Inner work causes gradual changes in our inner and outer lives. When an important change has occurred, the Self may send a “big” dream to let us know our work is paying off and to furnish the energy and motivation to continue. Following are some symbols we might expect to see in these dreams.
Dreams use symbols as metaphors for what’s going on in our unconscious and are rarely meant to be taken literally. For example, death is an important symbol that often depicts the end of an old outmoded aspect of our personality or phase of growth. Likewise, the birth of a baby usually symbolizes the emergence of healthy new life.
After a time of inner work we may have an important dream of transition that deals with our acceptance of our anima, or unconscious feminine side. Perhaps we befriend a woman we have previously disliked, or are attracted to an especially unusual and interesting woman. Likewise, a dream about accepting our animus, or unconscious masculine side, might feature men who initially feel threatening but become more friendly; or perhaps we are in an intimate relationship with an especially attractive man. Allowing our femininity and masculinity to merge and overlap as equal inner partners is how we empower our souls to become all they can be. It is also a major step forward in healing our relationships.
Dreams about the union between our feminine and masculine aspects often use the symbol of the wedding. In his book The Kingdom Within, Jungian analyst John A. Sanford says the most auspicious wedding dream is one in which the dream ego is not too directly involved. When the ego plays the role of the bride or groom, it suggests an “inflated” ego that’s a bit self-important and full of itself. What matters most is that we be invited to attend the wedding. This suggests our ego is heeding the call of the Self to witness the sacred joining of our inner opposites without taking credit for this miraculous gift.
Other symbols of transformation include the moon (which is transformed each month from a tiny, silver sliver into a full, glowing orb), bears (which have always held sacred meaning because of their hibernation, or death, each winter and their apparent rebirth each spring), and snakes (which shed their old skins, or old lives, and grow new ones). These symbols are archetypal; that is, the meaning attached to them is so universally accepted that we know they come from the collective unconscious. They are also associated with the Self, which is ultimately responsible for our inner transformations.
A dream about an initiation, a dramatic change in direction, a visit to a spectacular garden beneath the ocean, or a dynamic nuclear reaction at the earth’s core also probably signifies that some important life-changing transformation has occurred deep within our unconscious world. While the exact nature of the change my not be immediately apparent, dreams like this fill us with hope and bring special meaning to our lives. It is enough to know that our inner work is paying off in an especially potent way.
Note: This post is an adaptation of a section about “big” dreams from my book, Dream Theatres of the Soul. Since I wrote it, other symbols have appeared in my dreams to suggest important life changes. Do you have any to contribute to this list?