There is a level of human experience which is typified by intense emotional and physical response to life. Such emotions and bodily drives may remain almost entirely unconscious until touched by exploring our dream content in the right setting. When such feelings and bodily movements arise, as they do in dreams, we may be amazed at their power and clarity. See dream processing; sleep movements.
If we take away the images and events occurring in a dream and simply look to see what feelings or emotions are evident, the dream is often more understandable than if we try to interpret the symbols. Feelings in dreams are nearly always undistoned. We therefore do not need to interpret them, simply to acknowledge them and see if we can recognise where they occur in waking life.
The images in a dream may be the way we unconsciously pictorialise our flux of feelings and the play of internal energy flows.
For instance love or sexual drive can give rise to physical movement—as in sexual intercourse. Repression of sex or love also represses such physical movements, leading to tension and conflict, which might be presented in the drama of a dream.
Example: ‘I was with my wife, walking along a street, on holiday with her. But I felt awful tension. It was the son of stress I feel when I have turned off my sexual flow—as I have at the moment’ (Brian V). Brian can easily see the connection between the dream feelings and his everyday life, although sometimes we need to practise this. But the situation could as easily be expressed as a dream image of a blocked river.
The underlying feelings would then be less easy to grasp.
Example: ‘I was in a very ancient crumbling building, confronted by a large stone door, deeply engraved with many designs and creatures. I began to open the door and felt high feelings of anxiety. I realised this was an initiation and I must calm my feelings in order to pass beyond the door, i.e. if I were controlled by my feelings I would run away’ (Derek F). How we meet the emotions in our dreams illustrates our habitual method of dealing with them.
The feelings of anxiety in Derek’s dream were met and moved beyond, but this is unusual. This is because most of us change our direction as soon as there is a hint of fear.
The amount of nicotine and alcohol human beings consume suggests how poorly we meet anxiety. Going beyond fear or pain is an initiation which opens doors for us. We might now apply for the job, ask for the date, raise the issue, express the creativity, make the journey abroad, which anxiety previously kept us from. We see this in the next example: I had a ring on my marriage finger. It was a thin band of gold. I woke up frightened’ (Angela). Angela is not married and feels anxiety about the commitment.
Dreams give us a safe area to express emotions which might be difficult or dangerous to release socially. Anger in a dream may be expressing what we failed to express in a waking encounter, or it might be our habitual response. It may also be directed against ourself. Dreams also contain many positive emotions. Sometimes they present a new aspect of feeling which is life enhancing.
A person who habitually felt at odds with her father and relatives experienced a dream in which she felt forgiveness for the first time. This was entirely new for her and led to a reconciliation with her family.
Some feeling states in a dream are subtle, and may be more evident in terms of the symbols than the feelings.
A grey drear environment suggests depression and lack of pleasure.
A sunny light environment with flowers and colour shows pleasure and good feelings.
A country landscape depicts quite a different feeling state to a smoky busy city street. We can define these for ourself using the techniques described under dream processing.
Whatever feelings or emotions we meet in our dreams, many of them are bound to be habitual responses we have to life. Where these habits are negative we can begin to change them by working with the dream images as described in the last question under dream processing. See love; hostility.