"The dream", December 12, 1996
A woman sitting on a chair is very anxious about people she believes are near
However I show her that there are no people anywhere around.
What she is disturbed by are only pieces of clothing draped on some kind of
sticks that are attached to her chair in various places.
I point to one behind her shoulder, with fabric over it and a hat.She sees
that there is no one to fear, only some things she is imagining are hostile
I say, this is a wonderful image for what we do in life when we imbue
situations and people with dangerous qualities and then we fear them.
In this dream I knew -- although part of me did not know -- that emotions in
dreams and in waking life may feel extremely real -- but are often based on
This dream reminds me of a classic teaching story about a holy man in India
who is resting by the side of the road. Several men pass by and stop. A thief
exclaims, "Oh, he must have had a good haul and spent it all and is resting
A drug addict disagrees, " No, he's high on something."
An alcoholic says, "He's drunk."
After several others come along and each sees in the Sadhu what he himself
is, they get into a big argument about whose version of the situation is true .
Another holy man comes by, sees them arguing, and goes over to the fellow
sitting by the side of the road. He recognizes that this man is calmly
meditating and is in an altered state of consciousness.
Let's look at this dream as a metaphor for the process of *PROJECTION.*
It prompted me to ask myself, " What have I projected on the world? and
how has this affected me and my life?"
This is a net that caught me many fish! For example, I was surprised to find
today that underneath my objections to comments about age, was my own ageist
attitude. When I called people's attention to their prejudice against old
people, I believed I did not share it. Then I saw that I was unwittingly buying
into the put down of old people by not wanting to state my age. It sounded
"too old" to me, and old was bad.
I believe we will often find projection at work in our attitude toward people
who are different from ourselves in age ( teens or seniors, for example ), and
other ways, such as race, national origin, sexual and religious preference,
income, life style and behavior, manner of dressing or speaking. We see them
through our own eyes, we see the world as we are, and don't give ourselves a
chance to appreciate people and life as they actually are.
I see how I have also done this with myself, forming an idea of how I should
or should not be and how I believe I am or need to be, but this is no more real
than the clothes- on- sticks of my dream. Nevertheless, part of me bought
into it as if it were reality and let this run me. In the process, I weakened my
ability to know myself and to interact with others realistically.
I thought that I feared ridicule, hostility, judgment, anger and exclusion
from other people and woke up to see these traits in myself.
But it was not only negative qualities that I projected out into the
world.There were also qualities I longed for. For example, I saw in one person
an attentive, compassionate listener, in another a devoted companion who would
always agree with me. When other people did not feel comfortable with these
roles I had to take off the projections I had pinned on them, but sometimes I
did not want to allow my cherished projections to be shattered.
This dream is a short hand reminder to stay in touch with reality and not
insist that the clothes hanging on a stick are real people made to my
specifications or prejudices!
Alissa, January 1997
Hey, send me some comments!
And you can see my site & backissues at: