The night before his first psychotherapy session to address marriage and spirituality issues, a man dreamed:
I am on a sailboat with some other people. We are on the ocean or a very large lake and it has become stormy. The mast on the boat breaks. The next thing I know I am in the water. A rescue helicopter arrives and a lifeguard from it swims towards me to help. Through the use of a rope I am pulled up onto the helicopter and it accelerates towards shore. Shortly, however, it runs out of fuel and descends into the water. I experience all of this without much emotion.
Life is sometimes compared to a boat journey across the ocean. Ego consciousness is like a vessel upon the sea of the unconscious. Our sail catches the wind of the spirit. The breath of nature and God propels us to our destiny, if we do our part. But if the mast is broken, the sail cannot catch the wind. We are dead on the water, disconnected from the power and flow of the psyche.
The mast: centrally located and vertical in orientation. One end pointing downward and the other upward, can be conceived as a bridge between two realms—the material and the spiritual. When we have a living dialogue with our unconscious and the spirit, movement takes place in our life. We are propelled from within and without through conscious relationship between our ego and the forces that transcend it, the psyche. Without this connection, we are adrift and isolated from our deeper self. The dreamer is treading water; the ego is on its own.
Help arrives in the form of a lifeguard and helicopter. A lowered rope, repeating the vertical theme, serves as a conduit of rescue. But, interestingly, the helicopter loses fuel and lands in the water still far from shore. It is fair to ask if it isn’t some aspect of the ego, symbolized in the dream by the dreamer himself, which has led to the downfall of both sailboat and helicopter. The dream is similar to the story of Jonah and the whale in the bible. God asks Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah doesn’t want to. He tries run from his calling by hitching a ride on a fishing boat to another country. But a fierce storm wells up threatening to capsize the boat and all its crew. The sailors and Jonah draw lots to see who is responsible for God’s wrath. The shortest straw is drawn by Jonah, who the sailors then throw overboard. Jonah is swallowed by a whale—giving him time to reflect on his rebellious attitude—and the storm promptly quells.
In this dream it seems that disaster follows the ego. The question is: what is the attitude carried by the dreamer that leads to problems for the personality as a whole? The attitude may not be readily apparent in the dreamer’s narration, but is hinted at in the last sentence: “I experienced all of this without much emotion.” A normal, and in this case healthy response, would have been fear. After all, death by drowning is an imminent possibility in the dream story. Instead of fear, however, an attitude of indifference seems to prevail. This is important for it suggests a lack of concern for the dreamer’s spiritual life. The dreamer has lost connection to his psyche. The mast is broken and, thus, his connection to his soul. The shortage of fuel in the helicopter also suggests insufficient motivation or desire to save oneself. The dreamer is at risk of going passively, indifferently, to his spiritual drowning.
[The dream a client has just prior to the initiation of therapy is often predictive of the course of the therapy itself. In this case, the individual discontinued his therapy after his second session, consistent with the dream’s foreshadowing.]
Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D.
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