Electric Dreams

Dreamwork for Everyday Life

Susan Clemons

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Clemons, Susan (2003). Dreamwork for Everyday Life.  Electric Dreams 10(7).


I have been an active dreamer for many years and am currently involved in several online dream groups. It seems to me that the kind of community that is beginning to occur in dream groups is the kind of community I would like to have in my every day life. I began to ask myself questions about how to convert my ideas about dream communities into ideas for creating everyday community.
Here are some of the questions I asked myself: What are the main ingredients of a dreaming community and what value do they have? How can we use this to create a healthy and thriving sense of community in our daily lives? How does this translate into the community of everyday life?
I used the guidelines from my current dream groups which are based on ideas from a number of sources including guidelines from Jeremy Taylor on dreams as well as the ethics statement of the ASD. Then I took the results I had written out and replaced the word dreamer with individual and the word dream/s with the words experience or community.

Guidelines for Sharing Experience:

Someone tells of an experience that has significance to them.

Members of the group ask questions to be certain they have as clear of an image of the experience as possible.

Each person in the group takes the experience as if it were their own and is happening to them in the present. (close up 1st person point of view - present experience)

Each person examines the symbols within the experience for personal meaning and writes them out. (gets some distance, examination of meaning)

Each person shares their own experience and meaning with group.
Individual can (but doesn't have to) share significance and impact of shared information.

Guidelines for Creating Meaningful Community (creative use of Jeremy Taylor's dream guidelines):

All experiences speak a universal language and come in the service of health and wholeness. There is no such thing as a "bad experience" -- only experiences that sometimes take a dramatically negative form in order to grab our attention.

Only the individual can say with any certainty what meanings his or her experience may have. This certainty usually comes in the form of a wordless "aha!" of recognition. This "aha" is a function of memory/instinct, and is the only reliable touchstone of individual work.

There is no such thing as an experience with only one meaning. All experiences are "overdetermined," and have multiple meanings and layers of significance.

No experience comes just to tell you what you already know. All experiences break new ground and invite you to new understandings and insights.

When talking to others about their experiences, it is both wise and polite to preface your remarks with words to the effect of "if it were my experience...," and to keep this commentary in the first person as much as possible. This means that even relatively challenging comments can be made in such a way that the individual may actually be able to hear and internalize them. It also can become a profound psycho-spiritual discipline -- "walking a mile in your neighbor's moccasins."

All group participants should agree at the outset to maintain anonymity in all discussions of community work. In the absence of any specific request for confidentiality, group members should be free to discuss their experiences openly outside the group, provided no other individual is identifiable in their stories. However, whenever any group member requests confidentiality, all members should agree to be bound automatically by such a request.

Community Ethics Statement (creative use of the ASD ethics)

We support an approach to community that promotes meaningful sharing and respects the individuals dignity and integrity, and which recognizes the individual as the decision-maker regarding the significance of what is being shared within the community. Systems of community that assign authority or knowledge of significant meanings to someone other than the individual can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful. Ethical community relationships helps the individual work with his/her own vision, feelings, and associations, and guides the individual to more fully experience, appreciate, and understand themselves as well as the community and the relationships of each to the other.
Every community may have multiple meanings, and different techniques may be reasonably employed to touch these multiple layers of significance. An individual's decision to share or discontinue sharing significant meaning should always be respected and honored. The individual should be forewarned that unexpected issues or emotions may arise in the course of meaningful sharing. Information and mutual agreement about the degree of privacy and confidentiality are essential ingredients in creating a safe atmosphere for meaningful community.
We recognize and respect that there are many valid and time-honored community traditions. We invite and welcome the participation of individuals from all cultures. There are social, cultural, and transpersonal aspects to a community of meaningful experience. In this statement we do not mean to imply that the only valid approach to community focuses on the individuals personal life. Our purpose is to honor and respect the individual as well as the community itself, regardless of how the relationship between the two may be understood.

Values I Have Found:

--Promotes effective listening skills.
--Promotes effective imaging skills.
--Promotes effective communication skills.
--Turns life back into both a personal and a shared experience of significant meanings rather than an impersonal mechanical function of survival of the fittest.
--Honors and respects both the individual and the group (regardless of age, sex, race, religion, etc.).
--Creates dynamic, interactive process
--Promotes health and well being
--Promotes organic growth for both the individual and the community (interactive creativity).
--Promotes ability to live life in the present while honoring the past and creating a future.

How would this translate into our daily lives?
Have regularly scheduled meetings within family, community, and business for the purpose of sharing our experiences and meanings following these guidelines.

Example of how it works from a discussion in my Bohm Dialogue web group that revolved around ideas of coherence/congruence (or lack of) in thought and the role time plays in this:

D writes:
"....... Tech could refer to those relationships that do not create

P writes:
Can you please give us an example of any tech that does not create

D writes:
Perhaps it is not possible to name a tech that does not create incoherence/incongruence. Perhaps using the word tech itself is inappropriate. Could we say that there are some experiences of time that do not need to be incoherent. Boiling water for tea doesn't need to be incoherent but it could be. I mean, the reason why I am boiling water may be incoherent. Thought has the capacity to generate incoherence/incongruence even with relationships that need not necessarily be so. So my sense would be that the answer to your question is that it is incoherent/incongruent to divide things this way into tech and psyche since I wonder if it is possible to draw a line between them?

Susan writes:
I have been thinking about your story of boiling water and making tea and how that relates to our experience of time. Also, about the idea of whether or not it is incoherent/incongruent. I found myself examining your story in the way I would examine a dream and came up with several thoughts about it. If this were a dream, here is how I would examine it: First I would imagine that it is an actual experience I am having and that it is happening right now. Then I would become the observer to see what understanding I have of the experience in terms of the symbols. So, here's what happened when I lived the experience of boiling water and making tea and then observed myself doing this.

I am in an area for receiving nutrients and nurturing. I notice a feeling in my body of emptiness that tells me I have a desire/need for performing the ritual of tea making to change that feeling from one of emptiness to fulfillment and satisfaction (being filled full of nutrients/nurturing). I have stories in my mind of having performed this ritual in the past that guides me in performing the ritual now. What ever story I bring to mind of what occurred when I performed this ritual in the past determines my inner experience of performing this ritual now.
One of those stories is of being an adult who is simply taking out a container which I fill full of water and place on a fire until the water comes to a boil. Another one of the stories is of being a child having my mother teach me the ritual. In this story my mother first complains in a stern voice that I have taken out the wrong container for the water and her expression says she is angry with me for this. I notice my body begins to stiffen up and my movements become slow and clumsy as I become aware of her expression. When I begin to fill the container with water I hear my mother tell me in that stern voice that I am putting too much water in the container and I am being much too slow and clumsy. She comes over and jerks the container out of my hand. I am surprised by this and don't let go of the container immediately so there is a struggle with the container and water gets spilled on the floor. My mother shouts at me in an angry voice that I am stupid and she continues to finish the ritual of making tea on her own. I cower in the corner hoping I will never be asked to make tea again.
By the time I finish telling myself the stories the tea is made.

Here's what the observer part of myself noticed: I learned to associate nurturing with abuse and so continue to abuse myself in nurturing situations by continuing to tell myself the stories. This is where the incongruence/incoherence comes in. Abuse is not congruent with nurturing. In this instance drinking the tea will satisfy my body's desire for nutrients but will not satisfy my more instinctive desire for nurturing.
Then I thought about the tech part. It seems to me that the first story of the adult simply paying attention to the mechanical operation of making tea is what you are referring to as the tech part. The mechanical act of the adult did not satisfy my instinctive desire for nurturing any more than the second story. Satisfying the desire for nurturing requires having a coherent/congruent story of nurturing. This may have been what brought up the second story (an association of mothers with nurturing).
And then I thought about the time factor. Even with the tech version there must be a story (past experience) to tell me how to make tea. So it would seem to me that the trick in being coherent/congruent is in learning how to create a coherent/congruent story of how to do something and then creating an association to bring up that story when you need it. And the trick with time is to understand that it is a story (something outside of a constricted time period) that we are telling ourselves.
I think this is one of the most valuable things I have learned from doing dream work, the value of myth and story and what they really are. I have noticed that in doing dream work we are sharing our experience of myth and story as well as learning how to create more effective myths and stories together. Perhaps this is the true meaning of communion/community.

Stories are the secret reservoir of values: Change the stories individuals or nations live by and tell themselves, and you change the individuals and nations.
Ben Okri, Nobel Prize for Literature

Susan Clemons