and try to see how they all tie together, and trust that all the smaller details of the dream will be in support of those ideas. Last time we identified some major themes, and just now we identified some major problems the dream was trying to solve. By the way, were either of the problems resolved in the dream?
Client: No, not really. I mean, kind of. I got teacups, but not the ones I wanted. And somehow the car got to the lobby, but I didn't feel like it was safe to drive. So it was kind of inconclusive.
Analyst: So we want to help you find some resolutions to the internal places where you feel inconclusive. Let's dig deeper and see what some of those places might be, based on the dream symbolism. Let me ask you about your personal connotations for some of these dream symbols. First of all, teacups. Do teacups hold any special significance in your life, or should we treat them as more like a "pure symbol"?
Client: Actually, yes, it's kind of funny, but teacups hold a strong association in my mind with romantic relationships. That's all the details I'm going to give on that symbol, since this is a public blog, and that's all I feel comfortable sharing.
Analyst: Totally fine. As long as we know the symbol's meaning!
Client: ...Whoa. I get it. Searching for teacups means I'm searching for "the one," looking for love. Totally makes sense. I've been thinking about dating someone lately, but after a few dates, I don't feel he's the right one for me. So it makes sense that I am not finding the right kinds of teacups in the dream.
Analyst: Well hold on there. I hope you don't mind if I turn this slightly around for you though. I think it would be too easy to say that "if looking for teacups = looking for love, then not finding the right teacups maybe = not finding the right guy." However, dreams are usually about the dreamer, not about other people. A teacup is a receptive symbol--it holds tea inside itself. I think a more productive interpretation would be to posit that the teacup is your internal ability to contain love. Perhaps, rather than saying "you're not finding the right guy," you could say, "I haven't found the part of myself that I feel comfortable receiving love with." Does that ring true for you?
Client: Very much so. I'm willing to try to be mature and face my own insecurities though.
Analyst: So the first teacup you picked up was a hand-made clay cup that had $4.00 etched in the side, and that etching made holes in the cup, right? But that wasn't why you didn't like that cup. What was wrong with that one again?
Client: It was too thick and I didn't like the colors. It was really... unrefined, like rough and uneven and so on. I actually kind of like that style for dishes... sometimes... but not for teacups. At least in the dream, i was wanting something with more class, more grace.
Analyst: And the second one, the one in the hotel lobby, wasn't classy or graceful?
Client: No, ironically, it felt too ubiquitous. I wanted something a little more unique.
Analyst: So the first cup was unique, but a little TOO unique, and the second one wasn't unique enough?
Client: That's right.
Analyst: So we have a polarity here inside yourself. Part of you struggles with where you should be on the uniqueness-ubiquitousness axis. Is that right?
Client: Um, yes! That's the understatement of my life!
Analyst: Ha ha. So it's safe to say you haven't really made peace with this axis in your life. It's still a charged issue.
Analyst: And this is all tied in with the topic of love. I'd bet that if you could find peace inside yourself with the feelings of your own special niche in that axis, you'd be a lot more comfortable receiving love.
Client: *tears up*
Analyst: Well before we move on to the other parts of the dream, I want to explore that issue. I want to see if we can discover why this issue is a charged one for you, using clues from the dream. Where did it start, what is keeping this a problem in your life, and so on. So we have two cups. One represents totally unique--it's the cup from the refurbished junk store. It's handmade.
Client: It reminded me of cups I drank from when I visited my midwife's home. She used to be a hippie, and is a really natural-living person. Her husband made their dishes by hand, and they were all unique. I liked those dishes in her home. I probably wouldn't choose them for my home though... I don't know, maybe...
Analyst: Ah, hippies. They aren't afraid to be unique are they?
Client: I guess not. I actually have a lot in common with the so-called hippie people of today. I like to live naturally and stuff. I can't go as far as her, though, I think. I kind of like to be a little bit normal sometimes.
Analyst: But you felt like you could afford this cup. So there was part of you in the dream that identified with it, whereas, you really didn't identify at all with the hotel cup? You kept saying it wasn't yours, it wasn't even for sale.
Client: Right. And that's how it is in my life. I definitely lean more towards the quirky, unique, hippie culture side, than the be-like-everyone-else side, but like I said, I can't really be fully in the hippie culture either.
Analyst: The cup had holes in it. You could kind of say it was broken, like a number of other things in the dream--the frame, the car, the microphone... Do you think that there's part of you that can't contain love? Even if others give it to you, the love just runs out, like tea from a broken tea cup?
Client: Very possibly.
Analyst: It was also in a store of old things. So I'd say this issue is probably pretty old for you. You may have done your best to kind of "refurbish" your old issues, but they are still there, "framing" your life in one way or another. And it's interesting that you chose the word "junk" as opposed to "antiques" or something. That might say a lot about how you value who you were in the past.
Client: Well, I have tried hard not to discard everything from my past. I try to value a lot about it, even though I believe and live very differently today than I used to. But yeah, it's hard sometimes. I've changed so much. And then some things never change.
Analyst: I wonder if we can figure out what that number 4 means. It seems to be tied in with the issue of the relationships/teacups somehow. There was a 4 on the first cup, and there were four of the hotel cups later on. What might 4 mean? Did anything happen 4 years ago? 4 months ago?
Client: My marriage lasted almost exactly 4 years. When you say "relationships" and "4" in the same sentence, that's what jumps into my mind.
Analyst: Ah, so something about your marriage. OK, that might be a possible input into this issue. We'll come back to this. Let's move on to the second major problem in the dream, which was the car. You were pulling it out of the parking space in the garage, and it wouldn't brake, so it was rolling down the hill.
Client: Actually, the part where I was hitting the brakes and the gas at the same time reminds me of a recent session I had with a biofeedback therapist. We were working on getting me over my anxiety about dealing with a certain person in my life. I was supposed to imagine talking to him, and feel how stressed that made me in my body, and then consciously work to relax through it. I told the therapist it made me feel like I was pushing the gas and the brakes at the same time--I was getting myself anxious while simultaneously telling myself to calm down.
Analyst: Ah, so the dream may be referencing that idea, related to anxiety and calmness. So "telling yourself to calm down," that's like hitting the brakes, right?
Client: Yeah. I was supposed to consciously take deep slow breaths, and focus on relaxing the tense muscles in my body.
Analyst: So it seems like in the dream, it took that command to "calm down" literally--your car was going "down"hill!
Client: Ha... um... So what I get from that is that no matter what I try, I'm still not making the progress I want to make.
Analyst: Well, if seems that there is a deeper issue here. Your conscious efforts to stop yourself from going downhill (hitting the gas, hitting the brakes) are being undermined by an unconscious issue of some sort. Something is broken inside, and that brokenness is preventing you from being in control of your life.
Client: I've felt really depressed lately. I wonder if the car "going downhill" could indicate my down-in-the-dumps feelings. And it's true, nothing I do seems to help with the depression. At least not for long.
Analyst: Ah, so the car going downhill, for you, seems to be associated with depression. We definitely want to figure out what's going on there. So let's back up in the dream a bit. In the first section of the dream, we were dealing with your feelings about being unique vs. ubiquitous. It ended with your mom choosing the ubiquitous option for you, and you were not happy with that. That's when we got to the scene with the car. There's a causative effect being shown here. Teacups lead to car. So it seems like the way your unconscious mind is dealing with this issue of unique vs. ubiquitous is directly leading into your depression issue. Does that sound fair?
Client: It sounds fair and very likely.
Analyst: We could go into a lot more detail about this dream, but I feel like we got to the heart of it, and this blog post is already too long!
Client: Yeah, I feel like this is the central issue of the dream.
Analyst: So it seems that our job now is to find a way to focus on helping you find some peace with the unique-ubiquitous axis inside of you. So that no matter how you choose to express yourself on any given day, you are not anxious about being broken, out-of-date, too thick, too thin, too anything. If you can find peace there, then your cup can be ready to receive love, and you can feel more in control of your life. Perhaps, then, the depression can find some relief too.
Client: Yeah, that sounds great. Let's just wave a magic wand and make it happen! (ha ha ha, right.)
Analyst: Well, you know that's not exactly how we do it, but we can bring about healing by focusing on these issues and by speaking to the unconscious mind via the language of symbols. You know, part of the issue around the teacups was the "4" that you associated with how long your marriage lasted. So tell me, how would you rate your previous marriage on the unique-ubiquitous spectrum?
Client: Oh, that's kind of complicated. On one hand, we got into the marriage with very traditional ideas of marriage. Both of us said no matter what, we wouldn't divorce. So that aspect was probably really conservative. I guess conservative doesn't mean ubiquitous, but I kind of associate it with how things "are supposed" to be, you know? Everyone lives happily ever after. But everything else was definitely... not normal. He was narcissistic and abusive... it wasn't good. So probably, I'd say, it was a very unique relationship. But in a bad way.
Analyst: OK, now let's envision yourself in a marriage that was the way things "are supposed" to be, according to you, like a conservative-values marriage, more on the "ubiquitous" side of things. How does that feel to you?
Client: Ack, there's something about that that doesn't feel right at all. It sounds beige and predictable and boring.
Analyst: So we have exposed, here, something holding you back. You tried a "unique" style relationship, and it was bad for you. And a "ubiquitous" style relationship sounds bad for you too. It sounds like you have some fear locking you in to this dichotomy. The fear is telling you that no matter what you choose, it's going to be bad. So in the dream, your response is to try not to choose either one. You walk away, and that's when you sink into the depression. That's how depression works. Depression often serves us by helping us disengage from a situation that seems impossible to escape. It's a natural biological response to captivity.
Client: Wow, that sounds right.
Analyst: But of course, you know, logically speaking, that it doesn't have to be that way. You can have a "unique" style relationship that is GOOD, right? Being unique doesn't HAVE to mean being classless or graceless. The problem is, unconsciously, though, you've had holes etched into your old teacup, scars from the bad relationship. So it's hard for you to disconnect those bad feelings from the prospect of future love.
Client: *tears up again* Yes, and you know what, the part of the dream where the woman tells the people her dream about her husband cheating on her after she died, I think that might be directly referring to the relationship I just got out of a few months ago. It was a very similar scenario. So the dream seems to be processing my negative experiences with relationships.
Analyst: So, here's my idea. On the symbolic side, let's do some dream imagery. Let's go back into that junk store and find that teacup with the "$4.00" etched into it. Imagine that you pick it up and see that etching that's going all the way through the cup. Now take a finger, and pretend you have a glowing shiny little star at the tip of your finger, like a magic wand. You're going to gently wipe your finger over that teacup, and as you do, you are closing the holes in the cup. You're also reshaping the clay, making it into stronger porcelain, a thinner texture to whatever depth and shape you like, and changing the color to whatever you like. What sounds good?
Client: Peacock greens, blues, and purples
Analyst: That sounds lovely. A beautifully shaped, solid, classy, graceful, peacock-colored shining teacup, transformed in your hands. And it's in this store of the refurbished old items. How perfect. You have done the ultimate refurbishing! Do this imagery several times a day for two weeks, and see how you get on.
Client: Thanks so much! I hope this works!