Electric Dreams

Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams 

Part VI

Charles McPhee, Ph.D 

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McPhee, Charles (1997 April). Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams Part VI. Electric Dreams 4(4). Retrieved July 26, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams 

How does one become a conscious participant with the dream?
Charles McPhee assists anyone interested in finding out by offering a step-by-step guide to mastering the techniques of lucid dreaming in his book _Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams_. Charles has also offered us a Web site through which we can discuss the issues of consciousness and dreams with him directly. He has been visiting with us here for the last few months at Electric Dreams, answering questions and giving us peeks into his work on lucid dreaming
- Richard

For previous articles, stop by

Previously we began exploring just what we *are* aware of in dreams and lucid dreams, a good first step in actually becoming lucid. In Earlier issues we explored the phenomena of dream sleep and consciousness. In ED 3(11) I continued to unfold the investigation into whether or not we actually possess consciousness in dream and what this can mean to our lives, as well as exploring more deeply what consciousness is and what it appears to be, and how conscious techniques like journaling can bring about more lucidity and dream recall.

This month we explore the other side of consciousness and ways of coming to terms with acting as though we are aware while all the while being mostly unconscious.

CHAPTER 10: "Duality and Unity"

For more than fifty years we have known, or could have known, that there is an unconscious as a counterbalance to consciousness. Medical psychology has furnished all the necessary empirical and experimental proofs of this. There is an unconscious psychic reality which demonstrably influences consciousness and its contents. All this is known, but no practical conclusions have been drawn from it. We still go on thinking and acting as before, as if we are simplex and not duplex . . . It is frivolous, superficial and unreasonable of us, as well as psychically unhygienic, to overlook the reaction and standpoint of the unconscious. --Jung, THE UNDISCOVERED SELF


A third quality of our mind that we want to recognize is that our conscious and unconscious abilities often exist in a relationship of resistance to each other rather than in a state of harmony and cooperation. The culprit in this antagonistic relationship is the error of the conscious element's identification only with the conscious (the ego). When the ego avoids recognizing feelings and awarenesses that nevertheless exist within the being, the avoided material is forced to remain unconscious. This is the failure of the "simplex" identification process, which both Jung and Freud, in the passages excerpted at the head of the chapter, are addressing.

In this chapter we will focus our attention on the curious defense mechanism of repression. What we find is that while repression is often functional as a tool for coping with difficult feelings and awarenesses, invariably it is also a two-edged sword. Repression is functional in extreme cases of shock and trauma, when difficult experiences threaten to overwhelm our ability for comprehension. It is functional in younger years as well, when psychological sophistication and more mature management skills lie beyond our grasp. But in almost all other cases, the use of repression as a coping skill proves itself to be powerfully dysfunctional. This is because repression succeeds in an individual only by severely compromising that individual's ability to perceive reality.

It is the negative consequences of repression that cause us to pay it such careful attention. Repression divides our beings into conscious and unconscious compartments of awareness. It surrenders conscious management of our knowledge and awareness to an unconscious mechanism. And repression causes us to participate in unconscious behaviors of avoidance. This last characteristic is perhaps the most damaging, as it has an ultimately bewildering effect on our sense of personal validity. For all of these reasons, a working knowledge of the defense is desired.

I have one final thought before we embark upon our discussion. Separation between conscious and unconscious awareness is really an illusion. In all cases of repression, recall that we already know what it is--what feelings or awarenesses it is--that we are avoiding. The avoided feelings and awarenesses are already inside us. We are already feeling them and are already aware of them--unconsciously. Indeed, all dreams that reflect avoided feelings and awarenesses show us that unconsciously we are intimately acquainted with the material. In this light, the goal of self-unification becomes a simple process--conceptually at least--of training our mind and body to learn to listen to themselves, and to identify, accept, and resolve nonintegrated feelings and awarenesses. The knowledge and practice of this simple triad of mental health skills is the path by which we learn progressively to unify ourselves, to repair the duality of awareness that exist between our conscious and unconscious minds.



Knowing the stages of the therapeutic process helps us locate our position on the "therapeutic path." The integration process, we may infer, will not always be an easy transition to effect. Put another way, there is a reason why repressed material is repressed. The integration of avoided feelings and awarenesses into conscious understanding will invariably be accompanied by some measure of pain. Accordingly, when we are in the midst of the integration process, knowledge of the process itself is very valuable. When our emotional moorings are cast adrift by some difficulty experience, our confidence in the therapeutic process occasionally is our only support. Dividing the process also is useful because it serves to remind us that all stages are necessary for successful assimilations of repressed material. For example, it is not enough merely to be able to identify problem areas in our lives. For integration to be successful, both the cathartic experience of acceptance and the empowering experience of resolution must be fulfilled.

CHAPTER 11: "Searching For Consciousness"

Of all of the minds who have attempted the great question of consciousness in human experience, perhaps no one is more intriguing to read than is the Russian philosopher Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. His writings are not widely known, but his discussions of consciousness invariably hold a ring of truth for lucid dreamers. Indeed, anyone who has worked diligently with the experiential development of the ability for consciousness within himself or herself will find an immediate friend in Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff is perhaps most distinguished from other philosophers in that we was confident that he had identified and understood precisely the meaning of consciousness, which he described as self-remembering. As we saw in chapter eight, this concept of self-remembering coincides precisely with the understanding of consciousness we arrived at through our examination of lucid dreaming.

Gurdjieff believed that the development of consciousness was the foundation for all true psychological growth. Gurdjieff measured psychological development not only by a person's intellectual abilities but also by his or her experiential abilities--that is, a person's abilities "to be" and "to do". Both abilities, said Gurdjieff, require fluency and mastery, experientially, with the ability for consciousness.

The goal of development consciousness, according to Gurdjieff, was to create a new "center" within oneself, from which one could self-observe honestly and objectively. It was through continual work at self-observation, for the "perch" of consciousness created within oneself, that one eventually could learn how one's "machine" works. Consciousness afforded its happy possessor self-unification, ever-increasing effectiveness in all pursuits, and freedom from illusion. Without consciousness, Gurdjieff said, humans were doomed to "mechanical," "accidental," and "automatic" living. Life will happen to us instead of our being able to control and create the events of our life.

I am including in this chapter a lengthy excerpt of Gurdjieff's writing to introduce lucid dreamers to his work and because his discussion touches upon some relevant themes. In the second half of the excerpt, Gurdjieff admonishes his audience to be wary of "charlatans and hucksters" in the field of self-development--those who promise simple paths to enlightenment. Even though the excerpt is a transcription of a talk given in 1914, Gurdjieff's words of admonition seem as applicable today as they were some eighty years ago. Today our popular culture swarms with "vendors of enlightenment," individuals who confidently assure us that "the enlightenment you seek is just a phone call away" on the Psychic Network Hotline or that by eating special candy bars and "brain" foods and by adding doses of potassium to our diets, we will veritably transform ourselves into enlightened beings by tomorrow morning. No warranty is offered for these techniques, of course. The psychic hotline, we read in small print at the bottom of the television screen, is "for entertainment purposes only," and all miracle foods are ingested entirely at the consumer's own risk.

Sensitives and psychics surely exist, and there is no question but that informed diets are a foundation of good health. Gurdjieff's admonition, however, really is directed against the miraculous nature of these "solutions" to everyday problems. Consciousness and empowerment, says Gurdjieff, are known processes, but they require work--long work, hard work and consistent work. Work on developing one's ability for consciousness, development one's ability for discrimination and uncovering and gaining control over areas of automaticity within one's being. Woe indeed to the individual who thinks he or she will eat a candy bar and tomorrow "be" anything--except, perhaps, a bit more deluded. This, said Gurdjieff, is not the way.

Next month the search will end with suggestions on how to develop a path that will lead you into conscious living.

If you can't wait, you can stop by my Web site for a Full Chapter Summary of _Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams_. If you would like more on this, my book is published by Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Publication Date: December 27th, 1995. 0-8050-2500-6 $22.50, cloth. Contact: Robin Jones, (212) 886-9270

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-Charles Mcphee