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Alissa's Dream Art & Creativity Column

December, 1996

It seems to me that I experience two forces at work, in myself and life, and I wonder if you have noticed this too? -- an expansive movement forward toward the new, toward growth and wholeness, and a constricting pull bacckwards towards habitiual limitations.

What we're used to we equate with "right" and good and safe, and even if we have a taste of something better, a part of us says, 'stop! danger!' and we run for cover into the old familiar habits. Anyone who has tried to stop smoking, ect, knows that, and it is equally true of subtler addictions, not to substances, but to attitudes and behaviors.

I believe that dreams offer us potent images and experiences of these two forces at work within us. I've had some horrific dreams that made it hard for me to see them as the gifts I believe dreams are, until I recognized them as warnings and reminders. (see below,for example, the "Fire" dream).

And other dreams that encourge me, that bring healing and help me to get used to the new more positive frame of mind, so that it becomes familiar and eventually habitual.

Dream: "FIRE"

Wednesday, 4 December, 1996

My little daughter penny and I are on a visit to a farm. I leave her with the family while I walk in the fields.
I come to a large garbage can near fences. I keep walking. I look back and see that a flame has come out of the can, the wind whips is, suddenly it ignites the fence and spreads along the fences to the house. I see the old farm buildings in flames and people running.
I race back toward the farmhouse looking for Penny. I see one child after another - there are many children in the farm family - but I do not see Penny.
Then I see her still on the porch, bobbling up and down and realize she is on a little pointed wooden rocking horse. She looks tiny and vaguely troubled, no understanding what is happening. That end of the building is not on fire yet. I yell to her and race to pick her up and run with her to safety.
The woman is herding her children along, lovingly cheering them up, encouraging them to be brave and string, to walk briskly, as we all take to the road to get away from the fire. The buildings go up in flames.
Carrying the youngest in her arms, the woman is slim, dark haired, string, courageous, dauntless -- a young "Mother Courage". her appearance is a cross between a Margaret Bourke- While foto farm mother and a college girl in worn ragged clothes that she wears with grace. (a very real, specific, intelligent, energetic, resourceful woman -- all in very real color and full of emotion)

I see a great deal pictured in this potent dream in images that vividly call my attention to danger and necessary action.

First, the dream leads me to consciously experience my anxiety about the part of myself that is vulnerable, tiny, innocent, unaware, dazed by repetitive automatic rocking. To "ride a hobby horse" is to be stuck on one there, out of touch with reality, hearing only the sound of one's own voice, trapped in on's own story.

There is something poignant about this image of a child's grasping something familiar and comforting which then becomes deadly as she becomes oblivious of present reality. A child's innocent avoidance of innerwork is familiar to me. I recognize that pattern in myself in years of denial. I have become aware of how much of m life I lived unconscious of the great danger I was in. Trying to be "good". STUCK, in a daze, trying harder to repeat what had seemed to work in the past.

It is this image that I chose to paint.

This dream warns me that time is running out. Over the years, I have often dreamed about many houses in varied stages of remodelling, a metaphor for myself in the process of disassembling and re-structuring myself. Now I must leave before I am destroyed about the many houses in varied stages of remodelling, a metaphor for myself in the process of disassembling and re-structuring myself. Now I must leave before I am destroyed in the collapse of the old forms.

There is a particular significance in the fact that this dream takes place in a farm, since the happiest time of my childhood was spent on a farm in North Carolina. But I cannot escape into memory; I must deal with present reality.

The garbage can of the past turns into a source of danger that consumes - like heat generated in compost. This is a vivid metaphor for the combustion/danger inherent in re-living the past, although this is a necessary and vital component of innerwork.

We all face the risk of falling into the past, of being sucked back into the old pain, fear and shame behind survival ploys that have become automatic. We come up against the numbing unconsciousness we resorted to when pain and fear were more than we could deal with. We have the choice of unconsciously regressing into old habits or becoming aware, and leaving them behind.

When the child part of myself does not understand the danger and does not run away, she is fortunately saved because the wind has not yet brought the fire to that section of the farm house. This reminds me that we cannot do it all; we exist and grow within forces larger than ourselves. I mediate on the fire and wind parts of myself both as energies within my psyche and as powers encompassing me...

I recognize the young "Mother Courage" part of myself, who moved to various places to build a better life with my children, and with my inner children...

Now I have become a WITNESS of all this, and have grown into both compassion and the ability to talke action. I have evolved into an adult who is able to recognize, appreciate, love and care for the precious, sweet, child-like parts of myself and all the varieties - boisterous, angry damaged, mischievous, destructive... I guide the children parts of myself into the hard work of the difficult journey ahead. All parts of me leave the nostalgic, decrepit old farm and set out for anew life. Intrepid.

There will be no more re-modelling: a new home must be built. The past has consumed itself. A narrow escape. Catastrophe is an opportunity for freedom and a fresh start. This dream reminds me of the vital necessity for love and protection as we make the inner journey, and of the underlying power of grace in our lives.


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Alissa Goldring alissa@dreamgate.com

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