Working with dreams: depth psychology vs inquiry

 

In my teens and early twenties, I explored dreams through depth psychology, partly through active imagination (my favorite) and partly through more conventional interpretation. If I go back into the dream, recreate it for myself and interact with the different beings and situations, what do I find? What do they tell me? (Active imagination.) If I see all the different parts of the dream as parts of myself, and look at their characteristics, relationships and dynamics, what does it tell me about me?

Later, I explored dreams through Process Work, a more recent version of depth psychology.

And even more recently, I started exploring dreams through inquiry. What beliefs does the dream bring to the surface? What are my stressful stories about the situation, the different beings, and what has happened or may happen? What do I find when I inquire into these stories?

As I explore inquiry and dreams, I see it aligns with and complements the depth psychology approach.

Let’s take the dream of the old car as an example.

From a (very simple) depth psychology perspective, I see that the old car may represent how I see my body. It’s perhaps not very old, but it’s functioning as an old car, in my view, and it’s running on coal, a not very efficient energy source. Even worse, it’s running out of coal so there are only a few wood chips left for fuel. All of this shows me how I see my body now with health challenges such as the cf. In the dream, I am not in the driver’s seat, which also reflects my experience about the body. And I ask friends for more coal, but don’t wait for them. I sometimes don’t allow myself the help others can and would like to offer me. All of this makes sense, and it gives me some directions for my daily life. I can find ways to upgrade this car and it’s fuel source, to be more in the driver’s seat in terms of my health and body, and allow myself the support others are willing to give me.

From an inquiry perspective, some beliefs are right there in the dream: The driver wants us to move on before the coal arrives. The driver will be upset if I suggest we wait. It’s important we finish the race. This car is the only one available for us. In this example, these thoughts may seem a bit trivial and specific to the dream, and yet, my experience is that these types of thoughts show up in many situations in life. By finding clarity on them in this situation, something may shift in other areas of life.

Some beliefs also come out of the depth psychology view: My body is in charge. My body runs the show. My body is not functioning as I want. My body is not supporting me. My health prevents me from living a good life. My health is not good. People around me don’t want to help me. They see me as a burden. Life is a race. Life has a goal. 

Another example is the hunted down dream.

Here, I clearly feel hunted – and about to be hunted down – by aspects of myself, by shadow(y) characters. And I escape to the top floor of a tall building, often seen as the head or thinking. I certainly notice that tendency in myself. When bubbles of confusion surface and it feels overwhelming, I sometimes seek comfort and safety in thoughts (internet, science news, writing on this blog) rather than opening to the experience, and write down and inquire into thoughts behind the confusion.

I can also find beliefs here: Something terrible will happen. It’s safer to escape. It’s easier to escape. It’s more comfortable to avoid it. Prison is terrible. It’s terrible to lose my identity. In this case, even without the depth psychology interpretation, the thoughts fits the dream and also the depth psychology interpretation. For instance, I see opening to the wound and inquiring into stories behind it as a prison, as confining, as something terrible. Finding clarity on my thoughts about getting caught and put in prison may – to some extent or completely – translate to that and other areas of my life, anywhere where I feel I need to run away from something.

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