DREAM ADVICE COLUMN: DREAM AS PROPHECY?
Your dream interpretations are really interesting –I love reading and thinking about them. So I keep having these dreams that freak me out and I’d love to know your thoughts. Basically, in my dreams, I am getting it on with guys who I don’t really like in real life. Some of them are pretty gross. Most recently for example, I had this dream where I was in Sam’s Club, and I ran into this guy who lives around the block. His name is actually Sam, which is confusing. He’s about 10 years older than me and has bad hygiene and posture, but in the dream we got it on right there where the frozen food is. The weirdest part of it was that I was the one who started it. In real life I wouldn’t go near him. It always happens. I am a slut in my dreams. In real life, I am a virgin. Is that weird? What does it mean? I am scared that this is either insight into my true self or a prophecy of some kind.
I’m thrilled you’re enjoying this column! As for your dream, G, I so appreciate your candor in sharing the not-so-glamorous details. Our dreams never spare us of their grit, yet in our recounting of a dream we often like to divorce ourselves from the dream’s more shameful parts. Bodily functions in public, cheating on partners, murderous crimes, hiding babies in closets, unfortunate sex with Sam at Sam’s Club — in dreams we’ve done it all!
So to answer your question if it’s weird that you’re a slut in your dreams and a virgin in real life, the answer is yes and no. It is kind of weird how in our dreams we’re sluts, murderers, cheaters, and frauds (heroes sometimes too); yet, for the most part, ordinary and relatively decent people upon waking. Strange phenomenon, right? Yet at the same time, it would only be weird if we didn’t experience this dichotomy of character between our waking consciousness and our dreams.
There’s different ways of thinking about this phenomenon. Condensation in dreams is a useful mechanism to keep in mind. This is Freud’s notion that when we dream, we transform multiple causes into one dream image — like a psychic pressure cooker — thereby combining seemingly unrelated situations and variables. Just one dream image can be like a loaded, condensed, vital energy ball encapsulating one’s internal conflicts.
Your dream image in particular conjures up conflicts having to do with sex, shame, attraction, self-esteem, virginity, sluts, Sam’s Club, and frozen food. This is where psychotherapy can be instrumental in providing a safe and reflective space to unpack this matrix of associations. Also Jung’s notion of the shadow is a helpful way to think about the darker side of ourselves, or the set of traits we like to think we don’t possess. Thus “I’m a virgin, I’m not a slut” triggers a kind of unconscious sorting hat — and the slut in all her glory is relegated to the shadow side, to the “not me” side. The catch is that this side doesn’t go away; instead, it’s like “a long black bag we drag behind us”.
So to answer your question — is this insight into my true self or a prophecy of some kind — my advice is to keep in mind that “the other person” in dreams often has more to do with what is “other” in you, or in the shadow, than it does about another person. If we ignore what’s in the shadow side, it can manifest as a self-fulfilling prophecy, as we tend to project outward what is repressed inward.
Perhaps you feel on some level that sex is gross, or that the lustful part of you is a smelly and hunched hungry creature like Gollum. Sam’s Club, dare I mention “big box store,” is an impersonal, chain warehouse superstore. Then we have your neighbor Sam with the bad hygiene, whom perhaps you pity? In that sense, “Sam” must conjure up in you a resounding “No, definitely not me.” Yet how might this be like the shadow side of virgin-hood? Virginity constellates purity, selectivity, and restraint, to which maybe you say “Yes, that’s me.” While I don’t know how old you are or your feelings about being a virgin, your dream indicates you’re hungry!
This paradox of virginity and lustful sexuality held as one is best personified by the archetype of the Sacred Prostitute. The Sacred Prostitute, akin to the High Priestess, Geisha, or Hetaira refers back to an ancient feminine principle where soma and spirit were worshipped as one. Philosophical and religious currents would evolve to split mind, from body, from spirit, leaving the body to the realm of the profane. Your psyche is seeking a way to reconcile and integrate this divine aspect of the feminine right there in the frozen food section, rekindling her flame and melting her isolation (ice-olation). Thus your nocturnal liaisons are the psyche’s means of healing this split between you and Sam, or light and shadow, or the Virgin and the Whore.
For further reading check out The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine by Nancy Qualls-Corbett and A Little Book on the Human Shadow by Robert Bly.
Bly, R., & Booth, W. (1992). A little book on the human shadow. Shaftesbury: Element.