(This Field Note is dedicated to Woody Morrison, who I only ever met one time. More to be said further along in this Note…)
October 1, 2022
Hello everyone and welcome to my Field Note for October 2022,
DREAMING THE WAY: INNER WORK ON YOUR OWN
Well, my annual summer retreat is over, and I have been back to my counselling practice for a couple of weeks now. I had what I like to call an organic experience during my time off, which means discovering and re-discovering increasingly my most authentic self and ways of being. I certainly came back to my practice with fresh eyes and an eagerness to re-engage with everyone with whom I am working.
The purpose of this field note is to expand on the possibility of working on your own in your inner world, and hopefully to expand the horizon of generative and creative possibilities for your consciousness and ways of being, and which may imaginatively influence everything in your life. I have chosen to include this Field Note at this time, as I believe it shows a great deal about the philosophy and practices of inner work. While this particular piece of inner work is based on a dream, it is applicable to all life experiences. So, let me emphasize strongly that while this writing is about a dream that I worked on it could be about any experience in my life and I encourage you to take it as possibilities for working on whatever experiences matter to you in the moment, and in your life overall. If you look very closely, you will see that what is my dream/your dream is indeed a reflection of everyday life: for, it contains kaleidoscopic patterns of the world in its greatness, its horribleness, and most profoundly, the seeds of transformation towards what is really meant to be and what are the most honest, pure, and authentic possibilities in life. What we are doing along with every bit of our inner work is also learning to see these possibilities that are hidden and/or emerging, and most centrally, how to work with and on these possibilities.
This Field Note has parts where I am enacting certain aspects of my inner life. I hope you will enjoy this bit of theatre and recognize that it is very real. It is not pretend.
It is good to have help when working on your dreams, but there is much that can be done on your own, as well. Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, once said that if a person could totally understand and integrate all aspects of even just one dream, that person would be very close to wholeness. I don’t know that this is the entire story, but I do know from experience that this type of personal work adds an important dimension to the work of becoming whole. Not incidentally, etymologically, ‘whole’ and ‘healing’ share the same root. We become healed as we become whole.
Dr. Arnold Mindell, the founder along with his wife, Amy Mindell, of Process Oriented Psychotherapy, states that there are two levels of dreamwork (2001) and each level can help us in specific ways.
· At the first level, dreamwork should help us experience where dreams come from; that is, the virtual reality upon which everyday life is based, as well as the “thoughts of God.”
· At the second level, dreamwork should help us understand a dream in terms of our everyday selves. (p. 6)
I hasten to suggest to you that, in some important ways, all of life is a dream. As such all that is in this Note are ways of working with all aspects of your inner, outer, and relational life. And as Mary Oliver, the great American poet, famously said:
“You have to be spiritual in order to truly be able to accept what the world is about.”
And she also said:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
I am going to share with you here a personal example of the type of work that these pioneers in the world of psychotherapy, dreamwork, and poetic inspiration wrote about and practiced. As well, I will share with you some ideas how to do this on your own. What follows is a dream that I have pondered over for many years, and even on occasion to this day, At the time of this dream I was in mid-life, and at this point I am in the next stage of my life, heading towards what Dr. Peter Attia refers to as the “terminal decade.” My apparent age in the dream was twelve. In my waking life at age 12 I did not actually have this dog. He came along a little later in my waking life. So, in my dream you might say that I experienced time travel. I dreamed what occurred later in my life as taking place earlier in my life, before I would have known about my dream dog.
There are very many aspects to this dream. One central aspect is the liminality; that is the border experience between various aspects of myself, as well as between many aspects of my life. You will see in this dream and in its different features that there is a continual interplay between parts of one’s self, parts of experience, and the transitions and eventual integrational processes between the parts.
My Dream as I Recall It at This Moment
I am in my front yard, which is not a yard with which I am actually familiar or have ever known in everyday reality. My dog, Rocky, a Bedlington Terrier (https://swvc-online.com/client-resources/breed-info/bedlington-terrier/), is there. He was an unusual, not well-known type of terrier. For those of you who are familiar with terriers, my Rocky exemplified many terrier characteristics; energetic, smart, stubborn, feisty, playful, and in my view, most loveable.
In my dream I become aware that a Bear is approaching. I cannot see the Bear. He is coming from the forest. I just know that he is coming. I feel very apprehensive. I call Rocky. I am very frightened. I am afraid for him, and for myself! I am afraid that he will be killed by the bear and that I will suffer a deep and enduring grief from this potential terrible loss. I am scrambling up the stairs, which, I am having great difficulty climbing and that are extraordinarily steep. Rocky is doing what he often does when his attention is riveted onto something—he is ignoring me! My fear is mounting as I struggle to ascend the stairs. My fear and sense of helplessness is powerful and has almost total possession of me. The Bear appears. He is enormous, a blue, black Kodiak Bear; at least 10 feet tall. Rocky is small and has no sense of the danger, and no fear. He rushes up to the Bear, barking and making darting movements towards the Bear. The Bear is looking off as if to some far distant place. He pays no attention to Rocky. I continue to call Rocky and struggle to climb the stairs to the safety of the house and the front door that I long to be on the other side of.
Process of the Dream
I know the Bear is coming before he appears. How do I know? I ‘sense’ his presence. I don’t know how this is possible. I don’t seem to have any questioning of this unexplained knowing. The Bear appears. He is moving towards the house. I fear for my safety and for the safety of Rocky. I am struggling to get to safety. I am climbing up, with great difficulty. My dog runs towards this huge bear. He is barking. He then proceeds to run at near lightning speed in circles around him. The Bear is still and seems to emanate inner stillness.
There seem to be a number of forces at play here and these forces have vectors. My description here is from an observer position. I am watching and describing. This part of me is not participatory in the dream, at least not in the ways that Rocky, the Bear, and Little Avi are.
Identification with Parts (of Experience and the Multiplicity of Selves)
Identification with parts is a method that is used in many forms of psychotherapy, and inner work. One of the original methods to employ this form of inner work was Gestalt therapy. Gestalt Therapy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_therapy) was founded and developed by Fritz Perls who was trained as a psychoanalysist. Perls felt that psychoanalysis was far too cognitively based, and his radically innovative response was to create the therapy modality that he named, Gestalt Therapy. According to some reports, in developing Gestalt Therapy he was assisted by his wife, Laura Perls, who seemed to have not received much credit for the apparently central role and skills she brought to this task.
Furthermore, I want also to mention that the method of identification with parts of self and with any aspect of experience either inner or outer, was a modification of a method that was originally developed by Moreno in his work with psychodrama (https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-psychodrama-519300). The method is essentially to identity with and become the part in the service of experientially understanding and knowing the part as it is and as an aspect of the whole. In this context ‘become’ means identifying yourself with that aspect of experience. Of course, it does not mean literally becoming the part. In other words, I will immerse myself in an identity as much as possible, and that is my way of being as this part.
The idea being that the more fully I can assume this identity, the more I can re-own the disowned aspects of myself that are represented by this part. All these ‘parts’ are viewed as projections that represent a disowned part of yourself. The word ‘represent’ is important. For example, if I dream of a bridge, this does not mean that I am literally a bridge. My identification with the bridge will tell me about what this dream bridge means in my consciousness and life, which will help me to integrate the meaning of this representation. To fully identify with a part of a dream will involve personal history, feelings, thoughts, sensations, movements, sounds, expressions in words, and vital energy-lifeforce. It is like putting on a new item of clothing and finding out how it fits, how to grow into it, how to alter it so it fits, and how this identification will support my expression of my being in life—my life.
Inner World Dialogue
Little Avi: “I am frightened. My body is full of fear. I am moving. I do not feel ownership of my movement. The Bear is the ‘cause’. I am running away. I really feel that I am being moved away. I want to get into my house. My house is safety. I want my dog to come. He does not respond to my calls. He runs towards the Bear. I am terrified. “Rocky, Rocky, come! Come here! Here Rocky! Here Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!” I feel helpless. I am afraid he will be killed. I love my dog. I cannot protect him. He is so small. The Bear is so big. I cannot do anything to stop what is happening. I am struggling to get up these stairs. Why are they so steep? Something is very wrong in the world!
My Reflections: My dog is instinctual. If he represents my instinct, then my feeling and attitude towards my instincts is clear. I am not connected or identified with my instinct. In fact, I am separated from it, but not completely. I see it and am fearful of what may result from its being exercised. There are many things missing in my dream, as in all dreams. What is significant is what stands out to me as missing: joy (mine) and connection to instinct.
Rocky: “I hear nothing. I will run towards this thing. I am doing what I am made to do. I am exactly what I am. Instinct is my name. I know only this and ecstasy. I am like the dervish, Azim; ‘the mighty one, the great one,’ He who moves in synchrony with the pulse of the Universe.
Bear: “I am beyond all things. I see within and without. The words do not begin to convey what I know. The spaces between the words says much more. The spaces between and within me are full of emptiness that is pregnant with potential and possibility.”
My Reflections: The Bear says that emptiness is important. He alludes to the unseen and empty and that it implies something full of what can be. For example, standing on the edge of a precipice, the space between the edge and the ground can represent many possibilities, such as, death, beauty, flight, freedom, compulsion, hate, love. . ..
Living the Dream from the Perspective of Different Parts
Little Avi: “I am aware that a Bear is coming. Here he is. He is enormous. I must get away. Rocky is in danger. He never listens to me calling him when he is attracted to something. He could be killed. I do not want to lose him, and I do not want to be torn apart by the bear and die. I am scrambling up the stairs. They are very steep. Rocky is running towards the Bear. The Bear seems unconcerned. Rocky is barking and darting towards the Bear from the level of the bear’s paws:ott. The Bear is looking off into the distance. He is as big as anything I can imagine; much bigger than me and Rocky.”
Rocky: “Wow! Look at that Bear. I must meet with him. I will greet him by barking. I love running around and barking. I love this Bear. He is not even looking at me. I can run at him and bark. I feel fantastic. I love my bear friend! I am certain he is my ally!”
Bear: “I am! I am! I am! I am moving! And I love this little dog. He is full of energy and joy. He is full of life energy. Look at Little Avi running away. He doesn’t know that he needs to come and meet me. I am the dream unfolding that he has and will become. He will know the meaning of this when he comes down the stairs and moves towards me. He needs to join with me and Rocky, but he is too afraid just now.”
Space Between: “I am in-between Avi, the Bear, and Rocky. I am empty, waiting to be filled. I am potential. I am light. I can be filled with anything. These three can move to any locations within me. They can realize their potential freedom to choose where they will be. They can be anywhere in relation to me and in any relationship to each other.”
Avi’s House: “I am safety and security. What is all that noise? What is wrong? Uh, oh, a Bear! Rocky!? Avi, what are you doing? Be careful! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Someone could be hurt or killed. Why isn’t anyone listening to me? I cannot move. Avi and Rocky are only safe within me.”
My Reflections: This house sounds like my mother, my Jewish mother, who spent a lot of her life trying to protect in the service of safety and security. She conveyed her worry and fear through words and tone. And for sure she cared deeply and greatly for those within her realm.
Stairs: “I am very steep. I am making it difficult for Avi to get away from the world and into the womb-ness of house. He needs to face the world, but his house beckons, calls, and warns. The house is very seductive. I am the transition between outer and inner. I think Avi has spent so much time inside, and he needs to balance by being more outside. I can only do so much. The pull of this house is very strong.”
My Reflections: These stairs are like my father. He took me into the world and his influence was so much less than my Mother’s. He was away too much, and like many men of his generation, he was often emotionally away even while he was physically present.
Forest: “I am dark and mysterious. There are many things within me. To know me and what is in me you must enter into my depths. Sometimes, I will allow something to emerge into the light, like the Bear, but what emerges may be something disguised as something else. It will be in the form it is in for a reason. The process of penetrating…
Sky: “I am above. Even as a child, Avi felt that he would safer if he were ‘in me’, above things, looking down on life. It seemed less dangerous to him ‘up here’. I remember how as a child in his waking state he decided that he would learn to fly in his dreams in order to escape from danger, from monsters and dangerous people that populated his dreams at times, and he did learn to fly in his dreams.”
Ground: “Avi is afraid to be on me, grounded. Being grounded represents danger, suffocation, and lack of opportunity. He needs to be much more at home with me.”
Dreaming on… (My Creative Imagination Goes to Work)
The dream continues in my imaginative world; not part of my dream that I had. I will imagine what comes next. There are no rules. I can dream whatever is within the capacity of my imagination.
Little Avi: I am struggling to get up the stairs. I realize that the Bear is not chasing me, and is not attacking or harming Rocky. I pause. My heart is pounding. I suddenly think, “This is an inner emergency. Nothing actually merits my response. Then I have a competing thought. Bears are dangerous. They kill small dogs and eat people. I realize my response is not without base, but I can’t ignore that this Bear has not been doing anything that seems dangerous up to this point, or in the moment. I have a problem. What is real? What does this Bear want? Why isn’t he behaving as I believe bears do? He seems to be looking off somewhere—somewhere very far away. What to do? I want my dog to be safe. My heart is pulled to Rocky who now comes complete with the Bear.
I don’t want to falsely accuse the Bear, and he is very large and powerful, and his species is known as a wild animal and as being potentially dangerous. I have a very ambivalent attitude to that which is surely not me, the Bear. Should I respond to the non-consensus reality information or to the situation that I perceive as consensus reality? Could I allow myself, and more importantly, should I entertain the possibility of entering this experience as if I have no preconceptions and no prior knowledge. For the moment I have stopped my struggle: my movement in the world. I am becoming conscious of other possibilities. The external movement has shifted to internal movement and creation of potential. At this point it is, as Jacques Daignault (J. Daignault, personal communication, 2002) describes, a virtual reality that has emerged from the actual and that seems to be becoming actual.
Bear: “I love that I can see forever. I have to appear in a form. I have chosen the form of Bear. I am Bear and not Bear. I appear as Bear, but I am something else. If I were to appear in my true form, the little dog would still respond instinctually. The Light would overwhelm Avi. I am Light, but I appear as Form, animal form. I am in a perpetual process of becoming. I am never complete. I am always moving towards a horizon that is eternally moving away as I move towards it.”
Rocky: “Wow, this is fun. This big Bear is fantastic. I can run around like a crazy being, and I feel the energy. I am running and barking. I am wild and free. Where is Avi? Oh good, he has stopped running away and trying to rush up those very steep stairs. I hope that he can tell that this bear is not what he, or it, or she, appears to be. He can join the Bear, the Light, and me. He can recognize that the space in-between is an illusion. The space both separates and joins us. It is not one or the other. I am so excited! Woof!”
Reflection: Rocky is transforming. He is becoming conscious and self-reflective. Instinct is becoming more me.
I will close with a story that would be unbelievable to me if I had not experienced it myself. It is a small portion of my experience with what I call my ‘Dream Community.’ This is the community of people to whom I tell my dream in order that it will become part of their consciousness so that I can gain the gift of their experience with it.
. . .
I phone a friend to ask if she would like to go for coffee. My plan is to go in the neighborhood where we live. She cannot make it. I start to go on my own. I have a change of heart and decide to take some work with me and go down to Granville Island. I arrive, buy coffee, and head for the back of the market with the goal of finding a table where I can spread out my material, enjoy my coffee, immerse myself in the scene, and write. I do not see a vacant table. Usually, I just persevere until one becomes available. I notice a large table with a man on his own and decide I will sit there. As I am sitting down a young man is cleaning up. He does not look particularly happy. The man makes a comment about the day coming to an end soon. The young man barely seems to comprehend the empathetic intent of the comment.
The man seated already at the table begins to speak with me. He is a middle-aged man with an open face. He notes all my materials and asks, “Are you a writer or a scribbler?” I state somewhat boldly, “A writer.” He tells me that he is writing a movie script, that he consults on films, holds a professional designation, is Haida, Cherokee, Scotch, and with a little bit of Jewish thrown in for good measure. It turns out he is Woody Morrison (Morrison, W. (2002) Personal communication. Granville Island, Vancouver, B.C.).
He tells me many things that are reminiscent of Carlos Castaneda’s stories of the “Yaqui, Indian medicine man,” Don Juan Mateus. Woody Morrison’s way of speaking suggests to me that he is speaking from direct experience. He says, “A Haida warrior faces things alone with no thought that anyone will help. If someone helps, that’s gravy.” He also tells me: “Keep fear behind you. Don’t let it get ahead of you. If you do, that’s trouble. Stop thinking.” He goes on, “If I can still see it, it’s after humans arrived on earth. If I can’t see it, it’s prior to humans being on earth.”
I share my dream with him. He says, “Dreams can be re-living something that happened. They can also be information about how to deal with a situation that is not part of your normal experience.” He tells me that in the Haida language there is no present tense. Everything is future perfect; in other words, in a continuous process of becoming. He gives an example. “If I say I am a man, I am finished, and if I say I am becoming a man, then the process is always unfolding.” This latter statement seems to me to be a liberation from the seemingly, nearly impossible, task of being conscious in the ‘dot’ of the present. The unfolding process of becoming seems so much more graspable and available to my consciousness—a meaningful revelation!
Finally, he says about my dream, “It seems like you’re trying to get somewhere you’re not supposed to be.”
We talk for about two hours. At the end of the time he says something about taking up my time. I tell him that this is certainly what my time was for this afternoon. He tells me that a gift can only be given properly if the recipient is worthy. He says this in a way that it seems that he has given a gift and that I have given him the gift of being able to give through my worthiness. It seems a most fair and amazing exchange. He walks off at a rapid pace, limping slightly, an apparent vestige of a cerebral insult that he told me he had a year ago, and quickly disappears in the crowd of shoppers.
I have written this little story mostly because it wanted to be written and shared and also so that you may become part of my dream community since my dream is now part of your consciousness. I would be grateful to know your experience as part of the dreaming community.
In my next Field Note for November 2022, I am contemplating sharing with you the section of my writings that unfolds the wisdom of my Dream Community but let us see what really wants to happen.
As always, very many appreciations to Heesoon for her most skilful and able help with this Field Note.
Daignault, J. (2002) Talk at UBC, Faculty of Education. Vancouver
Mindell, A. (2001). The dreammaker’s apprentice: Using heightened states of consciousness to interpret dreams. Hampton Roads Publishing Co. Inc.
[i] This article is a small excerpt from a much larger document that is a chapter in my book (Becoming fully human within education environments: Inner life, relationship, and learning (Writeroom, 2020, 3rd ed.). The much shorter version from which this Field Note is taken and modified, was published, as well (Cohen, A. (2004). Working with a personal dream–on my own. Constructivism in the Human Sciences. Vol. 9 (2), pp. 49-58. Denton: TX.)