We often don’t “feel” our own vulnerability due to the defensive and denial power of the ego; however, dreams show us when we are vulnerable and this can be a great aid in spiritual development and in generally taking care of ourselves.
The Franciscan friar and spiritual writer, Richard Rohr, states in a very insightful book I heartily recommend, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self, that vulnerability “…may be the only start for any true spiritual journey.” Noticing when we are vulnerable and how our dreams portray this state can significantly help us become aware of how vulnerability affects us individually. Dreams can often also gives us clues on how to do deal with this state, all of which will contribute much to our spiritual growth and well-being. Dealing with a vulnerability dream may be the first step to living a deeply spiritual life that is is marked by a profound sense of inner strength and well-being.
Dream Images of Vulnerability
Common images and themes found in dreams that may relate to vulnerability are:
Appearing naked or scantily clothed in a public or inhospitable environment.
Being lost or wandering in a strange setting
Breakdown of one’s vehicle
A wounded or diseased body part
Losing one’s wallet or purse
What Can Be Done
Instead of forgetting or ignoring these upsetting images, reverence them as profound symbols with messages telling us to take care.
A great way to mine the richness of the dream is to notice and appreciate these images by asking ourselves how they relate to what’s going on in our current life. For example, a loss of a wallet containing an ID card may relate to a sense of losing one’s identity, making us vulnerable to others’ control.
We may even pray about the image, seeking guidance or healing about the issue. If insightful guidance comes, act on it!
Observe if there are helpers in the dream. How are they helping? Are there persons in one’s waking life that are helping in a corresponding manner? This may also give clues to nature of the vulnerability. Are these helpers spiritual in nature, such as a guardian angel? Also, consider that these helpers may be aspects of oneself such as some talent or skill that could resolve a situation where one feels uncomfortable in waking life.
While it has been said that neurosis is a cry of the soul wanting to be heard, there are various positive ways that our souls speak to us, if we take the time and the effort to pay attention. One way is intuitive insight. Perhaps another is reverie when we are relaxed and allow our minds to meander without control, being fed by stirrings deep within us. Another very important way is dreams. Freud called dreams the “royal road to the Unconscious” for a reason. These night time scenarios are the most direct and readily available means of receiving undiluted messages from the soul.
It stands to reason then that anyone who is seriously interested in spirituality and the care of the soul would take dreams seriously, but sadly this is often not the case. There are plenty of people who try to follow a spiritual path and ignore their dreams altogether! Even many psychologists who are in the field of “the study of the soul” don’t take their own dreams seriously or use dreams as a therapeutic method. The most common reasons given are that dreams are hard to remember, or are weird and hard to figure out. An often not-stated reason is that dreams can be frightening and disturbing. Also, some religious people of certain persuasions feel dreams may be the work of the devil despite the fact that the Bible recounts numerous stories where people used dreams to listen to God.
There is in Western society and in Christianity in particular, an abiding distrust of the Unconscious that has not encouraged us to explore our dreams—something not shared by our ancient ancestors and indigenous peoples who all took dreams seriously. We need to reclaim this respect if we are going to mature spiritually in a truly holistic fashion of mind, body, and spirit.
Get to Know Your Dreams
If dreams are strange and so frightening, it is perhaps like anything else we fear: it is a fear of the unknown that can be remedied by getting to know what we fear. One gets to know one’s dreams by making the following intentions and following through with them:
Take dreams seriously.
Tell yourself you will remember your dreams.
Write or record them in a dream journal. Review them on occasion.
Reflect on them for several levels of meaning rather than seek a quick and superficial answer.
Consider that every dream has a spiritual meaning.
Consider everything in the dream as representing an energy within yourself.
Make associations between things and people in the dream with those in your waking life at the moment.
Doing these simple tasks of dreamwork on a regular basis will provide a profound portal to the soul, teaching much about the soul and what it has to say. You will come across an amazing, undiscovered country and you will have practiced a very effective spiritual method!
Traditionally, and very generally speaking, one of the major differences between Asian and Western religions is that Asian religions emphasized inner development as the way to spiritual growth and the Western religions emphasized the need for social action such as giving to and standing on the side of the poor. That is not to say the opposite wasn’t true; but in the West you usually would have to go to a monastery or nunnery to get real guidance on the interior path and in the East there were socially minded activists but they tended to be revolutionaries rather than religious leaders.
The lack of an interior path to spirituality that was readily available to the average person and didn’t include going into a highly structured monastic environment, was one reason why many Westerners stopped going to church and were drawn to the New Age Movement which is open to a variety of spiritual paths emphasizing personal inner development through the Asian methods of meditation, yoga and healthy eating practices. It is ironic that one of the persons who helped sparked the New Age Movement was Edgar Cayce who emphasized that each person had to find his own way. A devout Christian himself, he said that Christ was the model for all human kind and that each soul in its own way was seeking this ideal. But he also said that all religions would lead people to this end and that certain practices would greatly facilitate the process. Among these practices he advocated were the importance of:
Being in a small spiritual reflection group where all were equals and that each person could support each other in an environment of respect. In such a group people could help each other to find their own unique paths. A religious leader would not be there to impose a doctrine or a set way, as is usually the case in Bible classes. Individuals would arrive at their own conclusions from materials read and discussed.
Consistent and on-going dreamwork and intuitive meditation to understand the nature of one’s soul and its expression.
Exercise and healthy food in the right combinations and portions as the best medicine.
I personally think that mainline Christian religions would be wise to incorporate these practices into their religious education classes, appropriately modified for the age group of the persons involved. What is sorely needed is an approach that entails the development of an interior spiritual life that anybody can do. These methods work; and they bring a personal experience of God at the profoundest levels. Unfortunately, and as a result of how religious instruction is done emphasizing textual knowledge and an intellectual understanding of the bible, many Christians have to face a personal crisis that knocks them off their horse before they have this kind of personal experience of the divine.