Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dream Interview Part IV: How My Dreams Influence My Writing June 8, 2012

Here’s the final question Shirley Showalter asked me at our recent interview.

Question #4:  If you were writing a memoir, especially one about childhood, would you expect to write overtly about your own remembered dream about the Lone Ranger or would you use the dream work as a covert influence helping you to sort detail, which stories to tell, etc.?

My Answer:  This is a very insightful question. As I mentioned in response to your first question, my last three books were all memoirs, and in them I took both of the routes you’ve mentioned. The Bridge to Wholeness started out with my earliest memory of being lost and alone at the age of three on the shore of Lake Michigan because both parents had gone back up to the cottage, each thinking the other had taken me with them. That experience was so traumatic that I never forgot it. It very much had the quality of a dream and when I wrote about it I automatically approached it that way.

In other words, I looked for the emotions I had felt, (a lot of fear and questioning and imagining the direction my life might take), and examined the symbols (it was night, I was lost and alone, and I was determinedly walking toward a small light in the distance) and then looked for the metaphorical meaning.  I was surrounded by darkness (the unconscious) and the only direction I knew to take was toward the light, i.e. toward consciousness and enlightenment.

There could not be a more apt metaphor for the essence of my personality and purpose. Looking for personal meaning in the emotions and symbols that show up in waking life, is, to me, an extremely valuable way of making sense of our lives. So yes, even when I wasn’t writing about my dreams, my experience with dreamwork definitely covertly influenced my writing.

After treating a few other big early memories the same way, I arrived at the age of ten when I had my really Big Lone Ranger dream. Since it was the only dream I remembered from my childhood, and since it, too, was so traumatic, it felt necessary to write about it, so I did it overtly. By that time I had found my voice, and the rest of the book continued in the same way:  writing about important events of my waking life the way I write about my dreams, and occasionally sharing an important dream that helped me make sense of my waking life.

Then one day when I was most of the way through, I had a sort of waking dream in front of my makeup mirror in which I spontaneously made up a fairy tale. (I love the symbolism of a mirror as a medium for engaging the instinct for reflection!) I was so used to paying attention to my inner life that I knew this had value and meaning too. Sure enough. Once I had written it down I realized it was the story of my life up to that point, and it became the central metaphor for the entire book.

In sum, trusting my dreams and imagination has allowed me to discover my creativity and fulfill my purpose in life. This is why I say, “My dreams are my life, and my life is a dream.” This concludes my interview with Shirley. I hope those of you who are writers or are considering writing have found it helpful.

As many of you know, I’ve been at the Book Expo America in New York for the past three days and had a wonderful time introducing my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide. Advance copies are now available at www.larsonpublications.com.  The picture above was taken just before my book signing.  I’ll tell you more about  it soon.

 

Dream Interview Part II: How Does One Learn to Do Dreamwork? June 1, 2012

Here’s Part II of my interview with Shirley Showalter, a blogger and memoir writer I met on the internet.

Question #2: Are you a trained Jungian analyst? If so, what do those of us who don’t have formal training in dream interpretation do? Do we need an analyst to help us?

My Answer: Most people think I’m a Jungian analyst, but I’m not. I’m just obsessed with Jungian psychology because when I discovered it, it hit my inner environment with the force of a Florida hurricane! Hurricane Jean, I guess. My doctorate is in education—Curriculum and Instruction—and my teaching specialties were Children’s Literature and Language Arts.

These were never my passions, but I didn’t know it until the age of 46 when I discovered Jungian psychology. A dear friend invited me to join a 5-year long Jungian study group called Centerpoint which is based on a series of lessons written by Jungian analysts.

The first activity at our first meeting was to share an important dream. I shared one I had at the age of ten in which my hero, the Lone Ranger, shot me, and to my surprise and discomfort I realized I could barely talk because I was struggling so hard to hold in tears and some strong emotions. That’s when I knew the power of this kind of inner work.

There weren’t any Jungian analysts where I lived so I ordered several books from Inner City Books, a publisher that specializes in Jungian studies written by Jungian analysts, and started reading on my own. And underlining! And taking notes. Soon I was writing down my dreams and trying to understand them. Essentially, I was discovering and following my passion.

Except for the members of my weekly study group, (and we rarely talked about our own dreams after that first time), I had no other inner work companions: no teachers, no therapists, no one else to talk to about the exciting inner journey I was taking. Of course there was my husband, and he tried his best to listen, but as an extremely busy economist, his heart wasn’t in it and I hated to burden him.

After a year of this I knew I had a book or two in me, so I decided to quit teaching and start writing. I can’t adequately express how freeing and empowering it was to make these choices, and from the very beginning my dreams affirmed that I was doing the right thing. My first psychological book was The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth. In it I wrote about the value of working with my dreams, and my readers’ responses were so positive that I decided to write another book about how to do it.

Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dream Work came out two years later. Copies of both are still available from Amazon, and I’d recommend them to anyone seriously interested in going deeper. My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World, also contains stories about what I’ve learned from my dreams. It can be ordered from larsonpublications.com or Amazon, both of which are offering pre-publication discounts.

So in answer to your question, I’d say that having the help of a Jungian analyst would be a rare and highly desirable gift. However, it’s not absolutely essential to one who has a passion for self-knowledge if s/he’s willing to do the work.

The picture is of an old root cellar tucked into the mountain on our property.

 

Dream Interview Part I: Writers and Dreamwork May 29, 2012

Writing this blog has introduced me to some wonderful people. Shirley Showalter is one whose inspiring site is filled with fascinating information and practical tips for memoir writers.  Recently she requested an interview, and what began as fodder for one post quickly grew into material for a few more! Here’s my answer to her first question.

Q: You say on your website: “My life is a dream; my dreams are my life.”Also, you’ve recorded over 4,000 dreams since 1989 if I remember correctly. I can see how helpful it would be to be guided by dreams as a writer. But many of us, myself included, do not remember our dreams very often. Can you provide suggestions on how to become more conscious?

A: As of today, the number of recorded dreams is 4,355!   I know it sounds like a mind-boggling undertaking, but really it’s just been a day-by-day, step-by-step thing that I did several times a week when I had the time and energy, or when I felt the need, or when I remembered enough of a dream to be curious about it. Of course, I didn’t work on every one of these, and I’ve had several in between that I never even recorded, plus lots more I simply couldn’t remember.

At first I was worried about not capturing them all in writing so I could keep coming back to them. But our psyches are always trying to communicate our soul’s purpose and desire to us via our dreams, and I learned to trust that if the messages were important enough, they’d return in other dreams until I “got” them.

All my books but the first, which was an outgrowth of my dissertation, are essentially memoirs, and dreamwork has been invaluable to me in this endeavor. Writing has always been a deeply satisfying means of expression for me, and when it’s combined with working on my dreams it’s my fundamental “practice” that brings enormous meaning to my life and helps me tie up all the disconnected threads of my personal history.

Especially helpful in this regard is the fact that since my college days I’ve had a habit of jotting down my day-to-day activities and appointments on calendars, and I’ve kept them all. Likewise, when I started working on my dreams I dated and numbered them. Having this dual, inner world/outer world record of my life to return to when writing my books has been invaluable.

So my first suggestion to memoir writers about how to become more conscious would be to keep some kind of written record of what’s going on with you both inside and out, including a dream whenever you remember one. It may not feel important now, but years from now having this information could add powerful layers of meaning to your writing.

Having a regular practice of some sort is also essential to becoming more conscious. You’ve simply got to take time every day to pay attention to your inner life, even if it’s only a few moments a day. The major obstacle to this, of course, is the extreme busyness of life in today’s world, so it’s imperative to carve out at least 20 or 30 minutes every day when you won’t be distracted by kids, telephones, music, computers, or television so you can write undisturbed, or do whatever else you’re drawn to: writing, of course, but also body work like dancing, massages or yoga, or regular talks with a wise friend or psychotherapist.

But as far as I’m concerned, regular meditation is the Queen of consciousness-raising. Initially, I was reluctant to take the time to meditate so I made a deal with myself.  I could only start writing if I meditated for at least 20 minutes every weekday morning first! This worked wonders and also brought more balance to my life, because I left evenings and weekends free for my husband and children.  More next time.

The photograph is of two perfect peonies from my mountain garden!

Order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at www.larsonpublications.com

 

 
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