Archive for the ‘dream work’ tag
This little guy sat still long enough for me to go and get my camera and get this photo taken. To tell the truth, when I got back outside his wings were folded and I had to wait a while before he opened them up again for this photo.
There is no doubt that I was lucky that the butterfly had remained on the tree during the time it took to get these two photos two days ago. I didn’t know if I should keep the first photo as it is a bit blurry and doesn’t have the aesthetic quality of the photo with its wings opened to receive the warmth of the sun’s rays; but now, I am glad that I did. The two photos seemed to illustrate my dream from early this morning. I guess I should explain.
My dream this morning was about dreaming. In my dream about dreaming, I was concerned about the recording of the dream and found myself recording dreams in two separate journals. The second journal contained dream fragments, those bits of dreams that indicate that there was more but defy all conscious attempts to capture the fullness of the dreams. The first journal was where the dream then got recorded in all of its fullness, a drama in full colour even though the drama has no linear structure, a fullness that almost has all the parts existing at the same time in which the ego dream-self navigates without worrying about obeying the laws of physics or rationality. Two journals; two versions of the same dreams – two photos that has one hinting at way is hidden while the second photo holds nothing back.
I know that I am always stuck with the fragments which sometimes are actually quite large running into several hundred words, but usually containing less than a hundred words. The fragments do help me in terms of “associations” with my personal past and often with incidents of the very recent past. Yet, these associations are not enough if I am to fully understand the dream. Looking for more, I turned to C.G. Jung in order to find a bit of guidance.
“Dreams, then, convey to us in figurative language – that is, in sensuous, concrete imagery – thoughts, judgments, views, directives, tendencies, which were unconscious either because of repression or through mere lack of realization. Precisely because they are contents of the unconscious, and the dream is a derivative of unconscious processes, it contains a reflection of the unconscious contents.” (Jung, CW 8, par 477)
Unconscious contents, repressed contents being “reflected” – there, I knew that there was something to even this fragment. It doesn’t take more than a fragment to point to what the fragment is a reflection of, the fuller story. Jung spoke of how dreams pointed to motifs, to themes that are often represented in myths and fairy tales, stories of the collective unconscious which is embedded within our personal unconscious. Finding the theme allows us to hear what the dream is attempting to communicate to us. Now, all I have to do is to mull upon the question of what is it that I am trying to disguise about myself, saying as little as possible in terms of self-disclosure. Of course, the clues are in what is actually disclosed, in the fragment.
I do love black and white photos, or should I say, photos that show a richness of gray. My dreams are often about shapes, forms, textures and a lack of colour. The lack of colour isn’t something that gives a problem in terms of the stories for one focus on the action, the drama, the faces, the relationships rather than getting caught up in colours. When colour does present itself, then colour has its own meaning.
This photo was taken while on the road travelling from point A to point B, a journey of more than a few hours. I took quite a few photos of the old building from a number of locations and perspectives, following intuition more than making it a “purposeful” activity. Often in such locations I like to enter the building and take interior photos ore photos looking out from the decay and wreckage of an abandoned building. But this time, I stayed outside deciding to look at the whole, to take peeks into the shadows or to look through one window and a window opposite to see the outer world to be seen on the opposite side of the house.
I was not pulled to be in the old story, to wander within the decay and wreckage of the past stories of this old house. It was enough for me to see the house and to honour it without disturbing it too much. I do this with my dream work from time to time. Sometimes I write them down, read what has been remembered and then close my eyes for a moment of silence before leaving the dream alone.
I don’t have a logical reason by which I choose which dreams to go into, either in terms of analysis (decoding the dream) or dialogue (engaging the characters within a dream) or through art (attempting to capture the feel and texture of a dream). I have been noticing that in presenting dreams during analytic sessions, my analyst responds in a similar manner. Some dreams are simply given a nod of recognition, others become the subject of some art form, and others become the centre of attention for discussion.
If there are rules for dream work, it could possibly be said that the only real rule is to honour the dream, to honour the response of the dreamer to the dream, and to trust to intuition in guiding the process.
I took this photo this morning in downtown Calgary. It was a curious early morning. While I was taking a pause for a coffee between train and bus, five fire trucks pulled into the scene outside of the window and there emerged quite a collection of firemen in full gear with oxygen tanks and extra hoses and carrying axes. They seemed to be heading to a place that seemed to be next door to the coffee house. As the customers curiously went to the door and front windows to see what was going on, I continued to write in my journal, a practice that I have adopted before completing the journey to my guide’s home and office. It wasn’t too long before it was evident that there was no fire nearby and soon the scene returned back to normal. Leaving the coffee house to catch my bus, I stopped long enough to take this photo of a building only a block or two away. I liked how the light was glittering like gold on the building and some of the windows, a nice contrast to the areas still in shadow.
As usual, analysis picked up in a look at a dream. This morning the focus was my dream of earlier in the morning. I woke just before 5 this morning and wrote down my dream, the first half of which I will bring here in order to look at it with you:
. . . it is as if I am with a few people, not many, with them, but not really “with” them as it is more like we have been thrown together regardless of whether or not we want to be together . . . I can’t see any of these people clearly though I do see that one of them has just obtained the rights to one planet which is pocked with huge holes which seem to be old mining pits . . . he is going to be having huge boxes transported to these pits and then having the boxes covered with material (rock, etc.) so that it would be unlikely that the boxes would ever be discovered . . . the boxes contain dead people, murdered people . . . (rgl, Journal, March 2, 2012)
Now before I go any further, it is important to note that every element of the dream, people and things, are all aspects of myself. Even when a known face appears in a dream, that face is really just a pointer to some vital piece of understanding of my self. Dream work begins with looking at the “affect” that the dream brings to my consciousness – how am I responding to the scene in terms of “feeling.” Robert Bosnak, author of many books including a tiny book I own called, A Little Course In Dreams, has captured well what I felt upon first noting the dream:
My first reaction after listening to a dream is, “I haven’t the faintest idea what this dream is about. It proves that dreams are pure nonsense – or maybe my comprehension is just not up to the complexity of the dream world.” At such a moment I feel like a charlatan, an interpreter who hasn’t mastered his languages, a con man. In short, I feel terribly inferior.” (page 49)
This is where I found myself when I first wrote it and then read it to my guide. I am a therapist and I should know at least something, feel at least something rather that just see the dream as nonsense. But then when my guide asked me, “What did you feel? How are you feeling NOW?” It wasn’t really much, two tiny little questions that I was about to dismiss when I realised that I did feel something – NOW. I could feel disgust with the attempts to bury a crime, to dismiss so lightly the death of what had once been alive and thriving. I was also angry that the evidence of the crime was to be buried so far away that there would never be a chance to find the evidence and bring justice to the murdered and his victims. It was a start. Though I spoke those words, I realised that there really wasn’t a murderer getting away with murdering people and disposing of their bodies as if I were some clairvoyant hired to solve a crime.
People weren’t being murdered and hidden away so far that they would never again see the light of day. So what was my psyche, my shadow trying to tell me about me? What was being murdered, what was being boxed, what was being buried somewhere in outer space? I wasn’t able to answer this yet, perhaps I wasn’t willing to answer this.
My guide was astute to realise that I was holding back – it was there in the pauses and the body language. He asked me if I really wanted to find out what was in those boxes, find out what was murdered (or about to be murdered). What was I trying to bury so deep and so far that it could never be brought back to attention? Of course an answer wasn’t really expected at that moment. I had time to think about it as we continued on with the second half of the dream which I haven’t included here as this post only concerns this first half.
As the last minutes of our time together approached, my guide made a comment: ‘You realise that you just travelled halfway around the world, have rented a place and are paying good money for my services. Are we just going to visit and talk psychology and only look at the surface of things?” Ouch! How about that for brutal honesty!
I took a moment before responding that I made the journey with intentions to get out of the box(es) within which I had trapped myself, boxes which were suffocating me.
He then served notice, ‘You realise that if we open these boxes together, we can’t put anything back in and close it up again? Are you willing to risk, to take this risk that will forever change you and your relationship to yourself and the world?’
Taking a deep breath, and quietly letting it out, I said I was willing as I really had no choice anymore. And so, we continue this shared journey next Monday morning.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I want to add a few more words. The dream was serving notice to me, telling me that if I didn’t act, a significant part of who I am will be forever dead and buried. That message was reinforced by the appearance of the fire trucks while I was having coffee. The firemen were engaged in either a training or false alarm – a warning to them to be ready – a warning. And I do get the message. This is for real, this is for keeps.
A final note. Writing this post too a lot of time which is unusual for me. Between the start of writing the post and these final words I have meditated, gone shopping for groceries, peeled carrots and potatoes, cut my finger while chopping up the veggies in preparation for the supper meal which is still about two hours away – all delaying tactics hoping I would change my mind, or better yet forget about it, bury it and box it away, hide that box as far away in some tower or attic as possible. But rather than being a passive observer like the ego self in the dream, I resisted disengagement and made this post happen in this way. This war is going to get messy, very messy indeed.
This young woman was picking a rose from one of the many rose bushes found along the boulevard that passes the apartment where I live. The roses belong to the city and are rarely touched by the citizens. Yet, here this one young woman was selecting just one of the roses. Carefully, she chose one and then slowly walked on, lost in her solitude. I didn’t see happiness in the picking or the leaving of the scene. It made me wonder what sad story she had to tell. Of course, I will never know her story.
But in taking this photo yesterday, I wonder what I was really photographing. I have have more than enough photos to be simply recording daily life in China. It hardly needs saying anymore, but I will say it anyway, I was taking the photo in order to allow some otherwise silent part of myself to have a voice.
Usually I take such an image and allow active imagination to bring out the voices of the various aspects of the personal unconscious. But, this isn’t always necessary, in fact it might even be counterproductive if used to an excess. Sometimes all that is necessary is to acknowledge the presence (here, the face of anima) and leave it at that.
The same is true with dream work. I used to religiously record all of my dreams and then work overtime on mining these dreams. But the effort was not often rewarded with satisfactory results as far as my ego was concerned. I had thought that each dream must be pregnant with deep meaning. In many things I am a slow learner or take things too literally. After many wasted hours, I turned to Jung only to find that the effort I was putting into the process was excessive. Just being aware of the presences in a dream, being aware that the dream took place was enough. There is an interior dialogue that occurs without the mediation of the ego that is vital for psychic health.
And this is the lesson I take to my photography. Often, most often, it is enough that I have taken the photo with either intuitive intention or ego intention. Taking the photo is much the same as unconsciously picking a rose and then wandering away with the rose with no questions asked
This photo was taken in the floating village of Chhong Kneas, Cambodia. When I took it, I knew I was taking a photo of a floating Catholic church, what I didn’t know at that time was that I was also taking a photo of a floating school, an English language school that was Vietnamese as the floating village was, for the most part, a Vietnamese floating village in the heart of Cambodia. I only found this out after selecting the photo for today’s post and had blown up the photo in order to check out all the elements in the photo. It’s interesting to find out what comes as a gift when least expected.
Of course, after choosing the photo, all plans that I had to continue bringing ideas from Hollis’s work, Mythologems went out the window, so to speak. It then became like wandering through a dreamscape, trying to identify the pieces and see if there is something there that would give a bit more light about self. So, I then looked at the parts. I wasn’t exactly raised as a religious person in a deeply religious family. What religion there was present was more about form and superstition rather than about doctrine. That sporadic surface approach to religion was within the container of the Catholic church. Neither my grandparents nor my parents used any form of logic or explanation to explain the random visits to a church or the random following of church rules such as no meat on Fridays. Religion in the Catholic church wasn’t passed on to me with a solid foundation that nurtured a rich belief.
And the school? Well, a similar story to be told. I did go to school in a fashion. By the time I was of age to go to high school I had missed almost as much school as I had attended. And, I had attended over twenty different schools in four different Canadian provinces. It wasn’t until the second round of grade seven that I actually attended one school for a full year. By grade nine, I added a fifth province to the line-up and finished that grade back in my home city. High school was attended in three different schools with the last two and a half years at one school. Still, attendance was an issue. Though I got excellent marks in a number of subjects, my attitude and poverty meant that university was out of the picture. The grades were there, but the foundation was very shaky.
In this photo, the school is larger than the church; but, like the church, it is a floating school. Floating suggests that both the church and the school are not grounded in consciousness, but are expressions of the unconscious, much as my grounding in the spiritual domain and the cognitive domain were experienced as unplanned, unconscious happenings. Though I am French-Canadian, most of my upbringing was in the English language as was my schooling. I was a stranger in a strange land as I played with cousins and experienced extended-family activities in the French language. The school in this photo is a Vietnamese school meant to serve the Vietnamese children who lived in this floating village on a tributary of the Mekong River, the Tonle Sap River. A school in a strange land in a foreign language.
As I look at the photo, I realise that though this is really as scene of the outer world, a scene from Cambodia; the image gives me a sense of comfort with being “less grounded” as I am better able to hold the tension of “not knowing” the answer of life, that I am comfortable enough just living the questions of life.
This painting was my recording of a dream. Sometimes I record dreams with words, sometimes with paintings, sometimes, I record them in my dreams and realise later that the dream never took an outer world form. In the dream world, nothing is really all that straight forward for me. Everything is metaphoric. Like many people, my dreams end up having no recognizable message for me. That isn’t something that concerns me as I know that the “Work” of the dream is to process life, both inner and outer, so that there is some internal integration.
Sometimes, I get to glimpse, obliquely, at what is going on and why it is going on. The awareness doesn’t change too much of what I do, but it does allow me to feel a bit more comfortable with the processing and the direction. I have to admit that I don’t “religiously” record all of my dreams. I don’t have the patience or the need or the desire to do so. Perhaps that is just an excuse to give in to my lack of attention to these things. Perhaps it is simply that I trust in my own instincts to recognise when I need to do dream work. In the end, all that matters is that I am okay with myself.