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Dreaming into the Body

Dream interpretation can be a cerebral joy ride. Yet reveling in intellectual understanding of your inner world is like hanging on to a treasure map—the gold still waits to be found. Want to unearth the real wealth? Look to the body, as well as the mind. Emotions are energy. When energy arises, but we don’t express it—whether it is grief, anger, or humiliation—it stays in our bodies until we let it out. Feelings may be buried for years—a whole lifetime, even. And if they are not released, they can emerge as illness, chronic pain, or dysfunctional behavior patterns. And, yes, stuck emotions often come out in our dreams, too: The marauder, murderer, starving child, wild tiger come to speak to us about our repressed rage and sadness.

How do we help ourselves express the feelings that these imaginal figures carry? Sometimes just talking about our dream images with a safe person helps. There are also specific therapies that unwind knotted up energy by bringing body and image together. For example, Arnold Mindell’s Process Work employs a variety of techniques to help dreamers integrate their imaginal and physical worlds. A Process Work practitioner may ask the dreamer to find the most compelling character in her dream, and then inquire where the image “lives” in her body. “Where in your body do you feel the tiger? How is the tiger moving? What kind of sounds is he making?” a practitioner may query. Some find sandplay therapy helps them access long-held pain. A Jungian process, sandplay involves exploring repressed experiences through arranging figurines and other objects in a small sandbox. It sounds simple, even child-like, but using your hands to arrange concrete representations of psychic images can yield profound psychological healing. There are many other body-centered therapies that, while not dream oriented, are nonetheless transformative. Here are a few: Hakomi, Somatic Experiencing, Brainspotting, EMDR, and Rubenfeld Synergy Method. It is advisable to find a trained professional counselor, and not just a massage therapist or other healing arts practitioner, who practices these or any of the other techniques I have mentioned. Once you find a qualified guide, the rest is up to you, your imaginal world, and your body. You are the ultimate source of your own growth. Your dreams bring you sacred clues that, used in combination with focused attention on your body, can help illuminate your darkest places, doctor your deepest wounds.

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