"What does this dream mean?" I wanted to know, so I brought
it to my dream group. A couple of the members had co-starred
in the dream, so I hoped they could help me decipher it.
I'm in a room at an adult summer camp with
several dreamworkers. Clarke is complaining about the fact
that "they" starved us all summer and now are serving us
leftovers in order to get rid of them before the end of the
season. Greg says that they are "the therapists." "They
wouldn't even let me move my desk in," he complains,
gesturing toward the other side of the room. "What is this
about?" I ask. It seems that the therapists who run this
camp are a tight click, jealous of sharing with
Then I'm outdoors with Greg. It turns out
he's a field worker. He shows me how he peers underneath the
surface of the ground. Is he looking for quartz crystals? I
wonder. No, he's looking for evidence of earthquake
When he leaves to continue searching, a
dark-haired therapist nearby makes a frowning comment that
Greg was probably hanging around, spying. "No, I don't think
so," I say, watching his retreating form as he walks down
the sloping path. Then I wonder, what could the therapists
have that they would be so concerned about? The dark-haired
man has turned and gone up some naturally carved steps in
the mountain, disappearing through an opening in the rock. I
When I get to the top and look through the
archway, I am amazed. Inside is a room with the feel of a
Renaissance art workshop. Here the therapists have secreted
all these quality old tools to produce prime works of art
which they keep hidden in closets. There are a couple of
works by Michaelangelo and copies using models from the
present (I see a painting that features Bette Davis, for
I turn to view the countryside and see that
there is a lake and small canyon in front of the mountain.
Some folks are walking by and some are standing still,
including Clarke, who is waiting for me. "Hey!" I yell at
everybody. "Look at this!"
My dream group consisted of people who were professionals
in the fields of therapy, counseling, education and art. There
were even art therapists and creativity teachers. I was
delighted to discover that they thought that the dream applied
to them as much as to me.
We had gathered to do dreamwork: to analyze and interpret
the symbols in our dreams and to apply resolving techniques to
the conflicts, stresses and "faults" that they incorporated.
One favorite method was to ask of the dream, "What's missing
here?" What would be required to calm the conflicts or relieve
the stress? My dream seemed to provide the answer. The aspect
hiding in the cave was the creative-artist side of ourselves,
they decided. It was the side that could draw a dream, sing a
dream, dance a dream or write a story about a dream. They
thanked me for pointing that out to them.
This interpretation made logical sense. But my emotions
didn't concur. There was no intuitive "Aha!"; no instinctual
"Yes!" to confirm the response. I drove home dissatisfied and
tried out a few more dreamwork methods. I felt the answer was
partially right. But there definitely was something missing.
My attention kept returning to those Michaelangelo paintings.
I knew there was an artisan concealed in that cave, but who
The group had assumed that hidden aspect was the creative
muse who shines through their waking efforts. The one who
takes a dream, an unresolved dream, and finishes it. Uses
creative process to produce a product inspired by a dream.
Uses creative process to interpret a dream. After the dream
However, I was beginning to understand that the dream
itself could be an artistic creation and that I didn't have to
complete it when I woke up. There was an inner
genius-in-potential who was perfectly capable of producing a
finished product all by herself. And did, sometimes.
Unfortunately, there was also great resistance to that effort
from the people who lived outside the cave.
The father of dreamwork started it. Freud's theory of
dreams presumed that we repress our dreams and he probably
would have interpreted the cave as a female symbol of
unbirthed, unfulfilled sexual desires. Well, creativity is a
birthing process, so he was partly right. I doubt that he
would have discovered just who could be born because he tried
to repress that child, too.
Freud believed that dreams solve the problems of waking
life by disguising obvious content with symbolic imagery "in
the manner of an irrational wish and not in the manner of a
reflection." Because of this, he had a hard time dealing
with "well-constructed" dreams in which some intellectual or
reasoning faculty seemed to be present. So he demoted
coherently structured dreams to the class of "dream
fantasies." He reserved "true dream" status only for those
productions in which the disguising process was evident to
But that approach was not nurturing us. In the dream, we
dined only on Freud's "day residue," the leftovers of the day.
And we were starving. The dream suggested where we were doing
this. Most of us attended an event during the summertime,
which was sort of a "camp" for dreamers. It was the annual
conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams. ASD has
always had a large contingent that favors Carl Jung and the
archetypal cave and Renaissance imagery in the dream is very
Jungian. Jung had a name for his coherent dreams-he called
them "big dreams." But most of the dreams brought to the dream
group weren't big dreams. They were little puzzles with
something lacking. Missing pieces, not masterpieces. They were
incomplete creations that needed to be propped up by
amplification, filled in with free association.
And that's exactly the sort of dream I was trying *not* to
have. I'd been trying to have big dreams on purpose. I was
attempting to produce a dream that was a story with a
beginning, a middle and an end, a climax and a conclusion. I
wanted a satisfying short story that I could read from my
dream journal and relish, just like I enjoyed the entertaining
tales in the paperback books I took on summer vacation. I was
close to achieving this goal. My inner dream creator was
beginning to produce, if not masterpieces, then some pretty
good child's artwork. I was overjoyed at the change in dream
themes and my usual visual effects. Dreaming was now so much
So I took my tiny treasures out of the cave and brought
them to the dream group. "Hey, look at this!" I said. I was
proud of my creative child. From creative people, I expected a
warm welcome for her. And I didn't get it.
Oh, sure, they were polite enough. They'd nod their heads
and smile and make a few comments. For about 5 minutes. And
then we'd go on to the next member of the group who had a
conflicted dream, an unresolved dream that was fair game for
interpretation techniques...that would take, oh, 15, 20, 30
minutes. I remember once we spent 3 friggin' hours on one
person's troubled dream. I felt uneasy. It just wasn't fair -
to me, or to my inner child. It seemed we couldn't play with
the rest of the kids because we hadn't brought the right kind
Now, don't get me wrong. My inner child has been abused,
too; I've had a lifetime of conflicted dreams. I was attracted
to dreamwork to help her recover from her wounds and she was
benefiting from it. But I'm afraid I birthed an over-achiever.
People used to say, "Oh, Linda, you are so lucky to have big
dreams!" and I'd protest, "But I incubated them!"
Go forth! Out of the confining dungeon
Seize the present moment
Stable house of your soul.
Sense the outer oboe
And unfurl your hair.
Dance the music of the
Sing the science of your being.
Shout the word
The open doors.
Yes, like everyone else, I enjoyed creativity after the
dream, too. I drew, pictured, made poetry of my dreams.
Eventually, I discovered that some of those after
effects were actually incubating new dreams. So I
switched intentions. Now, I wasn't just celebrating the
achievements of the past, I was encouraging productivity for
I had this revolutionary idea that if I'd help my inner
child before I slept, she wouldn't have to battle her
way through the dream. Instead of spending precious time and
energy dealing with conflicts, she'd have the wherewithal to
create those masterpieces. And the idea was working! So I
brought it to the group and ran flat into a brick wall.
At first I thought it was because I was an active dreamer,
and they were passive, but that really didn't fit everyone.
Quite a few were lucid dreamers and even more used incubation
techniques. Then I thought, well, maybe it's because they
think a coherent dream can't be interpreted. But of course it
can, just like waking life.
Finally, I found myself discussing big dreams with a fellow
dreamworker. She'd had only a couple and she treasured them
for their special impact and meaning. Didn't want to have any
more, lest they lose that special impact and meaning. Kept
them hidden in her cave. Thought that the light of day would
leach the gold from her dream treasures.
Then I got it. What do folks ask about dreams? "What does
this dream mean?" is what they ask. But some, the creative
ones especially, really don't want an answer. An answer closes
the cycle. It stops their creative process.
And most importantly, it solves the mystery. So a lot of
dreamwork methods really do not reach closure. They just
produce more and more information in an ever-expanding
universe of speculation.
Suddenly my dilemma became clear. I was running up against
the dreamwork assumption that a coherent dream holds no
mystery and allows no room for unsolved creative process. But
that's not how I had experienced my big dreams at all! I had
honed the art of incubation, then discovered I was nurturing
the artist within the dream. I had learned that if I took a
vacation from the
presumption that dreams are only translations of the
traumas of waking life, my inner child would stop painting
just chunks of black and blue and start experiencing the
wonder and mysteries of the inner universe.
However, I didn't seem to be able to convince my fellow
dreamworkers that such an approach was beneficial -- maybe
even more beneficial than the way we had been doing things.
Why wouldn't the attempt to produce wholesome dreams be
healthy? Why wouldn't celebrating the development of our inner
children be wise? Of course, if all we do is do dreamwork on
one dream, like it's a single entity in a vacuum, then we
probably won't see that dreams or dreamers are capable of
development. We wouldn't be able to track progress over time.
I could. I kept a dream journal and reviewed it, continually.
I wanted to see if what I was doing in waking life was
actually helping my inner child of dreams. Or hindering
Then, one night, I had this dream.
I am teaching the universe to dream. We
start with a dream that appears as a written report but
feels sad, upset and dejected. I tell my listeners to pick a
bright, positive dream from their past, one that was
self-confident and superheroic, and insert it into the first
dream. We place it into the lower right hand corner of the
At first this seems like an artificial
intrusion, a harsh contrast to the sensitivity of the
primary dream. But as I wait and watch, the positive dream
seeds itself in the fertile darkness of the negative one.
The brightness becomes a warm glow that spreads throughout
the dream report. Finally there is just a small corner of
gentle negativity in the upper left hand corner of the dream
report, a subtle reminder of the background to this complete
As if to underline this lesson for me, my inner child
then produced for me, in quick succession, a flying dream, a
lucid dream and an out-of-body experience.
Again, I took my dream to the group and they Ohhed and
Ahhed as usual, treating my dream like some kind of exotic
house plant. But this time I didn't try to convince them to
change their ways. I had realized that they weren't the one
who needed inspiration. It was their hidden aspects, their
inner children of dreams. My conscious ideas might provide
some second-hand suggestions, but the only one who could
talk their language was my own inner child. When I read the
dream, my intent was to serve as a channel for her. Be her
mouthpiece. Say what she wanted to say.
Did this work? Yes, I think so. Every once in a while, when
outer defenses were down, the inner children of my fellow
dreamworkers would sneak in some real nifty dreams. Not
always, but enough to keep hope alive. I can't help but wonder
what would have happened if they had consciously cooperated
with their inner children.
My creative child had come a'tapping on my cave door. She
wanted out, she wanted to play. And she wanted playmates to
create big dreams. But I had no dreamwork technique, no toy,
no game to involve my fellow dreamers and their inner children
every time we met in dream group. So the two of us played.