Monday, April 22, 2013

More on Imagery Change Analysis

I had this dream the other night, which illustrates the value of imagery change analysis.

I was in a dark house, and looking into a cage. There is a bird in the cage, but I cannot identify it. I think at first it could be Birdita (my pet dove), but I recall that she is "at large" in the house. I reach into the darkness and carefully take the bird, and bring it into the light. It is an Inca dove (as is Birdita), but it looks robust and wild--larger, too. I immediately decide to release it, so I head for the front door. I walk outside and hold the bird up in the air, allowing it to stand on my palm. I expect it to fly away, but it only "rouses" and settles back onto my hand. I realize that it does not want to go free. So I take it back into the house, and begin looking for a cage that I can use for the bird. It seems that there is a cage in the attic, so I ask Ryan and Julie to help me retrieve it (since I am holding the bird). We cannot seem to find it, so I decide, once again, that the bird should go free. At first I try to return to the front door, but I cannot find my way through a maze of furniture. It seems that I am in a mall now, and a retaurant is between me and the front door. As I try to slip through the chairs, I notice a leg portruding from my arms. I realize that I am carrying an infant! I finally give up trying to get through the barriers to the front door, and I walk toward the back door. Now I feel what I believe to be the bird standing on my shoulders, as Birdita does when she is most affectionate. I reach up to feel the bird as we approach the back door, but I feel a person's arm! I turn around and see that an ugly woman has been riding on my back. I put her down, and lean over and kiss her goodbye. She seems surprised, and taken aback that I would kiss her. But it seems somehow important. I turn around and see Birdita perched nearby. I take her up and go in search of her cage.

In this dream, the imagery emerges out of darkness, and takes on several forms in the course of my searching for a solution for the "burden" of the wild dove. At first the imagery is ambiguous, shrouded in darkness. My own expectations can be seen as "determining" the image of the bird that emerges from the darkness. My commitment to its freedom seems noble and appropriate, but it doesn't match the dove's intent. So something that I believe belongs in nature, and apart from me, seems intent on staying with me. I accept that, and shift to accommodating it. But I cannot find an appropriate way to accommodate its presence in my life, so I shift back toward releasing it. Then the image changes to a baby; that is, something that one would not "release" into the world. It needs nurturing and support before it can stand on its own. But then it changes into a hag, which of course is the mythological bearer of truth for a man. Instead of reacting to her ugliness, I kiss her, and then let her go. This act seems to bring me full circle--to the point where I'm only caring for my old companion Birdita (a wounded dove that I have had for over 10 years).

Regardless of the fact that this was my dream, I think it's clear that the dreamer is struggling with whether to free something or to keep something that would depend on him. Whenever we employ imagery change analysis, it's important to see each change as contingent on what the dreamer felt, thought or did just prior to its transformation. As it becomes clear that the dreamer intends to keep the bird, the level of responsibility grows considerably when it turns into a baby. Then it assumes a further "burdensome" appearance in the form of the hag. But the dreamer does not reject the obligation to care for her. This was a very big moment, a turning point, in which the dreamer's willingness to accept the "hideous damsel" allows everything apparently to return to normal. But is it? Of course not. The dreamer kissed the hag, and we must infer from that action that the dreamer and whatever the hag represents have come into alignment and are now (at least for now) congruent and one.

As a class of imagery, we can infer that the dreamer was dealing with his emotional nature, in particular with the issue of dependency? All of the dreamer/dream exchanges connote different aspects of relational or emotional dependency. First the dreamer is willing to reach into the darkness and embrace the visitor, which can be seen as some newly emergent aspect of his feeling nature. If I was in therapy, I would of course explore my associations to these issues, and have plenty to say. I am newly married, and my son lives with me, to cite two obvious parallels. But regardless of the dream-waking parallels, suffice to say that I am happy with what the dreamer did in response to this "initation" into deeper obligation and relational intimacy. So should those who depend on me, and I them.

As for something I would encourage you to "get" from this example, it's this: The imagery evolves or regresses in response to the dreamer's moment-to-moment feelings, thoughts and attitudes. Whenever the dreamer exhibits a resilient response to the dream, the imagery tends to shift accordingly. If the dreamer locks down and fails to respond positively, the imagery will shift to the negative. By tracking this process with a dreamer, the dream worker can naturally encourage the dreamer to reflect on waking life parallels, and troubleshoot current patterns of response.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Carl Sagan's opinion of my work

It was interesting to find out today that the late Carl Sagan cited my work in his book The Demon Haunted World, which was published a year before his death. The reference to "demons" refers to me, of course, as a so-called believer in non-empirical reality. When I read the passage--a rather lengthy one--I was amazed that such rant could pass for prose. But then again, I am not a famous scientist.

When I was writing my book, I Am with You Always: True Stories of Encounters with Jesus, an engineer friend asked me, with obvious agitation, "How do you know if the experiences are real?" I was silent, having nothing to say. I could see that my friend and I lived in different worlds. For me, a person's experience is never real in the sense that he wanted it to be. I gave up years ago expecting anything of enduring meaning to be measurable. I love. Is that real? I dream. Is that real? Once you surrender the need for empirical reality, there's a still a lot left that's far from demonic. I pay my taxes, I change my oil, and I gaze at the stars, but that's not where I live. The longing I feel when I gaze at the stars is the place where I live. I don't understand how anyone can presume to dismiss that felt sense of meaning that cannot ever be produced on demand.

I struck what I considered to be a rather even approach to the religious experiences that I reported in IAWYA, and in Blessed Among Women, both of which have been republished under Ave Maria Press under different titles (See I assumed a phenomenological stance, but I let my reader know that I had had my own mystical experiences. If Carl Sagan had ever experienced his first out-of-body experience, or just a single encounter with Light, he would have softened his attack on those who believe in something they cannot see through the lens of a telescope. When I hear today of parallel universes, and of other mystical-sounding realities at the edge of the known universe, I cannot understand why Sagan would dismiss without hesitation the foundation upon which so many people, of so many faiths, live meaningful lives.

Perhaps, before too long, I will be able to have a conversation with Dr. Sagan about empirical vs. non-empirical reality. I predict he and I will we be a lot smarter then.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Essential Frameworks

In my dream analysis training, I emphasize the dreamer's "global response set" as a co-creative or co-determining influence. We focus on what the dreamer feels, thinks, and does as a determining influence in the dream's unfoldment, seeing the dream as a "branching" experience--that is, one of many possible outcomes. This permits the client to view the dream as a process that mirrors the waking response to life, rather than as an event to be interpreted.

This emphasis on the dreamer's subjectivity and actions may seem overdone, especially in light of how I actually work with dreams in practice. Working with the imagery is very important to me.

What are the essential frameworks that I use? Years ago, I immersed myself in two different systems: Jung's archetypes, and the Eastern chakras. If one can acquire a sophisticated understanding of these two systems, the dream worker will possess a comprehensive backdrop to an ostensible process-oriented approach to dreams. This gives rise to a rich, relational approach that appreciates the depth and mystery of the imagery, but provides some general understandings of what the imagery might relate to.

The imagery is rarely fixed, and even if it appears to be stable over the course of a dream, we nonetheless view the imagery as "mutable" and responsive to the dreamer's changing response set. Rather than changing arbitrarily, the imagery usually fluctuates within a given category, showing regression or progression in refinement based on the dreamer's evolving or regressing responses. Since the imagery usually stays within a given category, then it is important to 1) understand the nature of that category, but 2) understand the range of possible expressions within a given category. For example, if the category is related to the third chakra (power, fight and flight), it's important to be able to work with a dreamer to ascertain the differences between "Holly, my pet cat who I had to put down recently" and "a Tibetan snow leopard." These animals occupy the same category, but the imagery obviously points to very different, client-conditioned understandings of a momentary snapshot of that influence in his or her life.

If you really want to master the Jungian archetypal system, the work of contemporary Jungians such as Robert Johnson and Marion Woodman may be more useful than the original works of Jung himself.  Or if you're like me, you may want to hear it from the "horse's mouth." Volume 9, 1 of Jung's collected works (The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious) provides a good immersion into his own thinking. As an overview, you might want to read Man and His Symbols. Regardless, eing able to work competently with shadow imagery (and having done one's own shadow work, as well) is very important. Also, you need to be completely comfortable with the anima-animus concept.

 As for an introduction to the chakras, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism is a very sophisticated approach. But Edgar Cayce's readings on the seven centers can be very useful, if also a bit abstruse.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New paper to be published soon

I just completed a new paper that will be published in the International Journal of Dream Research in an upcoming issue, if not the next one. It is is entitled, "A New Method of Dream Analysis Congruent with Contemporary Counseling Approaches." I have posted an unedited draft on my DreamStar website, at

The paper is at

I will also be posting a research paper that Mark Thurston and I have been working on, titled,
"Dream Reliving and Meditation as a Way to Enhance Reflectiveness and Constructive Engagement in Dreams: A Pilot Study" in the next few days. We will make the unedited author's draft available (as soon as we've finalized the report) at the DreamStar site. We're very excited about this tandem induction method, and will be following it up with a more rigorously controlled study.

  I've just launched a new podcast, titled DreamStar Institute Presents "Dreamwork with Dr. Scott Sparrow." My first episode i...