I believe all dreams are part of a learning process, but unfortunately it is blocked in its progress as the symbolic or allegorical level. It is much like the way we often try to understand the meaning of the bible, we often fail to see it as an allegory with a hidden meaning.

This becomes clear once we recognise that the human mind does not work from the top down, but often from the bottom up. Our waking self usually only thinks in ways it already knows or has been taught. Most people when asked, “Who are you?” reply by saying their name or what they are known for – I am a housewife – a steel worker – etc. But who are you? Your name was given you and can be changed – it is not you? We all live in ready made phrases that are put there by words or things we have learned or seen – but do they reflect truly you?

In fact it is the most difficult question to answer, and has been used for centuries in methods of helping people cut through to realising their core self.

It helps to be clear about this point of allowing fantasy if one understands the way completely unconscious inner events gradually emerge into consciousness. W.V. Caldwell, writing about the way Van Rhijn has defined the levels of consciousness says there are four stages. It says that dreams come from a part of us that is not known – unconscious. To become conscious the impulse has to travel through levels of our mind:-

a] The deeply unconscious physiological process, such as cell generation and digestion. Problems which cannot move more fully into consciousness and so are held at this level become psychosomatic pains or illness. This becomes clearer if we consider human life in relationship with other life forms. A plant for instance might have some sort of bacterial illness, but would not be able to bring that to awareness. In a sense many things which occur to us, although they are very real and definite, never become a part of our conscious life, but always remain in the ‘plant’ level. If they are to move from ‘deeply unconscious physiological process’ to becoming known consciously, there are stages such events go through.

b] As the physiological or psychobiological process moves nearer consciousness, its next level of expression is postural or gestural. Thus we may express our deepest hidden feelings in an unconscious body posture or movement. Not only our feelings express in this way, but also our physical tone or health shows in our postures and movements. Even the plant droops if it needs water.

c] Next, when something moves from the gestural to the next stage of expression it becomes a dream or a symbol, which although it may not be understood, is now entering the arena of awareness. It is still a part of the move toward consciousness. This is sometimes called the mythic level, and is something we see working in producing religious thinking or myth creation. It still remains at the symbolic level.

d] At this stage, what had been deeply unconscious, then symbolised, now rises into consciousness and is capable of being verbalised or thought about and analysed. If one had attempted to verbalise something in level two it would have been so far outside of consciousness as to defy description. Also, when looking at these levels or stages, they suggest that the dream process is a means by which deeper stages can be portrayed to awareness in order to make them known. Therefore, by working with the dream process we can tap deeper levels of awareness and make them known. It is not by thinking about a dream that makes it known but by working with the process that has taken it from the psychosomatic, through the postural upwards to the dream level.

When this level is reach you can describe a dream in a way anyone can understand.

I hope you can see from this how an unconscious formless and non verbal gut feeling can gradually become conscious and verbal. It is the way we learn the new. It als o shows how dreams are a learning experience.

An interesting example of these four stages and how someone can work through them is given by Reich. When the abdominal tensions of a patient were released the man found his body making spontaneous movements. These were allowed and the movements gradually led the man to take on the posture of an animal – he and Reich both felt it to be a fish. This puzzled both of them as to it meaning, but as the movements continued the man first realised he felt like a fish caught on a hook and line, then suddenly, that was how he felt in regard to his mother.

As can be plainly seen, the first level is seen in the example as the man’s unconscious abdominal tensions, built into his physical structure. When these are loosened and considered by the mans conscious attention, and the spontaneous dream process is allowed to function, level two manifests as movement and gesture. This moves to level three where the movements are recognised as a symbol – the fish. Then the fourth level, insight and understanding are achieved when the man realises the fish represents previously unconscious feelings he has about his mother. At this point he can verbalise and analyse. I believe that being aware of such facts enables us more easily to open ourselves to the process of self-regulation and trust what it produces. It is not by thinking about a dream that makes it known but by working with the process that has taken it from the psychosomatic, through the postural upwards to the dream level.

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