the waking nightmare

It’s very likely you’ve had a dream of being chased, under the threat of harm. This is one of the most common nightmares. Nightmares often play out in a similar fashion.

A common script:

Dream turns scary.

Dreamer retreats, desperate to escape.

Dream continues to unfold in unbearable ways.

Dreamer resists and will do almost anything to change what is.

Whether being chased by a hungry, wild animal, serial killer, or scary monster, we run – and fast! Would it be a surprise if I told you that not every runs away? Would it shock you if I told you that some dreamers turn directly toward what is feared?

By facing what, at first, seems scary and instead, engaging with it, transformation is possible. What we resist, persists, as the saying goes. The old habit of turning away is challenged. By refusing to acknowledge or listen to the messages of the dream source, we are likely to continue to be chased, haunted, or frightened. Imagine what could unfold by regarding nightmarish dream figures as helpful messengers. With some attention and gentle confrontation, once startling figures, may turn out to be the bearers of important news, or carry personal messages meant to be shared with the dreamer. For example, the dreamer may learn of a developing illness in need of medical attention, or an addiction spinning out of control, or an aspect of oneself needing acknowledgment and care, all as a result of engaging a frightening or bothersome dream figure.

But why, if we are meant to understand something, wouldn’t the dream figure appear in a more gentle form? If it did, would we pay attention? In his book, Conscious dreaming: A spiritual path for everyday life, Robert Moss suggests that dreamers ask, “What am I running from?” People so often run from things that cannot be controlled. img_1914Also consider that if we run when chased, could we be running away from an aspect of ourself? Behaviors and attitudes in waking life closely reflect those in dreams, and the behaviors and attitudes in dream states are a familiar reflection of waking life. Avoidance or denial in the dream state, for instance, is likely to spill over into the waking state, and vice versa. In addition, one’s most unpleasant aspects, false ego, or unhealthy choices may manifest in unattractive, dirty, or even ugly imagery. Such imagery cannot be ignored. Yes, we wake up frightened, but we remember.

What better way to gain insight into all of this then to ask the dream adversary itself? With some lucidity or conscious awareness in the dream, we can ask, “What message do you have for me?” “Why are you chasing me?” Or, “What do you represent?” Dreams have so much to offer – they can reveal so much to those who are willing to listen and pat attention. What do we have to lose? After all, by fleeing in either state – dream or waking – a similar challenge will await us on the other side. For instance, we may notice addictions or unhealthy behavioral distractions surface when the nightmare is not confronted. In the end, there is nowhere to hide. Moss asks, “What are the shapes of your deepest fears and insecurities?” He adds, “You can count on your dreams to show them to you, over and over, until you have grown beyond them. Thus nightmares often present recurring themes. You are falling – maybe because you don’t yet realize you can fly.” I believe that dreams have a way of acting as a compass would. The highest compass – the soul’s compass – will always steer us in the direction of growth and toward the highest good.

Interested in working with dreams? Psychologists and psychotherapists specializing in dreamwork can be found all over the world. The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) – the world’s largest professional dream association – is a good place to start. As an IASD Board Member, I can help you find a dreamworker near you. My services are currently being offered in San Francisco and Nevada City, California. Email me anytime!

Additionally, the IASD will be offering an online dream conference from September 23 through October 7, 2018. The online platform allows for greater accessibility to those around the world, so I am really excited to connect with other dreamers abroad. I will be presenting a paper titled ‘Extraordinary Announcing Dreams.’ For more information, visit http://iasdconferences.org/psi2018/

Please consider joining us,

Kim

 

 

 

 

my IASD conference experience

Last week, I returned from the 35th annual conference of the IASD, that is, the International Association for the Study of Dreams, which was held in Arizona this year. img_1928IASD conferences hold a special place in my heart, not only for the cutting-edge workshops and research presentations (such as Dr. Krippner’s shown here), but also for the soulful attendees as well. To spend 5 days with a large group of professionals, who hold such love for dreams and dreaming, is precious indeed. The interdisciplinary inclusion really makes these events special. Discussing dream research and holding space for dreamwork processes with so many psychologists, anthropologists, students, physicians, authors, psychiatrists, artists, psychotherapists and other healers is a true learning experience. It was img_1918also exciting to deliver a workshop and share my recently published book, Extraordinary Dreams, with people from all over the world – those I only get to see once a year. And while I have been attending IASD conferences since 2012, this year I became a Board member. There will be much to learn in this new position.

Something I habitually do before departing for an IASD conference is to chose a recent ‘big’ dream that I will focus on or work with during dreamwork process workshops. One year, for example, I chose a memorable tornado dream, and this year, I chose my most recent, which has turned out to be the most potent, mountain lion dream. While I gain a great deal of intellectual stimulation from the research presentations, it is the dreamwork sessions that leave me relating to my ‘big’ dreams much more deeply than before I arrived. They help me to keep the evolving relationship with the dream characters alive and come to deeper levels of meaning.

Many art-centered dream workshops I have attended, and loved, include two dimensional creations, such as, creative writing, drawing, painting, collage. This year, there was one workshop I attended that incorporated a three dimensional quality. The workshop leader brought 3-D pieces (woodscraps, beads, pipecleaners, sticks, tissue paper), and with these, the attendees were asked to create the dream or reflect dream characters three-dimensionally. This made a real difference for me because I could show others aspects of my mountain lion dream in ways that were difficult two-dimensionally. What’s more, I could move the pieces around when needed. This allowed me to ‘communicate’ in ways I had not been able to before and helped me to understand the greater ‘constellation’ of the dream in a new way.

Sometimes, we may not be able to find the time to create 3-D objects of all dream characters from scratch, but we may be able to use other 3-D objects already at hand, such as children’s toys lying around the house (or the therapy office for those of us that work with children). Small dolls, stuffed animals, Lego figurines, etc. can take the place of hand-made objects. This can be beneficial to the dreamer, who may not have access to other means of exploring dreams in 3-D space, such as in group work. In groups, each member can play the roll of a dream character for the dreamer. That, too, is a luxury, because dream groups are not held in every city, every week or month, let allow ones with a Gestalt orientation. Without willing participant bodies consistently available or personalized hand-made dream representations, easily available objects could suffice. Do any of you relate to your dreams in this way? I’m glad I had the opportunity to try it out because it left a strong impression.

In addition to workshops, other creative activities abound at IASD conferences. There is img_2033a dream telepathy contest modeled off of New York’s Maimonides Medical Center telepathy experiments from decades ago under Dr. Ullman and Dr. Krippner (here I am with Maureen, “the sender” for this years contest), a dream art exhibition featuring fine art in various media from artists worldwide, and on the final evening, a dream ball where attendees dress in a costume from a dream and are invited to share the dream if desired. If you missed us this year, you can find us –and the fun- next year. IASD’s 2019 conference will be held in Kerkrade, Netherlands. For more information, go to www.asdreams.org

 

Hope to see you there,

Kim

to befriend one’s armor

Armor. It’s not a word I often hear, so I was a little surprised to dream of such a concept. Armor can be thought of as a protective layer intended to deflect or diffuse damaging forces. The phrase, a knight in shining armor evokes a strong image, yet armor can be many things. Surely, it can be more than a physical object. And ‘damaging forces’ entail more than swords or bullets. Armor, in a psychological sense, acts as a coping mechanism to protect from emotional pain.

While the word ‘armor’ is not part of my everyday vocabulary, the act of armoring is a frequent experience for most of us. It’s the way our unconscious distorts the body. It happens unconsciously. When do we, as people, armor ourselves? Armoring can take place when suppressing emotion, holding in truths, and inhibiting ourselves in various ways, to start. Armoring happens when our authentic self is not permissible or allowed.

Could long-term armoring lead to disease and illness? Some would say yes, as emotional experience has a relationship with physiology. As a result of armoring, we may encounter physical and physiological symptoms. Considering that what happens internally is expressed externally, in our posture, and musculature, we may become aware of a hunched back, tight jaw muscles, or an overall stiffness, for example. The impact of armoring can be invisible as well, such as when we do not allow a full exhale to happen. It’s good to know that releasing years of armoring is possible. These insights and ideas come from Wilhelm Reich and the field of somatic psychology. Somatic psychology gives great attention to the embodied self. Body-oriented therapies are shown to help greatly in this area.

Like body-oriented therapies, dreamwork also provides an opportunity to attend to one’s embodied self. In California, many licensed psychologists and psychotherapists are experienced dreamworkers, offering individual and group dreamwork sessions. There are various types of dreamwork – Gestalt dreamwork is one example. Through dreams, we can see ourselves in different ways. Dreams are said to reflect many things, such as unconscious processes, adaptation, attention needed in some aspect of the waking physical life, and much more. Dreams can be a source of guidance and even provide concrete information. Dreams can also reveal aspects of our authentic self. A dream may even prompt one to schedule an appointment with physician or a therapist. While dreamwork can take various forms, one way to begin (after recording the dream) is to focus on the imagery. Often there is a central image. Stay with the image and give it life in order to understand it at deeper levels. As an artist, I prefer to draw or paint my dreams. Others act out the dream in dream-like theater. With lucid dreaming, we can ask the dream to bring a healing figure to assist us, or to show us how to heal ourselves. These are just some of the possibilities.

Below, I’ll share a portion of one of my recent dreams and the evolving process that, for me, followed naturally. In the first part of my dream,

Damaging forces abound. An adolescent girl (who may represent one aspect of myself) is being protected by a small group of caring adults, both male and female. The adults work at the girl’s group home or residential treatment center. We are outdoors, in town somewhere, under the bright sun. In particular, one of the adult females (who I understand to be my primary self), is very concerned and protective of the girl. She gently places her arm around the girl, kissing her on the forehead with wet eyes, as the girl removes her body armor (in the form of a metal body suit, somewhat similar to chain mail).

In the dream state, I experienced this scenario with the body armor as the strong central image, leading me to pay attention to my own armoring, its potential health impact, and to begin to seek solutions. As part of my own dreamwork process, I felt compelled to img_1663recreate the metal body suit, which I did by knitting with some thin wire. Not easy! Later, I represented the image in a painting (shown here). This is just the beginning of re-establishing my relationship with armor – a concept I had set aside, for the most part, since graduate school.

There is no end to this story. Armor must first be known, even allied, before it can be shed. And in order to shed, one must create a safe environment (perhaps with a therapist) before the armor will even budge. If we allow it, we can see truth with our dream ‘eyes.’ Dreams have a way of making the unconscious, conscious. Dreamwork acknowledges that consciousness and the authentic self continue to develop. Evolving interpretations are at play.

May your dreams be your medicine,

Kim

*I’d like to thank Dr. Jennifer Tantia of New York for her consultation with this article. She can be reached at http://www.soma-psyche.com