Dear Toko-pa: What happens when we turn away from something in our dreams, or hit replay on a dream and re-dream it, trying to change a component of the story? Can the conscious mind sabotage our dream experiences? — Kaleidoscope Mind
Dear KM: So often the two minds, conscious and unconscious, seem at odds. One runs the mechanics while the other spins out the substance; one is interested in keeping things in order while the other churns up chaos; one lives in the province of Know It Allcity while the other is leaping off its ledge. But while they appear to be pulling you in opposite directions, they may be stretching your reach.
It’s been said that the conscious mind is a like a speck of dust sitting atop a massive balloon that is the unconscious. Now, as much as I’d like to defend the conscious mind for all it does to keep us functional and grounded, it really has no business running the show with as much hubris as it does. It’s a little embarrassing, given how much less sophisticated than the unconscious it is.
In a single day there is so much that we miss, ignore and reject, due to how narrow a scope the rational mind has, that the unconscious acts as a kind of holding tank for all of those things across a lifetime. It is far vaster than we can even conceive, and is likely responsible for things like déjà vu’s, synchronicities and flashfire ideas.
So let’s begin by assuming that It knows more than we do. Those glimmers of light, those hints of clarity, those seemingly random sprouts of imagination that push through our concrete life are the seeds we need to keep alive. They are often weak at the outset and the temptation is to underestimate them. But the challenge is in keeping your energy at the task.
Your dreams will never give you more than you can handle. What comes to the surface is ready to be made conscious. So when you have a dark dream, celebrate your progress! By the same token, never envy someone with luminous dreams because they have wrestled tooth and nail to receive them.
You always have the choice to look for the light in the shadows or to turn away. Turning away might be exactly what you need in the moment, especially if you’re tired from toiling down in there. Trust that whatever you decide is the right decision. Also know that if the issue being presented in the dream has roots, it will keep returning until you’re ready to look at it.
Some say that through re-dreaming, lucidity and active imagination, you can circumvent the digging into your emotional history and get straight to the rewriting of new stories. While I don’t entirely disagree, I think there is a balance to be struck. There is no such thing as a life without grief and pain, but how we respond to it is what generates the value of our lives. Somewhere off the dichotomy of wallowing or denying, lives creativity.
If you’ve made an issue conscious but still find yourself repeating the pattern, it may be time to take a more radical step. Whether by any of the above-mentioned methods, or by enacting a ritual or leap of faith, the important thing is that you are taking the seeds of the unconscious and planting them into the earth. That is to say, making your dreams come true by enacting a response to them with your waking life. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you feel terrified and completely alive.