In my dream I am wandering about in my
basement. I discover a great number of objects I had not known I had—much
of which seems to have come from my mother-in-law (now deceased).
Had I put all that stuff there and then forgotten about it? I am amazed
to see how much there is. I come upon a bunch of jewelry, including
several pieces I would enjoy wearing. One piece, in particular, catches
my eye—a lovely pearl set upon a gold pendent. As soon as I
see it I know that I would love to wear it as a necklace. Next I encounter
several figurines—statues and other decorative objects—of
the sort that might be brought back from trips far away. Some of the
pieces look native, Innuit or East Indian, perhaps. Once again I see
things that I would appreciate having-- particularly in my therapy
space. Beyond the jewelry and the figurines, I find framed art and
family photographs. I wake with a feeling of discovery; I have received
a treasure trove from beneath my feet.
Many of us have had dreams of discovering rooms
in our homes we didn’t know existed or objects we didn’t
know we owned. My basement dream falls into the category of “discovering
resources previously unknown.” Like those other dreams, mine
brims with a sense of possibility newly realized. According to the
dream, I have only to recognize the worth of what lies waiting for
me within the depths of my own living space. Small wonder that I wake
with a feeling of promise and discovery.
In reflecting upon the dream I should disclose
that my mother-in-law has left us much that we found valuable and
that we cherish as part of our home life. Because of this I am not
inclined to hear the dream on an “outer level”. That is
to say, since I already know about the many gifts received from my
mother-in-law in an objective sense, and since I do not believe that
dreams tell us what we already know, I am not inclined to hear this
dream as being “about” my actual mother-in-law and her
actual things. Rather, my sense is that this dream points to something
inner—gifts from the psyche say—inherited from the “mother-in-law”
aspect of my own personality.
Naturally it is for me to ponder on what energy
my mother-in-law carries for me and what her gifts to me might translate
to in psychological terms. For example, I might ask myself: where
in my life do I experience this mother-in-law energy, or what in me
is like mother-in-law? Or put another way, if I were to compose a
poem or story featuring mother-in-law as a character, what is it that
I would be attempting to convey? As is the case for anyone wanting
to work a dream, I need to reflect upon the symbolic associations
that arise in connection to persons, place, and plot.
The particulars of my basement bounty are therefore
interesting. To begin with, the treasure I find is both beautiful
and appealing.. The dream is clearly suggesting something to do with
pleasure and enjoyment. These are not practical objects, but rather
those that enhance and decorate the life experience. At the same time,
it is important to note that the dream has taken the trouble to create
an entire world parallel to the one in which I actually live. It reveals
a dream basement (in reality I have only a crawl space beneath my
home) filled with dream objects.
To my Jungian mind, basement suggest unconscious,
the psychological space “beneath” our conscious personality.
Much as it would be in real life, my dream basement is out of sight
and not incorporated into my daily living space. In general, basements
tend to be imagined in the collective mindset as dark, out of the
way, spaces—the underneath areas below the more well-lit and
well-used (conscious) spaces of life. In this sense, my dream seems
to be saying that somewhere in the depths of myself I have stuff waiting
to be found, stuff that lies just under my habitual attitudes and
approach to life. This stuff—these beautiful, lovely things—could
enrich my experience if only I would pay it heed and recognize it
Recognition here seems to be key. The dream’s
plotline might be heard as one of discovery. In this case, that discovery
is tied to another recognizable motif: the journey to regions down
below. Countless fairy tales and myths dramatize the message that
we need to search in unexpected places—in the underworld, down
a well, beneath the earth—to find what is worthwhile. Like those
stories, my dream seems to say that I need to shift from my usual
perspective in order to find the riches that are available to me.
In the end, this is a dream about value. After
all, the dream does not show me discovering junk in my basement (that
would be an entirely different dream). Instead, I find jewelry and
art pieces, all of which feels worthwhile and important to me. Once
again, however, these are not treasures of this world. Rather, the
dream wants to remind me of inner gifts (psychological traits perhaps)
that I did not know I had.
From this point of view, the dream carries
a more universal message. Within the depths of ourselves, our collective
basement, as it were, we all carry inheritance waiting to be realized.
The inheritance comes from the life of the soul, if I can use that
term, or the Dreamaker in each of us. Each night it spins its tale
inviting us into a more meaningful understanding of our own existence.
Here we can find truths—some comforting some more painful—that
can assist us in living more authentically, more in harmony with our
own nature. In a world that bombards us with messages about who we
should be, dreams allow us to sense our own individual path, our own
unique worth. As with my basement dream, the Dreamer in all of us
invites us to look within to see what treasures lay unclaimed. We
may be surprised to discover just how much awaits us in the realm
of our dreams.
Barbara Platek M.A. is a Jungian psychotherapist in Ithaca, New