Monday, April 22, 2013
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
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 www.spiritualmentoring.com). 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
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
The paper is at http://www.dreamanalysistraining.com/offsite/offsite-9/styled-15/page66.html
I will also be posting a research paper that Mark Thurston and I have been working on, titled,
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Instead of asking, "What does this image mean?" which implies that the image is fixed, and has a fixed meaning, you might ask, "How does this image change in the course of the dream?" and "How does the imagery's changes reflect the dreamer's changes in belief, attitude or response?" Through such questioning, you can assist the dreamer in understanding how the reciprocal relationship between dreamer and dream content is a growing, or regressing process--that the dreamer is either moving toward integration of some issue, or moving away from it. Also, when you focus on imagery changes, you end up analyzing two or more discrete images that, while different, may fit within a broad class of images. Take for instance a dream of a 48-year-old woman that I worked with yesterday. Without telling you the whole dream, consider the fact that she started by driving a car, then was on foot and nearly run over by a tractor trailer, then was in a hotel awaiting the departure of a sea cruise on an ocean liner. When she reflected on the change of imagery, she was able to see that the car, the tractor trailer and ocean liner were all ways to get somewhere, all means of transportation--and that they were moving from smaller to larger, and from smaller capacity to greater capacity. She also reflected on how the movement reflected a letting go and depending on others. Her willingness to shift from an individualistic to a relational agenda was reflected in the shift of imagery from car to ocean liner. Significantly, while she was largely alone at the beginning of the dream, or with people who did not seem to have any direction or agenda, she was with her boyfriend at the end, waiting for their ship to come in.
Focusing on how images change will naturally guide the conversation toward classes of images and away from specificity. This helps the dreamer see that a series of outwardly disparate images can actually refer to a general life issue rather than to one specific situation. Those of you familiar with various hierarchical systems of life domains, such as the Eastern concept of chakras, or Maslow's hieracrchy of needs, will find that this shift from specific to general imagery will help the dreamer understand that a dream may reflect a struggle /and or a resolution of a basic problem related to survival, affiliation, power, service, or any of the other main dimensions of life that have been defined in such comprehensive systems. This may seem overly complicated, but in actual practice it comes across as a natural, client-centered form of inquiry. To show you how imagery change analysis fits comfortably into co-creative dream practice, I will be posting a video of working with the woman and the dream that I have mentioned here.
Friday, December 28, 2012
When we focus on the dreamer’s responses, we can’t assign a “good” or “not so good” assessment without the dreamer, because we all have different chronic ways of responding to life. If you tend to be rather passive, and depend on others, it comes through this dream, and it might not be the “cutting edge” of your development. But if you tend to be a controlling person, then this dream shows another side of life, whereby you are calm and taken care of--perhaps a very different kind of experience than you’re used to. So I would need to ask you, “What represents a creative and new (for you) way of responding to life? Going with the flow? If so, this dream shows you trusting a great deal. But if you are already calm and tend to be passive, you might look upon the dreamer’s level of response as reflective of a style that might need to be challenged (by you).
Regardless of the level of the dreamer’s response to these challenges, it certainly seems to work out, suggesting that you are getting through things with lots of support, either from within yourself and/or from other people in your life.
After analyzing your responses, we would turn to the imagery and get your associations. The old man, your cousin, the Euphrates, etc. In the case of the two male figures, they don’t do much directly--there’s no verbal communication. The lack of interaction is intriguing,and I’d want to explore that with you. But at least we can see that Christopher’s presence seems to coincide with your rescue, again conveying the sense that you’re being watched over and cared for by strong and capable support.
When we factor in your friend’s dream, as a possible psychic connection, it’s tempting to insert him into the helper role for you, isn’t it? You don’t dream of each other, but the situations are similar, and he is the rescuer in his dream. Interestingly, he experiences rescuing one of his children, and you are as helpless as a child, only able to doggie paddle. In a way, it’s a wonderful overlap, suggested psychic support from him. But again, you would need to ask, “Is this my customary role, and will depending on him unbalance our friendship?” It could be a refreshing and bonding experience for both of you or it can be “chronic” and unbalanced. It takes both of you participating in this analysis to answer these questions. I certainly cannot, but this process, which focuses on relational dynamics raises the questions that need to be asked, don’t you think?
If you'd like to share more reflections on your dream, please do so. I might have more to say at that point. Thanks for sharing your dream!
Monday, August 6, 2012
I recalled the time in 1977 that I studied with Ullman at his home in NY. I was developing a dream course for the Association for Research and Enlightenment, and the ARE wanted to take into consideration a variety of approaches in our final methodology. Toward the end of the first day of the group seminar, I asked him if he'd ever considered adding a step that would analyze the narrative structure, which Mark Thurston and I tended to call the "theme" back then (even though our approach to "theme" varied somewhat from the variety of excellent approaches espoused today). He said, "No." So I asked, "Why not?" He said, "Because I don't think it's necessary."
The night after I asked him the question about the theme, he had a dream about a young man who drove up to his house in a red sports car, and seemed to cause a bit of a stir. After we worked on his dream, he admitted that he thought our conversation had provoked the dream, and that the younger man was essentially I, or the part of Monty that I represented! He went on to way that I was the first person ever to challenge his method. I felt both honored and embarrassed.
Our interaction after that exchange was warm, respectful, and playful. I went on to develop a five-step dreamwork method for ARE's course and Monty gave me his blessing to use his method and to modify it as I thought necessary. He was an open-minded man, and his blessings meant a lot.
Regarding the way to use "if this were my dream..." I am reminded of when ARE got into a similar hair-splitting controversy over prayer, of all things. The chief experts on prayer (a group called the Healing Prayer Group that had been meeting weekly since the 1930s) decided it was a bad idea to pray for someone unless you obtained his or her permission. Some of us found that amusing, others thought it was a deadly serious matter.
Down here in south Texas, we have a saying in Spanish, "No sea mas papista que el papa." Don't be more papal than the pope.
IASD includes members from a variety of different dreamwork traditions, which represent different paradigms of approach. Take, for instance, the latest issue of Dreaming, which contains a paper by David Jenkins on narrative approaches to dream work. From Kuhn's standpoint, a narrative approach to dream work is a different paradigm, and thus opens up new questions and problems. The story line, and its climax or lack thereof, becomes more important than the component images. Similarly, my focus on relational or interactive processes in dreams focuses primarily on reciprocal dynamics that co-determine the dream outcome, rather than focusing imagery, and thus downplays interpretation and the potential violations that accompany a content-oriented model. So there are other ways around the particular problem of intrusive projections, but they may not appeal to everyone.
I am also reminded that Monty believed that dreams may have evolved to serve a social function. If so, the mere sharing of them brings us closer together. If this is true, then dreams have been facilitating social bonding way before any of us figured out how to do it "right." Not that we should give up and simply let whatever happens happen. But there's no need to get in the way of normal processes that occasionally cross the line. Even when people say too much, I think more good comes from it than bad. At least we get to know each other. Indeed, as a group therapist, I think that group is effective only when it is slightly less dangerous than real life. Without sufficient unpredictability in the real-life sharing of dreams, then the possibility of a "corrective emotional experience," in which the dreamer/client experiences something wholly unexpected--stressful but growth enhancing--could never happen. I'd rather think that allowing enough room for excess and error are the way that the dream can have the last word.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
As dream workers, we can not only acknowledge the possibility that we may see something that the dreamer does not, or will not, see; we can provide informed consent by saying from the outset that dream sharing activates an interpersonal process that may involve unexpected and unwanted contributions that partake of the dream worker's accurate perceptions of underlying truth, distorted projections based on our own unfinished business, or a combination thereof. In any case, we would do well not to take refuge in a simplistic view which, while sounding politically correct, does not do justice to the rich and unwieldy process that dream sharing activates.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Step Two: Theme
Someone receives something that seems to have lost its content, beauty or value, and disposes of it in a way that mildly offends others. He also becomes aware of something that has value but is not in use.
Step Three: Responses
You accept the flower cellophane, but do not engage the woman, nor ask her any questions. You could have asked her something, or said something. When you encounter the women in conversation, who evidence some annoyance, you don't interact. You don't defend yourself, you don't greet them, etc. Indeed, throughout, you do not engage anyone or anything except the flower remnants. While you consider the usefulness of the bicycle, you do not mount it, yet. But there is a sense that you may do so. So you remain somewhat aloof from most of the dream imagery.
Step Four: Imagery
If you were present, I would you dialogue with the woman, the two women, the flower remnants, and the bicycle, because there is so much there that never becomes revealed. I think it would be fruitful if you spoke to the woman, asked her questions, told her what you wanted, and then allowed her to respond. I think it would also be valuable for you to describe yourself as the flower remnants (once beautiful, now dried up, etc.) And what would you say to the women, who became annoyed at your mere presence.
They are much more active and engaged than you are. You seem to be on the outside looking into that relationship. But it seems positive that they are so active, as if to say, "How will you get into a relationship with us, because there's so much there and waiting for you?" Of course, the content may also pertain to external relationship dynamics, as well, where you might feel left out or overlooked.
I would also encourage you to become the bicycle and address the dreamer. I feel that you might hear a certain vitality and youthfulness beckoning for you to embark on an adventure. Alone, perhaps, but nonetheless something vital that would take you to a new place. The bicycle is old, but he's good and still able to bear you.
Also, I noticed that the "flowers" were changing toward the end, becoming something more substantial just as you discarded them. Thus the imagery is moving toward something that you don't notice. One principle in this approach to dreaming is that nothing is ever dead, but remains dormant until we bring it to life with our responses to it. Your careful examination of it seems to have altered it, but you give up on it, perhaps too soon, to discover its lingering vitality.
Step Five: Application
As for application, if this were my dream, I would want to take strides to engage others more (perhaps women), rather than to remain a witness. Or from another standpoint, perhaps it would be best to desist from those efforts and apply yourself in a more individual direction, as represented by the "road trip" on the bicycle. The bicycle is a solitary means of conveyance, so perhaps for now, you might need to invest in yourself, rather than lament the apparent absence of passion, intensity, etc., that the relationship with the women might indicate. One could do both, of course!
As a final step, I would encourage you to relive the dream in reverie, exercising new, more engaged responses at various junctures in the dream. Seize the moment, find your voice, and witness the changes in the imagery and outcome. I think reliving this dream could really unleash some of the pent-up forces of change that are clearly evident in the dream narrative.
In summary, I have done what I don't ordinarily do, which is to analyze the dream without the dreamer' present. But notice that I build everything that I say on the process that is clearly present in the dream. The specific "bridge" to your waking life is up to you, of course.
I hope this proves to be of value to you, Tony!
And here is Tony's response to my work:
Tony Hawkins wrote:
That's really terrific. You've filled in the gap between my fanciful head take (difficult not to on a computer - which is why I'm impressed with what you've done) and something more minimal and depressing. You've emphasized the field of emotions, which is where I really am. And it gives me a very personal example to go on. I appreciate it would be better to have had my responses. Have you ever done this online, it a chatroom type situation?
When the circus is finally over I'll visit your website. I've had a quick look. I'm sure I'll have more to say at some future time. Thanks again.
And here is Ryan Hurd's comment on my work with Tony's dream. Ryan, as you may know, is a well-known lucid dream researcher, blogger, and creator of the highly popular dream website, http://dreamstudies.org:
Ryan Hurd wrote:
Thanks, Scott, for this clear presentation of your dreamwork method! Seeing it in action with Tony's dream was also a treat (given the limitations of the medium). In particular, I really appreciate the "theme" step for revealing narrative structure.
My question right now is one of training. Do you intend this dreamwork method for all lay dreamworkers, or do you suggest it more for clinical psychotherapists with backgrounds like your own? (I see it is a method than can be used by lay dream workers or professional therapists alike.)
A final comment is that I am excited about the theoretical implications of the 5 star method. The dream is not a fixed text is a relationship in the making.
Me again: In summary, I believe that by challenging some faulty assumptions about dreams, we can view the dream as an interactive, relational process that can be analyzed according to the effects of the dreamer's feelings, assumptions, biases, and responses (or lack thereof). By remaining exclusively focused on what is evident in the dream, rather than what is not, the dream worker can engage the dreamer without overstepping healthy boundaries, and make a significant contribution to the dreamer's self knowledge, even when the dreamer is not present.
Of course, ideally, this method would be used between individuals who are in a real-time exchange. But in the absence of that, the FSM in good hands remains true to the noninvasive ideal of modern dream work. For a video demonstration, and a variety of papers related to the FSM, go to my DreamStar Institute website at dreamanalysistraining.com.
Two years ago during the IASD Psiberconference, I did a presentation on the FiveStar method, which was published as an article in a recent issue of Dream Time. During the web exchanges with people who read my paper, I agreed to demonstrate the FSM by working on a dream posted by Tony Hawkins from England. Tony wrote out his dream, and posted it. I, in turn, worked on it without having any exchanges ahead of time with him. While this may seem overly ambitious and unwise in practice, I think the results indicate that the FSM can produce useful information for the dreamer even when real-time exchanges are not possible.
Tony shared the following dream:
I am in the grounds of beautiful old college buildings. I step onto a gravel driveway as a tall beautiful, dark-haired young woman in flowing dress walking merrily away from a gathering of people, some sort of celebration, hands me cellophane wrapper from which she has just taken what I sense must be really big a bunch of flowers. I have a sense of white, full round heads. “This is for you.” some words like that as she hands me the empty wrapping. I hold it up against the sky looking into its transparent emptiness. There are scattered small grey flower-head or plant images on the wrapper, otherwise it is empty, perhaps a sense of tiny plant detritis. I have my arm in side. I turn to the right and walk into another old stone college building, enter its pristine courtyard, with immaculate lawns and square trimmed hedges. On the exquisite grass, against the exquisite hedge is an old bicycle standing, not really leaning, just terribly upright, straight wheels, as though it ought not to be there and somebody might come at any moment and remove it. Sitting before the grass, on the grass, on a bench, it’s not clear, are two prestigious looking women in earnest conversation. They are sensibly dressed. As I pass them I have taken four small branches with leaves, a bit dead looking, from the formerly empty wrapper. I tossed them down in a bunch/heap at the corner of the crisp lawn and hedge saying “Adding a little bit to the decoration” and keep walking. One of the women glances around looking very slightly puzzled and perturbed by this unwanted interruption to her conversation. The few sticks were, unlike the bicycle, in an untidy configuration and looking, even more than the bicycle, as though they were only fit to be removed. I kept walking lest I was called back to remove them myself. There was nothing about my offering which improved the look of the place.
Here is my work with Tony's dream, using the Five Star Method, which was posted as a response on Psiberconference's web board:
I read your dream when I awoke to meditate at 4:30 am, and thought about it quite a bit before I went back to sleep. I even had a dream that seemed related to it. But let me apply the FSM, and show you what it might reveal. Of course, I would prefer to be in dialogue with you as we worked on it together, but I will do my best to remain true to the model. As you will see, I can say a whole lot without engaging in "intrusive projections," which is more likely to happen in a content-focused, interpretive approach. But of course, without you present, my associations will be limited.
First I would ask you to retell the dream in the present tense, but since you're not here, I will proceed with your past-tense dream.
Step One: Feelings
I experience yearning, sadness, loneliness, annoyance, anger (toward the women), defensiveness, and excitement (as I look at the bicycle). You might not have these feelings, of course, but they came up in me.
I will share the rest of my work with Tony's dream, including his response to my work, but first try your own hand. What do you think is the theme, or process narrative for Tony's dream? If you don't know how to formulate a theme, take a look at the summary of the FSM, as follows, and see if you can come up with one. I will post the rest of my analysis of Tony's dream in a couple of days.
I. Share dream and feelings
Dreamer shares the dream in the first-person, present tense. Dream worker(s) identifies with the dreamer’s experience, and shares feelings that may arise. Dreamer also shares feelings provoked by the dream, too.
II. Formulate the theme
In collaboration with the dreamer, the dream worker(s) summarizes the action in the form of a
succinct theme. Avoid mention of specific images and names. Use generic nouns like “someone,”
“something,” or “somewhere” to replace specifics names, objects and places. Example:
“Someone is trying to get somewhere, and encounters an array of obstacles blocking his way.”
III. Highlight and troubleshoot dreamer responses
In collaboration with the dreamer, the dream worker(s) highlight and troubleshoot the dreamer’s responses to the dream content. Highlight the responses (i.e. assumptions and reactions) that
were made by the dreamer. Ask, “Where did the dreamer respond or react to the dream situations and characters?” Follow up with questions such as these,“Do you respond this way in other areas of your life?” “Is this a new response, or is it familiar?” “What was constructive about the dreamer’s response?” “What was unfortunate about the dreamer’s response?” “How could the dreamer have responded differently?” and “What do you think would have happened?”
IV. Analyze the imagery
The dreamer shares his or her associations with the images (amplification). The dream worker(s) can also provide associations and ideas, as well. As an added step, have the dreamer dialogue (role play) with dream images in order to enhance awareness and deepen the relationship with that part of himself/herself. The goal is to clarify the generic issue or unconscious agenda represented by the dream content. Also, the dream worker(s) and dreamer discuss any changes that may have occurred in the dream images in the course of the dream, and how those changes may have related to the dreamer’s responses.
V. Apply the dream
Ask the dreamer, “What would you like to do differently if this dream, or one that presents you
with a similar situation, should arise again? How do you think that affect the outcome?” Also ask
the dreamer, “Where else in your life can this new response be helpful? Where are you willing to
enact this new response?”
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Send the dream via email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will
Monday, November 14, 2011
In systems theory, this is called a runaway dynamic. It escalates until the system breaks down. We've all experienced it in various relationships in which two parties hold on to their respective positions, while the situation only gets worse. In theory, it's based on the premise articulated by Einstein, who defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result."
This is not only a dynamic between people, but it's a familiar dynamic WITHIN the psyche and in the confines of the dream. Indeed, we are often fighting battles to resist the expression of some legitimate urge or awareness, and only making it worse, because the "solution" that we impose only resists the expression of something that will not cease and desist. Finally, our efforts go bankrupt, and things usually get better (after the crisis is over!).
In co-creative dream theory, upon which the FiveStar Method is based, the dream is, simply put, a relational field, in which the dreamer interacts with a variety of aspects of self and others toward eventual integration, as the positions expressed by both clash, enter into dialogue, and eventually synthesize into new identity. Hegel is known for his elegant formula for the evolution of consciousness: "thesis, antithesis, synthesis." One can observe this process occurring in all areas of life, especially in dreams where unfinished business, orphaned aspects of self, and legitimate others (of indeterminate origin) enter into our psychic field and clamor for attention in the spirit of enlarging our perspective on life. Fortunately, the tide keeps rising no matter how committed we are to "non-solutions," that is, the repetition of self-preserving actions meant to end the conflict.
In our relational work with dreams, (See Step 3 in the FSM), we become sensitized to runaway dynamics, and thereby coach dreamers toward adopting more adaptive responses to the challenges presented. If the dreamer in the above dream had stopped building the seawall, she would have never faced the prospect of a cataclysmic collapse. The water would have flowed over her boundaries at a lower level of intensity, and she may have even enjoyed it! But dreamers tend to repeat old patterns which simply make the situation progressively worse.
Most of what we resist would fulfill us if we let it. That's the good news that we can bring into to our work with dreamers, who tend to view challenges through the narrow aperture of the ego's status quo. Fear and habit keeps us from receiving the gifts the dream brings us. Until we shift our perspective, the dream will do us a favor by ramping up the intensity of the encounter until we see the light of a new way of responding. The FSM is designed to encourage dreamers to perceive the oft-unacknowledged gifts of our dreams, and to welcome them.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
I turned 60 today, and the dream is a beautiful statement of existential issues that face any aging person. Am I lost? Can I find my way? Will I be united with the ones I love? Will I have help? Do I have enough left to make it? Dream provide a beautiful centerpiece to the discussion about meaning, destiny, and love. There is no better way to preface a depth conversation than with a dream that captures all of the issues, and alludes to mysteries not yet plumbed, such the identity of the wayshower, the kindness of the train conductor, the choices that will insure reunion with one's companions.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
In an attempt to consolidate some of my website assets, I have moved my old blog into my websites, and will begin to blog more regularly on dream topics, spirituality, and psychotherapy. I hope you will make comments to my postings. I will be monitoring my blog, so I will respond to your comments and questions. Thanks -- Scott
Extracting a dream theme is a powerful technique in and of itself. Indeed, some people have developed entire dream work approaches around the dream theme, even though there are slightly different ways to approach this method. Robert Gongaloff and Paricia Garfield have focused on universally occurring dream themes, and have tried to create an encompassing list of such themes. Mark Thurston and I were probably the first to write about dream themes back in the 1970, myself in a little article that was published in the Sundance Community Dream Journal, and Mark in a book that he wrote a year later. But Mark probably deserves the main credit for devising this simple, but powerful analytical method.
Mark and I have always thought that the dream should speak for itself; that is, the theme or process narrative (as we have called it in a recent paper that was published in the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health) should emerge from the dream structure, not be imposed from some predetermined list, however encompassing it might be. So our approach is to simply describe what's there--the action devoid of content. This approach is very similar to what family therapists do when they analyze the interactional dynamics of a family system. They believe that the specific content of a family's presenting problem is far less important than the way the family members are relating to each other. Not every family who struggles with, for example, a sexually active 15-year-old ends up in family therapy. Many families find ways to deal effectively with such challenges. So it's not the specific problem that causes the family's distress, it's the way they relate to each other around the problem. So a family therapist will observe how the family relates, rather than focusing on the content of their complaints, believing that the solution lies in changing how they are relating, rather than specifically addressing the content of the problem. Indeed, structural family therapists believe that the family will be able to address the problem effectively if, and only if, the family changes the way they relate.
Back to the dream theme. Dreamers are often "caught in the headlights" of the specific dream content. They are alarmed, intrigued, and otherwise preoccupied with the "what" of the dream, and thus do not see the underlying relational dynamics of the dream drama. For instance, if I dreamt that my boss was chasing me with a book, trying to hit me in the head with it, and I was able to avoid him by reciting his favorite poem, I might spend a great deal of time trying to figure out what a book meant, and what the particular poem meant. By focusing on the content, I might overlook the process narrative, which might reveal more to me than any association to the dream images might produce. The theme, "someone is trying to avoid someone else's aggression, and finally resolves the problem by appealing to his interests," could greatly expand my associations to the dream by temporarily diverting my attention away from the imagery. Not that we want to avoid the imagery, but unless we look at the underlying process at first, we may never see this dimension at all. When you effectively formulate a process narrative, sometimes the dreamer will immediately see one or more parallels in the waking life. It's a powerful intervention, and one that decreases the chances that the dream worker will project his or her biases onto the dream.
One other thing: You can state the process narrative from different perspectives. You can describe from the dreamer's perspective (i.e. someone is trying to get away from someone else...) or you can describe it from another dream character's perspective (i.e. someone is trying to catch up with someone else...). By stating the process narrative from other perspective, you help the dreamer get beyond a narrow view of the dream's deeper meaning, and look at his or her own behavior through the lens of another dream character. This multidimensional approach will support Gestalt dream work when you get around to working with the imagery (in Step Four of the Five Step Method).
Students of the FiveStar Method often ask me how to apply the FSM in a therapeutic or personal growth group. Interestingly, I originally conceived the FSM as a group dream work method, probably because I received some training years ago with Montague Ullman, whose approach to group dream work is well known and highly effective. But after using the FSM in group and individual work, I’ve discovered that it doesn’t depend on a group for its effectiveness. That being said, it can offer a group that is lead by a seasoned leader a very dynamic interactive process, which can enhance personal insight, faciliate interpersonal learning, and deepen intimacy.
The problem, as most therapists realize, is that a group of inexperienced group members will often make precipitous and invasive interpretations that effectively short-circuit the process of slower and surer discovery, and override the dreamer’s role as the ultimate authority. This is partly due to the age-old belief that dream analysis involves figuring out what the dream is saying, or what it means. Within this tradition, dream workers focus on dream images or “symbols” as the carrier of meaning, and may set about to “solve the puzzle,” rather than viewing the dream through the lens of cocreative or relational dream theory, which treats the dream as an interactive process between the dreamer and the dream content that unfolds in real time–like any real relationship. As the first systematic approach to relational dream work, the FSM focuses prinicipally on the dreamer’s responses to the dream imagery–his or her feelings, thoughts, and reactions in response to what manifests “out there” in the dream. The FSM also views theses responses as “cocreative” of the dream’s outcome, because the dreamer’s reactions clearly affects how the imagery behaves, and so on, in a synchronous feedback look. Until a group becomes familiar with this relational reorientation, they will operate according to the old model, and they will focus on interpreting the images rather than helping the dreamer see how he or she is interacting with, or relating to the dream content.
So it’s important to put the group on notice from the outset that they will first have to learn how to contribute the dream work process, and that means the leader must be willing to control the process in a disciplined way until everyone gets the hang of it. You don’t have to be a stormtrooper in providing corrective feedback, but you do have to intervene immediately to redirect wayward projections.
It helps to break down the five steps of the FSM into clearly delineated stages, and announce beforehand the focused tasks assigned to each stage. Much of your work will be to keep the group members from getting ahead of the process, so you can intervene with messages such as, “That’s about the imagery. We’re not there yet, so hold onto those ideas until we get there.” Also, you can encourage savvy group members to help you “police” the process until everyone has adjusted to the requirements of the FSM. Some client/members will catch on quickly, but some will find the shift in worldview to be quite difficult to negotiate. But remember, controlling the process is very important, and if you’re inclined to be overly polite, you will lose control of the process, and the dream work will quickly deteriorate into a trivial guessing game. So before you introduce the FSM to a group, you need to take stock of your readiness, as well as your group’s capacity to adopt a very advanced and powerful therapeutic intervention.
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