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I often have dreams about being in a house I’m very familiar with — sometimes my parents’, where I grew up, or my grandparents’, and I open a door that leads to another room, and another door to another room, and on and on.  Sometimes it is an actual door that exists, sometimes it is a door that only exists in my dream.  The dream rooms are usually very opulent and extravagant – ballrooms, libraries, courtyards with fountains.  I’ve dreamed in my grandmother’s house that an existing bedroom was massive with multiple fireplaces, marble, velvet furniture.  These houses in reality are very nice – but I was raised, and still live, a very “normal” Midwestern lifestyle.  Nothing at all like these homes in my dreams.  I am a bohemian maximalist at heart, but not so much in reality.  What could these dreams mean?  

Dear R,


What a beautiful dream! Aside from animal dreams, my other great love is a labyrinthian house dream! We can imagine the house as a map of the psyche, where there are rooms within rooms, hidden doors, attics, basements, and secret chambers. Like a miller’s daughter in a fairy tale who dreams of one day leaving her humble cottage to live in the royal palace, perhaps this dream similarly lays out a blueprint for how you’ll build extraordinary additions onto ordinary parts of your life.

In The Poetics of  Space, French philosopher Gaston Bachelard meditates on the symbolism of homes, not merely as places in which we dwell, but as psychic structures that protect our imagination. He wrote: 

The house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories, and dreams of mankind. Past, present, and future give the house different dynamisms, which often interfere, at times opposing, at others, stimulating into one another. It is body and soul. It is the human being’s first world.  (1958, p. 6-7)

He goes on to describe how wardrobes, corners, drawers, shells, and nests are as much psychic realities we inhabit as they are objects of the material world, and the resonance of where the two meet is the space of dreams and memories. Your dreams begin in a house you’re very familiar with, belonging to your parents or grandparents, thereby linking you to the past and the generations that have come before you. The familiar house provides a literal home base from where you can wander off into a labyrinth of possibilities.

Take a moment to picture how living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, attics, and basements symbolize seemingly disparate aspects of the self. In this way, the house image holds us together. Ground level spaces like kitchens and living rooms have something to do with what’s out in the open and more conscious. Bedrooms and bathrooms, on the other hand, are far more intimate, private spaces…and let’s not get started on toilets! Basements and attics, like your hidden ballroom, are more secretive spaces, and have to do with something ancestral, internal, and less directly known. Your dream in particular attempts to integrate your “normal” Midwestern lifestyle (living room?) and the Bohemian Maximalist (secret ballroom?) in your soul. Perhaps in building these new additions onto your internal “house,” you’re also expanding into new “editions” of your identity.

Now, if we were working together in a therapy session, I’d be curious about the barriers that limit you from more fully inhabiting your maximalist style. It’s kind of like this dream is providing you an outlet to decorate to your heart’s desire, similar to when we have sex dreams during a dry spell, or eat an excessive amount of a food we would normally limit (check out the post on Pop Tarts!). Our dreams permit us to safely satiate hungers that seem too risky to satisfy in reality. How does your Bohemian Maximalist hunger fit into, or feel at odds with the Midwestern culture around you, with your family, and with your identity?

The opulence you describe in your dream sounds infused with an exquisite specialness. It seems to go deeper than just your sense of style and perhaps is linked to your libidnal life. Maybe you are turning certain impulses inward, resulting in an elaborate “interior decorating.” It’s natural for us to protect whatever we value the most, and this is echoed in your dream house, as you have to go through many rooms and doors to reach the riches. It’s like you’re protecting something very precious, yet very big. I can’t help but make the association to female genitalia, with all its twists and turns, leading to an interior space where we can create new life. Dare I say you may be pregnant with decadent desires!

Overall, I feel very optimistic about these dreams. It sounds to me like you’re working out how to integrate your ordinary upbringing with the lush vitality of your inner life. You can imagine the culture shock of the miller’s daughter as she wanders through towering palace corridors and luxurious chambers. While she’s spellbound by the enormity of it all, it’s her internalized humble home that truly makes her a queen.

*DISCLAIMER: Dreamwork is a collaborative process that relies entirely on the associations of the dreamer to create a dream meaning. Without the dreamer’s input, I can only describe my personal associations and amplify the dream images as they exist symbolically on a cultural level.

See original post on the Free People blog here

Illustration by Erica Prince

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