Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Analyzing Chronic Responses
in Co-creative Dream Analysis


With the advent of the co-creative dream paradigm, which is based on the principle that dreams are indeterminate from the outset, and co-created through the reciprocal exchanges between the ego and emergent dream content, the analysis of the dreamer’s responses becomes an important new dimension in dream analysis. In this paper, the author develops the hypothesis that chronic dream ego responses can be traced to two sources in the individual’s prior experience: 1) trauma and loss, and 2) introjected parental and cultural ideals. The individual’s efforts to prevent trauma and loss from recurring accounts for “reactive adaptive responses,” and attempts to emulate introjected ideals results in “compliant adaptive responses.” Both of these types of chronic responses can be identified with the dreamer’s help in dream analysis, and facilitative alternatives can be formulated in dialogue with the dreamer. The author presents a sequence of steps that can be used as a standalone method, or incorporated into existing dream work methods.

Keywords: co-creative dream analysis, lucid dreaming, adaptive response, dreamer response analysis, imagery change analysis
Analyzing Chronic Responses in Co-creative Dream Analysis


            In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn says that “when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them," and that "scientists see new and different things when places they have looked before” (1962, p. 110). Thus, operating from within a new paradigm, a researcher will become aware of new phenomena, raise new questions, and be able to solve problems that have remained heretofore unsolved.
            Co-creative dream theory (Rossi, 1972, 2000; Sparrow, 2013; Sparrow and Thurston, 2010) represents a paradigm that accounts for the formation, development, and outcome of the dream experience.  It posits that the dream experience is indeterminate from the outset, and unfolds according to the real-time reciprocal interplay between the dream ego and the dream content.  Rossi captured the essence of this relationship when he stated, “there is "a continuum of all possible balances of control between the autonomous process and the dreamer’s self-awareness and consciously directed effort" (1972, p. 163). As for the purpose that this interactive process fulfills, Rossi (1972; 2000) anticipated Hartmann (1998) by suggesting that it serves an integrative function, but went further to assert that the dreamer-dream interactive process either facilitates or retards that aim.
            The co-creative paradigm has been slow to take hold in dream analysis, perhaps because until recently it has lacked a sufficient foundation in research to challenge the “deficiency hypothesis,” which holds that the dream ego is deficient in self-reflectiveness and volition (Rechschaffen, 1978), and that the manifest dream is “strictly determined” (Freud, 1900; Kramer, 1993). While the lucid dream phenomenon suggests that the dream ego can, at least in the lucid state,  reflect upon, and modify the dream content, the categorical distinction of “lucid” vs. “non-lucid” has continued to support the view that the non-lucid dream ego is largely deficient in higher mental functions. More recently, however, empirical studies have established the presence of waking-style metacognition in non-lucid dreams, as well (Kahan, 2001; Kahan and LaBerge, 1994, 2010;  Kasmova and Wolman (2006). Thus it is now reasonable to assume that the nonlucid dream ego continuously reflects upon, and responds to the dream imagery throughout the dream. Thus the most significant objection to the co-creative paradigm––that non-lucid dreamers are deficient in self-reflectiveness and volition––has been largely dispelled.
            While traditional content-oriented dream inquiry treats the dream imagery as “strictly determined” (Freud, 1900; Kramer, 1996) and proceeds to analyze the images apart from the dream ego, the co-creative paradigm looks at how the dream ego’s moment-to-moment responses impact the dream imagery, and vice versa, in a circular, synchronous exchange that results in one of many possible contingent outcomes. Family therapists have referred to this reciprocal process as “the governing principle in relationships” (Nichols,p. 8), but this level of assessment is relatively new to dream analysis. Once adopted, however, it leads naturally to a comparison of the dream’s interactive process with waking relationship parallels. Thus, in the co-creative model, the search for process parallels supplements the traditional search for content parallels, thus serving as an encompassing, relational lens through which one can analyze the overall dream experience.
The Emerging Importance of Dreamer Response Style
            In co-creative dream theory, it follows that the dream ego’s style of relating becomes an important new dimension in dream analysis. When analyzing the interactive process, the dream ego’s responses can be viewed as either facilitative or obstructive in an unfolding relationship with the dream content. LaBerge uses the term “adaptive response” to denote when dreamers respond in ways that facilitate psychological integration and overall health within the dream.
In general terms, health can be conceived of as a condition of adaptive responsiveness to the challenges of life. For responses to be adaptive, they must at least favorably resolve the situation in a way that does not disrupt the individual’s integrity or wholeness. Adaptive responses also improve the individual’s relationship with the environment. There are degrees of adaptiveness, with the optimum being what we have defined as health. (LaBerge, 2009)
            LaBerge also uses the term “maladaptive response” to signify reactions that impede the integrity and health of the individual. He says, “maladaptive responses are unhealthy ones and....any healthy response by definition leads to improved systemic integration, and hence is a healing process” (LaBerge, 2014). The adaptive/maladaptive dichotomy is a useful construct in co-creative dream analysis, but in practice it becomes difficult to determine if a particular dream ego response is adaptive or maladaptive without inquiring into an individual’s unique history. That is, what may appear to be “adaptive” may actually represent something that comes too easily for the dream ego, and which may actually arrest a developmental process. Conversely, what may appear to be destructive and harmful may represent a necessary expression of autonomy and power. For instance, LaBerge considered the following dream indicative of a significant positive transformation:
 Having returned from a journey, I am carrying a bundle of bedding and clothes down the street when a taxi pulls up and blocks my way. Two men in the taxi and one outside it are threatening me with robbery and violence. . . . Somehow I realize that I’m dreaming and at this I attack the three muggers, heaping them in a formless pile and setting fire to them. Then out of the ashes I arrange for flowers to grow. My body is filled with vibrant energy as I awaken. (La Berge, 2014)
             While the lucid dreamer seems to have asserted his or her own power, such “success” begs the question of whether true growth can proceed for long on the basis of merely destroying dream characters, and by implication suppressing whatever the dream imagery represented.  Commenting on the futility of destroying dream characters, Rossi flatly states, “Kill a man once and his physical body remains permanently dead; kill a fantasy image once and the battle has just begun” (1972, p. 47).   LaBerge acknowledges that while attacking threatening dream characters may be therapeutic for dreamers who have suffered at the hands of abusers, in most cases a more conciliatory, engaging response effects a positive, and perhaps more lasting transformation of the dream character. Drawing on Tholey’s (1983) work, LaBerge suggests that  ”when the dream ego looks courageously and openly at hostile dream figures, their appearance often becomes less threatening” (LaBerge, 2014). Citing Rossi (1972; 2000), I have suggested that the dream ego’s responses can be viewed on a developmental continuum, whereby flight, expressing power, or even destroying dream characters, can serve as interim achievements that may progress eventually to dialogue and reconciliation (Sparrow, 2014).  Clearly, one’s attempts to identify adaptive and maladaptive dream ego responses should proceed on the basis of a careful and sensitive consideration of the dreamer’s psychodynamic and interpersonal history.  In practice, a dream worker can assist a dreamer in discriminating between adaptive and maladaptive responses by determining whether a specific response represents a habitual response, or a creative departure from the status quo, and  “at least favorably resolve[s] the situation in a way that does not disrupt the individual’s integrity or wholeness.” (LaBerge, 2009, p.107-108).

The Development of the Theory of Chronic Adaptive Responses

            It is useful, in and of itself, to help dreamers identify chronic responses and to encourage the formulation of new ones. However, such efforts are even more useful if the origins of the chronic responses can be understood, as well. By tracing the dream ego’s responses to their origins, and developing an empathic understanding of how such feelings, thoughts, and behaviors may have once fulfilled an adaptive function in earlier contexts we can conceivably assist the dreamer in considering whether such responses are still useful in contemporary contexts.

            I developed the theory of chronic adaptive responses through teaching group therapy to graduate counseling students, and conducting therapeutic groups in private practice. One might ask, what does group therapy have to do with dream analysis? Once one adopts the co-creative paradigm––with its emphasis on interactive process––then knowledge of relationship dynamics in other fields, such as group therapy and family systems therapy, can potentially shed light on heretofore unacknowledged relational dynamics in the dream.
            Specifically, it is widely accepted that therapy groups pass through an unstable stage of adjustment immediately following the initial meetings. This stage is called by various terms, including the "storming" stage (Bormann, 1975) and the "transitional" stage (Corey, Corey, and Corey, 2014; Gladding, 2012). Lasting until the group achieves sufficient cohesion to enable passage into deeper work, this problematic stage is characterized by an array of behaviors that come about, according to most theorists, as a way to resist the growing intimacy and interpersonal risks inherent in group work. Most of these behaviors are not disruptive in and of themselves, but become problematic over time as members resort to them again and again as idiosyncratic and predictable ways of responding to interpersonal challenges. For instance, a member may initially receive accolades for asking incisive questions of other members, but this same behavior may eventually provoke the group’s annoyance as they become aware of how the questioning behavior hides the questioner’s own feelings and thoughts.  Behaviors that are cited in the literature (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2014) as resistive or disruptive include excessive questioning, advice giving, storytelling, hostility, peacemaking, silence, rescuing, monopolization, dependency, and superiority. But virtually any behavior that becomes repetitive over time can serve to veil a person’s authentic feelings and wider potentialities, and thus prevent greater intimacy.

Two Categories of Chronic Adaptive Responses

            In teaching group therapy to counselors in training, I was dissatisfied with the traditional view that “resistive” behaviors arise only in reaction to the group’s transitional stage. Not only did I notice members resorting to such behaviors from the outset, but I also observed the same behaviors occurring beyond the transitional stage, albeit in muted and more functional ways. On the basis of these observations, I concluded that individuals have stable, idiosyncratic responses to perceived interpersonal stress.  The traditional belief that these behaviors are uniquely tied to the group’s transitional stage obscured, in my opinion, the possibility that these behaviors have always been there, and have possibly served positive, adaptive functions in earlier life contexts. Given my observation that the responses were stable and evident throughout the group’s development, I began to examine the sources of these chronic behaviors by interrupting group members who were exhibiting them, and asking them simply to get in touch with the underlying emotions. To facilitate the exploration, I used an “affect bridge” (Christiansen, Barabasz, and Barabasz, 2009) to help members get in touch with the source of the emotions. That is, I asked them to get in touch with the feelings prompting the behavior as a bridge to its original context.
            Reactive Adaptive Response. When group members were given a chance to explore the origins, they typically discovered one of two underlying causes. First, some members traced their repetitive behaviors to past trauma or loss. When this was true, then such behavior represented a strategy for preventing similar painful interpersonal experiences from recurring. For instance, a 50-year old male client, whose alcoholic stepfather would periodically beat his frail mother, developed a tendency to crack jokes in order to defuse the tension at home. While the behavior worked in that particular context to distract his stepfather, it proved disruptive in later relationships––including his involvement in a therapeutic group where he would resort to humor without remaining sensitive to the unique demands of the moment. I began to refer to any interpersonal behavior, which is designed to prevent trauma and loss from recurring, as a “reactive adaptive response” (Sparrow, 2010; Sparrow and Alvarado, 2006). This type of adaptive response has a way of suppressing one’s direct expression of feeling and need in favor of protecting oneself from real or imagined interpersonal threats.
            Compliant Adaptive Response. In other cases, group members revealed that a particular chronic response could be traced to a desire to gain acceptance within one's family and culture.  Instead of preventing something terrible from happening again, this type of behavior was designed to win approval by emulating some introjected ideal.  For instance, a 31-year-old Hispanic male who wanted to gain his father's respect and win approval from others, grew up imitating his father's quiet, strong, and unrevealing personality, thinking that to do otherwise would render him less of a man.  Or a woman, who always offered to help others in the group even when it wasn't needed, was able to trace her reflexive caring responses to her mother, who gave herself tirelessly to her family's needs. To distinguish this type of behavior from the reactive type, I termed it "compliant adaptive response" (Sparrow, 2010; Sparrow and Alvarado, 2006). The consequence of the early parental/cultural programming results in a splitting of the self into acceptable and unacceptable aspects, thereby giving rise to what Jung has called the persona and the shadow split.
            After working with these concepts for several years as a counselor educator, I began to see that reactive and compliant adaptive responses occur in dreams, as well in the waking state, and become especially evident over the course of analyzing multiple dreams from the same client, or sometimes in single dreams with heightened affect. For instance, a 34-year married teacher and mother reported the following brief dream:
I am standing on the street outside a movie theater with my sister and a friend of hers. My sister is dressed in a beautiful blue outfit.  I want to go into the movie with them, but I recall that I have some school work that I need to attend to. My sister and her friend get in line to buy tickets. Meanwhile, I wait for a school bus to pass before crossing the street.
            When the dreamer shared this dream in my group counseling class, we focused principally on her decision not to join her sister and friend, since the dreamer's response is the centerpiece of co-creative dream work. At first, we did not know if the dreamer’s behavior was a chronic response, or a creative departure from her usual habit patterns. When she reflected on her pivotal decision to leave the other women and return to work, she said that when given a choice she almost always chose to work, because she felt that her family expected her to be successful and to do the responsible thing. She said that she had reaped a great deal of praise from having an especially beautiful home and a well-organized classroom, but that she often longed for more relaxation and enjoyment in her life. She said that her mother had been the same way, and was now regarded as a veritable saint by her husband, children, and friends. Her sister, however, had always put fun and self-interest on an equal footing with work. She realized that her sister and the unknown friend represented her repressed and unexplored shadow self, who was willing to put personal enjoyment first. So the dreamer helped us to identify the dream ego’s decision to choose work over play as a compliant adaptive response.
            Another dream of a 27-year-old man shows the impact of an internalized “vow of poverty” that the dreamer had learned from his father.
            I am at my childhood home, and a pickup truck full of gifts––outdoor sports items, in particular––pulls up in the driveway. A man whom I know to be God gets out and walks up to me. He says, "This is all yours." I struggle, feeling unsure of what to say. I then say, "I am not sure I can accept it." He then says, "Will you accept it for me?" I reply, "I don't know." I then sit down on the ground, struggling with the decision, and wake up before I can decide what to do.
            When I asked the dreamer to use the affect bridge to get in touch with the original conviction that he couldn't accept such generosity, he remembered countless times when his father, who grew up during the American Great Depression, would tell him stories of how hardship brought people together. His father was always mistrustful––even subtly contemptuous––of wealthy people, and he missed several opportunities to greatly increase his net worth over the course of his life by reflexively clinging to the “virtue” of self-denial. The dreamer realized that he had unwittingly emulated his father’s ideal of poverty, and had often failed to seize the moment when wondrous opportunities had presented themselves. So, in this case, the dreamer was also exhibiting a chronic, compliant adaptive response.

Lucid Dreamers Exhibit Chronic Responses

            Reactive and compliant adaptive responses can be observed in lucid dreams, as well as in non-lucid dreams. While lucidity may seem to free the dream ego from reflexive responses, even lucid dreamers may be governed by unexamined reactions. Take, for instance, the case of a young female client, who would become lucid in her dreams almost every night. I was impressed by the frequency of her lucid dreams, but then I observed over the course of our work that she would almost always fly away from any stressful event. While she thought nothing of her reflexive response at first, she began to realize that flight was her primary strategy to prevent the kind of wounding experiences she had incurred at the hands of her parents. Flight had become her reactive adaptive response to waking and dream situations, alike.
            A therapist using co-creative dream analysis will help a client become aware of crucial junctures in which the dream ego’s response, however reasonable it might have seemed at the time, may have thwarted the intergrative process. Perls, whose approach to dream work foreshadowed co-creative dream theory, was well aware of the dreamer’s proclivity toward disavowal of responsibility when he said, "You prevent yourself from achieving what you want to achieve. But you don’t experience this as your doing it. You experience this as some other power that is preventing you" (1973, p. 178). For instance, a highly intelligent client of mine, whose anxiety had held her back from getting a college education, often dreamt of various true-to-life scenarios in which she had to bear the brunt of an authority figure’s anger because she was in a position of relative powerlessness due to her lack of education. As a substitute teacher, she would often dream that the teacher or principal would berate her, even though she knew she was not at fault. Not surprisingly, she would remain silent in such dreams thinking that there was no way she could risk provoking their anger. Over the course of several months, we identified this passive response as a reactive adaptive response. It had become her way to fending off the expected attacks of relatively powerful people. By identifying the dream ego’s chronic response, and eliciting the dreamer’s determination to respond differently in dreams and waking life, the dream work anticipated, if not also facilitated a significant breakthrough in a subsequent dream. In it, she was in church leading a congregation in song:
I am getting ready to lead the congregation in singing a new song when I realize that I don’t have the sheet music for the hymn. I rush to the back of the church and rummage through a sheaf of music, hoping to find the correct song before the pastor calls for it. Suddenly, I look to the front of the church and see that C.––the previous song leader––had returned and taken over my position at the microphone. Without hesitation, I hurry to the front of the church, and say, “This is my job now! You need to sit down!” I become aware that I have asserted myself in front of the entire congregation, and I’m aware of how they are seeing me in a different light than before.
This dream is good example of how a chronic adaptive response can change abruptly in the context of a dream, and usher the dreamer into a new view of herself. Such pivotal moments can become the proof positive that a client is making significant progress in overcoming lifelong habit patterns.

The Same Response Can be Either Type

            I have found that the same behavior can be reactive or compliant, or a combination of both. For instance, a 35-year old group member would reflexively offer verbal reassurance to anyone who was in distress. When another group member finally blew up at her for trying to rescue her when she didn’t need it nor want it, the helper tearfully admitted that her mother was dying of diabetes, and that she felt powerless to help her. Thus, what appeared on the surface to be a compliant adaptive response––rescuing––was actually a reactive adaptive response. That is, by trying to helping others, she hoped to mitigate the impact of her helplessness in the face of her mother’s decline. Such examples should caution a therapist, once again, not to make assumptions about the origins or the function of chronic waking and dream responses.
             A single dramatic dream will often signify the resolution of a lifelong chronic response. For example, I worked with 26-year-old woman, who had been abused as a young child by her mother, who would sometimes nearly suffocate her with a pillow in anger. Her mother had also done everything to prevent my client’s father from visiting her, and her father, in turn, had effectively deserted her by giving up trying to have a relationship with her. My client grew up expressing a firm resolve never to have children out of a fear of becoming like her mother, and would also abruptly cut off relationships with men for fear of betrayal. After two abortions, she turned to cocaine and alcohol abuse, and then entered therapy. At the end of two years of sobriety and three years of individual and group therapy, she had the following dream in which her chronic reactive adaptive responses gave way to a facilitative, integrative response. Her dream is as follows:
I am on the shoreline outside the restaurant where I work as a waitress. I see a large wave coming into the inlet from the ocean, which turns toward me. Out of the wave emerges the back of a whale. It turns and heads directly toward me, until its large head comes onto the sand, and stops a foot in front of me. It turns its head, and looks at me with a single large eye. I hold its gaze, and then it slowly backs into the water again, disappearing. I look down and I’m surprised to see a baby whale at my feet. I know that I am supposed to care for it, so I bend down and pick it up.
            Once this client’s reactive responses had been identified and traced to earlier abuse from her mother and desertion from her father, it was easy for her to recognize these behaviors operating in her contemporary waking and dream relationships. Such a framework provided the basis for her striving to do differently, which ultimately enabled her to enact new adaptive responses in her dream with the whale––that is, standing her ground in the face of the overwhelming motherly presence, and accepting the responsibility for parenting its offspring. She terminated counseling shortly after having this dream, got engaged a few months later, and eventually married and gave birth to her first child. Indeed, whenever a dreamer identifies and overcomes such lifelong tendencies, it becomes immediately evident in such dreams as the whale dream. While powerful imagery may indicate a momentous shift, co-creative dream analysis places the greater emphasis on the dreamer’s life-altering responses.
            Obviously, a great of time and struggle can ensue between identifying maladaptive responses and overcoming them. Fortunately, a variety of methods can be employed to accelerate the client's facilitative responses in both dreams and waking relationships. I have written (Sparrow, 2013; Sparrow, Thurston, & Carlson, 2013) about a methodology that I employ called "dream reliving," in which the dreamer relives in fantasy the dream as if he or she were lucid, and can exercise new responses to the situations that have arisen in distressing dreams. This practice can serve to attenuate the anxiety associated with past distressing dreams, as well to prepare for future ones.

Putting the Theory into Practice

            I have described elsewhere (Sparrow, 2013) a systematic, five-step approach to dream analysis––the FiveStar Method––that makes the dreamer’s responses to the dream content the centerpiece in a comprehensive approach to dream work. While one can adopt the FiveStar Method, one can also use dreamer response analysis as a standalone intervention, or as a step in any other systematic dream work methodology. Regardless, in order to remain true to the co-creative paradigm, one should also incorporate imagery change analysis (Sparrow, 2013) with dreamer response analysis, in order to explore the way that the dream ego and the dream imagery unfold dynamically in real time. This interventional framework––which is an elaboration of Steps 3-5 of the FiveStar Method (Sparrow, 2013; Sparrow & Thurston, 2010)–– can be used as a standalone intervention, or incorporated into existing systems. The steps are as follows:
Identify Responses––Locate the pivotal moments in the dream where the dreamer responded––emotionally, cognitively, and/or behaviorally––to the dream imagery.
Evaluate Impact––Engage the dreamer in considering how the dream ego’s responses impacted the dream imagery and the course of the dream, and vice versa.
Determine Effectiveness––Engage the dreamer in ascertaining whether the dream ego’s responses facilitated or thwarted the process of integration.
Explore Origins––If a response thwarted the process of integration, explore the origins of the response, by using an “affect bridge” (Christiansen et. al, 2009) to earlier experiences in the waking life.
Assess Type––Discuss whether the response is a reactive adaptive response or a compliant adaptive response, or both; and then assess what undesirable experience the response is designed to avoid, or what implicit ideal it serves.
Discuss Alternatives––Discuss alternative responses based on the dreamer’s ideals and preferences, and ask the dreamer to imagine how the new responses will affect the dream imagery during similar dream encounters in the future.
Relive the Dream––Engage the dreamer in reliving the dream in fantasy, in which he or she imagines enacting new responses to a similar dream scenario. Discuss the imagined new dream outcome.
Apply Dream Work––Consider parallel waking scenarios, and discuss whether the same new responses might be useful in those contexts, or whether they need to be modified to conform to waking rules and contexts.


            In summary, the co-creative paradigm shifts dream work to include an analysis of the dream ego’s responses; the impact of dream ego’s responses on the dream imagery; and the integrative process that is served or thwarted by these exchanges. Over time, dream analysis may reveal repetitive patterns of responding, the origins of which may be traced to two types of prior experiences: 1) exposure to trauma and loss, giving rise to chronic reactive responses, and 2) internalization of parental and cultural ideals, prompting chronic compliant responses. While this conceptual framework initially grew out of working with therapeutic groups, it becomes useful in analyzing chronic relational patterns in dreams, as well.  Taken together, dreamer response analysis (DRI) and imagery change analysis (ICA) can assist non-lucid and lucid dreamers, alike, who may wish to examine their characteristic style of responding in dreams in light of past, unexamined influences. Ultimately, troubleshooting and modifying chronic dreamer responses may accelerate the process of integration that is evident in dreams.

Bormann, E. G. (1975). Discussion and group methods: Theory and practice (2nd ed.) Glenview, IL: Addison Wesley Longman.
Christiansen, C., Barabasz, A., Barabasz, M. (2009). Effects of an affect bridge for age regression. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 57, 4, 402-18.
Corey, M.S., Corey, G., Corey, C. (2014). Groups: Process and practice (9th ed.). Belmont, CA:    Brooks/Cole.
Gladding, S. T. (2012). Groups: A counseling specialty (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Hartmann, E. (1998). Dreams and nightmares: The new theory on the origins and meaning of       dreams. New York: Plenum Trade.

Kahan, T.L. (2001). Consciousness in dreaming: A metacognitive approach. In K. Bulkeley          (Ed.), Dreams: A reader on the religious, cultural, and psychological dimensions of   dreaming (pp. 333-360). New York: Palgrave.

Kahan, T. L., LaBerge, S. (1996). Cognition and metacognition in dreaming and waking:    
            Comparison of first and third-person ratings. Dreaming, 6, 235-239.

Kahan, T. L., and LaBerge, S. P. (2010) Dreaming and waking: Similarities and differences             revisited. Consciousness and Cognition, 20, 3, 494-514.

Kozmova M. & Wolman, R. N. (2006). Self-awareness in dreaming. Dreaming, 16 (3), 196-214.

Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

LaBerge, S. (2009). Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in         Your Life. Louisville, CO: Sounds True.

LaBerge, S. (2014). Healing through lucid dreaming.   healing_through_lucid_dreaming.htm. Downloaded 1/2/14.

Perls, F. (1973). The Gestalt approach and eyewitness to therapy. Lamond, CA: Science and          Behavior Books.

Purcell, S. (1987). The education of attention to dreaming in high and low frequency dream            recallers: the effects on dream self-reflectiveness lucidity and control. Doctoral Thesis:
            Carlton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Purcell, S., Moffitt, A., Hoffmann, R. (1993). Waking, dreaming, and self-regulation. In A. Moffitt,     M. Kramer, and R. Hoffmann (Eds.), The functions of dreaming. Albany: State University of New York Press, 197-260.

Rechtschaffen, A. (1978). The single-mindedness and isolation of dreams. Sleep, 1, 97-109.

Rossi. E. L. (1972). Dreams and the growth of personality. New York: Pergamon.
Rossi, E. L. (2000) Dreams, consciousness, spirit: The quantum experience of self-reflection and   co-creation.  Malibu, CA: Palisades Gateway.
Sparrow, G. S. (2013). A new method of dream analysis congruent with contemporary     counseling approaches. International Journal of Dream Research, 6, 1.
Sparrow, G. S. (2014) A non-dual perspective on the question of dream control. In Vol. 1 of R.       Hurd and K. Bulkeley (Eds) Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in       Sleep. Westport, CT: Praeger (forthcoming).
Sparrow, G. S., Alvarado, V. (2006). Owning the shadow self: An interventional framework for        therapeutic groups.  Annual conference of the International Association for Hispanic and Latino Studies, Baton Rouge, February, 2006.
Sparrow, G. S. & Thurston, M.A. (2010) The five star method: A relational dream work   methodology. Journal of Creativity in Mental Healthy, 5, 2.
Sparrow, G. S., Thurston, M. A., Carlson, R.. (2013). Dream reliving and meditation as a way to
enhance reflectiveness and constructive engagement in dreams. International Journal of Dream Research, 6, 2.

Tholey, P. 1983. Techniques for controlling and manipulating lucid dreams. Perceptual and           Motor Skills, 57, 79-90.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mandala Meditation

Here's a meditation based on a series of mandalas that I created and Ray Lynch's inspiring piece "Quandra," taken from his Sky of Mind CD with his permission. 

I would advise using this prior to meditation, and especially in the middle of the night, when the world is at rest. 

The dream of the master gardener

Last night, I dreamt of a master gardener who has nurtured an impossibly towering red oak in the Rio Grande Valley, along with huge pines and other non-native trees. I want to talk to him so badly, as if he's a holy man. I finally speak to him, and discover that he once considered becoming a monk (as I once considered) and I tell him, "Your life work has amounted to so much more as a gardener than as a monk." He, in turn, tells me that he I could not have become a farmer, because of the sheer physicality, and that I, too, have chosen my vocation correctly. At the end of the dream, I think of Carl Jung and how, just before his death, he dreamt of the tree falling with the gold nuggets entwined it its roots.  I believe it is every person's dream to believe that the choices we have made have been the right ones, and that we have made a constructive difference in this world.

Isn't it amazing the images that our dreams give us--full of so much meaning that cannot be reduced to words. I know that in the days ahead, I will remember looking up into those towering branches and feeling the same awe and pleasure that a tree of such majesty has survived and thrived in a place far from its home.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Deeply Healing Lucid Dream

You may wonder what the big deal is regarding lucid dreaming. I have to admit that sometimes it seems rather silly and pointless to pursue experiences beyond the body when physical life itself is so precious. But things can happen there that are simply beyond our reach in the waking state--things that are necessary and essential for our healing and development. I know you can relate to the idea that we all carry around memories of unfinished business relating to other people, and that it often seems impossible to revisit those relationships in order to work out whatever conflicts still seem to remain. We are often left to deal with such memories on our own, hoping that our prayers and our own personal growth will eventually take care of those lingering wounds. One of my mottos is to have no regrets, but frankly I have many, and most of them have to do with things that I have said or done or left undone in relationship to people who were once precious to me, but who have left my life.

 Some background to the lucid dream: Two days ago, I was managing my online stock account and discovered that my ex-wife's name was still on one of my accounts. Not thinking that I was about to set in motion a very upsetting sequence of events, I e-mailed the company and simply asked them to remove her name from the account. It was, after all my account, and her name was a mere artifact of having shared the account with her up to almost 3 years ago. Well, the next thing I knew the company had put a hold on the account, preventing me from accessing the funds. They said that I would have to submit I a notarized form from my ex-wife releasing her claim on the account. I'm usually a pretty cool guy, but this action really upset me. I could've emptied the account and opened a new one, but without realizing the consequences of my request, I effectively created a mess. I did not want to have to contact her and ask her for a favor, even though rationally speaking, I expected her to be kind and to help me. I have a hard time asking for help, but I certainly have a hard time putting myself at a disadvantage with people who might not feel charitable toward me. My fears were unfounded, and she quickly agreed to submit the form that was necessary. But the internal struggle that I experienced set in motion feelings that apparently set up a particularly powerful lucid dream encounter with my ex-wife's daughter, with whom I enjoyed a  good relationship until the very end of the marriage when things went south.

 Julie and I got to bed very late after watching a movie, and so my early morning meditation took place at nearly 6 AM. After meditating for about 40 minutes, I went back to bed, not sure that I would be able to get back to sleep. But eventually I drifted off.   This is what I experienced:

I seem to be in my own home even though it was unfamiliar, and I was moving things around in order to neaten up.  I was moving my fly tying equipment to a more out-of-the-way place when I noticed that S. entered the room.  It seems that Julie was nearby, but I'm not sure. I was surprised to see S.  after  the problems that we had experienced around the time of the divorce. I greeted her, and she walked up to me and we embraced. She began to cry, and as I held her I noticed a man who appeared to be myself sitting nearby. His head started to brighten until it became a luminous orb of violet light. Meanwhile, I felt very moved by  the sense of reconciliation and forgiveness that was coming over us as we embraced. Finally we parted, and I bent over, and wept. I wondered if Julie could hear me cry, or whether my tears were confined to the lucid dream. I drifted into physical awareness and saw that Julie was fast asleep, and I felt relieved and deeply healed. My eyes were moist.

All  my life I have yearned for something beyond my reach. My sense of spiritual purpose has always been profoundly evident in everything I do. (Just having fun can be hard for me.) Consequently, when there are interpersonal conflicts that I can't seem to fix, it distresses me to no end.  I'm not the kind of person who can simply blame the other person, even though they may have had a big part to play in our conflict. What I have found is that in my dream journey, I have opened up to countless experiences of deep, direct, interpersonal encounters, which have given way to immense relief and healing.  And so when people ask me, why do you seek to become lucid in your dreams, I have to remember such dreams as this one, when I might have reacted less openly if I had not been lucid. Without such dreams, we are left with far fewer options, and a much more difficult path toward healing and enlightenment.  One might ask,  Was the other person really present?  I have addressed this question in another entry to this blog, but suffice to say that my answer to this is as follows:  Since we can never know for sure, it is far better to believe that the other person is, at least in part, present in the embodiment of the individual dream character. By believing that the dream figure mediates the actual soul of the other person, it provides us a genuine arena for making interpersonal breakthroughs, and celebrating them with the conviction that the work has been mutually felt on some level. 

I believe it's interesting and confirming that I witnessed my own double sitting quietly and witnessing my exchange. Indeed, there must always be a part of us that witnesses the struggles and the breakthroughs-- a divine part of us that  celebrates and  literally lights up in joyful affirmation of our willingness to set aside pettiness and resentment. I am a much healthier person today than yesterday because of my lucid dream.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Is it really you? The ultimate identity of a dream character

One of the most persistent and unresolved questions in the field of dream study is, "When I dream of you, is it really you?" Standard answers range from "No, it's a part of you," to "Yes, if there is a 'felt sense' that it's really you," to "Of course." Most psychotherapists are loathe to venture beyond the first answer, fearing that to do so would encourage a client to project onto others, who might already have a tendency ascribe his or her own issues to others. But in the case of lucid dreaming, the vividness and interpersonal "otherness" that dreamers often report challenges the strictly "internal" source of dream imagery.

A more sophisticated answer, which emulates the principle of indeterminacy in physics goes something like this: The image is a not an object, nor a symbol, nor an aspect of dream "content," but rather a mutable interface between the dream ego and the unseen, intrusive content that is surfacing in the dream. The source of the content can be "local" or "nonlocal," or a combination of both. That is, the
dreamer may be accessing a memory, or may be receiving information/essence beyond the boundaries of the self. In the act of perception, the dream observer sees clearly, or perceives through filters that distort the incoming content, thus co-creating an image that changes constantly as the perceiver's response to it shifts in real time. So that's where I arrive at the term "mutable interface" to describe what the dreamer actually sees. The image is a moment-to-moment vectoring of the dreamer-dream content interaction.

So the question, "Is it really you?" necessitates a deconstruction of the image into "projected" and "received" components. If the dreamer can say that he or she is open to the dream character, and has no distorting feelings that can be projected upon the person, then the essence of the person may be free to express itself through the mediating image. But this is rarely true. We almost always have impressions, biases, fears, needs, etc., that are projected onto the significant others in our lives. So the resulting image is likely to be a "cocreated" product that has to be analyzed as such.

I dreamt of my deceased mother in a lucid dream two nights ago. She appeared younger than she was when she died, and her face was lit up in a golden light. At first I felt that she was soulfully present, but then her face began to look less familiar, and so I concluded in the dream that her essence was fading away, leaving behind an inaccurate rendition of my mother's actual self.

But then again, who can ever know the answer to this question? Van Eeeden, the first lucid dream theorist ("A Study of Dreams,"1913--you can find it on the web), believed that a "felt sense" is the only way to know if a dream character's soul is manifesting through the dream imagery. But this criterion is highly subjective, and not likely to satisfy a more empirically minded researcher. Henry Fielding's words from his book Tom Jones come to mind: "Until they produce the authority by which they are constituted judges, I shall not plead their jurisdiction." In the domain of the soul, empiricists can never really compete, because there is no foundation upon which they can base their conclusions.

So is it really you? Only I can say.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Tantric Principle in Lucid Dreaming

An aspect of my own lucid dreaming experience has been the concurrent activation of powerful energy and sound, which in the East is referred to as the kundalini. Just two nights ago, I meditated at 5 am, and then returned to bed for a while. As I drifted into a half-sleep, the energy awakened. At first it sounded like wind coming in waves, as usual. But as I meditated on it, it increased in intensity and became a constant flow, flattening out instead of coming in pulses. (When I was younger, this would be uncomfortable, but at this stage in my life, it is quite pleasant.) As I meditated on the energy, trying to put aside my ego assessment of what was happening, I noticed that my field of vision was brightening and revealing a subtle lattice-like pattern as it became whiter and whiter. Meanwhile, I was aware of dreaming, as well. I was lying down on the slope of a hill, with a couple of colleagues who were waiting with me for entrance into a conference where we would speak or teach.

When I was younger, the activation of this sound-energy would often escalate into a full-blown kundalini activation. That is, a full-body vibratory experience of light and ecstasy. This still happens, but not as often. More recently, the activation has usually stopped with the flat flowing sound. At the moment that it flattens out, I discover that I can roll out of my body and enter into a fully conscious lucid dream/out of body experience. Robert Monroe, in his book Journeys Out of the Body, said that without first awakening this sound/energy, he could not leave his body. I have found this to be so true.

What can we make of this energy experience as a component of the lucid dream? As early as 1974, when I wrote my master's thesis on lucid dreaming, I suggested that lucidity and the white light were subjective and objective aspects of the same thing; that is, heightened consciousness. The Tibetan tantric system gives us more insight into the relationship between consciousness and energy by stating that the two are interchangeable, or reciprocally related. This means that any movement in consciousness has a corresponding movement in energy, and vice versa. Lucid dreamers do not always report a concurrent energy experience. Indeed, in my experience, it is relatively rare. Perhaps some lucid dreamers simply do not experience the energy as much as others do. But in the tibetan tradition, dream yoga is considered one of six accelerated yogas - accelerated because they involve activation of the kundalini. Well, this is good news and bad news, because the kundalini awakens dormant memories, some of which are disturbing and heretofore repressed or at least forgotten. Thus the energy component "forces the issue" into consciousness, and thus can result in destabilization of the ego as it confronts necessary unfinished business and emerging archetypal forces. All good in the long run, certainly. But in the short term, it can awaken fear as the ego struggles to retain is supremacy.

In the Tibetan tradition, meditation is treated as a slower, but less destabilizing approach to enlightenment. By focusing on awareness, the energy awakens, but only a a byproduct of mental activity. This approach (mahamuudra) is advocated unless the seeker has a guru who can oversee the dynamic process of kundalini awakening.

For myself, I believe I've had a rather rough ride over the past 40 years of meditation, lucid dreaming, and kundalini awakening. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I have grown to respect the power of unseen forces, and counsel  others to take a more cautious approach, especially if their journey includes frequent kundalini awakenings alongside the quest for lucidity.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lucid Dreaming Course Coming this Winter

I am working with Ryan Hurd (of and Alice Grinda ( to launch an intensive lucid dreaming training program on Shadow | Community of Dreamers this winter. Shadow will be launching a smartphone app that works wirelessly with a sensor that will awaken you when you are dreaming, and allow you to dictate your dreams into your phone, and then have them converted to text and uploaded to a cloud server. In addition, Shadow will be creating a vast online community of dreamers who will be able to share dreams, learn from each other, and be able to participate in training programs such as the one that we are developing. I Skyped with Ryan and Alice for the first time last Wednesday, and we have started to pool our knowledge and experience in order to create a dynamic month-long program. I will be announcing the program as we get closer to the launch sometime in February. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Darkness in Dreams

Last week, I was an invited guest at Craig Webb's online dream class. I have known Craig for several years as a fellow IASD member, and a serious lucid dreamer. He wanted me to be available to his class as a lucid dream pioneer. It was a great meeting, and I had a chance to review a great deal of my own history in the field. One class member, whose name was Jim, asked me about a phenomenon that has recently concerned him--darkness in his dreams. He described being in darkness, unable to see anything. I immediately connected with him, saying that for the past several years, many of my dreams have been characterized by darkness. While the darkness may suddenly shift to bright settings, I spend a great deal of my time "groping" through dark scenes.

I am finding that darkness is a phenomenon that many people experience. I saw a woman for the first time in therapy three days ago, who told me a recurring dream that has worried her. She is on a mountain road, with sheer drop-offs on both sides, and a very narrow passage between the cliffs. Suddenly, it becomes pitch dark, and she does know how to make it through safely. It's important to know that she faces two severe existential issues: the normally fatal disease of scleroderma (now in remission, thankfully), and an adult daughter who has suffered a psychotic break and now lives the streets of LA. My client is deeply aggrieved by her daughter's predicament, and by her inability to help her. As if the narrow mountain passage is bad enough, lacking any way to gain feedback from the situation so she can negotiate the challenge has brought her to a standstill.

Darkness in dreams may represent, simply, a sense of feeling alone and lost in life. From a deeper perspective, it may signify the beginning of trusting another source of support, which is, as yet, not evident. Sometimes we have to be brought to standstill before we learn to rely on deeper resources. I am inclined to have hope for my client, as I have hope for myself. Perhaps we are poised on the threshold of a new life that bears little resemblance to the one that preceded it. Regardless, I am there for her, and so at least there is another voice in the darkness.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Free Course on the Five Star Method Available from DreamStar

If you're interested in learning the FiveStar Method of dream analysis, but aren't interested in receiving CEs or the Certificate in Dream Study, you can take the free version that can be found in the course management area of the DreamStar site, at You can login to the 7-module course without cost, and participate fully in the learning process, which includes posting in the DreamStar Cafe--the course discussion forum. I hope you will join me there!

FYI, the FiveStar Method originated in my early work in lucid dreaming back in the 70s, and evolved in the context of doing psychotherapy since the early 80s. Of course, I think it's the best approach around, but if you're a therapist or coach, I think you will find it especially conducive to the competency-based orientation of modern therapy and coaching. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Galantamine and Meditation-induced Lucid Dreams


For over a year now, I have been using galantamine––an extract of the snow drop lily––along with meditation as a catalyst for lucid dreaming. I have found that the combination of the two results in a lucid dream almost 100% of the time. Dreams have been long, visually stunning, and sometimes full of light and deep interpersonal connectedness. But not always. In the past three years, I’ve experienced darkness in most of my longer, more memorable dreams. Whether lucid or not, darkness has been a predominant quality of my dream life. I have wondered whether it was an existential element, signifying decline and the approaching end-of-life, or whether it was, from alchemical standpoint, the deepening of the mystery my journey. I often find myself groping through dreams of darkness trying to find my way, only to suddenly see a brilliant light that dwarfs the previous darkness. It may signify that I have come to a point in my life where there is no clear authority, no clear direction. I’m reminded of Dante’s opening statement to his Divine Comedy which goes something like: "In the middle of the road of my life, I awoke in a dark wood, and the true way was wholly lost."  Here are a few other lucid dream highlights of the past month and a half. With all of these have followed ingestion of 8 mg of galantamine, usually in the latter half of the night.

 In one dream that lasts a very long time, I find myself in a beautiful setting surrounded by old buildings that are exquisitely beautiful.  As I have often thought of late during such lucid dreams, the texture of the visual imagery is so rich and complex that I reflect on how impossible it seems that my mind alone could be creating it. I seem to cross a threshold into an area where there is more of a gathering of people in some kind of deeply purposeful activity. I’ve since forgotten all that I experienced, but the experience seemed to last for an hour. I do recall being with some artists  who were creating the most exquisitely beautiful jewelry and sculpture that was mounted on the wall and hanging from the ceiling. Some of it was constructed from precious jewels of bright and vibrant colors, and the light shone through it in a spellbinding way.

In another one, I become aware that I’m dreaming and I go and look for light or encounters with higher beings. I find a small village in the countryside, and walk-through the village for a while before concluding that what I’m looking for is not there. I turn and push off and begin flying up through the trees toward the south and come upon a old cathedral or castle. I find myself inside this huge stone enclosure, which has windows that are not rectangular, but more the shape of a keyhole or some curvilinear opening. However, I cannot pass through the windows nor do I find any doorway through which I can gain access to the outside again. I hear voices and look in through a window, and see people milling around below me. I’m up high as if on the second floor or near the ceiling of his stone building. I finally decided since I’m dreaming, I will simply go through the wall and so I do. As I passed through the southern wall I enter a dark wood, which only has a slight greenness to the darkness, and a slight mottled quality to the otherwise amorphous dark field. I grope through the darkness looking for the master. Suddenly I feel an arm and I’m shocked by the presence of another person. I can suddenly see, and see that there is a woman between me and Julie, who was sleeping. The woman is unknown to me, so I asked her who she is. She tells me her name which I’ve since forgotten. I asked her why she is there. She says that she’s come to make sure that robots do not take over the earth. She goes on to tell me that she’s from another star system and introduces me to a small group of people who have come from her star system to visit our world. When I expressed interest in visiting her world, I’m told that it’s best that I remain where I am because my work is here not there. In another experience, I am drifting off to sleep after meditation. I hear the energy, which I’ve heard all my life when I’m on the verge of leaving my body. The Tibetan Buddhists refer to it as the “gift waves,” and believe that it signifies the presence of a master. Robert Monroe, author of Journeys out of the Body said that he could not leave his body if the energy was not present. It’s been happening quite often lately as a byproduct of the meditation-plus-galantamine regimen that I’ve been doing about once or twice a week. Anyway, when the energy rises, it comes in waves as if a valve is opening and closing. But it responds to my state of mind, and if I meditate upon it, it becomes more intense and eventually flattens out into a constant stream of energy. I do this, and as the energy increases, I feel pressure on my back as if someone is clinging to my back. He or she seems to hold on more and more tightly, so I whisper to it, “I’m not afraid of you.” I feel absolutely no fear at all, a fact which I marvel at.  The being says something to me, which I cannot understand through the sound of the energy. Then I reach up and grab it with my hand and pull it over my shoulder. It tumbles off the bed onto the floor and so do I. I see that it’s a small black cuddly animal of some sort, resembling a small bear or pig with fur.  It seems startled that I have been so bold, and it scurries away before I can take it in hand. Julie is sleeping nearby, and the dream ends.

 In last night’s dream, I was supposed to be speaking on dream work in front of an audience of about 100 people.  The meeting room was very tastefully done, and part of a larger community center comprised of many such auditoriums. I leave the room for a few minutes for some reason, but when I try to return I cannot find the room that I’m supposed to be in. I open two doors, only to find that there are other classes or presentations underway. I am confused and lost in this rather rich interpersonal setting. People are everywhere, and I simply milled through the crowd looking for the place that I’m supposed to be in. At some point, I become aware that I’m dreaming. I continue walking about exploring and observing the interpersonal dynamics around me the buildings in the rooms. I go through several doors, only to find myself increasingly unattractive and tiny rooms. I finally decide simply to fly through the wall and leave the place, and so I do. As I pushed to the wall, I find myself up high as if I’m on the third floor of a building flying over a very attractive grassy open expanse. Below me I see many people who are visiting and enjoying each other in a kind of unorganized social setting. I go down to be with them, and I playfully show them that I can fly. I then go up in the air higher and higher looking for the light, which I do not see in this dream.

Would I recommend using galantamine?  On one hand, all that it does is to increase acetylcholine, which is a necessary neurotransmitter that increases cognitive performance.  It’s not a controlled substance, and has no serious side effects. You may experience headaches and indigestion if you're a sensitive type (like me), but that’s about it. It has been used effectively to treat mild to moderate dementia in Europe, so if you're forgetting things, hey, you might reap a double benefit. The prescription Alzheimer's drug Aricep accomplishes the same thing (i.e. it's a cholinesterase inhibitor, or impedes the breakdown of acetylcholine), and has been shown to induce lucid dreams in a very high percentage of people who take it, as reported recently in Stumbrys, Erlacher, Shadlich, and Shredl's important survey of lucid dream induction method (Consciousness and Cognition, 21 (2012)), which is available online at

I believe that any artificial means for inducing lucid dreams needs to be paired with spiritual practice. My wife asked me just the other day, for instance, what was the purpose of becoming lucid?  Good question!! I mean, what's wrong with ordinary life? Since the very beginning of my work with lucid dreaming back in the early 1970s, I have always been concerned about the wholesale promotion of lucid dreaming without regard for a higher purpose for the journey. So, if you’re going to use galantamine, I recommend pairing it with some form of spiritual practice so that whatever it stimulates or awakens in your dream life occurs in a context of seeking something above and beyond your own ego’s desires. If the ego is at the helm, all kinds of detractors will rise up to challenge you. But if the master is driving the ship, well, you're in much better hands whether on sunny beaches or in the midst of a cyclone. But once you feel satisfied that the endeavor is legitimate, you might want to try 8 mg of gulantamine in the middle of the night. I usually take it around 4:00 AM, meditate for 20 to 30 minutes, and then returned to sleep for a couple of hours. As I’ve said, it works almost 100% of the time for me. But then again, I don’t do it every night. It’s been found that the effect of gulantamine  wears off if you use it too often. A good source is HealthSupplement Let me know how you do!
By the way, please take advantage of my free course on learning to use the FiveStar Method of dream analysis--an approach to dreams based on my early research into lucid dreaming--at I have just launched the Course Management System, which includes the Certificate of Dream Study training program.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Importance of Not Seeing too Directly into the Beauty of the Soul

I introduced my lucid dream about the veiled women to raise the question, Why the veiling of their presumed beauty? The first wore a dark mask, the second a blue fabric veil. It reminds me of Robert Johnson's analysis of the myth of Tristan and Isolde in his book We. Johnson argues that the relationship with the anima (or animus) should remain "chaste" and not eroticized. As you may recall, Tristan's fate all turns on whether he will have sex with Isolde the Fair, King Mark's queen. Well, they do, and all hell breaks loose. Until then, the relationship is magical and potent; but afterward war breaks out and Tristan's future is dark.

If the relationship to the inner self becomes eroticized and exploited, then the image of the soul is projected onto the world, and becomes identified with a real person. This is a burdemsome, impossible mission for the carrier of the projection, and she/he will surely fail in living out that expectation. Johnson says that by maintining a chaste relationship with the inner self, and by having a sexual relationship with a "real" person (Isolde the White), the Tristan within us lives out a balanced life in which his soulfulness gets expressed in creativity, feeling, imagination, and the like.

I have found that in my deepest lucid dreams, my feelings for the characters (who are, sometim, esperhaps actual souls) are hard to describe: they are so deep, so timeless. Holding the woman in the black mask gave me a feeling of having "come home." But it was not my home, at least for now. By not being able to see her, some degree of mystery remained, and a necessary distance was preserved. Johnson might say that I was fortunate not to see the face, for I may have overly personalized that moment. The lucid dream in all of its intensity and felt reality could have effectively fixated me on the image of her face. That connection with the soul, while being perhaps the "best thing we have," may also be the rocks upon which our ship goes to ground. In the Odyseus, Ulysses wants to hear the song of the sirens, but he is wise enough to have his men tie him to the mast of the ship. Without that grounding, the relationship with the anima can overwhelm the ego and find its expression in the external world, to our detriment. So it is grace itself that inserts a certain obliqueness into the relationship with the inner self, in order to keep our attention oriented to the real world, and committed to real relationships that can afford us what we need in this world of form and necessary compromise. If Tristan could only have been content with Isolde the White, his wife, it would have been a near-perfect world, but the vision of the anima lured him into thinking it could be a perfect world, and that is always an ill-fated belief.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why Are Some Dreams Veiled?

Freud believed that dreams were purposefully obscure, distorted by an array of defenses that would permit the reprehensible urges of the id to be vented through the avenue of the dream while protecting the dream ego from the stark truth.  This view of dreams has been largely overturned by the "continuity hypothesis," in which research has shown that dreams generally parallel waking state content. But if dreams are, as Jung said, "the message," and not some oblique reference to the truth, then why do some dreams seem to veil the truth? I think we have to turn to Robert Johnson's work to understand the following dream.

As a backdrop, I have been having a series of hour-long lucid dreams during the past couple of months. They are very deep and beautiful, full of darkness and radiance. The following one was particularly memorable and raises the possibility, once again, that the dream protects the dreamer from a direct apprehension of the truth. Here is the dream. Note the "veiling" of the female figures.

I am in darkness. I seem to be on a rocky ledge next to a stone or cement wall. I run my hands up and down the wall, and sense that it curves around to the left, perhaps defining a circular room. I reach up and feel the top of the wall. It’s about a foot wide, and has some loose stones on top. I push some of the loose rubble over the other side, and hear it hit water on the other side. I come down off the ledge and find myself with a woman in the darkness, with whom I immediately feel a profound, resonance. It’s as if we belong together for all eternity. Just being with her brings me unutterable joy and solace. We lie beside each other, holding each other in the dark. As the room becomes brighter, I look at her face and I’m shocked to see that it’s pitch black. I look more closely and see that her face is covered by what appears to be a black leather, close-fitting mask. I think, it doesn’t matter how she looks beneath the mask: I love her anyway. Then I am lucid and exploring a rich nighttime setting. I enter a room full of people, who know that I do not belong there. A woman, who seems to be their leader, challenges me. I decide to prove that I am dreaming, and from another plane, so I manage to levitate after overcoming my mental resistance to believing that I can. As I float up to the ceiling and float back down, the people are impressed, and no longer challenge me. Another woman appears, who says to me that the second woman made a mistake, and didn’t realize who I was. I feel deeply connected to the new woman, but in a different way. She seems to be my guide in this realm, and she begins to lead me through an array of settings. Sometimes she seems to be with me, and sometimes she leaves me for a while. At one point, I am in a room full of brilliant jewels and light sources, so I try to commune with the light. But as before, every time I stare at a light source, it shuts down. So I see a lamp-like light source to my left, so instead of looking directly at it, I get close to it, turn my eyes down and close them. I try to open myself to it, and my vision starts to brighten until my whole visual field is bright white with a subtle pattern throughout. The woman reappears, and I notice that she is shrouded in a blue veil, which is a medium blue with a dark blue thread of subtle design running through it. I ask her how she manages to remain covered. She laughs and says that it’s necessary for now, and that don’t worry--she can kiss and eat! The blue veil is actually very beautiful. I am alone again amid a lot of people. I realize that I’ve been in the lucid dream for a very long time, and wonder when it will come to an end. Suddenly, the people take on a uniform pale appearance and begin to sing a dirge-like song. The woman appears right before my face, and kisses me goodbye. Then I find myself back in bed.

I will comment on this dream in the next couple of days. But in the meantime, you might ask yourself, "why the veiling?" Was it somehow necessary for the dreamer's protection, and further development? Why? I have my own ideas, but since I'm the dreamer, I might be the best judge, not matter what people say about the dreamer being the ultimate authority on the dream. Dreams come to illuminate our blind spots. I am not sure that makes the dreamer the best judge!

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