Tag Archives: Dream recall

Henri Rousseau Sleeping Gypsy

Anxiety Dreams

Anxiety. Inadequacy. Fear. Exposure.

Most dreamers report some type of anxiety dream, often repetitive or recurring, very particular to the individual and still very much like other people’s anxiety dreams. This post does not intend to minimize the anxiety that some people have to an extent that impacts life areas every day. If that is true for you, please get in touch with a professional today whom you can see face to face as soon as possible for evaluation and a comprehensive care plan.

For most folks, anxiety dreams aren’t just for weenies. A lot of people have them, including those of success and power. Take Tony Soprano, for instance. In an early session with Dr. Mefli, he has a dream his penis falls off. Scary.

Tony Soprano ~ James Gandolfini

Mickey Mantle had inadequacy dreams in his retirement – yes, the repeat World Champion, first ballot Hall of Famer had anxiety dreams too. Nobody questioned his courage, ever.

The Mick

And from the old testament, what about the feeble dreams of the powerful kings and pharaohs? The most powerful people in our culture also experience anxiety dreams. The real question is not, “does this anxiety dream mean I am a fearful coward?” but instead, “What can this dream teach me about showing up in my life?”

My own anxiety dreams are common enough: Naked in public. Back in High School or Junior High, and it is test time. Needing to use the bathroom. Waiting tables/bartending/managing the Sailmaker Restaurant  (a job I had 1979-1985) and the place fills up, I am the only one working. Naked in a High school test and needing to use the bathroom all at the same time. Each one is a dream specific to myself and as common to all dreamers as clouds that fill the sky in their unique and never-ending way. So where to begin?

(1) Looking back on the last 24-48 hours is always a good way to approach a dream that shows stress and worry. What has my attention, now? It is not a math test from 1976, I can be pretty certain. But there may be something testing my attention or problem solving skills.  And something I have heard a peer say recently a couple of times applies: “The way we do anything is the way we do everything.”

(2) Who is in the dream that does not fit, and why do they apper now? Remember the picture game, what doesn’t fit? One thing or item is out of place . . . . dreams play this with us. That is why Jung invited us to pay attention to the “little people” in dreams – sometimes they carry as much or more information as the archetypal or god-like figure. Ask the figure why they appear . . . why here . . .  and why now? What do they carry for us that cannot be said by someone in our life now? And who in our life now ar ethey like? Or what is our life dealing with now that we dealt with through them or someone like them?

(3) Follow the feelings . . .  Confusion usually is a cluster of more than one feeling. Allow the feeling in the dream to connect us with what is alive in our emotional life today –  or what needs to be relived, animated, vivified. It is less about remembering “I had an anxiety dream” and more about using any tool the dream might present to the dreamer, including the feelings of anxiety, worry, and fear.

4) Allow figures to come forward: This includes allies, helping figures, mentors, archetypes, family members. It may be an obscure figure seemingly out of place in the dream. Sometimes it is that high school classmate you knew only casually that appears in a dream that carries an essential quality needed to confront life’s current situation. It also includes figures which may be fearsome, unlikable, annoying, or downright scary. Facing these figures, allies at hand, helps to clarify the “message” of the anxiety dream and bring out resources or solutions. The picture below is a constellation of images from a single dream; one scene painted on a rock, and a different (goat) image formed in clay in the back of this altar.

Figures

5) Meet these figures on their terms. Here is an example from a different tradition: Recently, a friend recommended the book Feeding your Demons by Tsultrim Allione. Her recommendation in the Tibetan Chod tradition is to visualize yourself turning to nectar and feeding the demon figure whatever it is seeking from you. This happens on an imaginal level of course; one visualizes turning one’s body into the quality or the nectar that the demon seeks and submitting. In dreamwork, the process is similar. It can be as simple and as powerful as an empty-chair Gestalt with the figure. It can be an invitation to take the figure on a walk in nature, as real or as imaginal as you wish for it to be.

Living with anxiety usually means living – with anxiety. Dreamwork helps us place the emphasis on living. There is something leveling and humanizing about powerful figures like Mantle and Soprano carrying anxiety and feelings of inadequacy or inferiority. Living with anxiety can mean living fully; dreams can assist in giving the anxiety a scale and context which helps us go forward more fully, into life.

 

 

DreamTending Venue 2~1

Settings for Working with the Dream

Place.

There is something about working with a dream that invites consciousness of place. The first time I met Ed Casey, in April of 2006, he mentioned how beautiful a place Ojai [California] is. “You should go there when you have time.” Ed is the author of many books about place:

Representing Place: Landscape Painting and Maps (University of Minnesota Press, 2002)
The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History (University of California Press, 1997)
Getting Back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World (Indiana University Press, 1993; second, expanded edition, 2009)

So when Ed tells you to go someplace, you go. Seven years and 30 trips to Southern California later, I went. And Ojai is a beautiful place.

Ojai Valley

I was fortunate enough to have a couple of classes with Ed on Phenomenology and Ecology between the time of his recommendation and the time of my visit, and I was not the same person in part because of the the result of his frame of reference. I got there just before sunset, and the depth of my appreciation for Ojai and for Ed would be the subject of another blog.

For now I am concerned with the setting in which we work a dream, and the view from Ojai might be just such a place.DreamTending Venue 4~1 cropped  So might the comfort of one’s own study, office, or the outdoors. Just as in remembering a dream, the setting in which it occurs is so important, so it is when re0inviting the presence of the dream in waking consciousness. When working with the images of a dream, as suggested in the work of James Hillman, Steven Aizenstat, or Robert Johnson, paying attention to the surroundings might be a key element in our ability to invite the image to come alive.

Some qualities to consider when sitting with a dream:

  • Quiet may be important, and limited interruption
  • Absence of electronic image, foreground and back
  • Access to art materials, clay, sand, or sketchbook
  • An inviting setting for the Guest, free from distraction
  • A flame, optional, representing the living image
  • Something organic; a flower, a plant, light
My favorite place to have my dreams held by a mentor
My favorite place to have my dreams held by a mentor

So in my home, I have a place for me and a Guest, whether that Guest be a dream figure of someone working with a dream:

DreamTending Venue 1~3 croppedAnd in that space the chairs are almost at a right angle. The attention is not on me, but allows for the attention of one or more people to be on the place in the room where the image will come. The door through which she may walk; the shelf on which it may perch; the floor on which he may sit.

DreamTending Venue 2~3

Office, too, has the same position of space; plenty of light; and invitation to doors and windows for the dream image to approach. There is also something in this that reminds me of the sign in Jung’s office, translating to the English, “Bidden or Unbidden, God is Present.” That’s a sound reminder that the Higher Power or the Pantheon is not a mere lackey to be conjured up: Always present is the Psyche. Always here is the Divine. Always at DreamTending Venue 4~3 Croppedhand is the Image. What differs is not the quality of that Presence, but our [my] ability to be present and to connect with that image. So whether it is a solitary spot or a group setting, as below, thee is always room for more. Isolation may be the choice but solitude can get very crowded very quickly. And pictures herein do not do justice to the majesty of the settings in which very personal and very transpersonal work with the dream image can be done. If you are new to dreamwork and want to know how, this particular entry offers little help, except perhaps to point to those who know better. Those who know, better.

DreamTending Venue 5~5

So I have Ed Casey on my mind as I am flying to Southern California tomorrow. And though it is somewhat out of my way, I am intending to drive the windy path to Ojai, and to worship at the Cathedral of Place recommended by Ed.

 

 

Votary Figures and SBE 4

Meditation and the Dream

Last week I was thinking of a story that arose from the Catholic monastic tradition. My flawed memory is that his time of year about thirty years ago I was reading Lawrence LeShan’s book How to Meditate but I cannot find it there, so I can’t properly attribute the source at this time.  The story goes that a monk was new at meditation. He had a vision of the Virgin Mary, and was very pleased, seeing this as some advanced state of enlightenment. He related his good fortune to his mentor who promptly told him, “Go back to sitting, and if she appears again tell her to go f— herself.” This seemed pretty blasphemous to me at the time, but the image has lasted.

 

Behind this story is the primacy of meditation for meditation’s sake. The idea is that to free one’s mind totally also means freeing it of the images from the spiritual dimension as well as from the tasks of life: “Did I pay the AmEx bill?” and “Does the dog need his Parvo shot?” are equal to distractions of divine revelation from opening of the crown chakra. For instance, in The Lotus of the True Law, or Saddharma Pundarika, the Buddha, “sat cross-legged on the seat of the law and entered ipon the meditation termed ‘the station of the exposition of infinity,'” when a marvelous thing happened:

And at that moment issued a ray from within the circle of hair between the eyebrows of the Lord. It extended over eighteen thousand Buddha-fields in the eastern quarter, so that all the Buddha fields appeared wholly illuminated by the radiance, down to the great hell Aviki and up to the limit of existence.

Votary Figures and SBE 1

So the draw toward meditation is perhaps that experience of “enlightenment” such as the Buddha with the curl modeled for us. I’ll have to say, that is what I anticipate every time I sit, and that’s my goal when I contemplate the station of the exposition of infinity.” That was also, by the way, the goal each time I smoked weed in the 1970s.

chill

And meditation is often defined by our ability to anticipate and dismiss mental distractions. Dreamwork sometimes operates in a different order. In the dream we are presented with the images first. Then we write out the dream, and share the dream with another and associate on the image. We invite the image into the room. We allow the image to take form, to dialogue, and to instruct. We are no more master of the image than a chimney is master of its smoke. Dreams start with the image, the image comes to life, and the image brings meaning or experience. Meditation has a different directionality; we start with the experience, the image is banished or put to death, and undisturbed mediation proceeds. Of course, neither process is that neatly linear, and neither direction is right or wrong; I am just pointing out there is different directionality and different meaning. One thing happens if one’s aim is to banish the image; another thing happens when one is open to interplay or submission to the will of the image.

Meditation is a broad term to many people; perhaps a more narrowly defined term for those who have adopted a formal or regular practice for a number of years. In the mind of this writer, meditation and dreamwork overlap and yet are distinct: and meditation can be a tool to enhance a dream image, to allow it the live of its own much like an active imagination such as may be described in the works of dreamworkers as different as James Hillman and Robert Johnson. This morning, in approach of the New Year, it is my intention to allow an active imagination in a meditative style between the part of me that meditates and the part of me that dreams.