Dear Cynthia: I am a physician. I am frustrated with my lifestyle. I enjoy work but want more leisure time. In my dream I caught three successively larger fish; the last one was unusual and huge. During the dream my husband helped me get the barb of a fish hook out of my finger, and my dad (who is deceased) ignored my request for help. I wanted him to hit the first and smallest fish, which was colorful and unusual, on the head to kill it. What do you think it means?
Dear Reader: Since in the language of dreams, water represents the unconscious mind and our emotions, your dream indicates that you are searching your mind deeply for answers. Fishing is, of course, also a leisure activity you may enjoy, but it symbolizes a search for nourishment of your spirit, the place your frustration and unrest dwell. Since you catch fish, you are pulling up messages from the unconscious. However, in the first case, although it is "colorful and unusual" or interesting, you want it dead! So a part of you may be fighting this change of lifestyle. There is a certain comfort in routine even if it is somewhat boring. Since your father ignores your request, I suspect that he wasn't always a good listener or supportive of your desires while he was alive. Perhaps he saw work as worthwhile and leisure as a waste of time? Your husband, on the other hand, is there to support you even if you get a little hurt or things don't go exactly as planned. The number three is significant; it represents the balance of body, mind and spirit. Since the fish get larger as you continue, it seems you are testing this leisure idea a little at a time, increasing slowly. I suggest you choose a leisure activity that you can fit into your schedule, release the ghost of your father's definition of a good life, and restore balance to your life. The colorful and unusual characteristic of the fish indicates that you would like to do something out of the ordinary!
Dream Your Way to Creativity:
While we are awake, our attention is usually directed externally. We are involved with the sights, sounds and obligations of our daily activities. While we are asleep, our focus is internal, void of distraction. For many, this is the perfect time to resolve conflict. The old adage, "Why don't you sleep on it?" is more than a stall for time. The great 19th century German chemist Friedrich August Kekule was aided in his discovery of benzene by his dream. Kekule was stumped and decided to take a nap. In a dream he saw atoms flitting and wriggling like snakes. Then one of the snakes turned and bit its own tail. Kekule woke and spent the rest of the night working out his hypothesis. For him, the circular image of the snake in his dream represented the structure of the benzene ring, a hexagon with a carbon and a hydrogen atom at each point. Kekule revolutionized organic chemistry with his discovery of the formula for benzene. At a scientific conference, he said to his colleagues, "Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then we may perhaps find the truth."
Novelist, poet and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson taught himself to use his dreams to cultivate stories and character development. His dreams took the form of serials continuing and developing night after night. He gave credit for many of the plots, scenes and characters in his famous novels to his dreams. English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the famous title "Kubla Khan," which also was inspired by a dream. He had been reading about the 13th century Mongolian ruler, Kublai Khan before falling asleep. He woke with a long, mystical and richly symbolic poem about the leader. He began writing it down but was interrupted by a visitor. When he went back to continue writing, the remainder had eluded him and was lost forever.
Paul McCartney said in an interview that he dreamed the song "Yesterday," one of the most recorded songs in the world. Many modern artists rely on their dreams for inspiration and creativity. Here is one success story in this week's Celebrity Profile.
You may or may not recognize her glamorous face or her name, but you certainly know her music. Songwriter Carol Connors has been nominated for 10 major awards, including Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Golden Globes. Perhaps most known for "Gonna Fly Now," the theme from "Rocky," which she wrote with Bill Conti and Ayn Robbins, Connors has written music and lyrics for "Dressed to Kill," "The Onion Field," "Falling in Love Again" and "The Rescuers." Her own favorite is "With You I'm Born Again," which she wrote with David Shire. Connors has performed for former Presidents Reagan and Ford. She has written four songs for Placido Domingo and is collaborating on the music for the HBO series "Happily Ever After," with Spencer Proffet and Steve Plunkett.
"I begged for the chance to be involved with this project," Connors told me. "It is a beautiful series that adds a multicultural twist to classic fairy tales."
Connors is also a dreamer. As many in the creative arts have learned to do, she incubates her music through her dreams.
"I will go to sleep after reading a script or hearing the story line of a film or television program and wake up with the lyrics or the melody of a new song in my head," she says. "I have learned to write this information down immediately; otherwise, it is lost. I keep a light-up pen at bedside."
The evaporative quality of dreams became apparent to Connors when she was writing the music for Walt Disney's "The Rescuers."
"I was asked to write a theme song for the character Medusa, who was voiced by the late Geraldine Page. I woke in the middle of the night with the entire melody, I loved it and was so excited. It was so vibrant I knew I would remember it, but when I woke up in the morning it was gone. And Medusa never got her theme song!
"While writing the music and lyrics for
the new HBO project, I was given a rundown of the story of 'The Sissy Duckling,' written and voiced by Harvey Fierstein. I went to sleep and woke with the bridge to the song I needed to write.
"If more people would learn to utilize their dreams, they would recognize what a creative resource they have inside them."
If you would like to cultivate the use of your dreams for problem solving or creative pursuits, begin by writing down the specific question to help focus your mind. Repeat the question in your mind as you go to sleep. Give yourself the suggestion that you will remember your dream upon awakening. Prepare by having a cassette recorder or paper, pen and flashlight or light-up pen at bedside. Don't assume you will remember your dream. Whether you wake during the night or in the morning, make yourself write down the dream immediately. Just like learning to speak a foreign language, it takes dedication, but with consistent practice you will learn to use your dreams to your benefit and pleasure.
Cynthia Richmond is teaching a six-week course titled "Dreamcatching, Unlocking the Secrets of Your Dreams," at the Learning Tree University in Chatsworth beginning Sept. 15. Details: (818) 882-5599.
* Behavioral therapist Cynthia Richmond's column appears every other Tuesday. Write to "In Your Dreams," Life & Style, L.A. Times, Times Mirror Square, L.A., CA 90053, or send a fax to (213) 237-0732. Include a daytime phone number. Letters should be no longer than 100 words and cannot be returned. "In Your Dreams" should be read for entertainment.