Ancient Dreams


I rise early on winter mornings, puzzling over my chaotic dreams, trying to make out the path through the forest of my mind.

It’s there, if I give it my attention.

Last night’s version:

A young guy asks me if I want to get high. Strangely, I agree.  We keep searching for a hiding place, where we would not be apprehended. We don’t find one.

I carry an ancient turtle, the size of a large cat, in a bag over my shoulder. I explain to the young man that it is a prehistoric turtle who has broken out of his carbon casing. I periodically feed him hard biscuits.

Finally, I am, apparently, a medical student. I go to a hospital for work, only to find they had no patients scheduled that day who matched my “study protocol” – which was infertility.

“I haven’t had a day off in three weeks,” I complain, ”Why am here without patients? I should be doing my laundry and buying groceries.”

I give up and go to the grocery store,  where I become despondent when I discover the store no longer had “Paleo Mondays”. 

“What am I going to eat?” I moan, “without Paleo?”

I wake up, hungry.

Each of these is slightly more unrealistic than the next – I don’t smoke pot, I am not a medical student, have never been on a Paleo diet, nor carried a pet turtle.

I have woken from these dreams every morning of my life. Flooded with images and feelings about the events in my other world.

Carl Jung, a well-respected psychoanalyst and theorist, believed that we shared a collective unconscious. He posited that many symbols are universal and we all pull from a collective stream of images. This explained, he theorized, the representation of certain symbols in art from cultures across time and at great distances, long before there was active communication, or visitors.

(Let me pause to say this is my own understanding of Jung. I am a devotee of his teaching, but not an academic.)

Sometimes it feels almost as if I am having someone else’s dreams.

Could a frustrated medical student have brushed my arm in the super market, and I picked up her dilemmas?

(I couldn’t resist this stock photo of a happy medical student. Clearly not the one I was feeling in my dream. Also, clearly unrealistic. She should look harried and exhausted.)


Maybe she eats Paleo after getting “high”?


It’s more likely my muddled dream has many personal meanings.

When clients want to look at their dreams, I typically ask them to imagine everything in the dream represents different parts of themselves. That emotions show up as people and animals, even places. And our minds give us hints to what we need.

If I was my own therapist, (and I usually am) I might ask myself:

What is the heavy old, part of yourself you carry in a bag (the turtle)?  Is there a part of yourself you feed reluctantly (old biscuits) and have barely acknowledged?

Which part of yourself feels tired from too much work? And why does she concentrate on infertility? She feels her time is not be used wisely – there are no patients for her. Jung would say to play with that word. Is it patients, or patience?  What part of my life is not “fertile” enough, and needs more patience? (writing!)

And the young man, who wants to “get high” but does not want to get caught. Is this a part of me that wants to escape from stress? Or is it a desire to ascend, to pay attention to higher things (like Spirit)? But it faces the “apprehension” about making spirituality a larger part of my life?

And then there is my moment in the dream of sincere disappointment. “No more Paleo Mondays!”

This one stumps me. I know, in the dream, Paleo Mondays were a day I got some sort of Paleo dinner special. And now that they were discontinued, I was at a loss of what to eat.

Why Paleo? Why Mondays?

I Google Paleolithic, deciding perhaps it is not so much the diet, but the era, my unconscious was sending signals about.

And this is where it gets weird, the way dreams merge with the outside world, with topics I absolutely do not know about in my waking world.

(There is always something in dream analysis for Jung to hang his hat on.)

The picture that pops up when you Google the word Paleolithic is of two men hunting an enormous ancient turtle.  It looks just like the one I carried in my bag through-out the dream.

A Glyptodon, apparently. I have never seen one before, to my knowledge.


From the Wiki page. Paleo-Indians hunting a glyptodont Heinrich Harder (1858–1935), c.1920.

According to Wiki, “the Glyptodon . . with its rounded, bony shell and squat limbs. . .superficially resembled a turtle, and the much earlier dinosaurianankylosaur – providing an example of the convergent evolution of unrelated lineages into similar forms.”

Hm…a convergent evolution. Where seemingly different species become alike. Patterns emerge, shapes reappear across time and geographic space. More fodder for Jung’s ideas!

I certainly find my dreams converge with life. Sometimes I get clear messages (rest, pray, write) and sometimes I don’t (eat more meat?).

Pictures, images and people come to my dreams that I do not know. in my waking life.

I can accept this strange duality-of the dream world/waking world, only when I stretch my thinking beyond the concrete.Life is more like fiction writing than we care to believe. I need to suspend my need for things to move in a linear fashion, and then writing, and dreaming, are as real as being.

As my own therapist, I would say about this dream:

Feed the part of you that is feeling hungry (creativity).

Stop hiding any part of yourself under a hard shell and carrying its heavy weight around with you (let it go),

And there’s no need to hide your plan to get “high” every day (if it means to be closer to God). Do that, instead of escaping in mindless ways.

See? Wisdom from the frenzied unconscious night’s journey. When I take the time to listen.

My therapist-y advice to the rest of you? Start listening to your dreams. They are an untapped resource, rich with meaning, and your unconscious is playful, wise and deliciously clever.

And yes, Googling is a legitimate method or dream research. In fact, Jung seems to have predicted the world wide web a long time ago. He called it the collective unconscious.


PS- On the writing front, since some of you are asking. The Vines We Planted is in the last editing stages, but that still means it will take some time to be on the shelf. We are hoping for March! (Wido Pulbishing)

In the meantime I have ¾ of my next novel drafted and the first act of a play written. Time to get those things to fruition (read:feed the turtle …and yes, writing is a lot like an ancient turtle, it moves so darn slow.)