IMAGINATION, CREATIVITY, AND VISION
ABSTRACT: The shaman/therapist is a hybrid of mystic and scientist. This model provides a nonlinear approach to the chaotic mysteries of the psyche. Included in this model of binocular visionary experience is the distinction between fantasy and imagination, chaos and dreamhealing, creativity and the healing process, inner vs. outer healing, perception and healing, shaman/therapist as dream guide, chakras in dream therapy, and the Medicine Wheel as a model of healing. Also included are instructions for dealing with transference for lay people or peer counselors.
Shamanism is the medicine of the imagination.
--Jeanne Achterberg, Imagery in Healing
He descends into chaos and tribulation, into the realms beyond the limits of convention and human laws where the seething magma of raw transformative energy resides in its unrefined and undiluted state.
--Stephan Hoeller, THE GNOSTIC JUNG
Shamans were the first dreamworkers...if someone could imagine or dream an event, that action was considered to be, in some sense, real.
VISIONS OF CHAOS
Graywolf's search for the meaning of life led him from conventional life as an engineer, into psychology, then into the mystical phenomena of sacred psychology and chaos theory. As he trained as a psychotherapist, he found the limitation in psychology which led him to shamanism. Shamanism included the experience of many unusual states of consciousness. But there were inherent limitations within the pure shamanic model also, most notably an accent on superstition and fantasy.
The pitfalls of superstition are pretty obvious and come from our belief system, but many of us don't make a distinction between fantasy and imagination. We say, "Oh, it's just your imagination," reducing it to a trivial position. IMAGINATION IS OUR MOST POWERFUL FORCE FOR CHANGE. Unlike ego-serving daydreams, or fantasies of wish fulfillment which we make up, imagination is something that happens to us; it is an autonomous force or energy, welling up from the depths as the water of life.
Fantasy is escapist and does not impact our reality; it is non-transformative. It is a self-serving circle. Imagination, on the other hand, is intimately linked to creativity, and can impact the personal self, the environmental self, and the transpersonal self. IMAGINATION IS THE PRIMARY WAY WE EXPERIENCE SOUL. It is the only way to experience the inner world. Our creativity is expressed through multiple states of consciousness. And we open to inner consciousness through images.
Imagination gives us entree into the inner world of eternity. CREATIVITY EXPRESSED IN THIS WAY MEANS WE CAN EXPERIENCE MULTIPLE STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS. Imagination seems to emerge out of nowhere. The shaman/therapist acts as a guide to encourage the client to follow imagination, rather than get stuck in a loop of fantasy material. When images flow freely they are healing.
Jung called images the primary activity of consciousness, a sort of natural reflex, and yet the only reality we apprehend directly. Images lead into the realm of soul, which joins those of matter and spirit. They do not require symbolic or interpretive methods or meanings because to do so depotentiates the power of the imagination. By sticking to the image as presented and flowing with its continually transforming nature, more is to be found.
In therapy, we learn a form of love for images which consists of watchful attention or sustained attention. Through this attention or love for images we can connect with the transpersonal dimension of life which is the source of chaos, dreams, visions, myths, tales, ritual, and spiritual beliefs. There isn't much value to analyzing any image from just one point-of-view, because images have many inherent meanings which may continue to unfold over years. It just depends on how you look at them.
THE PSYCHIC IMAGE EMBODIES ITS OWN REALITY; IT IS SELF-REVELATORY. THE MEANING DWELLS WITHIN THE IMAGE LIKE CONSCIOUSNESS DWELLS IN THE BODY. Multiple meanings may carry an ambiguous quality for the rational mind, but are expressive of the dynamic complexity of life. Images pertain to imagination, while hallucinations pertain to perception.
SACRED PSYCHOLOGY is an ongoing operation with the soul's images. It means joining a greater life; dying to our current selves and being reborn in our eternal selves, finding our emergent potentials. By analogizing, rather than interpreting, we simply ask, "What is this image like?" Analogies carry us into many meanings, amplifying, not restricting the image.
Some people are ashamed of their fantasy life--that they even have fantasies at all. They have been conditioned to mistrust imagination. This is because the imaginal world opens us to the chaotic, uncontrollable, spontaneous, divine world of the soul. But when attention is focused and diffuses into the imagery that is beyond self-gratification, the power of transpersonal energies can initiate deep healing. The imagery is actually the finer basis of our material existence. So, in a sense, we are our images. IMAGINATION IS REALITY. We orient ourselves to internal and external reality through multi-sensory images.
Research has shown that ESP information is also mediated through mental imagery. Weak imagers often mis-identify targets because they misinterpret fragmentary images. The mediating vehicle for psi communication is the imagination, a psychological function we all possess.
Therefore, theoretically, ESP communication should be enhanced under conditions which promote imagery, especially in those whose cognitive style is dominated by imagery perception. For example, dream recall or creativity can be shown to relate positively to psi performance. The image may not be visual. Thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition converge in imagination. Images can be kinesthetic, olfactory, auditory, tactile, visual, etc. Imagination is a "direct expression of psychic life," according to Jung.
IF IT IS THE TASK OF THE SHAMAN TO FIND THE STRAYED SOUL OF THE CLIENT AND RESTORE IT, THE SHAMAN NEED ONLY RECONNECT HIM WITH IMAGINATIVE LIFE TO SET THE HEALING IN MOTION. He is the psychopomp, or guide to the inner depths. The psychic crisis of an individual needs to seek its own unique solution within. It is a deepening process. It may be an ordeal, or more like a quest, but the investment of energy and attention is a sacrifice that must be made.
We can conceive of a psychotic in the shaman's terms as one whose soul has been stolen, lost, or seized down into the underworld. Their conscious awareness is focused in a very narrow beam revolving around delusions and fears. They are enmeshed with the spirit and intuitive consciousness, overwhelmed by and drowning in it.
How does the shaman or therapist help the person broaden the beam, to expand awareness of self to include more and more of consciousness, so that a stabilized personality can learn to experience itself as ONE WITH ALL?
The shaman/therapist uses old and new techniques like dreams, visionary work, vision quest, imagery, colors, drumming, meditations, letting go, breathing, body work, mental grasp of the physical nature of the universe, opening to nature, and standard therapies like Transactional Analysis and Gestalt. In various ways we can give in to the pressures which we have been investing our energies in fighting. Fighting disempowers us and validates the rigidities. Letting go leads through chaos to flow.
THE MEDICINE WHEEL is the primary healing model of western shamanism. It shows the synergy of chaos and order. It has four primary stations, corresponding to the four cardinal directions. It is therefore a mythic model for the creation and a device for magical orientation and protection. Its motif lays out the phases of a healing process:
1). INITIATION corresponds with the East and means seeing the problem or the need for healing; breaking through ignorance or denial.
2). LETTING GO corresponds to the South, and means surrendering to the Higher Power, or the process. This ego-death leads directly into a period of chaos before the new vision is found.
3). NEW VISION arises within the place of dreams and creative imagination. Self esteem grows as dreamhealing presents creative solutions. It means connecting with powers without and within which are seen as ONE. It is the West.
4). ACTUALIZATION is a phase of integration and empowerment. In the North quadrant you make your dreams come true. It is a new emotional maturity. Newly-learned skills are put into fruitful practice, connecting one to self, community, and Universe, restoring balance and rectifying karma.
For Graywolf, the shamanic model was different from, but not really any better than the psychological method. Many therapists and new age healers have found this out for themselves. He didn't really find any benefit from shamanism other than a different worldview until he was about to fuse the shamanic and psychological views.
THIS LED TO THE IDEA OF THE SHAMAN/THERAPIST. Neither one on its own was comprehensive or flexible enough. But looking at reality with the eye of the scientist and the eye of the mystic simultaneously creates a sort of BINOCULAR VISION which adds depth and meaning to the vision.
The psychotherapeutic approach to healing essentially represents order. The shamanic approach represents chaos. These worldviews seem divided. Yet the true nature of reality represents the merging of chaos into order, and chaos and order, back into chaos. Both lie within each other, and there is a consequent flow between the two. The essence of the shaman/therapist model is that it takes in both sides.
Most shamanic techniques are essentially chaos-producing, including sweats, drum journeys, and other means of inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness. For example, someone in the sweat lodge gets so hot that their normal methods of processing and input simply fail to work. They are so busy dealing with the stress on their body caused by the heat that their mind essentially turns off. And that is where the chaos comes in and changes things. The same is true for becoming lost in the throbbing drum, letting consciousness soar. A beat with disruptions is very hypnotic and promotes the temporary disequilibrium which is known to deepen trance.
Dreamhealing is the practice of the shaman/therapist, combining the process and dreamwork of psychotherapy with the traditional form of shamanic flight. The shaman is a traveller between the worlds of ordinary and nonordinary reality. The dreamtime is a sacred space which the shaman/therapist can share with others through co-consciousness.
Perception, how we perceive ourselves and the world about us is at the base of our experiences of reality. The essence of psychotherapy is the changing of perception. In fostering this change the modern psychotherapist and ancient shaman share a common mission. No matter whether the transformation is attempted through drugs, behavior modification, or emotive talk therapies, the purpose is to change perception of reality.
Each one of us creates our own reality by our perceptions. The reality is created through a filtering process, and is continually subject to modification by fantasy and imagination. Each of our individual realities undergoes constant modification. THERE IS AN INFINITY OF REALITIES AND STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS. These are created out of only a small portion of what we perceive, and what we perceive is but a small fraction of the input available to us through the senses.
We exist among a chaos of realities, yet we also exist within and among a consensus of "reality." Another way of saying it is that this chaos of realities contains within it hidden, consensual structure. Our perceptions are attracted to certain types of order. Yet there are myths underlying our perceptions of 1) permanence, 2) objective individualism, 3) collectivism, and 4) symbolic reality.
ONE HALF OF THE PROBLEM IS BEING ABLE TO LET GO OF THE FOCUS OF ATTENTION AND ENTER INTO THE CHAOS. THE OTHER HALF IS BEING ABLE TO SEIZE THE NEW ORDER THAT ARISES FROM IT.
It is the role of healers to help others find the doorways to the opportunities that crises can offer, as traditional guiding models break down. The guiding myth of the shaman is that "personal power arises within." The blending of the traditional and the innovative, the mystical and scientific, the masculine and feminine elements in healing, can guide our culture towards a balanced approach to healing.
One driving force is bumping up against boundaries and then going past them. There are limitations in science and shamanism, but we need not remain perplexed if we incorporate the best each system has to offer. By recognizing our boundaries, we can move beyond them. This is equally true for the dreamhealing practitioner and for those seeking healing.
Shamanism and humanistic psychology share common aspects in their worldviews. The first is the view that "WE ARE ALL ONE". The primitive belief is one of the web of life, while the other calls it holism and deep ecology. FOR SHAMANS THE SECRET OF THE UNIVERSE IS THAT IT IS ALIVE. Science is validating this perspective more each day that nothing is truly separate from the whole. Wholism affirms the unity of life.
The GUIDING VISION is another premise shared in common by both camps. Jung certainly wrote extensively of his visionary experience and how it affected his life and gave him a mandate for his work. The vision quest is the native model for facilitating and honoring this experience. These visions "work" because we are not separate from the universe, nature, each other, our bodies, or hidden aspects of ourselves.
This brings us to the third commonality of REVERENCE FOR NATURE. We are not separate from the creation, and perhaps this is one reason for the profound healing power of wilderness. Maslow spoke of this awe of the nature-mystic as one of the emergent qualities of the self-actualized person.
Perhaps the main distinction between shamanism and conventional psychology is the consciousness state. Shamanism promotes co-consciousness where you are no longer separate from the person you are dealing with. The shaman goes into the underworld (subconscious) to help the person bring their lost soul or spirit back, which is the healing. That is really different than a psychologist who, in the old scientific model, maintains an objective distance.
CHAOS AND DREAMHEALING
WHEN THE MIND LETS GO OF ITS RATIONAL ORDER AND ENTERS INTO UNSTRUCTURED CHAOS IT EMERGES LATER WITH A NEW STRUCTURE. It is a quantum leap from what went before. Each journey into the unstructured chaotic consciousness leads to the seat of our muse and creativity. Therapy at its very best is a matter of changing consciousness, and so is shamanism. Though the perspective may be different, both seek to change consciousness about the states of dis-ease we experience.
Graywolf came upon the work of Paul Rapp, a researcher at the medical college of the University of Pennsylvania who experiments with chaos, at a crucial point in the development of his models. He discovered the technique in his therapy practice and refined it, but its description required a model of how and why it works. He was searching for a language to describe what he had been observing in the consciousness journeys he was conducting, trying to discover the nature of the healing process. Rapp's research showed that problem solving led to an increase of chaotic patterns in the brain, which led to a creative chaotic renewal.
Graywolf had observed this state in his clients empirically over and over again, in the underlying order to the apparently random or chaotic flow of multi-sensory imagery that formed the core of the method. He developed his ego model to describe the states in general. (See EGO AND THE PROCESS OF HEALING). They reflected not only a static order of imagery, but a deeper dynamic component.
Before finding the language of chaos theory, he tried relating these states to the medicine wheel, the chakra system, and other healing models. But no matter what language he used, ancient, shamanic, eastern mystical, new age, or scientific, each only seemed to capture a portion of it, as a pre-biased limited view.
But upon reading about Rapp's finding, he recalled a discussion many years earlier with a client who was a mathematics professor. On a working hike down the lower Rogue River in Southern Oregon, he described a new form of mathematics that was integrating a fractured science. In a moment of personal integration, Graywolf's memories and experience from the dream journeys came together. He saw that chaos is the underlying concept that brings it all together.
In each dream journey we encounter a state of consciousness that is a personal experience of primal chaos. These states might be different on the surface, but the underlying essence is the same. The empty drifting in the fog, that empty mindless place where there are no thoughts, emotions, or images were common reports. This is not news in depth psychology, but the reliable manner of accessing the state is new. We have known for a long time that the secret lay within dreams, as Max Zeller points out in THE DREAM - THE VISION OF THE NIGHT.
Depth psychology speaks of the unconscious. The term refers to the unknown hidden realm of the psyche about which we cannot make any direct statement. If not manifest, it looks like nothing at all, a void; the invisible, or not yet visible. But when vision and dream appear and reveal what was hidden, then void and emptiness give way to meaningfulness and to a feeling of being in touch and being connected...to those lost springs for which we all search and from which all life comes.
The unconscious lends itself to the language of chaos. The whirling, twisting motion of a molecule of water in the chaotic world of non-laminar flow through a pipe is analogous to chaos consciousness. The disorienting, dizzying surrender to the vortex, tornado, or whirlpool is a surrender to chaos, an experience of no form and total confusion and disorientation.
It is like the experience of committing oneself to the fire and becoming it, and as the random flickering of the flames and torrid heat, disintegrating into pure energy. It means becoming the boiling, flowing, every-changing molten magma at the core of the earth, or the root of a volcano. These are all descriptions of the personal, subjective experience of total chaos.
Always, after passing through this state, the new order which emerged of self-image, thought, emotion, and sensory perception reflected the new and less dis-eased state of being. The deeper self-image undercut or superceded the old belief system, and began to create a new order of being, a new way of perceiving self and world. The new image provides a magnetic nucleus 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 seems to be present in the chaos of mind just as chaos really seems to underlie even the most rigid and orderly intellect. The new primal image has its counterpart in the strange attractor described in this radical new model.
DREAMS THEMSELVES EMBODY THE VERY NATURE OF CHAOS. Very few will argue with the chaotic nature of dreams. As we journeyed deep into the heart of dreams, the free-association of multi-sensory images led us to the energies and consciousness states that birthed and shaped its surface symbols and plots. The journeys were chaotic, impressionistic.
The imagery jerked and changed in chaotic ways, and we encountered states of consciousness which embodied total chaos within their experience. Always a state of consciousness emerged that soothed the tortured ego or body, healed the organism in some way, providing a balanced flow from deep within the chaos. Graywolf felt sure he was touching the very essence or source of the creative energy within us.
CREATIVITY AND DREAMHEALING
The relationship between healing and creativity is implicit. It means different phenomena on different levels. This state has been linked in research with the reverie state and alpha brainwave state. Rapp's findings showed large amounts of alpha discharge as the brain went into a chaotic pattern for problem solving.
Elmer and Alyce Green, who have done original research in biofeedback, have defined creativity at various levels:
Creativity in terms of physiological processes means then PHYSICAL HEALING, physical regeneration. Creativity in emotional terms consists then of establishing, or creating ATTITUDE CHANGES through the practice of healthful emotions, that is, emotions whose neural correlates are those that establish harmony in the visceral brain, or to put it another way, emotions that establish in the visceral brain those neurological patterns whose reflection in the viscera is one that physicians approve of as stress-resistent. Creativity in the mental domain involves the emergence of a new and valid synthesis of ideas, not by deduction, but springing by "INTUITION" from unconscious sources.
The entrance, or key, to all these inner processes we are beginning to believe, is a particular state of consciousness to which we have given the undifferentiated name of "reverie."
The creative process runs parallel to the healing process. In fact, healing is a special case of creativity, or creative problem-solving. Consciousness is the author of both processes. Creativity, healing, and illumination are equivalent processes operating at different levels -- mental, physical, psychic, and spiritual. The process includes a prelude ritual, an altered state, and a postlude, or emotional affect.
We can draw a direct analogy between the dreamhealing process and the creative process. We have adapted the description from Silvano Arieti's CREATIVITY: THE MAGIC SYNTHESIS, Basic, 1976.
Dreamhealing begins with THE PILGRIMAGE, which expresses one's intent or commitment The creative process begins with RECEPTIVITY, which includes interest, preparation, and immersion in the subject matter.
Next in dreamhealing comes THE CONFESSION, or the identification of the problem, where you have missed the mark. Creativity also requires the ability to identify the problem, see the right questions, to use errors, to have detached devotion.
The PURIFICATION or cleansing of dreamhealing parallels the generalized SENSITIVITY TO PROBLEMS that comes during creativity, an attunement to the realization of what needs to be done.
THE OFFERING is a sign of letting go, sacrifice of the old ego form, the commitment to healing. Creativity requires the SURRENDER OF TIME AND SELF TO THE PROCESS OF FLOW; fluency of thinking; flexibility; abandoning old ways of thought.
The heart of the quest is DREAM INCUBATION, a reverie which seeks connection with higher power. Creativity also requires INCUBATION, reverie, serendipity, spontaneity, adaptation, tolerance for ambiguity, and originality This permits uncommon responses and unconventional associations.
Healing occurs in a moment of oneness, CHAOTIC CONSCIOUSNESS. In creativity it is paralleled by the moment of ILLUMINATION, redefinition, invention, vision.
Dreamhealing requires AMPLIFICATION, or work on dreams and validation. ELABORATION is its counterpart, the use of two or more abilities for the construction of a more complex object or theory, plus verification.
RE-ENTRY implies actualization, renewal, grounding, maturing. Creatively it means REAL-TIME APPLICATION, follow through, product, exploitation of the result.
In all cases, guided or not, the creative or healing process follows approximately this model. The resources are contacted deep within and they well-up in sometimes unexpected ways from the deep Source.
INNER VS. OUTER EMPHASIS ON HEALING
The conventional outer focus on healing tends to get caught up in methods, techniques and the purely material side of healing. It causes division both in the approach to and view of the patient. Inner focus tends to lead to a collective or unifying state of consciousness. THE SPIRIT OR EMERGENCE OF HEALING ARISES FROM WITHIN. It not only integrates the patient but also the divided methods of outer healing approaches. It unifies patient and professional. In this sense it is synergistic.
Thus, if the real healing energy or power or force comes from within, the patient can choose from tools such as surgery, imagery, and lifestyle changes to repair a damaged heart. They are not forced to choose between tools, but can use all of them harmoniously.
Inside each of us, and common to us all is a force we have called PLACEBO, homeostasis, or will-to-live which is a state of consciousness. The placebo effect lies in a crack between the known and the unknown. We know it works, but we have no clue how. In reverse, used against people, it is the basis for sympathetic magic and curses. Without it, even physicians agree healing simply cannot occur. This force comes from deep within, but can be focused and facilitated through awareness.
One of the powers of dreams and dreamhealing is that they arise from non-ordinary states of consciousness, and out of the powers of the chaotic collective matrix. The dream guide takes consciousness into this altered state and facilitates access to it for the whole being, rather than putting a bandaid on a symptom. Once we find it, we see we can reach it in many ways. These include imagination, imagery, meditation, faith in the doctor as healer, prayer, etc. Once we reach it, it affects our perception of reality from that point forward.
What's New with My Subject?
PERCEPTION AND HEALING
How do we perceive the world? One obvious answer is through the five known senses. We see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Some people seems to have other, more subtle information input systems--extrasensory systems. Stanley Krippner cites sixteen sensory (among them kinesthsia and balance) inputs. Our internal experience of these comes through intuition and imagery. They are internal perceptions, interpretations of input which lead to other psychological processes, such as emotion or intellect.
There are uncountable bits of information in any given environment, yet only a small part of those are registered through the known senses. Chaos contains too much information to process so it appears as a void or overwhelming. The senses overload. Chaos is a form of order or structure rational mind is incapable of comprehending.
Chaos is really just a definition of mind, otherwise its a natural nonlinear order. Most natural phenomena, like a river in flow, the atmosphere, or the wilderness, are essentially chaotic, an expression of chaos. The struggle of mankind over the years has been to create some structure from that chaos. But we can accept it, and flow with it also. Learning to live with chaos, we can learn to EMBRACE THE CHAOS.
E.S.P., intuitive perception, the five senses, and our belief systems act as filters of immediate phenomenal experience. These perceptions function as overlays on the direct experience of empirical reality. Putting a twist on the old cliche, we can say, "I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it." Our habitual way of seeing the world conditions our experience. Zen monks and yogis are trained to be in the "now," and thus retain that freshness and spontaneity that comes from an unconditioned perspective, the BEGINNER'S MIND.
How do we perceive self? Are we caught in a conformist attitude, or open to infinite possibilities? Of course, we perceive through the sensation related to the usual five senses, but we are also driven by deep, early self images, i.e. existential images. They condition our environmental self, our personal self, even our transpersonal self. Dreams, visions, daydreams, fantasies, and other imaginal experiences are merely other ways of perceiving the world (or universe) and self. The physical body is only a small part of our actual makeup.
We are also complex fields of dynamic energy. We have an electromagnetic body that interacts intimately with other fields of energy. We emit gases and electrons which exchange with the environment and each other. Our skin is not really a barrier, but a very permeable membrane. At the sub-atomic level, we become even finer creatures. The elements of our bodies were cooked in the crucible of some supernova. Within those elements are electrons that fluctuate at the threshold of matter and energy.
Those electrons and atoms actually have relatively vast amounts of space between them, so that our seemingly solid matter actually contains a great deal of void. In physical terms, we ultimately reduce down to not much more than a wave-front in space. And with that rarified perspective, it isn't difficult to see why the Buddhist viewpoint stresses the gross illusion of separation in corporeal life.
SHAMAN/THERAPIST AS GUIDE
The shaman and therapist facilitate subtle changes in perception to bring about healing from the deep resources within. Shamans have always used great scope in their healing efforts, even using such tools as rivers, meadows, or the tops of mountains. That is where they take people to initiate healing or visionary experience.
We tend to think small in psychology in terms of tools. The whole earth, the rivers, all of nature is a tool to be used by the shaman/therapist if she is open to that. On a wilderness excursion, a day of silence can be profoundly transformative. Many times people won't begin talking for hours after the silence is lifted. Preparation at a retreat, like sweats and offerings can also enhance the wilderness experience. Dream incubation at the retreat opens the mythic dimension to enhance the effects of a client's experience.
Taking people on therapeutic excursions also allows the guide to span a broad spectrum of the client's awareness by demonstrating a guiding ability that is both literal and metaphorical. Once again this opens the client to a less-rational mythic dimension. The archetypal image of the GUIDE TO THE UNDERWORLD, (deep subconscious), is a very powerful symbol when activated in the psyche of an individual. Finally there is someone to show the way in the netherworld of inner life.
The shaman/therapist takes the client far below the personality levels, down to the psychic origins of life. There they may experience the primordial, chemical, genetic, or sub-atomic realities which usually escape our notice. Through the process of co-consciousness the guide brings the client's soul back out into the light of day (rational consciousness) after many challenges are met and overcome.
The lost soul is found and retrieved through a healing process. The formerly "dead" personality is now enlivened in the process of psychological rebirth and resurrection. Wilderness excursions feed into the trust-building process in a way that can never be achieved in an office or clinic.
Reflecting on his experience with people on the whitewater rivers, Graywolf has noticed that he doesn't have to do nearly as much to be actively therapeutic with people on the river. Just taking them there, and being there with them as Graywolf, it becomes very powerful. The intent is a transformational voyage. A lot of the personal results depend on their own expectations and the power they tend to project on the shaman.
In Graywolf's case he feels a lot of it has to do with going down the river and his consecrated relationship to it. If a person has an issue, for example, with their feminine side, they seem to dream of women while they are on the river trip. Becoming that in the dream journey, they begin changing their striving nature to a sense of flow, harmonizing more and more with the river. The river takes them to an edge of personal challenge and transmutes them automatically.
IN DREAM GUIDING, ALL THE ACTION LIES IN GOING JUST BEYOND THE BOUNDARY FROM THE KNOWN AND COMFORTABLE TOWARD THE FEAR AND CHALLENGE. Being at the edge is where we can confront our issues. The emotions which carry us to that edge become more and more intensified as the personal limits are challenged. Attitudes, values, and thoughts may be transformed in a moment of existential challenge. Many people report they never felt more alive than at a moment of personal physical and mental challenge.
The concept of THE BOUNDARY is also relevant to physics, chemistry, and engineering. The boundary is where opposites meet; it is always paradoxical in nature. The boundary layer is where all the interesting things happen in fluid flow and chemical reactions. The transition points, both ways, between chaos and order seem to be the places where important shifts and developments take place. So in the physical or mental journey, the times of entering the chaos and re-emerging into order are when you can observe the shift.
In ancient times, Seneca said, "The secrets [of nature] open not promiscuously nor to every corner. They are remote of access, enshrined in the inner sanctuary." Opening to nature is healing. Swept-up in the rapture of nature's beauty, we experience oneness with Her. This response has been described as oceanic or a peak experience, referring metaphorically to depths and heights.
Natural mystic-ecstasies can happen spontaneously to anyone. They often have an uncanny or supernormal quality. They involve euphoria or bliss to an extent unknown in most usual activities. They seem important in some strange way. There is also some element of transcendence. They remain in memory longer and more vividly than ordinary events. But not all experiences are of equal depth. Some lead directly to the loss of sense of self and time, and a reduction in mental activity. It is a form of cosmic-consciousness.
In most cultures the basic elements -- fire, air, water, and earth -- are revered in some manner, or at least considered fundamental to existence; some systems contain even finer distinctions. This has resounded through history in a variety of mystic arts ranging from alchemy to astrology, to Native American shamanism. In yoga they are known as the tatvas. Always this doctrine of the four elements symbolized a sense of wholeness with nature and self. The mystic fifth element appears as the essence, or quintessence, spirit or ether. It represents the synergetic effect of the primary four components of natural existence.
In opening to nature the self is purified, fear and shame vanish, replaced by the sense of brotherhood with all life. It is an experience of oneness with the creation. Because nature always reflects the archetype of death/rebirth, the psychological response to a profound experience in nature may be one of rebirth. This can be particularly true if there is a close brush with death. The transport may also occur witnessing a birth which can evoke a strong sense of awe and wonder at the miracle of life.
In the nature-mystic experience there is always a mixture of instinctive awe and delight, a thrill usually felt most deeply in utter solitude, which fills the heart with a Presence. It is a form of enlightenment or illumination, where the divine element is veiled by nature. The experience is characterized by a deep feeling, rather than knowing. It is a life-changing event, with many further repercussions and adjustments. One gains a new perspective as when standing on a majestic mountain, surveying the panorama.
The mind calms, becoming tranquil and still, in regard for the beloved. All things seem pristine, perfect, and eternal. Conflicts are transcended or resolved in self-forgetfulness. The world "looks different." Maslow likened it to a "visit to a personal heaven." One feels more alive, loving, accepting, blessed, and happy.
A peak experience can be "grounded" by working with it in a journal and meditation, reclaiming those states for future nourishment. They are sources of sanctuary and inner fortitude, providing a foundation for further excursions into mystical dimensions. You can use them for stress management by recalling a special place and time in nature where you felt open and secure. Deep relaxation provides many benefits for health and well being.
CHAKRAS IN DREAM THERAPY
Chakras are wheels or vortices of energy in the subtle body, and have long been recognized in Ayurvedic and Chinese forms of medicine. Their physical counterparts are the nerve plexes of our anatomy. The free or impaired circulation of energy among these centers directly affects our physiognomy.
The quickest way to an understanding of the human energy body is probably through the chakra system. The colors of the rainbow have been associated with the centers in the subtle body for thousands of years. It is a symbol system with an internal coherency which works well in practice. The color system is usually visual, but may be an impressionistic perception of immersion, permutation, or pervasion.
One way of moving people quickly to a non-rational place with their feelings is simply to ask them what color they are now...and what color they would like to be. This is a very simple diagnostic almost anyone can learn.
When we invite someone to visualize a feeling or symptoms, or whatever as a color, we are really inviting or guiding them to use a new and different perceptual mode to see themselves and the world. Color literally reflects differing vibrational patterns in the EM spectrum.
Symbolically, color is a visual symbol of the energy body. To become the color is to tie together the normal self perceptual faculties (means) with or to perceive the state of the energy body. The same goes for the other senses -- sounds, odors, taste, sensations. Also, internal states such as emotions or thoughts or images can be similarly perceived by a different modality.
Chakras are vortices of energy in the human astral body. Their appearance in the dream journey shows where blocks in the energy flow and psychology are located. Chakras are not physical, but are associated with nerve plexes in the body. They create tangible effects on body and mind. They represent a continuum of evolving consciousness from the most base level to the highest degree of mystical insight and illumination. Each chakra, when blocked, represents a different psychological issue.
While the system and color correspondences presented here are not necessarily "universal," they are useful. You will notice in your own mentoring certain manifestations which hold true from session to session, and you can deduce what they mean. In any group setting, you can deduce what people feel like fairly accurately, as well as their psychological problems and state. Asked the color question, they usually respond fairly quickly. For example, one person identified with a muddy yellow-green. Intuition suggests there is a problem in the relationship area, which manifests as confusion between power (yellow) and love (green).
This person was startled at how accurately that summed up his present situation. The muddiness indicated the problem, yellow is the color of the power chakra (spleen or solar plexus), green the color of the heart center. So, you can deduce that there might be a perceptible "block" or symptom in that area of the body between the two chakras.
RED: The root or base chakra is red. Its position is the anus or feet. It is concerned with birth, survival, instinct, stability, grounding, stillness, common sense, and attachment. Its element is earth; it is associated with the coccygeal spinal ganglion. In dreamhealing it is analogous with the primal sensory images, or sensation levels. Its issues include individuality and survival. It can indicate fear of bodily harm or extinction. Flow here means thriving, not just surviving; freedom from role-boundedness and exclusive identification with persona or social mask.. It is very common for dreamhealing clients to become the essence of red in the first few dream journeys. It is a fundamental aspect of being which needs to be worked through. Then it will not block the way to higher awareness.
ORANGE: The chakra for the sex center is orange. It is the seat of our personal sense of power, magnetism, creativity, emotions, pleasure, passion, and rejuvenation. It is the level of social or group consciousness. Therefore, the issue here is fear of alienation, or being left out; desire, procreation, attachment, envy, frustration. Polarity, change, sexuality, nurturance, movement. Its element is water; its nerve center is the genitals. In terms of the dreamhealing model, it is the level of personal mythology, belief systems, personal images.
It especially concerns how we feel about the opposite sex. At this level the client may encounter the inner mate, ANIMA or ANIMUS. The inner mate can be a powerful soul guide to deeper levels. On the return side of the journey, this chakra or level is an opportunity to balance masculine and feminine energies through an inner marriage. This kind of integration promotes androgyny. Flow here means blending the opposites. Animosity is not projected, for in re-owning the opposite sex within, we become reintegrated.
YELLOW: The power chakra is yellow. The issue here is how we express our outer power. Because it is planning or analytical consciousness, it involves intention, will, movement, and doing; combination, interaction. It is fear of rejection and dissatisfaction. Its element is fire; its nerve plexus is the solar plexus. It is an energy which requires grounding; negatively it can manifest as overworking or manic activity, a constant search for stimulation and excitement. This implies the need for constant affirmation and approval from others.
Negatively, this is the source of aggression and hostility that originate in unmet emotional needs. The energy that cannot flow in the next-higher center is turned back and builds to the boiling point since the heart center cannot function. In therapy you will find many people confused about the difference between strength and power, especially in relationships. Dominance and personal power are confused. The cycle of victim-victimizer feeds on itself. Alternatively, it can lead to inertia, stagnation, inability to connect, lack of self confidence, recoiling from challenge, or unwillingness to change. Hypervigilance, intimidation, estrangement, separation, isolation, invalidation, resistance, denial, lack of enthusiasm, and low self-esteem result from dysfunction here.
This chakra is blocked also for those who feel disempowered. Suppressed rage may take the place of laughter and joy, humor and transformation. When we begin to assume responsibility for ourselves we reclaim that power. Self-responsibility eliminates the need for manipulating the environment to get one's needs met. It is more direct. It breaks the cycle of fear, self-criticism,, and withdrawl. It also lessens the likelihood of being manipulated by others.
Flow here means freedom of choice, self-assertiveness, the ability to put oneself first when it is appropriate to do so. In some mystical systems it is known as the HARA, or empowering core. In dreamhealing it is the emotional patterns, thought patterns, and behaviors. At this level it reveals how what is inside is expressed outside and determines what comes back in, through a feedback process. Positive expressions include reorganization, coordination, momentum, efficient use of energy, will, vitality, volition, responsibility, attunement, effortlessness, discipline, engagement, purpose, confidence, courage; future-oriented, "I will do this."
GREEN: The heart chakra deals with emotional energy and is green. Its issues are empathy, intimacy, love, security, balance, equilibrium, acceptance, generosity, harmonization, freedom, integration, self actualization, compassion, affinity, relationship, unity, and healing. Its element is air; the nerve plexus surrounds the heart. When blocked, this chakra means fear of loss, even loss of integrity or that sense of wholeness, "the heart of the matter."
In dreamhealing, green is a color where you may let the client linger, embracing the healing gift of the dream journey. Flow here means love: acceptance of self and others, democratic nature, reintegration, balance, integrity, restoration, brotherly love and connecting with nature; aspiration, fulfillment, intentionality, clarity, lucidity, self-realization, creativity, solutions, rebirth, emergence, inspiration, transcendence, vocation, metaphorical perception, charisma, spontaneity, autonomy, serenity, trust, synergy, relaxation, inner peace, validation, revival, insight, surrender to Higher Power, sense of the sacred, grace, self-love, expressed love, spiritual connection, cyclical time.
When clients first perceive a color or become a color, ask them where they experience that in their body. There is a spontaneous, uncanny relationship to the chakras, whether they know about them or not.
You can tell a lot by the purity of the colors clients report. In the prior example with the mixture of green and yellow, for example, you might explore the confusion between intimacy and power. So, a basic knowledge of color mixing can help your intuition. Also, realize that the chakras can "mix." For example, if the sex center is dominated by the emotional center, it results in false intimacy. If it is dominated by the power center, it means grandiosity, egotism, martyrdom, or a host of unhealthy co-dependent behavior.
The higher chakras deal with expression, intuition, contact bliss, and transcendence. They are largely transpersonal in nature, and are the true "home" of the mystic. They cannot be open channels until the work of clearing the blocks in the ego and lower chakras is done. Here again, it is a matter of energy flow. Flow expresses the open, healthy, spiritual individual related to the personal and transpersonal world, outer and inner life.
The primal energy of healing and enlightenment, KUNDALINI, flows through the open chakras. Once again we are met with the creative energy of the SERPENT POWER, which we encountered as the central healing image of the Asklepian method. When blocked, it creates physical and psychic problems. Its free flow is a healing panacea, the universal medicine. Again, like cures like.
BLUE: The throat center is blue. It is intimately concerned with self-expression, allowing oneself a voice, and issues relating to things said and unsaid. Positively it is communication, connection, innovation, flexibility, creativity, purification, rhythm, resonance, rapport, transport, meaning, telepathy. It is a frequent point of symptomatic constriction in abuse victims or those with unfinished grieving. Its dysfunction means fear of change. Open it means the free flow of self-expression; the gateway to the future.
INDIGO: This is the color of the Third Eye, representing intuition, clairvoyance, imagination, vision. Blocked it means fear of spontaneous response, or doubt. Flow here means insight, memory, visualization, assimilation, comprehension, wisdom, visions, psychic awareness, meditation, consciousness expansion, metaphorical perception that is largely visual, creative imagining, perception, timelessness, synchronicity, light.
VIOLET: Violet is associated with the crown center and pure information, true imagination, knowing, wisdom and understanding. It is the ground state of being, ultimate openness, the source of consciousness itself. It is non spatial and non temporal. When blocked, it is the fear of vulnerability or chaos. Flow here means nonlocality, emptiness, unconditional acceptance, connectivity, knowing, simultaneity of time, bliss, "withinness," immaterial consciousness, and even cosmic consciousness, transcendent consciousness, or illumination, (as a discrete experience, if not as a stabilized state).
BLACK: Black is not associated with a chakra but may indicate the level of self annihilation, or be an abstraction of the future, unknown self. Too much information looks like none. Dreamhealing participants often report a "black blacker than black" which leads into yet deeper states. Encourage them toward that deepening.
In dreamhealing, you do not need to accept the entire chakra model as a metaphysical reality. This version is only one form of chakra description, and a very brief one at that. We simply suggest that experience has shown that the attribution of these colors to various centers in the body has proven useful in understanding and guiding the client's journey. The experience of "becoming a color" leads to some very profound experiences. There is rarely any resistance to becoming a color; it can quickly lead within to a very deep place.
For example, one apprentice in the dreamhealing technique was merely describing the process after listening to a dreamer who had recurrent dreams in a very "yucky, muddy color." Even though they were only discussing the use of the dreamhealing process, the dreamer spontaneously put her hands to her eyes in identification with that color. She automatically slumped down to the floor in the fetal position in a deep, natural trance. Of course, they finished the dream journey on the spot since it was the appropriate thing to do.
THE SHAMAN/THERAPIST AND TRANSFERENCE
Because dreamhealing lends itself so well to peer counseling situations, we are including some detail on the pitfalls of transference and counselor's issues for the lay person. It may save you from some sticky situations or help you out of another.
Working as both scientist and mystic means that each approach provides a check and balance for the other mode of perception. Working as a mystic means working in the realm of essentially magical thinking, which carries its own pitfalls. Certain belief systems are developed about the way things work, which may not be based in any kind of consensus reality. While this produces powerful transformational energy, it is prudent to do a reality check on one's shaman self, that it is not in fantasy-land.
The first obvious danger is identifying with the archetypal power of the "healer." When the ego claims that power as its own, it gets all puffed up with grandiose ideas about itself, and falls into an inflation, commonly known as an ego-trip. The next temptation for the personality is that others perceive you as the healer or junior guru and flock to the wise one's feet. This is the basis of the personality cult, which can rob others of their power instead of helping them seek in their own way within. This doesn't mean you can't guide or help anyone, just don't get carried away with proclaiming the truth as you see it. Don't become a "dreamhealing missionary."
Another pitfall comes from listening to the subpersonalities which claim to be channels to higher power. Only the development of discrimination will teach you how to discern the true voice of intuition within. Just because the voice comes from within, doesn't mean it is all-knowing. That is the problem in seances, etc. Just because these spirits are dead does not means they are smart! Intuition appears to emerge out of the blue, but is actually built up of your intentionally developed skills and extra-sensory perception. It is the natural synthesis of both.
Freud noticed that in the client-therapist relationship certain dynamics went on below the level of conscious awareness. He called this process the transference when the energy flowed from client to therapist, and counter-transference when it was reversed.
It basically revolves around the fantasy life developed between the two during treatment. It is virtually inescapable as the client transfers positive or negative family feelings onto the therapist, and the therapist reacts to that. This is also a place that the emotional baggage of the therapist will surface with the client. Both client and therapist may find themselves "acting out" or "acting in" during and outside of sessions.
Problems that can arise include dependency, enmeshment, resistance, and sexual confusion. In dependency there is a compulsive, unhealthy reliance on the care-giver, even to the point of self-neglect. Enmeshment means a pattern of tangled thoughts and feelings between therapist and client which leads to a loss of boundaries.
Enmeshment can lead to sexual involvement, if the therapist's needs are not being met elsewhere. In resistance, the client consciously or unconsciously avoids getting into the flow of the process in order to avoid or inhibit wellness and maintain the status quo. As therapist, if you identify your issues, you do not contaminate the treatment. In any event, you cannot take a client further than you yourself have gone.
Especially in peer counseling, transference can mean the risk of relapse or regression for the therapist, and damage to the client. Though a certain amount of fantasy interchange is unavoidable, too much is self indulgent, frustrating, and opens both client and therapist to self doubt. It increases stress, liability, and even may jeopardize an agency job.
Chemical dependency counselors are especially vulnerable to counter-transference when they become identified with their client's drug use patterns. It brings up conflicting feelings and thoughts about present and past experiences. Needy recovery counselors over- and under-react to clients' feelings. This is one place to seek the help of the Higher Power or the mystical side. The therapist must embody a certain amount of integration which comes from a firm relationship with one's spirituality.
Counter-transference only gets out of hand if there are non-integrated personal issues coming up. Supervisors should help identify these issues and suggest skill-building alternatives to working these issues through with the clientele. It is difficult not to trade addiction for codependence in some settings. But it ultimately leads to increasing stress, therapist burnout, and relapse.
Therapist's issues and dysfunctions are too numerous to mention. However, just a few include projection of personal experience, inadequate qualifications, lack of trust or assertiveness, conflict anxiety, boundary confusion, judgementalness, rejection anxiety, intimacy dysfunctions, moral and value biases, health problems, self-esteem or self-identity conflict, lack of confidence, self-absorption, denial, unbalanced lifestyle, and domestic dysfunctions.
The point to remember is whose needs are being met in the therapeutic session, and it is a one-way street. Focus must stay on the client's needs. There is no need to be a robot in your approach. That is an over-reactive denial of the obvious emotions that must be present for effective work.
Impersonal detachment can further damage a client's self esteem. Clinging to rigid techniques also shows a fundamental need to stay in control and lack of spontaneity, and unwillingness to pick up on the client's cues about where their process is heading.
Clues to counter-transference will appear if you look for them. Some are in and others out of session work. Some which come up prior to sessions include agenda setting, apprehension, fear and dread. The therapist can act out this behavior by being late, or avoiding therapy with excessive socializing. Acting in is accomplished through emotional absence.
During the session are you judgmental, fearful, or envious of the client? Are you frustrated, angry or resentful? Do you feel inadequate or impotent, sexually distracted by the client, or distracted by thoughts unrelated to the client? Are you too sympathetic? Does your client withhold personal feelings and information? How strong are these thoughts or feelings?
Are you apathetic or really tuning into the client's communications? Do you ignore opportunities for interventions or feedback? Are you trying to protect the client from experiencing their own pain? These are ways of "acting in." You may "act out" through too much self disclosure, seeking approval or praise, name-dropping, using technical terms, being demanding or impatient, aggressive or blaming.
After the session is wrapped up do you have persistent, lingering thoughts or feelings about the client? Do you daydream or gossip about the client, or continually replay sessions. Do you seek outside contact or socialization? Do you find yourself lying or exaggerating the positive or negative changes in the client when charting the case and communicating with supervisors? If so, you had better get into your own process work and resolve the underlying issues before continuing. If these behaviors get excessive or obsessive, the client must be immediately referred elsewhere for treatment.
Physical contact should be limited to that which is therapeutically supportive, but does not have erotic overtones. Both client and therapist should behave as if in public. Follow-up should remain on a strictly professional basis, and self disclosure limited to social pleasantries. The experienced counselor can take a few more liberties.
We all have the power to self-heal in supportive, collaborative therapy. There are many ways you can help, simply by active listening, being patient and calm, yet curious and interested. Put the client and yourself at ease. Give them "breathing room," empathy and support. Learn to recognize and respond to signs to create rapport. The signals are territorial (locomotor), behavioral (psychomotor), emotional (expressive) and verbal. This gives you an immediate impression.
During the interview, help them overcome suspiciousness, but feel free to curb intrusiveness, competetiveness, or rambling. Express your intent to help, be genuine and reliable. Try to get clarification where you are unclear. Check symptoms. Ask what they would like to have happen. Summarize for clients who are vague, but avoid leading language. Nevertheless, "steer" in the desired direction through techniques such as continuation, echoing, curbing, and transitions.
Keep your language so basic it matches that of the client. Use metaphors to move past resistance and denial. Also display acceptance and confrontation. Search for the other's stressors and suffering (both facts and associated emotions), respond with empathy and show compassion. If they don't want to talk about it, "looping" techniques help you approach the problem from a variety of angles, one of which will work.
The DSM IV lists eighteen defense mechanisms: acting out, autistic fantasy, denial, devaluation, displacement, dissociation, idealization, intellectualization, isolation, passive aggression, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, repression, somatization, splitting, suppression, and undoing. You can handle most of them with bypassing, reassurance, distraction, confrontation, interpretation, or changing vantage point or scope. Be very careful with interpretation as it can overwhelm the client, and you may be very wrong, or reductionistic. Rather, seek to enlighten them with insight and understanding.
Stanley Krippner identifies fourteen mythic polarities: creation vs. apocalypse; nurturance vs. deprivation; achievement vs. failure; completion vs. fragmentation; affirmation vs. cynicism; acceptance vs. debilitation; hope vs. despair; reconcilation vs. polarization; wisdom vs. ignorance; celebration vs. betrayal; rebirth vs. death; questing vs. passivity, and intimacy vs. separation. Some of these will come up in the journeys.
Understanding their point of view gives you insight, a cognitive appreciation of their suffering. Issues often revolve around love, redemption, identity, and acceptance. They, themselves, may have full, partial or no insight about their condition. Consider that level of personal insight as you set therapeutic goals together. Balance the roles.
Help the client clarify and express issues. Listen empathically, but set limits when indicated. Be open with your questions and body language, don't create the feeling that there must be a "correct" response. Let the client help you understand their dilemmas, even their paradoxical aspects. Explore their goals, values, faith, and beliefs about self. Discourage black and white or all-or-nothing thinking and help the client determine intensity, duration and frequency of problem areas. Explore alternatives, Help them find their strengths through empowerment. Collaborate, inspire, and encourage.