Electric Dreams

Gestalt Dialogue with the Inner Critic and the Inner Child

  Linda Lane Magallón 

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Magallón, Linda Lane (2004 June). Gestalt Dialogue with the Inner Critic and the Inner Child. Electric Dreams 11(6).

"Everything in the dream is a part of you," states the very popular Gestalt theory of dreamwork. You are encouraged to seat yourself down on a pillow and begin to act out or speak the part of every element in the dream. Imaginatively, you "become" the self in the dream. You look out at the world through her eyes; see from her perspective. You feel as she feels. You judge dream events from her point of view. You express her opinions, not yours. You take an empathetic trip to another side of self; the self who lives in the dream.

You also "become" the background scenery, the props, the characters in the dream play. You are the horse and the soldier and even the color of the sunrise. All these pieces are supposed to form the "whole" of the dream. That's the theory. But if I speak as the mountain range or the morning dew, I speak a monologue. And the fact of the matter is that some of my grumpier dream elements don't much like to talk! On the other hand, a self-absorbed tulip may talk forever, never once referring to other elements in the dream. So I end the session feeling  fragmented. There's no ready glue to paste the pieces back together.

That's why I like Gestalt dialogue. The glue is communication between characters. I find it especially useful to "become" the self in the dream and dialogue with others from that point of view. In this case, the stars of the show were dream characters rather than background or props. I considered who would be most verbal, put pen to paper and let them speak. Then, as my dreaming self, I responded. After the first group talked themselves into a mumble, I initiated a dialogue with some of the less loquacious characters. Afterwards, I re-read the dialogue and made some notes to myself. My dream concern was: who or what is fatiguing me, being a heavy burden, holding me down?


I am pursued by reporters who want to interview me because I can fly. I fly around the hills surrounding my home, a single house in a large field, but feel heavy due to the pull of the reporters' expectations. (They keep following me, at least with their eyes). Coming back, I pick up my younger brother by the hand. For a while he flies Superman style like I do, but when he tires, I must carry him seated in my arms. This position weighs me down so I must land in back of the house. Once inside, the house opens into a school room. Third hand, I see myself go sit on a chair to be at the same level as the children who crowd around me. I smile, hold out my arms and talk with them.


Reporters: How do you fly?  Can't you give us hints?
Linda: I don't know-I just do it.
R: What does it feel like?
L: Great. Freeing. Happy. Ecstasy.
R: Will you give us a ride?
L: You would weigh me down-it's very tiring. Your demands pull me down.
R: But it's our jobs to get the facts! We must get the information out to
the people-it's their right to know.
L: I want to help you-believe me I do-so you'll go away happy and leave me
alone.  I'd like to tell you, but I don't know how!
R: Can we have your autograph?
L: Uggh! Pester parasites. Can you tell me how I do it?
R: We don't know-we just report the facts you give us. Give us the facts!
L: I don't have them.
R: But you can fly-we see you.
L: If I can-so can you.
R: Okay, how?
L: I just will myself up into the air. I just choose to go. I project my thoughts in that direction.
R: But we try and we can't! Tell us how! Let us come with you.
L: No, no, you'll drag me down.
R: It's no fair.
L: You've got to find your own strength.
R: If we can't do it, we'll be jealous, we'll drag you down, we'll criticize you.
L: That's what I'm afraid of. Why is criticism and others' expectations able to drag me down?
R: We pull you down to our level. If we can't, then neither will you.
L: What would satisfy you?
R: To get the information we came for.
L: And if I don't have it?
R: We'll stay until you do or we'll go away and call you a fake to the world.
L: But I can fly!
R: You fail to explain yourself.
L: Must I?
R: Yes.
L: Why?
R: We must have that information-it's our job.
L: Don't you have other stories?
R: If you don't tell us-you might tell others.
L: But I don't know!
R: OK. Write it down: "Linda doesn't know. She is a dummy. She hasn't the foggiest idea of how to fly. She can't teach anyone else. She's no good to anyone but herself."
L: I helped my younger brother.
R: Big deal-here you have a novel ability and you can't help the world.
L: Why must I help the whole world?
R: You must! It needs help!
L: But I didn't create the need. The only way the world can be helped is to help itself.
R: You have a special gift-you have been blessed and honored especially. You owe the world to give it away.
L: Give it away? What good will that do? I'll just be depleted. And what will you have learned?
R: Better to give us a bit of water than to let us die of thirst.
L: But I become thirsty.
R: Then you'll be just like us. Ha, Ha, Ha!
L: Why so happy?
R: Triumphant. Rejoice for we have defeated you! We have won! We have won!
L: But what have you won?
R: Status quo.  We like where we are. Don't shake us up. We have enough problems without have to deal with this kind of idealistic nonsense. Intriguing, yes, but practical? No, good to laugh at, to ridicule. Keep it
down, it's dangerous. The unknown will upset us. We can't afford to be upset any more than we are. Life is too precarious as it is. Unless you can offer a life raft to cling to, we want no part of you and your harebrained schemes.
L: Life is scary.
R: Damn right. Why, we could tell you stories...
L: That would only serve to cover up the issue.  Please, let's not play the game of smoke screen or fake-it.
R: Facades are necessary to hide behind. They give some protection against being overwhelmed  by forces too great for any single individual. We need the handicaps, the tools, the quick and easy answers. It takes too much time away from the effort we must apply to maintain our stance in this risky society to spend on frivolities-like your idea of flying. We have to survive. We can't afford to take this other stuff seriously. We can't.
L: I understand. But tell me this-how is it that I can?
R: (Mumble.)
L: Hi, Younger Brother.
Younger Brother: Hi, Linda.
L: How did you like flying with me?
YB: It was great for a while and then I got tired.
L: I tried to hold you up longer, but you're getting heavy!
YB: Well, it's hard to do.
L: For now, because you're just learning. It'll get easier.
YB: Okay.
L: Hi, kids.
Kids: Hi Linda, come be at our level.
L: What level is that?
K: The level of having fun!
L: Who are you?
K: We are the young people in your life.
L: You mean children?
K: No, we're the Inner Children of the people you know.
L: Cool.
K: Can you really fly?
L: Yup.
K: Gee, that must be fun...maybe someday we can fly, too.
L: Sure, why not? Hey, Younger Brother, would you like to tell them about your experience?
YB: (He does.)


The difference between the two groups was that the kids were gathering out of a childlike spontaneous curiosity while the reporters were demanding explanations. I don't like to be put on the spot by people who have no intention of trying out the "sport" or "game" of flying; who just analyze, criticize, complain and ask unanswerable questions. The kids know better. They seem to sense that, in the end, the hows and whys and wherefores of flight aren't something to understand just by talking about it. It's something you do. So, the best approach isn't to verbalize, it's to act.  And Younger Brother is the perfect model for these kids; he's their own age. The flying may be short, slow and low, if need be, but that's okay because he's a beginner and not expected to play the "expert." Once the kids see that he can do it, flying won't be such a humungous challenge for them (as it is for the reporters). It's something to take gradually, one step into the air at a time.