What would your house look like?

April 25, 2009

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I have been having many dreams about houses lately. The houses are composites of various places that I have lived. Some seem to stretch out into infinity, like a maze that has no end. While moving through these types of houses in my dreams I may feel overwhelmed, but also compelled to keep exploring the endless rooms.

Art therapists will often look at houses as a type of self-portrait of the artist or the dreamer. The roof represents the most conscious area of the person. How big is the roof and attic area? Is it expansive or small? How is it drawn? Is it completely enclosed or are there breaks in the roof?

The middle area of the house may modulate between the person’s conscious and unconscious areas. The lowest area of the house – the basement – is usually thought to represent the least conscious area of the person’s life. This makes sense when you think about our normal associations to basements – darker, sometimes a bit scary, and a place we do not spend as much time in.

Lately in my dreams, I seem to be spending a lot of time in the basement of these houses…digging around through old belongings and trying to figure out what to keep, and what to throw away. It took me a few reoccurring basement dreams to start to realize that I have been metaphorically “digging” through my unconscious in my dreams – holding certain things up to the light and putting other items back into the darkness. This seemed a perfect parallel to the deeper personal work that I have been doing since beginning my art therapy program. I have been pulling up pieces of myself and holding them up for closer inspection – lugging them up from the basement, and spreading them out on the lawn outside of my house. Some will eventually be returned to the basement, and some will find a new place in my dream house and in my waking life.

The poem by Rumi below, speaks to this theme, using the house and guests as symbols. Every day we are greeted by different guests – some are pleasant and others are not. However, he urges us to welcome each type of guest in, since they all have a specific gift to offer us in life.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. ~ Rumi ~ (The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

“Hill House” ~ acrylic & mixed media on canvas ~ Sara Roizen

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