High Dreams and Their Possibilities
The focus in this Field Note is dreams of possibility, what Arnold Mindell the founder of Process Work Psychotherapy calls the “high dreams” — dreams that express your most strongly held values and beliefs, and the essence of who you are.
High dreams are not night dreams, although they are not unrelated. All dreams of any kinds are an outcome of many sources, such as personal history that includes, family of origin, culture, schooling, peers, religion, institutions, and so on. As such, they could be said to arise from both the individual and collective unconscious. Eventually all these sources converge in your inner world and emerge in a form. It is most common in our culture that dreaming, particularly of the ‘day’ and wish-sort, is discouraged. Have you ever been told directly and indirectly by well-meaning parents and teachers: “Stop daydreaming and get down to your work.” This cautionary commentary is tantamount to discouraging you from accessing your creative dimension.
If you go back to thinking about your own experience as you were growing up, was your dreaming encouraged? If so, you were, indeed, fortunate. Not only were you encouraged to allow your imagination to run free, but also you were encouraged to imagine the emergence of your authentic and unique self. Probably most of us were given a different message, though. We were told that we needed to be practical, and not an idealistic, woolly-headed dreamer, that the world was not kind to dreamers, and that if we did not ‘get serious,’ we would surely live an unsuccessful and, therefore, unhappy life.
What’s meant by ‘successful’? Most likely, the idea behind success is a materially well-provided life that includes having a good position that pays well. I’m not insinuating that such a vision of life is inherently ‘wrong.’ We do need to ask what the ‘costs’ have been for an individual to achieve such a vision understood in a particular way. The cost could be the loss of your High Dream and your authentic self that is High Dream able.
Night dreams are representations of our inner and outer worlds in varying degrees of symbolic form. So-called nightmares often lead to your waking up with feelings of terror and horror. Again, we have mostly been told by well-meaning folks around us to just forget about these dark, night events. However, from the perspective of psychological work, these dark dreams represent a great dreaming possibility, and what is required is to face into the darkness and find out what is in there, and how it is advising you.
Similarly, we have been discouraged from daydreaming our Highest Dreams with a message from the outer world, which then has been seamlessly internalized in your consciousness and catalyzes inner oppression by what I call the Inner Oppressor (IO). It does not matter whether what you dream is possible or not possible. That is beside the point. Giving free reign to your dreaming opens your imaginative potential ever wider, and provides access to your possibilities as a creative and generative human being. I invite you to manifest your High Dreams in your inner world, and see if you have feelings of liberation and empowerment arise; or if you feel fears, apprehension, and negativity arising.
If you share your dream, if you hear the dream of another, the dream belongs to more than one person. It now exists in the consciousness of both of you. You may have heard of various forms of ‘whisperers,’ such as, ‘ a horse whisperer’– someone who communicated with horses in ways that were well beyond what most people could imagine. Perhaps you can become a dream whisperer; you can ‘hear’ yourself, the other in all their wholeness and openness, perhaps beyond what you or they have previously been able to hear. Similarly, a dream whisperer communicates their dreams as an expression of who they are, where they have come from (their personal and collective history) and where they are going.
Imagine your own High Dream. Of course, such a dreaming may be not readily available for many. The important point here, however, is to initiate the process — the imaginative process of expanded perception that goes beyond the ordinary seeing. You need not be hampered by what is possible and what is not possible. As William Blake said in his 1793 poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man [sic] has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” Through risking high dreaming, you can open the doors of perception and enter ever more deeply into becoming a Dream Whisperer. Give yourself what permission you can to do so. Perhaps then, your doors of perception can be cleansed, and the infiniteness of everything may become more apparent.
I share with you here a personal experience. I have a high dream that I will be completely at ease most all of the time. My first thought, “is that possible?” Aha! The self that questions is awake in me! More questions arise: “How would I achieve that? Hmmm… that’s a bigger question!” I realize that I have some ideas and some ways that could help me move in that direction. I also realize that I have the tendency to get caught up in details and be anxious about them. I am also aware of my history of perhaps ‘over-alertness’ at times and somewhat chronic low-level tension in the core of my body. And my history of having a mother who, understandably given her situation, worried a lot: a role-model of sorts that was counter-balanced by my father, who tended to be a bit critical of her stance, and who went more in the direction of, ‘if I don’t worry about it, it won’t be a problem’ — certainly a bit of denial about situations. Yin-Yang dynamics were a familiar interplay between my parents.
I also think about my history that is common with all humans. We are the only mammals that are born almost completely helpless, and continue to be so for a number of months. In fact, I am told that we are born really as a fetus. What I mean by helpless is our ability to do anything directly and physically protective of and sustaining for ourselves was not viable. All other mammals can get up and at least stumble around and forage a bit within a very short time of being born. Human infants can, of course, let their feelings about being in a helpless position be known. Infants can cry and let their distress be known in various ways, and their helplessness is helped by the caregivers coming swiftly to their aid. But what happens when such help does not come and babies end up experiencing sustained helplessness? Perhaps, many adults are still experiencing the lingering sense of helplessness, which manifests as not being able to take responsibility for themselves. From this train of reflection, then, perhaps we may pause and wonder what our frustration and anger is about when we perceive a person to be not taking responsibility for themselves or their actions. We might even consider that the miracle is that anybody takes responsibility for themselves and their actions.
In any event, getting back to my own self-reflection: assuming my goal is to be a whole and agentic person, then what to do? What comes to mind at this moment is the story of David and Goliath. Goliath is huge, is a giant, and David is a young boy with a slingshot. This kind of archetypal story is about the apparently weak overcoming the apparently very strong. Such stories are repeated over and over in mythology, fairytales, and even in our nighttime dreams. My situation, however, is ironically flipped. My big dream is to feel more completely relaxed and at ease, rather than aggressively powerful. All the same, I think this involves changing my relationship with the apparent giant. In the way of what to do, I can think of a couple of steps to take:
1) I already know the story and I know the two identities. One identity is the somewhat tense and anxious self; I easily see this as a younger part of me: my small self. The other identity is the bigger and older person in my life at various times as I was growing up. This person causes me a problem, causes me to feel tense and anxious, and scares me. Besides these two identities, there is, of course, my present-moment awareness: the witnessing ‘I,’ which is not an identity: it is a presence.
2) First of all, I can more consciously be my younger, more frightened, self. I can feel the tension in me. Only, this time, rather than trying to get away from the tension I feel, I am consciously aware of it, feeling it directly, and going into it. I discover that my breathing is a little restricted. Rather than immediately trying to do something about this, I pay attention to my restricted breathing. I can feel the limits within which I breathe. Somehow in paying attention to this, I already feel a little differently, and I feel less afraid. I can feel the enclosure of my body configuration and the containment of my breath. I begin to play with this. First, I constrict my breath. Interesting how this is actually easier than expanding it. I stay with the constriction and continue to breathe. This action is consistent with my practice of ki-aikido, which, over the years, has been teaching me how to go with what is happening rather than to fight it. I noticed as I do this, the constriction is loosening. I take a bigger breath. The container of my body is a little looser and bigger. I have a good feeling. I say to the constrictor self: “It’s actually good to work with you. I wonder if we can have a better relationship, or for that matter, a relationship of any kind.”
I move my consciousness into my constrictor self. Interestingly, the first thing I feel is fear, which is not what I would’ve expected in this self. I also have a sense of helplessness and powerlessness. Again, not what I would have expected in this self. At this point, you may wonder who is speaking here. It is the part of me that observes: the awareness. The constrictor self speaks, “I am trying to protect you. I always have been trying to protect you. It is very hard work to provide the armouring that I believe will protect you. I feel alone with this task, and I certainly do not receive any appreciation for what I’m doing.” This statement is very much reminiscent of my hard-working and caring mother. Of course, a part of me was bothered by and resentful of the way she cared for me when I was young. Today, I accept that she was caring, even if in her own ways, and I am grateful to her for her care.
This dialogue could, of course, go on, but I will leave it here for now. The deeper and ongoing work between me and my inner experience of my mother will continue.
This is a step in the process of working towards the High Dream that I have, and at the moment I do feel more at ease and relaxed.
In summary, I would like to suggest to you the four possibilities of working with sub-identities in the service of one’s High Dream:
- Ignore, dissociate, and/or don’t know about this sub-identity that has emerged. This would be an unconscious action and by definition not-knowable. However, if I can take the ‘hint;’ namely, my anxiety and the constriction, I can move to options 2 and/or 3.
- Work on myself; flesh out the identity that embodies this worrier self. This is usually readily identified as a very much younger self, and the associated
- I can embody the self that ‘tells’ me to worry, to be fearful, and to develop narratives, associated body states and emotions, notice my constricted life energy as this sub-self, and notice personal history that may arise.
- Look for and begin to work with the relational experience between the two identities. Identify any points where they are in conflict, and any points where they are in agreement.
- Along with the above you can look to mythology, fairtales, art, and see how the theme and pattern of my High Dreams, reified patterns of being, and transformation are universal human themes, of which your own experience is both representative of and contributing towards.
I hope you will see some possibilities in all this for your own inner and relational work, and that also you can see the importance of entering into the process and how that will help you move towards the dream and what can be learned along the way.
As you may be aware, this Field Note is a brief step into the possibilities that will be offered in our upcoming workshop.
Many bows to Heesoon for her
support with this Field Note…