Big Dreams and Nightly Dreams
Every once in a while a dream comes that shakes us to the core or leaves us feeling that we have been somewhere, experienced something momentous, just as in real life something happens that shifts our reality... something planned or unexpected, such as a journey, an accident, a wedding, a graduation, or a death.
Big dreams are milestones in our ongoing story, causing us to pause, reconnoiter, celebrate or, as the case may be, anguish. I have found that even fairly minor events in life take on huge significance if I imagine that I dreamt them because then they become symbolic. When something is symbolic we sense that there is much more going on than meets the eye, a subtext to the literal; the smallest thing or incident waxes numinous. When a big dream comes you can't exaggerate its significance. It doesn't disguise itself as just another dream, rather it announces itself dramatically for a reason; the psyche has something important to say. We might also refer to such dreams as crossroad dreams, archetypal dreams, threshold or even initiatory dreams.
The difference between a big dream and a nightly dream is significant: A typical dream might be quirky or full of personal material that may be undecipherable without the dreamer's associations, whereas a big dream is a fairly impersonal dream, in the way that a myth is impersonal in that it constellates powerfully around an archetypal theme or situation such as a chase, a fire, or an intruder. Often the characters do not correspond to real people, or the setting is foreign. The dreamer may play a role in such a dream, but not necessarily.
The big dream may unfold as a movie or it may start out rather uneventfully and move into the domain of the numinous by degrees. For example, the dreamer may dream of attending a play which then dramatizes the archetypal content. There may be levels to dreaming, sometimes within the same dream, involving a climb or a descent.
Regardless of how the big dream manifests, there is an energetic, emotionally charged or otherwise qualitative difference between a big dream and a "normal" dream. A big dream is more objective than a small dream. Jung sometimes referred to the Collective Unconscious as the Objective Psyche. The reason it can be objective is, the archetypes, which energize the psyche, are outside of our conscious orientation. When we interact with or enter into the field of an archetype we are in the presence of a force (pattern, situation, being) with its own (autonomous) intelligence, gravity or reality. We are no longer the decider and this can be both humbling and healing.
Jung put it this way: "A good dream, for example, that's grace. The dream is in essence a gift. The collective unconscious, it's not for you, or me, it's the invisible world, it's the great spirit. It makes little difference what I call it: God, Tao, the Great Voice, the Great Spirit."