Physics teaches us that there is a finite amount of energy in the universe, and though its forms can be transmuted, it is often left entirely untapped. Our psyches operate in much the same way. The forms that appear in our dreams; be they tyrants, allies or tidal waves, are simply energy that is either being made useful or depleting us.

I recently met a scientist who was explaining how all known sources of energy (thermal, nuclear, fusion, etc.) often also pose threats to the planet such as depletion, waste and cost. It’s interesting to consider dream figures in this way, as images that generate or drain resources from our personal ‘closed system.’

For instance, when you have a scary dream, it’s common to feel overwhelmed even after waking. It might throw your game for the rest of the day or even week, if it’s a real doozy. This is because we identify strongly with the role we play in the dream; be it the victim who is being chased or the unprepared student failing the exam. We hardly ever identify with the threat being posed, even though it’s pleading for attention.

But what if the pursuer could be seen to the victim as an energy source? Opposing forces would begin to look like collaborators, two sides of the same valuable coin. Healing that split begins with holding the idea that there is no such thing as good and bad dream figures – only neutral energy. This will help to create some discernment; a small gap between the dream content and our emotional response to it, giving us the wiggle room necessary to choose a different strategy.

Maybe instead of running away from our pursuers, we can stop and kiss them, or rather than submitting to the examination process, maybe we can steal the class, leading everyone in a fervent rendition of Another Brick in the Wall.

If you’re keeping a dream journal, you’ll begin to notice recurring themes emerging across your dreams. A recurring dream usually means you have a recurring pattern in waking life that is keeping you stuck. Habits run deep, so it’s important to be patient with the process and study your cluster dreams for their subtle differences. You may want to circle them with the same colour marker. Observe where they might be evolving, even if modestly, since that will show you where you are making progress.

As we depotentiate the tyrants in our own psyches, the energy that was locked up there can be used for something generative. As my scientist friend hypothesizes, gravity itself would be a marvelous source of energy if we could only learn to harness it. Actually, we are doing the same thing with dreamwork. Each pattern we release ourselves from is like dropping a sandbag off a hot-air balloon. With enough baggage dropped, we might get above the clouds after all.