Background and Foreground of Dreams

A dream or vision presents a view of life in which inner feelings and states are personified – for instance a feeling of fear depicts itself as a dark and scary place in your dream or a threatening person. So a general human or historical situation, such as the many people in history who have given their lives to help or heal others, can become a single exterior symbol in a dream, such as Christ, Mohammed, Buddha or a great guru would be. A dream image could therefore integrate all our thoughts and feelings about our forebears whose life and death was the foundation of our own existence into a single image. But of course a more common representation is of the personal inner feelings and fears we exist in during our waking life.

What we do with language illustrates this in large degree. For instance, how we learn language illustrates how we learn many other things. There are certainly many words for which you know the precise meaning, and yet you have never looked them up in the dictionary. Your understanding has arisen from seeing them in context with other words. You have arrived at understanding by frequently meeting the word in a variety of contexts.

This connects with the cultural symbols and figures which or who we meet displayed in cultural contexts. For instance Buddhism in Europe and probably in the US, is displayed in the context of a non-dominant religion. Christianity – Christ – is displayed in a dominant cultural role in the USA. All of this is information which although it might never have been spelled out to us we take in through being in the midst of it. Also the symbols of these religions portray enormous information. The crucified figure for Christianity, and the seated, reposed figure with eyes half closed for Buddhism. These portray a huge difference, and without anything else ARE information.

Such things never become conscious unless we pointedly examine them. We learn about them almost without conscious thought, and often they remain as part of the ‘background’ of our perceptions. We can make what was unconscious knowledge conscious by exploring our dream. You can do this by using Talking As or Processing Dreams.

We are therefore faced with what is a foreground, and what is background in our life.

Part of our background, for instance, is that we are each an historical event, with particular family, national and cultural background and tendencies. It is what used to be called blood.

Our background is what is often called the unconscious. It is the complex and varied influences and the interactions, that underlie our existence. These spread from the deeply subatomic, atomic, molecular, cellular, organic and inter-organ activities of our body and environment, to social processes on as many levels. It includes personal but forgotten memory, personality structure, response and experience. But this background is also all the things mentioned above in regard to cultural information, all the lives that have preceded ours and left their mark in one way or another, along with the time we are born and therefore the circumstances we are born into.

The Foreground is what we sense as the reality of our isolated, independent integrity or identity. It is the world of our present experience gathered through our senses and thoughts. It is connected with our conscious waking self, and the sense or image we have of ourselves. This self image is often tied up with our body and what we feel and think about it.

Integration between the two is actually a working relationship between self and reality. But as ‘reality’ is generally so hard to grasp in any encompassing way, when it is felt in anything more than tiny parcels of information – i.e. when it is sensed in anything like its entirety – it is experienced as a relationship with the mystical or numinous – enlightenment.

Things such as childhood trauma may stand in the way of a ‘working’ relationship between background and foreground. Remember that background includes all of the workings of the cosmos in its most intricate ways. For without that you would have no body. And events in our family, in the cosmos, in social history, and our own actions and behaviour, have preceded our emergence as an individual in this moment now. We inherit the effects of these and have to meet them in our daily life, in this moment now. In past cultures these were recognised and given various names or described in various ways – sin – as you sow, so shall you reap – karma – kismet.

Different ways of thinking about and dealing with such causes of dysfunction were used in different ages and cultures. In the west, we mostly see events in our life as accidents, or as having psychological causes, such as childhood traumas or lack of care. Western culture seems somewhat blind to cultural, historical and family causes which flow into the individual from prior to his or her birth. This is starting to be defined though from the genetic point of view. See IndividuationCollective Unconscious Identity and Dreams.

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