Age and Your Dreams

To quickly find an age group click on the below –

Being Born

Dreams of early childhood

The enormity of our education

The conflict with culture

Now I’m a teenager

How do I leave home?

How do I know I’m grown up?

And now I am 40

There’s more – much more

There’s more to life than death

From the baby’s perspective, birth and the experience of life outside the womb are probably like waking from a long and unbroken dream into an entirely new world. This is because although adults only spend about a third of their sleep period dreaming, babies spend 50 to 80 percent of sleep in dreams. Some researchers, carrying their investigation into the womb, state that at 24-30 weeks gestational age the unborn baby dreams a 100 percent of the time.

From this it is obvious that our experience of dreams and dreaming changes at different periods of our life. The evidence for this deepens when we look at collections of dreams provided by people in different age groups. As far as we can tell some of these differences are due to the fact that at different periods of our life we are confronted by different challenges and different needs. But that is only partly true, and the changes in our experience of dreams are also due to not only the physiological changes of our body but also the psychological changes, or spiritual changes, occurring at different ages.

Being Born

For instance, the unborn baby is in a completely different world physically and psychologically to the adult, or even to the six-week old baby. Although we cannot be certain of what the unborn baby dreams, we can give an educated guess. The information behind the guess arises from the experience of people who undertake very deep psychological explorations into the unconscious using modern therapeutic techniques. In a sense they are like deep-sea divers who don special equipment to explore the depths of the unconscious. What they report is that their baby self, existing as it does without language or focused self-awareness, lives in a world of complete identification with the forces of life creating it. Toward the end of its life in the womb it begins to have a more focussed sense of a relationship with another being – its mother. Before that there was no feeling of separation. Because it has not yet experienced vision, its dreams are long slow experiences of sensation, of feeling. One explorer of these deeps, attempting to put his experience into words expresses it as follows:

Unknown to myself I am the swimmer.
Music I do not hear moves me toward the sea I do no know.
For I am the music – Each movement a beat –
Each swift turn a passage in the flow of life.

I know not – Yet I am a swimmer in the river,
Close to me as my own unknown, without boundary.
I am the imperative – Survive!
Fear is my being, reaching tendril fingers
Into the great ocean toward which I swim –
Immense beyond all my experience of fear,
Older than I am I go fearfully fearless
To the sea.

This sea toward which this little swimming life form is moving is birth. Frightening because it is a huge new world that it already senses ahead. Imperative because its whole urge is to live, to survive, and it must enter the ‘sea’ to continue living. This because all things in existence change, and the little swimmer’s season of life in the womb will end. So not only is it dreaming about what it senses it is moving toward, but also it faces in dreams what its own inner changes are.

Babies born prematurely feel they are not ready to be born. Experience of premature birth

Dreams of early childhood

Of course, that is largely speculation, although part of the miracle of human awareness is its ability to look back upon itself and put words and definitions to what was, at the time, indefinable. However, from birth we know a lot more about what the child faces, and therefore dreams about. We know because the child can start telling us their dreams as soon as they can talk. But also we have the dreams of childhood remembered by adults.

Here is an example of a recurring dream from a young girl:

I would be sitting up in bed holding a very large thick book open close to my face. In the centre between the open pages there buzzed a huge bluebottle. Suddenly the book would slam shut, squashing the bluebottle and I would wake in terror.

Another from a slightly older girl:

I am staying in a boarding house in Blackpool, the room number is 13. During the night there is a lot of noise, I get out of bed and leave my room. Many people are hurrying past. I meet a woman with a child who has a fork protruding from her throat. I go to find my Gran, she is in the top bed of a pair of bunk beds. I cannot help her get down, someone has chopped off her arms. I would wake terrified.

Both those dreams are about fear, and of course children face many fears in their dreams, more so than adults, as there are so many new things to develop a relationship with. Also, these anxiety dreams might be more often reported because they are troubling, and the more positive dreams forgotten. It is helpful to know or tell children that dreams are like computer games with terrific graphics, where you meet dragons, serpents and awful enemies, and nobody ever gets hurt even though in the game they may be killed again and again. It is because it is dream is also a virtual reality like a game.

But here is a dream frequently reported by children, or remembered from childhood by adults.

I would stand at the top of the stairs and instead of walking down the stairs I used to fly. This dream lasted for a number of years and as I got older I sometimes dreamed that boys or men were chasing me. I would suddenly take off like a helicopter and fly away. Sometimes narrowly escaping from my pursuer.

Stairs for a baby and child are not only very dangerous, but also a challenge. Originally for many children a forbidden challenge. When we are physically skilled enough to run up and down stairs, this is felt as an enormous achievement, and translated in dreams to flying. The dream therefore suggests confidence to the point of dropping anxiety, and the ability to do things in life previously forbidden by parents or from lack of physical and mental skill.

So the child is not only facing and dreaming about things it fears, but also the vast range of things it is learning and developing skill in. For instance the child learns the basics of motor, verbal and social skills. Great changes take place in the psyche through the learning of language. Language itself is like installing a massive type of computer program into the developing consciousness. Like any such program, it enables functions and processes to take place that would be impossible without it. The following dream and the exploration of it illustrate this wonderfully.

The enormity of our education

I dreamt I was flying at a great height in the sky. Then I glided down and approached a field to land. It was near where council houses backed right onto the open hillside above two old elm trees – a place I knew well from my childhood. The houses had a back garden, separated from the field by a public path, then a hedge. A young girl of about three or four was playing in the field. I knew that she had walked from her house, through her garden, across the overgrown path, into the field. As I came in to land she saw me and ran away very frightened. I was gliding in the same direction she was running and I called out to her not be afraid. She stopped and I landed. In amazement she looked at me and said, “How did you get to be up there?” Steve M.

Steve explored this dream, and in the role of the young girl came across insights he describes as follows:

As the young girl I had walked from the back door of my house, along the garden path, across a footpath behind the houses, into the field. As I looked through her eyes and feelings, I realised what a long journey it was for me to get into the field. Not a long journey physically in distance, but an enormous journey within myself. In developing the ability to go from the door to the field, I had gone through the long process of learning to walk; I had learned the confidence to be alone; through language and understanding what my parents had passed to me, I had found out how to avoid stinging nettles, and how not to be overcome by my fears of them and of the huge creatures that I knew as cows. This had all taken ages, and so walking into the field was an enormous achievement, especially as I was doing it by myself. Learning to walk itself had taken tremendous practice and perseverance. Learning to be independent of my mother was also something I was learning. I had made the inner journey of acquiring an immense stock of information and conditioning regarding the external environment I was facing too. I had slowly learned survival responses to stinging nettles, walking alone, nests, birds, the sun, trees, spiders, stones, the wind, children, adults, worms, leaves on the trees, cars, etc, etc, etc, etc, and so on.

I had never realised before what an amazing education a child has, before ever it goes to school. Language itself is like a massive encyclopaedia of information. Then, the attitudes or feeling tones with which language and its concepts are passed to us, adds further volumes.

Therefore we can be sure that in childhood our dreams are an environment in which we explore the possibilities of the information and experiences we are meeting. In fact several researchers have found evidence that a process of learning takes place during dreaming. Because of this the theory that dreams are nothing more than a means of dumping mental garbage from memory has not been validated. Jerold M. Lowenstein, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, says, ‘Most researchers who study dreams reject’ the idea of dreams as means of garbage dumping, ‘because dreams seem to have a narrative coherence and logic that goes beyond being just a random collection of impressions. They are convinced that REM sleep and dreams constitute a separate reality that plays a vital part in our lives and health, though the nature of that reality is not yet understood.’

Robert van de Castle, in a study of a large number of subjects, says –

I found a striking relationship between age and the frequency of animal characters in American dreams; there were over five times as many animals in the dreams of children ages four to five as there were in those of American college students, and the percentage frequency of animal dreams decreased in a fairly linear fashion as chronological age increased. This finding suggested that the percentage of animal figures might serve as a rough index of cognitive maturity in the American dreamers. In most American dreams, the animal character usually frightened and attacked the dreamer and seemed to represent fear of the dreamer’s instinctual drives. Among native populations, the dreamer was usually engaged in some hunting or fishing pursuit of the animal who more often represented a potential dinner. (From Our Dreaming Mind. New York: Ballantine, 1994.)

The conflict with culture

Castle’s findings suggest a higher level of stress in children than in adults, and this has already been mentioned above. It also suggests that the culture we are born into places us in conflict with our instinctual drives.

Another report of research conducted by Pagel and Altomare, and published in Dreaming-Journal-of-the-Association-for-the-Study-of-Dreams; 1995, found that stress associated dreaming decreased with advancing age. Results indicated that stressful life events may affect dreaming, especially among younger individuals and women.

But these findings about stress represent a fairly surface level of dreams in children. The dream work quoted in which the child faces what has been achieved in walking a garden path, takes us to a much greater depth. In fact the child meets many levels of crisis during immense change, the learning of language being in itself a huge transformation and period of adjustment.

The child depicts these enormous periods of challenge and transformation in archetypal images. In such imagery the process of its psychological growth is displayed. One of these themes, a theme that continues throughout life in one way of another, is that of engulfment by a monster, or being pursued by a monster. To understand the meaning of this, we have to remember that the child’s personal awareness, it sense of self, has emerged slowly from the ocean of unconsciousness, of unfocussed and oceanic life. This ocean of what Jung calls the ‘collective unconscious’ – or what might be called the primal ocean of awareness, still exists in each of us. But we often relate to it with fear that we will be swallowed up in it, and our ego lost. This theme is expressed in Genesis where, describing Adam and Eve after they have eaten the apple of self-awareness, the story tells us they hear God – the huge collective awareness of primal life – walking in the garden and they hide. When they are asked why they hid, Adam says, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

But it is important for the child to remain in contact with its origins, its roots in life. So it must face the monster, the enormity of god-consciousness, and learn to maintain its self-awareness in the ‘belly of the beast’. The need to learn this balance between self-awareness and cosmic consciousness is something we all face. But as the child is newly emerging from the womb of life, it is particularly important.

Now I’m a teenager

The dream world of the adolescent shows very big shifts from that of the child. One of the major themes here is illustrated in this dream from Natalie, a thirteen year old:

I have this recurring nightmare. I see my mother standing by my bedroom door, blocking it as if I am being trapped and stopped from getting out. I often call to her, “Let me out Mum” but she just stands there staring with no expression on her face at all. I end up getting out of bed and switching my bedroom light on and then she disappears. Sometimes I will see her standing by my wardrobe. It seems as if she is always standing by a door and trying to trap me.

The dream shows Natalie trying to find a way out of her dependence on her mother. The dependence is felt as if it is the power of the mother over the child, a sort of restrictive force. This theme of moving toward independence physically and psychologically is a huge step to take, and many dreams in this period explore how this can be achieved, and the various paths one could take to attain it.

The following dream shows a particular facet of this. It is from Eric Fromm’s book on dreams, The Forgotten Language. The dreamer was a young man, an only child, who had been cosseted by over protective parents, and was finding it difficult to face life without their support.

He dreamed that he was about five or six years old and was faced by a river he must cross. He looked for a bridge but found none. He thought of swimming but then realized he could not swim. (In the waking state he actually could swim). He then sees a tall, dark man who indicates he will carry him across the river in his arms. He is greatly relieved and allows the stranger to pick him up and begin. But then he is seized with panic. He suddenly realizes that if he does not escape from this man he will die!

They are already in the river, he in the man’s arms, when he gathers his courage and makes a desperate leap into the river. He is sure he will drown but suddenly finds that he can swim and soon reaches the other side. The frightening man disappears.

How do I leave home?

Dr. Fromm describes crossing the river as the need, and the difficulty, of moving from childhood toward adult independence. The man is all the support he gets from parents and other people such as teachers and friends – excellent while he was a child, but something he must learn to do without if he is to develop his own innate strengths. When the dreamer takes the risk of daring the river, he finds he has the ability to survive.

In many teenage dreams a darker note arises as the emerging independence starts to make a dramatic break with parental authority and with the dependence upon the succouring received. Because the break is difficult it sometimes needs anger or a form of violence. This is not because the parents are necessarily holding on to the child, but because the need of the child is so strong, that to cut those ties a form of violence is used. We then find a dream such as the following:

I dreamed I dared not move from home as I had murdered my father and hid the body in the rubbish tip at the end of the garden.

If it is not murder, then the dreamer sees the parent or parents die. In either case, the child still faces life without them, and this seems to be the point of such dreams. In waking life there may at such times also be some anger or aggressiveness toward the parents – once again a means of making the break. After all, how could you move away if you were still tied emotionally? The next dream illustrates the quieter form of getting rid of a parent.

For the past year I have had recurring dreams about fairground rides. Occasionally members of my family, including my father have died on the rides. When I’m on the ride I’ve survived, but I can sense danger all around me. This dream is beginning to bother me. I am 15 years old.

Sexual development is of course of prime importance at this time. Girls are usually ahead of boys in their appreciation and awareness of the intricacies of what this means. So their dreams explore the facets of this in a variety of ways. Below is a fairly clear look at exploring sexual possibilities.

I have had this dream for about 3 months now. It is about a bus driver I really like. I am only 15, and I see him and me making love. He is about 23. The other day he asked me when my 16th birthday was. I wonder if that meant anything. Could you let me know if anything serious could happen between us? Debbie.

Many girls dream of becoming pregnant and giving birth. Such dreams are ways of experimenting with the future. Through them the dreamer learns to deal with anxieties and become more confident in facing their own future.

I dreamed that I gave birth to a healthy, happy, and smiling baby boy (even though I looked barely pregnant in the dream and gave birth at home with no pain). I was very happy and felt a lot of warmth, care, and protection towards my baby and cuddled him a great deal.  

How do I know I’m grown up?

When we move beyond the processes of growth faced in adolescence we journey into adulthood, during which we face relationships, work, parenthood or creativity, as an independent individual. However, there is no age at which we can say we have arrived at adulthood. Sometimes elements of babyhood, childhood or adolescence have not been outgrown even in old age. Dreams sometimes illustrate this when we see ourselves in the dream with an adult head on a baby body. Or we have an adult body but the genitals of a child, and so on. But in general, in this period of our life we dream about the issues of relationship, of finding our own strength to deal with life creatively and satisfyingly. There is an attempt on the part of our dream process to release and deal with early traumas or situations that occurred and led to blocking or trapping our potential energy and creativity. The challenges and difficulties we face in outer life are explored in our dreams.

Unfortunately this means a real and honest self-assessment and meeting with areas of feeling that have not been healed in the past. As Freud so clearly pointed out, there is enormous resistance to this. It is much easier to explore the controlled world of lucid dreams, or see ones dreams in the light of inspiration rather than confrontation. Of course, dreams are all these things.

Unfortunately this means a real and honest self-assessment and meeting with areas of feeling that have not been healed in the past. As Freud so clearly pointed out, there is enormous resistance to this. It is much easier to explore the controlled world of lucid dreams, or see ones dreams in the light of inspiration rather than confrontation. Of course, dreams are all these things.

An example of how dreams portray the deepest of our difficulties is seen in the following dream of a forty year old man, Clive.

I dreamt Pete, a guy I knew, came into my father’s shop in London. Someone had shot him in the bicep and I was trying to help him. I had a small box on the counter and there was fluid or blood in it, and I put the hurt muscle in it hoping to heal it. When the gunshot flesh was in the blood the blood bubbled and effervesced, becoming hot. I felt the flesh would not be of any use now, but wasn’t sure. In the end I was considering cleaning away the injured flesh from the arm (left), and this would heal and connect with the thin sinew of flesh. I began to feel that gradually new cells might grow and develop into a new muscle – granulate.

Clive explored his dream in depth, and wrote the following report on what he met.

I had wandered around and around trying to understand my dream. Then suddenly I realised I had met Pete on a walk a few days ago. I had heard him shouting out about, “The Lord Jesus Christ,” in a mocking voice. At the time I was in a wood with my children, and had stood still waiting for Pete and his friends to pass by – Pete being outside of the wood in a field. This memory of the event immediately led me to realise my avoidance of Pete represented pride. I had not wished to be associated with Pete. Pete, who had failed in marriage, failed at his musical career, failed at working for himself – failed. It became so clear that my pride was how I defended myself against my own feelings of failure.

Pete and his friends actually walked into the wood, so I had not been able to avoid them anyway. There was a young French girl, Katerine, in the group, and Pete was trying to get off with her. Pete, who had failed at marriage and parenthood, but was chasing after young girls. In looking at Pete I was looking at parts of myself I didn’t want to see. No wonder I didn’t want to meet Pete. Being willing to face him now, I was forced to admit that I too felt I had failed in my marriage but yearned after young women.

There was more. I knew from my relationship with Pete that he was in battle with his father, and constantly fought authority tooth and nail. He had tried to make it in life alone to prove how much better he was then father/authority. What a waste, when one could work together to accomplish more! Conflict wastes so much effort due to the countless retreats.

Now it was coming thick and fast so I went down to my wife in the kitchen, as it was so helpful to talk. Yes, it was my father I was in conflict with. The shop was the important point in the dream. It was in that shop our conflict had come to a head. It had been there always. My father had never spoken words of encouragement to me, but always showed me how good his work was, and asked why I didn’t do it like him. Never a word of encouragement – always wrong.

As these feelings surfaced I felt enormous emotional pain. Not that my father had ever hit me. He hadn’t. But blows would have been less painful than this absence of love and encouragement from the man who was most important in my life. I wept and wept with the agony. What a fucking waste of my life, to live in that pain and unconsciously fight authority all those years.

So my conflict with him, led me to try to prove how good I was, never able to co-operate at school, at work, in marriage. I had to keep on at my wife over nothing, just to prove how good we were. I didn’t understand what he wanted of me. So I kept on at my kids like he kept on at me. Trying to attain the unobtainable instead of a little warmth and love. “Dad, you fucking killed me right back then”.

The damage to the muscle pointed to the whole area of my life that I was trying to save and heal. The left arm represented the strength that backed up my outer action. If I banged a nail in with my right arm, I held the nail with my left hand. It was my confidence and support that had been shot away in my relationship with my father. But I needed to let go of that awful pain and wait for the new muscle tissue to grow. How does a man of 40 start life over again? Is it with patience to let the new tissues and strength grow? The dream had suggested it could happen.

Clive’s description clearly shows his resistance to meeting the feelings involved in his dream – his wandering around for over an hour. Then, as he understands his dream, we can see exactly how dreams reveal his deepest and hidden self, and used his everyday experiences to do so. What Clive says describes so well one of the real challenges we all face as adults – how to transform and transcend our past, and thus realise our fuller potential.

And now I am 40!

If we were to live till 80 years of age, at 40 we can consider ourselves middle aged. In fact the cycles of our life, and the processes of our bodily change in ageing, do start to confront us at 40 with a great shift in what we can now expect of life. Clive’s dream is not only typical of the sort of dreams we experience in adulthood, but it also shows a theme occurring much more often in middle and old age. Clive puts it into words when he says, “How does a man of 40 start life over again.” Perhaps it would be clearer to say, “How does a person of my age look forward to creating a worthwhile life now my youth has fled?”

We usually feel that having expended our best and failed in some major or minor way, how can we now go on to do better in the waning years of our life? It is this challenge that Jung so carefully charted the territory of, and wrote about extensively. He called it ‘individuation’ – the development toward becoming a real individual, or a self created person. The term self created is used to suggest the personal effort one has to make, the new lessons learned, in order to move out of past failure and despair, or present sterility and meaninglessness.

There is some research suggesting that the elderly spend less time in REM sleep, and therefore dream less. But this is still controversial. The results of another approach to the subject says,

“The often documented decrease of dream recall with age has only been observed in one third of the sample. Generally however, apart from some minor fluctuations dream recall tends to remain quite stable over a life-span. These findings suggest that the decrease of dream recall frequency in cross-sectional studies might have been caused by cohort effects. A preponderance of negative feelings in the dreams of the elderly has not been found. The hypothesized relationship between dream feelings and life satisfaction has been confirmed by the present study, since subjects scoring low in life satisfaction recorded more negative diary dreams. This finding and the results of the content analysis support the continuity hypothesis of dream life. No evidence has been found for the regression hypothesis which states that dreams of the elderly are mainly influenced by past experiences.

There’s more – much more!

To balance this view a little, if there are still past difficulties to be faced, these will still present themselves in dreams. But a drive in many people is in some way to actualise themselves, to express themselves in a satisfying way. If we use the analogy of a plant, it is as if they have grown and reached full stature, but for some reason have not flowered and spread seeds. They have not produced fruit.

There is no one way in which people feel or seek this fruition prior to death. But it does become an imperative for many. It may involve receiving or giving love. It might be a need for expressing in one of the arts, or simply in breaking away from habits and roaming the world. The next dream illustrates this theme.

I flew over a farmyard and a large pig saw me and began to chase me as a dog might, but with the sense that he/she wanted to eat me. She chased me snapping and leaping into the air trying to ‘get’ me. I felt a bit apprehensive at times that she would get my leg. This lowered my confidence in flying and I began to worry about altitude, and flew over a barbed wire fence and the pig and her young could not follow. I flew low over small trees that were just coming into leaf. They were beautiful soft green leaves. I knew it was autumn and the leaves were only just coming out because it had been a cloudy, overcast summer. I felt the leaves would have time to mature because the sun would be out in the autumn, and the trees would not die.

The dreamer was in his fifties at the time of the dream, and had distinct feelings of something missing from his life. He felt very clearly that the late autumn expressed how he felt, that the best of his life, his fruition had not yet occurred. This was because ‘it had been a cloudy, overcast summer.’ By this he meant his life had so many difficulties, he had not had a chance to ‘flower’. But the dream promised there was still time.

Something I have met frequently in the dreams of those leaving their youthful life behind, is the images of a race and the plateau. This dream from John deals with one of these.

I recently reached my fortieth birthday and dreamt I was walking uphill. It was quite tough going. When I got to the top I saw the road on the other side was very steep. I felt frightened of going down it. I looked around and saw that the top of the hill stretched away on each side, so there was plenty of space, like a plateau. I realise that I could walk around and there is no hurry to go down the hill.

This suggests, before John actually got to middle age, he had the idea that it led directly to a fast decline into old age and death – going down hill. The dream shows a different view of this by saying that in fact he worked hard to climb to a plateau of ability and possibilities that he can now explore. Each portion of life has its rewards, and in fact John depicts this period of his life as more relaxed than the first half.

The image used in such dreams is sometimes that of a race, either running or on a bicycle. This suggests ones part in the human race. In John’s dream he simply says it was hard going to get to where he was.

Whether the person consciously allows it or not, there is a recognition that in old age we are getting nearer to death. Of course, death is a subject that arises in our dreams no matter what age we are. But as it draws nearer it becomes more imperative that we develop an easier relationship with it. The following dream clearly shows the sense of drawing ever nearer to the end. But in this dream ‘the end’ is not defined.

There’s more to life than death

I was on a wide, sandy open plain. There was a high rock coming up out of the desert on my left hand side. I was in a long queue of people, who seemed to be either very old or very young. We were all wearing long robes, and all weeping bitterly. We moved forward slowly towards an opening in the ground where steps going downwards could be seen, and gradually the people in front of us made their way downwards. There was no panic, just an orderly procession and the sound of weeping. I woke up before I reached the steps, and I was crying bitterly. Mrs. W.

If one is in some way working with, or in harmony with ones internal processes of growth, the relationship with death develops beyond fear or despair, and moves into wonder and insight. The following dream shows this.

I knew I was dying and it was incredibly real. So real I wept deeply because I knew this was the end of everything and I would lose my children. All that I had created in life would be at an end too. But there was nothing I could do about that and I died. Then I seemed to be at a slight distance watching my dead body, and I saw my father, who had died some years before, come and carry the body over a threshold into a heavenly meadow. There a resurrection took place. I was given new life. And the new life came from all that I had given to others, and all I had received from others, during my life. That was my spiritual body and life. A.C.

Here is another dream where the dreamer moves beyond the attitudes and concepts of present cultural values.

Suddenly I was in a huge underground cavern. It was hundreds of feet high and as wide. It had two great statues in it, both to do with death. The whole place overpowered me with a sense of decay and skeletal death, darkness, underground, earth, the end. I cried out in the dismal cave, ‘Death, where is your sting! Grave, where is your victory!’ I immediately had the sense of being a bodiless awareness. I knew this was what occurred at death. Fear and the sense of decay left me. Andrew.

At the very cutting edge of ageing and the doorway of death, there is perhaps something to be learned from the reports from those who have met a near death experience. In her book Coming Back to Life, P. H. Atwater gives the following true account of a person’s NDE.

For me it was a total reliving of every thought I had ever thought, every word I had ever spoken, and every deed I had ever done; plus the effect of each thought, word and deed on everyone and anyone who had ever come within my environment or sphere of influence, whether I knew them or not (including unknown passers-by on the street)

In the dream quoted above in which the dreamer dies, and then sees his dead father carry his lifeless body over a threshold, the same sort of theme is mentioned. He says that his resurrection occurred from all that he had received or given to others during life. The account immediately above also tells us of meeting all that has been done in life, and realising what impact it has on her, and even on those passing by on the street.

This recognition of the wider implications of ones life, this meeting with ones spiritual dimension of existence, is what we draw closer to in ageing. If we are lucky, we die before we die. In other words, we meet death in our dreams, learn to walk up to it without fear, and pass beyond into a wider awareness of who we are. See: Near Death Experience

Today I noticed for the first time
A small brown mark on my left hand.
True I have been out in the sun,
But I never grow freckles.
This is one of those marks
Old people have on their hands.

I thought – or perhaps it was a hope
That I would never have
Such brown discolourations.
In my imagination of ageing
I had seen my skin wrinkled,
But clear and vibrant.
The mark was something
I noticed in the morning,
Looked at for a few moments
And passed from to other interests.

The day was full of things to enjoy.
At fifty I feel happier
And more vigorous
Than ever before.
Then, in the afternoon,
Sitting among friends
And in the midst of our enjoyment
The thought struck me –
Supposing I fall over!
Supposing I dropped to the floor
Right now.

I was with friends,
Friends to have wild fancies with.
So I followed my mood,
Allowing it to grow leaves and stem,
And remembered,
Though I had never really forgotten,
That my father had – one day –
Fallen over on his garden path.
Busy as ever with things to do
He was walking the path
Fell over
And never got up again.

That’s when I knew
More clearly than ever before
That I am slowly dying.
If I were a leaf on a tree,
The small brown mark would be
The first sign of Autumn
As change touched me
Making me golden.
Then I would fall
From the tree.

But I am not ready
To drop.
Though I am turning brown
There is something I need.
I have a will to spend myself
On my friends,
That I might fall
Feeling well
With the coming of winter.
Of a sudden
I see the face of Death.
I hear its voice.
I know it –
For we have met
Often and always.

Death has the features of
A child I made cry;
The profile of
My loved woman;
Your countenance.
Have I known you?
Then I have known Death.
Have I betrayed any?
Then I have betrayed Death.
And its face is beauty
For it is all things –
Undressed of flesh,
Unclad Life –
Without the garment
That our selfhood is.

And the waters in me rose
To tears.
Bathing me in regret
That I had
So often
My love
For the
Naked Beauty.

But there are rewards in actual physical life as well. Here is a letter from a man who is finding that enjoyment.

Hi Tony- You probably won’t remember me, I used to come to Combe Martin in the 1980s on Richard and Juliana’s Intensives Psychotherapy workshops… I remember fondly how we all enjoyed your and Hy’s wonderful cooking!

Just wanted to say that as I approach old age (nearly 70), welcome changes are happening. Firstly, I’m accessing information I never knew I had, mainly evident in my enthusiasm for University Challenge on TV where I will often find the correct answers to questions on disparate subjects, they just seem to pop out of my head without consciously thinking which, in addition to surprising me, are sometimes not even guessed correctly by any of the eight panellists!

Secondly, synchronous-type occurrences are becoming more frequent. Things such as suddenly thinking of a friend I’ve not thought about for maybe weeks, only to have him or her then call or text me less than a minute later!

Also, the wider, world view you write of is becoming stronger in me, where I get a (intuitive) sense of the world at large, a strong feeling for the multitude and mass of humanity, and principally its collective suffering, which is a much more expansive experience than previously I’ve had most of my life ie my own small world and its restricted boundaries.

I’ve enjoyed, as I get older, the growth of my intuition, and celebrate its development in contrast to left-hemisphere mental (?) attributes such as intellect, objectivity, etc. I’m both fascinated and pleased to find your writings on these subjects, and more, on your website. It feels appropriate that I have come across your site at this time in my life.

Thanks for sharing all your wisdom on the site.
Best wishes. P

Useful questions are:

Do I think I am the sensory experience of my body?

If so who am I in sleep when I lose the awareness of my body and exterior world?

If I am my body, how do I account for its enormous changes in ageing, and the fact I have a sense of permanence amidst this change?

You can explore your own dreams as described above by using Talking As and Processing Dreams. You might be able to explore that wider world by using Arm Circling Meditation and Life’s Little Secrets.


-lindsey 2017-10-02 17:06:12

Is that hugh hefner???????

-lindsey 2017-10-02 17:05:09

Is that hugh hefner?

    -Tony Crisp 2017-10-04 10:38:49

    Lindsey – Is what Hugh Hefner? What are you referring to?

    I wish I could get to 91 and look as good as him.


-pope 2014-03-21 2:14:59

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