Tag Archives: dreams

Acquainted with the night, by Victoria Field

I’m delighted to welcome writer, poetry therapist and tutor Victoria Field into the House of Dreams today. I’ve attended several of her poetry therapy workshops over the past few years, which I can highly recommend, and I always look forward to reading her blog

Victoria Field
Victoria Field

I have always been aware of my dreams.  I still remember one from my pre-school years in which I went to watch a Punch and Judy show at the bottom of the hill where I lived.  I sat on my tricycle and was both drawn and repelled by what I saw happening on the stage of the booth and feared I’d be sucked in.  I’m not sure I’d ever seen Punch and Judy in real life.

It seems dreams are informed by more than direct experience.   I know that on residential courses, participants report shared dreams and that when I was married, my husband and I somehow occupied the same dream space as we shared a bed.  As a student, I often dreamed of tents.  I loved back-packing but there was also something mysterious about my dream tents and when I recently sat in a Bedouin tent in Kuwait, it felt familiar.

Many of my poems begin with a dream image and they find their way into prose too.  Several years ago, I began writing down an exceptionally vivid dream that centred around finding a white horse in my tiny kitchen in a terraced house in Chester.  As I wrote, the dream took on a life of its own and eventually turned into a novella of 16,000 words recounting what happened next.  The white horse can stand for many things in my life and like all dream images is mutable and outside time.  Writing happens in a liminal space and to my surprise, the horse surfaced again in a comic short story. 

I’m also aware that dream-work happens without our conscious mind being involved.  I often tell an anecdote when people ask how I became involved in poetry therapy.   My first encounter with the practice was when John Fox, an eminent practitioner based in the US gave a workshop in London in 1999. It was a two day workshop and on the second day, I felt utterly unable to keep my eyes open, in spite of being fascinated by the work.  I’d had a leg injury and was on pain-killers which I blamed for my sleepiness.  I excused myself and found somewhere to put my head down and went into a deep sleep for a couple of hours. I can’t recall any dreams but I woke up thinking utterly clearly, ‘I want to be a poetry therapist’.  And so began my journey of the past decade and more.

So, if people fall asleep on my courses, I never object.  Important work is being done as we sleep, whether we know it or not!

9781906742614
Victoria’s latest collection

Victoria Field is a writer and poetry therapist.  More information is available here http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/victoriafieldpage.shtml  and she blogs at www.poetrytherapynews.wordpress.com

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How to have dreams that you can understand

Last week I described a dream I had when I was planning my writing projects for 2014, whose meaning was absolutely obvious. In that dream, I diverted from following Deborah Meaden on the path to the station and felt wonderfully happy on the beach.

Happy on the beach
Happy on the beach

I’d been thinking I should pitch some projects for the market rather than follow my writer’s heart into probable penury with a self-publishing project and an idea for a book I almost certainly couldn’t sell to mainstream publishers, so the meaning of my dream was very clear.

Just to make sure I got the message, I had a second dream in which I woke up to find I had been sleeping on the beach, and as I lay there blinking in the bright morning sunshine I saw a baby playing on the sand right in front of me, happily absorbed, the two of us drawn together in a moment of pure magic.

Hearing a sudden sound of voices, I looked round in time to see the big double doors of the public hall at the top of the beach thrown open. A very successful author I know came out, surrounded by press people and fans. She had been doing an event at the literary festival in the hall. She was beaming under a truly fabulous blue hat.

I waved and shouted hello, and she waved back. I felt delighted for her, because she loved doing major events. A second author I know came out, also dressed beautifully and wreathed in smiles. I waved and felt happy for her too, but I was glad it wasn’t me doing festivals in fabulous hats. The sun was warm on my face, and I looked back at the baby, who was now watching me with intense interest. She had a pebble in her little fist that she held out to me.

It was very easy to understand where these dreams came from, as I was totally preoccupied in waking life with what direction to take with my writing this year. Most dreams are story versions of waking-life events and concerns, and if you have one thing in particular that’s occupying your mind the connection is often obvious. People involved in research or creative projects will commonly have dreams that develop and resolve problems they are working on.

In normal life we aren’t usually so intensely preoccupied with one major question or concern – our energies are more dispersed and the connection between the minor ups and downs of waking life and the world of our dreams can be more difficult to spot. One way of having dreams you can understand is if you narrow your focus through dream incubation.

Before you go to sleep, think back over your day and notice anything that’s been bothering you, any decisions you need to make, any problems you need to resolve. Choose one and ask for a dream about it. Promise yourself that whatever dreams you have, you will record in full, because often in the first moments of waking we’ll dismiss a dream without bothering to write it down if we can’t immediately see the meaning or importance of it.

Although the rational mind works instantly, in the symbolic mind, meaning takes time to unfold, and a dream that has seemed random on waking might, on re-reading later in the day, surprise us with its resonances.

Sometimes when you have incubated a dream it will be easy to see the connection between your daytime situation and the dream. Other times, you may ponder it, put the dream to one side and get the a-ha moment later. Or if you ask for another dream about it you may have one the next night that makes things clearer.

Incubating dreams in this way means you are thinking about your day life instead of just living it; you’re noticing the way your mind is organising experience into stories, so that it’s easier to see when dreams are carrying the story on.

Setting up dreaming intentions means your waking ‘I’ is communicating with your dream, and very soon you’ll find your dream is answering back.  If you want to understand the answer to what it means, it really helps to know the question in advance.

You can find a bit more about dream incubation here

Have you ever incubated a dream?

What would you write if you were writing your life?

A friend emailed me this week about a series of workshops I’m doing in March-April called ‘Writing your Life.’ She said,  ‘I suppose some people might have had lots of exciting adventures they want to tell other people about. For me it’s more about my internal life…’

This reminded me of a dream I had just after the New Year, when I was planning my writing and other work projects for 2014. Specifically, I was thinking I should probably stop messing about with self-publishing my dream book before I actually started spending money on it, and concentrate on writing some proposals for books that might find a publisher and bring some money in.

In my dream, I was walking briskly along a tarmac path towards the station, in a stream of other people who were all wearing suits. I noticed the person in front of me was Deborah Meaden, the millionaire businesswoman from Dragon’s Den.

The path rose to the left over a long wide bridge, but I saw a little dirt track dipping away just before it, and made a diversion. Several people rushing by onto the bridge called me and told me I was going the wrong way and I would miss the train, but by then I could see that the path led down to a long sandy beach.

The sea was coming in and the space under the bridge was under water, but I could paddle along the very edge, and as I did so, I suddenly saw hundreds of brightly-coloured fish swimming around. Stopping to watch them, I noticed there were other creatures swimming in the shallow water too – little crocodiles and lizards, hippos and tiny elephants.

I stood there transfixed, overwhelmed by feelings of wonder and gratitude.

 

Everyone’s life is particularly lit up by different areas of experience. For me, like my friend, it’s the inner world that feels most exciting. In dreams and imagination I’ve been to wonderful places and seen amazing things, and those travels are as vivid in my memory as other people’s memories of travels in the outer world.

One of the memoirs I’ve found most gripping is Jung’s ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ and the memoir strand in my own ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ is very much the story of my dreaming, which is the great adventure of my life.

Inner or outer, the adventure’s the thing. Writing is a way of seeing, and understanding where the power that drives your life is, and the joy. I love that some people will bring ‘lots of exciting adventures’ they’ve had in the outer world to these workshops, and others the thoughts and imaginings that have lit up their life from within.

What would you write if you were writing your life?

Our stories, our selves

My work is emotionally autobiographical. It has no relationship to the actual events of my life, but it reflects the emotional currents of my life ~Tennessee Williams

This quotation from Tenessee Williams seems to me to encapsulate where dreams and creative writing are the same.

Being literal-minded, if we try to relate the writing to the author we only do it in a direct way, wondering whether the people in the story are based on real people or the events are things the author has actually experienced.

We do the same with dreams, especially if we focus only on the symbols and not the emotions.

But even where we don’t find any obvious connection between the story and the author, the dream and the dreamer, it is powerfully there because dreams, like fiction, are simply story-versions of the dreamer’s or author’s emotional experiences.

Have you ever written a story that seemed to have nothing to do with your own life, only to realise later that it was ’emotionally autobiographical’?

Dreaming, death, love and grace

Last night, I dreamt about Anne. She was my closest friend in Shetland, where I lived for most of my twenties, and when I moved away we spoke maybe once or twice a year on the phone and met up every five years or so. That was enough to keep the connection alive, because it was a very strong connection.

Anne with me and my youngest child, on a visit to Shetland (you can tell I'd got de-acclimatised by then!)
Anne with me and my youngest child, on a visit to Shetland (you can tell I’d got de-acclimatised by then!)

When we first met, I had been estranged from my family for several years, and my big sister had recently killed herself. I was in the middle of a meltdown; Anne was warm and kind.

I’m sitting on the grass opposite a house, but rather than a road between us, there’s a channel of water. Two seals swim up to the house and a young woman comes out to play with them. For several minutes, I watch this magical scene.

The woman comes across and I ask if the seals will let me play with them too, and she says why not? So I go, and we play, and then she invites me into her house for tea.

Inside her house, the young woman is Anne. She gives me a long, lovely hug and I tell her I love her. ‘We go way, way back,’ I say to her new partner, who seems a bit wary of me…

The rest of the dream was our tea-time together in her chaotic house, with her children running around – just exactly as our visits used to be. When I left to go on with my journey, we hugged again, such a comfortable hug, and when I woke I could still feel the warmth of her body and the smell of her hair.

It took me several moments to realise it had been a dream, and several more to remember that Anne was dead – she died nearly ten years ago.

Then I thought, what a wonderful gift that dream was, because it was as real as if we had really met; it was just as pleasurable and loving as at any other time we were together. It was also a complete surprise. I hadn’t asked for this dream, or expected it – it was given to me, by grace.

When I first met Anne, those decades ago, I had no concept of karma or past lives, but I felt that I had always known her. It wasn’t a spark of interest and a getting to know, but a moment of recognition and a reconnecting.

Now, I probably see her once every five years or so in my dreams, just as we saw each other when she was alive, and I expect I’ll meet her in some other future life… if that doesn’t sound too mad.

Have you ever had a vivid dream about someone who’s died? Or felt a karmic connection?

Authentically creative, by Carolyn Hughes

Carolyn Hughes is a writer with an interest in addiction and mental health issues. Her popular blog is The Hurt Healer and she has a lively and rapidly growing following on facebook and twitter

Carolyn Hughes
Carolyn Hughes

I must also have a dark side if I am to be whole ~ Jung

Like many writers I want my work to be recognisable by its unique and individual style.  For me, it’s crucial that what and how I write reflects my authentic self.  Anyone who has read my blog The Hurt Healer will be familiar with the fact that I share from the heart. It’s a deliberate approach to enable readers to relate to and hopefully be encouraged by my words.  Authenticity means being genuine and real.  Much as I would love to reveal only my good side, to be true to my work I have to disclose my whole self.

It is no coincidence that I am only now finding my writing voice as it has taken a long time to find myself.  Years of battling with depression and alcoholism meant that I had very little idea of who I was. How I presented to the outside world was very different to how I felt inside. It was only through having the courage to challenge my past at every level that I was able to start the journey to healing and so begin to find personal identity and my authentic self.

My aim though isn’t just to be authentic, but to be authentically creative.  And the key to writing both authentically and creatively lies with the unconscious.  For me the unconscious is a limitless place in my mind where my spirit and soul meet. It is a place where I can visit those painful issues that used to torment me. But instead of being overwhelmed I can now bring them into my conscious, safe from their power to harm me.  So as I communicate from my unconscious, so I hope to reach the unconscious of others and in doing so share a collective moment of authenticity.

The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind ~ Freud

Recently I’ve been looking at how I can reach further into the depths of my unconscious and take my writing to a new level of creativity.  I’ve started to look at the constituents of my dreams. This is a wonderful way to tap into those hidden thoughts and images that make up the psyche, as well as exposing my inner truth.

Examining my dreams however has only been possible from a position of emotional recovery and psychological stability. In those dark days of depression and alcoholism my night-time experiences were fraught with darkness and fear. The erratic and terrifying nightmares that emerged reflected my complete inability at the time to manage my physical and mental anguish.

Jung once remarked that nothing was ever lost in the psyche.  That is an horrendous thought for anyone who has tried to block out the past in the hope that the pain would stop. The idea that all thoughts, memories and emotions never disappear but remain forever can be frightening. Yet I found that there was indeed a freedom to be found in allowing the unconscious to simply ‘ be’. I stopped fighting the emergence of the dark side and celebrated the arrival of the good side. By no longer fearing my thoughts and dreams I was free to live authentically and to write openly too.

Il ne faut jamais regarder quelqu’un qui dort. C’est comme si on ouvrait une lettre qui ne vous est pas addressee ~ Sacha Guitry

I couldn’t mention dreams without including one of my favourite quotes. A general translation of this is; “You should never look at someone who is sleeping. It is like opening a letter that isn’t addressed to you.”

It is a quote I came across many years ago at a time when I was experiencing my first love.  After one of those deep conversations that you have in such relationships I remember feeling that he hadn’t been entirely truthful.  As I watched him sleeping I remembered the quote and realised that I had been right to doubt him.  His real emotions were disclosed on his face as he slept.  So dreams aren’t just for the benefit of the dreamer!

Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy ~ Freud

Being new to noting my dreams, I must admit that at first they did appear to be made up of bizarre representations that made little sense and made no contribution to my creativity. But as I made more of a conscious effort to remember them and to focus on not just what they were about but how I felt, they became significant.  

Very often it’s in that winding down time between waking and sleeping that a word, phrase, image that comes into my mind and gives the essence to a piece of writing. Other times it’s a complete dream that a memory from the past, an issue of the present or an aspiration for the future.  

Sometimes this works better than others depending on the obscurity or relevance of my dreams. Yet the importance lies in allowing that writing to happen regardless of whether it makes sense at the time. So although I may have rearranged the words to make them flow, I haven’t messed with the essence of what my soul may have whispered to me.

I may never reach the purest form of authenticity or be famed for my creativity, but I will continue to write from the heart with my unconscious and dreams as my guides.

 How do you write authentically and creatively? 

                                                                                                      

 

A vocation of unhappiness?

The prolific Belgian author, Georges Simenon, famously said, ‘Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness.’

Writing is certainly a vocation. Many professional authors have been doing it for years on top of the nine to five before they start to make any money from it, and most say they’d continue to write even if their income from it completely dried up.

Like any other vocation, this hunger to create comes at a cost; it takes time and energy away from social life and other interests, and puts personal challenges upon us which we might otherwise prefer to avoid, such as developing the ability to deal with criticism and rejection.

But because it’s a vocation, that inner drive enables us to overcome our setbacks and difficulties and keeps us moving forward towards a growing sense of doing what we were born to do.

I used to think that dreaming was a vocation of unhappiness too. It felt like a compulsion which had me in its grip. Over the years, it has taken me to all sorts of places where I’ve felt confused and frightened, and out of my depth. It has given me insights and information I did not want to know.

Ignorance is bliss, and dreams are a road to understanding. Writing is hard, and for most of us it will not lead to a life of material abundance. But if you have a vocation you have to find and follow your inner compass, because that is the only way to achieve the supreme happiness of coming home to the self.

The comfort of dreams

When I interviewed Brenda Mallon here in the House of Dreams a few weeks ago, she touched upon the way that dreaming about a lost loved one can bring great comfort for the bereaved.

These dreams happen when a person is most in need of comforting, but dreams can bring comfort in less extreme times too.

When I was about five years old, I dreamt I was riding along my street in a horse-and-cart, on a lovely summer day. The horse was trotting happily, and the cart was full-to-overflowing with gold coins which jumped and jingled, and sparkled in the sun.

Everyone came out of their houses to wave as I went by, and I knew I ought to throw pennies to the poor, but I didn’t. That gold was mine, all mine!

I liked that dream so much I used to deliberately go back into it every night, as soon as I closed my eyes. It made me fall asleep with a smile on my face.

I used to think that dream showed what a horrible person I was – it was a guilty pleasure. But looking back now, I see it’s just the dream of a child in a large family with little money, where clothes were passed down and everything – even the bath water – had to be shared. It was the pure pleasure of experiencing something which was completely my own.

You can re-enter enjoyable dreams any time you like, by simply closing your eyes and imagining, in the same sort of way as you might revisit pleasurable fantasies in waking life.

It isn’t the only function of dreaming and imagination, but bringing comfort and pleasure is one way these experiences can enrich a person’s life.

Have you ever deliberately imagined your way back into a pleasurable dream on subsequent nights?

Have you had the Pinkola Estes experience?

Jung said that dreams don’t only happen when we’re asleep, but all the time, waking and sleeping, throughout our lives. The unconscious mind is  continuously producing images and narratives, but we’re only aware of it during sleep because then the distractions of waking life are stilled.

The movement between the conscious and unconscious areas of the mind is like a breathing in and out. Products of the unconscious mind emerge into consciousness – inklings, intuitions, emotions, instincts, senses, desires, before we have had time to formulate them into conscious ideas – and everything you have ever consciously known but don’t currently need to remember sinks into your unconscious mind, where it may lie undisturbed for years.

Because everything you have ever known is in there somewhere, it isn’t uncommon to have the experience of a name or piece of information you vaguely recognise but can’t recall where from suddenly popping up in your mind in response to something that’s happening in your life.

Estes
‘Women who run with the wolves’ – highly recommended

This happened to me recently when I was planning some new courses. One of the ideas I was considering was an all-women group, and another was writing from myths – I do a couple of sessions on myth in my ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ workshops, but not a whole course. That night, I dreamt about someone called Pinkola Estes.

The name rang a bell, and I looked it up, to discover that Clarissa Pinkola Estes was the author of a book from the nineteen-nineties exploring myths and stories, ‘Women who run with the wolves.’ I recalled a friend recommending the book to me two decades before, but as I didn’t like the title I had never followed it up.

I hadn’t thought of Clarissa Pinkola Estes once in the intervening years – to all intents and purposes, I had completely forgotten about her. She had only ever been, after all, a fleeting mention. But I bought the book, and am finding it very useful as I develop this new workshop series.

I have dreamt the names of books, authors, gods and goddesses, which I may have come across long ago or sometimes can’t recall ever having heard of before, and it always happens at a time when following them up proves to be fruitful.

Have you ever suddenly recalled to mind something you had effectively forgotten?

 

Day-life, dreams, ideas – the music of the mind

Last week, I delivered a children’s book to my agent which I first conceived more than ten years ago. It had been through several complete versions, one of which a previous agent had actually sent to a publisher, as much as anything in the hope of getting some useful feedback, as she and I agreed that it probably wasn’t quite there, though we couldn’t see what was missing.

The book was set on a small island - research took me to Fair Isle in 2003
The book was set on a small island – research took me to Foula and Fair Isle in 2003

It wasn’t quite there, but it didn’t go away, and when I had flu before Christmas, it re-emerged quite unexpectedly, to announce that it was ready.

I had lost all my previous notes and versions, but I knew the story, and this time the planning and writing came easy and complete, like a jigsaw falling into place, all the missing pieces found.

Now, starting work on another new book, I’ve discovered that this story also took root in me more than a decade ago, and the same thing is happening. Where it once felt stuck and abandoned, now it’s emerging fully-formed, and all I’m having to do is write it down.

003
Two versions, ten years between

Last night I dreamt I was at a Scattered Authors conference, talking to other authors about this moment in a piece of work, when the book is inside you, fully-formed, like a shadow book, and your task is to bring it out, not harming or disturbing it, but as whole, which it already is.

You change yourself, your face, your mouth, stretching it wide, until gradually the book emerges out of your mouth, transforming from shadow to solid and real. I demonstrate it. I say how exciting this is, knowing the book is there, then opening yourself up and allowing it to come into the world so that everyone can see what it is.

I thought, ‘What if a life is like a book? Already complete in shadow form, and gradually emerging into the world, a little misshapen in its birthing, perhaps, a few edges knocked off in its early years, but still… when nature is ready, the matter inhabits the shadow.

Jerome Bruner's thoughtful autobiography
Jerome Bruner’s thoughtful autobiography

Then I woke up and saw the book I’d been reading before I fell asleep, ‘In Search of Mind: Essays in Autobiography’ by Jerome Bruner, which begins with his thoughts about whether it is our history which shapes us or our destiny, and I smiled.

I love this layering-up of daytime activity, dreams and ideas. The material, the imaginal and the rational, playing alongside each other; themes and variations, music of the mind.

Have you ever had a book or story that took years between the first spark and the final realisation?