Rear view mirror.
“The past is an illusion glimpsed in a misty rear view mirror,” offered the shaman in my dream. “Pass your hand over the mirror, clear it all away.”
He was a magnificent being, polished mahogany Caribbean skin, long dark hair as a backdrop to thick, glossy, silver white curls that framed his face and tumbled down to reach his waist. A modern shaman, offering a car metaphor rather than a story from nature.
The dream was long and complex, and I spent time working on it at every level, but I thought the rear view mirror metaphor was one you might enjoy exploring with me.
I’m sure you agree that our individual memories of the past are somewhat misty, cobbled together from highlights and lowlights, tinged with emotion, missing huge key chunks, reimagined over time, influenced by hindsight. In these ways the past is an illusion, a shifting personal reminiscence rather than a catalogue based entirely on fact.
In my dream, when the shaman suggested passing my hand over the mirror to clear it all away, he meant clear away the past completely because it’s an illusion. He meant focus on the present. In the dream I had the sensation of something being cleared from my mind, then I settled down on the floor to rest.
On waking, I pondered the various options the metaphor offered.
When you clear away the mist on the rear view mirror, you also have the option to see the past – what’s behind you – more clearly. What you see about the past may still be illusory, but perhaps closer to the truth. You might gain clarity, and in gaining clarity you might find that the memory or event no longer holds as much sway on the present. Or in gaining clarity you might find the clearer memory pivotal in changing your perspective of the present and your way of being in the world.
When you’re driving, you need to look in the rear view mirror from time to time to be aware of what’s behind you, and at specific times, such as changing lanes, when it’s critical to know what’s behind you. More than this, the rear view mirror keeps you in touch with what’s coming up from behind, perhaps about to overtake you, or influence your driving choices in some other way. Revisiting the metaphor, perhaps we need to clear that misty rear view mirror so we can see what may be coming up from our past, influencing the way we ‘drive’ our lives in the present. Extend the metaphor further, and consider how valuable it might be to see which aspects of the past (the actual past or our illusory memories of it) still influence our choices about our future direction.
My dreaming mind chose a modern-day shaman to express a point of view about how the past influences the present. Since everyone and everything in a dream can be seen as representing something about the dreamer, I guess the modern-day shaman is an aspect of my work as a dream therapist and dream alchemist, or a delving down into the deepest wisdoms of the universe that I can access from where I stand today, which might be different from how deeply down I can access from where I stand tomorrow.
Never take the utterings of a dream character for gospel. What any dream character says or does in a dream is simply reflective of one of many aspects of your self and your understanding of the world, so acknowledge them for what they reveal about your many complex layers. And treasure all dream utterings as offerings to contemplate or meditate upon as you decide on what wisdom to take from your dreams.
Let’s move the rear view metaphor into modern-day dream therapy and dream alchemy as I practise and teach it:
When you analyse a dream, you get to see your mindset (your conscious and unconscious beliefs, attitudes, emotions, perspectives, patterns of behaviour) as it is today, built on your past conscious and unconscious experiences, poised to take you through the present and into the future, give or take nightly updates and changes through your dreams. This insight is gold! Knowing your unconscious mindset helps you to understand why your life is the way it is today, and gives clues about how your future will turn out. You can step in and make changes that influence your present and future in positive ways through a mixture of conscious awareness, dream therapy, and dream alchemy.
In dream therapy you discover how your past influences your present, whether that past is largely your illusion or somewhat close to the truth. You clear that misty rear view mirror to see those past influences with more clarity, and then you can decide whether to reprogram those influences into more positive ones through dream alchemy, or to augment them if they’re already wonderful, or to let them go altogether if they no longer serve.
The point of dream work is to clarify the present and help you to move forward in wonderful ways. The driving metaphor is apt: to ensure a comfortable drive today toward the best future destination you need to keep an occasional eye on the rear view mirror. (And don’t let it mist up!)