I've recently had a special request to return to a subject that's of interest to just about every dreamer: sex! Because the survival of all human life depends on sexual intercourse it remains vitally important, so we continually dream about it. And although I can't claim to add anything new - it's all been said before - I'll do my best to answer some of the questions I'm frequently asked.
A good way to unzip this sometimes sticky subject is to start with Carl Jung's one-time mentor, Sigmund Freud. Freud was not the first person in the world to be interested in sex, but he was the first modern to extensively discuss links between sex and dreams. To Freud, the sex drive was the virtual engine behind our dreams, and sexual meaning was to be found in many common dream images. Freudian theories gradually filtered through to popular culture, so much so that some of his revolutionary ideas now seem to us simplistic.
The Futurist and Surreal art movements sprang to life around the time Freud and Jung were engaged in what became an ongoing debate about the predominance of sexual meaning in dreams, and one that is still current among their followers today. However, it was the newly invented cinema that brought Freudian dream images to the world's mega-audience. In the early days of the movies, an inward tracking shot of a train entering a tunnel could mean what was in those days not permitted to be shown really happening on the big screen. A moving image of waves crashing on a stretch of bare lonely white sand might also convey much the same thing. Other dream images - such as a key being slowly and smoothly inserted into a lock, a bud bursting open to receive a gently sliding dewdrop - began to appear frequently.
Advertising, in particular, picked up the trend and applied potent dream imagery first of all to brands of toiletries and cosmetics: open lipsticks looking like exotic bullets, lay ready in the holster of a cowboy's gun; women's deodorants assumed the shape of phalluses. Slender young women rode horses in rhythmic slow motion - often in fantastic surrounds - their long, freshly shampooed hair, full of body and bounce, streaming out behind. Now the power of such symbols is commonly used to market any kind of product, anywhere.
But Dr Freud's interest in sexually associated dream theories did not appeal to everyone. It became one of the important points of difference between himself and his younger colleague Dr Jung. So in Jungian-based dream theory today, a knife doesn't have to denote the penis, nor a sheath the vagina. A dream sword could be to do with cutting, (as in "cutting away the past"), a dream sheath could denote housing or protection; it depends what the dreamer brings to the symbol, their own associations with it and their personal memories. For instance, one dreamer might associate the image of a breast-shaped champagne glass with strong sexual overtones while another might see it simply as "a vessel". A third dreamer might regard the image of a dream shoe as an object capable of receiving the insertion of a body part - while a fourth might take exactly the same image to indicate "understanding'".
There's no doubt that certain dream themes refer blatantly and directly to sexual matters, no matter what school of dream work we happen to follow. A typical dream of this kind is set at a gas station next to the petrol pump, and has many variations. A dream nozzle or nozzles might be seen being inserted into dream tanks, with varying results. In one dream the pump might work, in another it won't. Or the dreamer might find the hose blocked, the supply running dry.
We may be surprised by our dreams about sex - even shocked sometimes - but remember, all things are possible in the uncensored world of the psyche (or unconscious mind), the place from where our dreams emerge. We shouldn't be alarmed if we dream of making love with someone of the same or opposite sex, or of swapping partners. This can mean that our dreaming self is exploring other aspects of sexuality, or carry more subtle meanings about our desire to acquire an admired attribute of the person we're dreaming about. Many dreams of sexual intercourse with unexpected or otherwise embarrassing partners occur because the dreamer wants to possess an outstanding quality of that person. This could be fairness, humour, loyalty, skills with people or any other aspect that appeals to the dreamer, and it's wise to approach overtly sexual dreams with this in mind.
One day, a young man, P, who'd been openly gay for years, exclaimed, "I dreamt I was making love to my boss, an older lady. And I don't even like her!" At first, P was shocked and disturbed by this image, but when he took the time to look more carefully at his dream and consider what was good about his boss, he had to admit she was an excellent attorney. P's dream was reaffirming his own conscious ambition: his goal in life was to become a great lawyer.
Jenny Albertson BA Hons IAJS has lived and worked in London, New York, Sydney and Lightning Ridge, practising for many years as a Jungian psychotherapist. Jenny now lives in Fremantle.
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