In Carlos Castaneda’s book The Art of Dreaming (Harper Collins, 1993) Don Juan (a shamanic character in the book) shares a few secrets to drawing meaning from dreams. One of those secrets as I see it was to focus on the elements of the dreams aka the images. The second secret was simply ‘persistence’ because the mind can’t cope with persistence and eventually the barriers to dreaming and remembering begin to fall. The third secret is that one needs to take “short glances” at these images i.e. to stop and look at them too closely during the process of having them actually creates a barrier to one’s attention to them. The fourth secret seems to be that dreams often reflect what it is you don’t know. The fifth secret points out how dreams are affected by our insistence on self-importance. Dreams reflect our presentation of ourselves as in what we are doing to maintain the illusion of separateness that causes our difficulties in seeing the world as it really is.
These concepts seem to reflect my own experiences with respect to dream work and though coming from a fictional Shamanic character from the imaginal recesses of Castaneda’s psyche they appear to hold true within the art and science of dreamwork, at least from my own perspective.
Though he uses some terminology that may be alien to some dream workers such as “energy bodies”, the “realness” of dreams, dream images as energy, the “out of this world reality” of dreams, and “gates of dreaming” these ideas are easily translatable into current dream work practices and understanding.
I believe that Castaneda has found an entry into his Psyche and the collective Psyche of us all that helps him see a larger picture of reality than most of us.
The following is an excerpt from my book, “Psyche’s Dream: A Dragon’s Tale” (still in editing stage) where the young neophyte learns of “The Mother” the most powerful of the human archetypes.
Human beings live in two different worlds simultaneously, the conscious and the unconscious.
There may also be a conscious part of the unconscious. An organizing paradigm similar to that of the ego of the conscious mind.
When we sleep the conscious mind is disengaged and yet something stimulates the brain into creating a symbolic world much like that of the conscious world yet many orders of different that speaks to hidden material that the conscious mind doesn’t notice and does this just as the conscious mind brings up thoughts and feelings associated with the world it finds itself in.
To be whole and thus powerful in magic one needs to be able to access and understand both worlds. One needs to integrate all the parts of oneself. But how to do this?
There are archetypes living in both worlds that can help us to navigate the whole. The Mother is one of these.”
Seek not answers from outside the Mother. She is the powerful aspect of the feminine and is the key to opening the door to the magic of the world. Your masculine form is what you use to act and assert upon your decision to walk through the door, but it is your feminine aspect that provides you the opening. It is the marriage between the two that will make it possible for you to wield the magic that is life. But as with the general human psyche the masculine and feminine aspects are also of two worlds i.e., two minds, the dark and the light.
Seek your answers from both your mothers she of the bright light and she of the dark and deadly. They are both illusion and of the deeper self and both inform your being. You must confront them both and recognize them for who they really are. In this you will be the Way.
Intuitively we know that the Mother is a Spirit Guide into the unfamiliar territory that will lead us into a new way of being and will give us the power to survive the world we live in. But we also know that we would have to untie the knot that binds us to our own mother, the knot that keeps us tied to her memory and all the decisions we have made regarding our lack of trust in her for our well-being or our overdependence on her for the same. The knot is illusory but keeps us from freely being who we are. Love the being not the knot. It is time to let go and open to a new spirit.
While digging through a small box of books that I was intending to give away to the local library I discovered a small book that I must have bought years ago intending to read but having never actually gotten beyond the first page. I could see that it would be a fast read so I sat next to the box and opened the book.
It was a very short story written by one of my favorite American authors, Mark Twain, possibly written during or prior to the American Civil War. The title– “The War Prayer”.
The story, almost a poem, told of the patriotic fervor of war, the over romanticized version of going to war of being victorious over those who thought, acted, and believed differently. It described the cheering, parades and speeches from both the politicians and the ministers from the pulpit. Those people who acted as a rational counterpoint were demeaned and threatened until their anti-war point-of-view was suppressed and silenced.
At the height of one minister’s war sermon an old man walked down the aisle and announced that he had been sent by God. He told the congregation that their God had heard their request for victory against their opponents, but that they needed to know the other side, the unspoken side, to their request that only God would know.
He then spoke of the pain, agony, starvation and devastation to their patriotic opponents, their children and their families. He spoke of the shredding of their bodies, their wills, their homes, and the oceans of spilled blood of those who were virtually neighbors and in many cases family that would have to happen in order to claim the victory the congregation had asked for in their prayers. He said that their loving God was ready to grant their request if they realized the full cost of their prayer. They sat in silence, stunned by the old man’s words.
In the end they determined that the old man was a crackpot and cheered their soldiers on.
I’m writing of this story because I have out of fear and misplaced patriotism found myself cheering the destruction of those that don’t agree with me, or my way of life. Instead of searching for a means toward tolerance, I find myself secretly wishing for an end to the conflict through any means including violence even though I know that violence only begets more violence and that over the long haul has never really kept us safe, safe enough to not need our armies and technologies of suppression and death.
Within every violent fanatic is someone who fears loss, the loss of importance, position, meaning, control or safety. They fear not having a voice in the living of their lives. Though their means for preventing the loss or in gaining a voice is abhorrent, immoral, ungodly and inhumane, their need is not alien to the rest of us.
It is in that shared need that the answers to ending violence of all kinds1 resides. Do we have the courage to look for it or is it just too easy to kill what scares us?
The answer resides with us all. What are you really doing to bring about peace?
1Violence can look like oppression of any kind e.g. against children, against women, against one belief over another, one culture over another. It can look like the suppression of any person’s expression of who they are or restricting opportunities for some while enhancing them for others. Oppression can also look like a rigid adherence to only one point-of-view as though any human could actually speak for the intentions of God. What arrogance!
Violence also comes from well meaning people who are dedicated toward ending such things as racism, feminine harassment, or wage disparity. It shows up in the indiscriminate demeaning of our police forces, hate rhetoric, and the tearing down and defacement of statues.
This violence is more subtle though just as destructive as the bloodletting kind. For many zealots of social-change the attitude toward dissent or a different approach to the one being propagated is one of “your either with us or against us” or that a different kind of hate will dispatch the old kind of hate. NOT SO, hate is hate and always, always, always breeds more hate!
These well-meaning soldiers of fairness then demean any comments or positions that aren’t in alignment with their positions. For example, I belong to a group that has dedicated itself to end racial disparity but anyone who suggests a way of doing that that’s different than the so-called leadership is called old or too unconsciously “white” to truly understand what’s at stake or what needs to be done but if they follow the leaders then they will become ‘woke’ and be of some use to the cause. Never mind that they are shutting down dialog, never mind that they are exhibiting the same kind of prejudice they are trying to eradicate i.e., making unsubstantiated judgments about a person or group of persons based on a lack of understanding and then acting upon those judgments as though real to suppress those with alternate points of view or being.
This is how movements fail because they become what they are resisting and start tuning out the other voices that don’t sound like theirs.
It’s about time we start listening to the voice of God and not the voice in our heads, the one that’s dismissive, angry, afraid, arrogant, and judgmental then ‘together’ we may have a chance to bring about justice.
It is said that nightmares in our dreams come to us as a means of gaining our attention to things that we are paying little or no attention to but that threaten our well-being. However, because all dreams negative or otherwise come in service of our health and well-being our nightmares are actually there to help us.
I believe that this is also true on a collective or societal level and that to some degree our everyday lives are lived as a dream and symbolically represent what is happening within the collective psyche of a culture.
As a culture we have ignored the effects that our willful ignorance has had on our lives individual, societal, and political. We deny what we don’t want to think about and gloss over the negatives so as to focus on the positives. In short, we have learned to be ostriches and hide our heads in the sand. To do this we deny our short comings, ignore the political complexities of modern life and shoot for as much immediate gratification as possible even if that gratification is just a sustaining of our pride and need to be right about our position and points of view.
But the collective has its own psyche that when overstressed by not being dealt with adequately will break free of its suppression and create crises of nightmare conditions that demand that we pay attention and do something to correct the problems. This is what nightmares in our dreams are doing and it is what the triplet crises of the Corona Virus, #metoo, and #blacklivesmatter nightmare is doing as well.
The people we vote for and the issues we ignore or refuse to deal with adequately because we think they are too complex or because we just don’t want to be bothered so we leave it up to the person who promises us to handle it regardless of whether they know how to or not has in many cases helped to produce the current nightmare. Also, our refusal to take a hard look at our biases, prejudices, and beliefs and how they serve or don’t serve us have also combined to create the perfect storm that has resulted in the nightmare we are all experiencing.
For many the answer is to continue to deny the problems, ignore any complicity and/or to be indifferent to the issues because that’s easier. In fact, those who are most complicit are those who attack anything or anyone who tries to make them face their complicity.
But the shadow side or dark side of our collective personality will not be suppressed forever and if it is it will eventually wreak havoc upon the body politic much as it would the body/mind of the individual. Empires have dissolved because its leaders and citizenry have ignored its ills. As a culture we as Americans have much to be proud of, but our continued suppression of our darker aspects will be our downfall as it has for all those empires and societies before us.
Our salvation is to be found in how we deal with and not hide from our darker aspects. It is time to vote intelligently for that which supports healing and unity amongst our disparate parts and not that which divides. It is time to confront the beliefs that enable the hurting and demeaning of others and not give them power. It is time to face the facts of what we have done and are continuing to do to our society and our environment. It is time for America to wake up and grow up.
What’s exciting, however is that there is a glimmer of hope still left and Leonard Cohen summed it up for me in his song, “Democracy is coming to the USA”
“It’s coming to America first The cradle of the best and of the worst It’s here they got the range And the machinery for change And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst It’s here the family’s broken And it’s here the lonely say That the heart has got to open In a fundamental way Democracy is coming to the USA”
We had a social distance get together on Saturday, two of our daughters and two of the youngest grandkids, them outside and us separated by the screen door.
All went pretty well but something was missing. When it was over and they went home I felt lost, empty and terribly alone, pretty much what I had been experiencing during the get together but now even more intensely.
So what was up? I hadn’t had this feeling when Zooming and Face-timing them but now when they were actually here, why now I wondered? I mean, weren’t we together? Yet we were still separated. And then I saw it that even in the experience of togetherness and love there was simultaneously loss. Love and not love, Joy and grief are embedded in one another, in the experience of one I got both. Communion and separation live within each other.
I’ve always felt somewhat alienated even from a young age and even during those amazing times of love in my life I was never able to get close enough to satisfy the deep need for connection, to be one with the other.
The absence of communion has always been profoundly and deeply felt as loss, of self, of meaning, of existence. It’s as though what I am doesn’t exist when too greatly separated from others. Love, belonging, communion, connectedness is what we are and it hurts to find myself in this separated state both in body and soul and not able to transcend either.
I’m feeling like an observer in life and not a participant.
For many of us the ‘distancing’ during the pandemic has made the nagging feeling of separateness, loss and loneliness of the everyday feel even more acute. It’s hard enough connecting on that desired deeper level but most of the time the more superficial connections have been adequate and who wants to look too deeply at what they don’t have? We want to be grateful for what we do have. I am grateful and I now also notice how I have always longed for that deeper connection now that much of the superficial has been taken away.
As an undergrad I remember studying the research of Jean Piaget who observed children of all ages and came up with a comprehensive theory of cognitive and physical development in children. Though his conclusions were a little too rigid he did show the value of systematic observation.
The careful observations of Jung and Freud lead to a whole new way of looking at the psychology of human beings, therapeutic techniques and the interpretation of our often-enigmatic dreams. Though many of Freud’s ideas have not held up under close scrutiny and some of the claims of Jung have not been verifiable their scientific technique for exploring the human psyche has been very useful to the fields of psychotherapy and analytical psychology.
In grad school we learned a systematic technique for looking at classrooms and individuals to ascertain the etiology of problematic behaviors that could then be remediated through the development of a behavioral intervention strategy.
To a great degree the technique of careful, systematic observation leads to many interesting theories that can then be tested in the laboratory or in the field of the everyday.
So it should be no surprise that a field that’s been discredited by the scientific community in general may have had its ancient roots in observational strategy. Astrology was said to have begun somewhere in and around the 2nd millennium BCE (Before the Common Era) and practiced as a means of determining not only ones personality, but also their future and that all of this was determined by the location of the stars at the person’s birth.
So how did they come up with this? Well, probably through systematic observation. However, the belief that stars affect ones future has no scientific support though it has been researched from a number of different angles. Interestingly personality traits based on the time of year one was born has proven to have some validity. One can actually be influenced by the time of year they were born. This is especially true for whether we tend to be introverted or extroverted in nature. Large groups have been studied and found to have common personality traits within a certain birth time e.g. seasonal effects do seem to affect personality depending on when born. For example, people born between December and March seem to show high creativity and show up at a higher level in those who have been deemed celebrities *.
According to Psychology Today there have been a number of studies done that show possible connections between the time of year someone is born and certain personality traits and even to some small but statistically significant degree of certain metal health issues such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders **.
Jung though most likely not a believer in Astrology per se would probably agree that all the aspects and meaning given to the various symbols of the Zodiac are projections from the Psyche of humankind and therefor would have meaning regarding that Psyche. Jung also believed that we are lead by psychological motives, many unconscious but when the Astrologers reigned no one knew of psychology so they projected this idea onto the stars and their positions in time.
So there may be some partial and limited validity to the Zodiac and at least the seasonal aspects of that system on personality traits. Like other discoveries through systematic observation interesting correlations can present themselves, but frequently people carry them a little too far based on their cognitive biases.
Some people who have interests in the Zodiac will dream of certain signs and images of the Zodiac. These images are likely symbolic of certain aspects of the dreamer’s personality being revealed to them or certain wishes or desires for the waking world that are being projected into the dream. Though no connection has been found between the Zodiac and future events there seems to be an apparent connection experienced by many people, I believe this to be more on the order of an expectation effect, conscious or unconscious.
So what about the Moon and its effect? Seems as though no study supports any psychological connection though there is a little evidence that in the pre-light bulb era women’s menstrual cycle may have been affected by the full moon as well as the prevalence of male or female births depending on when the full moon presented itself. This possible connection doesn’t seem a factor any more, at least in developed countries, but during the eras when this connection was thought to be true it might have had some validity ***.
*Deluca, GC, Disanto, G, et al. Seasonal Distribution of Psychiatric Births in England, PLOS One, 2012.
Adel, MM, et al. Favored Zodiac for Celebrity Babies, Journal of Social Sciences, 2014.
Because the human psyche is designed to respond to any kind of threat with an either/or response of confront or flee better known as fight or flight we have a tendency to avoid upsetting input e.g. bad news, negative thoughts and negative feelings such as upsets, worry, anxiety, sadness, grief, desire, even hate or anger. But sometimes we get stuck and perseverate in one or more of the negatives and then we try to handle them (think get rid of or avoid or fight them) by essentially stuffing them, “I won’t watch the news”, “I will think only positive thoughts”, “I’ll meditate, or yoga or exercise the feelings into calmness, Aum” or some such variation. This is not to say that these techniques should not be used because sometimes we need to calm down in order to hit the pause button. If these exercises are part of your regular routine then you’re already well positioned for what comes next.
But for most of us the sporadic use of centering techniques is a kind of hiding from the negative and is not very effective or only temporarily effective. Why? Well, just because you’ve stuffed something out of sight doesn’t mean it’s gone it’s just waiting for another trigger to bring it out again. As most who practice regular centering know, life happens regardless of how centered, wise or enlightened you think you are.
Next time instead of trying to flee the feeling as though it were something to avoid or despise try holding your feelings with respect and compassion after all they are a part of you and the reason they are there at all is the psyche’s attempt to care for and protect you.
Next time you might just “feel” them without trying to figure them out or to dismiss or demean. Try not to diminish their reality by stuffing or explaining them away just accept them as they are without judgment or condemnation. Look at them and actually feel them. They are real and they are a part of you and just as real and necessary as any other part. Don’t engage them or go into agreement with them, just have the feeling, observe it, observe where in the body it is located, how vivid it is. Does it have a color? Does it have a shape? Is there a sound to it? Observe all aspects of the feeling.
When you are able to do this, it tends to reset your consciousness about feelings and their service to you toward your health and well-being. You may also notice that when you are just able to have a feeling without it having you, you become more present in your life and when you become more present life becomes more magical.
Dreams of avoidance, running away from or running after; dreams of loved ones who have passed– grandma, grandpa, mom and dad, sister or brother, or best friend; dreams of when we were younger; dreams of flying, of being trapped, or alone in an empty town looking for a place of respite.
In a time of high stress and confusion they’re all dreams of searching for solace, comfort, support, and relief. They’re all dreams looking for peace of mind where there doesn’t seem to be any. For many their dreams include prayers to Jesus, God, or in the bringing of loved ones back again into their lives.
Many of us spend parts of our waking days reading the statistics of those who are infected and those who have died in our area, in our state, our country, and our world. But the numbers don’t seem to help nor do the empty promises of our leaders some of whom just seem to be mostly interested in themselves and how they look.
We sit alone with our frustrations, our anger, fears and grief for those we love and for the loss of security, morality, peace of mind, and in many cases the loss of livelihood. All is a cry for help in a time of great unknowns.
For many there is a natural attempt to hide from the pain and fear of it all or to rage at it or to understand it, but we can’t get away from it or understand it and raging only increases the sense of despair. We can’t even get away from it in our sleep. We cannot evade our suffering for it is a part of us nor can we evade the suffering of others for in what is happening, we are all in this together and we know it. Blaming won’t fill the void nor will avoiding the fear and anxiety.
So, what to do?
Many have tried Zoom get-togethers, gardening, running, long walks, puzzles, video games and binge-watching old favorites on the nostalgia channels, the list is endless, but it hasn’t filled the need for the peace of mind we seek.
So, where does someone find peace of mind and solace when there doesn’t seem to be any?
Some who have written me have found it in the giving of grace, understanding and comfort to others– the leaving of cut flowers or a favorite meal on someone’s doorstep, calling a lonely shut-in, shopping for someone who cannot get out as easily, and calling to find out if they are in need. Though we are physically distancing it doesn’t mean we cannot grow closer to each other through our active caring for one another.
From my understanding of the human condition we need to acknowledge each others suffering as well as our own and not hide from it and that in doing so it will help to open the door and let the light shine into the shadows of our lives right now.
In short, many who have written me are finding the peace of mind, comfort and solace they need is in the giving of it to others. Go figure, when we give away what we don’t have to others we seem to get it back. Perhaps this a lesson we needed to learn during this time of separation, partisanship, and distancing especially in a country that prided itself in its unity by declaring to the world that its states and its people were “United” and that EVERYONE counted. Perhaps we need to act as though EVERYONE counts and in so doing get that we count. Many seem to be saying that to care and be cared for instead of making one another wrong may bring the peace of mind we crave.
Below is an example of the type of dream sharing people have been doing on one of my sharing sites along with my response:
Dream: My 5 year told me that she dreamt the Corona virus was frozen, and people could go out again. She told me her dream about 3 times.
Dream Interpretation and Exploration: She may be experiencing the stress of not being able to do what she would normally be doing. She may be trying to deal emotionally and psychologically with what is happening. Talking about her fears and reassuring her that many people are working real hard to end what is happening and make it safe for people again will help her through this.
This got me to thinking that many children may be experiencing a great deal of stress right now and I thought I’d throw out a few ideas on how one might deal with them.
As a former school psychologist I thought it might also be helpful to share some ideas on how one might interact with children during this time of high stress and uncertainty. I hope that it will be useful.
Children too have had their lives disrupted by things that they can’t really understand. Many know something is wrong and may be feeling quite vulnerable and anxious. This can come out in their dreams, play activity and in acting out behavior as well as a change in sleeping behavior.
Children are also masters at mirroring what they pick up from their parents what with mom or dad being their number one source for modeling behavior.
Allowing them to talk about how they might be feeling (see feeling pictures above and below) and how you as parent will work very hard to keep them cared for is very important right now. Let them have the feelings they’re having by not adding such things as, “You don’t have to feel that way.” Just accept whatever they say. Often children will give you the adult what they think you want to hear so you don’t want to show any preference for what they tell you.
If they want information about what is going on go ahead and give it to them however, you need not go into great detail for that might only add to their fear, confusion, and stress. Note also that most young children don’t know why they feel the way they do so questions about “why?” should probably be kept to a minimum for this can shut them down.
Sometimes giving a child old enough to draw pictures of people (typically starting around age 4 to 5 and on up through 8,9,10 for purposes of using them as a communications tool) crayons and paper and asking them to draw someone or to draw a family can help ferret out feelings with questions of, “Who is that?” “What are they doing?” “How are they feeling right now?”
Primarily they need assurance and lots of patience and love. Maintaining their routines as much as possible will help to reinforce a sense of normalcy and thus safety (routine is most important to a child’s sense of safety and security).
There are many on-line sites with suggestions for helping children maintain a sense of normalcy. One of the techniques one of my daughters with a 3 year old has used is the following:
If you have access to FaceTime, Zoom or some other computer interactive app, setting up virtual playdates with “besties” can help bring a sense of normalcy and thus security to their routine (this particularly effective with older elementary school kids and with teens as well.
However, it should be noted that with toddlers their attention span for Zoom-dates is short especially if they feel forced to interact. Sometimes they just like to do a project side by side (the projects don’t have to be that same project but just a craft-like project, though some folks have achieved some success with a similar project like building with Legos. Toddlers are still at the stage of parallel play so just letting the zoom run while they are playing and after the initial hello might be enough. Creep up on the Zoom play by starting out with 10 min, then 15 and 20 if you’re being successful (this approach works for so many things). Once a week is preferable and in this way your child can look forward to something special.
After a time toddlers might begin resisting because what they really want is the contact (“nearbyness” or proximity) provided by the other child that’s why I suggested the parallel play together on either FaceTime or Zoom. Though we all believe in not forcing a child to interact is the best way to go, encouraging them to engage on some level and not turning inward or becoming a loner is always something to consider and experiment with. You of course know when your child is done with whatever you’ve done.
Getting outside into the fresh air with the proper protections probably also needs to happen on a daily basis weather permitting.
Sharing observations you’ve had with your own kids with frie3nds who also have kids can be cathartic and sometimes reveal some suggestions that others have tried that have worked. This is a time when parents can increase the tools that they have in their parenting kit bag (after all these little critters don’t come with operating instructions so we sort of have to make it up as we go).
Some parents have also recommended the Daniel Tiger animated series on PBS television as a means of teaching and reinforcing emotions and sharing.
In addition Pediatricians have been reminding parents that even during the pandemic they should be bringing their children in for regular visits and to receive their regular scheduled vaccinations.