Tag Archives: soul

Dreams of the places you’ve left

The last time I blogged I was still on holiday in the Northern Isles, and coming home from holidays can be hard, even if you love the place you live.

The first few nights back home, I had strange dreams which were like series of pictures from my holiday, framed as if they were in an exhibition.

A Shetland sheep on a Shetland beach
The flight to North Ronaldsay, Orkney
The flight to North Ronaldsay, Orkney
Croquet in my daughter's Orkney garden - we're so posh!
Croquet in my daughter’s Orkney garden – we’re so posh!

These dreams reminded me of something my friend Anne used to say about depression, that it was ‘a chance for your soul to catch up.’

I was home, but feeling unsettled and wishing I was still on holiday – so my dreams gave me a chance to take a final look back and enjoy the wonderful memories. The fact that the images were framed gave them distance, so they felt like memories rather than events I was still involved in.

I wonder how often we dream about the places we’ve left, sweet dreams that bridge the gap between where we were and where we are now in the physical, like bridges for our soul to cross when it is ready.

What is your purpose? Try this experiment and see!

When I read Tzivia Gover’s blog post a few days ago about asking a dream symbol, ‘What is your purpose?’ it felt timely for me because I had just dreamt about an image that recurs fairly frequently in my dreams, so I had an obvious one to try the technique on.

In the dream, I was walking along a cliff path, looking out across the clear blue water. I felt happy and full of energy. As I came down towards the bay, I saw a woman in a bright floral summer’s dress  lying languidly in a wide shallow boat, gently rocking.

I noticed an enormous fish, almost as big as the boat, swimming around in the water  nearby. There was no sense of danger. It was, as I recorded in my dream diary, simply ‘extraordinary and remarkable.’

I walked on, and saw several more of these huge colourful fish, as I came down onto the beach and crossed a wide rushing stream.

2013-06-08 18.35.09

These days, I don’t usually try to interpret individual symbols in my dreams, I just enjoy them, but today I asked the enormous fish, ‘What is your purpose?’

Nothing came to me immediately, so while I was waiting for a reply I pondered, ‘What is it about this enormous fish? It’s not scary, it’s just swimming around in its natural element of water. Yet it is a remarkable fish.’

Then I realised, ‘What is the purpose of this remarkable fish? To be remarkable!’

I feel my life is remarkable, as anyone who has close contact with their dreams and imaginary worlds will feel. I seek the remarkable in my work, always trying to break new ground.

My book Bullies, Bigmouths and So-called Friendswas identified by the Independent critic as the first real self-help book for children; Writing in the House of Dreams and the book I’m working on at the moment, When a Writer Isn’t Writing: How to beat your blocks and find your flow, both mix themes to make unusual hybrids.

My fish is an ordinary fish in its ordinary element and yet it feels remarkable. My life is an ordinary life but my purpose is to find the extra-ordinary within it. That’s what brings me pleasure, the same as  when these enormous fishes swim into my dreams.

You can find your symbol too; you don’t have to wait for a dream. Simply sit quietly for a few moments and take a few slow breaths. Still your mind.

Lower or close your eyes, and move into your inner space. Ask, ‘What is my life’s purpose?’ and let the question float away, as you take a few more slow easy breaths.

Now think of an object, and accept the very first thing that drops into your mind. Don’t judge or rationalise it away.

Examine your object from every angle, noticing its particular characteristics. I notice that my huge fish is always brightly coloured, always swimming in clear water and always on its own.

Ask your object, ‘What is your purpose?’

Again, don’t censor or rationalise; go with the first answer that pops into your head.

If you try this, because my purpose is to find and celebrate remarkable things, please share! What was your symbol, and what insight did it bring?



Authentically creative, by Carolyn Hughes

Carolyn Hughes is a writer with an interest in addiction and mental health issues. Her popular blog is The Hurt Healer and she has a lively and rapidly growing following on facebook and twitter

Carolyn Hughes
Carolyn Hughes

I must also have a dark side if I am to be whole ~ Jung

Like many writers I want my work to be recognisable by its unique and individual style.  For me, it’s crucial that what and how I write reflects my authentic self.  Anyone who has read my blog The Hurt Healer will be familiar with the fact that I share from the heart. It’s a deliberate approach to enable readers to relate to and hopefully be encouraged by my words.  Authenticity means being genuine and real.  Much as I would love to reveal only my good side, to be true to my work I have to disclose my whole self.

It is no coincidence that I am only now finding my writing voice as it has taken a long time to find myself.  Years of battling with depression and alcoholism meant that I had very little idea of who I was. How I presented to the outside world was very different to how I felt inside. It was only through having the courage to challenge my past at every level that I was able to start the journey to healing and so begin to find personal identity and my authentic self.

My aim though isn’t just to be authentic, but to be authentically creative.  And the key to writing both authentically and creatively lies with the unconscious.  For me the unconscious is a limitless place in my mind where my spirit and soul meet. It is a place where I can visit those painful issues that used to torment me. But instead of being overwhelmed I can now bring them into my conscious, safe from their power to harm me.  So as I communicate from my unconscious, so I hope to reach the unconscious of others and in doing so share a collective moment of authenticity.

The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind ~ Freud

Recently I’ve been looking at how I can reach further into the depths of my unconscious and take my writing to a new level of creativity.  I’ve started to look at the constituents of my dreams. This is a wonderful way to tap into those hidden thoughts and images that make up the psyche, as well as exposing my inner truth.

Examining my dreams however has only been possible from a position of emotional recovery and psychological stability. In those dark days of depression and alcoholism my night-time experiences were fraught with darkness and fear. The erratic and terrifying nightmares that emerged reflected my complete inability at the time to manage my physical and mental anguish.

Jung once remarked that nothing was ever lost in the psyche.  That is an horrendous thought for anyone who has tried to block out the past in the hope that the pain would stop. The idea that all thoughts, memories and emotions never disappear but remain forever can be frightening. Yet I found that there was indeed a freedom to be found in allowing the unconscious to simply ‘ be’. I stopped fighting the emergence of the dark side and celebrated the arrival of the good side. By no longer fearing my thoughts and dreams I was free to live authentically and to write openly too.

Il ne faut jamais regarder quelqu’un qui dort. C’est comme si on ouvrait une lettre qui ne vous est pas addressee ~ Sacha Guitry

I couldn’t mention dreams without including one of my favourite quotes. A general translation of this is; “You should never look at someone who is sleeping. It is like opening a letter that isn’t addressed to you.”

It is a quote I came across many years ago at a time when I was experiencing my first love.  After one of those deep conversations that you have in such relationships I remember feeling that he hadn’t been entirely truthful.  As I watched him sleeping I remembered the quote and realised that I had been right to doubt him.  His real emotions were disclosed on his face as he slept.  So dreams aren’t just for the benefit of the dreamer!

Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy ~ Freud

Being new to noting my dreams, I must admit that at first they did appear to be made up of bizarre representations that made little sense and made no contribution to my creativity. But as I made more of a conscious effort to remember them and to focus on not just what they were about but how I felt, they became significant.  

Very often it’s in that winding down time between waking and sleeping that a word, phrase, image that comes into my mind and gives the essence to a piece of writing. Other times it’s a complete dream that a memory from the past, an issue of the present or an aspiration for the future.  

Sometimes this works better than others depending on the obscurity or relevance of my dreams. Yet the importance lies in allowing that writing to happen regardless of whether it makes sense at the time. So although I may have rearranged the words to make them flow, I haven’t messed with the essence of what my soul may have whispered to me.

I may never reach the purest form of authenticity or be famed for my creativity, but I will continue to write from the heart with my unconscious and dreams as my guides.

 How do you write authentically and creatively? 



What kind of writer do you want to be?

I’ve always thought of myself as a very happy writer. I used to put it down purely to the fact that I was a dreamer first, and therefore completely used to coming and going across the threshold of consciousness, which meant I never experienced any kind of writing angst about getting blocked or running out of ideas.

But at the recent Scattered Authors conference in Peterborough, my friend and fellow-writer Penny Dolan recommended a book she thought I might like, called ‘Coach yourself to writing success,’ by Bekki Hill, and it has extended my thinking.

life coaching book

Penny was right – I love this kind of book. I enjoy doing practical exercises that help me to arrive at different ways of looking at things. I’m a great fan of life coaching too, having had some life-changing sessions with astrological life coach, Pat Neill, a few years ago and more recently a brilliant group session with a writing coach at a Lapidus networking day.

What has become clearer for me through reading this book is that another reason I’m very happy in my writing is that my goals are perfectly attuned to my core values.

We commonly measure writing success in terms of sales and celebrity, but I have never felt any of that is important; I haven’t felt jealous, anxious or disheartened about having less of a public profile than many of my writing friends.

My core values, it turns out, are in order of importance:

  1. Beauty/ creativity. I’ve blogged about the elegant harmonies of structure that please me in my work on the children’s blog, girlsheartbooks http://girlsheartbooks.com/2012/12/18/does-this-make-me-weird/
  2. Nature/health. I love the writing life because it means I can live somewhere remote and go walking in nature every day
  3. Loving/caring/sociability. I enjoy the connection with readers, for example here on my blog, although it’s medium-profile and profit-free. One of my main drives in writing for children is to suggest ideas which might help them create positive experiences and deal with difficult ones
  4. Originality/self-expression. The parable of the talents has always informed my life, and it feels very important to me that we explore, uncover and develop our God-given gifts, whatever they might be
  5. Spirituality/solitariness. This was the surprising one, because I’d have thought it would rank higher, but when I did the next exercise, expanding upon these core values, I discovered that all of the first four boil down to ways of celebrating the divine, in myself, the world and other people

You are more likely to achieve your writing goals if they fit with your core values in life. Should you manage to achieve goals that don’t, your success is less likely to make you feel happy.

That is not to say you are limited forever to where you are today, because core values can change and evolve. Like you yourself, they are a work-in-progress.

But for this moment and this step, understanding how your current writing goals relate to what your soul wants is empowering and may be a revelation. Like Penny, I can totally recommend this book.

Have you ever thought about how well your writing goals tie in with your core values?

‘Your dreams were trying to kill you!’

My complete conversation with award-winning author Susan Price – she of the vengeful, spurned daemon – has gone live on her blog today. It’s got darkness and daemons, death and delight… all the stuff you’d expect in a chat about writing and dreaming. Take a look!

Plus the added bonus with Susan’s lovely blog, you get Blott 🙂

Dreaming the faceless ones

I first discovered the concept of archetypes in the early seventies, when I was starting to try and understand my dreams. At that time, there were few books about symbols, and most of them were not very accessible to the general reader.

My symbols dictionary gave ‘archetype’ meanings for some symbols, which I found completely puzzling. Why did some symbols have two definitions, and which one should I apply to my individual dream?

Because my dictionary only offered archetypal meanings for certain symbols, I thought some symbols were archetypes and some were not; it was only a decade later that I began to understand the archetypal as a layer of meaning behind everything. Just as behind every object in waking life there are layers of personal symbolic significance, so beyond that there are layers of group/cultural/universal meaning.

Jung said you could not understand archetypes in a theoretical way; they were ‘pieces of life itself’, which you could only understand through direct experience. My first experience of archetypes was in my dreams.

I thought of them as the faceless ones, because they seemed to have no individual identity, they were generic – an old man, an old woman, a baby; a doctor, a teacher, a guide. These dream figures had a different quality about them – I felt drawn to them because of their mystery.

I gradually understood that these faceless figures represented the pure spirit of , say, wisdom or adventure, healing or learning. Meeting them showed me how the archetypes worked in more ordinary dream figures – if I dreamt about a friend who was a doctor, for example, he would be appearing both as himself, as what he personally represents to me and also as the universal figure of the healer.

The faceless ones gave me experience of archetypal energies at work in my dreams, and this layer of meaning brought deeper resonance to every dream experience, and every part of daily life.

The encounter with the archetypes is a spiritual experience, and I’ll be exploring that idea in my post next week.

3 writing tricks and how to make them convincing

The way we normally assume the world works is through cause-and-effect, but alongside this there is another pattern, which Carl Jung termed ‘synchronicity.’

‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ – Jung’s wonderful memoir.
Synchronicity is sometimes defined as ‘meaningful coincidence.’ As opposed to causal links, which are objective and impersonal, synchronicity is personal and subjective. In synchronicity, the outer world reflects the inner world, as when, for example, you are thinking of someone and you bump into them on the street.

Most people only notice synchronicity in really striking coincidences. For example, a friend of mine was whiling away an hour at the office trying to plan a round-the-world cycling trip when, going out for a sandwich, he stepped over a book lying open on the pavement about… you guessed it… cycling round the world.

Or indeed the incidence I mentioned in last week’s post, about the pomegranate.

But synchronicity is part of the fabric of being, not just astonishing moments, and writers can use it in fiction without readers balking at it because, although people may not be conscious of it, it is part of everyone’s reality.

There are three ways writers may use synchronicity

1     Pathetic fallacy. This is where the environment reflects the mood of the characters or the atmosphere of the action.

A gathering storm…
…a still, rainy night…
…or a lovely sunny day – the weather will often reflect the mood of the characters

2     Coincidences. This is where the plot progresses in an unexpected or non-logical way.

3     Supernatural aid. If your character is troubled by doubts and indecision, they may see signs and portents in their environment. It’s like incubating a dream to help you make up your mind about something – you spot the answer much more readily when you know the question.

How can you use these devices in fiction in a way that feels natural and unobtrusive? By becoming more aware of synchronicity in your own life. Dream awareness will help with this, because synchronicity works in the same way as dreams; it’s a symbolic layer of reality which transforms objects and stories into symbols of the self.

The more you tune into synchronicities in your own life, the more freely and convincingly you will be able to integrate it in the lives of your characters.


Three times in my life, I’ve seen a sudden rainbow at a moment when I was agonising over a decision I had made, and felt reassured.

Have you ever felt you received a nudge/confirmation/warning from life?

Author Vanessa Harbour has added her thoughts about synchronicity on her blog – worth checking out 

Book Review: ‘If you want to write,’ by Brenda Ueland.

I like this book. I knew I would, as soon as I saw that the first chapter was called, ‘Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.’ Brenda Ueland made this exciting, inspiring and humbling discovery, as I have, through teaching creative writing.

Her second chapter heading is a quotation from William Blake, ‘Imagination is the Divine Body in Every Man.’ So straight away, she is talking about the relationship between imagination and soul, and seeing creative writing as a spiritual undertaking.

Ueland has some cracking chapter headings!

We write because we love writing, and love is a transforming energy. Therefore, she says, writing is never a waste of time, whether we are published or not. Writing will make us feel ‘happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, light-hearted and generous…’

According to Ueland, writing can make us feel healthier too. ‘Colds will disappear,’ she assures us, ‘and all the other ailments of discouragement and boredom.’

The book is full of great quotations. I love this, for example, from Alfred de Musset: ‘There exists in most men a poet who died young, whom the man survived.’

At times in the book, as in the quotations, there are certain assumptions and attitudes that grate for the modern reader – all people referred to as ‘men’, for example, as in the de Musset quotation, and one or two casually racist remarks which sound quite shocking to us today.

It’s not surprising if some lines feel culturally unacceptable now in a book that was first published in 1938, but it seems a real shame someone didn’t edit them out, because the substance of what the author has to say is timeless, thoughtful and inspiring.

Writing, Ueland says, is a way to find your true self. ‘And why find it? Because it is, I think, your immortal soul and the life of the Spirit, and if we can only free it and respect it and not run it down, and let it move and work, it is the way to be happier and greater.’

Life after death – the way of the dreamer

James Hillman, in ‘Dreams and the Underworld,’ describes dreaming in terms of sinking down, of dropping below the surface of things, into the realm of death.

In our dreams, we completely identify with the dream ‘I’, and the waking ‘I’ is no more; the assumption that we are ourselves within the dream is an illusion.

The dream ‘I’ is not the self as we know it. In different dreams, it may be a different gender from the dreamer, or a different age; it may have a different job and skill-set; it may even have supernatural powers. The dream ‘I’ is one of myriad characters which inhabit the ‘inner self.’

Writing fiction is similar to dreaming. We enter the ‘writer’s trance’ and ‘become’ our characters. We live in their lives, and grapple with their circumstances. But it is less intense because we are still aware of our own physical body, sitting at our desk, dipping in and out of the writing dream to answer the phone, pick up email or make coffee.

Choosing to engage with dreams is like a kind of suicide. We let go of the waking ‘I’ and willingly become the dream ‘I’, walking the underworld. In this way, the dream ‘I’ is like the soul – it lives on after ego awareness is gone.

Some of my guests here have described dreams in which they have been or become animals, and some of my workshop participants have reported dreaming in the ‘I’ of characters from different places and times, ages and genders. Have you had a dream in which it’s obvious the dream ‘I’ is not your waking self?