“There is much to be learned at both sides of the threshold.”
Creativity. First of all, we need to have enough of our own juice in supply to be able to create something else. If our well is dry, we can’t get water from it. It took me several vacation weeks and enough solitude this summer to resupply my well. Our wellspring can dry out for many reasons: overwork, stress, worry, illness, lack of sleep, lack of meaningful deep sleep, and simply the too much-ness of our plugged in everyday lives. It is a chronic modern problem. In the “old days”, before electricity (to say nothing of computers) we would naturally wind down as darkness fell and settle into our first sleep . Our “first sleep” of the night lasted for a few hours, followed by a normal nocturnal wakeful period. Here inside the deep early morning silence we could think, muse, easily remember our dreams. We would rest in this soft fertile space until we naturally nodded off again in our second sleep till morning light: this was the norm for pre-industrial society.
I must admit, I was relieved when I learned this, and don’t reach for the Tylenol p.m. so quickly now when I wake at 3:00 a.m. I highly recommend the book “World Enough and Time: On Slowing Down and Creativity” by Christina McEwen where I discovered this tidbit. It is so beautifully written that I devoured it quickly on the first read; and then followed the directive of the title for a second slow and savory read.
What resources do our dreams have for us in our creative lives? Countless authors, musicians, scientists etc. have credited their dreams with providing the answers to previously unsolved questions about the project they were working on. The phrase “let me sleep on it” has real value. While we are asleep, our brain function is different than when we are awake: during sleep our left analytical brain goes off-line, and our right brain imaging and creative centers go more on-line. We thus have more access to thinking outside the box while asleep, and can dream up options that we would not have considered while awake. In addition, as I am sure every dreamer knows, we frequently do outrageous things in our dreams that we would not “dream of” doing in our waking lives. Thankfully, our internal censor is asleep as well, so we can try out things that our waking superego may have not allowed.
To use our dreams as a creative resource, we first have to remember them. I encourage readers to review my blogs of April and May 2012 for several chapters on remembering, recording, and incubating dreams with a purpose in mind.
The clearer the question we ask and write down as we prepare to sleep and dream, the greater the likelihood that we will receive a reply from the dream universe that is clear to us and needs less decoding to understand. If, for example you are stuck on writing that next chapter in you book, don’t simply ask to “get unstuck”. Be specific: i.e., ask for inspiration on “what do the characters of Jamie and Claire need next for the part of the story about passing through the Standing Stones, in order to make sense of time travel in the context of their relationship through time and space”? (fans of the Outlander series will know who I am referring to!) That clear. Or “What shades of blue do I need next for my palate to make the water shimmer in my painting?”
We can tap into our creative source from at least three primary aspects of the actual dream material: the narrative story line of the dream itself, the emotions and sensations we experience in the dream, and the images and pictures it brings to us. These three elements can include both what happened in the dream as well as what you thought/experienced/saw in the pre-dream preparation and the post-dream continuation of the dream journey.
Other sources of creativity from dreams may come from:
1.) Associations to place; the topography or landscape or a feature the landscape of the dream
2.) A particular character or the interactions between characters
3.) A color or colors that catch your attention
4.) What you title the dream
5.) What happens when you re-enter and move around inside the dream
6.) The aha’s or insights you get from the work on it
7.) Perhaps most importantly for the creative aspect of our dreams, the action plan you use to move your answers out into the world based on that dream work.
Victoria Rabinow, artist and dreamworker in Santa Fe says“…dreams have a voice and presence of their own…my role is to create a space in which (we) can enter the living experience of (our) own dreams.” In addition to writing them down, we can embody our dreams, draw or paint them, act them out, dialogue with them, dance them…More on these ways of dream working next time…
“Dreams are todays’s answers to tomorrow’s questions.”
Some of our most creative work comes to us in the still of the night and the depths of our dreams; that quiet place at 3:00 a.m. when the rest of the world seems to be asleep and we can feel the quality of hushed holiness permeate our being. Mozart did it, Gaughan did it, Kurtzweil does it- that is, create some of their most profound works from this generative spot. We can tap into our creative source from at least three aspects of the dream: the narrative story of the dream itself, the emotions of the dream, and the images and pictures it brings to us. I don’t know if Bob Franke created this song while he was dreaming, but the words reflect the possibility that dreams were his inspiration. Given the pain and grieving we are living through these days, I offer to you this song of his for a healing:
by Bob Franke
It’s so easy to dream of days gone by
It’s a hard thing to think of times to come
But the grace to accept ev’ry moment as a gift
Is a gift that is given to some.
What can you do with your days but work and hope
Let your dreams bind your work to your play
What can you do with each moment of your life
But love til you’ve loved it away
Love til you’ve loved it away.
There are sorrows enough for the whole world’s end
There are no guarantees but the grave
And the life that I live and the time I have spent
“I dream my paintings, and then I paint my dreams.”
Vincent Van Gogh
I had been thinking about the importance of color in dreams for a while. However, when every dream that I recalled for the last two weeks had a significant spot of color, I knew that was a sign- fingers to the keyboard! We don’t always notice whether or not we dream in color, unless something jumps out at us as we are writing or remembering the dream. As we recall the dream, we may suddenly be struck by, (as I was last night) a very bright blue necklace. This symbol has been gracing my dreams off and on for years, and I am still discovering it’s many layers of meaning. Uncovering the significance of the colors in your dreams can add an important layer of emotional resonance that may otherwise be missed, or misinterpreted.
Take a moment; close your eyes, and see this: The feathery chartreuse yellow/green of new meadow grass tinged with whispy pink blossoms; like an Ansel Adams photograph, in soft focus.
See this: The brilliant blue stone about two inches long; a cross between a lapis and a turquoise, shimmering with the colors of both the Caribbean and the cobalt blue Adriatic seas, set in finely wrought silver filigree.
See this: The silver bullet of a plane, hard and metallic, leaving a trail of white herringbone streaks across the sky.
See this: The peering yellow eyes that pop out of the darkness; just the eyes, just the yellow, surrounding you, as you sit at your campfire in the dark forest.
The colors in our dreams add a dimension of emotional resonance, a layer of the creative muse, a focal point calling our attention: “Look at this! Don’t miss this!” When an otherwise nondescript color scheme in a dream suddenly pops with a notable splash of color, this splash is often pointing our attention to a central image in the dream.
Our brains are hard-wired to resonate emotionally with different colors. The color red, which excites our autonomic nervous system, can fire us up with associations to danger, excitement, and/or passion. The color blue calms the autonomic nervous system, and is associated with serenity, calm, peacefulness. Robert Hoss, in his book Dream Language, points out that this all happens below the threshold of our awareness, yet has a profound affect on our emotional state. In addition to some universal or instinctive responses to colors, we also have ingrained in our subconscious a whole set of cultural and personal associations to colors. These come from our myths, our literature, our families, our language, our personal histories, our cultures.
Therefore, paying attention to the colors in our dreams can not only add emotional richness to our understanding, but also significantly alter the meaning we make out of the dream.
It can be fun and informative to make a color wheel of your personal color connections when you have color in your dream. Write the color in the middle of a page, draw a circle around it, and then make spokes out from it like a child’s drawing of a sun. Then, without censoring, or even thinking about your actual dream image, just write down your associations to the color itself. For example, when I think of yellow, I make my circle and write the words canary, yellow-bellied (cowardice), cheerful, sunshine, the yellow brick road, bright, jaundiced. I then go back to the image in the dream, and circle the ones that somehow seem related to this dream. You can see how dreaming of a yellow sweater would have a very different significance if my associations were cheerful and bright, as opposed to cowardly or sickly.
What follows is an abridged version of the Luscher Color Association chart (a psychological profiling tool) and some common emotional responses (thanks again to Bob Hoss). This is not meant to be a complete list; you can add your own associations.
Gold/Silver: the sun and the moon, value, psychological integration, wealth
Back to that blue stone: That stone has been following me around in my dreams for years, and it has become a touchstone (yes, pun intended); a mythic sorcerers stone; a connection to the breastplate of Aaron the high priest (Moses’ brother), with it’s 12 gemstones, that could be used to foretell the signs, and finally; to deep seas and deep emotions. My “dream action” (from the blog of 10/1/12, the final step in Robert Moss’s Lighting Dream Work) lead me on a search for this stone. I finally found it years after the original dream in the shuk in Jerusalem. This was my first trip back in 27 years, after having lived there for 5 years in the late 70’s. With both the visit and finding the stone, I reclaimed a missing piece of myself. So, color me blue: the “true blue” of unification of pieces of my life that had become separated.
“Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” -Vaclev Havel
We are getting close to the night we will plan to dream together to end gun violence, improve mental health care, and work together to dream the world we want into being. If you haven’t bookmarked your calendar yet, please do so for the night of January 20, the eve of Martin Luther King day, (not co-incidentally the day of our next presidential inauguration!) If you haven’t read the call to action from the previous blog post of 12/31/12, please read it to review the dream action plan. So simple, you can do it in your sleep! Remember to incubate the dreams by setting your intention. For a more complete discussion of incubating dreams, see the blog post of May 14, 2012, entitled “The Ancient Practice of Dream Incubation”. The posts of April 29 and May 8 will give you more tips for remembering your dreams. And if you want to continue to receive posts, sign up on the blog page on the right margin under the archives and categories sections where it says “subscribe to this blog” (and you can also send me your email address to be added to a mailing list).
For those of you who would like to read more about this idea dreaming the world we want into being, here is an excerpt from Alberto Villodo’s book “Courageous Dreaming: How Shaman’s Dream the World Into Being” (Hay House, 2008): (heads up that it is a bit long, but in re-reading it several times, I didn’t see how I could shorten it any more and keep the poetry intact. So, skim quickly, or read slowly, or save for later, depending on your energy right now)
“…Whether you realize it or not, we are all dreaming the world into being…. As soon as you awaken to your power to dream, you begin to flex the muscles of your courage. Then you can dream bravely: letting go of your limiting beliefs and pushing past your fears. You can begin to create truly original dreams that germinate in your soul and bear fruit in your life.
Courageous dreaming allows you to create from the source, the quantum soup of the universe where everything exists in a latent or potential state. Physicists understand that in the quantum world of the universe’s smallest elemental parts, nothing is “real” until it is observed. But quantum events do not occur in the laboratory only. They also happen inside our brain, on this page, and everywhere around us. When you observe any part of this dream, the great matrix of energy, you can change reality and alter the entire dream.
Modern physics is describing what the ancient wisdom keepers of the Americas have long known. These shamans, known as the Earthkeepers, say that we are dreaming the world into being through the very act of witnessing it. Scientists believe that we are only able to do this in the very small, subatomic world. Shamans understand that we also dream the larger world that we experience with our senses…
…The dreamtime, the creative matrix, does not exist in a place outside of us. Rather, it infuses all matter and energy, connecting every creature, every rock, every star, and every ray of light or bit of cosmic dust. The power to dream is the power to participate in creation itself…
…Shamans of the Andes and the Amazon believe that we can only access the power of this force by raising our level of consciousness. When we do so, we become aware that we’re like a drop of water in a vast, divine ocean, distinct yet immersed in something much larger than ourselves. It’s only when we experience our connection to infinity that we’re able to dream powerfully. In fact, it’s our sense of separation from infinity that makes us become trapped in a nightmare in the first place. To end the nightmare, to reclaim our power of dreaming reality and craft a better reality, we need to have a visceral understanding of our dreaming power in every cell of our body and stop feeling disassociated and disconnected…It takes courage to taste infinity.
The Earthkeepers believe that the world is real, but only because we are dreaming it into being. When we lack courage, we have to settle for the world that is being dreamed by our culture or by our genes — the nightmare. To dream courageously and be empowered, you must be willing to use your heart and make a conscious decision to dream a sacred dream of joy, peace, glory and having the life you want…”
“I don’t use drugs: my dreams are frightening enough”. M. C. Esher
Nightmares. We’ve all had some version of them, from a single mild disturbance to all out panic and repetitive horror shows. This next series of blogs will begin to address the “full catastrophe” of this ubiqitous phenomenon. (to quote one of my favorite characters Zorba, who is in turn quoted by John Cabot Zinn).
What causes nightmares? The whole range of things that influence our dreams (remember those layers from the last blog?) contribute to nightmares as well. Yes, that spicy pizza we ate last night can be an influence. More to the point though, they are usually generated by upsetting encounters or life circumstances that we’ve had over the last few days, stuck emotions or unsatisfied places in our life that we haven’t figured out what to do about yet, or long term unfinished business from our childhood or beyond. That “beyond” includes sensory and image memories that have not been encoded into language, or scenes from other lifetimes that seep through the thinned veil of our consciousness when we are asleep. Repetitive nightmares are an SOS from our unconscious- something is not right in Mudville, and our dreaming self is trying it’s darndest to get us to sit up and figure out what it is, and what we need to do about it.
First, a few words about kids and nightmares. Kids dreams are also affected by what is going on in their lives, but it is also important to know that having nightmares is a normal developmental stage for many children. From about 4 or 5 until about 8 or 9, many kids are just beginning to recognize that their previously “infallible and all protecting parents” are not perfect protectors, and that the world can be a scary place. This comes as a shock! “What do you mean that you can’t make Joey my hamster alive again?!”
It seems that this dawning consciousness that parents can’t do it all, and that they (the kids) will have to leave the nest for increasing periods of time, make this age span a common time of nightmares. They have to come to terms with how to negotiate and stay safe in the world, and anxieties can seep into sleep. For many kids, the nightmares resolve by themselves, with just a little TLC and good parenting techniques. For others, some of these tried and true methods may help restore them to feeling competence and power in their worlds.
Here are a few techniques that are helpful for kids to gain some power over their night monsters: (ps- they can work for adults too!)
Vanquishing the Nightmare
1. Never underestimate the power of a good nightlight to chase away the scary dark.
2. In addition to an actual nightlight, some kids love to have a “monster vaporizer” in the form of a flashlight, that when pointed into all the dark corners and under the bed, will automatically vaporize any lurking dangers.
3. Have them tell the story of the dream out loud, and join them in deciding what objects, other people, or magical/spiritual beings they want to bring with them into the dream or into the room to keep them safe.
4. Draw a picture of the nightmare, and then change the picture around by making it humorous (i.e., put a funny hat on the monster), or adding the magical safety items from #3 to the picture.
5. Talk back to the monster, once it is safely contained (i.e. put it in jail, or a cage, or behind a fence or a force field). Even “Na na na na na – you can’t get me!” can be very powerful for a certain age set.
6. My daughter’s personal favorite when she was that age: Draw the dream monster or bad guy, then scribble over it with a heavy black magic marker until it is completely obliterated. Then, if that is not yet enough, rip the paper into tiny shreds. Then, if that is not yet enough, burn the shreds of paper safely in a big pot or container. Then, if that is not yet enough, flush the ashes down the toilet! (part of this method is adapted from “Gentle Reprocessing”, developed by Diane Spindler as a variation on EMDR using imagery.) Keep going until you get to until you get to “Dayenu!” (from the Passover Haggadah, meaning “It would be enough!”
7. Have a conversation with the dream monster or bad guy: Find out why it is there, what it wants, and how to appease or befriend it. Feed it a cookie. See what gift it has brought for the young dreamer. (A great book you can read to young readers, and older ones can read to themselves is “The Wizard of EarthSea”, the first book of “The EarthSea Trilogy” by Ursula Leguin. This great allegory/story closes with the young wizard Ged learning how to face his monsters.)
8. Don’t forget about Native American dreamcatchers: hung over the bed, they “catch” the bad dreams, and the hole in the middle lets the good ones come through.
9. And, of course, hugs, and lullabies, and cuddling, and the power of true and loving presence.
Next time- adults and nightmares: the long and the short of it: methods, techniques, ways to empower yourself, when to seek professional help.
Summer time- this one’s just for fun. I started thinking about how many different ways we use the word “dream” in our language. This little word can have so many different meanings—so versatile! It seems that we are fascinated with this whole concept of “dream states”, and use the concept for a variety of feelings and ideas. The most common meaning for the word “dream” is of course the kind we have at night, but the word is used to refer to so many things I thought it might be fun just to look at them. I invite you to add to the list.
The origin of the word “dream”in the English language is from the Middle English “dreem” (1050) and originally meant joy, mirth, and gladness. In Hebrew the word for dream is “chalom” (rhymes with shalom), and it means both dream and vision depending on how it is used, and the context of the usage. The bible has translated the same word differently according to who was speaking. Joseph and Solomon were said to have “dreams”, while Elijah and Moses were said to have “visions”. Martin Luther King had a dream “…I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s creed…that all men are created equal.” This was his vision for the future; we can hope that he was prophetic in this.
So, we have night dreams, we have visionary dreams, and we have “day dreams”. We have day-dreams while we are awake, and our mind is taking a little trip on it’s own away from wherever we actually are. Daydreaming has been used to refer to simply looking out the window and “spacing out”, and also to “wool gathering” or musing on our own more interesting thoughts or fantasies instead of paying attention to whatever is happening in the room right now.
Then there is the concept of dreams as “wishful thinking”- as in, “I’ve been dreaming of going to Greece for over 20 years.” Related, but slightly different, is dream as what you aspire to; a strongly desired goal or cherished ambition as in “I’ve always dreamed of touring with a rock band” as you practice your guitar riffs. Realizing these ambitions and satisfying a wish are also referred to as a “dream come true”. And what is “the American dream” anyway? Westward expansion? a house in the suburbs?, making it big? What is your dream–do you have a dream garden, or a dream vacation, or a dream date?
My daughter was given an assignment in her English class to write about what is meant by the idea of “dreams deferred” while studying the book “A Raison in the Sun”. Mama’s dream in the book is to have a nice house with a garden; Walter wants to be the man of the house, and Bethena dreams of becoming a doctor- something which a black southern girl of that era could “only dream of”.
On the other side of the spectrum, the word dream is also used to refer to bunk, garbage, a waste of time, as in “Stop dreaming- that will never happen”, “It’s just a pipe dream” or “Stop dreaming and do your homework.” In this category may also be the concept of being unrealistic, or suffering delusions “You’re just dreaming- snap out of it”. It is interesting to me that the same word is used to refer to very opposite concepts and ideas- why do you think this is so? If some one is “living in a dream world” is that a positive or negative thing? “Dreams” and “hallucinations” are sometimes used interchangeably.
Then we have perfection, or “It’s too good to be true” (as in “This is my dream job)”, a beautiful love object (“He‘s so dreamy”) and something that works very well and smoothly (as in “It runs like a dream). When we imagine something that may be beyond our present reach, we are said to be dreaming about it (“You’re just dreaming”). On the contrary, when there is something we would never do, we say “I wouldn’t dream of it.” “Dreamy images” are usually vague or blurry.
And just think of the songs with dream in their title, or part of the words!: “Daydream Believer” (The Monkeys), “…Whenever I want you all I have to do, is dream a little dream-of you…” (Everly Brothers), “Last night I had the strangest dream, I ever had before, I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war…” (I think maybe by Arlo Guthrie), “California Dreaming” (The Mamas and the Papas) “Oh What a Day for a Daydream” (The Lovin Spoonful), “Day Dreaming “ (Aretha Franklin), “Dream Lover” (Bobby Darin), “Dream On” (Aerosmith), “In Your Wildest Dreams” (Tina Turner w/ Barry White), “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” (Stevie Wonder), ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (Eurythmics), “Sweet Dreams’ (Beyonce), “Teenage Dream” (Katy Perry), “Dreamlover” (Mariah Carey), “Dreams” (van Halen) and so on and on and on…
I bet you can you add to the list.
And sometimes we are able to succeed “beyond our wildest dreams”.
This has been a summer of inner and outer travel. Since my last post in June, I have journeyed on the physical plane (actually by plane) to Berkeley, CA. to present a workshop at the International Dream conference (IASD), then two weeks later to Chautauqua Institute in Western New York to teach a different class on dreams. On the inner plane; perhaps because of being immersed in the dream world at these conferences, or the alignment of the of planets, or some connection with the Mysteries; or “`D’: ‘all of the above ”, I have also been traveling a lot on the plane of the waking dream world known as synchronicity.
Synchronicity, a term coined by Carl Jung, is defined as “the experience of two or more events that seem unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner”. Sometimes known as meaningful coincidences, this is the waking dream weave of strange coincidences; of déjà vu; of unusual meetings and “out of the blue” connections and happenings. Wikipedia states that synchronistic events “reveal an underlying pattern…and a larger conceptual framework”. We accidentally stumble across this world at times, but if we stop, pay attention, and tune in, we begin to see more and more of these other worlds that connect us to a Framework larger than ourselves.
The old adage of “we see what we are looking for” holds true here. The more we attend to the signs that the universe provides for us, the more we begin to notice them. The uncanny quality of this seeing and knowing is connected to our ability to “dream while awake”, to access other ways and other planes of knowing. It allows us to connect with Spirit and to be refreshed by it.
One example of this happened for me at the IASD conference. I was walking along the marina and was explaining to a collegue about the Lao Tse quote (am I a man dreaming that I am a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?), when at that exact moment a large black and yellow swallowtail butterfly flew over our heads, circled a few times, and then landed on the bush next to us. We stopped in our tracks, delighted, and enjoyed the moment of synchronistic communion with that swallowtail. And if that wasn’t enough, the next day I attended a workshop about dreams in Bali. The presenter told us that she asked the local shaman there “What is the best possible dream that a Balinese could have?” and his reply was “To dream of a butterfly on a flower:” When I told the presenter about my encounter, her response was “I think that you received a blessing”; which is just how I felt.
The poets and mystics have always known that there is more to our world than we are consciously aware of or can measure. Quantum physicists for years now have been in the process of proving Einstein’s theory of relativity. There really does seem to be a “time-space continuum” that is not solely the province of science fiction or Star Trek. Jung himself felt there was a connection between the theory of relativity and quantum physics, and scientists are now confirming that our intuitions about time travel and distance consciousness are actually scientifically valid.
Lewis Carroll has an additional view on synchronicity and non-linear time, with the White Queen’s words to Alice in “Through the Looking Glass”:
“…The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday–but never jam to-day”.
‘ ’It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
’No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.”
‘ ’I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!”
‘ ’That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first—
‘ ’Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’ ’
–but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.”
‘ ’I’m sure MINE only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.”
‘ ’It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.
Those following the recent news (outside of wars and politics) know that on the 4th of July the “hot off the press” news from quantum physics is that that they have found the “Higgs Bosun”: what they call the “God Particle”. While hard to explain and understand fully, this discovery has to do with patterns of symmetry in nature; and that all matter, even weightless matter, has mass. This discovery of a new particle may hold a key to understanding the nature of the universe.
Wow. Makes synchronicity seem almost matter of fact. Or perhaps just confirms the point- the line between dreams and “reality” is very fine indeed.
Von Franz reminds us that when Jung spoke of the transforming nature of dream work he said, “It is not understanding the dream that brings about transformation, but the intensity with which we engage the images.”
I had a Eureka moment a few weeks ago. We’ve long known that working on our dreams can be therapeutic; we can get insights into our world and ourselves when we grapple with the images that we channel at night. What I recently discovered, however, is that the process of engaging with the dreams can actually be similar to the type of reprocessing work that is done in the body/mind modality of EMDR. EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; a body/ mind therapy that helps people reprocess upsetting and traumatic events. What follows is how this works with dreams. I call the dream process “Title and Re-Title”- you will see why.
Titling the Dream
One of the best ways to capture what Ernest Hartman calls the Central Image (C.I.) of the dream is to give it a title. The C.I. usually contains the core of the dream: the center of the dream’s energy or power, or the main theme is held here. I advise dreamers to let the title emerge spontaneously, not to think about it too hard. Just let the title rise up from your unconscious as you put your attention on the dream as a whole. If the title surprises you; even better- that means you’ve tapped into something your deepest self knows, that is about to emerge into your consciousness as well. The title usually reflects this Central Image. Sometimes the place in the dream with the most energy is clear to us; sometimes less so. We often start our dreamwork by asking for the title; it then serves as a signpost pointing the way to something that we want to be sure not to miss in the dream.
While working on dreams in my own dream circle a few weeks ago, one member titled her dream “Things Are Unclear”. After we worked on it for a while, my friend Marcia asked “So, would you give it a different the title it now?” Sure enough- the title had changed from “Things Are Unclear” to “Diving”. The feelings in and about the dream changed too- from “I feel foggy, this doesn’t feel so good and I don’t understand what it means”, to “Oh, now I have a new perspective; I can dive down into that water and discover what is there for me”
Suddenly I had a Eureka moment: “OMG-This is like EMDR! The negative cognition in the first title got transformed to a positive cognition in the second title, and the negative charge is off the emotions.” So- what does that mean, for those not familiar with EMDR? The standard EMDR protocol has people identify the problem they want to work on along with the concurrent negative belief or cognition they developed about themselves. They then identify the positive belief about themselves that they would rather have be true, in light of the problem they are grappling with, but usually isn’t yet. The protocol continues with identifying the emotions, locating where in the body they are held, and what the level of distress is on a scale of 0-10. This discussion begins the desensitization process; taking the edge off the material by discussing and sharing it. Once this set-up is completed, a series of bilateral stimulation sets that activate the two sides of the brain are done: this adds the reprocessing part. The bilateral stimulation to the brain is usually done using eye movements, following some one’s hand or a light on a bar with the eyes from one side of the field of vision to the other (bilateral auditory tones or tapping can also be used as an alternative).
This accelerated form of therapy can often allow people to reprocess traumatic memories in a much shorter time than they otherwise would have needed to get the same insights, shifts in perspective, and relief from strong upsetting feelings. It is important to state that only professionals who have received specialized training can responsibly practice EMDR. (For more information on EMDR, see www.EMDRIA.org, or Francine Shapiro, the founder of the method.)
The Re-processing Re-titling in the Dream
Back to the dreamwork. We “reprocessed” her dream as we discussed it, offered ideas, and made suggestions, “aired it out” by using a number of different methods of dreamwork. (some I have already blogged about, like Gesault, associations, symbol meanings; others I will talk more about in upcoming posts) The energy of the dream shifted from a negative to a more positive stance. In EMDR speak, she had reduced her distress level in the dream, and felt more strongly about the new positive beliefs and options the dream work uncovered.. It is worth noting, I think, that REM sleep has been compared to EMDR in several scholarly articles, since both involve eye movements and unconscious processing. (if you are interested, you can read the research by Robert Stickgold in Nature Neuroscience, 2007 and in Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2008). Brain scans have shown that the same parts of the brain are used in both REM sleep and in EMDR.
I tried out this method of “Title and Re-Title” several more times in the dream circle I facilitate. Here are some of the “titling” shifts that occurred after the dreamwork (by “dreamwork”, i mean that the “aha” moments occurred, the connections with life were made, and the plans to address the issue raised in the dream somehow in waking life had been articulated). Watch what happens to each dream after only about 15-30 minutes of work on it.
Original title: “Broken Glass”
New title after dreamwork: “Picking Up the Pieces”
Original title: “Earthquake”
New title after dreamwork: “Rebirth”
Original title: “Dark Energies”
New Title after dreamwork: “Claiming My Power”
The original titles all contain the “Central Image” of dreams that were associated with distress for the dreamer, as obvious by the titles, while the new titles all reflect hope, opportunity, or some kind of growth. It seems that something powerful is at work here.
Try out “Title and Re-title” with your dream buddy or dream circle or therapist!
It is on the whole probable that we continually dream, but that consciousness makes such a noise that we do not hear it.” Carl Jung
Last time we discussed a few techniques to help you remember your dreams. Developing a practice of dream recall is like any other practice–it gets better with practice! So don’t be discouraged if it takes a while before you remember them on any regular basis. Also, it is perfectly normal to have periods of time where you remember many dreams, and dry periods where you can’t capture a thing. It could be that your daily life is so full at the moment that there is no room in your psyche for more information to come through. Or you may already be working deeply in your waking life (in therapy, in journaling, in deep conversations, for example), so that your dream muse feels that your inner life is being covered for now! In any case, here is a handy list that may help you to “prime the pump” of your dream life.
TIPS FOR REMEMBERING DREAMS
1. Be prepared, or, you can’t fool your unconscious. Have dream recording materials right by your bed so your dreaming self knows you are serious.
2. Accept and value every dream or dream fragment; don’t dismiss anything as too trivial or too small. Write down even a word or phrase if that’s all that comes through- you will be amazed at how much information you can get out of just one word once we get into understanding the dream material.
3 Pick an unpressured period of time to try to remember (like a vacation or weekend) if there has been a long period of non-remembering.
4. Allow yourself to waken spontaneously without an alarm clock. One friend of mine calls her alarm clock her “dream eraser”!
5. On waking, lie still and review the dream in your mind before moving. Allow the lingering images of the last scenes to act as a hook to help you recall earlier portions.
6. Record your dream before doing anything else – even before sitting up if possible. Of course, if you remember it later in the day, it’s never too late to write it down. I seem to have a penchant for remembering in the shower – so I just keep repeating it to myself until I am dry enough to write it down.
7. If you know that you had a dream but can’t remember even a bit of it, write the date and the word “dream” in your dream journal, thus honoring the process and prompting future remembering.
8. Share the dreamout loud with another to set it orally as well as in writing.
9. Lie down and bring your body back to the same position that you slept in to stimulate positional recall. I love this one- if I lay down on my side and curl up, even later in the day, I can often recapture the felt sense of the dream, and then the rest of it rolls in.
10. Use the image of wrapping yourself in the dream as you would a shawl –- taking the edges of the dream and wrapping them around you to envelope you back inside the dream. Feel with your body the sensations of being wrapped up in a cozy shawl of dreams.
11. Write down your immediate thoughts and/or feelings as you awaken, even if you don’t think they came from the dream. They may have emerged from the “hypnopompic or hypnogogic zones”, the in-between states between waking and sleeping.
12. Sketch out, or draw your dream. A picture can be worth a thousand words- sometimes we get insight when we can see the dimensions and colors and shapes of our dream images that words alone cant do justice to.
13. Practice dream incubation before going to sleep at night. In brief, this means spending a few minutes before going to sleep writing down the question you want answered; and then writing the dream down on the same page, so that you can see the connections between your question and the answer; which may be in dream code and then figured out in relation to the question. Next time- more on this…
May your dreams be abundant! Let me know how it goes…
As a therapist, I always encourage my clients to record and bring in their dreams to work on. The dreams can often help us to zero in on the core of the issue very quickly, and can give us a quick snapshot to focus on. I practice what I preach- I have been a member of my own dream circle for over 25 years, and still delight in the dream discoveries we make with each other every month.
So what to do if you have trouble remembering your dreams- or think that you don’t dream?
First off, rest assured that everyone dreams every night- sleep studies that chart our REM sleep (REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement, the quick movements our eyelids make when we are dreaming) show that on average, we all have about six dreams per night (There are about six cycles of REM and non-REM sleep each night). This is predicated on an average of 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you are one of the lucky ones who can get by on less, then you probably have fewer cycles. We generally only remember the dreams that occur in the cycle right before we wake up.
To enhance dream recall there are several things you can do. First of all, you need to want to remember them. It seems simplistic, but if you think about it, we tend to remember things better that are important to us, that we put our minds to. So when you go to sleep at night, tell yourself that you want to remember your dreams; and you promise to pay attention to the messages they are sending you. After that, don’t trust to memory alone when you awake. Dreams are like puffs of smoke or wisps of fog- move too quickly and poof! they disappear.
Most dreams are like helium balloons– they need to be tied down to stay with us. Invest in a journal, and keep it right next to your bed, along with a pen or sharpened pencil. You can now even get special “night-light” pens that light up in the dark either online, or at most office supply stores. Try to write down your dream as soon as possible upon waking. Alternately, you can use a tape recorder to capture it, but you then have to be disciplined to transcribe it later.
Move as little as possible, so that you don’t disturb the fragile dream fabric. Sit up slowly, or even write while still lying down. If you had a dream, and it slipped away, try putting your body back into the same position it was in when you woke- your body has “positional memory”, and you can often re-capture the dream if you return to the same position.
Try to write it down in the same order in which you dreamed it-– what happened first, next, last in a dream makes a difference when you are working with it later. If you are afraid you will forget it if you don’t write down the end first, go ahead and do so, then re-write it in order, or at least make arrows and notations so you know the order in which you actually dreamed the scenes. Date each entry— that way you begin to have a record of dreams and themes that re-occur, and can check them against what was going on in your life that day or week to get some immediate connections and insights. Don’t try to analyze while you are recording the dream– it can get confusing to sort out what was your dream, and what were your thoughts about your dream later on. If I have some immediate associations, I write a section I call “notes” after the dream, and then jot down my thoughts so they don’t contaminate the actual dream material.
Coming soon– more tips on recall, ancient dream temples, and what it means to purposely “incubate” a dream. Please share this blog and these ideas with others who may have interest.