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What Dreams Teach Us About Love

Let me get this out of the way upfront. The title of this post (and maybe any blog post ever) is misleading. There is no way I’ll be able to encapsulate in an 1100-word blog post what dreams teach us about love. But boy, do they teach us about love. 

What I’d like to do in this post is express one way dreams teach us about love.

If we are lucky, at least once in our lives, we will dream of true love; of unconditional love; of deep, mutual love; of a love in which we feel seen and known for exactly who we are.

And then we will wake up.

Upon waking, we will realize that the lover in the dream (or the child, parent, companion) does not exist in waking life. Equally painful, we may dream we are deeply loved by someone who does exist in waking life, but does not know we exist. There are a few additional variations, including dreams of lovers or family members who have passed, but who appear to and for us alive in our dreams.

Dreams like these remind us how fragile love is, how elusive, and how temporary. 

In a recent dream of this sort, I was a teenage girl leaning against a locker, next to a boy I loved once in waking life. He heard a song playing “above” us and without a word pointed up toward the ceiling, toward the song, to call my attention to it. Once I heard the song, I knew it was “my song,” a song meant for me. Something in that exchange between us activated in me an overwhelming sense of mutual affection, acknowledgement, and most potently, relief. Full-bodied relief. The kind of relief, if we’re lucky, we feel when we know we are loved for exactly who and how we are. The kind of relief we may feel when we know we matter, or at least, mattered once to someone. 

It was a brief image, a brief dream. But it aroused big feelings. I woke up swimming in those feelings. I felt so, so loved, and so relieved.

The love in the dream felt pure and sacred, free of baggage from the past and free of concerns about the future. It was a love for and of the moment, I suppose. It was all-consuming in the most uninvolved, yet blissful of ways.

Soon after waking and recalling the dream, however, I could not re-enter that blissful feeling. Yes, I could remember it. I still remember it. But I can’t seem to re-enter it. As hard as I try (because my dream homework for the past two weeks has been to try), I can’t feel the love wash over me as it did in the dream.

I can recall the encounter in my mind – I see it at a bit of a distance as one might watching a movie on a smartphone – but the energy and the warmth is missing from it. 

It’s dulled.

Do you know this feeling? From a dream or even from a waking-life memory? Do you remember a meaningful encounter, but you can’t inhabit the feeling it evoked at the time? I would imagine you do. 

It’s painful.

I shared my own pain from this with my dream sharing group recently.

“I feel loved a lot in my life,” I explained. (The second part of my dream homework, in fact, was to notice the love that exists in my waking life.) “But the way the feeling of relief just washes over me in the dream? That was intense and I can’t seem to conjure it back up when I do my homework.” 

I’ve been reflecting on this a lot; sometimes with wonder at how dreams open us up to big feelings, and sometimes with self-criticism or resignation over my inability to conjure big feelings up myself at will.

I get really sad sometimes reflecting on how my responsibilities, roles, and conditioning inhibit me from experiencing blissful and full-bodied encounters with my loved ones more often. 

I also considered how difficult it is in waking life for us to be present and embodied in such moments, stuck as most of us are in our patterns and beliefs, weighed down by the heaviness of our emotional wounds (not to mention those passed down to them by our ancestors), and buttressed by our egos.

Perhaps, the love in the dream is a heavenly kind of love. Perhaps, the boy in the dream is a stand-in for the Divine.

Maybe so. But in Natural Dreamwork, we honor the realness of the dream. And in that particular dream, it was a young man standing at the locker next to me, and I was a young girl engulfed by love.

The feelings were real.

I worked another dream with my teacher during the same session as the dream above. In that dream, a woman I admire in waking life handed me a printed invitation. In the dream, I was certain she was seeking my editorial advice. I rubbed the paper between my fingers, and admired the print.

“It’s beautiful,” I told the woman, as I handed it back to her.

My dreamwork practitioner thought this was funny. (Or, at least his playful smile indicated to me that there was something funny about my version of the story of what had transpired in the dream.)

My version of the story was: Someone handed me an invitation, and I assumed I was meant to critique it. I noticed the high-quality paper, and embossed printing. What I failed to notice is that the invitation was meant for me.

It was for me.

Not for me to edit, but to receive. I was being invited. Everything dream characters offer in a dream is an invitation for the dreamer.

Instead of accepting the invitation, or even noticing I was being invited, however, I automatically assumed I was there to work, to be of service to the woman I admire.

My dreamwork teacher did not outright instruct me to compare the feelings felt in the two dreams, but it was unavoidable each day, as I took on my homework practice. (Homework: “Receive her beautiful invitation. She made it beautiful because it’s for you.”)

What became apparent was how often in my life I feel and act like the woman being asked to edit the invitation rather than the teenage girl leaning against a locker next to a boy who loves her, who knows her, who points out the song above is being played just for her.

One lesson that dreams teach us about love is how available love is to us in the here and now, and how often we fail to recognize it. We miss it or we misinterpret it. We believe we are being asked to edit, fix, or serve instead of being offered love.

Or, we busy ourselves with other, more mundane matters – not love– because being in the presence of love activates a wounding or a fear in us we cannot bear to be with. We dismiss it or are afraid to accept it, perhaps, having learned too many times just how easy or quickly love may fade, be taken away, or lost.

Some of us are afraid of what we might owe one day if we open to receiving love. We worry that someday we will have to “pay for it.”

Dreamwork keeps suggesting to me that there are alternatives to my beliefs and my stories. One alternative is to feel. 

What dreams teach me about love is to “say yes” in spite of love’s fragility and because of it. 

Would I rather not have any dreams in which the song playing above is dedicated to me? Simply because I will eventually have to wake up from it?

Would I rather be the editor or the critic in every dream just to make sure I never have to feel again the sting of rejection or the ache of loss?

Would I prefer to live my life in such a way, too? 

It’s not always easy to say “yes” to the invitation of love. In fact, I still possess a lot of conditioning that makes it hard for me to say yes, even when I long to.

Dreams keep showing me, though, that life is richer and warmer when I say yes to the invitation, yes to the song.

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