The Dream Circle method was developed by Connie Kaplan. It does not rely on any form of expert knowledge such as psychological or academic training, only on the innate wisdom of people committed to spiritual practice. We can all be in dialogue with the dream; no one individual's interpretation has priority.
The dreamers who commented on these dreams are: Connie Kaplan from Texas, Judie Allen and Carol Bucklew from West Virginia, Cammie Doty from Massachusetts, Tamar Frankiel from California, Peggy Hays from Arkansas, and Annette Hulefeld from Illinois.
In Dream Circle, we see one another in our divinity - in our dream-bodies, which are the closest we get, in human life, to our souls. We assume the dreamer is to be trusted, and we are here to support her. We assume the dream speaks in metaphors, but the language is not hard to learn once one takes a spiritual perspective. We assume the dream is guiding us all toward higher consciousness and a greater sense of purpose for ourselves and all humanity. So we do not treat a dream as if it “belonged” to the dreamer, but rather as if it were a message to humanity from the soul, brought to us by the dreamer.
Also, while we sometimes see dreams of celebrities and politicians as being about that person, we more often understand that the dreamer puts the celebrated personality's face on an energy or a concept in order to tell a larger story. In these dreams, the circle saw Obama as The Candidate (the one who speaks candidly, honestly), Hillary as the "She" or cosmic feminine energy, and McCain as representing a system revolving around politicians.
Connie Kaplan is author of Dreams Are Letters from the Soul, A Woman’s Book of Dreams, and The Invisible Garment: Thirty Principles that Weave the Fabric of Human Life. For more information about her work, see her website.
JOHN MCCAIN DREAM
I was on a plane going to some small town in Montana. John McCain was on the flight, and when we were about to land, he remembered that he needed to go to Washington D.C. He told the pilot, and, even though all the other passengers protested, the pilot flew to D.C., dropped McCain off, and then flew the rest of us back to Montana.
Connie: This dream seems less about McCain the candidate than it does about the state of American politics right now. The people are heading one direction, politicians another. It seems that the people will eventually arrive at their desired destination.
Carol: The "plane" might imply another dimension or level. The people wish to go to a place that is more natural, a "mountain" place, wilder than a political city.
Cammie: Going on a plane to a small town in Montana feels like going to a higher plane of existence. In many cultures the mountain is the home of wisdom, of higher thought. It's encouraging that that's where the majority of the people on the plane want to go. And even more encouraging is that after the politician is dropped off, that's where they do indeed go, but without the politician. The politician started out in that direction, but didn't maintain it.
Judie: Within this very airy zig-zag pattern of energies flows truth. Just as the people were engaging the Earth again, "about to land," a powerful memory arose. The one who “re-membered” spoke his intentions, "told the pilot" and, going beyond protest, made his destination. Energies of transformation are lively and not a straight line.
Tamar: The pilot - the one guiding the course of events on this higher "plane" of existence - is willing to drop off passengers at the capital but still is true to the original destination - or Destiny - of the people. At the same time, the people make a protest when they have to be taken out of their way because of the needs of one person. Perhaps the dream is speaking to communal destiny - the "small town" as representative of supportive community.
Annette: It feels as if the old tried and true politics is on automatic pilot, reacting to that which is familiar and tried and true. However, as Cammie noted, the West offers a more open ended vista, more room, more potential and certainly more wilderness to explore.
Peggy: There is still a lot of power in an old way of doing things where one person (here the Masculine) can override the will of many. The hopeful sign to me is that the many were only delayed and eventually got to their true destination.
BARACK OBAMA DREAM
I was at a dinner table with twenty-five random people I've known in my life, as well as a few I've never met. I started choking, but everyone was talking and laughing and no one noticed me struggling. I tried to stand up to get their attention when I felt someone grab me and begin the Heimlich, launching the impeding chunk of food into the middle of the table. I turned to see who had helped me, and it was Barack Obama. He grabbed both of my hands and gave me a big smile and said Thank you! -- as he had done at the rally in Seattle. I said, You're welcome. My gosh, I didn't even know you were going to be here tonight. Then he left and I wondered why he had thanked me.
Annette: “Someone,” an unknown guide assists in releasing and bringing into focus whatever information (food) impedes the possibility of speaking. The candidate extends his gratitude that the dreamer delivered her gift by freeing some truth. This dream makes me think of how, in the dreamtime, we all deliver our gifts to humanity in ways not imaginable in the world of reality as we usually see it.
Connie: The dreamer chokes while (or because?) the conversation remains mundane, and no one except The Candidate notices the urgency of the situation. The Candidate thanks her for changing the conversation, for spitting out the chunk of food that will call the attention of the group. That's what this particular candidate is about -- asking the voting public to change the focus of the conversation. By joining hands, we extend and exchange life force. We share our soul-purpose with each other through the touch of our hands. The eyes in the palms of our hands open when they are touched, and the vision that they perceive is energetic rather than ocular. The dreamer and the candidate exchanged energy and then turned away from each other, carrying on the ability to extend that energy to others. "Twenty-five random people” alludes to randomness, which appears to be chaos. Actually, in a random situation, all possibilities are presenting themselves, like a kaleidoscope turning until a new pattern emerges. Sometimes the right thing to do is simply watch for the appropriate result to manifest.
Cammie: The dinner table full of "random" people the dreamer has known, as well as a few never met, evokes the feeling of being at "home" with one's soul-cluster, the other human beings with whom we agreed to incarnate and live this life. We meet them when we least expect, and sometimes we are surprised at who they might be. Sometimes we aren't alert enough to know them. In this dream, a few are more awake to what's happening than others. And being awake to the presence of our soul siblings inspires a gratitude that enlivens us all.
Judie: Unexpected help is at hand, to the dreamer’s surprise and delight. Being able to help others, as the candidate does, is a gift to the candidate and evokes a "thank you.” The receiver said “You’re welcome,” giving us the wonderful feeling of reciprocal blessing. There’s also a clearing of the vessel to launch, or possibly to bring nurturance to the table.
Tamar: The Heimlich maneuver is a life-saving technique. Heimlich in German has two meanings, paradoxically opposite. One is "homey," familiar. The other meaning is "uncanny," "unknown," mystical, secret. Our true home is both the most familiar and the most secret place – it is the place of full spiritual consciousness. The Candidate - the one who is candid, direct, non-evasive - launches the movement that will take the dreamer most directly to that inner space, that spiritual home. And he thanks the dreamer because there is no greater privilege than to help another person toward deeper spiritual life.
Peggy: “Random” -- we are in a state of randomness in this election as all potential is swirling around, and will hopefully come together in another step toward a new way. Both the dreamer and the candidate are playing their part in this new opening as they cooperate in the releasing of truth. They are both grateful; for they recognize what this can mean for creation.
HILLARY CLINTON DREAM
In my dream I am a super-delegate. I'm sitting at the dining room table filling out the ballot. My husband looks over my shoulder. He sees that I am marking my ballot for Hillary and yells, I knew you voted for her all along! You voted for her in the primary, didn’t you! Then I realize that I am a super-delegate. How did that happen? I begin to worry that I haven't voted wisely given the impact of my decision. I feel the heat of shame rising up my neck. I feel not worthy of being a super-delegate. My husband says, How did you get to be a super-delegate anyway? Is it just because they knew you would vote for her? I want to hide the ballot and lie to him, tell him I really voted for Barack, but the truth is there right in front of us. There is nothing I can do.
Connie: Aren't we dreamers all "super-delegates?" In dreamtime we cast a much more important vote than in the ballot box, because in the dream we enter and affect a unified field of consciousness that is prior to waking reality. In the most ancient dream-study systems (Native American, African, Australian, Celtic, Jewish) the primary teaching is clear: "nothing occurs before it has been dreamed." Interestingly, the Democratic National Committee conceived this idea of "super-delegates" as a safeguard to the party's ability to present an electable candidate. I doubt if any of them realized the deeper implications of this idea: that "we the people/we the dreamers" have more influence than they know. Our dream-vote counts. This dreamer seems to be experiencing the chasm between dreaming and waking realities. Shame doesn't exist on the dream weave–it only appears in cultures that have created it. There's no shame in BE-ing who we are–delegates of the dream weave. What's also interesting in this dream is that the dreamer wanted to lie about her vote. Yet in the domain of the dream, we can't lie. Truth emerges when we enter the realms of the dream. The dreamer says it herself: “the truth is there right in front of us.”
Carol: The heat rising in the throat suggests a subtle kind of energy. The throat is also the place of beautiful song and speech, a vibrational reality, which connects in turn to a mathematical dynamic, the "music of the spheres." The voting process is also mathematical - an imperfect model of this divine dynamic.
Cammie: The worry about the spouse's anger and misunderstanding - what other people think about what we think - is shown in the dream to be a distraction from the truth, a way to try and hide the truth from ourselves. Whenever we experience or see this worry, we know it is the truth within us wanting to speak.
Judie: Remembering who we truly are, living and expressing our authentic beingness may feel like some warm static on the line at times. "There is nothing I can do", but go with the flow. The most important thing in life is not doing but BEING.
Tamar: How did you get to be a super-delegate? How were you chosen to be a Dreamer, one who makes choices in the primaries - the realms that are the true source and cause of our existence? Is it because "they" knew you would vote for "her"? Who are "they" and "her"? They are the angels who support the volunteers who take a human incarnation with a commitment to a spiritual purpose. Her refers to the feminine Presence, the one who sustains and guards earthly existence. In many mystical traditions, She is the immanent counterpart to the more transcendent masculine expression of Divinity. Women often feel ashamed when they stand up for Her; they question their own inner wisdom; they wonder if they ought to be allowed to have such impact on the world. We must learn to trust, to speak, and to be happy about our impact on the world.
Annette: I wonder if the dreamer is a delegate from the realm of spirit - one who has agreed to deliver the "vote" for the en-lightened feminine? From the world of reality, the heat is expressed as shame. But perhaps from a soul perspective, the heat was a rising up of love from the divine Her - and yes, when She changes the color of our skin, our inner authenticity shines out, and we cannot lie.
Peggy: This election is giving us/the people an opportunity to respond from our higher selves in our relationship to ourselves, in our most intimate relationships, the country, and the world. We might be surprised at what comes forth--even ashamed, but we can trust this new energy, and energy of Truth. Let’s don't miss the opportunity.
[return to Dream Analysis main page...]
18 May 2008
The Dream Circle method was developed by Connie Kaplan. It does not rely on any form of expert knowledge such as psychological or academic training, only on the innate wisdom of people committed to spiritual practice. We can all be in dialogue with the dream; no one individual's interpretation has priority.
Amanda Stern is the author of The Long Haul, a book of fiction, and the creator and curator of the popular Happy Ending Music and Reading Series in New York, at which every speaker is forced to take one public risk. For two years she was a professional comic. You can visit her on the web here.
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I read all the dreams in consecutive order, Hillary’s first, then Obama’s. I admittedly skipped McCain.
Obviously, these dreams collectively mirror the emotional bind the American voter is in. What else do dreams do but tell us, in coded ways, things we already know? Dreams reframe our questions – casting a nightly shroud over our daily veil of wondering. Consciously we wonder who to trust. At night our unconscious reaches out to question whether we trust ourselves. Consciously we wonder whether to vote with our gut or our head, at night we drop hints to guide us. But when we wake up, if we haven’t forgotten our dreams, we realize there are more questions to weed through than before we closed our eyes.
What do our dreams mean? Do they tell us whether we’re right or whether we’re wrong? Do our dreams really reveal things about other people, or only about ourselves? What does it mean to feel we’ve seen through Hillary or Barack, to feel guilty that we’ve chosen one over the other? What does it mean to witness a softer Hillary, an untrustworthy Barack? Or that in our dreams we’ve taken to placating Hillary because our codependent selves don’t want her to ache knowing we aren’t on her side? Does it say anything at all about the candidates or only of the dreamers?
Could it perhaps speak volumes for both?
The dreams of Hillary, by and large, were reversal dreams. The dreamer discovers that she is not who they thought she was. Although Hillary is, more often than not, cast as either maternal or matronly, she comes off, the majority of the time, better than was suspected. Obama, it seems, is more versatile, his packaging is more sexualized, variegated, open-ended. He is all things to all people. Hillary is just one or two things.
I am not a psychologist or a dream-analyst, just a fiction writer with an interest in psychology. Here goes my interpretation…
THE MATERNAL HILLARY
The roles people assigned Hillary in their dreams were starkly different from the roles assigned to Obama. Many women dreamed she was their therapist, their mother, their child, and in two instances, their gynecologist. In these dreams Hillary does things for people, provides for them, bakes, soothes, listens and they’re all surprised at how nurtured they feel.
When GWB was running for President, the consensus across Middle America was that he was someone they’d “like to have a beer with.” To me, and hopefully, to millions of others, this is a pretty unsound way to choose a President. Not only do I not want my President drunk, I don’t really want to feel like his equal. If I felt like his equal, I’d run for President. But what about this: maybe people’s dreams (not to take Freud at his word) are dabbling in some sort of wish-fulfillment.
Perhaps what people are longing for isn’t a president we can hang out with, but a President who can guide us, like a parent. Maybe people are starting to wonder if our President should be more parental. The dreams people are having about Hillary and Obama (in the Hillary dreams) do not necessarily ask who is the better Democrat, but who is the better role model. Which parent do we want as our leader? Our mother or our father?
Many of these dreams humanize Hillary, but in some ways, the Hillary dreams are more about the dreamers than about Hillary. In them she has a favorite pair of scuffed shoes, devours Girl Scout cookies in times of stress. Her clothing choice and her hair are mentioned quite a bit, and just like in life, she’s always fashionably out of step. Just like a lot of our mothers (not mine, though!) The dreamers have made Hillary relatable. She is not so much an object as a person with whom they derive comfort, a person they feel better about themselves for having seen through.
Hillary’s feelings are taken into account in many of these dreams. Those who are Pro-Obama take pains to cover it up in order to cushion the blow for Hillary. They don’t want to hurt her feelings, OR do things for her so they feel better about their own choices. In other words, when it comes to Hillary, there are issues of codependence that I didn’t find in dreams about Obama.
But some people just outright feel terrified to have her behind the wheel of America. A few driving dreams have her reckless and maniacal while the dreamer sits in the back seat afraid for their lives. They feel out of control, wedded to a fate that is out of their hands.
The thing about dreams and novels is how handily the author can play with plot. Many people changed course in their dreams – changed their vote in accordance to information gathered while dreaming. If Hillary is warmer than they realize, their vote sways. People seem to feel very guilty about not voting for Hillary, guilty enough that those who are aligned with Barack Obama aren’t dreaming about him, but about her. A majority of these dreamers not voting for Hillary, but dreaming about her, are women.
THE STUD BARACK
Unlike Hillary, the dreams of Barack Obama focused more on his celebrity, his sexual objectivity. Instead of being nurtured by him, dreamers are nurturing him. There are many dreams where he is the dreamers’ husband, boyfriend or lover. One woman dreamed Hillary is her lover, but there is no active sex – there is with Obama. With Obama the sex is explicit – he’s on top, they make out all over the city, they embrace for a long time. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama turns up as the scorned wife, or leering and suspicious partner. There are maybe two mentions of Bill Clinton in the dreams about Hillary. While Hillary is busy making pies, or doing other domestic activities in many dreams, Obama is the hero: saving people from choking, making things better for everyone somehow.
There were many dreams in which Obama is thanking the dreamer. In many of the Hillary dreams, the dreamer is thanking her.
THE HERO BARACK
There are two mentions of the TV show, Lost. Two people tell Obama they watch it, trying to communicate in some way, through popular culture, the truth of an unnerved country as if he will save it. Another person dreamed that Obama whispered in his ear, while they are making out, “Tell me what you want me to change, tell me what you want me to change.”
A few dreams, he’s walking ahead of people – leading while the dreamer runs to catch up.
In a fight, Obama bites off two of Bin Laden’s fingers
In another dream, Obama had been looking everywhere for sofas that are really gold, not yellow or orange. He finds his gold couch in a small, humble town and everyone there is very proud he found his jewel among these thorns.
In these dreams, the dreamer is in awe of Obama, letting him lead, wanting him to lead. The information they gather about him seems to affirm what they already believe, not challenge what they questioned, as happened in so many dreams about Hillary.
THE ROCK STAR BARACK
Where Hillary’s dress is amorphous and matronly, Obama’s is outrageous, cool, confident and rock-starish. He shows up onstage at a concert with green dred locks in jeans and a t-shirt, he walks to the edge of the stage, rips off his t-shirt and hi fives the entire crowd. People discover he’s an old movie star (not a good one, but a star nonetheless). Someone finds a CD of him: “Barack Obama Sings 20 Classic Love Songs.” He’s the Cary Grant of the ‘aughts. Similar to Hillary, people are discovering the hidden talents of their candidates, but unlike Hillary, Obama’s abilities are lionized, while hers are more emotionally impressive. Unlike Hillary, he’s a very good driver, however as talented as he may seem with his hands, he did not deliver a single baby.
THE ELUSIVE BARACK
To me, the most interesting and telling dream was of Obama showering in a clouded glass shower. He’s naked, but you can’t see him completely through the distortion. The fear here is obvious – who is this guy? He says he’s naked, but we can’t be certain because there’s a scrim of cloudiness surrounding him. If we could get through that layer, than we’d be able to see clearly, but – no, not from this angle, not from that angle. People are uncertain. They believe his words, but what of his actions? Has he done enough for us to make a decision or has he just talked enough to lead us to believe his words and actions are the same?
THE DECEPTIVE BARACK
One dreamer dreamed they were in a serious relationship with Barack, but he suddenly stops returning her texts. This to me is pure anxiety that what Barack says now and what he does later, if he’s elected president, won’t add up.
There are a few dreams of this nature. People dreamed that he cast a spell over them, that they find themselves angry with him because is public and private personas contradict. People are afraid he’s not who he says he is, while others are wondering whether Hillary might be someone other than they think she is.
There’s a real sense of duplicity that people seem to feel. They’re wary about both candidates. Underneath the pomp of Obama they sense he might be too good to be true while with Hillary, it’s reversed. We are unable to trust ourselves enough to know which of these two we should be trusting. But why should we trust ourselves? We have no reason. No valid one, at least.
It’s a strange thing to interpret your own dreams, to wake to your primary world uncertain of the meanings created in a secondary one. Each morning we battle to understand messages we’ve sent ourselves, to untangle and interpret a coded psychological narrative that comes from within us. Sometimes what we discover is shaming or laughably obvious, but when we’re not sharing our dreams, we’re competing with ourselves to retrieve them lest they evaporate into the disgruntled dew of other forgotten dreams, or we’re dismissing or hiding them.
Reading other people’s unforgotten dreams, political or not, one after another, felt voyeuristic and prying. I discovered things about strangers they may not know about themselves. I discovered what I already knew: politically, we are all conflicted, even if we’re convinced we aren’t. We feel helpless and guilty, responsible and unresponsive. We see in our leaders our worst and best selves. We see what we don’t want to see and we don’t see what we should. And just when we think we’ve gotten it right, we kill off the person we believe can save us. We murder our only hope. We don’t know what to do and we question what’s already been done.
But I do believe that underneath the narratives is another story – one that explains what we already know. That talk and action are different. That leading with one’s heart and leading with one’s head is confusing, but that both are needed, not one or the other.
[return to Dream Analysis main page...]
Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., is a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Theological Union and teaches in the Dream Studies Program at John F. Kennedy University, both in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a former president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams and is the author, most recently, of American Dreamers: What Dreams Tell Us about the Political Psychology of Conservatives, Liberals, and Everyone Else. His complete biography follows this article.
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People’s dreams of Hillary Clinton frequently show her as friendly and likeable, with an admirable willingness to help others. But compared to dreams of Barack Obama, the Hillary dreams are darker and more negative. They include more aggression than the Barack dreams and more emotions of fear, confusion, and sadness. The Barack dreams have some negative elements, too, but they have an almost equally high number of friendly interactions and many more happy emotions and lucky/magical events—the very qualities I’ve found in previous research to define “mystical” dreams.
Before explaining these findings in more detail, I’d like to thank Sheila Heti for creating this excellent dream collection. Her website offers a unique public forum for discussing dreams, and the dream reports themselves provide wonderful raw material for thinking about the political psychology of the 2008 U.S. Presidential race. The fact that Sheila is Canadian adds an ironic twist to these quirky commentaries on the American political process.
The total number of Hillary and Barack dreams has just passed 100 for each candidate, and I believe that’s a minimal threshold number for identifying significant patterns in dream content. In looking at anecdotal reports like these, it’s risky to focus too much attention on single dreams because we don’t have enough information from the individuals to confirm our interpretive hunches. But if we look at a large number of dreams, broad patterns start to emerge that can be compared to other sources of dream research, giving us an empirical foundation for making inferences about what may or may not be going on in terms of meaning and significance. (For more on research methods, see the note below.)
This analysis is still a work in progress. So far I’ve noticed several themes and patterns that certainly appear to connect the first 100 dreams with prominent features of each candidate’s campaign activities and public persona. That’s ultimately what makes these dreams so interesting: they reflect the passionate personal engagement many people feel towards Hillary and Barack, and they tell us what aspects of the campaign are making a particularly strong impact on the public imagination.
These are some of the content patterns I find most intriguing:
Both sets of dreams have an unusually high frequency of friendly social interactions. Seventy six of the Barack dreams include at least one friendly act, as do eighty of the Hillary dreams (compared to 40% of the 1000 dreams gathered by Hall and Van de Castle, 1966; HVDC after this). The most common theme in all these dreams is the dreamer and the candidate engaged in some kind of friendly behavior—hanging out together, talking, playing games, helping each other with problems. This seems like an accurate indication of the psychological depth of support enjoyed by both candidates.
Aggressive interactions, both physical and verbal, appear in 53 of the Hillary dreams and 39 of the Barack dreams (compared to 46% of the HVDC dreams). Sixteen of the Hillary dreams and nine of the Barack dreams include some kind of physical aggression; Barack is the mostly the victim of physical aggression, while Hillary is equally its victim and instigator. These frequencies suggest the perception of vulnerability and/or lack of aggressiveness in Barack and a confirmation of Hillary’s campaign claims to be a fighter, though not always in ways the dreamer appreciates.
This is an especially difficult aspect of dream content to measure. I use the HVDC system of five emotions (fear, anger, sadness, confusion, happiness) which, while not perfect, at least allows researchers a quick way of surveying the emotional terrain of a large set of dreams. Analyzed in these terms, the most frequent emotions in the Hillary dreams are fear (34) and confusion (34), followed by happiness (23), sadness (16), and anger (15). For Barack, the most frequent emotion is happiness (35), then confusion (28), fear (20), anger (16), and sadness (9). When compared to the HVDC dreams, what stands out is the high happiness and low fear in the Barack dreams and the high confusion in the Hillary dreams. No one would deny, I think, that Hillary’s campaign has been surprised by Obama’s rise and unsure of how to regain her once formidable lead. Nor could anyone who’s attended an Obama rally dispute the idea that he’s trying to banish people’s fears and stimulate their hopes. Perhaps one could say the Barack dreamers are too happy and not scared enough—that’s a charge made by his “realist” critics.
A “good fortune,” in terms of content analysis, is anything magical or unusually beneficial that happens to a character. Seven of the Hillary dreams have some kind of good fortune, a slightly lower proportion than the 12% in the HVDC dreams. Nineteen of the Barack dreams include a good fortune, a relatively high number that seems plausibly related to his aura of extraordinary potential and transformative power. It could also, following Bill Clinton, reflect an association between Barack and the “fairy tale” qualities of his candidacy.
There are 11 dreams with at least one sexual interaction in the Hillary set and 9 in the dreams of Barack, which seems about average to me. All but one of the Barack sexual dreams involve him and the dreamer, and I suspect these dreams symbolize the intimate sense of personal connection his supporters feel with him. Nearly half the sexual activities in the Hillary dreams do not involve her directly, but rather her husband Bill. No surprise there—public perception of Hillary is still dogged by memories of Bill’s sexual misbehavior.
The dreams also reveal the flaws and weaknesses people perceive in the two candidates. In several of the Hillary dreams the dreamer feels compelled to lie to Hillary, to hide from her the dreamer’s true feelings, sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of pity. This can’t be a good sign of the trust and honesty people feel in relation to her campaign. With Barack, people’s fears revolve around his failure to live up to their expectations; in some dreams he disappoints them, leaving the dreamer feeling deflated and alone. The soaring idealization of Barack’s candidacy carries the risk of precipitous disillusionment as he attempts to make real the mystical aspirations of his supporters.
A NOTE ON RESEARCH
A note on research methods: I explain this general approach to dreams in more detail in the forthcoming book American Dreamers: What Dreams Tell Us about the Political Psychology of Conservatives, Liberals, and Everyone Else (Beacon Press). The best resource on content analysis is the website Dream Research, administered by G. William Domhoff and Adam Schneider. I mentioned findings from two of my earlier articles: on mystical dreams, “Sacred Sleep: Scientific Contributions to the Study of Religiously Significant Dreaming,” in The New Science of Dreaming, edited by Deirdre Barrett and Patrick McNamara (Praeger, 2007); on good fortunes, “Revision of the Good Fortunes Scale: A New Tool for the Study of “Big” Dreams,” Dreaming (2006) 16.1:11-21. I’ve written two earlier commentaries on the Hillary and Barack dreams on the Beacon Press author’s blog, where I say more about the limits of this kind of data and my own personal biases in studying these dreams.
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Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., is a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Theological Union and teaches in the Dream Studies Program at John F. Kennedy University, both in the San Francisco Bay Area. He earned his doctorate in Religion and Psychological Studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and is a former president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. He has written and edited several books on dreaming, the newest of which are American Dreamers: What Dreams Tell Us about the Political Psychology of Conservatives, Liberals, and Everyone Else (Beacon Press) and Dreaming in the World’s Religions: A Comparative History (NYU Press), both due in early summer 2008.
[return to Dream Analysis main page...]
Bernard Welt is the author of Mythomania: Fantasies, Fables, and Sheer Lies in Contemporary American Popular Art, a collection of his essays for the journal Art issues, and is a member of the board of directors of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. His complete biography follows this article.
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The Metaphysical Poll is a good name for this site. It suggests that, aside from the realities grounding the standard accounts of political life published in the newsworld, there exists another world of unexpressed needs and desires, only fitfully acknowledged, and then generally with something between a blush and a sneer. We pretend that voters exercise free and rational choice, that we choose our candidates based on policy and, at worst, expediency, and that only the irresponsible, undereducated citizen – you know, the kind that voted for Bush – goes to the polls in the grip of fantasies elicited by evil geniuses.
But that parallel world is as real as an occupying army and as serious as a health-care policy, even if it’s only really available in dreams. I read the Metaphysical Poll as a report from the journalists embedded in that exotic and divided territory, dreamland.
Generally I try to listen to a dream with an entirely open mind. I not only do not know what a particular dream is about; I don’t assume that it’s about anything at all. But I can’t help noting, after about twenty-five years of listening to other people’s dreams and considering my own, that they often reveal an openness to ideas and feelings within ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge in waking life. This is why the discussion of dreams is such an interesting place for ideological antagonists, or even people with fundamentally different personality types and individual aspirations, to meet – that and the fact that they reveal that we all have pretty much the same concerns and fantasies, coalescing around different images and different possibilities for expression.
And that’s why the dreams which seem to shift the dreamer’s feelings about a particular candidate – the several dreamers here who awaken with a new, gentler image of Hillary Clinton – are so interesting. (It seems to me that, without exception, these dreams are giving signs of a more forgiving attitude toward someone who’s been unrealistically cast, in popular media as well as in their own lives, as a scolding and emotionally aloof mother figure – but that can hardly be news to anyone. The erotic dreams just make it all the more obvious.)
For similar reasons my own counterintuitive (maybe just perverse) impulses lead me to these dreams about Sen. John McCain:
Senator John McCain was near me at a department/supermarket store; the refrigerated groceries were right next to the clothing aisles. He was obnoxiously loud as he browsed for food products, saying offensive things to nearby women in a maverick fashion, like a Republican Borat. I was thinking to myself, This guy might be our next president?
Like most people who lead dream groups, I tend to express my responses to a dream as questions rather than comments—and also like most people, I’m really thinking of what I’d be paying attention to if it were my dream—as the dream-sharing practice of Montague Ullmann and Jeremy Taylor, adopted by many dreamworkers, suggests doing.
If this were my dream, I’d very quickly identify any image of a male authority figure acting outrageously with the typical adolescent’s feelings of embarrassment about his or her father. I more or less assume that that an inevitable phase of adolescence is the deflation of an idealized father-image, which is experienced as typical teenage shame, which has less to do with any real father’s behavior than the disillusion of outgrowing one’s idol as a part of realizing one’s own independence. The shame over one’s own lost innocence is projected on the father.
This dream reminds us that candidates like McCain do indeed depend upon awaking feelings of admiration for a strong father figure, and are in deep trouble if their idealized image is challenged in popular perceptions. Here the dreamer found a connection between McCain’s image as “maverick”—it’s practically his slogan, after all—and the figure of Borat, who encapsulates every rejected, regressive tendency in the traditional image of masculinity.
Many dreams have a feature that seems both puzzling and artistically just perfect. Here it’s the mixing of food store and clothing store. If it were my dream, I’d see this a confusion of the inner and outer aspects of personality—what really nourishes and constitutes the dreamer, and what is merely outward show.
I meet John at a party and a little later he sends me a birthday card. Before I know it, he's on the phone asking if I want to spend the day with him. I'm very excited to spend some time with a big political figure so I accept. We go to the zoo, and have some exhilarating conversation. I keep expecting people to recognize him and point and whisper or something, but they don't. Late in the day, we find ourselves in an indoor lounge at the zoo. I'm looking out the window at the giraffes, and when I turn around, I see that John has stripped down to his briefs. I say, I'm not going to have sex with you, ya know. He replies that he hadn't thought anything of the sort. He simply enjoyed hanging out in his underwear!
Like the previous dream, this one stems from strong feelings about the erotic component of attraction to a father figure. The male (and Democratic) dreamer expresses awareness of the father’s sexual nature as disgust and embarrassment – and also as a kind of triumph over the father’s crassness when he’s considered as a sexual rival. The female and Republican dreamer expresses ambivalence through stating a theme and then undercutting it: She’s hanging out with a powerful man, but no one is impressed; McCain undresses, but not as a preparation for sex. Occasionally, Freud is just correct, however maddening he can be at times; and in this instance, I think he’d have a thing or two to say about what is the giraffe’s distinguishing feature.
That which at once is and is not is typical of denial, of an unrecognized fantasy. The great man who is not noticed by the crowd, the physical intimacy which is not sexual, reinforce the obvious context: Who does an older man take to the zoo, of all places? Who has a better right to send a young woman a birthday card, of all things?
What’s especially interesting here is that the dreamer has settled the one question Americans really want answered about their political candidates: Boxers or briefs?
John McCain was speaking at a White House press conference, standing behind the blue, crested podium. He was speaking Vietnamese and talking about how farmers would begin to pool their assets. (I didn't understand the language, but I knew what he was talking about.) He had been brainwashed by the communists as a prisoner of war; it had been a conspiracy from the beginning. Then George W. Bush came out from behind the curtains with white powder on his nose and started yelling and pointing at McCain saying, Communist sleeper cell! Then John McCain turned into Dick Cheney with a rifle in his hand and started shooting.
This complex dream offers some insight into the paranoid fantasy that lies behind conspiracy theories: The negative expression of the idealized father-figure is the concealed, but all-powerful evil leader, the terrible face behind the smiling mask. This is functionally equivalent to the fantasy that expresses disillusion with the father through disempowering him; but instead of showing the subject as superior to the dethroned father, it refigures him as still powerful, but hostile rather than protecting. The dreamer is left helpless. (The same kind of fantasy, but about a mother who turns out to be powerful but withholding, appears in some Hillary Clinton dreams.)
It’s interesting that it’s Bush who exposes the masquerade. Is there an echo of The Wizard of Oz and “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” here? – because no other president, probably no other American political leader, has been defined so prominently as caught in the grip of tortuous oedipal anxieties – and with good reason. The white powder is a nice example of the dream’s characteristic way of exhibiting two ideas at once: On the one hand, Bush-the-son exposes the father’s fraud; on the other, he’s an irresponsible, self-intoxicated druggie.
“Dick Cheney” is in this dream, as it has always been, a preposterously appropriate name for an embodiment of patriarchy”: one more in that long chain of dicks that have ruled the world. As for why he shoots people in this dream, you’d have to ask Cheney: Why does he shoot anybody?
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Bernard Welt is the author of Mythomania: Fantasies, Fables, and Sheer Lies in Contemporary American Popular Art, a collection of his essays for the innovative journal Art issues. For many years he has taught courses on dreaming at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC and at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He is a member of the board of directors of the International Association for the Study of Dreams and writes a column on dreaming and film for the IASD membership magazine, DreamTime, recently covering Wild Strawberries and The Wizard of Oz. With co-authors Kelly Bulkeley and Phil King, he is at work on Dreaming in the Classroom: Practices, Methods, and Resources in Dream Education (State University Press of New York, 2009). You can find his previous attempt to read the dreams of complete strangers by clicking here.
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Colleen Asper is a Brooklyn-based painter whose works has shown internationally. She received a MFA from Yale University in 2004. For six months she painted herself as the President. Her complete biography follows this article.
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I have run for President in my mind, and since Commander in Chief is a job description unrivaled in the popular imagination -- even by that of astronaut -- likely you have too.
Even humble Norman Mailer has imagined himself in this light, beginning Advertisements for Myself: "Like many another vain, empty, and bulling body of our time, I have been running for President these last ten years in the privacy of my mind, and it occurs to me that I am less close now than when I began."
Of course, Mailer knew that he was not running for the Presidency in the privacy of his mind, but rather in the very public space of the page. A writer's job is to turn the interiority of thought into the visibility of text. Mailer's real private thoughts are anyone's guess.
As an artist, my job is similar, just substitute the public space of the page with the very public space any object inhabits. Artists are given even less credit than writers for being self-possessed enough to understand the implications of our own creations, so perhaps it won't surprise you if I admit that I spent six months painting myself as President of the United States America, staring out at my constituency from behind my desk in the Oval Office, without even once imagining what the view from my seat of power would look like.
Failing to visualize what the eyes one has taken great pains to represent might actually be seeing could just as easily serve testament to painting's inherent two-dimensionality as my own lack of imagination. Either way, when one day I saw a photo taken during the Clinton years of the familiar Oval Office from a view familiar to only its most privileged occupant - the one sitting behind that famous desk - my mouth literally formed an O of pure wonder.
This photo took the what if premise of my painting and made it egalitarian. Rather than presenting the improbable "I" as President, it presented the impossible "we." If only all our dreams were so generous.
If we take sleep's vision to be a reflection of our innermost selves, narcissism follows as a matter of course. Jung says, "A dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public, and the critic." If we see all the figures in a dream as a personification of some aspect of the dreamer's personality, dreaming of a candidate is in some sense imagining oneself President.
WHAT SHOULD A PRESIDENT WEAR?
In my own theatre, the decision to make myself President was easy; the agony came in deciding what to wear. This is not mere vanity; female politicians have hard choices to make when they approach their wardrobe. It is not revelatory to point out that modern Western clothing is designed to present men as authority figures and women as sex objects. Gender transgression works for pop stars, not politicians, thus female leaders have to tow a slippery line between adopting the button-up authority of their male counterparts, while being careful not to overly gender themselves masculine. How, then, did our dreamers choose to costume their candidates?
Hillary is clearly the fashion victim in this somnambulant race, with outfits more ostentatious then any I dared consider in her position. One dream pictures a magazine article unveiling Hillary's taste for billion dollar garments, featuring her in a dress made from the fleece of an endangered penguin. Another dreamer imagines her wearing a gold and silver lamé Elizabethan gown made up of "a tight bodice with bubble-like bustles completely surrounding her waist like petals on a flower, and voluminous sleeves." Ball gowns are a favorite; she is also dreamed in an over-the-top red one with spiky heels.
Outfits can be brazen for what they expose, as well as their absurd ornamentation, and Hillary reveals much in our dreams. In one, she strolls down the steps of a bed and breakfast in a red bathing suit. A considerate dreamer fusses over Hillary for pairing his wife's pink cashmere sweater with a black bra that shows through the fabric. Matters only get worse when she lays into some French toast, risking drawing attention to the show-through by soiling her sweater. Hillary also headlines for Stars On Ice and though no specific costume choices are described, the possibilities for flamboyance are endless.
Barack plays it safe in our sleep. His shirts are crisp; one dreamer respectfully carries his coat. White tops with dark slacks are a standard that make a couple appearances, his usual dark suit another. He takes fashion cues from George W. Bush at one point (always a bad idea) and dons a cowboy hat, but here the real joke seems on Dubya. Barack's one moment of true showiness comes in a Valentine's Day dream where he appears in an all pink suit with a dozen roses, but this makes him seem like a suave dandy next to Hillary's Renaissance Faire gone awry numbers.
It makes sense that it would be more fun to play dress-up with a female politician, but something else is going on with the wardrobe choices the candidates are making in our sleep. Hillary is the candidate that we know best; we have seen her through the good and the bad. Like an old friend, she appears in her pajamas in one dream. Barack has the advantage of being an abstraction; it is easy to always seem composed when you haven't lived with the whole country as a roommate for eight years.
I also think that for all the historic significance that either Democratic candidate could bring to the White House, it is still harder to imagine a woman as President than it is a black man. The act of visualization just requires more work. Thus, our dreamer's collective subconscious is reacting to the labor of imagining the First Lady turned Commander in Chief by conjuring up visions of red lipstick and bad perfume.
WHAT SORTS OF PROPS SHOULD A PRESIDENT KEEP?
Once I had my own outfit all picked out for my first day in the Oval Office, I turned to props. Whether the Arma Christi or a wealthy patron's possessions, objects have always given us clues to decode portraiture.
My own display of personal presidential property was limited to what I could fit on my desk and the convention for desk décor in the White House is all family photos. The Oval Office is designed to present the generality of a public person; these photos allow for a hint of the specificity of their domestic circumstances.
The vision each politician presents is as tailored to flatter as their suit, but rather than the glimpse of the President's family that these photos offer, most dreamers imagine the candidates transported into their own private lives. What totems do the democratic hopefuls bring with them on their journey?
Hillary, it would seem, is very hungry. In our dreams she can be found eating a burger, ravenous over French toast, and positively binging on Girl Scout cookies. She finds a delicious Dole Pineapple Whip in the bathroom stall and warms up leftover risotto. When not eating food Hillary is foraging, asking one dreamer where she can get ribs and ordering baked potatoes, bouillabaisse, and "English tea squares" from another. Perhaps she just has the munchies after being smoked up by a Barack supporter in Seattle.
Hillary can be generous too, handing out blue placemats and condiments on the campaign trail. A health-conscious dreamer returns the favor and makes her a salad, which is good news because another dream expresses doubt about how often she is making it to the gym.
Compared to all this, baking a pie for Barack's Thanksgiving dinner, or watching him cook breakfast pancakes is not adding much to his caloric intake. The only thing Barack is actually pictured eating is Hillary's votes.
In fact, a rough list of the objects both candidates carry with them into our dreams shows Hillary with three times as many possessions as Barack. She even has more spouses, with a former husband (cuter than Bill) and an additional husband who plays Division One basketball and is still in college. Predictably, Barack and Hillary both have trysts with the dreamers and Barack is caught with a Playboy, but Michelle is Barack's only wife in sleeping and waking.
Once again, it is easier to attach things to Hillary. Barack is unencumbered. We imagine him emitting a golden light, rather than shopping for Tupperware.
SHOULD A PRESIDENT FONDLE YOU?
Aura or no, appearance is incomplete without gesture. Symmetry denotes power, it provides a composition that does not appeal to anything outside of the picture plane and invokes a sense of grand order. For this reason, I chose to make my body language as President about as expressive as a Pharaoh's. In the retelling, dreams often read as a series of still images, but they allow for the possibility of motion that painting obviously does not. How do the candidates move in the midst of our slumber?
Barack is described as a whirlwind. Like any good candidate he shakes a lot of hands, gives high fives, and gestures with his arms. He also chases and runs, sings and dances. Both he and Hillary appear as chaffers, but the driver is an easy metaphor of leadership to decipher.
Less obvious is why Hillary's gestures lack the autonomy of Barack's. She walks with an arm about her waist or with her arm around another's shoulders. One dreamer rests a head on her thigh and a second holds her while she naps. Not always docile, Hillary also chuckles cruelly or rolls her eyes, but she is within the space of the dreamer more than Barack, who tends to be pictured from afar. That Hillary's gestures are often imagined in relationship to the movement of someone else is tempting to read through her gender, but is that the only explanation?
When Jung speaks of the dream's inhabitants as aspects of the dreamer, he offers interpretation on the subjective level. He also speaks of an objective significance, one in which we take into account the attributes a given figure has in order to understand what they are representing in the dream.
Clearly, Hillary and Barack both have great objective significance, but our familiarity with Hillary makes her subjective significance greater still. It is easy to see Hillary as a component of the dreamer's self, offering a comforting hand or a chastising laugh. Even when she yells at a dreamer to lose some weight it reads as self-reproach. Barack is kind and otherwise in much the same proportion as Hillary, but his comfort is offered at a distance and his criticality is all cool-kid remove. In our dreams, Barack is a symbol, Hillary is us. Which makes for a more compelling vote?
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Colleen Asper received a MFA from Yale University in 2004 and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in the summer of 2006. Her work has been shown internationally, including at Deitch Projects in New York, Steven Wolf Fine Arts in San Francisco, and with P.P.O.W. in London. In addition to being reviewed in such publications as the New York Times and The New Yorker, Colleen is a regular contributor to Beautiful/Decay magazine and The Brooklyn Rail. She is also the cofounder, along with Jennifer Dudley, of a roving series of panel discussions and lectures on a wide range of topics in the arts, called Ad Hox Vox. Colleen lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the daughter of Beth Asper, whose MA in Counseling Psychology and belief in psychic dreams perhaps lend qualifications to her daughter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Raymond Hillis is a professor emeritus of counseling at California State University Los Angeles, and currently lives and practices in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He conducts vision quests in the Rocky Mountains of southern Colorado. He can be reached at email@example.com
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I’d like to start by saying it is very fitting that this website has been birthed outside the United States, offering an international point of view. For what is happening within the States is not at all limited in scope to that territory, and much of the dream material being collective has significance that recognizes no national boundaries.
It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to respond to the wealth of material present in this first group of dreams. And, since this is the first response in the coming series by others, I’d like to start with a few thoughts about the ways in which one can look at dream material. My own background is rooted in the work of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who was initially a colleague of Sigmund Freud’s, and later diverged to develop his own theory and methodology for looking at dreams.
DISTINGUISHING FREUD AND JUNG
Whereas Freud viewed dreams primarily as compensating for bias in the dreamer’s conscious personality (due to repression of selected personality dimensions, for example), Jung came to see them as having the added and much deeper role of bringing the most fundamental layers of the dreamer’s internal existence up to consciousness. One could say Freud focused on dreams as attempts to balance things, while Jung saw them additionally as attempts to reveal the larger picture of one’s existence, so that the dreamer’s view of his or her own nature is continually expanded.
Another difference in their approaches can be described as Freud’s focus on dreams as being entirely personal, that is, reflecting only the dynamics of the individual dreamer’s world, both internal and external; while Jung viewed them as having both this personal content and a “collective” kind of content. The latter was seen as illuminating the condition of the human psyche in general, beyond the particulars of the individual dreamer’s world. Some dreams feel mostly personal in nature, while others feel mostly collective. The latter, one might say, “belong” to everyone: they are speaking not just to the dreamer but to all of us. When one of us shares a dream of this type we are, in effect, offering a gift to all of our fellow companions in the human species as it makes its way through the evolution of life.
In both approaches there is an intricate reliance upon knowing how symbolism has figured into human experience throughout recorded history, and how to attribute meaning to each dream image with reference to the symbolic material it contains. In this regard, every aspect of a dream image can be seen as having symbolic significance, including the people the dream portrays. So, within the personal context of a dream “Hillary” and “Barack” are not just outer people whom the dreamer knows actually exist, they also are used by a dream to represent some inner aspect of the dreamer’s own personality in a symbolic fashion.
Obviously, in order to interpret the personal side of a dream one must know the dreamer quite well, hence the dependence upon frequent uncensored communication between a dreamer and an analyst over an extended period of time. It would be rather presumptuous and risky to try to speak about the personal meaning of any of these dreams in the absence of that kind of knowledge of the dreamer as a person, and I plan to avoid heading in that direction here. But I would encourage each dreamer to take a closer look at their dream in terms of what this Hillary or Barack might represent within their own psychological dynamics… who, within them, might be “running for office” in their own life, seeking authority or power, courting their vote, and so on.
A DREAM'S COLLECTIVE CONTENT
On the other hand, one can often sense, in the “collective” side of a dream, symbolic content that feels like it has broad applicability in the culture of the time. Here the basis of the symbolism tends not to be so much related to an aspect of individual existence, but more to primary themes of a cultural nature. These have often been expressed in human history through art and mythology, and were explored by Jung through his concept of the “archetypes.”
In this collective frame of reference, “Hillary” or “Barack” in a dream can represent much more than just a current female or male candidate for the U.S. presidency. They can symbolize for the culture as well as for the dreamer some very large subterranean movements taking place, “tectonic shifts” within the human psyche at a “transpersonal” level.
It is not always clear whether something in a dream is to be taken personally, or collectively, or in both ways simultaneously. I’d like to illustrate this by referring to the dreams in this collection in which a candidate is assassinated (one in the same circumstances as was Robert Kennedy). I pick these dreams because they are a particularly troubling image for all of us. Those of us who are old enough to remember RFK, JFK, MLK and those dark days in our history will recall the overwhelming sense that every courageous effort to bring something vibrantly fresh into our world seemed destined to be taken from us. And today, one hears frequent worries expressed that both of our current candidates face some degree of risk in this regard.
We, as a culture, face this risk of losing the courageous energy of change over and over again, in all of its many forms. And we do need to be reminded of this danger, and to summon the coordinated effort to protect our culture and future from it as much as we can. Such dreams can help us find the determination to go forward in the face of adversity. And they offer a reminder of how easily the new can be lost if we lose our vigilance.
And yet, it is also possible to see this dream image in an entirely different way by asking oneself, “If this is my dream, what new and vibrant aspect of my own self is in danger of being killed? What new place within myself would the more entrenched parts of me choose not to allow to live and develop?” In this sense, an outer possibility is used by the dream to point the dreamer to an inner parallel, the need to protect new life and leadership within oneself…and to help the dreamer become aware that something in which he or she is presently engaged may be endangering that new life.
Thus one can see that every dream presents this ultimate pair of meanings, one related to the very personal inner world of the dreamer and one related to the transpersonal collective world. The former is visible only to the dreamer or to someone working intimately with the dreamer over time. The latter is potentially able to communicate with all of us.
DREAMS OF ROMANCE
And so, turning toward these transpersonal, collective levels of meaning, there are a few things I’d like to note from this very interesting set of dreams. For starters, there are a number of images of romance and seduction, sometimes satisfying, sometimes disappointing, and sometimes involving new infants. And indeed there does seem to be a very strong sense afoot that the present election is offering a dramatically new possibility to U.S. voters: the possibility of a first woman President and the possibility of a first African-American President both in the same election. And this is an extraordinary moment of courtship with the new. But I believe what is emerging is much larger than this. The emergence of these possibilities is the visible tip of a larger iceberg floating the seas of the psyche at this time in history.
THE VALUE OF THE COLLECTIVE
Let’s speak first a bit about the prospect of a first woman “president”. In the earliest millennia of human history the most dominant side of human nature was the feminine principle. This principle, among other things, put the primary focus on the well-being of the group rather than the individual. Sometime around the birth of the Judeo-Christian tradition, perhaps around 6000 years ago, a major shift took place and the masculine principle took hold. The history of world religion reflects this shift clearly. The divine feminine was overthrown by the divine masculine. Accounts abound in the Old Testament of the Bible where the ancient goddesses are portrayed as false gods and their worship as idolatry. Their monuments were destroyed and their worshippers frequently done away with as the masculine Yahweh took over.
The ascendance of this masculine principle was a necessary stage in human history with its focus on the development of the individual rather than the group. Over the course of two thousand years we now see, however, the immense dangers associated with giving all power to the masculine principle. We are discovering, regretfully slowly, but certainly, that, as Hillary Clinton says, “It takes a village”. We appear to be at a time when another fundamental shift is occurring in the depths of the transpersonal psyche, one which is leading toward a “marriage” on a conscious level, in all of us, between the feminine and masculine principles, such that neither of them dominates the other any longer.
THE VALUE OF JUSTICE
And that would be quite enough change to be integrating at one time. But let’s look now at what a first black “president” presents psychologically. In United States history the African American culture became symbolic of enslavement, deprivation, victimization. In general, of an absence of justice. On a symbolic level, the image of a black man as President carries not only a sense of reflecting possible healing taking place on this historical cultural level, but in a more personal way it represents an image of the way in which the side of oneself that has been put down, blocked and excluded from equal participation in one’s life is finally redeemed, brought back into consciousness and placed in a position of leadership.
And so it is that we find many dreams here reflecting a courtship process of one kind or another, hope, loss of hope, and all of the associated emotions one might expect in the presence of such large waves of change.
THE VALUE OF PRINCIPLES OVER PERSONA
We find a number of dreams seeming to want to remind us that “Hillary” and “Barack” are, after all, still just ordinary human beings. Barack is someone who, the dreamer is somewhat disappointed to discover, smokes…and he’s also someone one can just “hang out” with and eat pancakes. Hillary shops for Tupperware in her spare time. It is important to remember that it is the principles they are promoting, not their own persons, that are important in the larger scheme of things.
THE VALUE OF WHOLENESS
There are also a substantial number of dreams in which the dreamer is challenged to question his or her current opinions about a candidate. This is particularly notable when the dreamer has an intensely negative point of view and the dream is pushing against that. We know that such negative opinions often are surface reflections of “projecting” undesirable aspects of oneself onto someone else, i.e., what I can’t see in myself gets projected outwards so that I can see it…only I don’t know that it actually exists within me rather than within the person I’ve projected it on to.
Now, suppose this dimension of myself is actually something worthwhile that my psyche needs for my continued growth towards wholeness, but which I’ve repressed thinking it is a “bad” thing to be, perhaps due to the particulars of the values my parents held. How can the psyche move me toward more self awareness in this case? One way is to present a dream in which someone seeking a leadership position has these qualities I so despise, and then portray that person as actually very valuable. We see quite a large number of dreams here in which this process is taking place.
A particularly interesting example is the dream in which Hillary and Barack have been elected and, as a result, both Canada and Mexico are experiencing a huge wave of illegal immigration leaving the United States. This is interesting from my own point of view living inside the States, because here one of the major campaign issues has to do with controlling illegal immigration into the states, not out. But this dream seems to be portraying the tendency to want to escape the emergence of the new principles spoken of earlier at any cost. It is indeed true that the “ego” (the usual center of conscious existence) tends to maintain a bias against change of any type in life. It has the job, in effect, to preserve the status quo within oneself. Against this inertia the forces within the subconscious mind must struggle to ascend into consciousness. And when they succeed the ego is often inclined to “head for Canada”. The dreamer is asked to question this.
There are so many more themes to speak of. But I think this is enough to begin with. In general, I’d invite the reader to look at each dream in both the “personal” and the “collective” perspectives, realizing of course that on the personal perspective it belongs to the dreamer rather than the reader. On the collective level it belongs to all of us, and we are wise to be listening.
RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING
For those who might like to begin an exploration of Jung’s approach to dreams, I’d recommend taking a look at two very approachable introductory books: Inner Work by Robert Johnson, and Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language by John Sanford. Neither requires prior knowledge or study of psychology, and both point the reader toward his or her own dream material.
Monika Wikman has written a book that explores the processes of finding rebirth in the presence of the darker passages in life, Pregnant Darkness: Alchemy and the Rebirth of Consciousness. (She is my partner, but my reason for suggesting the book goes beyond promoting it.)
To explore the feminine principle you might enjoy reading The Spirit of the Valley by Sukie Cosgrove.
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