Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Every Dream, An Orchard

By Suzanne Carter, Ph.D.

Dreams have many more than one right answer.

Dreams have many answers.

Many answers can be right.

There are layers of right answers as well.

My favorite model by far comes from the work of Linda Yael Schiller, MSW, LICSW, the dreamworker's dreamworker and group development expert in the Massachusetts area. Her model is my favorite because it opens dreams to multiple levels. The value of any one dream does not end at understanding just one level.

Her model holds that dreams can be viewed through a Kabbalistic lens, and there are at least four realms to which a dream can open us.

There is a literal realm, where what you see in the dream is what you get. If you are chased in the dream, it is a dream about chasing. So-and-so from work is doing the chasing. Hunh, that's weird and interesting.

At a slightly deeper level, one can discern additional meaning in the dream. This is where puns might point us, or initial emotional or physical reactions in response to the dream narrative. If you are chased in a dream, you might think about what being chased or "chaste" means to you, or where in your waking life you felt chased recently, for starters.

A third level lies deeper still within the dream, which takes a bit more work to uncover. This level is beyond what we think we intellectually understand in the dream, beyond the puns, the symbols, and yesterday's lunch.

Accessing this level is often via the surprises that emerge when one re-enters a dreamscape to take another look or to play out a dream scene further.

If you dreamed you were chased, you might consider going back into your dream and you may decide that it feels right to slow down time inside the dream to find an alternative place to run, or to freeze your chaser, so you can take a good look and see what your chaser is after, or to grant yourself a power in the dream that renders you safe from harm.

You get to do what you want, what feels right to you, in your dream.

It's your dream, after all. No one else's.

It's wonderful how creative one can be in re-entering a dream. For example: I once had a dream where my father was taking a nap in a room, and his nap-taking suppressed all vibrancy and joy in that room. I went back into the dream and it spontaneously occurred to me, while I was in the dream, to painlessly and lovingly shrink my father to palm-size, and carry him gently from the couch to the back bedroom without waking him up, where I then placed him on the bed and re-grew him to regular size.

This third level of meaning can also be tapped into through Gestalt dreamwork, in which every part of the dream represents a part of the dreamer.

If you dreamed you were chased, you could look at the "chaser part of you" AND the "chasee part of you."

You could even work with the seemingly inanimate objects in the dream as significant parts of you: for instance, the lamppost part of you that guides you onto the safest path or the "piece of gum" part of you that you stepped on and that stuck to your shoe as you were running and put you off balance.

A fourth level of meaning is even more deeply embedded within the dream. This level is the Jungian "Big Dream" level of meaning, the dream current that is part of the transpersonal collective-unconscious realm. At this level, the dreamer enjoys a sense of communion with the ancient, the mystical, the Divine. When you've hit this level, you know it. I can't really do it more justice than that.

I present this information to you not just to offer another fancy-schmantzy stage theory, but to emphasize one point: each dream is an orchard. Each one of your dreams has many levels of meaning to offer you.

May your dreams be ever fruitful, and may you enjoy the fruits of your dreams.

Suzanne Carter Ph.D., founder of Dreamcurrent.com, is a social psychologist by training, a senior research analyst by trade, and a dreamer for life. http://www.dreamcurrent.com/ was founded as a means to share Suzanne's expertise and her unique and open way of working in the service of the dreamer and the dream. Her goal for the coming year is to personally enable coaches and practitioners of the therapeutic arts to facilitate the personal and spiritual growth of their clients (as well as to enjoy the insights and growth inherent in dreams themselves).

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