Category Archives: Guest posts

‘Dreams, therapy and creativity are at the heart of my work’ – in conversation with Brenda Mallon

I met Brenda Mallon at a conference of children’s authors and she kindly agreed to read the MS of my book, ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ and to be interviewed for this blog.

Brenda has over thirty years experience of working with dreams as a researcher, teacher and therapist. She has written 18 books on the subject, presented a Channel Four series ‘In your Dreams’ and sat on the board of directors of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.

Brenda in her study
Brenda in her study

Could you tell us a bit about your own personal journey in dreams, Brenda? How and why did you start to remember them, and how has your relationship with dreams developed over the years?

I can recall dreams from my childhood that have stayed with me. I was probably influenced to some extent by my mother. She talked about her dreams and had dreams which were precognitive. She didn’t call them that but would say, ‘You watch, it will happen.’ I think she was psychic in many ways and dreams were just one aspect of that ability. So, over the years I was fascinated by dreams . When I was completing my  Diploma in Counselling I based my dissertation dreams. I  recorded and worked on my dreams over a sixth month period and was amazed by what  they revealed. After that I wanted to focus on working with and researching dreams and to find out what other people’s dreams meant to them, so when I wasn’t working in my full time job in the Child Guidance Centre, I was sending out questionnaires and interviewing woman about their dreams. Over 900 woman took part and the findings were covered in my first book ‘Women Dreaming’ which was published by Harper Collins.

I greatly enjoyed your Channel 4 series, ‘In your dreams.’ Could you talk about how you work with dreams as a therapist?

Thanks, I enjoyed working on the series and meeting such a variety of people who were not coming for therapy but to discuss their dream life in general.

As a therapist, my role, I believe, it to accompany people as they seek to find a way to resolve issues that are distressing and to help them find their own way forward. I generally ask clients to write down their dreams when they recall them and to bring them to the sessions. I should add here, that not all clients do remember their dreams so I work in other ways if that is the case. When a client talks about a dream I ask them if they can make a connections to their waking life and explore the emotional aspects of the dream as well as the symbolic significance of the content. Sometimes, I ask the client to draw their dream and use that as a basis for our work. These techniques, including recording your dreams, using metaphors and symbols, taking the dream forward and dream amplification are detailed in ‘The Dream Bible’ (Godsfield/Octopus)

I like working with dreams because they empower the client to work on their own dreams once they get used to the techniques. This can take just a few sessions and it is something they can  access on their own for the rest of their lives, if they wish to. Also, I have specialized in working with people who have been bereaved and, in many cases, dreams can bring great comfort. They form part of the continuing bond we have with those who have died. In ‘Dying, Death and Grief: Working with adult bereavement’ (SAGE) I show how valuable such dreams can be.

As a children’s author, I’m interested in your work with children’s dreams. What would you say are the main differences between talking with children about their dreams and talking with adults?

I think younger children are more open to talking about their dreams and less concerned about how others might view them. I remember, one four year old I spoke to told me that dreams were ‘pictures in my pillow’. His dreams were in his pillow which came into his head when he slept. (In fact, I later used it in ‘Children Dreaming: Pictures in my pillow’ (Penguin). So, small children feel they have little if any control over dreams and their content and are less defensive than adults sometimes are.

Children are usually happy to enter into the playful aspect of dream work. For example, a girl whose brother had died, had a distressing dream in which a lion came into her bedroom and wanted to eat her and her brother, who was alive in the dream, She talked about what frightened her and how she was sad that her brother no longer came into her room to play.  She drew the dream, including the fierce lion. I asked her what she would change in the dream if she could change it. She thought for a while and said, ‘The lion could turn out to be nice and then it could go away. I could play with my brother again and that would be lovely.’ So, we talked about what they would play and games they used to play. She then did another drawing of herself and her bother playing as they had done in the past. She knew her brother was dead and would not return to her home and family but talking about him and playing with him gave her comfort and a chance to recall happy times in the past, which is part of the grieving and healing process.

Working with adults is also a pleasure. Adults however may have more pre-conceived ideas about dream interpretation which may lead to being more guarded about what dreams they share. However, once they understand dreams are powerful tools to help them through their crisis or distress, they truly value them, even those nightmare ‘wake up’ calls.

This blog is mostly about using dreams as a creative resource. I know you also teach creativity and writing workshops – do dreams feature in that work as well?

Artists, writers, scientists, musicians and actors speak of the importance of dreams as a source of creativity. I use dreams in my own writing and many members of the creative writing courses I teach use dreams as the springboard for their writing. Sometimes an image will be so vivid that the  dreamer cannot get it out of their mind. This kernel of an idea then grows to encompass characters, plot, further imagery and a developed story line. In other cases, the whole story or song appears in the dream. Robin Gibb, of the Bee Gees, told me his song ‘Stayin’ Alive’ came in one of his dreams as did Paul McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’.

I include sections on creative writing and creative dreaming in ‘A Year of Creativity’ (MQ Publications) as I think dreams are central to our creativity.  The more we pay attention to our internal treasure trove of dreams the more enriched we are.

A Year of Creativity

Who is your favourite author on the subject of dreams?

I like the work of Kelly Bulkeley, Robert Van De Castle and Patricia Gardfield. All members of the International Association for the Study of Dreams who have made vitally important , accessible contributions to the understanding of dreams. Also, Carl Gustav Jung, who could leave him out!

And your favourite book?

This is a hard one to answer. Probably because it is one of the earliest books I read that introduced me to the significance of symbolism in dreams is ‘Man and His Symbols’ by C.G. Jung.

As an author yourself, which of your own books are you most glad to have written?

Another difficult question! As a therapist, I think ‘Dreams, Counselling and Healing’ was an important book because I was able to put down my experience of working with clients and to show how powerful working with dreams is and to share techniques so others could use them.  My latest dream book ‘The Dream Experience: Your complete dream workshop in a book ‘, which includes a CD featuring exercises and inspirational music, is interactive and is, I hope, a guide to deepen  awareness of the creative heart of dreaming.

 Dream experience 2

You can find out more about Brenda on her website http://www.brendamallon.com/

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Guest post: Writing in the space between sleeping and waking

My guest in the House of Dreams this month is the author Alison Boyle, who attended one of my workshops a while ago. I love the idea of ‘writing in the space between sleeping and waking.’

Alison Boyle

In the space between sleeping and waking I found a way of expressing the internal voice of a main character in my latest book ‘from Pakistan to Preston’.

‘From Pakistan to Preston’

Most of the narrative is in the third person, and I’d been looking for a convincing internal voice for Tommy O’Reilly that exposed the indecisions whirring round his head. Tommy’s self-expressive flights, which I scribbled on scraps of paper at the moment they occurred to me and not a moment later, bring a change of tone and perspective to the story. Through this voice I hope that readers feel they understand – and feel – Tommy’s struggles in loving Sunehri Saleem.

The rest of the book is quite grounded, featuring the unusual work setting of an artificial silk factory in the North of England.

I found that the signposts in Jenny’s dream workshop allowed me to travel a little more confidently down some imaginative pathways I had only tentatively explored through my writing before. The biggest surprise was finding that her workshop didn’t activate a warning beep on my ‘Is this new age nonsense?’ monitor.

At the Manchester Literature Festival, Northern Debuts

from Pakistan to Preston by A.T. Boyle is published by Artificial Silk. You can see a 2-minute trailer here artificialsilk.org/video.html  and read about Alison’s event at the Manchester Literary Festival here http://manchesterliterature.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/very-well-placed.html

Have you ever found the answer to a creative conundrum in a writing workshop?

Why you should not spurn your daemon!

The award-winning author Susan Price and I are exchanging emails at the moment for a future entry on the ‘A conversation with’ page on her blog. By a delightful synchronicity, her latest response was a perfect illustration of the blog post I had just written last week, and she has agreed to let me publish it here.

Susan Price
 

There was a time in my life, when I was denying that ‘other’in my head, when I think my subconscious very deliberately worked against me.

I would say something quite innocent to someone – ‘Hello, how are you?’ for instance – and hear myself saying it in a tone, or with an inflexion that completely changed the meaning and made it insulting or aggressive. I had absolutely no conscious intention of insulting anyone, and would be as astonished as the person I’d just offended – but, of course, what could I say? – ‘I didn’t mean it like that! – That came out wrong!’

Sometimes people were polite, but I’d just bitten their heads off for no good reason. It was impossible to explain that the voice they’d just heard wasn’t mine. They would have thought I was mad. I occasionally thought I was mad.

I was at logger-heads with what I now call ‘my daemon’ because I was refusing to acknowledge that it existed, and so it fought me all the way. I would be writing something and would decide to make some change to the plot. What I now call the daemon would object, but I would refuse to listen because I didn’t recognise its voice. I put it down to a mere passing thought, and brushed it off because at that time I was certain that there was only one voice in my head: the ‘I’ voice, which I would now call ‘the editor’.

The daemon took its revenge by withdrawing. The piece of writing I was working on would turn to stone, or dry up, or fall over dead – whatever image you want to use. I had to learn that with writing – or, I think, any art – the daemon does the real work! The Editor may make some great editing decisions, once the real work is finished, but shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the daemon.

A vengeful, spurned daemon is a dangerous thing, I think. Mine not only stymied my every effort at writing, it played those tricks to embarrass me. It was ingenious at finding ways to make such remarks as,“Yes, please,” and “Yes, I’ve heard of that,” nasty and cutting.

I had to learn that talk of ‘muses’ and ‘daemons’ was not the arty-farty nonsense I thought it, but simply a way of talking about something that we don’t quite understand, and don’t have an everyday vocabulary for. I began to solve problems with writing by summarising the problem and saying to the daemon,‘Solve this for me.’ And it did! The more I trusted it, the faster and more inventively it solved the problems.

I started to give way to it. If it insisted that a particular character should – or shouldn’t – die, I no longer argued, but humbly worked with it to make it so. I discovered that the more I worked with and trusted the daemon, the friendlier it became. It stopped playing those tricks on me!

As a result, I paid it more attention and ‘heard’ it more clearly. I started to see how a piece of writing that I’d ‘made up as I went along’ had sub-texts planted in it, and other subtleties that ‘I’ hadn’t written – so who had? And then I read Kipling’s description of his ‘daemon’ and knew what he was talking about right away.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this taster, watch out for our full conversation on Susan’s blog in the coming weeks. You may also like to check out her ‘Muse Monday’ guest post on Katherine Roberts’ lovely blog, Reclusive Muse, where she descibes her daemon and quotes the passage from Rudyard Kipling she refers to here.

Guest post: From making sense… to exploring the unconscious

Penny Babies, by Melanie Benn

Melanie Benn

I love to dream, whether I’m asleep or looking out of a window. My dreams range from the mundane, as if sifting through a cupboard of the day’s events, to something more arcane. Sometimes I see an image or a scene, coupled with a strong emotion.

Once I dreamt I was standing on a shore at night, surrounded by rocks and watching tiny mouths in the water, gasping for air. I tried to scoop them out by turning my skirt into a cradle. I struggled to save them.

St Mary’s Church, Reculver
Some time later a local BBC radio station runs a competition and offers up the first line of a story: ‘Even now, the local historians speak of strange occurrences at St. Mary’s Church, Reculver’. I remember seeing the tall towers of this well-known landmark, standing next to the sea and I go off to do some research. I find reports of it being haunted, something more than wind sweeping round the church walls but babies crying.  I remember my dream and the second line comes to me: ‘sounds of crying or cooing they say, depending on your state of mind’.

Soon I start to weave the tale of shipwrecked babies, floating on the tide. ‘When they washed up on the shore they looked just like dolls,’ my Grandmother told me. ‘Like penny babies. Their bodies white and shiny, like alabaster, tied up in those long thin strips of cloth; not much bigger than the apron on my dress.’

‘Their bodies white and shiny, like alabaster…’

The story’s chosen and broadcast and then later produced for a stage version by a storytelling group in London. It occurs to me that our minds do more than just function when they are able to make connections; they begin to create. We’re able to move from just making sense of everyday events to exploring the unconscious.

Robert Moss, a writer and fascinating dream weaver says that dreams provide an ‘open vista’ of possibilities and for me, the way a story can come together feels like magic! But maybe it’s also the ability to re-imagine that holds the key. My dream brought with it an incredible feeling of sadness as I tried in vain to help the young lives drowning in the water. It spoke to me on another level and started me on a path to transform that feeling. A short story is just one way we might use our imagination to fuse different ideas together and bring something forward.

Melanie has an MA in Writing for Children and has been a previous winner of the London Writer’s Competition. She’s published in several anthologies and Penny Baby is now available to download from the short story mobile platform, Ether Books.

http://www.thewhiterabbit.org.uk/projects/are-you-sitting-comfortably/

http://etherbooks.com/

Guest post: The worlds where dreams may take us

Flying with Fairies, by Bob Cherny

Bob Cherney

We can analyze our dreams for what they say about us, fear them for what they might mean, take them for more than they are, merely enjoy them or follow them into the worlds where they may take us.

My book “Flying with Fairies” is this last. Born of a single brilliant full-color image, the first chapter turned into a second and then into a novel and then into a series. This book was a departure from what I had written previously and is unlike anything I have written since. But then, the dream that inspired it stood out from the other dreams for its visual clarity and symbolic obscurity. It was an opportunity to be exploited and a challenge to be faced. It spoke of pleasure and of hard work at the same time.

“Gatorbait”, a short story published in a Florida based regional publication, was also based on a single image. Where “Fairies” was based on a mid-air collision between a fairy and a flying human, “Gatorbait” was based on a young rodeo competitor and her flying horse.

I have a first chapter of a spy thriller that was so completely formed in my mind when I woke up, I could wait two days before writing it down. I have no idea what I will do with that chapter, but it’s there in case of whatever.

Everyone dreams, but remembering and exploiting dreams takes a willingness to step into a place where few of us are comfortable going. If you wish to write, go there. Take the risk. Exorcise the demons by writing them down and capturing them on the printed page where they can no longer do you any harm.

Do not work for your dreams. Make them work for you.

http://stagewalker.embarqspace.com/

My thanks to Bob for this glimpse into a wonderful dreaming and writing life, and for his insightful comments about exorcising personal demons by capturing them on the printed page. 

How do you make your dreams work for you?

‘Treat your dreams like lovers’ – talking to Toko-pa

Toko-pa Turner is an authority on dreams and dreamwork. I asked her to do an interview after watching her video tips on recalling dreams, in which she suggests, ‘Treat your dreams like lovers…’ I really liked that idea!

While I was pondering what I might ask her, I dreamt that she and I were in my living-room, with lots of people milling around at some kind of get-together; we were looking after someone’s baby, passing it between us in a delightful way, just like this process of question-and-answer.

Could you tell us a bit about your own personal journey in dreams, Toko-pa?

I grew up in a unique way, raised as a Sufi in a downtown Montreal commune. We lived in a giant but humble tenement with 18 rooms and 9 cats.  We ate vegetarian meals, practised yoga, meditation, did Sufi dancing and chanted zikr. As you can imagine, our bookshelves were crowded with poetry by Rumi and Tagore, herbal dictionaries, tomes on Tantra, crystals, Dreaming and endless manuals for spiritual enlightenment.

By the time I was 9 or 10, I was reading Carlos Casteneda and having out-of-body experiences. I remember being fixated with dreams – not just their significance, but that they emanated from a world beyond this world, from which beauty, monstrosity and intelligence were endlessly flowing.

When I was about 10, I was reading Journeys out of the Body by Robert Monroe and, while meditating with a quartz crystal, had my first astral projection. In the vision, I was shown an infinite hallway of doors, each marked with a different discipline or area of knowledge. I chose one at random and entered into a classroom where a teacher was waiting for me. He handed me a giant, ancient-looking book, not to read but to… download.

Metabolising the entirity of that teaching in a matter of seconds changed my life. While I have many times strayed off the Dreaming path, I have never forgotten that within each of us is a vast Innernet which contains the entire appendix of our experience as a species – maybe even our memories of the future.

What is the value of dream-recalling as part of everyday life?

In the Talmud, it is said that an uninterpreted dream is like a letter left unread. Dreams show us with staggering clarity and genius what we most need to bring to consciousness. They guide us to not only make excellent decisions in daily life but, like an acorn to the oak tree, they prompt us in the overall direction of our soul’s purpose.

When we are in alignment with our purpose, we are also making the greatest possible contribution to our tribe. Marion Woodman, a marvellous Jungian writer, teaches that the greatest tragedy we face as a culture is the loss of the symbolic life. So you see, each of us is grieving our own piece of that loss, whether we are aware of it or not.

As you forge a relationship with your dreams, that profound loneliness begins to dissipate, and you find your place in the ‘family of things.’ As a side-benefit, you’ll find synchronicity, love and other miracles start to line up to meet you.

I like your gentle approach to dreamwork – could you tell us a bit about your work with clients?

Well, it’s just about my favourite thing in the world. There’s nothing more intimate, fulfilling and magical that ‘touching souls’ with another being. Most people walk around for years without ever receiving a proper ‘Hello.’ What I mean by that, is that most of us have been taught from the earliest age to suppress and discount the tenderest, most creative part of ourselves. And while it is certainly possible to survive in this way, underneath the daily armour is an unabating hunger to be seen.

To connect, being-to-being, with that thing which is tired of fitting in, which wants to feel alive, which has something authentic to offer. Giving a proper Hello is to hold a subtle, unwavering presence for that thing to feel safe enough to emerge. Dreamwork is all about nurturing trust, not just between the Dreamer and Dreamworker, but between the Dreamer and his/her own soul.

Is all dream material related to the dreamer’s day-life, or are there different kinds of dreams?

While most dreams are responding to the events of our daily lives, occasionally one lucks out and gets a Big Dream. It has a tonal difference to it and feels more like an experience than a narrative. It is more vivid and sensual, and the characters & environments seem to exist independently of our being there. It’s as if these dreams are having us, instead of the other way around. Often in dreams like these, we receive transmissions or guidance which stays with us for a long time.

There are more kinds of dreams than I could ever cover in this interview, and likely more than I could even learn about. There are precognitive & premonitory dreams, creative dreams, visionary dreams, past-life dreams, healing & initiation dreams, recurring dreams, lucid dreams, telepathic dreams and many more.

But perhaps its most important to mention nightmares, because they are the reason most people choose not to remember their dreams. One of the most powerful things I get to witness in my work, is the moment when people realise that their nightmares are there to help them. Some spend a lifetime hiding shame and fear of their own dreams, believing they are broken or abnormal. But the truth is, nightmares are just dreams that have turned up their volume, trying devotedly to get our attention about something that is ready to be healed.

This blog is about using dreams as a creative resource. As an artist, writer and musician, how does your dreamlife feed your creativity?

Infinitely! As a songwriter and writer, I constantly use the symbols from my dreams to set the mood of a piece, or to convey a poetic paradox. For instance, I have a song called Medicine Music, whose chorus, “the poison is the medicine” came from a dream in which spiders were covering my arms and biting me. I was paralysed with fear but when the poison sunk into my bloodstream, I became filled with light and strength. This dream taught me that if I lean into those painful and scary places, they will no longer paralyse me, but become the source of my power.

What is your favourite book about dreams?

I love The Way of the Dream by Marie Louise von Franz, which is just a short transcript of an extraordinary ten hour film interview that von Franz did with fellow Jungian Fraser Boa. She has such a great mind and it is never at the expense of her feeling, so she simultaneously satisfies my inner mystic and nerd.

I always enjoy the quotations you post on your facebook page. Would you like to finish this interview with a quotation here?

From Marc Ian Barasch’s Healing Dreams: “Dreams uphold the soul’s values. They tell us that we — our ego selves — are not who we think we are. They encourage us to live truthfully, right now and always. Of course these messages might not be what we want to hear. Sometimes dreams may advocate for life changes that are challenging, to say the least. Dreams really have no time for niceties or for the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. In dreams our narrow selfhood is expanded — the dreams will not allow us to be so small.”

Toko-pa has a beautiful blog http://www.toko-pa.com and facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DreamworkWithTokopa

You can read another beautiful interview with Toko-pa here.