When the unconscious becomes a living experience for enough people, it often heralds a new creative epoch for humanity. Covid-19 has not only intruded into our day-to-day world, making it surreal beyond belief, but has insinuated itself into many people’s night dreams as well. When life becomes so dreamlike, it can potentially activate our creative imagination—this has certainly been true for yours truly.
I find myself imagining: What if a client came into my office and shared the following dream:
Within a matter of weeks their world shifted suddenly. A potentially deadly virus had gotten on the loose and was killing people and making countless others sick, creating a global pandemic. Rampant fear was quickly consuming the globe. Due to the contagious nature of the disease, people became afraid to get too close to each other. Many countries around the world locked down their citizens, restraining their movement. Everybody began to wear masks. The future seemed completely uncertain.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea—this person’s dream was exactly what is happening in our world today. The question arises, How would we interpret this dream?
Interpreting Our Dream
Dreams are the unmediated expression of the unconscious; Freud called them “the royal road” to the unconscious. Our dreams at night are one of the psyche’s major compensatory, self-regulating mechanisms. When we get out of balance, off-center, or one-sided, the unconscious sends us dreams to help us reconnect with the part of ourselves we’ve lost touch with.
To try to understand what the symbols in our dream are saying to us is a type of self-reflection. Symbols reflect something unconscious within us, which, even if only dimly recognized, can potentially activate the part within us with which the symbol resonates.
Dreams are multidimensional, having various levels of meanings encoded within the fabric of the dream, all of which have value. It’s not a question of which interpretation is true—they can all be (relatively) true simultaneously. These multiple levels of meaning can actually complement and illuminate each other, helping to unlock the gifts encoded within the dream.
When these different levels of meaning are seen together as interrelated aspects of a greater whole, a deeper picture—the full meaning of the dream—can begin to emerge. This is to say that there is no “one size fits all” way of interpreting dreams, in that the unconscious custom tailors a dream to uniquely suit the current psychological state of the particular dreamer. If a variety of people have the same dream, it could conceivably mean different things to each one of them.
For example, one person might be having a dream of the coronavirus pandemic and the feature that stands out in their dream is how everyone is coming together and helping each other. Their dream has an uplifting spirit behind it. In another person’s dream, the pandemic might represent the advent of the apocalyptic end-times and be a nightmare. Their dream might be pushing them down—depressing them—into the darkness of the underworld.
Being a projection of the unconscious, the unconscious projects itself into and reveals itself through the inkblot of the dream. The dreamscape is a reflection of what is going on deep inside the psyche of the individual dreamer.
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Key Features in A Dream of Covid-19
Getting back to my client, I notice that in his particular dream there are certain features that stand out as he tells me his dream. He seems not overly scared of the actual physical virus. He mentions that, being by nature introspective and hermetic, he doesn’t mind the sheltering in place that’s happening in the dream, as it gives him more time to do his creative, spiritual work.
What really gets my attention, however, is that he has a charge when he describes what seem to be “darker forces” (his words) that are exploiting the pandemic to gain more of a foothold in the world. When I ask him about this, he says that there’s a sense of fascist, totalitarian forces in his dream that are insidiously creeping around the planet so as to centralize power and control over the rest of us.
As he describes what he is seeing in the dream, he doesn’t sound overly paranoid or like a crazy conspiracy theorist, but on the contrary, very sober-minded and clear-seeing. He very insistently describes the multiple power grabs that he sees happening in his dream. He mentions that this is the part of the dream in which he feels the most disturbed and afraid.
As I questioned him about his dream, he kept on saying that there seemed to be a sense of collective mind control being perpetrated throughout the dream, as if the majority of the dream characters in his dream had “drank the Kool-Aid” and fallen under “a spell” (these are his phrases). It was becoming increasingly more difficult to discern truth—what was really happening—from made-up fiction.
He mentioned that in the dream, like an ongoing soundtrack in the background, there was a particular narrative or story that was being broadcast into people’s minds by the mainstream media. What really “freaked him out” (his exact words) was when he began to realize that anyone who had a counter-narrative to the agreed upon consensus reality version of what was happening was literally deplatformed, censored, and silenced. He seemed really upset by this. When he told me this part of his dream, it sent chills down my spine.
How Do We Interpret This Dream?
I always start by putting the ball back in the dreamer’s court, so to speak. When I ask him what he thinks his dream means, he immediately begins talking about how triggered he was about the censorship. This reminded him of how earlier in his life he was “silenced” from speaking his truth.
I relate, based on my own experience. I realize that most, if not all of us, have a similar version of this process—of having our vocal chords severed. In this, our unique expression of who we are is not only not welcome, but is actually deemed a threat and shut down. This made me realize that even though his dream was his personal process, he was also touching on a shared universal archetypal dimension of experience common to us all. This is one of the amazing things about dreams: that they could be, and often are, reflecting both personal and archetypal levels of experience simultaneously.
I always try to notice where in a person’s dream—and in their telling of the dream after they awaken—they have the most energy. In this person’s process, it was around the censorship that was happening, which was related to the haunting sense of totalitarianism that was propagating itself around the globe.
When I questioned him about this, not only did this bring up fear in him, which was palpably present in the room, he also mentioned that it made him feel helpless. This, in turn, elicited deeper feelings of hopelessness and despair. It felt like we were really touching a deep place in his unconscious.
Our Internal Authority and Creative Power
Doing dreamwork with my client, I began to associate, which helps me to get out of my (rational) mind and to more deeply connect with my unconscious. I remembered that I had, synchronistically, just written something that seemed to address his dream. I was quickly able to find what I had written and read it aloud to him:
“When we are not in touch with our intrinsic creative power, the external power of the state is more than happy to pick up our unconscious agency for us and use it against us for its own ends. If we marginalize our own internal authority, we dream up external totalitarian forces to limit our freedom and create our experience for us, as we see throughout the world today.”
He seemed startled by my words. He immediately says, “That’s it!” He then tells me that the gnawing feeling he had when he woke up from the dream was that he wasn’t in touch with a part of himself. He was having the dawning realization that this missing part was his creative power and agency.
As he said this, it was like I was watching a lightbulb being turned on inside of his head. He was beginning to realize that the dream was reflecting back to him the part of himself that was preemptively shutting him down—silencing him—for a variety of different reasons.
As if giving voice for the first time to something that he had been unconsciously acting out in his life, he then began listing one after another the reasons for his self-silencing: his fear of not being good enough, his being afraid it wouldn’t come out perfectly, of not knowing how to start, feeling resistance, feeling afraid he would be judged. In other words, all the usual stuff that every creative person has to deal with.
I didn’t even have to say anything. All I was doing at this point was simply holding space and witnessing him taking in and being affected by the deeper meaning and incredible gift of his dream. We both had a feeling that we were participating in something sacred.
Waking from a Dream of Covid-19
As if waking from a dream, at that moment I snap out of my imagination, which seemed as real as real can be. I immediately notice I feel refreshed, as if something within me had started to move. Still partially in the dreamworld of my imagination, however, my vision reminded me of something that Jung had written.
I find myself making a beeline to a particular volume of Jung’s Collected Works (The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature). Then, as if drawing an oracular tarot card, I open to a page where he is writing about the moment when someone connects with and becomes an instrument for the creative spirit to move through them. This primordial experience, Jung writes,
“evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find a refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night.”
Seeing these words feels like it completes my vision, as if the universe itself is offering us the solution—the creative spirit—to the crisis we are currently facing.
Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Printed with permission.
Published by Inner Traditions Intl.
Wetiko: Healing the Mind-Virus That Plagues Our World
by Paul Levy
In its Native American meaning, wetiko is an evil cannibalistic spirit that can take over people’s minds, leading to selfshness, insatiable greed, and consumption as an end in itself, destructively turning our intrinsic creative genius against our own humanity.
Revealing the presence of wetiko in our modern world behind every form of destruction our species is carrying out, both individual and collective, Paul Levy shows how this mind-virus is so embedded in our psyches that it is almost undetectable--and it is our blindness to it that gives wetiko its power.
Yet, as the author reveals in striking detail, by recognizing this highly contagious mind parasite, by seeing wetiko, we can break free from its hold and realize the vast creative powers of the human mind.
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
Paul Levy is a pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence and a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for more than 35 years. He has intimately studied with some of the greatest spiritual masters of Tibet and Burma. He was the coordinator of the Portland chapter of the PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center for over twenty years and is the founder of the Awakening in the Dream Community in Portland, Oregon.
He is the author of The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis (2006), Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (2013), Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your Father (2015) and The Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science and Spirituality (2018).
Visit his website at AwakeningheDream.com/