The dream always starts the same way. I’m alone in a forest much like this one and I suddenly realize there’s a baby girl somewhere here who needs my help.
The details can differ some nights, but the essentials are the same. It feels surreal. Somehow, I know there’s something symbolic about this. I know whose baby it is and I know she needs me to find her baby and care for the little girl temporarily.
I always find the baby quickly. Most of the time, she’s lying on the forest floor. One time, she was stretched out on a couch in the middle of the forest. (Why was there a couch in the woods?) But one thing is always the same.
As soon as I pick this baby up and cradle her close to my body, I feel instant love and fierce protectiveness. I know I would die to protect this precious child who I’ve never seen before.
Why did I start having this dream about two weeks ago? Why have I dreamed variations of it four or five or six times? (I’ve lost track.) What is it in our minds that creates these nightly dramas?
I grew up fascinated by dreams and I read all I could find about the subject. Sigmund Freud’s book, “The Interpretation of Dreams,” was on one of our book shelves. It was confusing reading for a young child, but I read it over and over to figure out what I could.
When I got older, I read more modern psychologists and brain scientists say that dreams are meaningless. It seems as though I read a lot of things which claimed dreams were nothing but random neurons firing and the stories we experience were simply our minds trying to make some sense out of the randomness.
I didn’t believe that then and I don’t believe it now.
I can’t explain what dreams mean. I can’t begin to say whether they’re messages from our unconscious mind or if we’re picking up something from the “collective unconscious” of humanity. Or something else entirely.
I’m willing to accept that many dreams are probably just random stories. I’ve experienced a lot of dreams that didn’t feel meaningful at all.
But every now and then, something in my dreams feels terribly important — in ways that I can’t explain to myself or to you. Something in my gut simply whispers, “Pay attention here. There’s something you need to understand in this.”
That’s the way I’ve been feeling about the dreams about the baby in the woods.
As far as I know, this baby isn’t my biological daughter. I think I know who the mother is. But I don’t know why the girl is in need. I don’t know where the mother is. I don’t know why she needs my help.
In every version of the dream I’ve had so far, I just held the baby closely for the entire time she was with me. I didn’t want to let her go. I was fierce about wanting to protect her. I felt a strong sense of responsibility to her mother, but I also felt such an overwhelming love for the baby that I would have sacrificed anything for her even if I hadn’t known her mother.
In every dream so far, the mother has taken over nurture of the baby again at some point. I’ve been unclear how that happens or how I give her back. I just know that I’m very happy when my responsibility is over — not because I don’t have to take care of the child anymore, but because it has felt like such an important honor to protect her.
Why would I dream all of that? Why would I create new versions, as if to emphasize that there’s something important to see here? I have no idea.
I believe Carl Jung was onto the right track when he decided there is a collective unconscious of some sort — some sort of spiritual or mental “field” of some kind that we all tap into at times. It sounds like nonsense to a modern scientific mind, but it somehow feels true to me.
What if there’s a child who needs my help? What if there’s a mother who needs me to help her daughter right now? What if I somehow know that in a dream state?
We are mostly mistaken about what things are important in our lives. We imagine that our obvious, conscious problems that need solutions are the things which are most deserving of our attention, but I suspect we’re wrong.
We have to solve our day-to-day problems, of course. But I suspect the things which are most important in our lives are those wisps of spiritual truth which are whispered in our unconscious minds or unconscious states, even if we can’t explain what’s going on.
Somewhere, there’s a little girl who needs my help. Maybe her mother needs me. I don’t know. I haven’t yet figured out enough about how to listen well enough to hear what I need to hear.
But I’m willing to hear. I’m willing to learn. I wish I’d been more willing to figure this out years ago.