38: Drawing Inspiration from Dreamland

38: Drawing Inspiration from Dreamland

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Drawing Inspiration from Dreamland

A dream is a small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens up to that primeval cosmic night that was the soul, long before there was the conscious ego.

~Carl Jung

“Come on, Sir Charles, get up and get to class,” NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley told me. Barkley was right. I needed to wake up. Class was starting, and I was still asleep. My subconscious was using the 1993 NBA MVP to motivate me.

“Hey, Cha-lee, what do you say you get to class, my man? Do us all a favor, Cha-lee.” Academy Award winner Christopher Walken leaned over my bed, looking down on me as he did Snoop Doggy Dogg in the music video for “Murder Was the Case.”

I started having these dreams a lot as I neared graduation from the University of Kentucky. The dreams worked. I made more of an effort to get to class on time. I found myself feeling guilty, albeit amused, and I stopped skipping out on morning classes.

Celebrity appearances in my dreams, however, haven’t stopped. Ever since I was little, I’ve experienced celebrity cameos in dreams. I’ve met Eddie Vedder, Fiona Apple, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jordan, Edward Norton . . . the list goes on.

The cameos weren’t always friendly, especially when I was little.

I used to wake up screaming in the middle of the night. I’d run to my mom and dad’s bedroom and nearly fall on my face after tripping on our black Lab, Amanda.

“We grew to accept and expect it,” Dad said, “even Amanda.”

Every night, it was the same guy after me. It started in 1988 during the Presidential election.

“Bush is the good guy; Dukakis is the bad guy,” my dad told me. I was five at the time.

My subconscious then created a monster. Despite looking more like Howdy Doody than Michael Dukakis (or, as I called him, “Dukonkis”), he was more terrifying than anything.

If Dukakis appeared in the dream, I had to close my eyes and hold my hands over my eyes. If I was unable to do so, Dukakis would capture and torture me.

But as I grew, the nightmares faded. Dukakis even apologized about ten years later, appearing in a dream looking like a beatnik professor, wearing a red turtleneck and sporting a brown ponytail.

Intrigued by my vivid and unpredictable dream world, I began researching the art of interpretation.

These dreams, often humorous, aren’t just entertaining; they are insightful. Using the dream interpretation techniques created by Carl Jung, there is much I can discover about myself if I take the time to explore the meaning behind the dreams and the reason for the cameos.

According to Jung, the dream is about the dreamer, and those who appear in our dreams represent a part of us, a quality we have — perhaps even a quality we haven’t been using or forgot was important to us.

For example, I met six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan in a dream, perhaps to remind myself to strive for greatness. I had the dream when I was feeling guilty for not living up to my potential.

Just as I had celebrities encouraging me to go to class, I have had celebrities encourage my passions. Johnny Cash encouraged me to write more songs. In this particular dream, my subconscious used Cash to represent my interest and passion for writing songs based on hardships.

Some dreams are harder to explain.

In 2004, I dreamt about a high school friend named Jason dying while participating in a robbery. The details are foggy, but I remember I was supposed to have been with him. Instead, I was stuck without a ride at some seedy apartment in a bad part of Indianapolis.

Two days later, a friend from high school called and told me Jason had died the same night I had the dream. I hadn’t talked to Jason in years, and I didn’t know what to think of this bizarre, random premonition.

Months later, I met with Jason in a dream for lunch at a mall food court.

“I don’t know why you dreamed about me that night,” he said, “but I want you to know that I am all right. I’m in a better place now.”

Having such premonitions inspired me to learn more about dream interpretation. I would not just interpret mine, but I’d interpret others.

At a house party in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I ended up with a line of people asking me to explore the meaning of their significant dreams. It started with a casual conversation, and it ended up going on for what felt like hours.

“I was stuck on an escalator,” one girl told me, “with my ex-boyfriend.”

“Are there characteristics your ex has that you see in yourself? What are they? Are any of those characteristics stalling you from moving forward?”

Around this same time, I had a dream I was going to die at twenty-five, which scared me.

In the dream, I sat by a placid river surrounded by green hills and mountains. The scenery reminded me of the Gallatin Valley in Montana.

A black woman with bright white wings walked over to me, smiling.

“Am I dead?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “You’re twenty-five.”

“No, I’m only twenty-three.”

“Oh, then you still have some time,” she said encouragingly.

Concerned, I went to see a Jungian analyst. She told me I had nothing to worry about.

“Death in a dream represents change,” she said. “Perhaps twenty-five will be a big year for you in other ways. Perhaps you will truly awaken.”

There is much significance to this truth, and I have carried it with me ever since. After all, the Jungian analyst was right. At twenty-five, I moved to a small town in eastern Montana where I knew no one and started writing for a twice-weekly paper. Today, I continue to enjoy my career in journalism.

Just as Barkley and Walken motivated me to get to class in college, pop-culture characters continue to motivate, inspire or just remind me to enjoy life to the fullest, one dream at a time. Whether it’s about doing what you should be doing, being yourself or finding yourself, there is much to learn from the dream world. I encourage everyone to buy a journal and keep it by the bed. The more you write down your dreams, the more you will remember them. You may be surprised what you discover.

~Charlie Denison

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