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Alissa's Dream Art & Creativity Column

January, 1997


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 backwards 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.

Woman with Sticks - Color pastel


      The dream, December 12, 1996

A woman sitting on a chair is very anxious about people she believes are near us.

However I show her that there are no people anywhere around. What she is disturbed by are only pieces of clothing draped on some kind of sticks that are attached to her chair in various places.

I point to one behind her shoulder, with fabric over it and a hat.She sees that there is no one to fear, only some things she is imagining are hostile people.

I say, this is a wonderful image for what we do in life when we imbue situations and people with dangerous qualities and then we fear them.

In this dream I knew -- although part of me did not know -- that emotions in dreams and in waking life may feel extremely real -- but are often based on illusions. This dream reminds me of a classic teaching story about a holy man in India who is resting by the side of the road. Several men pass by and stop. A thief exclaims, Oh, he must have had a good haul and spent it all and is resting up.
A drug addict disagrees, No, he s high on something.
An alcoholic says, He s drunk.
After several others come along and each sees in the Sadhu what he himself is, they get into a big argument about whose version of the situation is true.
Another holy man comes by, sees them arguing, and goes over to the fellow sitting by the side of the road. He recognizes that this man is calmly meditating and is in an altered state of consciousness.

Let s look at this dream as a metaphor for the process of PROJECTION.

It prompted me to ask myself, What have I projected on the world? and how has this affected me and my life?
This is a net that caught me many fish! For example, I was surprised to find today that underneath my objections to comments about age, was my own ageist attitude. When I called people s attention to their prejudice against old people, I believed I did not share it. Then I saw that I was unwittingly buying into the put down of old people by not wanting to state my age. It sounded too old to me, and old was bad.

I believe we will often find projection at work in our attitude toward people who are different from ourselves in age ( teens or seniors, for example ), and other ways, such as race, national origin, sexual and religious preference, income, life style and behavior, manner of dressing or speaking. We see them through our own eyes, we see the world as we are, and don t give ourselves a chance to appreciate tpeople and life as they actually are.

I see how I have also done this with myself, forming an idea of how I should or should not be and how I believe I am or need to be, but this is no more real than the clothes- on- sticks of my dream. Nevertheless, part of me bought into it as if it were reality and let this run me. In the process, I weakened my ability to know myself and to interact with others realistically.

I thought that I feared ridicule, hostility, judgment, anger and exclusion from other people and woke up to see these traits in myself.
But it was not only negative qualities that I projected out into the world.There were also qualities I longed for. For example, I saw in one person an attentive, compassionate listener, in another a devoted companion who would always agree with me. When other people did not feel comfortable with these roles I had to take off the projections I had pinned on them, but sometimes I did not want to allow my cherished projections to be shattered.
Woman with Sticks, Black and White, pastel,

This dream is a short hand reminder to stay in touch with reality and not insist that the clothes hanging on a stick are real people made to my specifications or prejudices!


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Alissa Goldring alissa@dreamgate.com

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