A Dream Fragment
“He is in a prisoner-of-war camp with rows of wooden huts on stilts. There are high wire perimeter fences. He needs to get out of the prison, to escape. He is at the entrance to a tunnel under one hut. He removes bags of soil and disperses the soil to hide it from view. He is aware that outside each perimeter fence there is another and another in an endless replication like the ripples from a stone in a lake. How long should the tunnel be? Where should it emerge to escape the perimeter fences? It seems a hopeless task.”
On Friday evening at 7.30 ‘o’clock it is cold and dark. I can think of other things to do, warmer, familiar, more comfortable things than attend a workshop this evening. I know Rathmines but where is Charleville Road? I stopped, parked the car and inquired in a pub. By trial and error I discover that St Louis High School has two entrances, one for the convent and one for the school. I find the school entrance. Three people are talking in the reception area and from their conversation I know I am in the right place. Up three flights of stairs down a corridor and into a big library room with a wide circle of chairs. Those already there greet one gently and warmly. Slowly the other participants arrive, some have a greeting style and I see a pattern.
The group consists of trainees who are completing either certificate or diploma qualifications and others just interested in the workshop for its own sake. There is no attempt to make any distinction between both types of participant and this egalitarian approach enriches the entire workshop experience .
The theme of the workshop is Wakeful Dreaming. We learn how to work with dream fragments, daydreaming, drawings and addictions. The process steps are deceptively simple and omit the awareness and intuitive skills that facilitate the transition from consensus reality to dreamworld. The facilitator’s instructions for dream distillation are;
Who are you? What is going on in your life?
Tell a short dream fragment?
Pay attention to how the person tells the dream. What do they underline?
Pick the point that is exciting. Help the person get into the dream.
Feel free to experiment
Follow the person.
A skilled facilitator while carrying out a process exercise, implicitly demonstrates verbal and non-verbal pacing skills, recognises the client’s communication channels, detects small body movements and amplifies them, dramatises one or both extremes of a polarity and interprets dream symbols and relates them to the client’s life. Even without such sophisticated facilitation participants appear to succeed and achieve the level of insight appropriate to their own needs without being conscious of such a range of skills.
The facilitators are Leslie Heizer and Sonja Straub. Sonja and Leslie are a double act; tough, gentle, extrovert, introvert, lead, support, European, American, Thelma and Louise. They look and talk to each other a lot.
A skilled facilitator while carrying out process exercise implicitly demonstrates, verbal and non – verbal pacing skills, recognises the client’s communication channels, detects small body movements and amplifies them, dramatises one or both extremes of a polarity and interprets dream symbols and relates them to the client’s life. It’s wonderful to observe the acute process awareness of, I suspect, some of the more advanced trainees who can be aware of their own process with minimum facilitation and to admire how expertly the facilitators use minimal interventions. Those who are less trained in process awareness are guided expertly through a sequence to arrive at a spiritual plateau that they had been searching for but up till now had been unable to access directly. My overall impression at the end of the workshop is increased process awareness, new ways to bring movement and bodywork into therapy, a release of creativity and a lightness of being.
Process-oriented psychology extends the Jungian concept of the unconscious and the methods of Gestalt practice.
Essentially our job is to become aware of how we and others perceive things. When we help these perceptions unfold, creating fluid processes where static states previously reigned, unexpected discoveries and enrichment follow.
It is one of the new transpersonal psychologies bringing together spiritual practices with Western psychological methods. It is based on the assumption that the solution to a problem is contained within the disturbance itself and that dreams and dreamlike processes are a means of transforming problems into solutions. The development of process-oriented psychology began in Zurich in the early 1970’s when Arny Mindell expanded some of Jungs ideas to bring movement and bodywork into his work Soon Arny and Arny Mindell added relationship and signal (communication) theory to dream and bodywork. They further began to explore yoga and meditation and to work with people in altered states of consciousness. Today process-oriented psychology extends to group work and recently Arny Mindell held a workshop in Dublin on conflict-resolution, which inspired some of the participants to be at this workshop.
Process-oriented psychology is itself a process and is therefore changing all the time. It is at ease with two difficult areas; change and the unknown. Sonja and Leslie were quite at ease with acknowledging that they didn’t know what as going to happen next but they were supremely confident that something was going to happen next. By modelling this behaviour they paced nearly every participant’s anxiety, “What if I go blank and don’t know what to do when I go into the centre of the group?” Of course the process answer is be aware of the blankness and trust the process. In some ways process-oriented psychology has only awareness as a technique however it is eclectic about what is available to access or assist awareness, using whatever seems appropriate, Gestalt, Jungian psychology, Tao, Buddhism, NLP, Touch, Drama, Shamanism, to mention only those one became aware of during the workshop.
A Process Fragment
He is still at the entrance to the tunnel. Reluctantly he goes down into the tunnel. The tunnel-face is dark and rounded. Which way to dig, straight ahead, left or right? With no end to the perimeter fences above he despairs. Exhausted by the prospect of digging forever he curls up in the dark womb, the womb of death, not life. If he falls asleep he feels he will never wake up. He drifts into a reverie. He realises that there are no guards in the prisoner-of-war camp and no prisoners. Why not just cut the perimeter fences? It is so much easier than digging an endless tunnel. The perimeter fences are now just minor obstacles to be cut through with wire cutters. They offer little resistance. Suddenly it dawns on him which way to dig – straight up! He emerges from the tunnel into bright daylight and walks confidently towards the first fence. From now on he will stop doing things the hard way.
Process oriented psychology workshop and seminars are run about five times a year. While they are part of an ongoing training programme they are open to the public. The cost is about £95.00 for a weekend workshop, Friday evening to Sunday evening. The next workshop is in January on “Altered States. For further information you can contact Brid Commins (01-8251629)
Mindell, Arnold and Amy, Riding the Horse Backwards, Arkana, Penguin Books, 1992.