It seemed to me a good time to pause – as the world heats and the climate sizzles, as a pandemic rages, as authoritarians exploit fear and chaos, as our grief is denied, our mourning rituals suppressed and disrupted as individuals in Black and brown communities suffer under the brunt of state violence from police and ICE/Border patrol – to talk about why I am persisting in writing about dreams and dream work through this compounding crisis.
This is why:
When personal and collective crises are acute homeostasis is disrupted, business “as usual” no longer serves as a reliable guide. The rhythms and patterns of our lives have reorganized, are actively in the process of reorganizing dramatically.
In order to negotiate our new realities, and in order to build a sustainable way of life – we cannot currently rely on our previous cognitive schemas. Our emotional lives are being buffeted by loss and fear, anger and grief. Our physical comforts, pleasures and processes are in many ways curtailed, cut off, or jeopardized. Bankruptcy and unemployment threaten our most basic securities. (And those who deny these dangers are just as controlled through counter identification and denial).
As therapists and counselors, we can do very little to protect our clients from these crushing systemic failures, beyond bearing witness and offering empathy.
High stakes decisions are being made moment by moment – to wear a mask, to determine how close is too close, to go into a store, to visit a friend or elderly or sick family member, to attend a protest, to volunteer, to donate and on and on. We are in constant assesment regarding our abilities to offer up whatever we can to support others while preserving ourselves, and trying to determine how or who to turn to for help when our attempts at self-preservation and self-regulation fail.
In order to negotiate a world of instability and uncertainty – we must live closer to our intuitive functions in order to survive. We will need to open our inner ears for creative inspiration. We will need to discern our core values through a sea of misinformation and diverging values in order to serve our communities. We will need sources of reliable guidance about what part we are called on to play in our own lives and in the world around us.
These are creative and intuitive functions – to be used in service of our own survival, and to accessed to help stabilize and direct the collective decision making. I know no other mechanism for building our collective and intuitional muscles more visceral and effective than sitting in active relationship to our intuitional lives by contemplating our dreams.
Occasionally we may produce a prescriptive dream or a sense of sudden “knowing, ” a “eureka” that passes from the back of our brain to the front of our brain with urgency and a clear mandate for self- and other- preserving action. But I have learned, negotiating my own dangerous episodes that my dream life nudges and compensates, guides and corrects, warns and adjusts my daytime consciousness even when I have no clear idea “what it all means” at the time. Sometimes the meaning is obvious only in hindsight – but even so, it can provide a sense of comfort to know that the energies unleashed in our dreaming lives can serve our survival and our values – by helping us to release or by surfacing conflicts and concerns which we press out of awareness during the day.
Our “pre-conscious” awareness – the extraordinary amount of detail that we absorb about our daily environments – which we screen in or out of awareness based on our momentary priorities – can reconfigure itself in our sleep. We can become aware that a concern or an image or an idea –an irrational nagging fear, or a silly re-surfacing day dream can actually be an “early detection system” and part of the preparation for facing a transformative crisis when it suddenly seems to erupt “out of the blue.”
We are also going to need to summon all of our imaginal and creative capacities to learn how to rebuild new systems that respect the planet, liberate and heal the oppressed, restore the oppressors to their vulnerability and humanity, and re-balance our societies and nations. We will need to discover collective methods that do not exist yet. We will need to learn to discern truths that may disorganize our perceptions and challenge us to surrender deeply held beliefs. Our compasses may be set spinning, but we still need to find our way.
Again, these are all functions of the unconscious – the reservoir of what we do not yet know, of what we wanted to forget, and of what we have not prioritized, and of what was obsolete that can be reformed and repurposed. We will need to call on the guidance of our ancestors and to simultaneously transcend our ancestors. We will need to make space for creative inspiration to strike and to be able to recognize it when it speaks
These imaginal functions can be developed a through artist endeavor, through contemplative prayer and meditation, and/or through tending to our dreaming lives.
And, as I have talked about elsewhere – our dreaming doesn’t only serve our well-being – but it can provide essential information about where we are headed, and where we should be heading as a community, as a culture. It is a time when we must all gather up our projections and listen with our inner ear to the deepest callings of our moral or spiritual truths.
Who do I mean to be? Am I serving my community in the way that I should and that is specific to my capacities and limitations? Where am I defended? What part of this overwhelming reality am I repressing that would be beneficial to myself and others to contend with? What limitations or strengths am I minimizing or overestimating? Am I swept up or overwhelmed by pressures to conform to my community? Where am I prepared to stand apart from others? What hill am I willing to die on? Where do I need to surrender to collective wisdom?
As external “objective” truths appear to distort and twist, polarize and collapse upon themselves – we will need to center on our internal sense of truth and meaning more than ever before.
We can make sure we are keeping a daily rendezvous with our own psyche and soul, and we can encourage our clients to do the same.
When all is lost, when the world is spinning, when crises are so thick and compounded that we are too overwhelmed to think clearly – we can ask ourselves and ask each other: “What did our dreams say?”
We gather together in the dream workshops I facilitate to learn to forge a working relationship with our intuitive lives, and to learn how to integrate the energies surfaced by our dreams into creative, contemplative and therapeutic processes.
If you are a subscriber to this seminar you are welcome to use “Submit a Question” to share what your own dreams are saying – and we can try to amplify some of the archetypal themes in this space with your anonymity protected – or you can feel free to post a dream – with your information attached – that we can work with gently and respectfully of your ownership of the dream – in the comments section below.
If those options feel too exposing to most subscribers I will gladly continue in upcoming essays, to sit with Jung and his students, and continue to move through the dreams and visions that they collected and explored together, as they negotiated their own global and historicalcrises, in the collected notes of Jung’s seminars, dream by dream.