A man in his mid-twenties dreamed:
I’m sitting at a long board-room table at a meeting with another man and woman. The woman had been asked to evaluate the truthfulness of a small boy’s claim that there is a red ball at the bottom of a spiral staircase. Another boy had previously investigated this and said no ball was there. I tried to descend the staircase to see for myself but it got very narrow the further I went down and I couldn’t reach the darkened bottom. The woman reported her findings, sharing her conclusion that the boy who claimed to see the red ball was telling the truth.
Adults can have a hard time seeing what a child sees. Although our education shines a light on some areas of life, it often dims the light in others. The beliefs and attitudes we have adopted to fit in with society can help us feel “normal,” sane, or secure, but they also cast a shadow. “Knowledge” can be a stepping stone to further knowledge, but it may also be an impediment, for once we think we know something we often close our mind to other points of view.
Children, on the other hand, often have a greater receptivity and openness to new ideas and perspectives. Their capacity to pretend and playfully embrace an imaginary world is more pronounced. Their connection to the unconscious, the wonder and mystery of life and nature is frequently more active. They are generally more spontaneous, uninhibited, and expressive of their emotions. Unconcerned with presenting an adult persona, they allow themselves to be more playful, silly, and openly honest about what they feel and see.
In this dream the small boy descends the spiral staircase, a symbol of circling the Self (or personality core), represented by the red ball. The spiral staircase becomes too small for an adult to get through. Only a child–or an adult capable of childlike openness–can gain access to certain of life’s secrets and gifts. The two men and the other small boy doubt the existence of this gift within the psyche. But the woman, who brings a more feeling and heart-oriented perspective, stands by the doubted boy.
The dreamer had an edge against his inner child. He tended to see playfulness and emotional expression as immature and inappropriate for an adult. He thereby cut himself off from some of the wisdom, insight, and healing activities that a child’s perspective offers. The spiral staircase leading into and out of the unconscious is a symbol of the path of individuation (self-discovery and personal growth) which the dreamer questions will lead to wholeness. But his inner child, the boy who hasn’t yet been indoctrinated to the accepted adult view of reality, knows it is there. Perhaps his inner woman will help the dreamer see it too. Then he might be able to share in the refrain of Bob Dylan when he sang, “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” [Bob Dylan, My Back Pages]