Sometimes a dream lands so hard it flattens you. I liked it better before, you moan…
No one knows where dreams come from, but remember this: No one knows where we come from either! I believe the answer to both is the same: Whoever makes us also makes our dreams. Dreams are a meeting ground for the visible and invisible worlds that we simultaneously inhabit. Carl Jung wrote that a career of studying dreams had altered his beliefs about–well, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I used to believe that, without exception, all glimpses of the future were probability guesses. However, hard facts (eventually) changed my mind: one dream after another has disproved my theory by “knowing” and predicting way too much, way too accurately, about the future. I will tell you one of them in a moment.
Decades of work with dreams have shown me that every dream includes predictive elements, often including events that will occur during the dreamwork session itself! This is of course, “impossible” and it occurs very frequently. Here’s an example.
I used to have an office with a large, comfy couch that dream group members always flocked to before choosing the portable plastic chairs. One particular night we were working on a dream in which some dream character kept repeating “What’s wrong with the couch? What’s the problem with it?” After many minutes exploring the possible meanings of this symbol, it dawned on us that for the first time in several years, no one at all was sitting on the couch. The dream that playfully predicted this rare event had been dreamed and recorded several months earlier and no one had seen it except the dreamer, who thought nothing of the comment. We all felt that “chill of truth” when the magic of this mini-miracle dawned on us.
There are future references in every dream because dreams come from the eternal side of the psyche. Where dreams originate, unity and oneness supercede all distinctions between self and other, and what we perceive as the past, the present and the future co-exist in an eternal Now. We all visit and directly experience this reality that the mystics write about in every dream we have and we do so every night of our lives!
Futurist dreams come in two flavors: predictive and prophetic. Most future references in our dreams are predictive and are based on probability. If we continue drinking, (or eating, overworking, arguing with our spouse, etc) the dream’s scenario shows us where we will (probably) end up after a time. It shows us our trajectory and anticipates our probable outcome.
A compelling look at where we are headed can be the best motivation for a change in direction. Remember the dreams of Ebenezer Scrooge and the many benefits to him (not to mention to Tiny Tim!) of warning dreams and visions. Such dreams are morality plays which threaten us with our own future! They stimulate our free will to avoid precisely the undesirable outcome that is shown and felt. Like a ship’s radar that “predicts” a future encounter with an iceberg, these are outcomes which can be avoided specifically because they have been foreseen.
Notice how this second type of futurist dream differs from the predictive dream. Here is an example of what is called a prophetic dream: In the fall of 1997, I was approached by a young woman who worked at my health club. She had heard that I worked with dreams and said that she had “dreamed something really disturbing” and needed my help. She reported the following:
I sometimes have very vivid dreams and I always write them in my journal. Well, I had one last Saturday August, 30th that is blowing my mind. In my dream, it’s night time and I see Princess Diana surrounded by a crowd of photographers. To escape them, she climbs into a car whose driver speeds away and carloads of rowdy paparazzi chase after her. The princess’ car races across town and enters a tunnel.
As she comes out of the tunnel her car crashes into the base of a clock tower, and the princess is killed! I feel stunned and horrified in the dream. I look up the clock tower to see the clock hands pointing to the time: 12:24.
Well, the very next night, 24 hours after I had this dream, Princess Diana was actually killed in real life just about like I had dreamed it and it happened at exactly that time– to the minute! How could that possibly happen? What does this mean?
Seeing her distress, I gently replied, “Well, to me this dream communicates two things for starters. One: The world clearly does not work the way most people believe it does. And two: You have been chosen to experience this fact in a way which you will never forget. This kind of a dream is always a wakeup call and it may also have imprinted some life questions you are called to investigate and come to terms with. That part is up to you.”
…It landed in your lap, you asked for it, secretly you had been reeling it in for months like a trapped fish.
Most serious adults believe that it is impossible to know the future. And most serious adults are dead wrong. Our waking self might know little about the future, but the part of us which dreams all night is chock full of information about it. So, do dreams support predestination or free will? The correct answer appears to be: both. The facts of prophetic dreams and visions suggest that certain events are fated, fixed and unchanging. These events our dreams can specify like the predictions of Nostradamus. With these events, our freedom of choice seems to be in how we deal with them, not whether.
The many dreams that my clients had that predicted the attacks of Sept 11 (up to a year in advance!) suggests it was a very high probability or, perhaps, a fated event… while the majority of events in our lives are open to our free will and choice. Many negative or even positive events are only possible or even probable, but they can be encouraged or prevented by our actions.
Dreams exhibit these two, paradoxical, views of our future, since they come from the heart of the Mystery we inhabit, from the source of life and death, of night and day of yin and yang. They originate in a greater consciousness than we who receive them where apparent “opposites” form a complementary whole, inviting us to make room in our lives for the profound dream wisdom that reaches us in sleep.
Too big for the net– It loves you more than you love it. It wants to stay here forever, Smiling and cuddling In the bosom of your days. (The Dream, Naomi Shihab Nye)