It is an old house, white washed walls, kerosene or some such lanterns and doorways opening unexpectedly onto rooms of fine heavy furniture. There are a number of people in the rooms, soldiers standing and sitting about, older women doing chores in the kitchen where I am standing, and through the door of the kitchen I can see an army officer of high rank leaning back in a high backed wooden /leather chair. He looks pale and ill.
I am eating a very large meal of roast beef and potatoes, standing in the kitchen, and being cheerfully urged by the ladies to keep eating. I am dressed in an army greatcoat with a knapsack on my back. There is too much beef and I can't finish it.
I feel I am much younger than everyone else in the house, this is an old time, the uniforms are old fashioned, the women have lace collars and long dark dresses. There is a closed off fireplace and when one of the soldiers begins arranging books in front of it on a small table, a woman stops him. I wake up.
It’s always tempting to feel, when the dream setting looks and feels historic, that you have travelled back into history or are experiencing a past life. While this may be possible, it’s always true that the dream is relevant to your current situation. You have most to gain by looking at the historic scene as part of the symbolism of your dream.
It is true that dreams refer us back to earlier days, commonly to our childhood, revealing the origins of experiences and beliefs that built our character and affect our responses to life. It could be argued that if you have lived before, those memories might be accessible through dreams and useful in throwing light on your current life situation. But, think about this: even when a dream takes you back to your childhood home the old home scene is changed in some way – it includes many symbolic elements. If you feel you have visited a past life in a dream, it is unlikely to be literally accurate, being subject to the same shifts of perspective that we see when we visit our childhood in dreams. Your unconscious mind pictures past, present and future in symbolic rather than literal terms.
Dreams also borrow from our experiences of books and movies, and you will have seen plenty of period war movies, I’m sure. When we see a film and resonate with one of the characters, that feeling of shared experience can spill over into our dreams.
So, what symbolism does the historic setting of your dream offer? The setting is a place where soldiers, people who would normally be at war, are resting up. If you have served in a war, your dream may be exploring your recovery and healing, or, if you have not been in the army, then your dream may be exploring respite from a conflict in your waking life.
The walls of the house are whitewashed. We speak of whitewashing something when we are glossing over it, covering up something we don’t want others to know about, or simply making a clean start, a fresh slate.
There are doors opening unexpectedly onto rooms of fine furniture. When we find extra rooms in dreams we are generally recognising extra potential within ourselves, and here you see fine potential.
You stand in the kitchen, the nurturing centre of the house, being well fed. Always look for opposites in a dream: here you have the pale, ill army officer and you, the well-fed (too much food), healthy, younger soldier. There is also the warm nurturing kitchen (too much cheerful urging to overfeed) versus the closed-off fireplace.
There is too much beef and we wonder whether the army officer would be healthy if he had the beef and the nurturing of the kitchen, rather than sitting by the closed-off fireplace.
Why too much beef? Dreams often work in word play. Have you been ‘beefing something up’ or ‘making meat of it’ instead of seeing it as it is? Could this be related to whatever you are whitewashing? It’s beginning to sound like a media spin: beefing something up, whitewashing something over.
I wonder whether the historic setting is suggesting, “This is all ancient history. This is past,” especially as you feel you are younger than everyone else. Is it time to let wartime experiences or a present day personal conflict go? Are you spending too much time ‘feeding’ the past, beefing it up, making meat over it or whitewashing it instead of letting it go? Could this be making you exhausted – pale and ill?
I have a feeling the pale, ill army officer can enlighten you here, so I’ve suggested a dialogue dream alchemy practice to see what you can learn from this symbol.
Your dialogue is between you and the pale, ill army officer. Start with you saying, “Can I help you?” and see what the officer automatically answers. Keep it going for 20 minutes.
How to do this
Give yourself no longer than 20 minutes. When you do this exercise do NOT think! Don’t plan ahead. Just let whatever happens happen. Let the two entities speak to each other on paper using whatever words come up. It’s a bit like writing a film script or play – but without the brain being involved.
How does this work?
By not thinking, by keeping the words flowing, you are letting your right brain and unconscious mind do most of the work. They created the original dream so they know what these symbols mean for you. They will reveal. You will be surprised.