Dreamwork With Inmates: Looking Back on January & February 2019

In January the Dreamwork with Prisoners initiative continued to grow. Four more inmates began calling or writing letters bringing the number of active participants up to 14. In February, three more joined in so now there are 17 inmates calling from three separate jails or penitentiaries in Ontario – Maplehurst Correctional Complex, Toronto South Detention Center and Warksworth Institution.

The most remarkable day was the Saturday in January when seven people called. Many of them called two or three times so I spent 40-60 minutes with them. Each of them either had a new dream to share or wanted to continue talking about the issues brought up from dreams they shared earlier in the week. Issues range from working through childhood trauma & sexual abuse, having addiction issues, dealing with high degree of anger and violent inclinations, feeling a lot of disappointment after the holidays and dealing with strong feelings of guilt or remorse for the actions associated with their charges. Many of them either have court coming up or were just returning from court and were feeling discouraged with the lengthy trial process.

Interestingly, one inmate woke up one morning with the guards surprising him with the news that he had court that day. In court, the charges were dropped and he was released! Can you imagine that? Waking up one day in jail and going to bed that night at home in your own bed. This 27 year old spent 17 months behind bars only to be released with charges dropped. He was falsely accused of possession of firearm but there was never any evidence found to back up this accusation and it appeared to be a ruse from someone who was trying to get a lighter sentence by pointing fingers at someone else. In the end, there was never any evidence found to back up this charge and the inmate was released. Now comes the task of starting over and beginning a new life.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

In addition to the therapy work I do with the inmates, I also sometimes support them with legal matters. Several of them ask me to contact their lawyers regarding upcoming bail or court sessions and one asked me to contact the jail directly to advocate regarding a medical situation which requires attention. In December I did some media liaison work for a highly publicized case involving criminal charges pressed against a cop who shot an inmate. The inmate has recurring nightmares about the shooting and we are working through it together.

Many ask me to send texts or phone calls to their family members, their children, their spouses. I consider it a good trade – they share their dreams & I hook them up with their family. It’s a win-win. It brings me a lot of joy when I patch the call through to a family member and when they hear their loved one’s voice they squeal with happiness. Sometimes months or years go by before people speak to their family, especially when their family members are on limited budgets and can’t afford the long distance phone fees or the out-of-town travel expenses.

Since it was such an exciting month, which really marked a milestone in terms of volume of calls and the variety of ways I’m able to support the inmates I thought I’d share an update with those who have been showing encouraging support for this initiative. 

When I told one of the inmates, named Josh, that I’ve been sharing the work with others, telling them what I’m doing, and accepting donations to keep the work going he was really surprised. He said, “Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone in my life who would just hear about a project and then give money to support it. And to give money to help us out in jail? That’s amazing. You must really know some good people.”

I told him I do and I’m very grateful for the generous support of many friends who have encouraged this work since its inception in Fall 2018.

Going forward, I just plan to keep taking the calls, keep writing the letters, keep writing & posting about dreams, and keep an open mind about where things might lead. As Tom Petty says, “The future is wide open!”

Releasing Enthusiasm Part 2: Getting Over the Fear of Other People’s Anger

This is a great post. Today I’m thinking of the way it applies to people in domestic abuse situations and also those who are incarcerated. Keeping enthusiasm going in those dark places is really a notable challenge.

Dreams For Peace

I have a lot of natural calmness.  I think it was just one of those gifts that was placed in me when at the moment of my conception.   I don’t think it has a lot to do with genetics or environment.   It is what helps me do a lot of the inner dream work with people.     However,  I have recently had to come face to face with a negative calming aspect in myself that I am saying good by to.  This is the kind of forced inner calm to prevent other people’s anger.    I was fired three times in my education career, each time traumatic, and each time making me go to the forced calm as a kind of ego protection so that I wouldn’t be fired again.

What seems to happen internally which seems to be the common pattern is that I imagine  a big negative consequence is going…

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Inmate’s Dream About a Gang

January 15, 2019

Last week an inmate shared a dream with me. He’s given me permission to publish it here.

I was in jail and the exit here is different, there are two gates, you go in one set of gates and then it closes behind you and then the next one opens and you go out. But in my dream both gates were open and I was standing there and then this group of people dressed in black, with masked faces, carrying guns shows up and they tell us to come with them, that they are breaking us out. I get really suspicious and I think they are not “real” gangsters but they are advocates and they are not going to get away with what they are planning so I don’t trust them. “They are not real gangsters” I keep telling myself. So I go to the COs [Correction Officers] and try to tell them what’s going on and I start shouting at the other inmates that it’s a trap and don’t go with them. I feel like whoever goes with the advocates is going to get caught and get extra charges and I don’t want more charges so I’m not going and I don’t want other people to go either.

The really interesting thing about this dream is that the dreamer has the belief that real gangsters could get him out of jail but advocates couldn’t. He even breaks “the code” of silence by going to the COs to alert them of the breach, meaning the advocates are not even worthy of his association or his support. This is a common belief in the world, where people have become accustomed to using power to get their own way and they don’t care who they hurt in the meantime. People can use a “gangster” attitude when they are trying to get what they want, even if they are white-collar leaders of a business or CEO of a corporation or principal of a school. The gangster attitude is about using powers of force and powers of numbers and powers of deception to get what they want which usually has something to do with getting large amounts of money, falsely presuming that money brings freedom in one way or another.

I find the metaphor of advocates here very intriguing. Advocates use many approaches to get the job done but essentially they are trying to go for change. They recognize an injustice and they plan some sort of method to get their change. Whether they try to achieve their aim by shooting down old out-dated models of education, rehabilitation, or social structures or try to achieve their goal by building up something new like building a new school or constructing a new court system or creating a new non-profit social enterprise.

The similarities between a group of anonymous activists and a group of masked gangsters are numerous. For one, they both have a collective vision of what they want to accomplish. Secondly, they are willing to take huge risks to strive for the goal they want. Thirdly, they accumulate power and momentum for their vision by attracting other like-minded people. Fourth, they are often willing to stop at nothing to actualize their goal.

The biggest difference, of course, is that gangsters are willing to completely ignore the law and advocates tend to try to change the law. Both groups are unhappy with the social structure, per say, and are willing to disregard it from one degree or another but the actions gangsters take tend to be quite illegal and even immoral, while the actions most advocates take tend to be more high-minded and within the bounds of commonly held moral or legal guidelines.

Why then would a dreamer trust gangsters more than advocates? What is the quality which is opening up within him? When he figures out the answer to this it will feel as though he is being released from jail, being released from an inner jail of fear.

The virtue and skill which advocates have which gangsters don’t have is Patience. Gangsters use power, authority and fear to control situations to get what they want quickly and with a lot of convenience, with guns or whatever. Advocates are usually patient in their approach and they may take a long time, months or years to achieve their goal. It’s not convenient but pays off in the long run.

This means the dreamer is working on developing Patience, doing things which take a long time to achieve, doing things which aren’t at all convenient but which get the job done without using fear or power to control others or situations. Patience is opening up to the dreamer now but because of past experiences when he tried to be patient with people and got hurt, he’s having trouble trusting the motives of people even when they have the same goal as him – getting out of jail.

Remember in a dream jail is a metaphor for being “trapped” in a condition of fear and being released from jail in a dream is a symbol for being released from an inner condition of fear. When the challenges are worked through, then a lot of positives can open up like Courage, Patience, and Determination.

In real life, when situations and opportunities for growth and change appear to the dreamer, he becomes afraid that he’s being trapped and so rather than go for the change he goes for protection, most likely because of experiences in childhood where it wasn’t safe to go for growth & change. In time, with a small bit of work on the issue daily then the dreamer will come to find he has a lot of Courage and Determination to see his plans through to the end.


My Dream of a Cupcake & Jail

January 15, 2019

In the dream, I’m traveling with a friend who used to be in jail, J. H.  The flight was spontaneous; the destination was the Middle East, to go on a pilgrimage of sorts. When we arrive, airline clerks tell my friend that there is an issue with his passport and they tell him he has to go to “the hole” for a few hours until the issue is cleared up. So armed guards escort him to a small, window-less 5×8 cell with cold cement walls and a small opening in the door with bars in the window. I’m allowed to talk with him thru the small opening in the door. While he’s in there, I go to a nearby shop and am looking for a cupcake for him but what I find is a shelf with a bunch of muffins and I say it’s good enough. I want to put a toothpick in the top with a sign that says something like, “All my Love.” But I can’t find anything to write on or with. Eventually, they let him out and I’m told he’s in my care now. When I look at my passport I discover his name is included in the photo section and it indicates he’s been “in the hole.” This disturbs me because it means whenever I travel now the authorities will identify me as someone who has either been in the hole or who has accompanied someone who has been in the hole. But I shrug at my friend and say it’s okay. Then we look around and are considering where do we go next.