Possession And Dreams
In our everyday life, things such as love, anger, fear, dependence or similar interests, frequently link us powerfully with another person. Again and again I have observed that when a couple are in love, they often start saying exactly what is in the mind of their partner. This suggests they may be sharing a unity or togetherness at some level of their consciousness.
Also, a few people experience exactly the same dream on the same night, as in the example.
‘I dreamt my sister was attacking me with a pair of scissors. She backed me against a wall and stabbed me. During the day after the dream my sister phoned me at work and said she had an awful dream in which she stabbed me with scissors.’ D.
But sharing feeling links is different to feeling possessed. Love links us with another person, and maybe even allow a blending of minds, because we want to experience that. Possession refers to an apparently outside being or influence controlling us, perhaps against our will, or even without our awareness.
As an example of this, Mrs M. F. dreamt:
I was going mad. I was crawling around on my hands and knees and wailing and behaving in a most peculiar manner. I actually felt mad. But inside my head a tiny voice kept saying, “You aren’t completely insane yet — there’s still a chance.” People around me kept saying to each other, “We think she’s possessed by devils.” My sane voice then said, “Make the sign of the cross. Cast out the evil spirit.” I kept trying to do that but my hands wouldn’t or couldn’t complete the sign. I woke still feeling disturbed.
This dream clearly illustrates the frightful conflict going on between M. F. and what she experiences as a controlling influence.
Such dreams are frightening and need to be understood. The power we struggle against must be dealt with in some way. In doing so the subject needs to be clarified, and this alone can help.
Some years ago I listened to one of my stepdaughters talking with my wife. My wife started to comment on her daughter’s current boyfriend. Suddenly my stepdaughter butted in with strong feelings and said, “Don’t even say anything mum. Whatever you say influences me so much I can’t even think for myself.”
Being influenced in judgment or action by somebody else is extremely common. Perhaps all of us are deeply influenced by public opinion, or what someone else will think, feel or do. A married man or woman taking a lover will usually meet their new love carefully or secretly. Their actions arise out of knowing how other people would respond. And how many of us can undress in public, or even walk along a crowded street without socks and shoes?
The degrees of such influence range from mild to the point of us not being able to do something even if we wanted to. Losing our will to that degree could be seen as possession.
Because dreams portray the different influences within and around us as external beings and things, such a controlling influence could easily be portrayed in a dream as a possessing entity. See Summing Up
There are many other things that “possess” us in this way, many of them unknown to us unless we confront them. If we do, a struggle of will or decision usually occurs.
I once met a reformed alcoholic, John, who told me that his doctor had given him an ultimatum. The doctor had said that John must either give up alcohol or die from liver failure. John then stopped drinking and found that the doctor had the ultimatum wrong. This was because, when John stopped using alcohol, he started meeting feelings and anxieties he had suppressed most of his life through alcohol use. He started experiencing the everyday anxieties about paying his bills, the feelings about his past and failed relationships, about his own behaviour and who he was in the world. These were difficult for John to face, so he was tempted again and again to use alcohol to suppress or deaden such feelings. Therefore John changed the wording of the ultimatum to, “Feel my feelings or die!” As can be seen, John did not confront his difficulty until he stopped using alcohol. Sometimes it is an event or change in life circumstances that confronts us with what possesses our will.
How many of us use alcohol, cigarettes, painkillers, prescribed drugs, or street drugs, for similar reasons? Perhaps we failed to face the depression arising from a failed marriage, difficulties in parenting, anxieties about financial security, or in meeting our own past. If so, what is it that possesses us? After all, we are not fully in possession of our own mind or soul if we need foreign substances to deal with our own feelings and fears.
Take a while to think about this. How many people use alcohol, tobacco, or antidepressants? What is it, as with Mrs M. F., that is driving them mad/depressed/unhappy? See Avoid Being Victims
Well, I know from personal experience that it can be a feeling that we do not have the strength, the resources, to deal with our own pain or depression, our own inadequacies.
Having worked for many years as a counsellor using dreams, one of the awful forms of “possession” I have met in several people is something we call conviction. It is a positive word, but conviction can be a terrible influence to be possessed by. For instance, some people I dealt with over the years were convinced they were mentally ill because of the personal problems they faced. That conviction was a major cause of their misery and conflict. Once that conviction was melted and they recognise themselves as human beings with difficulties to deal with, they could begin work on reconstruction. See Martial Art of the Mind
In a similar way, we might be convinced, or possessed by, a set of beliefs, as for instance religious convictions. And I am talking here about convictions of any sort that make a person completely rigid, and unable to take in or listen to any new experience or idea.
Sometimes we use such convictions like castle walls, to defend ourselves against anxiety, against uncertainty, against actually meeting the vulnerable and perhaps young and lovely self we were before the castle walls went up.
One of the most deadly convictions, one pressed into us frequently in today’s world, is that we do not have a central core within us, out of which healing and growth can emerge, out of which we can gain a sense of unity with the beautiful mystery that is the universe and our life in it. Without a sense of that core, we have no feeling of strength to face our own depression, our own darkness or childhood pain. Instead we have the conviction we are victims of a harsh life. As the words of the song say, “Life’s a bitch. Then we die!”
Whatever we may believe about that core, or the human spirit, we have incredible potential, amazing resources. But very often, what holds us back from accessing them is, as with John, the fear of meeting our feelings in any depth, or the lack of tools to deal with them when or if we do. Working consistently with your dreams is a path that can lead you to real transformation. It is an approach that is totally related to your own situation and needs in life. But it must be done in a way that brings you into a practical meeting with your personal history here and now, and does not fly off into fantasy about what you might be spiritually, or in past lives. See Core
However, there is another form of apparent possession arising out of ignorance or being misinformed. The following dream illustrates this.
I am 18 and recurrently dream my house is haunted or possessed by the devil. I am not religious, but in the dreams with the devil I try to remember prayers to scare him away. In every dream my family and I have to pack our bags and moved back to the old house I lived in as a baby until 7. The dreams really frighten me and I can’t sleep. Barbara.
Barbara is a young woman, and is faced with either meeting herself as she is now — a sexually maturing young woman — or returning to a way of dealing with life relevant to a seven-year old. What Barbara is in conflict with here, and fears, as something alien, is her own sexual drives, her own urges toward womanhood, toward independent life.
I grew up in a society, a religious indoctrination that portrayed sexual urges as dirty, as degrading, as something to be controlled. I, like Barbara, in fighting my own natural urges, felt possessed by the devil. Fortunately I was helped to see my own inner drives — sex, anger, the desire to exist and flourish — as natural and not devilish. For the devil is actually a product of repression. See devil
Although Barbara says she is not religious, she is obviously talking about her surface sense of herself, because in the dream she prays for help. As with Mrs M. F. the sign of the cross will not cast out our own internal urges and splendid life energy. After all, it has often been the church that put the conflict there in the first place as a means of social and individual control. So how can the cross help, unless we associate it with love and life?
In 50 years of dream work, I have not personally come across a case of possession in which there is an actual external entity fastening on the person involved. If I did come across such a case, I would still first explore the person’s own desires, their convictions and inner conflicts. I would try to uncover what desperate longings, dependencies or fears they are not admitting to themselves. These, I believe, are the underlying causes for the apparent possession we might be facing in our dreams.
However, I would be very lacking in my understanding of possession if I did not take the description of it a little further. Also, I would be hiding the truth of it if I did not admit that I have experienced it myself.
In my own case, while dealing with personal problems, and delving into the unconscious to find their roots, I had passed through a whole territory of my inner life haunted by demons that were in various measures possessing me. It took me a long time to understand, or perhaps to put into some rational definition, what these demons and possessing influences were. My understanding today is as follows — during our life we give tremendous amounts of time and energy to certain interest’s ambitions, longings and desires. Everything we do influences our body, our brain, and produces changes. Anybody who gives a great deal of time and effort to the study of colour and form actually alters their brain structure to some extent and becomes much more perceptive in those areas. What this means is that the brain, the mind, has set up a sort of focal point around which all the information, feelings, and flow of energy, circulates. Sometimes, these interests or ambitions become so powerful they have a life of their own to a certain extent. In a very real way they possess us, and divert energy toward the goals, hopes, and longings, involved in them.
The unconscious, especially in its processing of dreams, depicts these focal points and their influence as actual things or beings. They might be depicted as a dark shape, a demon, or a powerful figure trying to direct our activities. These dominating influences may actually be detrimental to our fundamental nature, to our happiness and health. As such they really are possessing influences sucking our energy.
In earlier cultures, they did not have powerful psychological language to explain these phenomena. Nevertheless, human beings like ourselves suffered the consequences of them, were haunted by them, and made ill or afraid. These cultures developed ways and means of dealing with them appropriate to their times. One of these is illustrated in the New Testament where Jesus casts out the demons. These are almost certainly possessing psychological influences such as I have described. Such an influence might be a focal point for hate, for murderous rage, or even for a crazy irrational state of mind. In the case of Jesus, we see a clear unconditional love confronting the possessive and dominating influence of what we have called the demon. This state of love and clarity is still works today. If you can arrive at such a state of mind, and maintain it’s in the face of the awful influence of the possessive forces at work in your nature, they will be “cast out”. This may be fast, or it may take time, but it will happen. Sometimes these influences in us have extraordinary power in their hold, and in their being dealt with we face a great deal of uncertainty and sometimes emotional upset.
But there is yet another level of possession that is much more frequent than, I believe, our medical profession admits. To illustrate this I quote a dream sent to me by a woman.
Example: I was in what looked like huge white ribs. In the ribs was a big heart beating. Beyond that was my homeopath. I could hardly breath, struggling to live. I could hear the heart beating, but as I listened I could also hear another heart beating. It seemed to me it was my sister’s heart connected to my own invisibly. The homeopath came forward and stretching open the ribs, reached into them, took hold of the invisible heart – it was like a shadow behind the other heart – and pulled it out. Immediately I could breathe again and felt I was whole. In everyday life my sister and I have been incredibly linked, even to the point of having cramps at night on the same nights, though living in different parts of the world. I had become ill recently out of this connection, but as soon as I had this dream I was well again, but my sister became ill. She has just been diagnosed as HIV positive and is dying.
What this woman experienced is not uncommon. Our links with certain people are much more profound than we usually admit. A friend recently telephoned me to talk about this feeling that he was deeply possessed by his mother. He is a man in his fifties, but nevertheless feels his mother is an incredibly powerful force in his life. He said he feels almost as if she is a demon living within him, penetrating is very cells, sapping away his resolve and positive feelings.
These links can be formed through close relationship, such as that between parent and child, but also through enmity, and certainly through sexual relationship.
From the point of view of the deepest teachings about the nature of human life, we are all, at are very core, connected. Such links are therefore part of our very nature. But many of them are positive and supportive. Usually, the negative link, such as those described above, only occur because we, perhaps in some unconscious way, invite or support it.
Having experienced such a linkage, I say again, that the discovery and expansion of unconditional love in one’s life is the prime force for dealing with these life sapping links. And by unconditional love, I mean a love that does not cling, does not desire to possess, looks upon jealousy and rage as the sickness, and reaches out despite pain. Possessiveness, jealousy, the rage at being left or abandoned, of being overlooked, can all become focal points for the energy that becomes a possessive demon. This is sickness — and until we and admit it has such, it can still dominate us and rob us of the richness and fullness our life could attain otherwise. See Life’s Little Secrets
There is another explanation about possession in the feature Autonomous Complex
May love go with you on your journey.