Houses in Dreams: Images of conscious and unconscious psyche

In Places in Dreams by Jesamine Mello15 Comments

houses in dreams: Symbols of psyche

Houses in dreams symbolize your whole life situation. They tell you something about your inner house, meaning your inner psychic state. Your inner psychic state is something which influences every aspect of your life: how you see things, how you relate to others, and how you see and relate to yourself.
Houses in dreams can also reveal something specific about your conscious attitude toward life, often showing us where our conscious attitude fails us.

Houses in Dreams

The Meaning of Different Rooms and Levels of the House

Dreams About Houses: Many levels of being

Houses in Dreams: Many levels of being

If houses in dreams symbolize our whole life situation, then we can look at the rooms and levels of the house as different aspects and levels of our psyche.

We must include the unconscious because a house has a cellar, as well as a roof where the birds land … which would mean external intuitions…C.G. Jung, Visions Seminars
Whenever your dreams make a statement about a particular room in the house, ask yourself,

  • What does this room mean to me?
  • What do I do in this room?
  • In what condition is this room?
You are a different person in the attic from the person you are in the cellar.C.G. Jung, Visions Seminars
For instance, the kitchen in a dream, in association with cooking, can be an inner place of transformation; a bathroom, symbolic of a process of psychic elimination, or even, of self-expression.

The front yard could be an image for your public face, the back yard, something more private and personal, or something unconscious entering from behind, so to speak.

The various levels of the home can be an indication of conscious versus unconscious attitudes.  For example, unconscious forces could be symbolized by the basement or cellar, as in the following dream of a woman.

I dreamed of an unpleasant woman (someone I knew, but didn’t like) living my basement. I was not happy about this.

For the dreamer, this dream meant that she needed to reflect on how the qualities of this unpleasant woman were actually her own shadow traits, living in the basement/unconscious of her personality structure.

Conscious attitudes, on the other hand, are often symbolized by the living room or rooms on the upper floors, as we will see in the dream and commentary below.

And finally, new potential can be symbolized by discovering new or unknown rooms in your house, as we will see from one of C.G. Jung’s dreams later.

Or maybe you dream that you are cleaning out an attic, garage, or an old storage room.  Are you finding old treasures or getting rid of what’s no longer necessary in your life?

The idea is to explore every aspect of yhouses in your dreams and to decipher what they symbolize for you at the time of the dream.

Houses in Dreams: Images of Your Paradigm

Think of a houses in dreams as symbolic of your current paradigm. A paradigm is a distinct set of patterns of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs through which you experience life.  A paradigm is a whole psychical system, not simply your conscious system.

Symptoms appear … when an attitude or a system of adaptation becomes overdue … when it should have been dissolved long ago yet we cling to it without knowing to what we are clinging.C.G. Jung, Visions Seminars
Anything psychic always includes unconscious patterns of perception and behavior, such as those we inherit, from our parents and culture, as well those we inherit from the underlying archetypal structure of the human psyche.

Like an old pair of shoes, our attitudes and behavior become worn out and in need of replacement.   However, very few people realize this about themselves. We run into problems in our lives and blame something external, rather than question ourselves.  Houses in dreams let us know that it’s time to re-evaluate our worldview.

Never questioning our worldview is what gets us into trouble in life.  As Jung says, we develop symptoms, symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or restlessness.
Houses in dreams generally mean our whole system of adaptation, our whole situation in life, including our attitude of mind or consciousness.C.G. Jung, Visions Seminars
When our conscious attitude fails us, we fail to adapt to our present circumstances.  When we cannot meet the needs of our current situation, we cannot evolve.  And when we don’t evolve, we become stagnant and stuck.

As the poet William Blake said, “The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.”

Houses in dreams: Images of psyche and adaptation

The idea of adaptation is an important concept in Jung’s psychology.  Adaptation is a biological term, referring to the process by which a plant or animal (which includes us humans) acclimates to its ever-changing environment.

Whenever I talk about adaptation, I like to use the tree as an example. Think about how a tree grows, both upward and downward.  If you cut a branch, new life springs from that place. As the tree’s roots meander underground, they sometimes hit obstacles, such as stones.  Whenever the roots encounter an obstacle, they simply grow around it.

Houses in dreams: Images of psyche and adaptation

Be like this tree and find a way to adapt in whatever situation

Now suppose a tree got all anxious or upset every time something got in its way?  Do you see what I’m getting at here?  The tree’s instinctual life force knows what to do.

Human beings also have that deep, instinctual life force that knows what to do. We just have to learn how to tap in and listen to it.

In human beings the adaptation process is both physical and psychological.  Jung discovered that our dreams are a part of our biologically inherited system of psychological adaptation.

Our biological functions have an aim; they are not meaningless.  The purpose of dreams seems to be the constellation and evolution of consciousness.  We say this because dream-thinking appears to be a phylogenetically older mode of thought.

Now let’s talk about some specific manifestations of houses in dreams.

Houses in Dreams: Whose House Are You In?

Houses in dreams: Images of psyche

The witches house in Hansel and Gretel by Arthur Rackham, 1909 (negative mother complex)

Whose house you are in says something about who or what is influencing you at the time of the dream.

For example let’s say that you are struggling with a seemingly authoritarian boss, teacher, or some other authority-type person.

If you have a dream which states, “I am back in my parents’ home,” then you know that you are under the influence of a parental dynamic, possibly even a parental complex, such as the mother complex.

Then you would have to question whether the authoritarian person in your life is really as you perceive her or him.

You have to reflect on questions such as,

  • Do you have this same response with all authority figures?
  • Am I taking this situation too personally?
  • How do others experience this person?

Sometimes houses in dreams point toward our future psychic situation.  For instance, 12 years ago when I was deeply immersed in Jung’s Collected Works, I had so many dreams about being in Jung’s home, training to do this work.

I remember asking myself at the time, “is it really possible that I could go to Switzerland and train, or, is this dream a reference to the my psychic situation of “doing this work”. Well, it was both.

So, always keep in mind that your houses in dreams could be pointing toward your future psychic situation

Houses in Dreams: Spheres of Psychic Influence

Dreams about houses: whose psychic influence are you under?I know very little about astrology, but we can use an astrological chart to describe what it means to be under the psychic influence of something or someone.  Think about the various houses in someone’s astrological chart.

Each house represents a field of experience, associated with a particular set of traits, for example Self, Money, or Relationships.

Whenever a planet enters that field of experience, the atmosphere of the house changes.

As with any place in a dream, houses in dreams tell you what kind of influence is active in your life at the time of your dream.  Similar to the planetary influence on houses, whoever comes into your dream house will symbolize a psychic influence on you.

Houses in Dreams: Under the Influence

We always start with the naïve assumption that we are masters in our own house. [yet] …in our most intimate psychic life as well, we live in a kind of house which has doors and windows to the world, but that, although the contents of this inner world act upon us, they do not belong to us.C.G. Jung, Two Essays in Analytical Psychology
Consider what happens when a negative person walks into the room and starts complaining about his day, or conversely, when someone in a really good mood walks in and lifts the spirits of everyone around her.  The whole environment changes.

Or perhaps even closer to home, anyone with bad familial relations knows what happens when we re-enter the family atmosphere.  You get sucked right back into the vortex of melodrama if you’re not exceedingly careful – and sometimes we drawn back in despite being exceedingly careful.

The same is true of your inner psychic situation.  Sometimes, something from within enters into our field of consciousness and changes our inner environment

For instance, we can wake up in horrible moods.  “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed”, we say.  Something is affecting us, yet we cannot identify an external cause.  This is what Jung means when he says that we are not the masters of our house.

Or similarly, Rumi, the 13th century Sufi poet, says in his poem 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.

When you see houses in dreams, they say something about who or what is influencing you at the time of the dream

Houses in Dreams: The Condition of the House

houses in dreams: is your psychic structure breaking down? | Image of dilapidated house

Houses in Dreams:  this would definitely be symbolic of a breakdown in your conscious attitude or situation!

I want to repeat myself again because so that you will keep this concept in your mind as you make your way through this long post.

Houses in dreams are symbolic images of your whole psychic situation, something which always includes both your conscious and the unconscious perspective at the time of the dream.

The condition of houses in dreams say something about the condition of your current attitude toward life.
  • Is your conscious attitude on a solid foundation or not?
  • Does your attitude threaten to destroy your house?  (see the dream below)
  • Are there any threats to your security?
  • Does  your dream reveal hidden potential?

For example, to dream of your house falling down completely could mean that your current attitude is dangerous for your psychic health.  You are in danger of a breakdown in your life.  If you don’t respond to this with an attitude adjustment, then you will likely suffer the consequences of that refusal.

If you dream of your house being in need of renovation, then it would mean that you might need to break down your old patterns of habit and rebuild something entirely afresh.  For example, a woman 7 months into her analysis dreamed

I walk into my house and there are people everywhere, painting and remodeling the place.  The whole house is under renovation.  I wonder, “who are these people?”

Dreams About Houses: the meaning of renovation

Houses in Dreams: restoration and renovation

At the time of her dream, the woman was really worried that she wasn’t making any progress in analysis and this caused her great distress. She lived in fear of an impending nervous breakdown.

This kind of dream is an extraordinarily supportive statement about her psychic condition.  It is a healing compensation for her fears and worry about her lack of progress and impending breakdown.

The unknown workers are symbolic of of those underlying, unconscious psychic processes at work.  She didn’t have to do anything more than she was already doing.

We have to understand that ego consciousness is not the only one working in our lives.  There is always more going on beneath the threshold of consciousness than there is above it.

After we looked at this dream together, she felt immediate relief.  She could rest easy, knowing that something was happening beneath surface, and soon, it would make itself known.  In the end, this woman underwent an extraordinary transformation of personality, something which changed the course of her life entirely.

I have seen this happen again and again, both in my own and in my clients’ lives.

You can always trust your dreams to guide and support you in every aspect of your life.  If you are profoundly worried about something and your dream life says nothing about it, then stop worrying about it until the unconscious responds.

Houses in Dreams:

The Kitchen and Cooking in Dreams

Dreams About Houses:  The Kitchen and Cooking in Dreams

Think about what happens in the kitchen.  Chopping, slicing, and dicing.  The mixing together of essential ingredients.  Adding spices to enhance flavor.  Boiling, baking, and roasting.  Heating things up.  Cooling things down.

The kitchen is also a gathering place for friends and family – sometimes for good, other times for bad.  All of these activities can be translated into psychological processes, both the ones you are consciously working on and the ones unconsciously working on you.

The kitchen in dreams as symbol for a place of inner place for transformation.

In his seminars on Dream Analysis, Jung says that the idea of the pot on the stove is an archetypal image of a sacrificial vessel – a spiritual womb in which a new being is formed.

… we have to “collect all those rare things…cook them together in the pot … [they] are the food to be held and transformed over the fire.”

So, if you dream about cooking something in the kitchen, you have to ask, “what’s on the stove?” and what could that symbolize in my life?

If you have read the article, Dreams About Snakes, then  you might remember that we looked at a dream about a snake in a pot on the stove.  In that dream, the woman needed to protect her instinctual life from a deadly parental complex.

Here’s another dream about something boiling:

I am told that I must kill a serial killer and then boil his head in a large pot.

In this case, the woman had been tormented by dark thoughts and fears about life, most especially in the middle of the night.

Serial killers often showed up in her dreams as a personification of those dark, life-threatening thoughts.

The head in dreams and fairy tales is often an image for thoughts or consciousness.

For the dreamer, to behead this serial killer symbolized removing his power and influence over her, or in psychological terms, separating herself from the power and influence of those tormenting thoughts.  This is no easy task, but the dream says that she can do it – that she must do it.

The thoughts don’t necessarily disappear, but a dream like this one shows her that she can depotentiate the power and influence of those thoughts by not identifying them.  She has to recognize that they come from him – that is, an autonomous inner dynamic – and not from herself.

Images of Cooking and Transformation

the king in the bath, from the Splendor Solis

We see a similar idea in the alchemical image from the Splendor Solis.  This is an image, not only of sacrificing our old ways of limited thinking, but also for gathering the dissociated elements of our personality (whatever they may be) and bringing them together (in the pot) in order to produce something new.

So, if your dreams about houses take place in the kitchen, pay attention to what’s happening in the dream.

  • Who’s with you?
  • What kind of process is taking place?

Next, try to translate that process into psychological language.  For instance, a woman dreamed that a pot on her stove was boiling over.  We had to explore the possible ways in which her conscious situation or attitude was overheated.

Think about boiling symbolically – as a psychological situation. When things boil over, it typically means something is out of control.  A dream like this could be a reference to a situation in your life which threatens to boil over or it could mean uncontrolled emotions are overwhelming you.

In addition to exploring your dream imagery, always listen to your dream statements.  For example a man who tended to suppress his emotions dreamed that he left a pot cooking on the stove.  He frightfully returned home, fearing things had boiled over, only to find “everything was okay.  No damage done”.

The dream lets him know that expressing emotions won’t do any damage.

The Bathroom in Dreams

The bathroom in dreams is similar to the kitchen in that we can look at it as a place of alchemical transformation.  The bathroom is related to the process of elimination and purification, and believe it or not, even to creativity!

Peeing and pooping are common dream images, so let’s start there.

Jung said that the pressure to pee in dreams is often symbolic of pressure in our waking life, “for instance of unconscious fear, expectation, suppressed excitement, inability to speak, the need to express an unconscious content, etc.”

Sometimes we just feel the sense of pressure in our lives, but we don’t know why.  A lot of generalized anxiety comes from this unconscious pressure.

We can say that it’s pressure about our job, marriage, or some other situation, but most often, that pressure comes from your depths.  You have to get into your depths and find out what the pressure is really about.

I give you an example of this kind of unconscious conflict in my introduction to dream interpretation.

The Gold in the Shit

Okay, let’s talk shit.  I’m trying to figure out where I should start, but ultimately, no matter what I say or share, it’s going to sound strange to the civilized person.  I’ll just give some examples:

In Symbols of Transformation, Jung says, the anal region is very closely connected with veneration and gives several accounts of this seemingly strange connection:

  1. An Oriental fairytale relates that the Crusaders used to anoint themselves with the excrement of the Pope in order to make themselves more formidable.
  2. One of my patients, who had a special veneration for her father, had a fantasy in which she saw her father sitting on a commode in a dignified manner, while people filed past greeting him effusively.
  3. We might also mention the intimate connection between excrement and gold: the lowest value allies itself to the highest. The alchemists sought their prima materia in excrement, one of the arcane substances from which it was hoped that the mystic figure of the filius philosophorum would emerge “in stercore invenitur” (found in filth)
  4. De Gubernatis (Zoological Mythology) says that dung and gold are always associated in folklore, and Freud tells us the same thing on the basis of his psychological experience.
  5. A very religiously brought-up young patient once dreamt that she saw the crucifix formed of excrement on the bottom of a blue-flowered chamber-pot.

Now at first, this may sound completely foreign, but we have to look at dreams without any kind of moralistic judgment.  Dreams aren’t moralistic. They simply make statements.  If a dream venerates shit in the form a crucifix, then you have to look into what that symbolizes.

Jung also reports the following magical practice recorded by Grimm:

“If you want money in the house all the year round, you must eat lentils on New Year’s Day.” This singular association is very simply explained by the indigestibility of lentils, which reappear in the form of coins. In this manner one defecates money.

Why would people venerate shit?  Well, if you have children, then you may have noticed shitting can take on a highly symbolic meaning.  Shitting can be likened to act of creation.

And again, Jung says of the act of defecation as creativity:

The toilet is well known as the place of dreams where much is created that would later be considered unworthy of this place of origin. Lombroso recounts a pathological fantasy of two insane artists, which is relevant here: Each of them thought he was God Almighty and the ruler of the universe. They created or produced the world by making it come forth from the rectum, like a bird’s egg from the oviduct (or cloaca).

One of these artists was gifted with real artistic sense. He painted a picture of himself in the act of creation: the world came forth from his anus, his member was in full erection, he was naked, surrounded by women and by all the insignia of his power.

The reason I wanted to point out the visions of insane artists is because when someone has a psychotic break, what comes through them is straight from the unconscious.

A client of mine who was just discovering her innate self-worth dreamed that she ritually carried a large turd into her bedroom and placed it in a drawer for safe-keeping.  Naturally, we had a good laugh at the imagery!

When Shit is Just Your Shit

I have a feeling that this section self-explanatory.  If you dream of inappropriately shitting somewhere or of your toilet overflowing with shit, something has gone wrong.

So, when you are in the midst of your shit, keep in mind, something golden may be at the center of all your troubles.

The Symbolism of the Bath

In fairy tales, the archetypal motif of the bath is a widespread technique of redeeming “what has been bewitched by the banal.”

In the world today, the most common form of banal bewitchment is materialism.

From a materialistic perspective, the only reality is the physical world and knowledge is limited to the rational.  We human beings are so much more than rational beings.  If fact, it is irrational to be so one-sided!

Historically, washing and bathing rituals have long been associated with birth, death, purification, and regeneration. In Baltic countries, for example, the goddess Laima is a protective goddess of the household and her most favored room in the home is the bathhouse, and, as such, it is considered holy ground. The bathhouse was also associated with both birth and death rituals.

Psychologically speaking, as Marie-Louise von Franz says (in her book on Redemption Motifs), the water in the bath has very much to do with the penetration of understanding.”  As I said earlier in the section on Windows and Doors, the idea behind penetration of understanding is understanding that we suffer.  That is what brings relief to psychological suffering.

Through conscious suffering we try to gain insight into the psychological problem at hand by bringing our awareness to the problem – in whatever form it manifests, whether it is in the heavy, sinking feeling of a depression or in the shattering, chaotic feeling of anxiety.

In order to do this, one has to go down in the waters and penetrate the depths of the psychological symptoms.  This exploration also includes material that arises from the unconscious, such as dream and fantasy material, the analysis of which confront your conscious standpoint.

Psychologically speaking, through this process we dissolve our rigid attitudes by making contact with our unconscious material. When we do this, we redeem the hidden aspects of ourselves, cleansing and purifying personality, symbolically transforming it from black to white – from unconscious to consciousness.

Houses in Dreams:  The Bedroom

Vincent Van Gogh, Bedroom at Arles

A lot goes on in the bedroom, from resting, sleeping, and sleeplessness, to making love, giving birth and dying.  So when the bedroom appears in your dreams it can have many possible meanings.  The questions to ask yourself are:

  • What does the bedroom mean to me?
  • What is happening in the dream?
Dreams About Houses: Symbolism of the Bedroom

Peter Ilsted – In the Bedroom

Perhaps your bedroom is your sanctuary – a place where you can be alone with yourself.  Maybe the bedroom for you is where you turn off and shut the world out. If you can’t sleep at night, then the bedroom could be a place of angst and turmoil.

And for anyone who suffered abuse in the bedroom, it could be a place of terror, as we will see in the dream example below.

Just keep in mind that the dream uses the image of bedroom to convey information about your psychic atmosphere.

If the dream takes you back to a bedroom of your past, then the dream is making a statement about your state of mind being similar to your past or under the influence of your past.  We are talking here about psychological dynamics and not about analogous situations.

If the houses in dreams take us back in the past, we have to make the connection the effects of our past and the overall mood or emotionality of our current situation.  This is not an intellectual exercise, but rather it is an emotional exercise.

Dreams of your childhood bedroom

For example, a woman dreamed that she was back in her childhood bedroom – the bedroom where her stepfather tortured her on a nightly basis.

I am trapped in my bedroom closet.  My stepfather is in the house. He’s coming up the stairs. I must have left a window open or a door unlocked.  Now he is banging on the door.  I know he’s going to kill me.  Suddenly I realize, “I am an adult!  What am I doing here?  This time, I will kill him.”

Upon waking from such a dream, you would have to reflect on how the terror of your childhood affects you today.  As I said, the goal is not intellectual understanding, but rather it is about making the connection between the dream image and your current state of mind.

For this woman, she lived with generalized anxiety, sleeplessness, and night terrors.  Night terrors are a form of sleep disorders where a person wakes in a state of fight or flight – sheer terror and fear for one’s life.

Her anxiety and fear would also attach to all kinds of worries about her life:  her job, money, family.

She often felt suicidal because of her intense fear.  But none of that was the real source of her generalized fear and anxiety.  As I have said many times, fear and anxiety are symptoms of an underlying, psychological problem.

Symbolically speaking, the stepfather still lived in this woman’s mind and body.  Every sound sent a jolt of terror through her body and every thought was a scenario of doom and gloom.

This kind of thing happens to someone who has suffered repeated psychological trauma, especially when it happens in our formative years of psychological development.  It’s called post traumatic complex and it’s very difficult to deconstruct.

The woman had unconsciously internalized her stepfather, so that his torture repeated itself every night.  He came to her nightly, whispering nothing but dread and fear.

Through this dream, she finally made a real connection between her night terrors and anxiety and her childhood experiences.  She realized that she had to fight these demons of the night – and fight them with as much consciousness as possible.

When we translate her dream imagery into psychological language, it means that she must psychologically kill this inner figure, as I spoke about in the post on dreams about killing someone.

Dreams about Sleeping in the Bedroom

The Rose Bower” from the “Legend of Briar Rose” by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

Sleeping in our dreams can sometimes symbolize unconsciousness about something in our lives.

In the Visions Seminars, C.G. Jung shares a dream of a woman who had just started analysis.

I am in the bedroom [sleeping]. A woman enters through the window and says, “This building is on fire, did you not know it?”  I say, “No, all is quiet in my room”

What’s the problem here?  How many times do we dream of being in a dangerous situation, yet we have no fear?

This dream imagery doesn’t mean that we are fine regardless of the situation; it means that we are foolish. If someone came through your window and told you that your house was on fire, I would hope that you would get yourself out of the house as fast as possible.

In this case above, sleeping in the bedroom and the woman’s nonchalant attitude about a fire in her house means, “you are unconscious of what’s happening in your depths and now there is danger”.

As another example of sleeping in dreams, a woman dreamed, “I am sleeping in a bed with my dead mother”.   This means that she is unconscious of the ways in which her mother-complex affects her life.

Other examples of sleeping in dreams

  • Sleeping peacefully in dreams can also be an indication to rest and let go, as when we need to “sleep on it” before we make a decision about something.
  • Sometimes dreams offer us comfort in a time of need.  For instance, the insomniac woman above dreamed that a man came to her with encouraging words. He lay down with her in a makeshift bed.  She feels safe and secure – as though all will be okay – and she peacefully falls to sleep in the dream.
  • If someone wakes you up in a dream, then you may need to wake up step into your life

Dreams About Sex in the Bedroom

Ledikant, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1646

The carnal embrace in dreams can take on all kinds of different meanings, so for the sake of differentiation of meaning, I want to make a distinction between sexual intercourse and making love in dreams.

Generally speaking, making love in our dreams is often about the union of two aspects of different aspects of our personality.  This is similar to the meaning of dreams about kissing, only here the union is at a much deeper level than kissing.

We not only dream about making love to our partners, but also about making love to someone who isn’t our partner.  I wrote at length about this in the post on dreams about cheating.

As I said in that post, when you dream of making love with someone, that person represents a value in yourself which you have not yet recognized.

Every person and process in our dream is a representation of our own personality.  More importantly, they are a representation of something we do not know about ourselves. In the most general terms, we call these unknown aspects of our personality shadow figures.

Typically, women in men’s dreams represent aspects of his inner feminine;  men in women’s dreams are aspects of their inner masculine.

Many times we dream of homosexual love affairs.  When this happens, we have to reflect on the qualities of this person.  I cannot count the number of women who have felt uncomfortable about having dreamed of making love to another woman.  But I’m straight! they say defensively.

In women, these dreams often say something about what is missing from her femininity.

As women, we have to reflect on how our female lover’s feminine qualities could add dimension to our own personality.

Houses in Dreams: Doors

Houses in Dreams: Unexpected VisitorsDreams about strangers knocking on your door or breaking in through doors (and windows) is also a common dream theme.

Given that houses in dreams are symbolic images of your whole psychic situation (conscious and unconscious) – your attitude, thinking, values, habits, as well as everything in between – what could this mean, psychologically speaking?

This dream imagery is an indication that something which was once unconscious has made its way to the threshold of consciousness.  Or, in other words, something that was once unknown has pushed its way into your awareness.

When something makes its way through the threshold of consciousness, we may first experience that something as an unexplained mood, a raw emotion, or even as anxiety or depression.  For example, someone in a depression may dream of a dark visitor knocking at the door.

Though it might feel scary, a dream about a dark visitor would be a positive sign because it would mean that the depression has formed an image of itself.  In the form of an image, you can then see depression as one of Rumi’s guest house visitors, rather than identifying with it.

Seeing your depression in this way is the difference between saying, “I am depressed” and “This is a depression I am feeling”.

Houses in Dreams:  The Unknown Visitor

So then, what does it mean when a psychic something enters the field of your awareness and threatens your current paradigm?

Is it something of value or something destructive?

You never immediately know the answer to that question, so be careful not to pass judgment too quickly.

Take the following dream, for example:

Houses in Dreams: Unknown visitors

Two guys came to my front door.  It appeared as though they had been dropped off.  One had a beard.  They were selling something and I was willing to give them a listen. “What do you have?”, I said.  The bearded guy held out a beautiful lotus-shaped amethyst crystal, surrounded by other crystals.   I asked, “how much?”  he said, $525.  I thought he was trying to rip me off and I closed the door in his face. I wake up startled.

Immediately upon waking, the dreamer felt horrible about slamming the door, knowing that she’d missed out on a precious lotus crystal gift (a symbol for her true self), even though it cost $525.

Houses in Dreams: Unexpected VisitorsThe divine unknown visitor is a common dream theme.  We can receive those dreams when we are in desperate need for reconnection with the the spiritual side of life.

In Psychology and Alchemy, C.G. Jung recounts Ovid’s story of Baucis and Philemon, a poor old couple who were the only ones who would receive two beggars (gods dressed s beggars) into their home.

When the world had become godless and no longer offered a hospitable retreat to the divine strangers Jupiter and Mercury, it was Philemon and Baucis who received the superhuman guests. And when Baucis was about to sacrifice her last goose for them, the metamorphosis came to pass: the gods made themselves known, the humble cottage was changed into a temple, and the old couple became immortal servitors at the shrine.

In her book Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche, Marie-Louise von Franz has a full essay dedicated to the theme of the unknown visitor.

I have received many questions from people, asking about the meaning of strangers at their door. Most of the time, the dreamers are unwilling to receive these strangers. I always advise being open to anyone who comes to your door. One never goes. A god could be visiting you, ready to bestow his gifts of grace and bounty.

Houses in Dreams:  Whose House Are You In?

When you dream of houses, whose house you’re in will tell you something about who or what is influencing you at the time of the dream.  Recall the story from above. We are talking about an internalized psychic influence.  Remember, houses in dreams represent an active (or activated) psychological dynamic in you.

For instance, the same woman we talked about earlier dreamed, “I am back in the home of my mother and stepfather“, which for her was symbolic of an insecure and tormented past.  Something in her life had triggered this old mindstate, causing a cascade of old fears and anxiety to surface.

houses in dreams: ghosts from the pastThe dream was telling her that something about her current mindstate was similar to her past.  

In other words, she is under the influence of an old mindstate. It does not mean that her current situation is actually similar.

If we are under the influence of an old mindstate, then we cannot see the current situation as it is.  For example, we might make assumptions about people’s intentions or play the role of victims.

Old mindstates effectively render us incapable of responding and adapting to the present moment.

Dreams such as this remind us that old fears and habits cloud our perception of our present, giving us an opportunity to see the situation in a new light.

Haunted Houses in Dreams

Houses in Dreams: the meaning of hauntingsHaunted houses in dreams are also a common theme.  Who or what is haunting the house is significant because it tells us who or what haunts us psychically.  Sometimes it’s the ghost of someone we know – such as a deceased family member – and other times, unknown or vague figures haunt us.

The idea of haunting is a primitive conception, but not in the way we might think of primitive conception.  A primitive person had very permeable ego-boundaries because the ego per se was not very well-established.  A surge of emotion or a thought which pushed through the threshold of primitive consciousness was experienced as a sort of invasion from the other-world.

We still experience that kind of invasion, only we call it moods or complexes.

It is important that we separate ourselves from moods and complexes (as I have already said above).  We have to dis-identify ourselves with invasions of mood or complexes.  When you can do this, you can experience the mood or complex as a sort of haunting, and then try to work with it.

Houses in Dreams: Hauntings

I am in a house which reminded me of a place of a man with whom I had a brief affair.  In the dream it was the home of some of my husband’s friends. I had a conflict with one of them and he has decided to confront me.

He was accusing me of being a horrible person. He told me that I was being nasty to some of husband’s close friends – people I like very much.  My accuser was becoming aggressive. I am feeling defensive because what he is saying to me is not true.

Houses in Dreams: the meaning of hauntingsThen I am led out of the room by an older woman who appears to be a Baba Yaga/Old Witch type. She has other women come with us.  We go up some stairs and I realize that we are now in a very large house which appears to be haunted.  The house now looks like the “grey house” from my youth.

The entity in this house is threatening all those live there – animals and people. I can feel its presence and I am afraid.  Somehow, I recognize this entity. I am now in my old bedroom from the house.  The old woman says to the group, “I brought you here because I want you to take care of this.” I have a deep-pitted fear, but yet I have confronted this kind of thing before. I was familiar with how to do it.

I am fighting it with all my strength, using my energetic body to struggle and fight with him.”  It feels disgusting. Energetically I command him, “Get out. Get out.”  The thing vanishes and I collapse to the floor.  The man who had chastised me earlier wakes me up.  Now he is friendly and helpful.  The old woman is there and she says, “I knew you were the one.” 

Houses in Dreams:  Interpretation of Hauntings

There is some interesting language in the dream, for example:

My accuser was becoming aggressive. I am feeling defensive because what he is saying to me is not true.

Houses in Dreams: the meaning of hauntingsAs with many of my clients, this dreamer suffered from a demonic inner critic, one which kept her up countless nights, whispering thoughts such as worthless, unlovable, failure, pointless.

In the dream, we see a personification of her night terrors, only the dream ego says that what he says isn’t true.

The work is to get her conscious ego in alignment with her dream ego:  Stand up for yourself and do not believe the voice you hear in the night.

That voice is her haunting and only she can defeat it by fighting it herself, as we see in the subsequent dream imagery.

Helpful Figures in Our Dreams

Houses in dreams: unexpected helpers and supernatural aidIf you don’t know a lot about fairy tales, then you may not know who the Baba Yaga is.  She is a sort of supernatural being who often appears in fairy tales.  Sometimes she flies around in a mortal, holding a pestle; and, she usually lives in a forest hut standing on chicken legs.

Depending on the nature of the person who meets her, the Baba Yaga can be either helpful, hindering, depending on the nature of the person who meets her.

In this dream, the Baba Yaga leads the dreamer to her destiny, but it is the dreamer who must fight the evil spirit.

Fighting those demons is what gets rid of them.  Exorcising those demons also changes the behavior of the persecutory masculine figure.   This dream image is very common:

A persecutory dream figure often transforms into your ally when you confront it.

Changing Houses in Dreams:  Moving into New Homes

Think of changing houses in dreams as entering a new condition in life.

Houses in dreams: moving into new situationsIn dreams, when we move from one place to another, it is symbolic of a state of psychic transition.  Moving into a new house means that we have entered a new situation, a new psychological attainment, or definite step forward in our lives.

Psychic transition can also be temporary, in which case we may dream of traveling, being in a hotel, or staying with a friend.

You may or may not be conscious of this state of transition. Remember, the first signals of psychic transition come in the form of psychological discomfort, such as weird moods, anxiety, or depression.

Think about the actual process of moving out of one home and into another one. The organizing, packing, loading, transport, unloading, unpacking, and finally, setting up your new place.  It is a lot of work to move.

Houses in dreams: clearing out the junk that follows usI don’t know about you, but whenever I have done it, I am always astonished at all of the junk I still have.  I find things that I forgot that I had – things I have tucked away in a storage closet or box under the bed.

Sometimes, I think to myself, “Why have I been carrying this stuff around for so long?”  I’m sure you can see the metaphor here.

In his Dream Analysis Seminars, Jung elaborates on the psychological junk we store and haul around from place to place:

Those are the dead things we have to carry, things which are no longer living, things which we are bothered with but which have to be carried along.  Nothing wants to get lost, everything accumulates; old shoes and old trousers never leave.  They are always there just waiting for you [and] they are jealous of the new ones.

Houses in dreams: clearing out the junk that follows usYou know the old saying, you can run, but you can’t hide?  Well, it is a reference to the same thing.

Whether we are moving into a new physical place or into a new psychological condition, we still have the old junk to deal with – and one way or another, it’s going to resurface.

For example, a woman dreamed,

My husband and I were moving into the house.  There turned out to be many more rooms in the back of the house where other things were going on.  A woman, who was a bit crazy, lived in an apartment that was connected with the house.

The dreamer had recently come out of a 10-year long ordeal in her life.  In fact, she had literally just moved across the country and into a new house.  The dream shows her that while she will discover many “new rooms”, she must reconcile with the psychological fact that a crazy woman lives in the back of her house.

Another woman, also in a state of transition, dreamed

Houses in dreams: restoration and renovation We found a place in the Rockies and my friend “Trish” was coming for a visit.

This house was in the woods like we wanted, but it was very old and disheveled and dilapidated.  It reminded me of the home of an old woman who had been long gone.

There was old stuff everywhere and old appliances.  There were two stoves with broken ovens, but they had gas cook tops – something which excited me – a light in the dark!  The front door opened into the kitchen.  There was old furniture lying around.

I said, “How are we going to have company?”  I was trying to see beneath the layers of junk so I could arrange it with my magical touch.

So here again, we have an image of someone moving into a new psychic condition, but who still has a lot of work to do.

As an aside, notice how the front door of the house opens right into the kitchen – the symbolic place of transformation.

Houses in Dreams:  New and Hidden Rooms

Houses in dreams: hidden or secret rooms

Houses in dreams which reveal new or hidden rooms symbolize the discovery of what is new or hidden in ourselves.  Even when they show old rooms full of junk, they indicate our potential.  Again, these types of dreams are a message of hope – a beacon of light in the darkness – when we have all but lost hope in ourselves.

The thought we shall think, the deed we shall do, even the fate we shall lament tomorrow, all lie unconscious in our today. The unknown in us which … was always there and sooner or later would have presented itself to consciousness. Hence we must always reckon with the presence of things not yet discovered.

I want to end this post on houses in dreams with one of Carl Jung’s most famous dreams – a dream that changed his life.  Below you will see the video excerpt from the documentary of Jung’s work, Matter of Heart.  I have included the transcript below.

Houses in Dreams:  A dream from C.G. Jung

I was in a house I did not know, which had two stories.  It was “my house”.  I found myself in the upper story, where there was a kind of salon furnished with fine old pieces in Rococo style.  On the walls hung a number of precious, old paintings.  I wondered that this should be my house and thought, “Not bad”.

But then it occurred to me that I did not know what the lower floor looked like. Descending the stairs, I reached the ground floor.  There everything was much older.  I realised that this part of the house must date from about the fifteenth or sixteenth century.  The furnishings were medieval, the floors were of red brick.

Houses in dreams: hidden or secret roomsEverywhere it was rather dark.  I went from one room to another, thinking, “Now I really must explore the whole house.”

I came upon a heavy door and opened it.  Beyond it, I discovered a stone stairway that led down into a cellar.

Descending again, I found myself in a beautifully vaulted room which looked exceedingly ancient.

Examining the walls, I discovered layers of brick among the ordinary stone blocks, and chips of brick in the mortar. As soon as I saw this, I knew that the walls dated from Roman times.

My interest by now was intense.  I looked more closely at the floor.  It was of stone slabs and in one of these I discovered a ring.  When I pulled it, the stone slab lifted and again I saw a stairway of narrow stone steps leading down to the depths.

These, too, I descended and entered a low cave cut into rock.  Thick dust lay on the floor and in the dust were scattered bones and broken pottery, like remains of a primitive culture.  I discovered two human skulls, obviously very old, and half disintegrated.  Then I awoke.C.G. Jung

Houses in Dreams: Jung’s elaboration of his dream in his own words

Jung had this dream when he was still working very closely with Freud.  Freud had tried to convince Jung that the dream held “secret death wishes”.  Jung, however, had his own ideas about the meaning of his dream, which I want to quote at length for two reasons.  In the first place, you can see how Jung himself analyzed and interpreted dreams.  And second, you can see how the right dream interpretation can change the course of a person’s life.

I’ll make some notations along the way …

Houses in Dreams:  Jung’s dream interpretation

I saw from that [Freud] was completely helpless in dealing with certain kinds of dreams and had to take refuge in his doctrine. I realized that it was up to me to find out the real meaning of the dream.

Freud’s doctrine (sex theory, repressed wishes, dream facade, to name a few) was the absolute authority. In this case, because Freud could not see the meaning of such a dream, he reduced the meaning to “hidden death wish”.

It was plain to me that the house represented a kind of image of the psyche—that is to say, of my then state of consciousness, with hitherto unconscious additions. Consciousness was represented by the salon. It had an inhabited atmosphere, in spite of its antiquated style. The ground floor stood for the first level of the unconscious. The deeper I went, the more alien and the darker the scene became.

The deeper we delve into the psyche, the further away we get from our personality history/biography.  Darker here, means deeper unconscious.

Houses in dreams: hidden or secret roomsIn the cave, I discovered remains of a primitive culture, that is, the world of the primitive man within myself—a world which can scarcely be reached or illuminated by consciousness. The primitive psyche of man borders on the life of the animal soul, just as the caves of prehistoric times were usually inhabited by animals before men laid claim to them.

The dream pointed out that there were further reaches to the state of consciousness I have just described: the long uninhabited ground floor in medieval style, then the Roman cellar, and finally the prehistoric cave. These signified past times and passed stages of consciousness.

Dreams as reaction to a conscious situation or attitude

Certain questions had been much on my mind during the days preceding this dream. They were:

  • On what premises did Freud found his psychology?
  • To what category of human thought does it belong?
  • What is the relationship of human thought and its almost exclusive personalism to general historical assumptions?

My dream was giving me the answer. It obviously pointed to the foundations of cultural history—a history of successive layers of consciousness. My dream thus constituted a kind of structural diagram of the human psyche; it postulated something of an altogether impersonal nature underlying that psyche.

Then it “clicked,” as the English have it—and the dream became for me a guiding image which in the days to come was to be corroborated to an extent I could not at first suspect. It was my first inkling of a collective a priori beneath the personal psyche.

This I first took to be the traces of earlier modes of functioning. Later, with increasing experience and on the basis of more reliable knowledge, I recognized them as forms of instinct, that is, as archetypes.

–  C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections

As I said, this is a brilliant example of how houses in dreams, or any dream for that matter, can change the direction of your life – if you are willing to open your mind and learn the language of dreams.

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Anna

Dear Jesamine, Thanks for a very interesting post… For the second time in my life, I dreamt that I was on the toilet pooing, and it would not stop. I was wiping as fast as I could but it kept coming and coming and the bowl was filling fast. I was in a cubical on a staircase in an old house, there was no door and I could be seen by people who had rooms/offices with dirty windows looking out on to the stairs. This happened a couple of weeks ago and still unsettles me when I think about it.… Read more »

Jesamine

Anna, without knowing you and your personal situation, I cannot really say much. The idea of shit doesn’t necessarily mean struggle. It sounds like it was flowing fairly freely in your dream. The dream depends on your attitude. For example, if you were someone who considered herself to pure and clean to be seen when you are in your dark side, in this dream would say something in response to that by making you shit in public.

In this dream, I do not see any struggle with decision making. That’s reaching beyond the imagery…

Marisse

Hello, Jessamine. I am re-reading several of your posts in relation to my recent dreams. However, I cannot find something similar that can guide me in order to decipher the dreams. All these occurred in just same night. From the first dream, all I can remember was that I was in my work room (where I write and design, do meditation, do yoga, generally a daytime sanctuary). It was dark and I was holding something that looks like a cellphone supposedly charging but I discovered it was disconnected from the power outlet. I tried to fix it fitting in the… Read more »

saman

hi Jesamine.
please write one about teachers and schools
and doctors and hospitals
they are pretty common themes in dreams. i don’t know at least for me they are and i think they are as important as other places we visit in dreams.
i love your work. it’s genuine and really really helps.thank you.

Art

Very interesting page. Helpful with dealing with my own excessively talkative non-conscious… 😉 Now even more clues about possible interpretations of dream characters, places and situations… Eternal fun 😉
Kind regards,
ake

Adrienne

Dear Jesamine Thank you very much for this very interesting article. I learned a lot from the many examples you gave. Since nearly a decade I have recurring dreams of wandering through limitless labyrinths of rooms in houses and apartments. Most of the time these are places I am considering moving to or am just about to move in. The number of rooms is limitless and I keep wandering from one room to another, often through strange doors, pathways or stairs. Every room category except for the basement is included. Most of the time the rooms are empty or filled… Read more »

Daisy

Hi! I already left one comment with my dream, but I just couldn’t resist it to leave one more. This dream really left me confused, and even though I dreamt it a year ago I still can’t even try to grasp it, so I would be more then thankful to hear your brief opinion. A little introduction: I’m finishing law school by day and I’m being psychologys mistress by night. When I’ve discovered works of C.G.Jung everything started changing for me, it was like all the things I’ve been putting aside because they’ve been hurting too much just started bleeding… Read more »

Eliza la Fontaine

Thank you for this eye opening article Miss Jesamine it means alot to me and I would like to share my dream with you.. I left my parents house since 2012 and work in Dubai, then went to USA after a year, and now stationed here in Japan for all this years. whenever I go I still have nightmares of my old house. sometimes the atmosphere is light and most of the time it’s dark, our house is old and theres supernatural going on there from my childhood days, like my cousin saying theres a dwarfs in the tree, my… Read more »

Maria

Dear Jesamine,
Thank you for a wonderful article!
Cheers,
Lou

Teri S.

I have had numerous dreams of houses…in them I find doors that no one knew was there and when opened the rooms are full of treasure… One dream I discovered 3 kitchens with fresh food still in the refrigerators…bathrooms no one knew about and a grand piano was found with large rubies laying randomly all around… My favorite was opening a large, unknown wooden bedroom door and finding never before seen Beatles memorabilia and photographs everywhere…and feeling ecstatic… My dreams especially of finding rooms have always been pleasant…most of my dreams usually are…and always in color… I’ve been told it’s… Read more »

Yolandie Venter

My dreams recently involve floods or stormy weather, with the rain and ocean crashing against the windows of the building I find myself in. The first dream of this kind I was on the beach and the waves and ocean crashed against the building which was built on the beach and which I was in. During the dream I noted how strong the windows are as the windows covered most of the building. The water level had risen to half the height of the building, waves crashing and rain storming against the building. The building looked like a beach house,… Read more »