A couple of days ago the musician Thomas Dolby had a dream, and asked for an interpretation on his blog. I’ve just spent quite a long time writing a response to this, that summarises what I’ve learned about dreams and dream analysis over the years, and thought I’d post it here – largely so that I can feel like I’ve done something more useful this morning than just trying to ingratiate myself with a musician of whom I’m a fan!

I haven’t asked Thomas’ permission to repost his dream, and I make a few references to its content so if you’re curious you can here it here, although the points I make below can be applied to any dream, whatever the content.

Also, since the original post is on a blog that is for Thomas’ fans rather than for people interested in personal development I started my post with the following:

WARNING: The following offering contains long words, and risks being a candidate for Pseud’s Corner.

Dream analysis is a subtle and fluid matter, and is often crassly and rigidly over-simplified. It’s not possible to make definitive statements about the meaning of dreams, especially without a clear sense of the emotional tone that accompanies each episode in the dream. So-called Dream Dictionaries are mostly a waste of paper.

While there are some obvious archetypal aspects to the symbolism of this dream, polar bears and Arctic ice have become such emotionally weighted symbols in the discussion of global warming that their resonances have shifted in recent years.

I’m reminded of Jung’s comment that you should learn all you can of the world’s mythology, but forget it when you are with a client. Thomas, as an artist I’m sure that you appreciate the benefits of a shifting sense of meaning in the use of evocative symbols, and how much is lost in trying to tie this down to a single interpretation.

Hillman argues (in The Dream & The Underworld – which is a tough read, and I haven’t been able to finish it) that rather than seeking to make sense of our dreams with our waking consciousness, we would be better served to seek to make sense of or waking experience with our dream consciousness. In some ways this is similar to the perspective of Tantric Buddhism.

The point I understand Hillman to be making here, is that we tend to assume that the way in which we perceive things when awake is the only and correct way of seeing them. In fact, the way we make sense of things is often a stronger indicator of the structure of our own psyches than of “objective’ reality.

Gestalt dream analysis often encourages the dreamer to explore the dream from the perspective of each of the actors/components in the dream. As the polar bear is an aspect of your psyche, what is his experience in the dream? how about the seal? or even the snow and ice?

I’d encourage you to hold as open a relationship to the dream as you can, with multiple possible interpretations all held provisionally. If there is still a strong emotional resonance to the dream, then you might explore it in composition. If it’s just something about which you are intellectually curious, then I’d suggest that it probably isn’t particularly psychically significant.

For anyone seriously interested in this stuff I recommend checking out Freud & Jung’s perspectives (in that order – there are some pretty straight-forward summaries which are easy to get hold of), and then (if you’re feeling intellectually robust) reading a bit of James Hillman. It’s also worth checking out Fritz Perls/ Gestalt, & I’m told Ken Wilber has a typically thorough analysis, but I haven’t read it myself.

I hope this is of some use and interest, if you have further perspectives to add I’d be delighted to hear from you.