What your unconscious wants you to know is not often discovered from the perspective of the personal ego. The entire dream is our creation but often we don’t relate to the “bad guy” or the “monster” or the “beautiful tree” from deep inside these figures. Through a slowly evoked visualization, I lead dreamers into discovering an “Ah Ha!” moment, which has not been available to their conscious mind.
Some people write their dreams in shorthand, think about them for a time, look up references in symbol dictionaries and make uncertain guesses about meaning. This can be a valuable method but it works intellectually rather than intuitively. Since dreams come from the unconscious, we need to use the right side of the brain, where reverie and dreams occur. With Image Work, we access the unconscious easily in a Theta brain state. By closing our eyes and moving gradually, we revisit the dream imaginatively, embody and explore the feelings of the other people, strange objects, varying emotional atmospheres and landscapes. This process takes the better part of an hour.
It’s important to move slowly and make conscious all the emotions that the ego has projected onto the other figures. We are multi-dimensional creatures and have many subjective selves our ego doesn’t make available for us to know. As we move in the imaginative action, memories surface and associations may come in. Often the dreamer will want to tell his or her “story” and as a guide, I have to carefully move them out of their heads deeper into the image.
The ego naturally resists losing control but by climbing out of the ego and into the figures that the ego finds alien, the whole point of view shifts. In a question and answer format, the dream becomes a conversation that allows the meaning to unravel in a non-intellectual, non-analytical manner through the ego-alien aspects of the unconscious images.
Often we are able to recognize, own and integrate the image that a moment before was totally other. This allows us to release the energy that was trapped in the complex of that projection.
Whether it is a negative or positive image, these designations are subjective—dreams just are what they are—and we’re better off not judging them. We have dreams where our power, our hidden talents, our numinous potential are all projected onto other figures and objects. When we realize they are part of us, we can move in and claim them, make them conscious elements of our lives and make choices and changes for the better. More often we have dreams that show the sadder, less empowered, unsavory sides of ourselves because we easily repress these. Yet by making these conscious, we release the stuck energy that is holding us back.
Taking several different points of view in several directions we find deeper layers of meaning. We need only one fragment of a memory of a dream and yet that may be the repressed piece our consciousness has been missing.
Although I haven’t seen her in over 30 years, recently I dreamt of a high school friend nick-named Cookie. She was a magnanimous soul, always generous, loving and giving. In the dream it was her wedding day, and we were preparing for the wedding. I stood next to her in a bedroom as she tried on various hats and veils. The funny thing was each of the headpieces was topped with a live dove! We laughed and chattered together as we fitted them on her.
I called a colleague who also trained with me in Dream Image Work and asked her to lead me through the dream in the question/answer format. Though she is 1000 miles away, we are able to work by phone. I lay down and shut my eyes, breathing slowly into relaxation. I knew by describing Cookie’s personality that inside myself was an internalized Cookie, a person capable of her best characteristics. This is what Jungian psychologists call a positive shadow.
When I embodied Cookie and focused on my heart, I could feel the depth of her love. It so happens I am in a living situation with an ill mother and there are days I feel guilty that I am not doing enough for her. When I embodied Cookie, I could make the association and recognized the place in my life where I am truly giving my best. I hadn’t acknowledged that consciously before, always beating myself up a little in a helpless situation. During the process, I felt an expansion in my heart almost literally. It bathed my whole body in warmth.
When we began fitting the hairpieces, I felt how much I am juggling and changing roles in my present life. I am marketing my book, writing another book, growing my small business and rather passively looking for a life partner. Switching hats feels a lot like choices I have to make each day and hair and head often have to do with intellect and the thinking process. As a writer I can easily go bodiless, living entirely in my head. When I moved to my head, I actually felt my hair growing, which in turn felt like thinking. Hair has been associated with power as in the story of Samson and Delilah. But too many choices, too many roles to fill out leaves me feeling uncertain and insecure as I think myself around in circles.
My head felt confused and my thoughts, scattered. I needed to make this feeling conscious so that I could accept it and forgive myself for self-judging. I am doing a lot and so now I can consciously slow myself down when I am overwhelmed.
Finally, I embodied the doves, feeling their comfortable postures, their fluttering wings, their utter whiteness against the backdrop of a very blue sky, a sky I hadn’t even seen in the dream where we were indoors. But during the dream work the sky was now glowing numinously behind the doves. Suddenly I was able to feel reassured of my connections to Spirit. I felt my way into roundness, wholesomeness and the wholeness of these lovely birds.
This dream was what Jung might have called a “compensating” dream because outwardly, ego-wise, I had been feeling disconnected and alone. Doves do come in pairs and are symbolic of a loving process, a marriage, as well as Spirit writ large, as in The Holy Spirit of my Catholic upbringing. In A Course in Miracles, of which I am a fan and follower, The Holy Spirit is the messenger of miracles and it is to that spirit that we are instructed to appeal for help in changing our mind from the way we have been educated to believe in dark powers and a punishing godhead. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is feminine in the Gnostic tradition, and in several recent novels she has been portrayed that way. It is by the feminine powers of intuition that we are invited at this time in history to restore balance to the last 2000 years of our over-patriarchal culture. The 21st century is known to astrologers to be the beginning of a millennium of the feminine way of knowing. Predictions indicate that men will grow into balance with their feminine side and the feminine principle will be at work in the powers ruling the world. These changes will come slowly but like the Woman Clothed By The Sun in St. John’s Revelation, we are pregnant with the new earth and the new heaven on earth.
The idea that Cookie is about to wed could mean that I am closer to balancing my male and female energy and I felt the anticipation of a becoming worthy bride about to turn a corner in her life. The tangential meaning of being pregnant with myself is also relevant. (Moreover, the thought I might meet someone new was hopeful, sweet as a cookie is.) Dream images don’t just translate to one meaning. When we amplify them with associations and collective meaning we see the many levels of the dream.
By keeping my eyes closed and staying close to the images, locating them in my body, I inhabited all the layers of the dream. The indecisions of the hat/hair choices gave me pains in my head, but I could find self-forgiveness. I have been thinking too much. In contrast, the jovial conversation with Cookie, our laughing and joking, lightened up my head and moved my energy deeper down into my body, into my heart and belly. The bodies of the doves felt full and balanced, sure of themselves, their wings about to take flight. I felt a kind of promise, a potential for joy there and this had been a missing element in my life of late.
And, of course, the dove is a symbol of peace, as opposed to the hawk of war. I'm hoping peace of mind is coming to the scatterbrained aspect of myself.
Dream Image Work can bring the repressed energies to the surface and release them. We can say good riddance to the negative self-doubts and welcome the new potentialities with enthusiasm.

Author's Bio: 

Deborah DeNicola’s memoir "The Future That Brought Her Here" was recently released from Nicholas Hays/Ibis Press. A second full collection of poetry, Original Human, is is forthcoming in 2010 from WordTech Press. Deborah edited the anthology "Orpheus & Company; Contemporary Poems on Greek Mythology," from The University Press of New England. Previous books include "Where Divinity Begin"s from Alice James Books and three award winning chapbooks, most recently" Inside Light" from Finishing Line Press. Among other awards, Deborah has received an NEA Fellowship. She won The Packingtown Review’s Analytical Essay Award, and the Santa Barbara Poetry Contest in 2008 and is included in The Best of The Net 2008 Anthology. Her poetry is published widely in journals and online.