Your Guru The Body – Part Five
Exploring your dream forwards is not used as a ‘feel good’ technique. That is not its aim. It is not an attempt to make everything feel okay. If that were its aim this would not be a master class in dreamwork. It would be more of a class in positive thinking and how to avoid negative feelings. As this is important time will be taken with it.
If you have a car and hear a screeching noise coming from the engine, it will probably not help to get a blanket and put it over the engine to deaden the noise. Nor will the noise go away if you get a spray can and paint the engine a nice bright colour. However, if you understand a little of how the engine works, then you might realise that the fan belt is loose, and tightening it will stop the noise.
This is not a precise analogy, but dreams can help you to understand what makes you feel the way you do, and also what has brought you to the set of experiences you face. With that understanding you can make real changes in your life. If we look at a precise example using the following dream, this will become clear.
I was at a very large school. Looking around I came to a large gymnasium. Near the end where I stood was a diving board, about 20ft. off the ground. Girls were learning to dive off the board and land flat on their back on the floor. If they landed flat they didn’t hurt themselves – like falling backwards standing up. I was sure they would hurt themselves and it was difficult to watch.
This was dreamt by Des, a man in his forties. If we look at the themes we can see that it shows a learning situation for the man, indicated by the school. Although Des doesn’t put this into words, he is in the role of a spectator, so is observing something that he can learn from. He is witnessing something that he finds disturbing, and as we read it, sounds risky. The girls are in fact taking a risk, but learning to do so in a way that does not damage them.
If we shorten this we can say the dream is about learning something linked with risk taking, about how that might be done without harm.
This become clearer when we realise that Des had recently changed from being an employee to becoming self-employed. He was feeling a lot of anxiety about where his next week’s income was coming from, and how long he could last living in this new way.
We explored his dream and he experienced the diving board as depicting the big jump he was taking into the unknown. He was afraid he was going to land ‘flat on his back’. In English this suggest loss of control, and being ‘on ones back’ links with illness or defeat. (The use of idioms in dreams will be dealt with later.) The girls, he felt, represented his daring, in taking his new step in career, and also his vulnerability. All this was easy for him to realise, but it didn’t take away his anxiety. Therefore we worked on carrying the dream forward while honouring his feelings – i.e. not pushing away any of his fears or resistances.
Des sat and relaxed, imagining himself back in his dream, feeling anxious the girls might damage themselves. He changed the scene slightly by turning the gymnasium floor into a swimming pool. This shifted the mood from one of possible danger to one of fun or play. However, Des could not feel that he could export this feeling of fun to his work situation. Of course it would make it slightly better if he could feel the new step was fun, but this was not very believable to him, so was not useful.
Then he had an urge to climb up on the board as one of the girls and dive off. As he did this he felt the full flow of his anxiety. Even so he managed to land on his back on the bare floor. So, like the girls in the dream, he climbed up again and repeated the dive. After running through this a number of times Des opened his eyes and smiled. He said, ‘It’s just a feeling. Anxiety, I mean. It’s just a feeling.’
When I asked him to expand on this he replied, ‘When I dive off that board I feel anxious. But when I repeat it over and over I start to recognise that it is like a tape playing. The feeling doesn’t actually do me any harm, it’s just something that plays in certain situations. What I learn from this is that feelings don’t harm me unless I hold onto them. I can have the feeling of falling flat on my back and get up from it and take another risk. It’s okay. My anxiety isn’t a reflection of reality, only of how I feel. There is a big difference.’
Des continued in his self-employment, with gradually lessening anxiety, and is still self-employed years later.
As you can see, carrying the dream forward doesn’t simply mean changing the scene to make it happier, it means exploring, trying out new things until you find something that really works, really helps you find a new relationship with what you are facing. When it works well, this is a wonderful technique. Allied with the definition of themes, it enables you to make the dream into a real personal workshop for transformation.
In moving the dream images toward satisfaction you will notice that there are points of change. For instance, an anxious feeling may change into determination; a feeling of being withdrawn may change into one of self-expression. Frequently we can recognise the first feeling as a habitual one, which is often a part of our conscious life. It is therefore helpful, using the image of the dream, to practice transforming the unsatisfying feeling into the satisfying one. Doing this allows you to break through walls that may have trapped you for years. This way lies greater freedom. (Quoted from The Instant Dream Book by Tony Crisp)
Bill, a man Hyone and I worked with in the counselling role, had felt since childhood that he was physically unattractive. He had developed this feeling about himself because his mother had never shown any pleasure in handling his body as a baby. All his childhood messes and dribbles had been treated as repulsive and dirty and these feelings surrounded him in his personal prison. We asked him to feel his need for making contact with us, and, when he was ready, reach out for us, but not to do so as a mechanical action. For ten or fifteen minutes he could not move. His walls of negative feeling were so strong, but gradually and with deep emotion, he came to us and held us, feeling our pleasure in response to him.
Your dreams afford you the same opportunity. Use them to move out of the prison you may have lived in for years.
Because this is such an important technique I will give one more example. Each person works slightly differently, so this gives you a wider frame of reference.
I am taking part in a horse race. I am on my horse at the starting gate, but I am held up as the others get away and have to ride up the side to try to catch up. The others are ahead and go over the first jump, but when I get to it the size changes and it looms above me. It is now a massive steel structure and there is no way I can get past it to continue the race.
In this dream the man, Pete, is certainly not passive, but an active participant with a group of people. But he is meeting a problem which is not resolved in the dream. When I asked him what he felt in the dream, he said mostly a sense of frustration and failure. These, he said applied to his life situation. He was in his early thirties, and had tried a number of jobs, but still felt uncertain about what he wanted to do. He had not maintained a steady relationship either, although he wanted to settle with a girl and have a family. ‘So I feel I’m part of the human race; I’m participating, as in the dream, but I got left behind at the starting post. I muffed school and never trained for a career because I was uncertain of what I wanted to do. Now I look around and see my friends way ahead of me, settled into work and marriage while I’m still trying to get going.’
We then worked on how Pete could alter the dream to find greater satisfaction? The dream had been created out of his own attitudes and emotions. So what could he do to create a different life experience for himself?
Pete saw himself in the race again and arrived at the jump. No matter how he tried he couldn’t reduce the size of it. But then he realised there were so many other options open to him. For instance, why had he created his dream as a race, with such a sense of competition? In the role of competitor, because of his beginnings, he couldn’t help but meet feelings of failure. But what if it wasn’t a race?
Once he realised this Pete could simply enjoy riding the horse. Then the image of the racetrack disappeared and Pete saw himself riding through countryside, enjoying feelings of pleasure at his sense of freedom.
The experience of changing a feeling of failure into one of pleasure showed Pete the situation he had been creating in his own life. While he was feeling a failure due to the attitude that life is a great competition that you either win or lose, he gave up exploring the opportunities and pleasures that actually existed for him. In reality, although he had no regular job, he had involved himself deeply in learning psychotherapy and counselling. This interest was very real for him, but it seemed to be no part of the competitive world he felt around him. As soon as he dropped his unconscious drive to compete, he allowed himself to be more seriously involved in counselling, and was offered a scholarship in the USA to further his studies. He is at present living in California.
Practice this step often. It is very rewarding, but does need some involvement of feelings. Use it until you deepen your experience of it.