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Transformational Dreams
by Rita Milios, MSW

Transformational Dream Symbols

Dreams – those bizarre bits of jumbled pictures that come to us when we sleep. Are they merely mental flashbacks of our day’s activities or could they be more? Could they contain information – valuable information – that is helpful to us for solving problems and gaining guidance? I believe the answer to that question is an unequivocal "Yes!" It has been my experience as a therapist and spiritual coach that dreams provide a valuable mental resource for helping people to understand the inner urgings that are trying to help them grow. I have found that dreams, my own, as well as those of my clients, contain messages – messages from our inner selves to our outer selves. In addition, when we begin to consciously work with our dreams, they become a more active and direct link to our inner wisdom. I have found that dreams provide an easy and accurate way to monitor what I call the personal transformation process of individuals.

Personal Transformation

There is an innate drive within each of that moves us forward on a personal and spiritual path. The process of personal and spiritual transformation starts with individual growth and proceeds toward growth that engages our souls and encourages us to become what is called in esoteric terms "soul-infused". This means that we become less driven by our personality and ego needs and more guided by our soul qualities. This process has also been called "The Hero’s Journey" or "The Self-Actualization Process." It begins with a "call" or "urge" to action, where the process is set in motion. At this time, we begin to look at our lives and wonder if there is not something more. This marks the initial "challenge to grow" that our soul initiates within us.

I recall my own challenge to grow. It was marked by a constant and confusing "nagging" by my subconscious mind, that I needed to "do something," but I did not know what. At that same time, I began to have the first of my transformational dreams. They were reoccurring dreams, the kind where your subconscious mind is ceaseless in its efforts to get a message through to you. I dreamed often during this period of my "plants in the basement". The dream was focused around concerns that I was not sufficiently attending to my plants, and therefore they might shrivel and die. I would dream of frantically running down the basement stairs, expecting to see only dead, dried, brown leaves. But instead, time after time, I was greeted by healthy, green plants. I came to realize later that the dream had come to encourage me not to forget that I needed to "attend to" my old emotional issues, which lay buried deep in my subconscious mind, but if I did this, things would turn out fine.

Following the "urge" mentioned above, I did venture into my own mental "basement". This step marks what is called the "launch" or the "plunge" (into the transformational process). It is for some a "recovery" process, where old habits and disruptive habits must be given up and new ways of coping found, as growth demands a cleaner and clearer vehicle through which soul urges can continue to emerge. Esoteric symbols for this stage include the "waters" of emotion and the "fog" that comes when "illusions" or mistaken beliefs are burned away by the "fires" of soul process. (For those who are familiar with the chakras, or energy centers of the body, each step in growth is also marked by a "burning away" of the barrier between one chakra and the next.) At this stage, we move from concerns over mere physical survival and comfort, to concerns about our emotional well-being. Issues of trust are common, and old childhood traumas present themselves more overtly, as our inner wisdom encourages us to reconcile them.

During this stage of the transformational process, there comes a time of testing, which may be called "the challenge" or "the turning point." I simply call it "the test." It is a time of initiation, a time of facing one’s self and discovering the truth. The test marks an important milestone, because at this point our soul’s growth process must become consciously driven. We must choose to continue to progress beyond this point, and we must also consciously and actively take control of the process. It is at this point that many people decide not to continue the journey, because they have come to recognize how difficult and scary the process can be. Facing one’s demons, one’s shadow side is never easy. But for those who do continue on, the rewards are great.

After the struggle of the test, or the challenge, is over, we begin to merge our personality with our soul. This is often a time of falling back and starting over again, as the personality resists what it at first perceives to be a "takeover" of the human vessel by the soul. However, once our personality can see that what occurs is really a merger instead, then the "illusions" (false beliefs) that hold us back can be removed. We "surrender" to the soul and integration takes place. During this time, there may be dreams about "left and right," reflecting the soul’s urging that our left and right brains, representing our conscious and subconscious minds, become integrated. Such integration is not a desire, it is a necessity at this juncture, and without it, there can be no further soul growth.

Illustrating the importance of this "left and right" issue is a dream I had where I was frantic about whether to use the left or right doors to an entrance. This dream reoccurred several times during my "testing" period. Another prominent dream, occurring during this period was my "bus" dream. In this dream, I was on a runaway bus, which was going at breakneck speed, careening around corners and scaring the wits out of me. I managed to position myself behind the bus driver and was about tell him to "for God’s sake, slow down," when he turned and smiling sweetly at me said, "It’s Ok. I’m a careful driver, too," As a student of dreamwork, I recognized the bus as my indicating "direction in life" and the driver as my soul, who was now "taking over the driver’s seat." This dream reflected both my personality’s initial resistance and my soul’s reassurance that it was OK to let go and trust the process.

How Dreams Catalogue Our Transformative Journeys

Dreams like this can become an active part of our personal and spiritual transformation process, guiding our growth and allowing us a direct window into the process itself. As in the example above, dreams can come to give us a "state of our state of mind" message. They may come to say, "You’re doing fine. Hang in there." Or the message may be, "You’ve gone off in the wrong direction. Take a close look at your life and make some adjustments." In this same way, transformational dreams offer suggestions and feedback, but they also catalogue our personal and spiritual growth process over time. If we learn what to look for, and what to be aware of, our dreams can communicate to us where we are on our personal and spiritual growth journey, what obstacles we may be facing, and what we need to do to overcome these obstacles. In this way, our dreams are not only "reporting" on our state of mind, they are tracking and guiding our growth process as it happens, becoming an active partner with our inner wisdom in helping us to achieve our soul’s purpose.

Like intuitions, dreams come from the inner, subconscious mind. Dreams are very personal and must be interpreted individually, in response to emotional "truths" that the dreamer uniquely discerns. By looking at our dream images as aspects of ourselves, we can most often identify the feeling or attitude associated with an image and uncover its hidden message. However, there are some dream symbols that seem to reoccur for many people and which are associated with esoteric (coming from the "ancient mysteries") symbols. I’ve noted these symbols in the dreams of many persons I’ve worked with, even when the dreamer is unaware of the esoteric nature of the images. The following are some dreams and messages, collected over a two-year period from one client, which, I believe, catalogue her transformational journey as she moves through several spiritual growth stages. Perhaps you will find some of your own transformational process images present within these examples.

The Story of Eve

Eve (not her real name) is a client who has come a long way in her transformational process. She came to me as a client early in 1999, after having been to therapy several times before. Eve’s intuition had guided her to me, as is often the case with my clients. Eve had seen an earlier promotional piece of mine, in which I had I written about people who are "stuck". Eve had saved the piece and finally called two years later to set an appointment, when several physical symptoms, including problems seeing clearly and ringing in her ears, had become worse. Eve believed that her symptoms were her own body’s way of "forcing her to do something"(her words). Eve hoped that my additional knowledge as a spiritual coach and healer, might help me to find answers for her that traditional therapy could not. She was (as many of my clients are) making a "final attempt" to get help before giving up hope.

Eve’s issues, and therefore her dream symbols were, in the beginning, focused on her lower chakras, identifying core emotional issues such as trust and personal safety. Coming from an abuse background, Eve’s dream symbols reflected both her transformational process and her feelings about the injustices that had been done to her. Yet, even in her earliest dreams, Eve showed an amazing ability to hone in on the urgings of her soul and to bring to conscious awareness the steps she needed to take in order to move through her growth process. One of Eve’s first reported dreams was a reoccurring nightmare about her father. She was about three years old in the dream and was standing atop a stairwell, fearful of falling down. Her greatest fear was that her father "would not be there to help her", that "she could not trust him." In this dream, Eve was really saying to herself that she did not trust the part of herself that had internalized her father, her "father part." This was unfortunate, because this male energy, or "aggressive" part of her nature had subsequently been downplayed and resisted by Eve; yet it was this very part of her that had a key role in providing the "energy for change" that Eve needed in order to transform her life. Early dreams also included symbols of "war"(conflict) and many dreams with water and waves (the esoteric symbol for emotions). At this stage, Eve was afraid to enter the water (deal with the overwhelming emotions within herself), so we used hypnosis to work with her fears. In this process, Eve revealed that her "father" said, "You don’t deserve to change." This is a common misconception (illusion) for people who have been abused. This insight resulted in a huge catharsis of emotions, including much anger being vented, and after that, Eve was able to begin the work of dealing with her old emotional "baggage."

Digging Up Old Bones

Another early dream illustrated Eve’s connection to the spiritual and the guidance from this realm that she was receiving, even though she was initially unaware of it. In this dream, Eve saw "dinosaurs"(old issues), which came out in a ball of fire (the "soul process" symbol). Her own interpretation of the dream was that "I have conflict inside, but the universe is with me." Occurring also at this time were several dreams that dealt with clothes (the outward behaviors we show to the world) that reflected Eve’s "trying on" the changes in her life. In another dream she was sitting with her father, eating cold food (reflecting a lack of nurturing) and wondering why she had to settle for this. These dreams showed Eve’s blossoming self-regard, but they were interspersed with dreams of "falling back" to an earlier level, illustrating the back and forth process that goes on during one’s time of soul testing. A particularly telling dream had Eve in a car, going the wrong direction and unable to find her way home, both themes that would show up several more times in later dreams, as Eve struggled to move forward, yet resisted as well.

Interestingly, even as these apparent setbacks caused Eve to become frustrated with herself for "moving so slowly," it was her own soul that often put the brakes on. Eve had a number of dreams featuring ladders. ("Jacob’s Ladder" is an esoteric symbol for the journey "up the chakras".) In one ladder dream, Eve’s "manager" dream symbol (the part of herself that was the organizing force attempting to unite her outer self and her "shadow" parts) told her she "must create a ladder as high as an airplane flies." But when she tried, Eve hit an electric wire (electric "fire", also referred to as "electricity" in esoteric terms, is a symbol for the mind). This mishap sent Eve "running for her life from a ball of all-consuming fire." In a later dream, Eve is an Italian man who is "being pulled apart in a fiery furnace." That same night she sees a golden man’s head in a fire. She soon takes the head out, realizing that "if I put him back in, it would kill him."

Personality vs. Soul: Which Will Gain Control?

In these dreams, Eve had made a giant step forward on her path of discovery and recovery. She was moving from the waters of emotions to the fires of the mind. This marks a stage esoterically called the "Third Initiation"(third major step in human psychological development). This is the stage where the mind (dominion of the soul) begins to take over the emotions (dominion of the personality). These dreams reflect a tiny, very condensed, portion of the material we worked with. But they illustrated the "cataloguing" of a much more dramatic process that was being paralleled in Eve’s outer life. After having struggled with depression, low self-esteem and a "victim" mentality for most of her fifty-plus years, Eve emerged into her true self as her dream uncovered her hidden issues and we worked with them on a conscious and unconscious level. One of the worst things for Eve was the overwhelming sadness and feelings of unworthiness that enveloped her. Often she would awaken with such feelings and they would be with her all day. But as we began to actively use her dreams, we "convinced" her "inner manager" to hold as many of these feelings as possible for her "night work" and her "process time" with me. For any "residual" that might linger upon awakening, Eve and I created a "dissipation visualization" for Eve to use. As Eve began to take control of her own emotions and to move her point of reference to a mental level instead, she began to not only feel better, she also began to gain an interest in having friends, going places and becoming part of a community.

Still, as all this was happening, Eve felt frustrated because "she wasn’t going fast enough." It was only after the "gold head in the furnace" dream that we finally realized that it was Eve’s own inner wisdom that was controlling how fast she progressed, and it would not let her go faster than she could stand. Eve’s (and most people’s) back-and-forth, apparently ambivalent progress was her soul’s way of making sure that she integrated the information and guidance she was getting. Again and again, Eve was forced to look back at her lower chakra, "shadow" material. Each reoccurrence of the "bad" dreams, however, paralleled some progress that had been made, and each time the bad dreams were a little less "bad". In several dreams, Eve returned to the basement (subconscious) of her house (her self), where "murders" (attempts at "killing off" undesirable parts, or aspects, of herself) had occurred. In one such later dream, Eve’s shadow part was simply going to "move out of the house". But Eve’s integrating "manager" recognized that even this was not possible or desirable. Eve finally came to fully realize (after many attempts to get this message to herself) that she must learn to "live with" all her parts and integrate them into one, functioning whole. Eve’s soul would not let her progress any faster than she was able to process the information she was receiving. Eve first had to learn to tolerate, then to work with and heal, and finally to accept and love the shadow side of herself, which held all her traumas, but which, ironically, also held within it the energy and driving forces needed to heal those traumas. By resisting the pain of her shadow material, Eve also resisted her own healing as well – at least until her personality could see the value of "surrendering" her soul. In that final culminating dream, Eve saw a bunch of angry, caged animals, "all connected together" inside the cage. She was feeling the old feelings of "doom" but a friend said to her, "You don’t have to buy into that superstition." As happens in case after case, when clients finally discover that the "superstitions" (or esoterically, the "illusions") of their emotional selves are really self-created, through mistaken beliefs and error patterns in thinking, they realize that if they created them, they can change them. This may seem so obvious to us, but to a person who suffered childhood traumas (which we all have to one degree or another), the "right" to own one’s feeling or thoughts is not a given. It is a responsibility that is dearly won and paid for as a price of soul growth.

The Turning Point

A final set of esoteric symbols marked Eve’s successful turning point in her transformative journey. She began to have dreams of "north and south" and "top and bottom", reflecting now a necessary integration between her head (mind and spiritual self) and her "lower self" (the esoteric term for the personality-driven individual). In one very vivid dream, her jacket was on fire. (A "coat of many colors" esoterically represents the colors of the lower chakras and their personality traits, which we "wear" as behaviors). Eve threw off the jacket, which became a "ball of fire", here representing that she was ready to "throw off" the hold her personality had on her and become "soul-infused" by letting the "fire" of her soul burn away the last of her resistances.

Following this particular dream, many things changed very quickly for Eve. She moved rapidly to "wrap up" her obligations to her shadow parts. She went back and "saved" her inner children, both the masculine part, which she had at first resisted and had hated because it had reminded her of her father, and her little girl part, which had held her traumas. The "manager" aspect of Eve’s mind, that cooperated with her soul, began to mix and integrate all her "pieces" into one whole. (There was even a "blender" dream!) In her last dream to date, Eve’s ladder became "extra long," reaching all the way to the spiritual. Eve now feels that she controls her mind, her emotions and, by her willingness to consciously work with the process, her soul growth as well – a big change for a woman who once believed she did not "deserve" to change or grow.

Soul Symbols

Like Eve, many of my other clients have similarly found esoteric symbology popping up in their dreams. Esoteric symbology, like Jungian symbology has been around for thousands of years. But while Jungian symbology is more commonly known, esoteric symbology has previously been the province of advanced spiritual teachers, many of them Tibetan masters. Today, with spiritual growth moving at a rapid pace, average people are accessing – if not understanding – these symbols which, I believe represent the collective soul, just as Jungian symbols represent the collective unconscious. Along with access to the symbols of the soul, comes, I believe, an innate (soul level) understanding of the symbols, and of the self-transformation process itself. Both are becoming more accessible to us as a human group every time one of us makes use of them.

Self-Transformation is Only a Dream Away

Everyone can have access to the amazing process of self–transformation. It is available to you each and every night through your dreams. All it takes is a change of attitude. When you begin to view your dreams as avenues not only into your subconscious mind, but to your soul’s innate self-growth process as well, you open the door to communication between yourself and your highest spiritual potential. Why not take the challenge? Your soul is waiting.


Transformational Dream Symbols

Soul symbols are dream images that a person’s soul resonates to and understands. These symbols represent steps in soul growth and catalogue the progress of the soul on its journey toward "liberation" from the "bondage" of the personality. Symbols often reflect which chakra is most involved in the growth process at that time.

Fear / Safety Symbols (First Chakra):
These images reflect a focus on physical needs, a desire for safety and are usually associated with unconscious fears. They may also reflect the person’s "call," or "urge" to change.

  • "lower" locations – basements, valleys, depths, etc.
  • "shadow" images – black or dark colored images, snakes, monsters, killing, death
  • "stuck" images – mud, heavy baggage, old shoes
  • colors – black, red

Trust / Need Symbols (Second Chakra):
These images often reflect a need for trust in one’s life. They also may show the desire to "launch" the transformative journey.

  • water, waves – drowning in water, afraid of water
  • conflict images – war, confusion, tornadoes, disasters, etc.
  • colors: orange, red/orange

Testing Period Symbols (Second / Third Chakra):
These images reflect the struggle and back and forth process that precedes success.

  • "illusion" images – fog, mist, etc.
  • fire, burning, consuming clothes – changing of clothes (colors, size, shape, condition of clothes are all important)
  • left-right "balance" images – anything that stresses the need to notice left, right
  • "upward" movement images - ladders, elevators, mountain heights, etc.
  • "surrender" images – fights, "take-overs" etc.
  • "direction" in life) images – transportation (car, bus, train, etc.)
  • colors: yellow, yellow/orange, green (healing), purple (transformation, change)

Integration Symbols (Third Chakra & Beyond):
These images reflect the mental self taking control of the emotional self; an integration of the two.

  • "mind" images – head, hair, electricity, sun, golden light
  • "top" images - pinnacle, height, roof, top floors of house
  • "integration" images of north/ south, polarity etc., blending, mixing, stirring, organizing
  • "celebration" images – angels, dancing, festivities, crown or ring (as symbol of achievement)
  • colors – yellow, gold, purple, blue (spiritual)

© 2001 Rita Milios.  All Rights Reserved.

Rita Milios, MSW, LISW is a licensed psychotherapist and spiritual teacher with more than twenty years experience providing spirituality education, intuitive training and guidance for people seeking to develop their inner wisdom. Author of Tools for Transformation, Dream Journal and other books and audiotapes, Rita has led seminars and workshops on the topics of dreams, meditation, intuition, visualization, creativity, emotional literacy and self-development. She has worked with lay people, businesses, educational audiences and associations. Rita's intuitive training and pathwork can be experienced through individual sessions or as part of a group training and development package.

Rita is available for spiritual coaching and transformational dreamwork. For details and information about individual dream interpretations, write to: rita@ritamilios.com

Rita is also available as a speaker for workshops, trainings and keynotes. For workshops, write the author at this address or email rita@ritamilios.com.





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