Remember the times when you would wake up from a nightmare, and your mother to great grandmother would interpret it differently? They would debate your future — good, bad or ugly — according to whether you saw snakes or a black cat.
Then would come the puja, a few cracked coconuts and some fasting to keep away the bad omens. Our dreams are intrinsically woven into our cultural psyche, and such symbolic actions may seem to work for a while but deconstructing the mind, its dreams and symbolism is not a hand-me-down anecdote, it is a serious business.
“I help people understand what the unconscious is really trying to tell them through their dreams,” says Bengaluru-based Anuradha Prasad who is a guide, mentor and coach for those who want to dig deeper into dreams and symbolism. “People don’t look at dreams positively as such, because they take it too literally. But the language of the unconscious can mean something very different,” says the 51-year-old. She has been involved with this subject for almost two decades, and what started off as a drawing room group discussion among a few like-minded individuals, developed first into a passion and later into the profession for Prasad.
Today, dreams and its symbols are interpreted by Western theories with two main streams of analysis — the Freudian and the Jungian. Sigmund Freud is the foremost psychoanalyst whose theories rule the roost in India.
Coming from the puritanical Victorian age, Freud believed that dreams came from the repressed sexual feelings and thoughts in the individual’s unconscious mind. His protégé and another brilliant psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, however, deviated vastly from this notion. He brought into play the concept of individuation — growth from understanding the consciousness and delving into the self — and of ‘anima’ — every personality in your dream is a reflection of the self.
But there aren’t many takers in India of the Jungian method, and only few follow it. Prasad was introduced to Jung’s concepts by Prof Saumya Chattopadhyay: “We had a dream group in Delhi and it started off with us analysing each others’ dreams.” She then went on a self-exploratory journey where she sought professional help to analyse her own dreams.
She also did a course in the Jungian institute in Bengaluru. From discovering oneself, it led to Prasad helping others curious to know about this field. She helps them explore the symbols and understand their psyche and consciousness. So what is the difference between exploration and analysis of dreams? “Dreams are a window to your consciousness and I help the person explore his dream and what the images mean, to have a better understanding of self. I am not a psychoanalyst. If someone requires therapy and treatment, I refer them to a psychologist,” she says.
Dream analysis and interpretation is taught in India as part of psychology. This niche subject has found few exclusive takers since only therapists delve into it. It was only after dedicated perseverance that Prasad could turn her passion into profession.
A dream guide is till date an unheard of job description. So what’s her advice to those looking to walk in her footsteps? “You need a lot of time and patience and someone who will be ready to work with you,” she answers. It is also the expenses that may deter most from pursuing it as a sole profession. After all, these sessions don’t come cheap and it may take years of practice for an individual to become a professional. Prasad today holds sessions, workshops and classes as a guide for those keen to understand their dreams, sometimes via online video calls.
“More and more people are looking to explore their dreams. Nowadays, there are so many books and materials available on the subject, even online courses are there. But courses will get you only so far in terms of knowledge. For dream exploration, one needs to also connect with the self, open up and delve deeper. It’s a long process but very necessary before one can begin to guide others,” Prasad says before signing off. Her words ring true because not many can lay bare their psyche, taking the difficult path of first discovering oneself before trying to help others.