There are many different kinds of dreams ranging from ordinary to extraordinary (Krippner et al., 2002). Our ordinary dreams tend to play out dramas regarding whatever concerns us most at the time of the dream. Around Harvest time, that can often include subjects such as travel plans, food, gatherings, and all the dynamics of our relationships with friends, family, and loved ones.
As much as the Thanksgiving holiday promises love and joy, it also provides interpersonal challenges that aren’t always that simple or easy. There are more than a few ways dreams can help turn a festival of histrionics into a smorgasbord of delight.
While it’s been said that animals dream to aid in survival from predators, we as humans often dream to aid in our survival from the predatory tensions of social experience (Ullman, 1999). Going to sleep each night, we have the opportunity to metaphorically process our feelings from the past, while exploring new material that is woven into the dream landscape as well (Hartmann, 1998). This new information can potentially be very inspiring to the decisions we make in waking life.
Just as our waking experiences affect dream consciousness, dream experiences affect waking consciousness as well. Add a dash of dream education, and you may find yourself weaving a beautiful tapestry and providing yourself with an abundant feast for the soul.
The better we feel from within our dream worlds, the more likely we are to become more social, compassionate, and selfless with others. Unfortunately, dreams are instead often shaken off or forgotten, and the opportunity to become more self-aware is traded in for the discomfort of being slightly out-of-touch with how we really feel and who we really are.
Although it’s true that to a great extent we leave the social support existing in waking life and are left to our own devices in dreams (Ullman, 1999), it’s also true that the choices we make socially in one realm, have direct impact on the other, and vice-versa.
For example, if I have an argument with a friend and dream about her that night, she may continue to oppose me in my dream. At that point I have a choice to be social or anti-social. The anti-social choice would be to ignore the dream, and continue to be unclear about my true feelings about my friend, and her behavior.
If I choose to explore my dream, and dialogue with the part of myself cloaked in the image of my friend, I become more equipped to approach her the next day. At that time, I can communicate with a more social gesture than I would have been capable of while possessing the inner discomfort I had associated with her image. Perhaps there was something she had said or done to remind me of a painful experience in my own biography. Dream exploration and inner dialoguing helps us differentiate previous biographical issues from present social ones that need to be addressed.
The self-discipline of becoming more socially responsible in this way starts with deciding to learn more about dreams. It requires insight into the discernment between dreaming and waking relationships. In essence, if we are responsible to work on an inner social development that supports us in our dream world while sleeping, we can become more supportive of others socially while awake.
Lucid dreaming is of course one way of sorting through relationships in this way, but re-dreaming and dialoguing with dream characters in daydreams is also a valuable and effective course of action for those just starting out.
When we are lucky, we might even find ourselves enjoying abundant varieties of food at a literal ‘feast’ in our dreams. But it doesn’t stop there. The revolving door of dreaming and waking takes us right back to reflecting on the meaning of food and feasts in dreams—which is connected in sometimes obvious, sometimes cryptic ways with waking life experience. If I dream about celebrations or gatherings where people are eating healthy foods, I am usually feeling pretty nourished in waking life, but which came first, was it the dream of nourishment, or the feeling of nourishment? The chicken or the egg…
I once dreamed about a billboard that showed a candy bar labeled, “Believe Chocolate.” Underneath, the billboard read, “Do not eat this or else you will suffer.” Next to the billboard, my friend and I were eating chocolate. At the time, I interpreted my dream to mean that I was some kind of rebel (continuing to eat chocolate anyway) and not vulnerable to propaganda that told me what to do (the billboard). It was a convenient interpretation, and may have served me for a time. But when I learned that I can no longer eat chocolate for my health in waking life, I read the dream very differently—I saw that the billboard may have been my dream mind trying to get my attention and deliver a very literal message. My International Association for the Study of Dreams colleague Ed Kellogg, Ph.D. calls this sort of communication in dreams a “Dreamatarian” diet (Kellogg, 2007).
This year, at the end of whatever your literal feast may look like, what will your dreams say about food for your body, and nourishment for your soul?
Hartmann, E. (1998). Dreams and nightmares: The new theory on the origin and meaning of dreams. New York: Plenum.
Kellogg., E. (2007, September 23). Mind-body healing through dreamwork. In International Association for the Study of Dreams. Retrieved from http://www.asdreams.org/psi2007/papers/edkellogg.htm
Krippner, S. Bogzaran, F., & de Carvalho, A. P. (2002). Extraordinary dreams and how to work with them. New York: State University of New York Press.
Ullman, M. (1999). Dreaming consciousness: More than a bit player in the search for answers to the mind/body problem. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 13, 91-112.