Oct 052007

“To dream of bananas foretells that you will be mated to an uninteresting and unloved companion. To dream of seeing your home burning denotes a loving companion, obedient children, and careful servants.”

These quotes are from Ten Thousand Dreams Interpreted, first published fifty years ago but still widely stocked in bookstores today.  My guess as to why ‘dream dictionaries’ remain so popular is that they give the dreamer a static, junkfood answer to their dream which saves them from doing any real chewing.

My rule of thumb is if it doesn’t make sense to your logic as well as your feeling, an interpretation isn’t to be trusted. That said, there are symbol dictionaries out there that will prompt the dreamer in the right direction by identifying the dream’s ‘universal’ elements, but without taking the dreamer’s personal associations into account, the images can feel deadened.  Dogs, for instance, might be collectively viewed as “loyal, obedient, domesticated,” but for someone who was attacked by a dog; their dream might be about distrust for so-called loyalty.

A small friend recently asked me what dreams are made of and I rambled on about edible tinsel…but while that might also be in the mix, they are chiefly made up of metaphor.

Metaphor is essentially mysterious and is already the subject of a library full of books; how it is considered a therapeutic gateway; how it facilitates intelligence by drawing relationships between things; how it is the philosopher’s stone of poetry and literature – but perhaps most intriguing is how metaphor is the mother-tongue of the soul.

Etymologically speaking, metaphor comes from the Greek meta, meaning “beyond, or over” and pherein meaning “to bear, or carry.”  So metaphor serves as a kind of bridge which carries over between two things.  According to I.A. Richards, those two things are the tenor and vehicle; the tension between air and sound is what makes music come alive.  According to Jungian diva, Marion Woodman, metaphor is the bridge between head and heart.

The metaphor catalyzes the imagination by combining form with feeling, giving an experience a more wholistic depth and inspiring us to act in new ways.  So the next time you’re boiling mad, or find something difficult to swallow, or maybe you think life is a breeze and notice that your projects are finally bearing fruit, you’ll see you’re well on your way to re-learning how to dreamspeak.

As tempting as it may be to mow down on Twinkie definitions, real nutrition lives in the slow mining of the metaphor.  This means turning the images over in our mindhearts, going down into our unconscious history and sifting through it for flecks of gold. “Kill the metaphor and you kill desire;” says Woodman, “the image magnetizes the movement of the energy.”  This powerful quote inspires us to stay with the shifting beauty of our symbols, else we become energetically stagnant.

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A writer, artist and tender of dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications around the world. Thanks to Skype, she works with dreamers internationally in her Private Dreamwork practice, based on Salt Spring Island in Canada. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or sign up for her mailing list to receive news about upcoming events.

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  2 Responses to “Dreamspeak: Mining the Metaphor”

  1. In Germany they get ‘such a throat’ when they have unexpressed rage and they ‘have their ‘nose full’ when they’ve had enough of something. Metaphor is global and intrinsic to human psyche.
    Thank you for your great, enlightening work.
    P.S. Dee Jay Freiheit + Facebook = Free downloads of juicy music for Tokopa. Interested?

  2. “Tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love.” p. 11, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

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