The Top 5 Recurring Dreams and how to work with recurring themes and images

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Have you ever had dream images, or even dreams that seem to recur again and again, sometimes several times a month, or over a several month period? There are even some folks who have shared a dream that has shown up for years.

What’s that about?

On one level we all have them, usually more than you think, for example look at these

Top five recurring themes in dreams: (Taken from Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting)

  1. Being chased–what are you chasing after, what is threatening you, or what are you avoiding?
  2. Death, yours or others–dealing with the emotions surrounding death, of a loved one or your own. It is also a symbol for endings.
  3. Trapped-unable to change something in your life, or to live up to full potential.
  4. Naked in public–Being vulnerable to something, or having yourself exposed e.g. the mask or clothing you’ve put on in order to present your self in a certain way to the public being stripped from you: someone seeing through your façade.
  5. Flying–Freedom, escape, or independence and autonomy from something.

However, on another level we have all experienced recurring dreams that are more specific to us personally.

Typically dreams present images that have special meaning for the dreamer such as special places, or people that evoke certain feelings, memories, themes, and concepts. They recur because they are speaking through the ways you typically respond to both your internal and external worlds. Dreams also use the best image available that communicates what it is trying to communicate. In other words, it’s the “best fit” that can make the point i.e. if there were a better image, or dream that would best serve the dreamer’s health and well being, the dreaming mind would have used it. This stuck quality of a repetitive dream suggests that something is really important for the dreamer to attend to and that it is basically the same as it was the last time the dream was experienced.

Sometimes these dreams are revealing a “life-task” such as something unfulfilled, or unexpressed, in the dreamer at least during the time period of the dream repetitions.

Occasionally, some recurring dreams come as nightmares that might point to particular unresolved psycho-spiritual dramas, or traumas that need attention for the sake of the dreamer’s well-being and development. Sometimes a recurring dream is “speaking” to some repressed and as yet unresolved memory, or issue.

In short, there may be a tendency for recurring dreams, especially those with nightmare qualities, to be focusing on deep life issues. If the task is identified and dealt with satisfactorily in the waking world, the dream almost always disappears, or significantly changes unless of course it comes up some time later because some later task is along the same lines as the original.

In contrast, there are recurring dreams that affirm that the dreamer is on the right track with regard to some aspect of his, or her, life and that the dream continues until he/she acknowledges this. This is especially true if the dreamer continues to act and make changes in the direction of their development out of some hesitation or doubt that they are doing the right thing. Again, when the task is clearly identified and dealt with appropriately, the recurrent dream disappears.

So how does one discover the underlying task to be worked on?

Below is one way to process such a dream: You might want to use the following process outline to help document information gained from a recurrent dream. *

 

  • Identify the elements/images of the dream.

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  • Identify what each of the images and elements mean to you. What do each stand for? Sometimes this can be found in your description of the image (include feelings, judgments, and ideas about the images). Name these images succinctly based on their essence e.g. Dark Demon, Screaming Mother, Crazy Professor, or Dying Self.

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  • What is the overall feeling in the dream (physically and emotionally)?

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  • When looking at the activity in the dream identify any “because” factors i.e. as an example, you can’t open a certain door “because.” Sometimes the “because” can give you clues to the emotional ‘stuckness’, if any, or task definition.______________________________________________________________________________
  • _________________________________________________________
  • What, or who, are these elements usually associated with? For example: Does this dream show up under certain waking world situations such as stressful times in general, or prior to a certain kind of activity (sports activity, standing before an audience, visiting your mother)? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  • What is your role in the dream and/or what is being asked of you?

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  • When did these dreams first come visiting?

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  • Try taking on the role of each of the elements e.g. what would be your response as the door (in this example) to not being opened? Ask questions of the door e.g. are you an aging door? Is your lock broken? Etc. This is done better with a friend or two. This is so that you can get as much information about the object(s)/images as possible.

 

  • In your imagination bring one of the recurring images (usually the most prominent image–the one that essentially summarizes the essence of the dream e.g. Dark Demon, Screaming Mother, Dead Brother) into your consciousness and ask it why it is visiting you? Listen for the response. You might also ask what it needs and listen to its response.

 

Having someone help you to answer these questions and to serve as a scribe to record your responses can be very useful.

All of this can give you specific information related to the recurring theme, or themes and help you to identify the meaning of the images and perhaps the task(s) at hand that may require waking world resolution.

In the Archipelago of Dreams Robert comes from the nightmare of his world and enters the nightmare of a Spirit world gone mad. His nightmares repeat themselves over and over and will continue to do so unless he can find the courage to face them down. But how does one deal with such frightful creatures? The Dream Healer knows that it is in the wounded image of the Dark Lords themselves that a healing presents its self.

 

* A number of processes are presented in the book The Dragon’s Treasure (see the link to the right of this blog).

 

 

 

 

A poem for the heart

Alone one morning last week I sat outside under the broad canopied and cascading Elm that’s taking on new leaf as Spring brings warmer days, though the morning’s are still chilly so I was bundled in my favorite throw blanket across my legs. As I do virtually every morning I was playing around with words and concepts on my laptop hoping for some inspiration to visit and this poem made itself known and demanded that I write it down.

 

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Hidden deep in my heart I hear a plaintive cry, find me, I am here, can you not see?”

What you are looking for is also looking for you. It has always been there waiting for you to show up.

What is it that binds us all together it asks? Surely it is not your illusions of separateness.

What would happen if you were not so interested in your own personality and were grateful for all who come your way for they are your teachers and mirrors to your Self.

You were born of love in a space where there are no boundaries. It is the head that knows boundaries. Not so for the heart. That magic knows no boundaries.

I look closer at the ideas visiting me and see that magic is always my companion if I had but the eyes to see it and the heart to walk with it.

When I see the magic in another person I know that it is my own magic as well that I am seeing.

Tolerance, compassion, and patience are doors into this magic and this magic is never loud for it dwells in the silent places within my heart.

But I struggle to see the magic let alone to be it. And sometimes it is just so hard, and I tire of the scuffle and my body slides down into the chair losing the energy to sit upright.

But then that bossy Spirit that never lets me stay in a good slide for very long pulls me up and I find myself saying that I need embrace the struggle for it is like a fire to the metal beaten by the blacksmith’s hammer and anvil. It makes me pliable to change. The change I need to see the magic.

When the goal is to be open to all the magic that is around and within me, in time I will hear what I am ready to hear and see what I am ready to see. And I whisper to myself,

“be patient, I am here!”

 

Crises can have silver linings. They can open you up to yourself.

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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.

Children too are experiencing a lot of emotion and stress during the pandemic

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.

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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.

I hope this helps and good luck,

Bob

 

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Dreams in the time of the pandemic lockdown

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Are you having more dreams or at least remembering more than usual during these long and stressful days of the pandemic lockdown?

Many people are reporting not only increased dreaming but more emotionally laden dreams, anxiety dreams, scary dreams. Their dreams are more intense and vivid as well.

These dreams are what some psychologists are calling “quorandreams” or quarantine dreams and can reflect vividly what you’re experiencing during the day and are part of the mind’s system for dealing with high anxiety (especially in the waking state suppression of it) and in some cases trauma. Given that most of life is so far out of the normal right now it is indeed like a trauma.

So, what is happening?

Typically, our dreams tend to be metaphorical reenactments of our daily lives and/or our responses to these events. In times of high stress our dreams can become more vivid, intense and emotionally laden. We seem to get more of them because for many of us we are sleeping longer than usual and not being awakened by that infernal alarm clock right in the middle of a dream causing us to lose the dream upon awakening.

Because dreams often reflect our emotional state many folks are experiencing metaphorical symbols related to ones emotions such as tornadoes, floods, tsunamis/tidal waves, and drownings. If they are in quarantine or lockdown they may also be experiencing dreams of being trapped, caged, or tied up. Some may experience being attacked or threatened in a dream or of being in a car or airplane that is out of control. Overcoming an attack in some way can represent ones desire to take back control as is any dream theme of taking back personal responsibility for what is happening in life e.g., driving a car in a dream versus being a passenger in it.

Some people dream of running to the bathroom or searching for a bathroom which can be symbolic of the need to get rid of unwanted negativity. Some dream of falling or the fear of falling. Others dream of killings that often reflect the desire for something to end.

So, what can you do about these anxiety, fear, and stress related dreams? For starters realize that you are not alone in this in that many, many people are experiencing these kinds of dreams right now as well as increased stress and anxiety. Sometimes the mere act of writing them down can be immensely cathartic/calming and the act of writing/journaling itself can provide a sense of increased personal control.

I would also suggest that you may want to wind down before going to bed, shut off the TV, the cell phone, and computer. Also if you have a place where you have some privacy light a candle, find a quiet space within you (mine is in a Redwood Forest along the California coast recreated in my mind as the default quiet space within my meditation) and meditate allowing whatever comes to mind to just pass on through without engaging it. In other words just be with whatever comes up for you without resisting or judging or entertaining it. Just keep coming back to whatever non thinking space you have chosen to enter. Don’t let your thoughts carry you off and if you do come back to the quiet space. Though you can meditate as long as you want I personally do a 20 to 30 minute meditation ending with a deep breath taken in to the count of 4 and a deep breath blown out to the count of four done three times (this can be done both at the beginning and at the end as a means of centering and cleansing the body of any residual stress).

Hang in there folks, as my grandmother used to say, “This too will end!” In the meantime listen to your dreams, get plenty of sleep, and stay safe.

On becoming real

 

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Pinocchio standing guard over my dream journal.

My most important lesson in life I learned from Pinocchio

In this time of seeming unreality I was reminded of the story of Pinocchio where a wooden puppet dreamed of becoming a real boy. The Blue Fairy promises him that if he is good and his heart is true and honest he will become a real boy. Of course he suffers all the wrong turns in his journey toward realness and many characters and circumstances try to steal parts of his soul along the way. He becomes lost, abused and alone at times but eventually he finds his way home by taking the ultimate risk to his life to protect his mentor and creator, the loveable old toy maker Geppetto, by being willing to sacrifice himself for love.

The story is a mirror of the path we are all on as we grow toward wholeness and self-actualization. I believe that at our core our hearts are true and that we can only experience this when we are willing to let go of our ego selves, to sacrifice our self-centeredness by the giving of our heart and mind to something other than our self and when we are willing to open to love.

Pinocchio is an allegorical tale of the Heroes Journey that we are all on, a journey toward reality and wholeness, awareness and redemption where we struggle, die to our old self, and are then resurrected anew. Nearly every story worth its salt has a hero, or heroine, striving for something of great value e.g. life, justice, a golden fleece, freedom, transformation, and/or redemption. Each is tried in the crucible of what life has to throw at them and all are convinced that to attain the goal will bring them wholeness and make them real.

We are all on Pinocchio’s Journey, all trying to find the gold of our core being. As we set out we look into all the nooks and crannies of life, down all its dark alleys, or pray to all its gods and Blue Fairies hoping that somewhere out there are the answers to becoming real. But with some luck and perseverance we can learn that the answer to becoming real has always been within us– that reality is a function of what’s in our hearts and not what is in some temple. Life can steal the parts of our self that we have given up to others so that we can feel safe, but Life cannot steal our heart for it is immutable.

The real you lies at your core being and is available to you when you give up your need for ego survival. This is the lesson of Pinocchio.

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For another story on becoming real see the following: https://thebookofdreamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/an-example-of-the-power-of-intentionality/

 

This is a new ad for the book Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting. For those who are either just starting out working with their dreams or those who are more familiar with the unconscious terrain of their dreams this book covers more than 5000 dream symbols collected from over 3500 dreamers across more than 140 different countries and cultures. Though it cannot cover all the possible meanings it can point the dreamer in a direction for exploration.

 

 

Be Gentle with Your Dreams: An excerpt from Morpheus Speaks

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The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting

Be careful as you walk through the hidden forests of your dreams. They compose the unprotected essence of who and what you are. They are the messengers of your soul and your deeper self.

They harbor all your worries and fears, your dislikes and rejected aspects, your hopes and desires laid bare. They are born of the irrational, the imaginative, and the intuitive—a world of being as real and as informative as the rational world of science.

Both the outer masks that we all present to the world and the masks turned inward so that we don’t look too deeply at the mysterious inner self are stripped away during our sleep, allowing us to see our most beautiful faces and darkest shadows.

Through our dreams we get a glimpse of what God sees in each and every one of us without judgment or condemnation. Dreams are a grace unearned and a gift to those who learn to accept and interpret them.

Treat them with care, respect, and compassion, for they reveal the best of us and the worst of us. They represent our guide through life and the equilibrium and balance that all living creatures need in order to survive in what is often a chaotic world. Our dreams are our inner saviors.

Dreams reveal a truth about our emotional state of mind, our physical well-being, our psychological health, and our sense of the spiritual. They are our deepest connection with everything, one another, and God or the universal spirit.

Dreams create a nightly map to the experience of being human, and if read properly, they can guide us to worlds not dreamed of through the conscious mind. And they do all this uniquely for the dreamer who has them.

Interpreters can hold our hands briefly and point to the way of the psyche, but the individual needs to walk this path alone. It is about the person’s story and life narrative, and only he or she can know the true meaning of dreams.

In a way, how we interpret our dreams may be about how we interpret ourselves and how we think and imagine ourselves into being.

Knowing your personality type: Excerpts from Morpheus Speaks

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Available at Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and Amazon

Looking for patterns within a single dream or across a number of dreams can be a useful way to decode the dream’s meaning.

Whether or not you are able to see a theme or pattern may be affected by your individual personality traits. Whether you are perfectionistic, possessive, image conscious, self-absorbed, secretive, anxious, engaging, scattered, self-confident, willful, easy going, or self-effacing these traits are at some level going to affect your interpretation of dream themes and patterns.

 

The more you know about your traits, the more you can spot what the pallet you’re using to create your dream picture looks like.

Knowing something about your emotional makeup is also going to help in understanding your waking world behaviors as well as your dreams.

There are several personality type indicators with each focusing on different foundational philosophies of personality and personality development. For the purpose of this book I’m highlighting two that I have the most experience with—The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram type indicator. Both will provide the user with rough, though usable information.

I’ve taken the liberty of sharing these links to sites that I believe to be useful:

 

 

Both these sites can be quite useful at an entry level to getting a handle on how you respond to the symbols, circumstances and events of your life and make the process and results of dream interpretation all that much richer and meaningful.

In both the books The Dragon’s Treasure and Morpheus Speaks I discuss in some depth some of the variables that affect our relationship to both the sleeping and waking consciousness.

Not only does your personality determine the symbols and the interpretation of those symbols, so does the extent to which you have immersed yourself in the beliefs of a religion and the values of a culture.

The Quran, the Christian and Jewish bible, the Vedas and other books of religion are used to interpret one’s life and to attempt the understanding of God, so why would they not influence your dreams? The danger in this is that rigidly narrow interpretations can sometimes only give you information about what you already know and not what you don’t know.

In any event, I’m not sure that the ‘self’ of the unconscious adheres to any religion, though it may use your belief as a way of communicating to you. This may add yet another layer of complexity to be unpeeled before getting at the small kernel of truth hidden within.

Active Imagining: Allowing your unconscious wisdom to express through fantasy.

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Dicken’s Dream by–Robert William Buss  (1804–1875) 

Back in May of 2017 I wrote and article on Embodied Cognition a means for “acting out” material to be learned or discovered and thought I would catch up to myself and expand on the usefulness of this as a dream tool.

What do I mean by Active Imagination? You might think, don’t we all have an active imagination? Yes, that’s probably true to varying degrees, but that not what this is all about. Active Imagining is a dream study/therapeutic technique used by some analysts to assist people in their exploration of their unconscious motivations.

In this technique the ego remains fully conscious. The ego gets to observe and even feel unconscious content, but gives up critical content to be open to what might be available. Once the unconscious has downloaded its content with respect to certain dream images, the ego can then elaborate (activate its imagination), then after doing so as completely as possible, it then determines the meaning. This last part is critical, just enjoying the elaboration isn’t enough.

If done properly, the process can lead to a transcendent experience where as Ibn Arabi, 13th century Andalusian Muslim scholar, mystic and poet suggested, “Spirits embody themselves through the power of imagination.” He thought that form is related to spirit in a significant way and to relate to the forms within the imagination can lead one to go beyond the boundaries of the psyche. If there is no difference between spirit and the imaginal form then this technique can actually lead one to the divine. We all have this potential within the latent self.

Key to this process is to not allow the ego to manipulate the process any more than it usually does. To do so would cause a degeneration of the outcome. Which is why I would recommend doing this process with a qualified therapist. Some groups can also be helpful if they understand the parameters and possible outcome of this self-exploration technique. Note, however that beliefs can bias the material that comes from the unconscious.

At first the material will be comfortable for the ego, but later the unconscious will begin to challenge the boundaries of the ego, thus becoming an important psychological and spiritual healing tool.

There is also the possibility that the ego will resist the process because it can be threatening to the ego’s status. Many objections might show up, “This doesn’t work!”, “It’s too boring!”, “It’s stupid!” and other ego impatience and critique. Stick with it and wonders can unfold.

This is an incredible technique for exploring that, which troubles us. So don’t wish your troubles away, show the courage and grace to transform them. This way, as Carl Jung suggested, one can transform oneself as an inner partner.

 

“Active imagination requires a state of reverie, half-way between sleep and waking.”

–Carl Jung

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For more on this technique the website of Tony Crisp might prove useful.