Happy New Year! Yes, one day can make a difference!
In this post, I take on dream symbolism particularly suited to the idea of fresh starts, rebirth, and transitioning to new ways of being—the image of clothes. I share journaling of six dreams about clothes that I had throughout 2021, along with the meaning I assigned at the time. You will be able to see the progression that might have stayed hidden had I not taken a second look. Then I include excerpts from my new book, Your Soul is Talking. Are You Listening? 5 Steps to Uncovering Your Hidden Purpose to help you get started working with your dreams.
But first . . .
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Back to dreams about clothes . . .
Have you wondered about the deeper meaning of the clothes you choose to wear? There is always a secondary and unconscious motivation behind your choices, and what you wear in private and out in the world says a lot about your belief systems, whether you’re in alignment with your deepest desires, your fears and insecurities, and what you might be covering up, avoiding, or resisting.
If you are on the road to becoming a new version of yourself, it’s almost impossible to see the daily workings of your unconscious or Soul without stepping back to consider the larger picture. This is how it works with dreams too. Your unconscious may call on many versions of the same symbol in many dreams over time. Going back and looking at these dreams may bring the ah ha! you’ve been waiting for.
A Case Study
Throughout 2021, I had six dreams that included images of clothes, and after reviewing what I had journaled about these dreams, I could see a progression in the dreams that foreshadowed life events. The dreams hinted at coming challenges and assured that I could handle them. I think 2022 is a great time to start listening to your Soul via your dreams.
Dream: January 5, 2021
I’m showing someone a dress like the one I wore for my wedding. It’s not the same dress, but it’s made of the same beautiful ivory brocade fabric. Now, I’m looking through a clothes rack, full of pretty skirts and blouses. I see a skirt and jacket that resembles what I wore to my rehearsal dinner.
Associations: I journal about feeling good the first few days of 2021—after a year of feeling the shock of picking up and leaving my hometown with no source of income. I felt like I was rounding a corner in my new life. The dresses seemed to symbolize a marriage of sorts, but this time, it was not marriage to a person.
Dream: January 27, 2021
The goal of this step is to identify all the images in a message from your unconscious—dream, memory, when a complex got triggered, synchevent—and choose one to explore. Begin with a full accounting of the message (dream or conflict, for example) as you remember it. Describe the scene(s), characters, events, and emotions. Note how you felt when you woke from the dream.? \d a man sees me, but I get up, laugh out loud, and keep running.
Associations: I associate the images to times when I felt in the flow of life, when I didn’t have expectations, but rather felt joy and confidence in what I was doing. The scene with the man felt like a romantic comedy in its awkwardness and reminded me of the time I made out in a downpour with the man who was my first post-divorce relationship. The images symbolized the freedom that is mine right now and which nourishes my soul.
Dream: February 8, 2021
I’m walking through a store feeling confident. I look at a dress on a clothes rack and remark that it’s ugly. Someone asks me to lower my voice, and I just walk right past them.
Associations: In this dream, all I find is something I do NOT like. The night before this dream, I watched the Netflix Series called Firefly Lane. Two women protagonists are mirrors for the parts of each of them that want to be expressed. Kate, played by Sarah Chalke, is the rock of the friendship—reliable, understated, and completely overshadowed by Tully, who is played by Katherine Heigl. Tully is overflowing with uncontrolled emotions, style, and drive to achieve to cover up her childhood wounds. I laugh as I find both these women inside me, but Kate has a little too much control over my life at the time. As I recall a specific line from the episode where Tully tells her male boss to “Fuck off,” I realize I’m getting somewhere in my waking life.
Dream: June 10, 2021
I’m in a bedroom in a small house, and I’m looking for something to wear. Clothes are in piles everywhere, on the bed, on a shelf in the closet, on the floor. I pick something out, and it’s not right, so I throw it down. I pick up a pair of shoes, and I say they look like trash. My daughter hands me a frying pan, and I belligerently toss it on the floor, and when I see she’s upset, I say, “I don’t have time for this.” Then I turn around, and everything is cleaned up.
Associations: The day before this dream, I realized I had been feeling fear and finally put my finger on what the fear was about—fear of looking foolish and appearing arrogant. I had been ignoring the fear and just pushing through, which is what I have always done when I want something that also terrifies me. A year after securing my PhD in depth psychology, I was going to be writing my first book on the topic. I feel compelled to share my thoughts and my stories, but I am still plagued by my childhood fear of being scolded for doing something wrong or for being too loud.
Dream: October 16, 2021
I’m supposed to be on a radio show. It’s a last-minute opportunity, so I run to go change my clothes. I run and I run, around and in and through buildings, and then I’m trying to get back to the radio show, but I can’t find it. As I’m running, I change into a short pretty blue dress. My body feels the way I felt a couple years ago, when I reached my ideal weight. I finally find the radio show, but I’m late. A former co-worker is filling in, and I’m so glad because the host is asking questions about money and economics, topics in which I have no interest.
Associations: I’m running and running, looking for something, and I think I’m late, but when I get there, I realize I was running towards the wrong thing anyway. I decide to appreciate the threshold I’m in right now, and I treat myself to a movie that night.
Dream: December 1, 2021
Someone yells to me from a crowd that I have nice arms. I turn, smile, and flex my biceps. Now, I’m looking for clothes to wear, and this time there are so many pretty tops to choose from.
Associations: I love my biceps and I love wearing clothes that show off my toned arms. My dream tells me people will notice my work soon and I will have options as I grow in confidence to show myself.
Working with dreams is one of my favorite ways to receive guidance from my unconscious, with film images a close second (you can learn about Jungian film theory in my new book, Your Soul is Talking. Are You Listening? 5 Steps to Uncovering Your Hidden Purpose).
In dream tending sessions with my clients, the most challenging part is their tendency to look at their dream images literally. Keep these four things in mind:
1. There is no right interpretation
2. Your dream may be telling you you’re avoiding something in waking life
3. People in dreams mostly represent pieces of your psyche
4. Initial interpretations are often wrong if they come too easily
To download a one-sheet with more information about working with images, click here to visit the Newsletters+ page of my website.
Enjoy excerpts from Chapter 16 of my new book (Your Soul is Talking. Are You Listening? 5 Steps to Uncovering Your Hidden Purpose) about my foundational method for working with dreams.
From Chapter 16—Methods—Finding Associations
This chapter describes the four-step approach to working with images offered in the book, Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth, by Robert Johnson (1989).
Step 1—Identify All the Images
The goal of this step is to identify all the images in a message from your unconscious—dream, memory, when a complex got triggered, synchronistic event—and choose one to explore. Begin with a full accounting of the message (dream or conflict, for example) as you remember it. Describe the scene(s), characters, events, and emotions. Note how you felt when you woke from the dream.?
Next, make a list of all the possible images you could explore. Remember, images are not only visual, and a single dream, experience, or event may contain many images. Think of images as impressions, like how you were paralyzed meeting with your boss, feeling like a scolded child. A single dream can involve multiple people or creatures, taking you from scene to scene. The way you feel upon waking is an image. The experience of being drawn to a symbol on a billboard involves not only the symbol, but the emotions elicited and the surrounding scenery.
Step 2—Finding Associations
For this step, you will begin exploring one of the images by finding associations. You are associating the image with something else. The image causes you to make a connection. The key to finding associations is to finish this thought: This image causes me to think or feel _______________. When I allow myself to linger in the emotion that got triggered, it reminds me of _______________. When I put myself back in that part of the dream, my mind goes _______________. This image causes me to feel like I did when I was _______________ years old.
The goal of this step is to relate the image to something in your life—past present, or future. Your unconscious is using this image to lead you somewhere—a time in your life, a place, a person, a feeling. The associations are clues. Journal about what comes to mind.
Step 3—Where is this showing up in your life?
In this step, you are looking for a possible metaphor that might be at play. Your unconscious is using that image to tell you something about your life. For example, say the image you’re working with is a memory that recently came up during a conversation with your sister. Let’s say the two of you were ruminating about how your mother dressed you as children—in clothes you absolutely hated. It is not a meaningless coincidence that the memory came up if there is some emotion involved.
Rehashing or venting is not what we’re doing here. You are trying to make sense of your life—how you got where you are right now. Do you know where you want to go next in your life? Will the way you have been living your life until now work to get you there? This is where Soul comes in.
In the childhood memory example, clothes have much to do with personal identity, which is complex. There’s the face you present to the outside world, which doesn’t always match what’s inside. Your unconscious may be pushing up this memory of wearing ugly clothes to help you realize you’re in a situation that is forcing you to project yourself into the world in a way that is not authentic. It is ugly and you feel you are being forced to be or do something that you don’t want to be or do. Perhaps you’ve put up with this situation for too long. As a child, did you resist your mother or father? What happened when you did? Do you have a fear today of resisting authority?
Step 4—Integrate the new insight
This is the step that can change your life. In what ways is the image guiding you to do something different in your life? Maybe something that terrifies you, or something that feels immoral or irresponsible, even when you know it’s not. Going forward, be alert to emotions, how your body responds, and ways you feel prompted to take actions you might not otherwise have taken. You may realize your mother’s response to your resistance has shaped how you respond to conflict. Recognizing this can empower you to try something new.
After a month of journaling, go back and read what you’ve written. Do it again after six months, and again after a year, searching for terms that your intuition says might be themes. Journal about new insights and what areas of your life you can approach differently because of the insight.
Have you noticed recurring themes in your dream images, fantasies, or obsessions? Snakes, bears or other animals, having sex with an ex, being chased by mercenaries, crashing airplanes, showing up for an exam after having never attended class, screaming for help but no sound coming out, flying, falling, babies, or being naked? If babies keep showing up in your dreams, are they healthy or malnourished? There may be some new part of you trying to grow. Are you tending to this new part of you?
Are there images that have changed over time? One of the most prominent recurring images in my dreams was the phallic symbol, which took the form of a penis. To read about how my psyche seized upon an image that triggered shame to help me recognize pieces of me that needed to be rescued, check out my blog post: What Does it Mean When A Penis Shows Up In Your Dream? Chapter 25 of my book includes a section about how images evolve over time, and an update to the meaning of the phallic symbol in my life. Click here to see reviews of my new book, Your Soul is Talking. Are You Listening? 5 Steps to Uncovering Your Hidden Purpose.
Thank you for reading my writing and passing it along. I love hearing how it entertains or shifts people’s thinking. Feel free to send me a note, leave a comment, or write a review for my book.
If you’re looking for something different than therapy and the usual coaching, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a 30-minute FREE consultation to determine whether my framework that teaches people how to work with their unconscious is right for you.
Give a shoutout to Shot by Cerqueira for the beautiful photo of the man in orange
Give a shoutout to Zach Vessels for the awesome photo of the doorway
Here’s to a Peacefully Productive 2022!