What do you dream about? And how do you dream?
My dreams are often vivid and colorful and active. Sometimes they’re quite frightening. Other times they’re soothing and calming. Some I label as my “science-fiction dreams.” When I was teaching, I’d dream that the semester was almost over and I realized that I’d forgotten to go to a particular class to teach it –for the whole semester! Or that I had a classroom filled with only people who had received F’s in other classes I’d taught. If there was a teaching dream to be had, I had it. I have flying dreams. But lately I’ve been thinking of one particular type of dream that I have.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed about houses. Usually, these are not houses I actually live in or have lived in. And not usually in places I’ve ever actually lived.
These dreams are so real that when I wake up I could sketch not only the house but the layout of rooms. Architectural styles vary. Some are townhouses or row homes. Other times, it’s a farmhouse. Or a cottage, sometimes a thatched-roof cottage. Occasionally the house is made of stone, the kind of stone you see in the Cotswolds in England, which seem to hold and reflect the light in magical ways. I’ve dreamed of apartments in Italy, of old stone villas with olive orchards. There are steps leading up to some, stairs in others. I’ve dreams of one-story houses, of multiple-story houses. Bungalows, cabins, cottages. Wood. Stone. Painted brick. Shuttered or with walls of huge windows. Maybe there’s a balcony or a terrace. Maybe there’s a garden, formal or not. Some have fireplaces. Some don’t.
Sometimes the house is situated in a town, or a city. Sometimes it’s near a lake or an ocean. Some houses have been near or in mountains. Often, I could also include a layout of furniture. I see colors and decor. I even see paintings and photographs and books. I’m aware that it’s not my house, but at the same time it is my house. It always feels familiar and comfortable and known.
And it’s never the same house, either. The only time the houses remain the same? If it’s a real house. If that’s the case, then it’s either my grandmother’s house in Beaumont or the Ware farmhouse in East Texas. Yet even there, at times, reality shifts. Frequently I enter the house in Beaumont only to discover that there’s now a second floor to the back room — and sometimes it’s got multiple rooms too. Recently I dreamed that I went back to it, even though someone else owns it, and found it abandoned, deserted. I walked through the unlocked door and was wandering through the rooms, deciding to move in. At the farmhouse, sometimes it’s got new rooms. Sometimes it’s the way it was before Granddad built on to it in 1956 or so, after he sold timber.
For centuries, and in many cultures, people have written treatises about dreams and the meanings of dreams. Psychologists analyze dreams for meaning — at least some do, as Jungian or Freudian analysts do. Dreams aren’t without structure. Nor do they conform to the same reality that might be observed when we’re awake.
I love the way that dream-reality allows scenes to shift, colors to change, and people to morph into other people. It all seems so plausible, so believable inside the dream-world itself. That’s why when I walk into these dream houses, I know (on one level) that they’re not mine, yet on another level, feel completely that I am in my own home. I mean, I recognize and even anticipate what’s there.
Periodically I keep a dream journal. You know, I keep a notebook in bed or by the bed, so that as soon as I awaken I grab it and write whatever I remember. I have to write fast, without paying attention to grammar or any punctuation rules. Sometimes I end up sketching something. I write as long as I have anything I can remember. No detail is too small to include. Maybe I’ll keep a journal for a couple of weeks, but it’s difficult to sustain for longer than that.
Over the years, I’ve read books on dream interpretation, searched for the meanings of dreams, of objects and events that are in the dreams. Should I be worried, for example, if I dream about drowning, or about driving over an overpass that suddenly has no connection to a road and I simply hurdle through air?
But houses. They’re not scary. They’re not threatening. At least, not if they’re not on fire, or being destroyed by a tornado or hurricane or sinkhole. And I don’t remember any dreams like that.
No, these are always pleasant dreams. I’m always peaceful and happy with them. I’m always calm.
Houses obviously represent something. What?
Well, that varies, obviously. Jungian psychology looks upon the house as an archetypal symbol of our selves, our psyches, our sense of who we are. The meaning, though, might depend upon culture. Houses reveal something about our states of mind. What the house looks like — its state — reflects our state. Is it, for example, neglected? Well-kept? Is it built well? Is it proportioned? Falling apart? Does it seem spacious? Or is it cramped? Jung viewed dreams as key to deep analysis, but cautioned individuals about analyzing their own dreams. Only a trained analyst could properly examine the complexities of a dream and its symbols.
Freud, of course, viewed dream symbols as primarily sexual. Objects could be male or female. A room in a house generally a woman, and the house itself was also. Walking up stairs or steps or ladders might signify a sexual act. He also viewed dreams as wish-fulfillment; in dreams we could successfully fulfill something that we were unable to do in reality.
In your dream house, do you find rooms that you didn’t know were there? Perhaps these rooms reveal that you have yet to realize or discovery some aspects of yourself. If your house is cluttered, you have something to sort through (in my case, this might well be literal as well as figurative). An attic might connect to your higher self, your spirituality; alternately, it might suggest some repressed memories or thoughts. If your attic is cluttered, maybe you have some past to get beyond, or some emotions to let go of.
A balcony ? Possibly this says something about your need to be seen or noticed. In my case, I think it often indicates that I enjoy a terrace or balcony as another room, and a natural part of a house of particular architecture, as fitting the landscape of some countries. Oh, say Italy or Greece.
Basements are usually connected to the unconscious. So if I almost never dream about a basement, does that mean that I don’t have an unconscious, or does it reflect the fact that I live in a part of the world where basements are simply not possible?
Bathrooms mean you have some need to relieve yourself (okay, no jokes); you need to cleanse yourself emotionally and otherwise. If you go into a public bathroom but into one for the other gender, apparently you’ve crossed some boundary. If you can’t find a bathroom when you’re looking for one, you have some problems in expressing and releasing your emotions. Bedrooms reflect those aspects of ourselves that we keep hidden or private; they’re also, of course, sexual.
Doors and windows are also significant. Are they open? Closed? Shuttered? Locked? Do you walk through the door or not? Are you locking the door? You’re locking someone or something out of your life. Entering an open door, you might be entering new opportunities; you’re receptive to these. Are the doors revolving? You’re going around and around, going nowhere.
If homes are our wombs, they’re our security, our safe places. If they’re houses, think of the difference between “home” and “house.”
Maybe I just have a secret desire to be an architect.
Or maybe dreaming of houses is another way to travel. To travel to a new place, a new home. To be willing and even eager to travel. To find myself, my self.
And I don’t need a passport!