More than meets the eye

Daytime images

My close relatives were talking about breast cancer they both personally have experienced. While they were wondering if a recurrence of breast cancer is a metastasis of the original one or only an unconnected incidence not catalyzed by it, a vision of a frozen lake with two holes through the ice flashed in my mind.

This image appeared to me in a waking state. But because there is no significant difference between dreams and daytime images from within, it might well have appeared to me in the next night’s dream if I had not seen and understood it during the day and thus discharged the emotional component of it. The connection between the image and the objective reason for that image (i.e. cancer discussion) had been practically unreachable by logic, because they did not have any recognizable common visible components, whereas the emotional connection was crystal clear. This image was one of those typical very swiftly fading mental pictures we often have during the day, especially in boring and monotonous situations, visions we hardly even notice before they are gone.

While listening to the ladies I realized how my mental apparatus had immediately crystallized my own thoughts about their discussion into a lake scene. I always have had a feeling that many cancer incidents in the same person are better understood as a body system's general susceptibility, not as a successive series of cancer incidents, the latter triggered by the previous ones. I saw the cancer incidents as holes in the ice: we walk on thin ice, suddenly the ice breaks under our feet; the cancer breaks out. We may de drawn out of the hole; the cancer fades out because of therapy. But the ice is still thin, and later it breaks again; the cancer breaks out again, another hole in the ice is born.

Societal images

In dream groups we often try to find connections between dream images and real life. Suppose that the dreamer had this vision of mine in a dream. The group is asking if the dreamer has visited that lake or any other lake during the last days. But how could the group know in this case that the lake image is a presentation of the dreamer's view about the nature of breast cancer and his metaphor is born from the imminent threat in his own family!

Thin ice is a very common symbol of fragility, of imminent danger. The group knows the societal part of this image, the dreamer his own individual, time bound, exact meaning of it. This illustrates how helpless and at the same time helpful the group can be in finding the inner chord of the dream with the collaboration of the dreamer. On the other hand, for inhabitants in warmer latitudes it is harder to understand how strong the collective symbol of walking on thin ice can be for a nation of thousands of lakes, such as Finland, where many have lost their loved ones through treacherously thin ice, but multi-national dream groups seem swiftly to get hold of also these kinds of strictly culture-bound images.

In waking state we try to cling to outward impressions, and to derive our solutions from them with logic. The dreamer meets the same problem, but a lake is not always a lake. His logic is no better solving the riddle of the dream. He has the key to the dream, but the key factor is not his logic, but his emotion. The analysis of the dream is the prisoner of intellect, reflecting more the prison walls than the dream. "The work of art is stripped of its sensuous life and reduced to a bare statement", as Susan Sontag puts it about art. This is a typical, fruitless way to handle dreams.

The real power of the dream group exists in the united plunge into the realm of dream images, where the intellect understands its inferiority as an opening force of the dream, giving way to immediate experience; the nonverbal atmosphere vibrating between the words in dream scenes. Only through this atmosphere the dreamer is able to find the hidden key of the dream, recognizing that the key has never been lost, but has always been completely undisguised in front of his very own eyes. It is the dreamer who has been wandering too far away from his very roots, where dreams have always waited for him to return back to his true self.

(More detailed treat of this topic is found particularly on pages 63-65 of my book Understanding Dreams - The Gateway to Dreams Without Dream Interpretation)