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Gestalt Dream Work

The gestalt picture – if you can get it – shows a Christ like image in the snow of a mountain

Fritz Perls (1893-1970) was the main influence in an approach to dream work that was not interpretative. Unlike the Freudian or Jungian work that includes a lot of interpretative comment on the part of the analyst, Perls encouraged the dreamer to explore and express their own sense of each character and object in the dream. This developed a sense of personal ability and insight in the dreamer. It enabled the dreamer to arrive at direct perception of how they had unconsciously formed their own dream. The insights into their own behaviour arising from this enabled them to more wisely make decisions about action. It also opened a door of direct experience regarding the enormously potent emotional content of their dreams.

Beyond the Authority Figure

Gestalt work lends itself to peer dream work in which there is no external authority to judge the dreamer’s insights, or to tell them how to work. This has great benefits in that dream exploration can be made by many people who cannot afford, or do not wish to undertake, psychoanalytic work. Its drawback is that the dreamer may easily avoid their own resistances to uncovering deeper material, and conflicts or fears.

A New Way of Knowing

When you experience a gestalt it is like a great illumination. A study of the brain show that a part of it analyzes each input pattern and when we smell something, then synthesizes its own message, which is transmits via axons to another part of the olfactory system, the olfactory cortex. From there, new signals are sent to many parts of the brain–not the least of which is an area called the entorhinal cortex, where the signals those from other sensory systems. The result is a meaning-laden perception, a gestalt, that is unique to each individual.

At this time a massive amount of separate experience or learning is experience all at the same moment. This happens when you allow the deepest parts of your nature freedom to express its content.

Every time we look at newsprint photos we are knowing a gestalt. From thousands of dots of different hues we make a whole picture. To use gestalt in dream work see Peer Dream Work

But there is another factor that is usually overlooked. I remember telling a dream that influenced my life deeply to a gestalt therapist. It was a waking lucid dream and the therapist tried to explain away a spiritual aspect of the dream. Although I tried to use what she explained to see if it did in fact explain my dream it produced nothing – although I had used such methods successfully in the past with great effect. There is a spiritual aspect to some dreams that opens up a vast world of realisation. See Waking Lucid Dream

I know many people say they do not believe there is a spiritual aspect to life, but somehow I feel they are blind to what is obvious – not the often dogmatic religions, or the huge selling of courses to become more spiritual. No, I am reffering to looking at yourself, to plants and life around you in animals and nature. Not the beauty, although that is sometimes a wonder, but the intricate workings of plants and nature. But I have explored this elsewhere and do not need to repeat it.

Although it is tempting to think of the transcendent as ethereal or unreal, the religious in dreams is nearly always a symbol for the major processes of maturing in human life. We are the hero/ine who meets the dangers of life outside the womb, who faces growth, ageing and death. The awe and deep emotions we unconsciously feel about such heroic deeds are depicted by spiritual or religious emotion.

Also, though this is seldom thought to be the case, religious feeling is at base a very practical thing. It is built upon a fundamental human experience – that of personal existence. What is meant by this is that in being aware of existing, you also become aware that your existence depends upon factors other than your own personal awareness of yourself. You need to breathe, you need to eat, you need other human beings to help you gather food, produce clothing, entertain you, share love, perhaps reproduce. In turn, food and air, other people, depend upon other plants, animals, bacterial action, sunlight, for their own existence. A tree that produces an apple we eat needs the minerals in the soil as well as the bacteria at its roots. It needs sunlight for energy, as well as the rain and the bees or insects to help it pollinate. Life is a process of coexistence and interdependence. The interactions and dependencies upon which your existence, or that of the apple on the tree depend, are not limited. If we trace them we find they link not just with our earth and sun, but with the whole cosmos.

Taking the word spiritual to mean the sum total of all these linked interactions and dependencies within our body and the universe, dependencies that enable our personal existence, our spiritual life is a very basic and practical thing. It arises out of our recognition of our intimate connection and life in the web of existence. It comes from some measure of experience or sense of this connection and integration.

When looked at from this viewpoint, none of us can escape the spiritual life. We can, however, relate to it in many different ways. These ways are depicted in the New Testament as the manner in which people related to Christ. Taking Christ as a symbol of the cosmic web of sentient life, people can love it, wash their hands of it, crucify it, ignore it, be healed by it, lie about it, offer themselves to it, worship it – and so on. The stance we take in our relationship with this larger life we are an integral part of, is the basic stuff of how we live, and the quality of our life.

In the end though, the experience of that bigger life in which we are a part, is a transcendent one. It moves our awareness beyond the limitations of thinking. It eliminates the boundaries of personal awareness. It enables us to experience, not just think about, our life as an eternal part of a great mystery.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved