For thousands of years we have been trying to make sense of what is unconsciously reflected back to us in our dreams and our waking lives. But as we attempt to rationalise our unconscious reflections we lose much of the meaning that we instinctively sense. It is difficult to describe the seemingly irrational using only rational language, and so in all our cultures and all our creeds we have evolved symbols as a way to try and objectively define the indefinable.

A symbol is a thing or an image that is a definite representation of an indefinable meaning that cannot be expressed by our conscious awareness. But a symbol is only a symbol. It doesn’t contain any meaning or deeper truth, it only reflects it. Like how a mirror represents our face but cannot smile or cry on its own. Symbols acquire their symbolic value through the awareness of meaning that they evoke in us. Illuminated by our dreams, they tangibly reflect back our search for meaning.

Symbols may seem like an abstract concept but we are constantly surrounded by them, from swooshes to golden arches, from partially eaten fruit to black mouse ears, from crescents to crosses. We become immersed in symbolic shorthand and frequently begin to value the symbols more than the meaning that they originally represented. Our once meaningful and evocative symbols often become meaningless and empty signs, hollow designer label shells of the significance that they once reflected.

Many academics and marketeers study semiotics, the science of signs and symbols, in an attempt to understand our behavioural patterns and deeper motivations. But as our semioticians rationalise our symbols, they quickly become reduced to deconstructed definitions that simply state ‘this means that’, and so lose their richer meaning. A bull in a wide green pasture probably means something different to us than a bull in a china shop, but is usually semiotically reduced to just some bull.

But semiotics only gets half the picture; it only analyses the symbol and not the space around the symbol. The space around it is what gives the true context and meaning to the symbol. A symbol without a space is an empty ritual and as a reflection of meaning, a symbol is only half the story. It has no significance. It is in the space around those symbols where we find meaning. Our unconscious awareness goes beyond the half truths of semiotics and works in the holotic space where the symbol and the meaningful space around it remain connected.

In our dreams, the spaces are as important as the symbols, because without the spaces, symbols cannot attract and reflect meaning. It’s like when we know we are really beginning to learn or understand a foreign language because we can hear the gaps between the words rather than the individual words themselves. In the same way, the space between two people is never empty. It is filled with meaning in their gestures, their vocal tone, their body shapes. It cannot be isolated to either one. It is their connection, their relationship.