In the Assisi Institute's Dream Pattern Analysis class with Dr. Conforti, students are trained to look at images objectively and to discern their most dominant message. We are taught that there are two crucial elements to translating an image objectively and not to get hooked by our associations which can be the expressions of our complexes. The first element is to understand that Psyche provides the image with a high degree of specificity. When we dream of a snake, it is important to note whether it's a garter snake or a boa constrictor because they are very different from one another.
The second element is to look at the way the image functions in Nature. What is the innate, normal, and natural development in each image? Does the image conform with Nature or does it go against Nature? I was really taken by these two elements when a friend provided me with an image from a dream and gave me permission to use it publicly. The fragment that remained from the dream was the image of a hummingbird held in the hand. The dreamer could clearly see the hummingbird's breast in the palm of the hand and it seemed to still be alive.
Now, it could be easy to say things like how wonderful it was that the bird allowed itself to be held so intimately, that there is such a natural connection between the dreamer and this beautiful bird. And that may be so.
However, my training is to look at the image from the point of view of what would happen in the natural world. It is a great temptation to pick up a wounded or sick bird and bring it inside and care for it. The danger to the bird is that human contact makes it likely that it will not be accepted back into the flock. Some birds actually nest on the ground and picking them up takes them from their habitat. Either way, it also points to the human inability to accept that some things don't make it, some birds die, some birds are protecting their young, and human interference is about human needs and not the needs of the bird.
The next thing to look at is what are the main characteristics of a hummingbird. It is a solitary bird that is designed to pollinate nectar-producing flowers, it has the fastest heartbeat of all birds (and maybe all animals?) and its wings beat so fast, it seems as though they are staying still. They are a highly specialized bird, its beak perfect for inserting into the flower for the nectar. In mating, the male only fertilizes the egg and leaves the female and the young because to stay would put them in competition with one another for the nectar. Hummingbirds can navigate in all directions, including backwards. This is some kind of fantastic avian!
But this one is lying breast up in a human hand. It is completely exposed and seems to be dying. Something had to happen to make it still long enough to be picked up, after all! On further research, I found the most amazing fact: when the nectar supply is too low or the temperature is too low, the hummingbird goes into torpor! It just stops. And when I read this, I understood that the most basic of needs for life support were not being met. This bird was telling the dreamer something important.
We know some things about birds in dreams; they are the messengers of the Spirit, they can traverse heaven and earth, they are the mediators of two realms. We also know that animals in dreams represent the instinctual life. What I got from this amplification is that the dreamer has to pay attention to feeding instinctual basic needs. To ignore them puts the dreamer into a torpor that could mean death of something vital, necessary and unique for both the self and the world. If the bird can no longer fly or feed, flowers do not get pollinated, the dreamer's destiny cannot be fulfilled.