Preface ~ Dreamhealing
The field cannot well be seen from within the field.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
In my travels, presenting workshops on dreamhealing and creative healing, I have found that many professionals (psychotherapists, counselors, social workers, addiction counselors, etc.) and paraprofessionals (such as hypnotherapists) state that they came because they experienced limitation in the current forms of psychotherapy and counseling that are available.
They all come with the sense of looking for something more, something that goes beyond the abilities or the models that are currently available. Many of them have been attracted to alternatives such as shamanism, through books, articles, and interviews, describing these forms of healing. Many came to learn more because of the sense that what they were doing had just not been enough. Many have been drawn by an intuition sensed while reading a flyer, feeling it had something special to offer them.
These comments are a reflection of my own frustration several years ago, when as a Transactional Analyst and psychotherapist my clients would come to me after we had met their therapeutic contracts. In the exit interviews they would opt to continue in therapy, not because something was wrong, but because they had not yet found what they were really looking for.
The solving of their problems seemed to them only a first step in a far deeper and more profound process. It was this that led me to contemplate and explore other forms of healing. I was seeking other forms of answers for myself and others. This book represents the interim or status report of my explorations. Although it does not really provide answers, it does suggest new directions.
This book is about my personal encounter with chaos as I struggled to better understand the nature of healing. It is a very intimate story since the development of my work has been a personal odyssey. I share my story because we know that first person accounts and memories have the power to speak to the souls of others. Dreamhealing is more than a method. It is a living process and a philosophy of treatment.
Both the fields of psychology and physics have long been interested in the interface of psyche and matter. Another way to put that is the interface of mind and body. Ultimately, they are not separate, but to see that requires a shift in consciousness.
Since healing's a matter
of mind over matter,
and matter's a matter of mind...
In matters that matter
when healing's what matters,
love is the state
of the mind.
The shift in consciousness is one in which psyche "matters." And psyche includes both order and chaos. Chaos is not an idea. It is visceral, arising deep within. It is part of the human condition. Each of us tends to understand, in spite of what we know about order, that our life is full of chaos. Most of the important things in our life seem to be random. Small changes in knowledge, insight, or experience can impact us in tremendous ways. Things we never expect to happen can bring irreversible change into our lives.
For me, chaos was not an idea that helped me develop a model for healing. Chaos theory came later as an explanation for what I was noticing in the process of healing. I do not think healing is a mechanistic thing. I do not think we manipulate the body to heal it. It helps, and it sets an atmosphere and stage for healing.
However, I think true healing is a matter of consciousness. Voltaire has said that, "the art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease." Perhaps Sir William Osler was even more succinct, noting, "It is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease, than what sort of disease a patient has."
Healing is not a matter of how we manipulate the body chemistry. It is largely based on the attitude of the individual and what underlies the structure of the body and mind. And what really does underlie the structure of the mind and body is consciousness.
The ancient Greeks personified healing consciousness as the divine physician ASKLEPIOS. The core of the art of healing in ancient times came from the inner connection between the divine healer and the divine sickness. The god sent both the affliction and the remedy. ASKLEPIOS HEALED PRIMARILY THROUGH DREAMS.
Thus Asklepios, or Aesculapius as he was known in Rome, embodied the paradox of healing. The idea of poison and antidote being contained in one substance is still found in the unconscious of modern man. It is practiced in the art of homeopathy. The therapy process which is based solely on the imagery of the individual means that within the problem lies the solution.
In the ancient healing temples, this psychological form of homeopathy was applied to ailments both physical and mental. It involved coming into a right attitude toward the affliction. Our wounds open us to healing. After incubation of dreams within the sacred precinct, the entire art of healing was left to the divine physician, who was embodied in the healing dream, which was the remedy itself. It involved altering states of consciousness.
One of the things I noticed in exploring psychology and shamanism was my introduction to chaos, but then I did not have the words. I began exploring my own healing through shamanism and psychology and that evolved into the dreamwork. Then, I began drawing maps of the journeys I was going on with people. I found particular states of consciousness repeatedly came up spontaneously in the healing process.
I did not have a language to describe some of those states of consciousness. I would try to describe them scientifically, and felt the reports were flat. It was just not right. It was like using words or mathematics to describe a symphony. I would then get into the mystical, new age, and shamanic explanations, and get turned off by them. They also were not right. It was like using an abstract painting as an instruction manual.
Then a conscious awareness of the operative principle of chaos came to me, much like the first trip deeper into dreams. In one of those serendipitous moments, I mentioned to a client that I was getting interested in moments of chaos in the healing process. She brought me an article, which I read about a week later, and everything came together. I realized I had been observing the healing process taking the sense of self deeper and deeper into consciousness to a state that can only be described as an experience of chaotic consciousness for healing.
A DEEP EXISTENTIAL IMAGE OF WHO AND WHAT WE ARE CONTAINS THE ESSENCE OF OUR DISEASE. The image is revealed in the continually ongoing inner process of imagery which is revealed in dreams, visions, and gut reactions.
Water is a natural metaphor of consciousness. This deep stream of consciousness flows through the labyrinth of the psyche. It is the source of dis-ease and our healing. Water played an important part in the cult of Asklepios. In Greece the springs of the shrine were channeled into circular labyrinths, forming a concrete metaphor of the healing process. Healing "springs" from deep within. However, first the old rigid images must be dissolved, and THE UNIVERSAL SOLVENT IS CHAOS.
Clients reported encountering a place, after going through fears and pains, that is totally disorienting, chaotic. They would, for example, enter into a gray cloud, and become that cloud, and the mind would go totally blank. Or they would enter into a spiral, and as they gave over to the motion of that spiral, they became so totally disoriented that there was nothing they could hang onto. And that is what we now define as chaotic consciousness.
There is an essential relationship between healing and irrational consciousness. Irrational consciousness "works" the cure. Somehow that chaotic consciousness, the giving up of the order, the letting go of the old structure to chaos changed things fundamentally. The next set of imagery emerging out of that chaotic consciousness was always a healing one.
Physical and emotional changes would continue for weeks and even months after a particular dream journey. They would come back and say, "I don't know why I am different, but I am different. I'm behaving differently, I'm reacting differently. I'm treating the world differently. What used to be a physical problem for me is no longer a problem."
So chaos seems vitally important at the existential level. In psychology, we have had the idea that we need a "strong ego," that we need a stable structure in order to function and cope. Dreamhealing shows us we actually need to enter a less-rigid process of flow, which increases our adaptability, helping us evolve.
Strength is a measure of what force it takes to destroy or break a rigid structure. True power, on the other hand, is a measure of readily-available energy for immediate use. Strength is rigid, while power is flowing. Empowerment flows forth naturally when we come into intimate contact with our stream of consciousness.
We are learning from chaos theory that physically and mentally we also need that disorder to function smoothly. We seem to need to dip into that disorder because it shakes everything loose and allows restructuring to occur in the direction of adaptability. All of a sudden we are free, we are flowing again, and that is the natural human condition of health.
WE EXIST IN A TWILIGHT ZONE BETWEEN CHAOS AND ORDER. We flow back and forth between them and that keeps us healthy. We build a structure and the structure begins to develop flaws and rigidities, and our illness comes when we hang onto that old wornout, yet rigid structure. But when we let go, we let ourselves flow back into that primal chaos and into total freedom. It is like a heart that periodically develops a chaotic beating pattern to renew itself. We seem to need that within our consciousness, too.
To me chaos, healing, awareness, and consciousness are almost synonymous terms. They are important to the human condition. They are crucial to all of it including our health, healing, and ability to move through life. CREATIVITY IS ALSO EVOLUTION. For example, disease is the crisis that forces the organism to expand beyond its limits and evolve. It is part of the evolutionary action of natural selection. Those who adapt, survive. Still, health means more than survival. An individual can create neurotic means of coping and surviving, but they limit and distort the functionality of the person.
Of all the new advances to come from the various sciences, perhaps the largest contribution will come from consciousness studies and their relationship with chaos. Even physics has recently been saying that we cannot go much further until we understand consciousness better. The relationship of the perceiver and the object of perception brings us back to the mind/matter issue.
The marriage of physics and psychology may delve deeper into the mystery. Physics and psychology have been trying to get together for years and it has never really advanced beyond the speculation stage. This bridge between consciousness and chaos may be more than a metaphor.
DREAMS ARE CHAOTIC BY NATURE, AND SO IS MUCH OF SHAMANIC PRACTICE. Dream incubation, as practiced in Greece, Egypt, and Japanese Shintoism, also involved such shamanic practices as divination, trance induction, etc. They intentionally evoked the irrational, and of all the healing modalities, these two reflect chaotic theory.
There are many topics to consider in applying chaos theory to consciousness. We hope to show the underlying threads that weave together shamanic practice, the ancient healing cults, the flowing philosophy of Taoism, and various modern psychologies with dreams, healing, and chaos theory.
The dreamhealing experience can be used in therapy, or for self-help, recovery, and enrichment. For those who have been through conventional recovery groups, counseling, and traditional therapy, it is a way of creating an intimate relationship with their own Higher Power, which is always molding the soul through the imagery of the river of consciousness. It directly impacts the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being of the individual. Conventional therapy does not necessarily induce creativity, nor open a person to the transpersonal realm. Taking our own "JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH" means penetrating our depths and finding the vast cosmos within.
The theory presented here in terms of human consciousness may ultimately be linked with other theories about the nature of chaos and the universe to form a supertheory, or paradigm. In this new paradigm, we are all enfolded within an infinite field of consciousness. It means a fundamental shift in the way we view the world, the cosmos, and ourselves.
The problem is that medical science and psychological science still operate largely from Newtonian physics models. Healing science has not made the leap to relativity theory yet, much less quantum mechanics, or chaos theory. There needs to be a way to apply the theory to psychological or other kinds of healing practice. Chaos theory may relativize many of the old approaches, and provide a key for unlocking more of the mysteries of existence.
THE PROCESS OF CREATIVITY IS ONE OF NEW FORMS EMERGING FROM THE VOID, NEW FORMS THAT HAVE NOT EXISTED PREVIOUSLY. It is not merely a juggling of existing forms or ideas into a new configuration, but is more of a quantum leap, a disruption into new levels of consciousness and awareness.
Chaos theory provides a particularly apt metaphor for this process. In a nutshell, CHAOS THEORY STATES THAT IN ALL APPARENT STRUCTURE IS HIDDEN CHAOS AND THAT IN CHAOS THERE ARE HIDDEN FORMS. This is much like the symbol of the Tao. The white YANG side contains a kernel of darkness, and the black YIN side a kernel of light. In some sense reality is a twilight zone existing in the interplay of chaos and form. It has long been known that all systems eventually break down into chaos (i.e. the third law of thermodynamics, also known as entropy). But what chaos theory has added is the notion that chaos creates new forms.
If this sounds metaphysical it is because we are very close to the basic creation myth of most religions--everything comes out of nothing, the primal CHAOS. It applies to the current scientific creation myth of the big-bang formation of the universe. In science myths are fantasized by calling them theories. Chaos as the matrix of creation is a universal mythic theme. It spans from Taoism (from the nothingness or chaos was formed the Yin and the Yang and from these all other things were formed) to Christianity (first there was darkness, nothing or absence of form, and from this on the first day God created light...). CHAOS IS THE CRUCIBLE OF CREATION.
In practical everyday ways, chaos theory is adding to our understanding of processes at all levels: weather systems, social systems, traffic patterns, animal migrations, evolutionary patterns, fluid dynamics, cosmology, quantum flux, and on and on. Medical science has discovered that the healthy heart periodically has chaotic or random variations. The heart with completely regular rhythms is likely to malfunction and is subject to heart attack. Similarly with many other physiological systems, including brainwaves, periodic chaos seems to be a prerequisite to healthy functioning.
The implication is that form and rigidity need to periodically give way to non-structure and chaos for renewal and recreation. Much as the "dance of Shiva" destroys the existing forms so that new reality can be created, we can foster the disintegration of outworn images of ourselves.
This is true on the most subjective levels of our experience also. If you have been faced with a problem, either physical, emotional, or mental which eludes solution, that really means that the forms and structures present in your intellect or other ego coping systems have become too rigid and locked into some form so you cannot see beyond them. This is the condition of impasse, stuckness. In essence, you need a creative solution, one beyond the ego, one emerging from the undefinable creativity of chaos.
One way of subjectively perceiving chaos is an absence of any form or structure, a state of no-thing-ness, and when confronted with this the human mind perceives either total blankness, or confusion and discomfort as the existing patterns break down. It is a little death of the old self. For example, after pondering and working on a problem for some time that does not yield to our usual problem-solving techniques, we become frustrated and often confused. Just when it seems we have been defeated and give up feeling overwhelmed, a new and original solution "pops" into our mind out of nothingness. A complete answer, often symbolic or metaphorical in form, represents a novel solution. It is a quantum leap in understanding and consciousness--often a whole new way of perceiving reality.
But letting go of the old forms is frightening. We identify with them, and to a large degree define our sense of self by them. To forsake them is to dissolve that part of self, to let it die. Most of us are only comfortable in the known territory within the limits of our belief systems. These beliefs define the limits of our reality and existence. The creative solution often exposes the limits of our beliefs by moving beyond them, and thrusts us into unknown territory, and that is frightening.
We try to hang on to the old limits even if it means we are destroyed or have to hang on to our problem rather than letting go to move into a broader awareness and reality. We mark the boundaries of our belief systems with fear and discomfort to keep ourselves safe and enclosed. If we, by chance, stray beyond them ,we doubt and deny the experiences by calling them trite--lollygagging, daydreaming, stargazing. We ignore the images thrust up by our imagination that with some further thought might reveal the creative solution to a problem that has been plaguing us.
So we avoid creativity, holding ourselves at bay through fear and discomfort. The more fundamental and rigid, the more tightly we remain ringed in by our fears. Conversely, to embrace creativity we must pass through the discomfort of confusion, and let go of what we know and are comfortable with. It is, in essence, a leap of faith beyond the known into chaos and into the void.
It is an inner journey, this leap--deep within each of us. Like The Fool in the Tarot, we stand at the edge of a precipice. Inherent in our being and structure is chaos, just as science has shown. This level of awareness, this state of chaos is our creative consciousness -- CHAOTIC ONSCIOUSNESS -- the crucible of our creative spirit. Only by entering it, yielding to it, do we allow newly evolved form to come into being--to arise out of chaos. It is a journey through fear to a life in which each moment is an act of personal creation and freedom.
In healing, like cures like. The poison is also the panacea. In learning to live with chaos, it becomes not something to be denied nor gotten rid of, rather something to be embraced deeply. In embracing the chaos, and tuning in to its self-directing flow, we feel we have remained true to the spirit of the phenomenon itself.
In dreamhealing we move deeper into the images, then become them, rather than interacting with them. So too with other states of consciousness we encounter. The disorienting, dizzying surrender to the tornado or whirlpool is a surrender to chaos, an experience of no-form and total confusion and disorientation. It is like the whirling, twisting molecule of water in the chaotic world of non-laminar flow.
The experience of committing oneself to the fire means becoming it, and as the random flickering of the flames, and the torrid heat, disintegrating into pure energy. Becoming the boiling, flowing, ever-changing body of molten magma at the core of the earth is felt as a visceral sensation. These are some of the personal, subjective responses to the experience of total chaos.
Always, passing through this state, the new order of imagery, thought, emotion, sensory perception reflected a new and less dis-eased state of being. The deeper self image undercut the old belief system, and began to create a new order of being, a new way of perceiving the self and the world. Chaos provided a new image around which to order the personality and often the physiology.
Each of these observations had a counterpart in the new science based on chaos. Order seemed to be present in the chaotic state of mind, just as chaos really seems to underlies even the most rigid and orderly intellect. The images themselves that were from the chaos had their counterpart in the strange attractors described by this radical new mathematical model.
The images, the deep primal multi-sensual experiences and perceptions that I was working with seemed to act like psychic magnets, attracting and ordering the energies around them, which echoed their shapes and forms. And like the fractal patterns displayed on a computer screen, the quantum shift came when the attractor values were changed. The old image that lay on one side of the chaos state gives way to a surprising new image that arises out of the chaos.
Spirit, soul, beliefs, emotions, thinking, and behavior are all affected. This 'sacred psychology', (a term coined by Jean Houston), and the Creative Consciousness Process thus mirror not only the new models of energy dynamics, but also the ancient dream temples and mystery schools of the healer Asklepios. Here new physics and consciousness meet.
What's New with My Subject?
Because archetypal psychology is concerned with fantasy, myth, and image, it is not surprising that dreams are considered to be significant in relation to soul and soul-making. James Hillman does not believe that dreams are simply random residue or flotsam from waking life (as advanced by physiologists), but neither does he believe that dreams are compensatory for the struggles of waking life, or are invested with “secret” meanings of how one should live (a la Jung). Rather, “dreams tell us where we are, not what to do” (1979). Therefore, James Hillman is against the traditional interpretive methods of dream analysis. A-ha moments stop the process of deepening into the image. Hillman’s approach is phenomenological rather than analytic (which breaks the dream down into its constituent parts) and interpretive/hermeneutic (which may make a dream image “something other” than what it appears to be in the dream). His famous dictum with regard to dream content and process is “Stick with the image.”
For example, Hillman (1983) discusses a patient's dream about a huge black snake. The dream work would include "keeping the snake" and describing it rather than making it something other than a snake, such as a symbol of the penis or kundalini, or whatever. Hillman notes that "...the moment you've defined the snake, interpreted it, you've lost the snake, you've stopped it and the person leaves the hour with a concept about my repressed sexuality or my cold black passions" (p. 53). One would inquire more about the snake as it is presented in the dream and by the psyche. The snake is huge and black, but what else? Is it molting or shedding its skin? Is it sunning itself on a rock? Is it digesting its prey? This descriptive strategy keeps the image alive, in Hillman's opinion, and offers the possibility for understanding the psyche.
Further, by 'becoming' the snake in a process-oriented therapeutic approach, one can find out what that snake [and other image/portals in the dream] might have to say itself. You can dream the dream forward, even deepening it through a meditative state into other natural transformations, originating inside out, rather than the interpretations from outside in, an 'import' to the system that is likely irrelevant or sterile. In Asklepian dreamhealing any appearance of the serpent in dreams was considered an epiphany with the serpent as sacred healer.