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The Mission of Healing With Dreamwork is to take what people think of as dream interpretation to a deeper level of transformation
Info about Dreamwork With Prisoners is also available online at this link.
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It brings me joy to share details of the new dreamwork initiative launched in jails across Ontario. This email aims to answer some questions, shed some light on the scope of the project, and invite people to get involved in anyway they wish.
Throughout 2014 – 2018, I began exploring dream metaphors of jails, cops, detectives and solving crimes. I was also living in a city formally known as “The Murder Capital of Canada” and while there was researching and writing to expose the components within environments which breed criminal behaviour, especially crimes against children and women.
In 2018, I started hearing dreams from inmates at Maplehurst Correctional Complex and giving interpretations. The idea with the way I do dreamwork is to take what people usually think of as dream interpretation to a deeper level with a focus on transformation. In the past year, more than 22 inmates have shared their dreams and together we walked through some of the biggest issues from the dream, usually related to strong negative emotions such as fear, anger or disappointment. This innovative approach seeks to identify skills, capacities and strengths in the dreamer so that he can use these strengths to solve the complex challenges facing him in daily life.
One Saturday in January seven people called; many of them called two or three times so I had several 40-60 minute sessions. Each of the inmates 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, issues with addiction, struggling with anger, post-holiday disappointment and working 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.
In addition to the therapy work, I also support them with legal matters occasionally. I’ve mediated discussions with lawyers and advocated during a couple medical emergencies. In December, I acted as a media liaison 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 the dreams reveal tremendous strength and capacity. Often times, inmates ask me to send texts or phone calls to their family members, their children, their spouses. I like to think that these connections help to strengthen relationships during the incarceration of their loved one and helps ease the strain of the cold institutional setting just a wee bit. It’s a bit like a ray of sunshine after a storm.
Metaphors have always interested me. For as long as I can remember, when I watched a movie or listened to favourite songs, I would consider the storyline a metaphor and think about how the message of the metaphor offered a solution for change. In Grade 9 English Literature class I learned that the best stories (and metaphors) always include a serious conflict which the protagonist faces and overcomes. Conflict in literature can always be grouped into three categories: 1) Human vs Nature … this would be stories with people who face terrible environmental challenges such as blizzards, floods, tsunamis, fires, earthquakes, etc. 2) Human vs Human … which is when one human sets out to threaten, attack, kill or destroy the life or property of another human such as in war, abuse, robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder, etc. 3) Human vs Self … the most challenging conflict of all, when a human being is faced with the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenge of confronting their own inner issues with fear, anger, jealousy, or grief.
The actions people take when they are confronting their own “inner demons”, as we say, can lead them to ascend and transform themselves and the problem or it can lead them to the lowest places of abasement and even death. We allow ourselves to break when we allow the conflict around us or within us to destroy our enthusiasm for moving forward in life. We “break” or “get broken” when we allow ourselves to believe that we do not have the skills or resources to overcome the battle.
In the past 10 years as I’ve been working through dreams and nightmares, my own and others, I’ve been walking through some of the most challenging issues where people are confronting their own painful & traumatic memories of horrors they have faced or confronting their own terrifying visions of a negative future. When a human being is in conflict with their own Self, it means their True Self, the highest and most capable part of themselves, is trying to aspire to some positive goal or vision for their life but they are blocked by some deep-seeded fear or rooted anger which prevents them from getting to where they want to go in day-to-day life. When someone can look their fear in the face and confront it, learn the lesson and transcend the challenge then they transform and change. In literature we call this type of character a Dynamic one. They overcome something huge within themselves and then they behave somehow very differently at the end of the story than they did at the beginning. These are usually the characters we call heroes or heroines and we love them for their amazing gifts, capacities, virtues and abilities.
When the person faces an inner challenge within themselves and do not take the lesson or change, then they often fall into pits of despair, or take negative actions based on fear, or do immoral or illegal actions for revenge from their anger. In the worst case scenario, this often leads to patterns of addiction, mental or physical health issues, or even criminal activities. Often times, when a character behaves like this in story, they are unlikable. They may have anti-social tendencies; they may be narcissistic and self-centered in their actions; they may be rude and disrespectful with their words. Sometimes, these types of characters learn to love their negative ways and the power it wields them, since they learn to use their negatives to intentionally harm others. These characters do not want to change. They don’t want to change themselves and they resist change in their own environment. Taken to the extreme, it can be described that these characters are so immersed in their own ego that they are willing to stop at nothing to protect what they see belongs to them. They are the ones who end up causing the conflict for other humans in their families, schools and workplaces which we looked at in point #2.
When a character in a story does not change and they are behaving in the same way at the end of the story as they were in the beginning then they are said to be a Static character. You can see from this example that it is possible for a person to change for the worse, meaning they could begin the story acting like an addict and by the end of the story be an addict willing to kill to get money to feed his addiction. This would not be a Dynamic character because in truth, he has not changed internally. He lost the battle with himself and his actions are merely more of the same, just amplified.
In stories – whether the plot comes from a movie, a song or a dream – there are Dynamic characters and Static ones. Often times, a good writer will use the negatives in a Static character to highlight the positives in the Dynamic character and that’s how their heroism emerges in the end. The best of stories has a protagonist at the beginning who has a huge fear (perhaps caused by the negative action of an unchanging person filled with ego) and they confront their inner fear, then take positive action to move forward towards their goals and those goals or visions create an uplifting environment for their family, workplace or community. This is how they put the pieces back together, restore their strength, and go for their goals.
I’m working on a book which explores these dynamics of change in more depth, using the metaphors of jail to examine the way ego traps people in patterns which don’t change and keeps them static instead of moving upwards. I’m also exploring dreams from people who are currently serving time in jail because sometimes the dreams of these so-called “criminals” show more potential for growth and change then people who call themselves “upstanding citizens.”
The book explores how a person who is stuck in a static, non-changing, and negative pattern can try to break the spirit of someone they are interacting with in family or work situations. A Dynamic person who is willing to change can take a good & close look at the broken pieces of their lives and use their skills, talents, virtues & natural gifts to put those broken pieces back together. That is how things change & transform for the better.
More on this topic is coming soon.
Take a look at the sections on Dreamwork With Prisoners to learn more about the work and contact me by email if you are interested in supporting the initiative. Financial donations are always welcomed and money is used for postage costs & collect calls from the jail as inmates can only make collect calls. There are also opportunities for volunteers open to writing to inmates to offer encouragement in moving forward in their lives. Message me for more information and watch this site for more details as they emerge.
A prisoner shared a dream about being in a house looking for his wife and he found her in a bedroom sleeping with another man. This dream brings to mind some key principles of the Dreamwork/Changework process.
A house in a dream is a metaphor for the Self.
Human beings have a Higher part of themselves and a lower part, characterized by positive virtues & qualities which uplift themselves and others or negative fears & behaviours which hurt themselves or others.
Dreams reveal unconscious fears which are controlling the individual.
If fears have been allowed to unconsciously develop for the lifetime of an individual then they may become imprisoned within their own “lower self.”
When an individual is imprisoned within their own lower nature (caged in with fears, anxieties, jealousies, rages, etc) they may be hurting themselves and/or others often.
Individuals imprisoned in their own fears can be living inside of a jail OR living in their own house. All human beings everywhere deal with this fundamental truth of human experience.
When someone identifies their unconscious issues (fears & anxieties for example) and learns new skills they can cut themselves free from the fear and then live more fully in their Positive Self.
When someone identifies their anxieties and learns to repeat their gifts & talents more regularly they free themselves from the images which box them in and they can live in their Positive Self more fully.
When someone in jail dreams of a house and the dream is positive then the dream is giving a message about how the prisoner can move forward practicing their strengths to face what is happening in their lives and to change things for the better.
When someone in jail dreams of a house and the dream is negative then the dream is giving a message about how the prisoner can let go of the old and flip the negatives to positives.
When someone who has never gone to jail dreams of being in jail it means they need to get the message that they are imprisoning themselves in negative memories, thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They need to do some serious work to break free from the negative past.
The positive parts of dreams reveal positive qualities, traits, skills & talents in the dreamer. These positive qualities can be used to solve the negatives.
Whenever a dream comes with a lot of fear or negatives in it, like what some people might call nightmares, the solution is to become friends with the fear, notice it, become aware of it, embrace it.
When we can embrace our deepest fears and use our strongest qualities to face the fears then, in time, with daily practice, the fear can be nearly entirely eliminated.
The inner transformation always happens in the pattern – There are inherited, learned and innate qualities and they develop in order (described in section ??)
When an individual is growing new skills & capacities, healing from past trauma, and moving forward towards their goals, ambitions, and bright future the process affects them first, then their family, then their community.
COMING SOON: A New Dreamwork Book “Dreams From the Box ~ Exploring Transformation With Jail Metaphors”
To support this on-going initiative with inmates please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This dream is from back in 2011ish but the interpretation is still so meaningful even today!
My daughter and I were at an amusement park and were going down to see the whale show. The bleachers were set up beside the ocean. We go down there and there are 3 orca whales that are interacting with the people in the front row. They are playful and beautiful. So magestic. Grace comes down and is in a great mood then she just jumps right into the water. I’m not concerned at first. I know she can swim. But then instead of coming up to me she swims farther into where the whales are swimming and even past them. A lifeguard jumps out to get her. The whole audience is hushed as they wait. The lifeguard gets her and brings her back. She had swam very deep and very far away. Never coming up for air but not appearing to struggle. I hold her and hug her and say ‘Oh my girl. I love you so much. You scared me.” She doesn’t understand what the big deal was. I don’t know what to tell her.
(In the time when the lifeguard is swimming out to her and the audience is hushed I am feeling ashamed that she just jumped like that and I didn’t protect her. I feel that the audience is judging me and that it appears she doesn’t respect me.)
Thank you Richard.
It is nice to hear from you. In the first dream you can think of yourself as your daughter, while in the second dream you can think of your daughter being you and it being her.
In the first dream [which appears in the e-book but not here in this short blog post] you (as your daughter’s age) want to speak, but you as the mother want to her stop in a violent way. So you can say that you are violent with yourself from speaking out more probably in a positive way about the big dreams you have and the things you want to do. The second dream is clearer about it. You have 3 big dreams(goals in your life) which are symbolized by the 3 Orcas and at first you can just dive into to achieve them, but then you get fearful of going too deep and too far and begin to panic so you send out the rescue to get yourself back to where you are right now.
The way you are raising your daughter and leading your life is allowing her and you to have big dreams and to go for them but you are fearful of going too deep and too far so then you do everything you can to stop them even being violent as in the first dream. The fear began at the current age your daughter is (age 6ish) and that is why you are violent to shut it down because you are so fearful that something bad is going to happen to her because something bad happened to you at that age.
So you can say that you are doing a wonderful job raising your daughter and that is leading her and you to be able to have big dreams and aspirations, but there is a fear that something bad is going to happen that keeps you from going after the bigger things and thus encouraging her to bigger things.
As soon as you address the fear you can be thinking much larger about your life.
The key to changing is being able to understand the biggest mess in your life, identifying the origin and bringing in a new positive quality to solve the challenge. There is a positive solution to every single problem which can be created in this beautiful world of ours. Whenever a challenge shows up there is always a quality or characteristic within you that can solve the challenge. Always. You can count on it.
The work comes in when its time to look at some things which are negative and being able to have a lot of Patience and Peacefulness about it. Knowing that the outcome will be positive sometimes helps to replace any anxieties with these more calming qualities.
Here is a step-by-step approach to working with a metaphor. Ask your Self:
What is the biggest mess/challenge in my life right now?
When did it start? When is the first time I remember a mess like this happening?
What quality or virtue can help me solve this? Do I need Patience? Justice? Courage? Enthusiasm.
The answers to these questions are the starting point to launching your new life and solving every challenge you face.