DREAMWORK: A BASEMENT STORY

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 as mine.

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 York

© 2006 • Barbara Platek, Jungian Psychotherapist • 119 East Buffalo St, Ithaca, NY, 14850 • (607) 273-4610