Exploring the Mystery of Dreams

Joel Metzger of the Online Noetic Institute interviewing H. Roberta Ossana

(Preface by Joel Metzger) This interview continues our BEST OF series, with selected Online Noetic Network (ONN) articles; it was first published two years ago. ONN is affiliated with the Institue of Noetic Sciences. Reprinted August 1998.

    I know the imagery in dreams can bring a wealth of insight, so I spoke to the editor, H. Roberta Ossana, about dream study. Dream Network Journal is a professional publication, beautifully printed and distributed world wide. One year regular US subscription is $22.
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 ** ONN Joel: Why examine dreams? I'm a regular guy, living in this society
with all its stimulations and impressions. I think about many things. I have
zillions of insignificant, random thoughts. Some seem meaningful, some
don't. Dreams are just thoughts, aren't they? Why examine them?

 ** Roberta Ossana: Big question. First, I need to clarify that, though I
value  dreams intensely, I'm not inclined toward a scientific perspective.
While I value and have access to the latest research findings along these lines,
my path is grounded in the mystical,he mystery. My responses are born of experience and study,
which by this time, is considerable. So, I find it difficult to entertain your question.

Dreams are so much more mysterious, purposeful and meaningful than our
(random) thoughts. The DreamMaker within each of us ingeniously chooses
particular symbols, stories, songs, and statements -- all uniquely
individualized to convey our soul's priorities. Dream is one word. It
encompasses a universe of meaning and purpose, as dreams come to us for many
reasons. There are an infinite number of 'types' of dreams. Most of the
world's cultures (outside the Western world) and indigenous peoples have
looked to their dreams, for centuries, for guidance, healing, solutions, ad

Most individuals in our culture have never been encouraged to value their
dreams. So we are, unfortunately, collectively at a beginner's stage in
regard to remembering, valuing, understanding and enacting our dreams.
Better NOW than not at all!

 ** ONN Joel: Meanings and purposes ... guidance and healing ... solutions
-- What is the ingredient in dreams that gives them significance and
mystery, so much more than random thoughts?

 ** Roberta Ossana: How can we name the nameless? Spirit? Soul? God. A
friend shared this message, after receiving it from a 'dream voice:' "Dreams
come from God." Now, there' an ingredient for you!

Now a question for you. Perhaps a definition of terms is in order. When you
say 'random thoughts' do you include inspirations that 'bubble up'?
Intuition? If so, intuition and inspiration received in 'waking reality'
often springs from the same source as dreams. Or, do you mean our typical
meandering, fragmented thought patterns?

 ** ONN Joel: Good question. I meant the meandering fragments. At the time I
asked this, I had been thinking about something dumb, like worrying What If
something about dinner that night. A silly thought. And I asked about the
zillions of insignificant, random notions that pop up. Not the inspirations
or intuitions. Those inspired thoughts have something that makes them
different, like the static on the radio before the station is tuned in. You
know what I mean by the difference?

If you understand what I mean, then maybe you see the same difference in
dreams. I've had dreams that sang. And, of course, the ones that glow are
easiest to remember and the ones worth remembering.

"Dreams come from God." Does that mean that *all* dreams have great
significance for you?

 ** Roberta Ossana: I believe *all* dreams have significance, though I must
admit, the 'ones that glow' stand out as the guiding light(s) on my path.
The 'ones that glow' are typically loaded with archetypal symbols, coming
from that primal level of consciousness which Jung coined the 'collective
unconscious.' Those dreams often hold meaning for a larger community, for
humanity, as well as for ourselves. The Bible is replete with such visions.
As I mentioned, there are an infinite variety of reasons/purposes for which
dreams surface; some seem more relevant, comprehensible than others. Like
the newspaper: there are front page stories and those that are tucked into
the middle and back sections to fill space. Despite their position in our
own individualized 'publication,' and/or our ability to comprehend their
meaning on the cognitive level, I believe we 'get it.' We get the message,
intuitively. So, despite the 'glow,' I believe that all dreams come to serve
our well-being in a positive way.

Let me give you an example of how a nightmare can be, if not God, an angel
in disguise:

 A woman in my dream group had a dream of a ferocious bear. She awakened
trembling. She drew the bear on a large piece of paper, brought it to the
dream group, and put it up on the wall. That bear became a member of our
group for the evening. As we worked with her dream, it became apparent that
the bear was issuing a warning related to her health. She went to her doctor
and learned that she had a very serious, life threatening illness. In fact,
the prognosis was terminal. The dreams that followed -- which became the
centerpiece of our work as a group during her crisis -- revealed both the
cause and the cure for her dis-ease. She followed her dreams' wisdom and is
today very alive, healthy and productive.

 ** ONN Joel: That's a beautiful story!

So, you find that dreams are images that come from one's subconscious (or a
collective consciousness). And by looking at them, we can learn messages
from ourselves and our higher selves. Is this correct?

 ** Roberta Ossana: There is confusion regarding the correct word to use for
the place within us from which dreams spring. You used subconscious and
collective consciousness. Some call it the 'unconscious' part of ourselves;
others, soul. For the purpose of this interview, may we refer to that genius
within as the DreamMaker?

Now, the answer to your question is YES!

 ** ONN Joel: When you look at dreams, do you focus on the objects in the
dreams (people, events, things, etc.) or the feelings you had during the
dream? Or, for that matter, maybe you look at the feelings you have *after*
the dream, when you remember it.

 ** Roberta Ossana: All of the above.... and more. Most important, I
believe, is the emotional response or feelings during the dream and after
awakening. Place or setting. Time (past or present, for instance). Colors.
Sometimes the most seemingly insignificant element in a dream can be the key
to unraveling its message. For example, there was a woman my dream group who
claimed she didn't dream or if she did, she never remembered them. However,
she was interested in the subject and wanted to be a part of the group.
(This is common, by the way.)

The second time she came to the group she was so excited that she had
remembered a dream. (Though just a fragment.) She didn't want to share it,
as she was certain there was nothing of importance to be yielded. However,
when encouraged, she did share that she remembered .... "Standing at the
kitchen sink of the home I lived in as a child, dishing up strawberry ice
cream." That's all. We encouraged her to make associations to just those few
images: childhood home, kitchen, sink, strawberry ice cream, etc. ... and
you would not believe the storehouse of insight she received as a result.

 ** ONN Joel: Wow, good example. I know some of the books on dream
interpretation place certain meaning on specific things. They might say "If
you dream about an umbrella, it means this ..., and if the umbrella is
colored red, it means this .... However, other sources say that there are no
universal, pat interpretations. There are only individual meanings, attached
to the symbols according to the person dreaming. Could you comment on these

 ** Roberta Ossana: Archetypal symbols typically have universally applicable
meanings and/or interpretations. Symbols such as Tree, Mother, Father,
Child, Snake, the elements (Fire, Water, Earth and Air), etc. However, most
of our dreams are individualized, and they are of a personal (rather than
collective) nature. It is true that each individual develops their own
'symbol dictionary' based on their unique life experience; it is that pool
of images which our DreamMaker calls upon in creating our dreams. So, the
notion of referring to a symbol dictionary to learn what the umbrella meant
in your dream is not a recommendable way to go. Symbol dictionaries can and
do serve the purpose of helping us to become better acquainted with symbolic
language, however, and are often very helpful in stimulating the associative
and/or 'bridging' process.

 ** ONN Joel: I am one of those people who rarely remembers a dream. I have
nothing to interpret, because I recall nothing. What would you suggest if I
want to examine my dreams?

 ** Roberta Ossana: First of all, one has to WANT to remember their dreams.
Remember, it has been scientifically proven that we all dream every night...
so, you know you're missing something. If you set an intention, for example,
by taking a little time in the evening before retiring to become quiet and
make an affirmation that you desire to remember your dreams... that helps.

Have a voice activated tape recorder and/or a journal at your bedside, so
when something comes through you will be able to catch it. Be patient; it
might not happen right away... but if you are sincere, be assured that it
will. Beginning to talk with others about dreams, sharing dreams,
themselves, with others, helps confirm the intention. Join or start a dream
discussion group. Once non-recallers have created time especially for
dreams, I've never seen them fail to become marathon dreamers

 ** ONN Joel: So, if I start recalling dreams, I wonder what I can expect.
What form do people's dreams usually take? I wonder, will my dreams most
likely be leftovers from my shadow side, unowned wishes, random imaginings,
or all the above?

 ** Roberta Ossana: The first thing I would recommend is that you reach out
-- perhaps to one of the dream groups and/or Dream Networker's listed in our
publication, Dream Network -- and have someone, or a group, with whom to
share and work on your recalled dreams. A therapist familiar with dreams can
be invaluable, as well, if needed and affordable. Since our dreams typically
come to us in symbolic language and metaphor (we are so steeped in reason,
logic, the literal), the language of the soul is unfamiliar to most. That's
why our dreams often look, on the surface, like 'random imaginings.'

Also, because our dreams are typically (not always) conveying information
that is 'unconscious' -- or as you suggest, from our shadow sides -- it is
often like being in the forest and not being able to see the trees. We are
too close to the material, emotionally, to be able to get it on the
cognitive level. Here's where a good listener, someone familiar with the
territory, is very helpful, because they can ask good questions, stimulate
associations, etc.

We also have a little booklet called the Art of Dreamsharing and Developing
Dream Groups that would be helpful in answering your questions. As far as I
know, there is no answer to the question: "What form to people's dreams
typically take?" Dream is one word that encompasses a field of forms as vast
and awe-full, awesome, as the universe. Truly.

 ** ONN Joel: Of course, I know there is no way to predict and I know that
they come in every possible way and that dreams are very different for each
individual, so you can't say for me. But my question is: is there any
"usual" for new dream explorers?

 ** Roberta Ossana: There are so many variables. It depends on life
experience, age, depth of sincerity, etc. One thing is for certain, the
DreamMaker is very wise and rarely gifts us with material we are not ready
to deal with, on some level. Middle-agers, who have a lifetime of repressed
emotions, traumas, etc., often start out with earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal
waves, etc. In one of her first recalled dreams as an adult, one woman (in
her dream).... "Opened a door and there was water from the floor to the top
of the doorway.... just 'standing' there." It didn't gush in and overwhelm
her. How beautiful! Water most often symbolizes the unconscious, emotions.
So, in her dream image, this powerful element was just standing there,
waiting to be invited in!

 ** ONN Joel: If dreams are a window to see into the parts of myself that I
am not conscious of, then I will be seeing parts that I am not aware of. I
guess I am not aware of these parts because I am not ready to see them. So,
if I examine dreams, will I be looking for things I'm not ready to see? It
sounds like asking for trouble! Or do I remain blind to those dreams (the
parts of myself) that I'm not ready for?

 ** Roberta Ossana: Our dreams provide us with imagery, songs, sayings...
whatever the DreamMaker chooses.... when we ARE ready. Often it is painful
and/or perplexing. That's why having a dream companion, group or therapist
that is familiar with dreams is so valuable. Jung said, "Those who are
called to their dreams must be willing to suffer." Healing from centuries of
fractured human relationships and from coming up in a dysfunctional culture
(most of us, consequently, in dysfunctional families) is not 'quick-fix'
work. It is ongoing, a lifetime commitment.

Our dreams tell us the truth about ourselves, our relationships, our world.
For some reason, the human race has had a difficult time facing the truth...
But, now, we have come to a point in time in our evolution -- personally and
collectively -- where we have no choice but to face -- and live -- the
truth. We are in crisis and one of our unfailing characteristics is that we
do own up to our purpose and potential in crisis. The Chinese say crisis is
another word for opportunity!

Here is another of Jung's teachings: "In the final analysis, what is the
fate of great nations but a summation of the changes in each individual."
Gandhi, when asked how India's struggle was going, commented that he was
preoccupied waging the battle within himself and that is what made him so
tolerant of the English. In our next issue of Dream Network there is a dream
in which a man on horseback carries a message into the midst of a battle
about to take place. The message he delivers is: "The war among the selves
is over!"

 ** ONN Joel: Thank you, Roberta!

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