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Mind and Movement 6 – The Dream and Coex

In general, and even from medical and psychological viewpoints, there is a blind spot in regard to the dream process and the action I have outlined under the name of coex. Because of the blind spot there is very little ‘trust’ in the ability of our organism to heal itself, to solve its own problems, or to act creatively outside the conscious rational mind. During the time my wife and I worked for The Daily Mail as dream interpreters, we collected thou­sands of dreams. One of the things which struck us as we studied the dreams was how few of them arrived at solu­tions to difficulties arising in the dream. Considering the almost awesome problem solving faculties of the uncon­scious this suggests we are culturally untrained in, or out of touch with, our own potential in this area.

Working as a psychotherapist for many years, using coex as the basis for my work, I observed how many ther­apists leave no room for the clients internal process and creativity to be expressed. It was during these years I realised first about the blind spot people have to their own possibilities. This is very clearly stated by S.M. Chrem in his thesis, The Role of Energy In The Psychotherapeutic Pro­cess. He says:

 It seems to us that although the body therapies described above, claim to practise organismic self-regulating tech­niques, all of them have highly developed structures in their therapeutic approaches. The least structured ap­proaches in which the process of self-regulation is much more respected are best exemplified by the work of David Boadella and Tony Crisp. Although they have a wide range of techniques to apply when necessary the client plays the most active role. These therapists trust in the self-regulative process and follow the client, waiting for the development of his process. This attitude serves as a model for the client, who soon starts to trust in his own internal spontaneity and the creativity of his un­conscious. With the arousal and amplification of the involuntary movements, gestures symbols or words, spontaneous activity is integrated with consciousness, will and analytic power. The therapist who applies the self regulative approach establishes contact with the client and accepts him as he is.


Lastly, I would like to briefly mention an intense ex­perience which I lived through within the therapeutic context of my training course in Bioenergetics led by David Boadella and Helen Davis. In this experience I could feel how physical, emotional and mental aspects reflect and influence each other, functioning as a whole.

It was in a workshop run by Tony Crisp. I was work­ing on a dream I had had many times in the previous two years. During this work, not only did I experience the energy flowing in my body, from my head down to the tip of my toes, as a pleasurable and relaxed sensa­tion, but I also felt a sensation of freedom during the process. My movements were easy and coordinated. I experienced these movements as a dance. I felt that the energy flowing through my body directed my move­ments. I began to express different sounds and to laugh noisily. I was truly happy. I had awareness of my inner potential. I had a clear, complete and vivid image of my body and there came to my mind flashes of scenes that I had lived in different moments of my life.

I felt that the good rapport that I had with the ther­apist was very important for me to express some parts of my being which had been buried for a long time. I felt deep gratitude to Tony who accompanied me and allowed me to go through this process of self discovery.

For me this experience was very significant from the therapeutic point of view. It gave me a great confidence in the self-regulative process for my body and simul­taneously provoked a change in my mental attitude. That is, I was more open to feeling and sensations as well as flexible and adaptable to different situations.

Moving into the Dream

If a dream is an expression of the same process we meet in coex, then it is clear that if we approach a dream we are already confronting deep and spontaneous activities of our inner being. In 1985 I helped a woman, Marilyn, to use coex in regard to the pain and anxiety she was experiencing about her impending divorce. Marilyn had dreamt of see­ing a dinosaur standing in her path, devouring all who approached it. The dream was a part of her own self-regulatory process which was easily available to work with. So we explored it by having Marilyn find a body posture and movements which for her expressed the feel­ing of the dinosaur. By doing this we gave more attention or consciousness to what might otherwise have remained an apparently unimportant part of her experience – the dream.

In her experiment with posture and feelings, Marilyn did not sense anger or aggression, but she did feel like a predator which always had to TAKE to gain her own needs. This feeling immediately reminded her of her family life as a child. She remembered one time when she was sent shopping as a very young child of three or four, and as well as buying what she had been asked, she purchased some sweets for herself. When she arrived home she was treated as if she had done a terrible thing, and that was when she began to feel like a predator. It seemed to her as if her own needs were always gained at the expense of someone else.

With this awareness, she could now see that the dino­saur standing in her path clearly related to her present situ­ation. Bargaining to gain a realistic share of the house and property jointly owned by her husband and herself, felt to her as if she were gaining her needs at his expense, like a predator. That made her feel so awful, she was almost ready to allow her husband to take all, leaving her without a house or money to start again. Her awareness of where the feelings arose from however, and the unrealistic part they played in her life, allowed her to relate to the situation with less pain and more wisdom.

There were two main ways Marilyn gained insight from her dream. Firstly she took on the physical posture of the dinosaur – inasmuch as she could. From that starting point she allowed herself to spontaneously express body movements, etc. So she was giving the coex process a key starting point by holding the posture and thinking of the dream. Also, when she allowed spontaneous movement her unconscious was enabled to ‘comment’ on the dream, add to it, or continue it – and by continue I here mean bring it nearer to conscious understanding. One might, for instance, in intellectually considering the meaning of the dinosaur, think of it as an angry beast. When Marilyn explored her feelings and spontaneous expression of the creature, she found it not to be angry but all – devouring. the subtle difference between the two was important for her in enabling her to define what it portrayed of herself.

When Marilyn reached points where she could gain no further insight another approach was used. I asked her to imagine that she stepped into the body of the dinosaur and see what it ‘felt’ like. If this was unclear I suggested she swung between being herself and being the dinosaur, and compare the difference between the two states. In our dreams we often create people or objects which are important. The approach of standing in the very form of the person or thing, using the ‘open screen’ technique described in chapter two, and noting changes of feeling, is a way of grasping very subtle and basic qualities being expressed in the dream. By themselves the movements and feelings may not bring insight into the dream. What happened for Marilyn was that once she had become aware of the ‘pre­dator’ feeling it immediately recalled to mind her experience as a child. So in working in this way one must leave the doors of ones being open, so to speak, to allow these associated memories and realisations to emerge. Therefore it helps if the question is in the back of ones mind as to what connection the movements, words or arising feeling, have with past or present experience. Do not be content with a purely intellectual understanding or interpretation. When you find real insight into a dream it will be accom­panied by something of a thrill or feeling of satisfaction, and there will be little or no room for doubt that the dream has been unveiled.

 Do You Like Eating People?

While Hyone and I were working at the holistic summer community of Atsitsa on the Greek island of Skyros, we learnt another approach to dreams which has proved to be extremely useful. Dina Glouberman, director of the com­munity, and Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at Kingston Polytechnic, taught us her ‘creative visualisation’ approach to the self regulatory process of the unconscious. It is extremely straightforward and effective. When we applied it to dreams it added an extra helpfulness to gaining insight. It can be used while one is exploring the dream symbol as Marilyn was doing through body move­ment and posture, or simply through speech. In fact the method is to work with a partner or group who ask you questions based on the symbol on which you are working.

If Marilyn were working in this way, we might ask her such questions as:- Do you like eating people?.. . What does it feel like being a dinosaur?. . . Are you eating every­thing because you are hungry?.. . Are you a young dino­saur? The questions should not take Marilyn away from what she is exploring, but lead her into identification with her symbol. They need to be simple questions. The strength of Dina’s approach is in its ability to lead one into watch­ing how we respond to our dream image through the stimulus of the questions. For instance, when we first used the technique with a dream group I was leading at Atsitsa, I was exploring my own dream image of a house. The members of the group asked me such questions as: Are your doors open to let people in?. . . Are you light or dark inside?. . . Are you a new or old house?. . . Are you a house to live in or a business premises? I found that with most of the questions I had a clear feeling response to them. As the house I was quite sure, out of how I felt, as to whether I liked people in me or not, how old I was, and what my function was. Out of the replies I gave, a clearer insight into how I personally felt about people, about whether I was ‘open’ to people ‘entering’ my life, etc, was defined for me.

In teaching her technique Dina explained that it is easier for people to talk about the house/dog/dinosaur and their depth of feelings and reactions to life, than it is to respond to the same questions about themselves personally. There­fore, it is most helpful only to come back to what the questions reveal to us about ourselves after we have fairly fully explored the symbol. Also, if any particular question arouses feelings or more than usual response, it is helpful to stay around the topic of the question for some time. For instance, if a question about age evokes a strong response, then other question such as – Is it difficult being the age you are?. . . Do dinosaurs of your age have special prob­lems to face? – need to be asked.

If the questions are being asked while the person is ex­ploring spontaneous movement, they need to be slanted to what is happening as well. So one could ask – Show me how dinosaurs eat things. . . What is that movement expressing? etc.

Whatever way you choose to work with dreams using the action of coex, it is important to remember the differ­ences between dream action while asleep, and possible change while awake. Freud pointed out that we take feel­ings of guilt or fear into our dreams, and there repress what might otherwise be openly and explicitly expressed. His examples were the use of keys, locks, fingers, to represent sexual activity. In such cases sex was symbolised because of fear or guilt instead of being directly experi­enced in the dream. What we allow into our conscious personality is a highly edited version of what we feel and have impulse to do within ourselves. While the unexpur­gated version of ourselves is certainly more varied than our conscious edited edition, it is certainly not a monster, as suggested by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is, in fact, a more balanced and rounded self. What we repress is not only our sexuality or our pain. As is suggested by the ex­perience of Dr. Semmelweis already quoted, we might also repress our noble instincts of caring and empathy.

Each of us has habits regarding what we edit out of our behaviour and conscious life. Some people edit any urge toward violence for instance, while for some people violence is their profession. Whatever our habit, we carry it into our dream life. It might be that our habit is to edit any emotion. In such a case, even if our spouse dies, we may not allow ourselves to cry our grief while awake. Because the habit is carried into our dreams, we find it hard to release our feelings even there. So the attempt on the part of the dream process to bring psychological balance through self-regulatory release is stifled. Recent studies of the connection between repressed emotion and the incid­ence of cancer, suggest the seriousness of this type of editing.

The reason these points are mentioned is because uniting dream-work with coex enables us to over-ride some of our editing habits. While asleep it is difficult to notice where our habits are causing negative side effects or killing our creativity. While awake and allowing the conscious dreaming of coex, we still have our critical faculties alert enough to see where negative editing is taking place and re-evaluate the process. In my INSTANT DREAM BOOK, I mention how Roger faced his habit of feeling anxious about what ‘might’ happen in his life. Because of his an­xiety Roger avoided taking risks in regard to his work. Although he felt frustrated he stayed in a safe job because of this. In recognising his habit however, he began to be able to allow creative drives in himself which would re­quire him to take risks. Although it promised no regular wage, he started free lance work in which he could express some of his own ideas.

Marilyn’s dream work also illustrates how she was able to recognise her habitual response and change it into some­thing more satisfying. Her habitual response was to feel like a predator when it came to asking for what she needed. Her re-evaluation of this was to see herself as having been led to the predatory feelings by others in her childhood, and to recognise her present needs as valid. This enabled her to seek them with more confidence.

If it is repressed emotions or insight we are dealing with, because it is our habit to repress them we will confront this habit as we work on a dream which contains them in symbols. In other words, because we repress the emotion we neither express it in waking or dream it openly, but symbolise it instead. While working on the dream we may conic to the point of realising the symbol represents our feeling of grief, but we still do not feel the grief. Sonic- times this critical point of change is typified by feeling as if one can go no further, or that ‘nothing is happening’. Although one may have been working well on the dream before, the reason ‘nothing happens’ is because the habit of repression has come into play, blocking further fantasy or feeling. To overcome our habit and pass beyond this point we need to consciously decide to allow our feelings. This following dream and description of Margery L’s, shows how feelings may be locked in us. She says:- My husband died suddenly four months ago. We had been married for 31 years. Ever since his death I’ve been trying to remember his face but cannot, which I find very queer and upsetting. I look at his picture but can’t see him in my mind. However, last night, for the first time since his death I slept fairly well, and I dreamt of him. We were together in our back garden. Suddenly I spotted lots and lots of horrible slugs and started to kill them by treading them into the ground – there were also a lot crawling up the shed wall! ‘Don’t kill them’, said my husband, ‘everything has a right to life. They will probably do some good, and we mustn’t kill them.’ He looked at me so kindly and seemed so peaceful and happy. Then I woke up. Normally, in real life if he’d seen a slug in his garden he would have said, ‘Fetch the salt Marge, that’ll shift him!’

What did this dream mean? I was brave all the days and months following his death. But lately I have been crying a lot, because it has suddenly struck me that I’ll never see him again. But today I feel more at peace. Can you explain it?

 The slugs are Margery’s difficult feelings about her hus­band, which she has been vigorously killing. When she says she was ‘brave’, what she really means is that she was suppressing her feelings, which in the long run could have caused illness. The dream shows both her attitude of ‘killing’ the feelings, and also the change which allows her to cry and feel the resulting peace.

All the examples given of dreams show how a change can come about the way we view or deal with life through dreamwork. The three factors responsible for this appear to be:

  1. Awareness of some aspect of ourselves is achieved. Through becoming aware of what reaction she had to gaining her needs, Marilyn could begin to avoid its nega­tive consequences.
  2. Releasing what was suppressed. Margery could begin to sleep again and feel at peace because the self-regulatory action in her dream helped her to allow the suppressed emotions for her husband.
  3. Integration of our personality with the life processes which form it. By opening his personality to the forces active in his dream, Chrem found a change which resulted in greater trust in his own inner process and a sense of greater wellbeing. The forces in the dream were accepted and integrated into his personality.

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