We think of dreams as occurring only in the night, but the truth is we dream all day long. Waking dreams are the experiences of the day that hold a meaningful charge for us and are no less significant than the nightly ones. The more intimate we get with our symbolic life, the richer our daytime becomes. Soon, our minds become agile at recognizing the mythaphoric dimension of waking life.
An animal might cross your path and you know to be mindful of its medicine; you step into a puddle and notice how long it’s been since you stood in your feelings; a good friend expresses just the thing you’ve been needing to articulate; or a symptom appears mysteriously in your body and you begin the terrifying journey of listening to and yessing your pain.
When we ignore the lessons from our dreams, they turn up the volume. They might show us the issue in a recurring image or increase the urgency and goriness of our dream content. If that still doesn’t set a fire of change under us, the images begin to appear outside, as physical fate.
In one case, there was a young man who had six sisters. When interviewed, they described how abusive and cruel he was to them as well as the women he dated. What they didn’t know was that in secret, he was cross-dressing and having recurring dreams of being a woman.
One day, he was biking across a busy intersection when a truck plowed headlong into him, breaking his pelvis in two. He describes being reborn from that “accident” with an awareness that repressing his gender was destroying him, as well as infecting his relationships with resentment. After coming out as a trans, his aggression towards women evaporated, apparently because he had begun to yes his own ‘feminine.’
It is our habit to repress and medicate the symptoms of our body, abiding by the groupmind that says pain is bad. But pain is the intelligence of our bodies telling us where trauma is being stored and held onto. What happened autonomously in this person’s case was the unconscious becoming amplified into waking life, ultimately breaking through to their liberation. Things like to get awful right before they heal.
In the same way that a bully will rear up in our dreams when it feels threatened by our growing light, so too will symptoms and difficulties arise in our waking dream when we are ready to overcome them for good. It is a backwards mind which says we should de-press and hide our symptoms. Really, the bravest and most effective strategy is to enter willingly into our pain, listen to what excellence it brings so that we can thoroughly integrate it – even if recovery is not in our cards.
The gist of proccesswork, says dream/body pioneer Arnold Mindell, is to get off the dichotomy of good and bad, sick and healthy, feminine and masculine, past and future. “Discover the process, amplify its channel, and a symptom can turn into a medicine.”
Many people get caught endlessly seeking a cure for their illness, but Mindell says that often worsens it. His approach, though seemingly counter-intuitive, is to amplify the pain; “People feel better living their disease because it then becomes a meaningful experience that is constantly pressing them toward consciousness. It wakes them up.”