Mara Schaeffer's Posts (1)

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Dealing with Resistance to Dream Work

 “I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to do my inner work but that I’ve had to make myself do it. I may have to make myself get up and leave it a little bit later, I get so interested. The resistance is always there. Don’t pay any notice. Just go do it!” -Robert Johnson*


      I’ve kept a dream diary for forty-eight years, but most days I still find I have a great resistance to waking up and writing down the images that appear in my dreams each night. It occurred to me that my emotions go through Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief when a dream jars me from a deep and restful sleep with its bizarre flow of images. Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.


      My sleepy first reaction is just to want to go back to sleep and catch a little more rest. I devalue and belittle the dream: “This is the most silly collection of images I can imagine. They couldn’t possibly have any significance. Writing them down is a complete waste of good sleep time that my body needs to face the challenges of the day. These images are all nonsense.”


      Then I start feeling angry at being awaken. “What a bunch of crap! These images make no sense. The Dream Maker is wasting my time with this hodgepodge of stuff that couldn’t possibly have any significance in my life. All I want to do is go back to sleep and not be bothered. I really don’t want to do this!”


      I find I can negotiate with the Dream Maker when immediate waking chores need to be met. I’ll write down the flow of events and images in an abbreviated form on a yellow sticky, sitting on the toilet if necessary. I tell the Dream Maker that doing anything more is going to have to wait until after I feed the cat and make my morning coffee. If I try to ignore my cat’s breakfast, he will type out his own profundities jumping on the keyboard until I feed him. After doing the necessary, I take the sticky and type out my dream in full on my computer. I then format it putting the words into a column on the left and work with the images within the column on the right. More negotiating is needed during periods in my life when long and difficult dreams keep waking me up repeatedly during the night. Then it’s possible to tell the Dream Maker: “Please let me get some sleep and I promise I’ll deal with all this in the morning.” This promise must be kept or the disturbances will continue.  


      I remember Goethe’s quote “No one is a hero to their butler” as I type out the dream in full from the yellow sticky. I feel sad. Some of the images are so raw, brutal, explicit, disgusting, even terrifying at times. Is this what is really going on in my relationship to these issues? I thought I was handling them so well, but the Dream Maker is showing me all the failings and flaws in what I was doing. Horrors! After all these years, I still have so much work to do.


      As I take each image, one by one, and work with it, adding the woof threads of meaning and understanding to the warp of the strange figures, the fabric and pattern of the dream is revealed. It never fails to astonish me with its specificity and profundity. The Dream Maker’s choice of images is perfect. I thought my understanding of these issues was fairly clear, but something else entirely was at work here that I missed completely and needed to know.  Not only are there images of mistakes, shortcomings and failure. Images of hope and new possibilities are there as well. They suggest a fresh way of working with people and events in my life that will lead to much more success and satisfaction in the future. What a treasure!

      I feel a deep gratitude to my therapists and teachers over the years who were so patient in showing me this sacred language and its translation. It was a great investment in time, effort and money, but every day my dreams reminded how much it was worth it. Most of all, I am thankful and in awe of the Dream Maker. Other people may call It the Self, the Objective Psyche, the Greater Personality, or the Guru within. Whatever name is used, It has brought me years of visual communications and teachings, perfectly selected and placed to stir me up and get me moving in the direction I was meant to go all along. In spite of my intense resistance, the surety of this emotional paycheck of increased self realization concluding my morning dream work has kept me waking up for almost five decades on task for what feels like the most important job of my life.


*”Exploring Dreams” Recorded Conference at Journey into Wholeness, 1990 

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