dreaming in recovery

While working as a trauma therapist at a non-profit agency for substance abuse recovery, I meet all kinds of women. The clientele are highly diverse, yet they come together in their recovery journey. Whether in an individual or a group therapy session, the topic of dreaming often emerges even though I do not advertise my experience as a dreamworker or dream researcher. Dreams in early and mid-stages of recovery surface and are shared. The question often asked is “why now?” and “what does this mean?”

“Dreams belong to the dreamer,” I state, “so you are the one to determine that.” My offer to share some prominent theories, in order to generate ideas, is met with approval. One perspective of dreaming is that dreams come in service of evolution. They act as a protective evolutionary factor. In this case, if a woman is striving to stay clean (and recover from long-term drug abuse), a drug-of-choice dream might remind her of her purpose and this most pressing issue.

In the dream, sometimes the dreamer simply looks at, or holds, a bag containing the drug-of-choice; other times she prepares to consume the illicit drug, but awakens before doing so. And even other times, dreamers use the drug while in the dream state .Perhaps these three examples represent levels or stages of recovery integration. Or, perhaps they exist simply to encourage the dreamer to progress in some way.

In the first example, some of these dreamers have spoken about a feeling of mastery or pride in that they could be so close to such a dangerously tempting substance, yet not act impulsively or have any desire to do so. In the second example, dreamers have reported feeling worried about their dream activities (e.g. chopping a line; preparing a syringe), only to become increasingly vigilant in their recovery work. The third and final example can leave the dreamer with much confusion and fear. One woman reported smoking crack cocaine in a dream, and while slowing waking up (aka hypnopompic state), she touched her face, perceiving it as thinner and sunken in. This perception led her heart to race and body to jolt out of bed in fear. The dream, she said, upon reflection, supported her recovery by scaring her out of thoughts of using. The cravings dissipated for some time and she made several statements about her commitment to her recovery.

Substance abuse is like a slow death. It is, essentially, self-harm and the illicit drug is the weapon. For those living with addiction, the drug-of-choice is extremely powerful – powerful enough to hijack, sabotage, and rob a person of their own life. If dreams do serve evolution, then a dream centered around the relationship and power dynamic between the drug and the dreamer, may support relapse prevention or prepare the dreamer for what could come.

Addiction is a chronic disease. It can cause disability and premature death, but it can be managed and people do recover. The resources listed below can offer help and provide information, however, they are just a starting place.

http://www.asam.org

http://www.na.org

http://www.smartrecovery.org

http://www.womenforsobriety.org/beta2/

taemong

Parents, grandparents and other family members report dreams about children-to-be. Most often it is women who experience such dreams, typically occurring around the time of conception or during pregnancy. These episodes have been referred to as conceptions dreams, fertility dreams, and even announcing dreams. I consider announcing dreams to not only feature the child-to-be metaphorically (a small furry animal or a seed are examples), but to also serve as a communication between the baby and dreamer.

Taemong, or Korean birth dreams, first came to my attention from the 1989 book Oriental Birth Dreams by Fred Jeremy Seligson. Later, Associate professor, Loren Goodman, PhD, of Yonsei University expanded my view significantly. Taemong are part of a long oral history within Korean culture. They typically do not feature the child-to-be as a human baby, but instead as an animal or jewel for example. As the saying goes, “One cannot come into this world without first having been dreamt.” We can show the dreamer a lot about who we are and who we will become from such powerful dreams.

Not so long ago, Koreans, and others interested in taemong, have begun to collect and transcribe these stories. Dr. Goodman told me that taemong are not usually written down, but instead, passed on orally. He is one among many who recognize the importance of recording this extensive tradition so it does not become lost. Without doing so, it may very well likely die out as we become an evermore globalized society, abandoning traditional practices and culturally-specific ways of knowing.

Dr. Goodman expanded my view and understanding of this rich cultural tradition. He told me that many narrative elements emerge from taemong. Some of the elements stood out to me because I noticed that these elements also emerged from the announcing dream reports I have been collecting for the past decade. These ‘shared’ narrative elements are suddenness, brightness, brilliance or illumination, enormity (size) or miraculous proportions, vividness or a quality of being unforgettable, and reciprocal gaze. Consider the following dream (the full version was posted in June 2017). The dreamer saw an adult size baby boy kneeling on the floor by her bedside. The dreamer stated,

“He was leaning on my bed, watching my husband and I sleeping. When I got up to look at 17800279_10154857591042949_1533489294192211638_nhim, he calmly whispered, “I’m coming.” This freaked me out, because it was the first time a baby had ever appeared…”

This dreamer told me that the dream-baby appeared suddenly, out of nowhere, and was huge – nothing like the size of a typical baby. She said that the dream was vivid and truly unforgettable. The elements of suddenness, enormity, and quality of being unforgettable/vividness all exist here – these are common among taemong. Here, though, the baby-to-be speaks to the dreaming mother.

The following taemong was provided by Yoon Ha Park, a student of Dr. Goodman:

As I am walking alongside a lake, I see the clear sky suddenly change dark. I try to get a better look at what is happening above. From high above the sky, I spot an enormous dragon gracefully, yet powerfully, make its way towards the lake in front of me. It sinks in the lake and pulls out its head and looks at me directly in the eyes. Strangely, despite its vast size and figure, I don’t feel afraid.

The narrative elements here are suddenness, enormity, and reciprocal gaze.

The two dreams shared here (the first an announcing dream, and the second a taemong) share similar elements. This appears to be the case for many dreams that are recalled around the time of pregnancy, whether they are categorized as conception dreams, fertility dreams, announcing dreams, or Korean birth dreams. A thorough analysis to encompass all of these categories could provide an expanded understanding and further clarity. Until that happens, it is clear that these types of episodes are common and meaningful for so many families.

I wish to thank Fred Jeremy Seligson, Loren Goodman, Yoon Ha Park and the anonymous dreamer for their assistance, guidance and for sharing with me their experiences.

 

In the Spirit of Peace,

Kim

militant dreaming

As highlighted in last months blog article (April 2017), dreams have led to waking life actions in the service of humanity and have inspired a variety of creative pursuits. Sadly, dreams have also prompted others to act in violent ways. Dreams have been linked with the killings of individuals and groups, children included.

In June of 2016, I met Iain Edgar of Durham University. We were both presenting our work at the 33rd annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), held that year in Kerkrade, Netherlands. Dr. Edgar gave a presentation about the dreams and decision-making processes of radical, militant, or extremist individuals and group members. The May 2015 Garland, Texas attacker, Elton Simpson, for example, posted his dreams online, which indicated that martyrdom was near. The 2016 Brussels Metro bomber had dreams prompting him to act as well. In addition, dreams of Al-Qaeda members and Taliban leaders have been reported, including some of the most well-known jihadist commanders. Osama Bin Laden spoke about the dreams of his followers in one of the first videos released after 9/11. Bin Laden said,

Abu’l-Hassan al-Masri told me a year ago: “I saw in a dream, we were playing a soccer game against the Americans. When our team showed up in the field, they were all pilots.”

Bin Laden continued,

He [Al-Masri] didn’t know anything about the operation until he heard it on the radio. He said the game went on and we defeated them. That was a good omen for us.

According to Edgar, “Dreams can facilitate conversions, either into Islam or into militant jihadism” and have confirmed and legitimized radical group membership and action. “Dreams of heavenly spaces and the glorious reception of the martyrs are reported; dead friends appear with metaphysical information” Edgar wrote. Many militant Islamists and Jihadis attach a considerable amount of significance to dreams, as they are an important part of their religious experience. Futhermore, Islamic State/Daesh sympathizers have discussed dreams on Twitter, and it is quite possible that dreams impact the decisions made by these group members as well. For more information, there is a section in Edgar’s book The Dream in Islam: From Qur’anic Tradition to Jihadist Inspiration that gives attention to these topics. On an important note, Edgar reminds us that “not all Muslims who believe they have true dreams about jihad or martyrdom, become militants. For some radicalized individuals, however, a dream or series of dreams can be a catalyst for taking up arms.”

More recently, on December 26, 2016, People magazine reported that a Texas man recently accused of the murder of his wife and infant son had a dream in which he decapitated his wife and her father. Less than two weeks after revealing this dream to one of his co-workers, he allegedly murdered his wife and their baby. Their bodies were found in the master bedroom with knife wounds to their necks (see article by Harris, 2016). This differs from the reports above, yet in the end, two people were murdered – and one was a baby.

While a dream cannot push anyone into action, it can bring forth imagery associated with a wish, fantasy, or desire, no matter how terrible. When one can ‘see’ a terrible act committed in the mind’s eye, through dream, how might that experience alone affect a person? Some would be absolutely startled and describe the episode as a nightmare, but that may not be the case for everyone.

When I first learned of dreaming being linked with militant action, I was surprised. The connection just never occurred to me. Dreams, as we can see, can mean different things to different people. Dreams do not force one to commit violent acts, however, dreams can be a source of inspiration and provide confirmation for those already contemplating particular actions. In the end, the interpretation of a dream varies from individual to individual. In an effort to grow as evermore-conscious beings, may we dream of peace and for peace.

 

Toward non-violence,

Kim

benefits to society

Beyond individual, personal gains, society, as a whole, has benefited from those who dream. Libraries are filled with publications highlighting inventions, discoveries, works of art, and more, which were influenced by dreams and visions. For example, German composer and theorist Richard Wagner (1813-1883) felt that his inspirations and music came from his dreams and intuition. Did you know that some major scientific and technical discoveries were the result of dreams? Here is a short list:

*Descartes’ philosophical and mathematical formulations

*Howe’s invention of the sewing machine

*Mazur’s mathematical proof of the Schoenflies Theorem

*Mendeleev’s contribution of the Periodic Table of Elements

*Huang’s computer using optical circuits

*Ramanujan’s mathematical discoveries that still influence polymer chemistry and computer science

*Profet’s evolutionary theory of menstruation

*Agassiz’s classification of a particular fossilized fish

A dream helped composer, violinist, and theorist, Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770), come out of a creative block. His best-known piece of work (a sonata) came out of a dream. In addition, the works of fantasy and horror fiction writer Clive Barker have been influenced by his dreams. From dreaming, Barker discovers images, which develop into scenes, thus they become starting places for his stories. Stephen King credits his dreams for several of 11026167_728276287293024_7486356982712230690_nhis creative works. King uses his dreams in many ways – whether to advance a story he’s working on, bring to life an odd dream situation, or disguise things symbolically – he understands that weaving together writing and dreaming can lead to success. Writer Amy Tan also knows the power of dreams. Her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, was a best-seller, and some portions of it were inspired through dreams. When Tan becomes lost as to a story’s potential conclusion, she’ll take the story to bed with her to see if guidance surfaces while dreaming. Tan claims to easily recall her dreams and has experienced lucid dreaming. She understands that her dream-life supports her work as a novelist and that any time she needs material to work with, a dream will be there for her. For more stories about writers and their dreams, read Naomi Epel’s 1993 book titled Writer’s Dreaming.

As you can see, dreams may have effects on people, leading them to reconsider important decisions and even change the course of their lives, and ultimately the world. With this in mind, dreaming may be considered a gift to communities and nations alike. The same can be said for creative dreams that inspire art and propel other aspirations, such as athletics. For example, among professionals, dreams have been credited not only for completing key scenes in novels, entire musical pieces, and even athletic improvements among athletes. For more information about such nocturnal productivity, I suggest reading Deidre Barrett’s 2001 book titled The committee of sleep: How artists, scientists, and athletes use dreams for creative problem-solving. I never get tired of this exciting book!

Conscious Chimera’s August 2016 article discussed Announcing Dreams, as you may recall. Some announcing dreams have been credited for decision-making in the medical realm, from family planning decisions to prenatal genetic testing. Some pregnant women will tell you about how a powerful dream was the major factor leading to a decision about their fetus. No matter which time of transition or stage of life we find ourselves in, dreams can be a potent ally.

Unfortunately, such impactful dreams, once revealed, can lead to accusations of dishonesty or outright dismissal. One’s culture influences the origin of dreams and what one considers to be valid, or real. For those who actively engage dreams, the nightly assistance sometimes just keeps on coming, and can be a source of ongoing guidance. While the dreams of those listed in this article offered assistance and inspiration for good, next months Conscious Chimera article will address dreams that have been linked with destructive forces.

 

Spring wishes,

Kim