Depression, Dreams and Spirituality

Depression comes, depression goes, and I have no idea why. Sometimes, I suddenly break out of it through mysterious dreams that wake my whole spirit up. Those are the unexpected blessings, no more to be explained than the sudden recurrence of this illness.

There are frightening dreams as well when I may be wandering through dark halls and rooms of enormous houses, mansions or castle-like structures. Usually, I open doors in growing fear, sensing that I am about to come upon someone or something that will kill me. I may follow a stranger from room to room until he turns and stares at me with death in his eyes. I run from that, if I can, but never find a way out of the great buildings and wake in terror at the moment of my inevitable destruction. These are fitting images of being lost in depression, seeing nothing but darkness and always fearing the worst.

But occasionally a powerful dream will help me break out of that pattern and recover, at least for a time.

In those dreams the enclosing buildings have a way of opening up and leading me to a spiritual awakening, filling me with a sense of wonder at healing forces far greater than my small zone of illness. Those are exciting moments when I know that a basic change has occurred within and some power is bringing me back from disaster. They are great gifts. I can’t summon them on my own. They are always unexpected, and each experience opens my disconnected psyche to the world again.

In one of these, I dreamed I was in a large hall full of people gathered for some kind of celebration or awards ceremony. I didn’t know anyone and had no idea how I came to be there. The hall had a cavernous ceiling topped with a great dome. Seats were arranged in rows on either side of a long aisle – they were really high-backed wooden benches, like pews in a church. The space was dark, pervaded by the sort of diffuse, brownish light you see during a solar eclipse. The rows of seats were full of expectant people, but they seemed distant from me somehow, and I could walk among them unnoticed.

A young woman I did not know stepped to the middle of the aisle between the benches and announced to everyone that she had to get something of great importance. Then she reached into one of the the pews and pulled out a long wooden box resembling a portable easel. She set it upright in the aisle and pulled a lever on the box with difficulty. As she did this, the box sprang open, and a team of eight or ten horses, arranged in pairs and posed in galloping motion filled the center aisle. I was close to them and awed by the sight. I suddenly knew they were the golden horses of Troy – looking alive yet clearly artifacts. They emanated a powerful spiritual force, and I rushed to them to get near that force, perhaps alone in the crowd realizing what they were.

As I touched them, they began to rise in the air and as they ascended toward that high dome I felt an unutterable spiritual fulfillment. They rose very high and lost their shape until I saw only golden streaks or cloud-like shapes in what seemed now the sky instead of the ceiling of the hall. It was a moment of great spiritual transformation as I watched them ascend – and then I awoke feeling that the spirit world had opened to me when I had least expected it.

It wasn’t long afterward that I dreamed about the key to unlock the secrets of time – quite literally. I was in a large house or museum filled with antique objects – much of it dusty – almost warehoused. One of these was a beautifully burnished bronze or gold disc, at least six feet across, with edges that appeared at times serrated, at times like the points of a star. I thought of it as a complex 17th century mechanized sun with ingenious but hidden internal gears and rods that enabled it to do amazing things. Somehow, this golden disc presented me with a key so that I could unlock all the doors in that great house.

As I opened each dark room, the clutter of stacked and warehoused antiques fell away. In their place were bright white walls and open space throughout the building. Everything glowed with a rich luminosity, and I heard a resounding voice saying the phrase “unlocking the mysteries of time.” And each syllable of that phrase seemed to flow into me and work some invisible change. It was exhilarating, because I felt I was cutting through the appearances of life to perceive it as part of a greater wholeness than I could have imagined. I was completely at one with the huge spirit space that opened all around me. Then I awoke, restored to myself, depression gone.

I have no idea what these dreams are all about or where they come from, but each awakening from this dark disease is a treasure. It may not be one I can keep for long, but it’s a treasure of spirit nonetheless.

This is an updated version of a post originally published in 2008.

Image credit: Some Rights Reserved by b5ml at Flickr

10 Responses to “Depression, Dreams and Spirituality”

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  1. Anon for now says:

    I love “big dreams.” To me — whether or not I can tell “what they’re about” — they mean that either my inner self is offering information to me that I’m ready to know about, or that a positive internal shift is ready to occur or in the process of happening.

    Like you, JohnD, I’ve had the frightening ones where I feel paralyzed in the face of certain annihilation. I’ve also had some that open the door to new understandings. I haven’t, though, had any like your beautiful, spiritual ones. At least, I haven’t recalled any upon waking.

    Although your entry is mainly about the beautiful ones, I’d like to write about how I solved the fearful ones. It took months and months, as I recall, but was well worth it, because the process showed me what they were about and what I had healed by resolving them.

    The process is called Lucid Dreaming. Basically, it’s a matter of working inside your dreams instead of just letting them unfold. First, you have to recognize that you’re inside the dream, and that the beings in the dream can’t hurt your waking self. That, in and of itself, can lead to some very positive shifts. You can also learn to control your own actions inside the dream, which often leads to greater confidence in the daytime world.

    One book I found helpful with this is “Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill,” by Jeremy Taylor, who is founder of the International Association on the Study of Dreams. “He says dreams are a way in which people can heal themselves physically and emotionally. He says, ‘The basic truth of the matter is that all dreams, even the nastiest nightmares, come ultimately in the service of health and wholeness.’ “ (Quoted from interview on WCHS-TV website.)

    I hope this helps someone.

  2. john@storiedmind.com says:

    Anon for Now -

    Fearful dreams have also helped me make breakthroughs, though waking up terrified isn’t so much fun. When that happens, there is an almost instant transition from the intense fear to recognition of the insight and wonderful exhilaration. Coming to recognize patterns in the nightmares has also helped me connect with what my psyche is trying to get me to pay attention to.

    I’ve heard a little about Lucid Dreaming. Your explanation helps me relate it to practices I’ve read about and tried in the past that go back to the “spiritual science” of Rudolf Steiner. I’ll look into this some more.

    Thank you for all your remarkable comments.

    JohnD

  3. Catherine @ http://gratefullyabnormal.blogspot.com says:

    I found your blog via Soulful Sepulcher. She wrote about your blog and I wanted to check it out. I’m very happy that I did.

    Your blog is beautiful and I love how you write. I see that we are both on the journey. We will make it. That is what I keep telling myself. :)

    Nice to meet you!

  4. http://zathynpriest.com/blog says:

    I’ve always found dream interpretation fascinating. I often had dreams of dark houses, run down, dusty, lots of doors and darkness. The analysis of this type of dream is the house, whether filled with light and positive energy, or dark and dusty, is a representation fo you. The rooms are different aspects of your personality. Sometimes the rooms are locked and dark, just like we feel during times of depression, stress, and anxiety. SOmetimes they’re filled with light, we have the keys, we can access them, just like we can when our depression lifts and we feel ready to step out and take on new things.

    Powerful dreams can certainly have a massive impact on mood. I’ve often wished someone would invent a way to record them so we can watch them back while consciously aware.

  5. stephany says:

    The description of the horses is magnificent, and the painting you chose for this post, just makes it beautiful.

  6. john@storiedmind.com says:

    Zathyn -

    I think of the house in dreams as more encompassing than personality – though it may be we mean the same thing and just use different words. I think of it as the psyche or self containing so many hidden things, some of them frightening and others opening up worlds of consciousness that transform in positive exciting ways. I never know what I will encounter in these places, but it is always something I need to get to know, whether the initial impression is frightening or glorious. The idea of capturing and replaying dreams is perfect – it is always sad not to be able to summon up exactly what the experience was. Anything I write down afterwards with a waking mind is just a shadow of the original.

    JohnD

  7. john@storiedmind.com says:

    Thank you, Catherine, for those kind words. I’ve started reading your blog, and I see what you mean. Some words in your heartfelt stories could come right out of my experience.

    JohnD

  8. Pisces says:

    I am fascinated by the topic, but am searching for help. Recently, I have begun to experience a situation whereby I believe my dreams are replaying themselves while I am awake. An image, sound or smell will trigger the sequence, which can go on for some time – usually ending with a euphoric or emotionally drained feeling. The images move into my mind at lightning speed, and conjure up intense feelings. I recognize dearly all of the images and feelings, but know they cannot be real. Do you have any insight into this…and what it might be called? It is extremely powerful and deeply emotional….

  9. JohnD says:

    Pisces -

    I’m not sure I understand the experience, but if this is disturbing – and it sounds like you want help with it, I would go straight to a professional. I don’t quite follow what you’re going through. You’re awake when this happens, but do you hallucinate the dream impressions or just replay them in your imagination? Are you sure these are replays of dreams and not an altogether different experience? Does this happen during the day or close to the time of waking or falling asleep?

    Please remember that I can’t suggest a diagnosis – I’m only writing about my own experiences – but I am genuinely interested and concerned about what you’re going through.

    My best to you,

    John D

  10. truthman30 says:

    What a fantastic blog, keep writing. I write all the time and it does keep the depression demons at bay! Expression is the opposite of depression. :)
    I will be reading more from here soon. Look forward to it. :)