Recently my father told me a funny little story: I was roughly five years old and my mother walked into my room. I was lying on my foldable setee (or sofa if you’re posh!), looking very intently at the ceiling. While I was completely engrossed in my thoughts, my mum asked me “Would you like a cup of tea or an apple?” or something along the lines of what mothers say. I replied “Don’t interrupt me! I’m dreaming.” My mother’s jaw dropped and she swiftly left, not really knowing what to say. I wouldn’t know either…. Well, it’s rather clear that I was a cheeky little kid that wanted things his own way. Or perhaps that there are plenty of kids out there in the world that explore another side of life without really knowing the worth of what they are doing. And yet, when we grow up, we get educated out of creativity and we lose touch with this five-year old kid in us who did not suffer mental blocks of angst and came up with new ideas at the speed of light.
Many people come to see a coach or a therapist because their life seems to lack passion, direction or spice. They have an intuitive sense that something is missing, that there is (well, there should be!) more to the mundane. Recently, I read a few chapters about altered states of consciousness, for example hypnosis or coma. Arny Mindell says that everyday reality is one of the most hypnotising of states, as it wears us down and makes us forget why we are alive. Societies suffer a mild form of depression because people marginalise dreaming and they only identify with their reality at hand, forgetting about deeper matters, such as passion, love and dedication to what they really hold dear. Dreaming is an essential part of your mental health, whether you’re thinking about running another project or whether you’re facing some tough circumstances. If you forget to dream, you will wither away and shrink. But what is dreaming exactly and how do we get in touch with it? Let’s bring some Process Orientated Psychology that distinguishes three levels of experience:
- consensual reality – this is who you are in everyday life;
- dreamland – these are your dreams, fairy tales (with good guys chasing bad guys) and symbols, as well as your deepest desires, hopes and fears;
- dreaming (or essence) – this is a very deep sense of connection with the universe that you might sense through your body, your altered and sleepy states… as well as the movements of nature or the wordless essence (Tao) of your felt experiences.
Every experience can be felt at different levels. For example, when I worked with children excluded from school, there was one fourteen year old girl who insisted she wanted to have a pink princess cake for her birthday. She was very much neglected and her mother suffered from poor mental health. In consensual reality, she was perceived as a disturbed teenager who did not fit into society (well, yes, she did throw chairs and could not sit still for more than three minutes…). In dreamland, she was a princess, she wanted someone to come on a white horse and show her that she was a beautiful human being worthy of love and appreciation… At the level of dreaming, well, we all want to be safe and protected from harm. We share the desire to avoid suffering, we want to be a prince or princess that will never be harmed. The need for protection is universal…. Thus, alleviating distress and reducing harm was the essence of my experience with this girl. The theme was picked up (unconsciously of course!) by my tutor group and for my 30th birthday… I got a princess cake! Dreaming belongs to everyone, it is shared and everyone can tap into it.
So, what’s in it for you? You can become an intent observer of the dreaming around you that happens as you are sitting somewhere and reading this post. Your body is telling you a story with subtle feelings and signals, that you may or may not want to sense. There are events and people around you that together invite you to dream. To be honest, many posts on this blog emerge from other people – I listen and I follow what happens in front of me. My family, my friends and my clients say or do various things that inspire me to write. This process is shared for everyone, it belongs to you as much as it belongs to me. I am not an exception… I observe with an intention to capture what might be marginalised. In a way, creativity and the spice of life lies in front of you.
If you’re wondering how to put this into practice, you can ask yourself for instance:
- Are there any tiny things around me that seem interesting (e.g. shoelaces…)?
- If I slow down, are there any subtle signals in my body (e.g. tingling)?
- What new ideas emerge as I listen to my body (e.g. is the tingling trying to force me to write another post…?)
- Are there any tunes on the radio that I particularly enjoy (e.g. Despacito – joking!)?
- Who would I become as a fairy tale character (e.g. Indiana Jones for me)
- What do your body symptoms teach you about yourself (e.g. a sore throat reminding you that your voice IS important and NEEDS to be listened to)?
In a nutshell, we all have some sense that there is more to life than the ordinary chores of day-to-day living. Of course, these chores are also incredibly important! Dreaming can help us to deal with the challenges of the mundane. The challenge is, according to Eric Berne, “To turn every hour of your life into a work of art“. Dreaming will help you to move towards that.