What Dreams May Come

This first appeared in SHE Magazine in the 70’s

Tony and Hyone Crisp

We work at home, so we usually lock the doors to stop friends and neighbours getting a puzzling impression of us. if they found us lying inert on the bed I don’t think they’d believe us if we said we were usefully employed. Lying about, dramatising, is part of our work researching and interpreting dreams. For instance, a woman wrote to us about a dream in which she is with relatives and friends at a party in a restaurant. She becomes petrified with fear because a big wild cat, a lion perhaps, or a puma, sniffs round her, rubs against her and stares at her. She says of herself, “I am 34 and although happily married I have difficulty with relationships. This dream has recurred for ten years. Can you explain it?”

We walk into your dreams

To respond helpfully to her question, we imagined ourselves inside her dream, as if we were dreaming it ourselves. With this particular dream, we felt the woman was anxious about her own uninhibited and unpredictable sexuality. The cat was untamed, and capable of expressing its natural feelings unpredictably. The dream showed the “cat” side of the woman’s nature doing no harm to herself or others. It suggested she could relax and allow herself more freedom of expression. The dream recurred because she was stuck amid unnecessary fear and tension over her natural feelings. Dreams provide a safe area of experiment and growth: if the dreamer in this case recognises the absence of danger, she can relax the tension/fear, and allow herself to develop an easier relationship with the herself/the cat in future dreams. It will help even more if, while she is awake, she imagines herself making friends with the cat. In so doing she will become less afraid of what is, after all, part of herself, and will develop greater confidence in meeting other people. She will also relate more creatively to other women.

But, you ask, how do we know that is what the dream means? Aren’t we just making an interesting guess?

That might be true. But it is an educated guess. Between us we have 27 years’ experience of working with dreams. During those years we have worked with many groups and individuals as therapists, teaching ways of using dreams to help people achieve satisfying life-changes, greater creativity and to solve problems. In that role, in which we are still involved, we are not interpreters. We help people learn techniques which enable them to experience the emotions, memories and processes of growth within themselves.

For instance, one man we worked with dreamt he was in the dim entrance passageway of a house. It was not a welcoming place. When he let himself experience the feelings involved in the dream, he realised the corridor described how he had unconsciously felt about himself. He had held back from sharing himself with other people because he felt dull and uninteresting – like the passage. The positive side of the dream was that although he had not developed a fascinating exterior life, he/the corridor had great depth. This encouraged him to take the risk of allowing more people into his life. The passageway, leading as it did from the front door to the house interior, was an excellent symbol of the part of his own character which connected his own inner feelings and qualities with the people he met.

From the overall experience of working with many people in that way, seeing the meaning of dreams through the insight of the dreamer, we have come to understand enough of the language of dreams to give a shrewd interpretation of them – especially when the dreamer tells us something about her or his life, circumstances, age, and feelings associated with the dream.

A common question too is how did we get involved in this field? Tony often tells the story of how as a child of three living in London just before the last war, he sat in his pedal car fascinatedly watching a drain cleaner. In those days the man carried various rods and ladles to clean the street drains. As Tony watched him probing the damp mud and bringing up money and other objects washed there by the rain, an enormous feeling of revelation came over him. He was going to be a drain cleaner when he grew up. Tony feels the drain symbolised his desire to probe into the unknown area of the mind for what treasures might be found.

Self Help

As a teenager, Tony took courses in hypnosis and relaxation, taught by a Dr Ousby, and also in journalism. The first led him, in his 2O’s, to teach relaxation classes. He was trying at the time to discover practical self-help methods to enable people to deal with problems non-clinically. For a while he worked as relaxation instructor at Tyringham Naturopathic Clinic in Buckinghamshire. He considered existing relaxation techniques inadequate to help people to the degree he wished and began thinking about the possibilities of working with dreams.

He wrote Do You Dream?, which was published in 1972 by Neville Spearman. With a small research group, he investigated the healing and creative potential of dreaming, and how it might be more fully exploited. He discovered that many people, if shown, could “dream” while they were fully awake.

One of the first women to whom he taught the technique was referred by her doctor because she was in danger of suffering a breakdown. Through “waking-dreaming” she relived an abortion she had had four years before. Her body went on to complete the movements and sounds of giving birth to that baby. Her dream allowed her to “complete” the process she was anxious about having cut short, and to feel whole again. Teaching this technique in this country and Japan for the last ten years, Tony became recognised as a therapist, and some of his methods have been adopted by other psychotherapists. Summarising the experience of this period he has recently written The Instant Dream Book, published by Spearman.

A dream gave me my name – Hyone

My own involvement with dreams began before my birth. Until a few days before I was born, my mother was sure I was going to be a boy. I was to be named Alexander, and she said a prayer to the effect that if God or the powers that be had made me a girl, then they had better come up with a name too. The next morning my grandmother came down to breakfast with a puzzling dream. In it she had seen letters, and heard someone saying what appeared to be a name, “Hyone”.

My grandmother had no knowledge of my mother’s ponderings, so the dream was taken as a sign that I was a girl and Hyone should be my name.

When my first marriage was breaking up, I joined a group which met weekly to use the techniques Tony taught. I had always been a passive wife, hardly daring to hold personal opinions. What happened to me through the release of the dream process, which we now call “LifeStream”, was that I began to unfold as a person, discovered my own opinions and the strength to express them. I decided to end my marriage, and I began to lead seminars with Tony.

What I enjoy about the work is the satisfaction of helping people, as I was helped, to deal practically with some of their problems in their life – whether it’s a back-ache caused by repressed sexuality or creativity, or lack of initiative brought about by a negative self-image. A new facet of our work began in 1982 when the Daily Mail asked us to write a regular dream interpretation feature in Femail, which we did for 14 months.

Receiving dreams from hundreds of women, men and children all over the country was like switching viewpoints from the first floor window of a flat to a helicopter. The inner life of Britain unveiled itself to us. What did men feel about women having babies, for instance? What happened to a woman emotionally when she stopped having children? What did women feel about their new-found sexual freedom? How did you leave or lose a lover and stay in one piece? These were all issues which began to shout for attention; they were the common themes in the dreams we examined.

For example, men often dream of giving birth. Sometimes this shows a new part of their potential emerging, but in some dreams it arises out of a sense of awe at women’s ability to bring forth life. We suspect from these dreams that men have a carefully guarded sense of envy. Biologically, a man realises that nothing he can do, from building a skyscraper to walking on the moon, is quite as wonderful. Men’s involvement in politics, work, war, art, and other ‘important” issues, may arise in part out of this envy. It seems likely from other dreams that the original religion was closely linked with worship of the woman giving birth. The mystery of creativity made it a woman centred world – signs of this can still be seen in the adoration of the Madonna. Gradually the realisation dawned of the part the penis played in creation, and cultures moved to a veneration of, and dominance by, male power. Perhaps now we are learning a sense of balance.

The new experience of childbearing

Women who have had children and have decided to have no more often dream that they are in never-ending labour. This points to a problem which is new to women, and must be very widespread.

In the past, there were few – if any – effective birth controls. Women continued to bear children until they were incapable and, in general, their biological drives urged them to do so. But when the conscious personality dares to stop, and can implement the decision with contraceptives, what happens to the biological drive?

The dreams suggest that the drive to reproduce goes on functioning unconsciously, and unless satisfied in some way, may be felt as a sense of dissatisfaction or even psychosomatic illness. Human experience is changing at an alarming pace, outstripping what we are instinctively prepared for. Birth control is readily available, and so are abortions. When children grow up, they are these days more likely to move to another town, city or country than to a couple of streets away. The list of changes goes on and on. Women must learn to deal with these problems wisely if they are to remain physically and psychologically healthy.

How many childless women, for instance, breed cats or dogs, perhaps in an unconscious attempt to solve an emotional problem? This morning while waiting in our local post office, I heard a woman saying that when her 17-year-old dog had been put down, she could hardly talk to anyone for a week, and that much of her hair had fallen out. There is a huge reservoir of creative/destructive energy to be found in women who choose not to have children, and in men whose paternal role is disappearing. How we deal with this may be the making or breaking of our society. See Woman’s Creative Power

You dream about every aspect of yourself

Dreams deal with every facet of experience. We dream about the health and needs of our body, about intimate details of our sex life, about death. We dream useful new ideas. We dream humorously and – of course – we dream nightmares.

Even while we are awake, our subconscious is constantly filing, cross-referencing, predicting, and controlling our functions. While we sleep it has time to work and play in its own way, taking over our being and wills to express itself through dreams.

In a recent article in New Scientist, Morton Schatzman posed a difficult problem, partly mathematical, entirely difficult. Readers were asked to send in their dream response. The large numbers of people who dreamt the correct solution showed that not only can we dream an answer to a problem, but that we can consciously seek such a dream.

Tony and I want to carry on encouraging people to start using their dream resources. We want to share our enthusiasm with people who wish to improve the quality of their life by learning from their dreams. Meanwhile, we hope to continue our research. We have gained our insights only because countless people have shared themselves and their dreams with us. Every time we receive a batch of dreams, we cannot help but feel warmth for the senders. Neither can we help wanting to reflect back, even if indirectly, what we see and learn.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved