Exploring the Sleeping Mind

A Dreamer’s Compassion

The Dream: “I saw my friend, lying on the ground on his side, outside at night, with his knees tucked in. He seemed to be unconscious. I walked over and got down on the ground next to him. For some reason I wrapped my arms around him because I wanted to be able to feel his breathing to make sure he was okay.”

The Background: The dreamer says this friend is normally very talkative, warm, and friendly, but lately has been withdrawing as he struggles with family issues. She says that she relates to the feeling of hopelessness that she detects in him, having struggled with similar feelings in the past during periods of depression.

The Analysis: The friend’s emotional distress has been manifested in this dream as physical distress. Emotional vulnerability is reflected in the vulnerable physical position of lying on the ground. That she sees him on the ground outside and at night, as opposed to in a safer place like a bed, shows that she doesn’t just see his reaction as dramatic, but that she understands the cause is serious. Being unconscious, he is unable to interact with the dreamer, just like his situation has made his interactions with friends more withdrawn.

The dreamer must literally look down at her friend and get on the ground to be next to him. At first, this may seem symbolic of looking down on him as beneath her, but this wouldn’t be consistent with her description of their friendship. Dreams don’t normally give us insights that are inconsistent with how we feel during our waking hours; they more often simply give us a different perspective on the same thoughts we already know we have. The dreamer, once depressed but having lifted herself out of it, now standing strongly in her foundation, just as she stands in the dream, understands the weight of depression. Lowering herself to his position therefore represents her compassion and strong empathy that enables her to meet him where he is.

Checking his breathing, the dreamer is looking for signals of his health, just as she checks for emotional signals of his mental health in her waking hours. Rather than simply looking for the rising and falling of his chest, she leans in close, where she will not just see but feel his movement. This represents a search for understanding of his thoughts that comes only with nearness. Her dream shows that rather than simply observing her struggling friend, she feels genuine empathy and concern.

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