Wednesday, August 30, 2006

House dreams

I rarely remember my dreams and when I do they are often inchoate and formless, jumbles of images or brief scenes that transition into one another without much connection. Of course all dreams are thus to some extent, but mine so much that it's impossible to describe them. Instead of a few minutes of one continuous sequence of activity featuring some settings and characters, which then inexplicably transitions into different activity, settings, and characters, my dreams tend to be just the inexplicable transitions back-to-back, without anything between them.

Of those dreams that I remember, and that have enough form to survive a retelling, the majority of those are house dreams. That is, a dream (or part of a dream) focused on a house, which is invariably my own house (at least in the dream world, though it rarely resembles my real house, or any real house I've lived in), and which I spend some time exploring. Almost invariably the dream spends a lot of time with me discovering rooms or other features in the house I didn't know about. These may range from mundane things like a second kitchen or a wing of extra rooms, to exotic things like a bowling alley, an indoor chicken pen, a locked vault, an entire department store, a subway station, or a room with only a thin strip of normal floor surrounding a rich, fertile garden plot.

I have read that this is one of those common dreams that many people have, almost as common as the "I forgot my pants" or "there's a surprise test" ones. Furthermore, I've been told this dream has a "standard" meaning. The house represents the self, so this dream represents your subconscious mind noting that there's things about you which you need to discover, explore, recognize, or develop.

I am generally suspicious of the idea that dream symbols have any universality to them, especially any universal meanings that do not correspond to similarly universal symbols in the waking world in our culture. However, after several years of having these dreams quite often and struggling in vain to figure out what, if anything, they meant, I heard this answer and it clicked, it felt right. I could tell what it was telling me and why it started when it did and even what the specific things I was finding in my house likely meant. Over the years since, every time house dreams have popped into my head, they seemed to make sense in this interpretation. Sometimes the specific rooms didn't -- they might end up being images from things I was thinking about that day, for instance.

The skeptic in me wonders if it's not a matter of selective perception. Like how horoscopes "work": there's always something in my life or my mind I can match this interpretation to, within the very generous precision limits expected of such a thing. Maybe so, at least for some of them. But the times in my life when I didn't just have house dreams, but had a lot of them, were always times when I had a very clear thing in my self that demanded further exploration or development or application.

Amusingly, the completion of my dream house hasn't altered these dreams at all. My house-dream houses don't resemble my dream house any more than they did any other houses.

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