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Using dreams to talk about emotions

Using dreams to talk about your emotions by Dianne Porter

In my life my biggest threat to my stability and ability to do what I need to do is the overwhelming emotions I feel. These days I limit my exposure to people so I stay within my personal emotional limits but that is not always practical so I use my dreams to help me manage my feelings when they get bigger than I can manage in my daily life.

When I was younger (I am now 57) I couldn't talk when I needed to express myself and when I could, all I did was cry and blubber out all my feelings. I got so angry with myself but it was useless anger. Nothing changed and I was stuck.

I felt so silly and childlike so I started to work with my dreams to see if they could tell me a story about what was bothering me. I knew I needed to share my reality with others to break out of my emotional prison. I found I could share dreams with others without crying all the time. The surprise for me was, sometimes other people expressed their emotions while listening to or reading my dreams.

This gave me a socially appropriate feedback mechanism. It also gave me intimacy with other people without damaging them unintentionally by emoting uncontrollably all over them. I call that emotional incontinence and I suffer from it.

Dreaming is a more socially acceptable release valve so I can more comfortably dispose of my emotional overload without contaminating my social environment with inappropriate emotional self disclosure.

I started to write up my dreams on a daily basis and in the last 7 years in particular. They have helped me get through a major and life threatening depression. I was very suicidal for a long time.

I am well at the moment but I don't want to go back to being so emotionally unwell. I don't dream as vividly every day as I did when I was sick but the dreams still come to tell me when my emotions are being triggered more than I am able to handle each day.

When I write my dreams I often cry but I can still write and cry at the same time without feeling childish. That way I can vent the emotional overload and then move on with the tasks of daily living.

What was nice about writing initially was I found my fingers could move even if I couldn't move my body for fear of loosing control. Slowly the freedom and release in my fingers moved up my arms till my whole body could be moved and I didn't have to worry about throwing my self under a passing car or under a train.

I also found sharing my dreams did not scare the people I love and live with nearly as much as when I tried to express how I was feeling. Its pretty hard when someone sits down at the breakfast table and tells you how they avoided suicide in the last 24 hours. Sharing a dream that describes the emotional dilemma I am currently facing is much easier for them to bear.

In my life I pay attention to my dreams because they often tell me something I can't detect in my awake state. The noise and emotions of every day life cloud my observations. When I am asleep my mind is free of the distractions of daily life and can tell me how it sees the reality I live in so that I can relate to it more appropriately.

In me my heart feels and my brain observes. Dreams for me enable my brain to feel like my heart does and and my heart to know clearly why. It is how my heart and brain have intimacy and that is so priceless for me. Its how I stay sane and well.

This dream is the dream I had when I first became depressed. It was a mixed dream and had a positive and a negative side to it. It was how I learned to see my problems from two points of view. It also showed me why dreaming was going to work for me.

If I had been diagnosed by a physician at that time I am sure I would have been suffering from Post Partum Depression. I was never diagnosed and so never treated. I just made my way in life as best I could.

Just after I had my first baby I had a dream which I called “The Place of Blue.” When it began I was walking down a narrow hallway full of doors. Each door represented aspects my life so far but the last door at the end of the corridor would not open for me. I had come to a dead end.

(In my real life my husband has just told me he did not want to have any more children. This was a devastating blow for me.)

My dream self was banging on this door in a furious anger begging for someone to come and open the door. No one came and I collapsed in the hallway exhausted – I had come to the end of my personal power and the door wouldn’t budge.

In the dream I noticed I was watching me and I suddenly got the idea I could focus on what the watching me in the dream might be able to see. So I focused my attention on that me and looked at the scene.

The whole scene took on a different perspective and I was looking down on it from above. The hallway was a curve that projected into the place of blue. All the doors opened into it so I could have moved beyond the door that wouldn’t open by using any of the other doors.

“Silly me.” I thought to myself when I realised how blind I was and how much energy I had spent trying to open the door that wouldn’t open.

Now I had got beyond the door by taking a different view of things I was able to move into the place of blue. It was a vast place and I could not see the end of it. It was like a blue ocean only this one was made of air and hidden in the blue were objects I could explore but there were no people here.

The dream stopped here and when I woke up I asked myself – “Why was I in the place of blue?” and the answer came back immediately. “Because you never know what might come out of the blue.” The dream was a play on words but it opened me up to noticing what might come out of the blue.

It is now some 30 years since I had this dream. It was the one that led me to choosing to be a dreamer because I found them so helpful.

I didn't suicide then - in honour of the dream I made an appointment to see a counsellor. Even though I cried and blubbered all through that appointment I knew it was the way forward for me. The dream had showed me that what was behind me had exhausted its useful life for me. I had to let that life go because it was dead now.

I hope this observation of mine helps some of the visiting dreamers here on this site see a way they may also use their own dreams to manage their emotional life.

I personally believe dreams are very important to our collective emotional and logical well being. A logical world devoid of emotion is a very cold environment. Dreams help us integrate both worlds and create a magical reality that can help us become more humane in this world we all share.