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Illness and Dreams

In considering your own dreams to look for signs of illness, it must be remembered that most people at some time experience awful dreams in which they are stabbed or bitten or are near to fire or war. Many of us dream of a part of our body being deformed or sick. In most cases these refer in some way to your own emotions, fears, personal growth or social life. Only when there is a very persistent and pervading quality about such dreams should they be taken to indicate the possibility of illness. At such time seek medical help to confirm or deny the message of the dreams.

Sometimes however frequent dreams about illness show the early signs of breakdown in your body. If you are having worrying dreams, have a check-up with your doctor. Tests have shown that men with serious illness have often dreamt about death, and women with such illnesses have dreamt about breakup and separation.

Vasily Kasatkin developed a view of dreams that rejected the psychoanalytical view developed by Freud. He saw dreams as reflecting the person’s internal physiological processes, and their sensory and social experiences and situation. His book Theory of Dreams, was published in 1967, and summarised his findings.

Because animal dreams are so much an expression of our uncoscniious life, it is wise to consdider any horse or dog dreams showing illness as possible indicators of phsyical illness.

 Example: I was in a hospital. Doctors and nurses were about. I was led to realise my lungs were filling up with mucous or phlegm. The doctor said to me it wouldn’t affect me in a short term, but if I kept on smoking I would feel the effect badly in later life. The dream was so vivid I decided then and there to give up smoking.  Bunky.

The deeply unconscious physiological process, such as cell generation and digestion are shown in dreams. Problems which cannot move more fully into consciousness and so are held at this level become psychosomatic pains or illness. This becomes clearer if we consider human life in relationship with other life forms. A plant for instance might have some sort of bacterial illness, but would not be able to bring that to awareness. In a sense many things which occur to us, although they are very real and definite, never become a part of our conscious life, but always remain in the ‘plant’ level. If they are to move from ‘deeply unconscious physiological process’ to becoming known consciously, there are stages such events go through. The dream is one such level in which our cellular processes give a communication that is still non verbal and so needs one to dive into its form of communication. See Techniques for Exploring your Dreams

In the early nineties a friend, Ken S., came to consult me in my capacity as a dream therapist. He had experienced a dream that troubled him and wanted to understand it. In the dream Ken was walking along the upstairs passageway of a large old house. He was in his dressing gown on the way to the bathroom. About halfway along the passage he felt a fine spray of water on his body. This drew his attention to a small leak in a large water pipe running along the passageway. At that very moment the pipe burst and a torrent of water poured out. Ken was then rushing around trying to deal with the burst pipe, but fire also started elsewhere in the house.

Ken and I approached the dream using a traditional psychotherapeutic approach in which each aspect of the dream represents an emotion or psychological state in Ken. We didn’t get any satisfaction with this and so ended with the view that we hadn’t discovered the associations and powerful feelings that would uncover the hidden parts of Ken’s psyche. Three days later Ken was rushed into hospital with a burst colon. Ken was near to death, but with surgical and medical help recovered. When I next saw him, still in hospital, our eyes met and we both said at the same moment, “The dream” – meaning the dream had been a warning of the burst colon. Despite having been involved in dreamwork with groups and individuals, and having read about how some dreams express physical conditions, I had never previously been so directly confronted by such a dream. Now I am much more alerted to this possibility. Dream dictionaries may have their limitations, but if this dream had been looked at in the basic way such dictionaries define, Ken would have sought medical attention sooner. For instance House can represent yourself or your body – Water-Pipe can depict your intestines or arteries – Fire means consuming passions, an emergency or illness. Because of the context of the different dream images, Ken’s dream points to physical breakdown.

Although Ken’s body dream is about illness, such dreams are not limited to showing what is going wrong inside us. They often show positive health changes, or may be about what foods best suit us or cause us harm.


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