Electric Dreams

The Artworker of Dreams

  Linda Lane Magallón 

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Magallón, Linda Lane (2004 September). The Artworkers of Dreams
Electric Dreams 11(8).

"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 outsiders.

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 faults.

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 follow him.

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 example).

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 was it?

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 has ended.

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 reasonable

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 him.

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 fun!

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 of toys.

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
Into the whispered breeze.
Seize the present moment
Sure and firm
Stable house of your soul.
Sense the outer oboe rhythms
And unfurl your hair.
Dance the music of the hearers;
Sing the science of your being.
Shout the word of encouragement
Back within
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 the future.

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 her.

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 dream report.

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 dream.

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. Alone.