Healing in the Heart of Your Dream

by Graywolf/Fred Swinney

In 1984 in my therapy groups, I was using primarily Gestalt process in working with dreams. One morning, rather than following the usual Gestalt practice of exploring the relationships and conflicts between symbols or parts of the dream as is usual Gestalt practice, a client and I ventured more deeply into the experience and being of one of the dream's symbols, into the heart of the dream itself, and found a healing state of consciousness that was profound in its impact and implications. As with the belief from the ancient Greek Aesculapian dream healing myth, where the healing god Asklepios worked his healing magic from within the dream, this healing state, too, was buried deep in the dream far beyond its outer manifest form and any interpretation or surface manipulation. In the dream, my client, strapped to a platform, was being drawn feet first into a wheel of rapidly rotating razor edged knives. I had been exploring shamanic philosophy and practice for several years because of my discontent with the limits of psychological science and practice, and in keeping with this bent, rather than have her become the knives and begin a dialogue, I suggested she let herself be pulled into the whirling blades. I had in mind the shamanic principle of having her face directly in the dream what she most feared. In truth, it was also a moment of strong intuition and curiosity as I felt myself drawn inexorably into the flashing, spinning blades.

 She reported being slashed and cut into tiny bits with blood and flesh splattering and scattering to all directions, but strangely, the predominant sense she experienced and reported was a sensation of the icy coldness of the blades. I encouraged her to pursue it, to give in to that sense-image of icy coldness. As she did, she soon became a layer of ice, frigid, rigid and very very hard and cold. My interest intensified since in a sensory sentence this was the therapeutic issue that had brought her to seek therapy: she was a very hard, very cold, and a very frigid woman. I knew from our previous sessions that her condition stemmed from early and continued sexual molestation by her several older brothers. In two years of therapy, although we had attained much insight as to the origins of her problem and had even made several emotional and cognitive breakthroughs, we had not reached a place of deep healing with which either of us were satisfied. Nor in truth did it seem likely that we would. This shared experience of incompleteness was typical and was the reason for my interest in other healing practices.

 "Stay with it," I urged, "Go even deeper into this sense of cold, become it."

 As she did, and as I encouraged her to go even further, she reported first a sensation of falling into bottomless, dark absolute zero cold, then entering and becoming the water beneath the ice and feeling warmer as she did so. She reported, in this state, a deeply felt sense of flowing, flexibility, and wave like boundaries. I watched her rigid body deeply relax and soften, changing before my eyes. I encouraged her to remain in this state for as long as she needed and sat back and watched the unfolding of a new body language. When eventually she came back from that state of consciousness, she was a different woman, flexible, flowing and a softer self. Her deeper spirit shone through and in time her behavior and self image began to change. This new sense of self was deep and stable and continued to evolve. The work itself had been like Simonton's and other similar guided imagery work I practiced then, but was also somehow different in a way I couldn't yet define.

 I began exploring this shaman- therapist technique, and the more I explored, the more remarkable the process seemed; physical as well as emotional and mental diseases yielded to new and profound senses of self and relationship with the outer world. The changes that took place were most often deep and continued to evolve long after the journeys ended. In my search to evolve and describe the process I was exploring, I eventually encountered Chaos theory and in a moment saw the perfect fit. In conjunction with the quantum and relativistic notions I had already been studying, I finally had a model to explain the Creative Consciousness Process that I have described in previous articles. (See Vol. 13 No. 1 Dream Network Journal). Although much of it is presented as metaphorical, I have the notion that the relationships between chaos, creativity, new science, spirituality and therapeutic effects may be more than just a metaphor. These relationships may reveal the mystery of the connections of consciousness, chaos and creativity in the natural healing process, and may identify the nature and processes of the mind-body connection. One might also substitute the phrase "placebo effect", or "spontaneous remission", for "natural healing process" in this context. And it is a healing process that exists within each and every dream we have.

 The idea that healing takes place within the dream itself is both old and new: The ancient Greek and Roman healing paradigm was based in this notion both spiritually and in practice. According to myth the Mortal-god Asklepios, who was the illegitimate son of Apollo and an earthly mother became such a powerful healer in mortal form that the Gods in Olympus petitioned Zeus to remove Asklepios from the earthly realm. It seems he was stealing souls from them. Zeus complied and slew Asklepios with a thunderbolt. However the agony and pain that erupted from the mortals over the loss of this great healer evoked compassion on the part of the Gods. Asklepios was allowed to return and continue healing mortals but he was only allowed to do so in the their dreams.

 Greek and Roman healing practice served this paradigm. The physicians or Asklepiads used a variety of herbs, physical treatments and various incantations acting as the earthly hands and minds of Asklepios. However, when these ministrations did not work it was taken as a sign that the healing was to be performed directly by the god himself, and so the patient was sent to an Asklepian Dream Healing Temple. After confession, purification and other means of inducing healing dreams, the patient was allowed to sleep on the Kline or divine couch for the healing dream. When the Priests awakened the dreamer to share the dream, there was no interpretation or analysis offered; the priests only looked for signs that the god had indeed visited the dream. If so, healing was assumed. The success of this paradigm was attested by the Priests of hundreds of Asklepian Temples. These Temples proliferated throughout the Greek and Roman Empires. Hundreds of thousands of documented instances of profound healings were recorded by the supplicants and stored in the Temples' Archives.

 Modern research, too. has revealed the healing nature of dreams. Experiments have shown that when people are deprived of dream time, even though allowed sleep, after about a week, hallucinations and mental/emotional problems begin to appear. Within a couple of weeks, the immune system weakens and there is greater proneness to illness and fatigue. Even an unremembered dream heals; we need dream activity during the night to heal the day's traumas. The power of dreams is not limited to just this.

 Dreams are altered states of consciousness in which we transcend space and time as we know them, states in which such phenomena as clairvoyance and prognostication occur. These phenomena cannot be explained by linear cause and effect, they are consistent with Quantum Physics and Chaos Theory. Deep healing is a sensory phenomenon and so are dreams. Our senses let us know when we are sick. Senses show us we are well. Mind and intellect can't do it. A dream begins as unstructured or chaotic consciousness energy (creative potential) that becomes shaped by the deeper consciousness structures that exist deep within the psyche. As this energy filters to the surface its shape is in turn further refined and shaped by the structures in the mind and ego until it appears as the remembered dream. But just as it is these consciousness structures of the psyche and mind that shape the essence of our character and personality and indeed also somatic essences, the shape and content of the remembered dream, too, is determined by these consciousness structures. Since the roots of all disease, both somatic and mental-emotional reside in these deeper structures, they influence the shape of the dream which is in essence a map of the self. But, the map is not the territory. Reading a map does not get us anywhere! We have to enter into the territory to experience it. So to identify the surface manifestations of the disease structure in the dream, and follow the sensory path that leads to the roots is to come face to face with the essence of disease. One step further and we return to the unstructured or chaotic consciousness that precedes all structures. Some might call this spirit or soul, or perhaps even God. Dissolution into the chaos brings new and healed structure into being. This is the realm of matter-energy-consciousness and is the domain of quantum reality and chaos theory; the realm in which reality is recreated from moment to moment and all possibility exists simultaneously. It is here, in this state, that healing occurs. And it is in our dreams.

 Graywolf is Founder of Aesculapia Wilderness Retreat in Grants Pass, Oregon, P.O. Box 301, Wilderville, OR 97543 (541) 476-0492

Dream Network, A Journal Exploring Dreams & Myth "Encouraging Individual & Cultural Appreciation for the Value of Dreams" Roberta Ossana, Publisher/Editor 1337 Powerhouse Lane, Suite 22/PO Box 1026 Moab, UT 84532 Phone 435/259-5936 Voice Mail/Subscriptions: 800/861-3732 Email: DreamKey@lasal.net Website: http://dreamnetwork.net
 Your Letters, Questions and Submission of Articles, Poetry and Art are Invited and Welcome