Can writing make life better?

My favourite chapter in Patricia Garfield’s ground-breaking book, ‘Creative Dreaming,’ is the one about the Senoi dreamers, whose dream-practice is designed ‘to make life better.’

My 1976 copy of the very wonderful 'Creative Dreaming'
My 1976 copy of the very wonderful ‘Creative Dreaming’

In this tradition, if you have an unhappy or disturbing dream, you create a happy outcome for it, either by going back to sleep and dreaming it on, or through creative visualisation when awake.

If every time you have a bad dream you bring it to a satisfying resolution, soon your dreaming mind will start to follow the pattern you have consciously created, and difficult dream situations will always be resolved within the dream.

This practice doesn’t only make your dreamlife happier, it makes your waking life better too, because it works as a kind of rehearsal, an empowering opportunity to experience yourself as someone who confronts their fears and finds their courage and ingenuity in difficult situations.

One of my most common nightmares when I was younger was fear of falling from high places, and that fear was reflected in my waking life. First, I learnt to handle it in my dreams and then, building on that imaginative experience, in my waking life, so that nowadays I love the exhilaration of pushing through the fear to reach the heights.

Up high in Prague last month - hello, Pat!
Up high in Prague last month – hello, Pat!

This is exactly what we do when we write fiction. We put our characters in difficult situations and imagine them forward to a place of resolution. These fictional situations emerge, like dreams, from our deep unconscious, and like the Senoi dreamers, we transform them in imagination in order to triumph over them.

Has your dreaming or writing ever helped you to face a deep fear and feel empowered?

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7 thoughts on “Can writing make life better?”

  1. I love the idea of bringing our dreams to a satisfying resolution. Strangely, without knowing, I think I now do this and it does seem to be about control. At times in my life when I have felt less in control my dreams have ended unpleasantly. I think, subconsciously, I have probably faced many fears in my writing. I certainly find the whole process empowering and use it to explore feelings, emotions and thoughts that may otherwise lie dormant. Thanks for sharing such a lovely post, Jenny.

    1. Exploring feelings, emotions and thoughts that might otherwise lie dormant – yes – that’s also part of making life better, because it makes life bigger. I love the way your comments often help me to expand my idea. Thank you!

  2. When I read this I thought it would be so interesting to be able to use my dreams more creatively. So I read Patricia’s book over the last couple of days, followed her guidelines and have gone from hardly any recall to almost total recall of my dreams . How exciting! Every single night has brought a new adventure, and also resolutions to daily situations.
    I have to be honest and say that I was pretty sceptical at whether simply deciding to remember and writing down would be productive, but I was so wrong. My dreams turned out to be detailed, vibrant and useful.
    Thank you Jen.

    1. Woohoo! That’s fantastic, Carolyn. The best analogy I’ve heard for recalling dreams is that it’s like radio waves – you’d be completely unaware a station’s broadcasting until you tune your dial; it can take a bit of trial and error, but soon you’re getting the broadcast loud and clear. Simply knowing it’s all about intention (Carlos Casteneda calls it ‘flying on the wings of intent’) is the most empowering thing. Fascinating book, isn’t it?

    1. Definitely! When you go to bed, intend to dream about your writer’s block, and write down anything at all that you remember when you wake up (your conscious mind is too quick to sift out stuff as banal or not relevant – you often find connections later in the day)

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