In Jungian dream analysis, a house often symbolizes one’s psyche or self—its layout or state of repair an analogue for the condition of one’s identity. For example, items in the basement may represent aspects of our personality that lie hidden in our deep unconscious and that need to be examined; or a house with many rooms may tell us our life has become fractured and compartmentalized, and in need of integration.
Such symbols are helpful in “waking us up” to issues that have not yet penetrated our every day awareness. We may have been conscious of a symptom—depression, anxiety, unease or discontent—but the dream points us to the source: Look at this, it says. Look at what is hidden. And by looking a process of healing is begun.
My House, My Country?
The mythologist Joseph Campbell has observed that dreams are personal myths, and their symbols often have counterparts in the cultural mythos at large, which we ignore, he says, at our peril. Take again the symbol of a house, so long associated with the ideal of the American Dream. We speak these days of a housing crisis, and if we seek to understand this crisis only in political and economic terms, and not symbolic ones, we will miss valuable insights into the state of our national psyche—insights that could launch us into a lasting healing process.
The symbolism of a housing bubble
Somewhere along the line, housing prices became disconnected from any meaningful relationship to reality. As a result, values became excessively inflated. As a people we too have become disconnected from reality. We too operate as if we are in a bubble—separate from and independent of everyone and everything else. This has created an inflated sense of our value, and the consequences are everywhere.
We see them in our recent attempts to make the world over in our image, and the cost in bloodshed, money and prestige has brought us to our knees.
We see them in our national politics, as each party seems increasingly certain that they have all the right answers and have no need of the other. It’s as if we severed our national corpus callosum—the nerve bundle running down the middle of our brain that connects the left and right hemispheres—rendering us unable to connect, to dialogue, and to achieve a holistic synthesis.
We see them in our response to illegal immigration and the presence of undocumented workers. We call them aliens—literally, “not us”—and yet they are here, living inside the national membrane, making them “us” in every sense save our attitude toward them. The separation lives in the mind, but has no representation on the ground—another split that leaves us immobilized and without creative recourse.
And finally, we see them in our willfully ignorant overconsumption of the world’s resources, a major reason that more than half the human population lives in abject poverty (and why so many are compelled to immigrate!).
This, then, is one interpretation of the symbolism of a housing crisis. Like our houses we have inflated our value. We have made ourselves above other human beings—whether they are democrats, republicans, undocumented workers, or the starving billions. And like our houses, we have crashed, and we now struggle to garner the creative, compassionate and strategic resources we need to think and act anew.
This is what is waiting to be revealed. This is what is waiting to be seen so that the healing may begin. We are called to pop the bubble of our arrogance and ignorance, and to expand our sense of self, our circle of concern. We are called to approach each other and our world with compassion, humility, and a profound ability to listen and to learn.
This is one lesson of the housing crises when looked at symbolically. How interesting that we look to our dreams to wake us up.
Filed under: GMS News & Views