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Alissa's Dream Art & Creativity Column

Life Dreams and Art

When I look at history I see that story telling and picture making have fascinated, entertained and informed people all over the world in all times, and contributed to making us the human beings we are. Combining these fundamental processes of story and image making, our dreams contribute vitally to our development. In my dreams I can see vividly the stories I tell myself about myself and also the positive story already latent within me.

Select for larger Graphic of "Hidden Child"

Dream of the Hidden Child

I see a child hidden behind a mask, her tiny hands reaching out form under heavy robes weighing her down as she feebly seeks help.
The image reminded me of a Noh play where stylized characters gesture in infinitesimally slow motion and a gong echoes an eternity of timeless silence.
When I painted this dream, I understood that this was a baby part of myself Long buried under layers of roles, expectations and fears, feebly seeking help. The dream was a cry to myself to shake off oppressive conditioning and be free.
As you picture this dream in your mind's eye you may sense that you too were once such a child whom you still carry within yourself in ways unique to you. You might imagine "if this were my dream"....

Another dream gave me further insight into what had been going on in me.

The Dream of The Bones

I see people whose bones are not actually bones, but some composition in the shape of femurs, ribs, skull and so on. The outer layer, though having the appearance of skin, is actually synthetic and the space between bones and skin is filled with a gray, mealy substance. Yet the total aspect resembles a human form which can walk, speak, more, ve, eat sleep and interact like a human being.

These creatures tell me that the process which transformed them from natural humans is termed "minsking" and was administered by the powers who control this country. Because they are in this condition they are unable to change themselves back into authentic humans.

That word "minsk" intrigues me. Is it a child's version of "mince" - to chop into little pieces, to mash up?

Two incidents occurred shortly before this dream. First, I'd been upset by my reaction to a friend when she stretched out her wrist to show a scar from her attempted suicide, I could not look. Filled with remorse and shame as I remembered turning away when I wanted to give her comfort, I could not understand what blocked me.

Second, a boy I knew, who would have been thirteen in two days, returned from school, walked out of his house to the large oak tree in the back yard -- and hung himself. Returning tired after a day of teaching, his mother dumped her books on the kitchen table, called his name, went looking for him, and found him hanging there, dead. When I heard of this I could not stop crying. That poor child, that poor mother. How could no one have noticed his sorrow, his pin, I wondered? Why didn't someone do something before it was too late?

Not long after, a compassionate, wise woman said to me, "You are really asking," Why didn't someone pay attention to me when I was a child? Why didn't someone help me in my misery?" My crying is like the ocean bursting a dike where a child had been holding here finger in the hole to keep back the waters.

My wise friend said to me, "You too killed yourself to escape unbearable pain, but, unlike Pauli, you 'minsked' yourself and created a stand-in, so that you could survive, at least partially. You escaped into your imagination, Pauli escaped into death.

"You hid behind your painting and writing and reading, but never learned how to live and be yourself in the real world. You hid you vulnerability behind a mask. thinks that would not have bothered other people were too painful for your and for Pauli, because of what your carried in your that other people did not. Other people could not understand , did not realize. They made fun of you and Pauli for being 'different', criticized you for being 'too sensitive'. He could no bear that. you made yourself deaf to their taunts. Your could not bear to see evidence of your friend's anguish, reminder of your own desperation and your own from of 'suicide'."

Thus a dream helped me realize how, for years, I had numbed myself and paraded an ersatz "minsked" stand-in. Increasingly I had not been able to meet my true needs in the real world. My desperation, disappointment and terror increased, along with denial, pretense and resistance. In another dream and painting I pictured this dangerous hidden influence in me.

The Dream of the Evil Sorcerer

An evil sorcerer wounds my finger, which bleeds. He has two wild animals with sharp teeth that terrify me.

When I painted this, the dark fierce demons, dominated the image, embodying those ferociously negative parts of myself through which my ego held me helpless captive. I knew how Pauli felt; I had been there. So much of my energy had gone into powering those angry demons that little was left for me.

In time I would feel safe enough to discard the ersatz stand-in and grow up as myself, not needing to "minsk" myself into a clone of someone else's expectations of "good", "Success", "the right way". Many dreams and paintings led me to free my inner child and guide her into the real world. Instead of being an escape, dreams and art became a door to awareness, and to life.

Select for larger Graphic of "Sorcerer"

The Locker Monster Dream

showed me how I had come to think of myself as a machine.

I'm looking at a wall of storage lockers with buttons to open the doors. I press on. Slowly, with a grinding of gears, out comes a complex, robot-like machine that cannot be stopped. Anchored inside the locker, it now expands relentlessly and draws me in. I am hypnotized, fascinated and terrified. Its is huge, over my head; I can barely touch it with my hands. Yet there is something I'm expected to do along with it. This happens more than once. A man answers my question: there was a mistake I was making that kept activating this contrivance. "I DIDN'T KNOW!" I cry. "I never meant to evoke them. I only wanted to open the doors." The man shows me another way to open the doors that does not trigger the mechanisms.

As I began to glimpse my ego machinations,, along came a dream that gave me an overview of myself:.

Dream of Pig Girl

A plump, self-satisfied, stylishly dressed matron is taking a retarded woman on her weekly outing from an institution. Although taller than the do-good lady, and fat, this woman wears a child's style dress, with short puffed sleeves and a ruffle-edged Peter Pan Collar, a bow in her short hair, bobby socks and Mary Jane one strap little girls shoes. Her skin, like white lard, and her blunt nose and tiny eyes give her a pig-like appearance. Particularly striking is the cunning look of her very black eyes that seem to be the only part of her that is alive inside this mound of flesh.
She allows herself to be guided inside this mound of flesh.
She allows herself to be guided through this museum-hotel, where a row of period rooms are on display. The two visitors walk beside a heavy read velvet-covered rope which closes off the rooms. they have passed the registration desk where a drab, mousey looking woman clerk is busy with details, The two look at the furniture, and have not yet reached wine colored heavy velvet drapes which partially conceal a beautiful , graceful woman waiting in the shadows.

This dream seems to me to embody four aspects of myself. "Pig Girl" insulated herself within a numb body and played dumb, appearing childish and underdeveloped while peering out at the world with primitive cunning. She would not play their game! They could not make her! She "cut off her nose to spite her face".

Eventually I recognized the high price I'd paid for that "independence" and another part of me tried a different route: conform, do good, be a success".

Meanwhile a third plugged away at the nuts and bolts of everyday life. All the while, my compassion, spontaneity, creativity, authenticity, joy and grace were waiting...

In 1974 I was completing my dissertation on dreams as a doctoral candidate with the Humanistic Psychology Institute in San Francisco (Which later became Saybrook Institute.) I taught Dreamplay privately and at the San Andreas health Council in Palo Alto and was guest speaker on dreams in various colleges. I had spent a rewarding summer in the Edgar Cayce American University Dream Community. Yet I felt unsatisfied with the psychological approach to dreams and was searching for something more in my own life and in my understanding of dreams. I began to meditate more regularly, and found that in early morning meditations the meaning of a dream unfurled itself to me.

As ee cummings says "It takes great courage /to grow up/ and turn out to be/ who you really are."
Who I believe I am has changed, and this is reflected in my dreams, here's one I'm particularly fond of:

Dream of the Little Bird

I am looking at a little fuzzy yellow bird I hold in the palm of my hand. This is a most unusual bird: it can read and speak. I ask it to show me. There are some smudges with little marks on the wall: this is the bird's language. Slowly, the way children sound out words when they learn to read, the little bird says, " f r i e n d ".

A few days later I came across this poem by Thomas Blake:

I looked for my soul, but my soul I could not see.
I looked for my God, but my God eluded me.
I looked for a friend, and then I found all three.

I said to myself," Let your mind be open to new possibilities. Trust your experience. Trust yourself."

But my resistance was formidable; my ego did not relinquish its power willingly. I could not be sure which part of me put ideas into my mind. So the dialogue went on in me, while dreams and waking experiences moved me along and I mediated more deeply. Reclaiming my inner reality has been a struggle, and an incredible blessing.

Leader of the Revolution Dream

A big burly man chases a small terrified man across a hillside. A graceful woman stands on the left beside a stream. She calls to the men to rest and drink some water, but they ignore her. Across the hill is a small but into which the terrified little man escapes.

Inside the single room of the hut a small, brown skinned man sits at a wooden table, under a singer hanging light built. He is the leader of a guerrilla group carrying on a revolution. This leader greets the frightened man with respect and love and listens to him carefully. The man walks out totally changed. He is free and unafraid. The bully is gone.

My mind gradually cleared through this inner revolution and I came to identify with the leader within me, rather than the bully or victim. IN ruling me, my ego split me into bully and victim and drove me to look outside myself for everything, for approval, love satisfaction -- to people, food, success, wealth, possessions, status. A futile search that ensured ego's power over me. Since I could never find lasting peace in this way, my false ego system retained its hold. With my "revolution", I ended its power over me. I found my own source within myself of happiness and love and the purpose and meaning of life.

"It's almost impossible to grow up." Maya Angelou said in an interview with David Frost "Most people just get older. They find parking spaces, honer their credit cards, have the nerve to get married and have children and call that 'growing up'."
"That's getting older'. Growing up is so painful. Growing up is admitting that there are demons you cannot overcome. yet wrestle with them, like the Prophet with the Angel,' I will not let you go till you tell me something!"

Medicine cannot heal the body, says Andrew Weill; only the body can heal itself. What medicine can do is to help clear away what prevents the body from healing itself (an invasion of bacteria or virus, for example,) and support the body in its natural processes. I think that this is true for the psyche as well. Dreams like "The Evil Sorcerer" have focussed on obstacles to be cleared and composted, while other dreams have nurtured my healing process. I see a new cast of characters and scenarios in my dreams, reflecting a new inner atmosphere, a nurturing heart connection that is the basis of my spiritual growth.

The Dream of the Philosopher

A wise man, philosopher an scholar, has been teaching some young boys. I want to be part of this heart warming scene. I watch intently as he makes a seat for himself. I wait for a chance when he is not busy to go over and carefully make a seat for myself. I wait for a chance when he is not busy to go over and carefully make a seat for myself as I had seen him do, expecting him to speak to me. There is a childish, earnest absorption in how I innocently imitate him and totally trust this will produce what I want.

However, when the boys leave, the teacher is no longer interested in discussion and ignores me. I feel disappointed, surprised, dismayed and very sad. I ask him please to teach me, to talk to me. He is tall, with a gray beard, a handsome lean face and strong nose, his expression amused yet serious. He asks me what I want to know and why I want to talk and study with him.

I search within myself, feeling how earnestly and sincerely I want to study with him, I reach for works and ask, "what is life all about? What is the meaning of this life? What are we here for? Where do we come from and go to, before and after this world? How are we meant to live this life? How can we learn how to live? How are we to know how to be and what to do?"

On waking I felt sorrow and disappointment in not being included. AS children do, I had imitated the teacher in how I made my seat and spoke, trying to please him and win his attention. I hoped he would see in how I acted what I yearned for. When this did not bring what I longed for, I tried to meet this philosopher on his terms, intellectually.

What I really wanted in the dream was to be part of the warm connection I saw in the group as they studied together. But I could not feel safe to say this. The teacher did not answer me from his heart, did not care to see who I was, could not empathize with me, and I sending this, could not tell him how I really felt. Perhaps I even felt I was wrong. I see in this dream a reflection of my experience with my father, who had wanted a son when I was born, and the general valuing of boys over girls. My true meeds were never met, in the dream or in my childhood, And I took in intellectual values and attitudes.

Now, as this and many other dreams indicate, I am shifting from intellect to genuine feeling. I am able to value the feminine in myself and to be in touch with, to express and to respond to, my authentic needs.

The Good Humor Dream

Of March 15, 1996 brings me up to date.

I am driving home from an important conference where I learned a lot about myself and dreams and changed significantly in my attitudes. Suddenly I realize that I am not driving carefully, when I hear a car on my right, behind me, making musical notes to catch my attention. it is a Good Humor Truck play it's chimes. I realize I had not noticed it and was almost crowding it off the road.

(What a delightful image for the was I tent to let "serious" concerns crowd out my good humor!)

I slow down and let the truck get ahead of me, watching carefully to be sure no children run into the road. It is a sunny day. There is a sense of a low wall on the right with a steep drop on the other side, and mountains on my left.
I feel relieved that I have caught myself and "come back to my senses" and not had an accident. I drive calmly, consciously. I want to bring this deep influence for good home with me in how I act in life and how I feel about myself, and in how I drive!
I see that the young woman driver of the Good Humor truck has safely parked beside the road, and may children are happily eating the ice cream. I am glad and drive on.

Part of the Electric Dreams Significant Dreams Series

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