Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Dreamweaver's subtle language of the self

(Altar of the Church of the Nativity in Erie)

I have been suffering from a series of disturbing and related dreams for weeks now, so I thought it was time to write a post about dream symbolism and their messages.

Sunday, we enjoyed the Dinner in Old Russia at the Russian Church of the Nativity here in Erie. After the meal, we went into the church itself, and I spent quite a long time admiring the chapel and taking photographs. The stained glass windows in particular struck me, and reminded me that I need to be a bit more reflective myself.

(Stained glass window at the Church of the Nativity)

Perhaps it was the vivid blue of the glass, or the simplicity of the designs in the windows, but whatever it was drew my attention immediately, and kept me fixated on those windows, even as I struggled to move away and take in the splendor of the iconography that adorns every available space in the chapel.

I even stopped and lit a candle, a ritual that I do not often complete, but which I felt compelled to perform on that rainy Sunday afternoon.

(Prayer Candles at Church of the Nativity)

The three of us (me, my husband, and my father-in-law) were the only ones in the chapel at the time. My father-in-law discovered the alms box, where donations are accepted for the candles. He stated flatly, "I'm going to light a candle." And, in that moment, I knew I needed to do the same.

So I lit a candle. And I lit it for all the suffering in the world, especially those who have been the object of tormenting and teasing in their years of development and adolescence. I thought about the recent victims of bullying who have given their lives senselessly, both those whose names made the nightly news and the many, many more whose names did not see the public eye.

And the action, the lighting of the candle, also turned my attention inward, to my own experiences, and my dreams of late.

Though the subject matter of the dreams varies, there are common elements. First is the ever present element of water. Water represents emotion, and in my case the sense of being overwhelmed by emotion and not knowing what direction to turn. As the dreams have progessed, so has the size and power of the water in them. Most recently, I was swimming in (and against) the ocean, in order to reach the bathhouse, which was located offshore and only accessible through the water. What a clear message that sent me! I need to resolve my emotions, but I can only do so by pushing THROUGH the emotions themselves. Quite a spot, I'm sure.

Another common element has been the presence of a young girl, often in distress. In one dream, I watched a young girl walk into a lake and drown herself, while I and others stood by pondering her intent and wondering if we should stop her until it was too late. In another dream, I was in charge of a young girl, trying to comfort her, but instead my actions made her more distressed. In a third, the young girl was the daughter of my best friend, who was very upset and concerned that she could not dry off (she was freezing cold) and I was trying, unsuccessfully, to help her warm up. These images all seem to point to my need to nurture, but the feeling that I was not doing a very good job of it after all. It reflects my sense of insecurity and lack of confidence that I am, in fact, making a difference in the lives of those I touch, both figuratively and literally.

And underlying all the images and the messages, is the most subtle and also the most subversive of them all: the idea that I am not worthy, that I am inferior, that I do not deserve to be happy or successful.

And these feelings have very deep roots, going back to my childhood, to a childhood much like that of those for whom I lit that candle in the Church of the Nativity. But in my case, it was not just in the school yard that I experienced denigration of my self, but in the bosom of my family, at the hand of my paternal grandmother.

So, as I fight to achieve stability in my life and figure out my path, my dreams are digging deeply into my past and revealing those (I thought) long-resolved feelings of insecurity and fear, and shining them over the movie screen of my dreams over and over again, coming at me like the proverbial two-by-four to pound me into submission.

And yet, the glimmer of hope remains, as I struggle to translate this twisted language of dreamland, that I will not succumb, as I once might have, to these feelings of inferiority. Because now I have more strength and more love in my life than ever before. And with the help of my loved ones (both human and furred), I will conquer these challenges to my weary brain and move past the images of failure into the brighter ones of success.

Dreamweaver, weave your magic. But tonight, remember, I am no longer interested in wallowing in the past oceans of despair, but would like to soar to the new heights of self-awareness and control. Oh, and while you're at it, you can take the migraines with you, too.

(Ceiling and image of the iconography in the Church of the Nativity)
Here's to happy dreams, and a happy self.

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