How Deep Do Dreams Go?

Here is a talk I gave on March 15, 2014 to the All Reality group in Santa Monica.
I speak about the split between ego and soul, how this shows up in dreams, and then move into the inner world by talking about lucid dreaming and astral projection.

The Work: Seeing your Egoic Trances

trance

DR BREN’s Life Coaching for the Soul, in essence, is about seeing and transcending your egoic trances (or what Jung called “complexes) such that your soul can live.

We naturally have two selves: ego , which is the center of our physical being and the psychological construct associated with the brain, and soul, which is the center of our spiritual or eternal being.

Ultimately, life on this planet is about coming to know your soul, your eternal being. If you don’t achieve this egoic transcendence, then you will be stuck in the physical plane of reincarnation until you do, destined to the historical cycles we have created on earth.

So, what is an egoic trance?

Perhaps it is best to speak about what Jung described as a psychological complex, since the egoic trance is the “response” to a trigger or stimulus. (Click on the image below to see the diagram describing Jung’s idea of the psychological complex.)

Complex

Ego is essentially composed of psychological complexes. These complexes are, most often, formed in childhood as a defensive response to a situation or environment overwhelming and dangerous to the child.

In fact, the purpose of ego is to keep the physical being alive. These complexes are only symptomatic if they lead to destructive results, or, according to DR BREN”s Life Coaching for the Soul, if they lead to deprivation of the soul.

A psychological complex is triggered by a stimulus resulting in an intense emotional response / reaction, and a shrinking of focus and attention.

For instance, you see a Red Saab and it reminds you of your ex-boyfriend’s car which then causes you to cry because you miss him. This complex can swallow up all of your “present-moment awareness,” such that you become lost in your thoughts and emotions around this relationship, only to wake up minutes or hours later to realize you have driven all this way without knowing how you got there. (I’m very grateful we have an subconscious good-driving complex that operates the vehicle.)

Some Jungians say that we are always in a complex. I don’t agree; there are times when we are in soul (profound experiences of spirit, nature, art, etc.) which is definitely not a complex. If we are not in soul, then, yes, we are in a complex. Keep in mind complexes, in and of themselves, are not good or bad, they are simply basic structures of the ego.

Having said all that the trance is essentially the response to the trigger. In our example, it is when she got lost in her thoughts and feelings about her ex-boyfriend.

Most often, when you are in a trance you are unconscious and not present with the moment or the people around you.

In most cases, we do not have control of the stimulus, but we do have control over the trance (response) that corresponds to the trigger (stimulus).

How do you come to know your trances?

For the most part, you can only come to know your trances after you have come out of one, and in reflection you realize you lost touch with your body and the present moment. It is at this moment “the work” begins. In your conscious reflection try to record in your journal the triggers and mental and emotional associations that made up your trance. The one who can reflect on egoic trances is your true self, your soul. In particular, notice when and what you ruminated over, when it was in the past or future, and whether it was negative or positive.

It matters less for you to know the origin of your trances, as it does to understand the process. Understanding the process of your trance allows you to choose a different and conscious response.

Note: For more information about trances, see Stephen Wolinsky’s Trances People Live.

A PATH WITH HEART: Stopping the War

In this chapter (chapter two) Kornfield likens the war in our head between all the ego voices to the wars in the world. He suggests the way to have peace in the world is to stop the war inside. He suggests that adapting to our society leads one into denial and addiction saying

We use addictions to support out denials.

To wake up to these voices can be overwhelming and depressing, but if you persist you will eventually find peace inside. The most important thing to remember when you begin to pay attention to the voices inside is to simply notice without judging. It’s important to NOTstart a war with these voices for that only exacerbates the war.

In Jungian terms the process of paying attention and accepting “what is” is called taking back one’s shadow because what gets denied gets repressed into our unconscious. It distorts reality. So to take back one’s shadow is to see wholly.

Another important point in this process of “stopping the war” is to NOT identify with the voices. You are the observer of the voices; that is your true self. The voices have created the false self or what Jung called the persona.

Here is the audio portion for chapter two.

Dreams direct us towards wholeness

Dreams are like the white blood cells of our immune system they protect us from foreign bodies and carry the healing potions for health and well-being. Every single night we dream. Whether we recall and interpret these dreams or not they work on improving our psychological adaptive system just as the white blood cells work on improving our biological adaptive system. So, what is the advantage of dream recall and interpretation?

CONSCIOUSNESS!

To recall and interpret dreams we work to make that which is unconscious conscious. In so doing we begin to rise above our fellow primates separating ourselves by our magnificent human capacity for consciousness. Left alone our biological and psychological immune systems focus on survival. By bringing our dreams to consciousness we can work towards self actualization, the pinnacle of our unique purpose and fulfillment.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

5 KEYS TO DREAM RECALL[1]

  1. Keep your dream journal by your bed.
  2. Write down three or four lines regarding your day’s events, thoughts, feelings, conflicts etc. before going to sleep.
  3. Begin to think backwards as soon as you wake up. What was just going through your mind?
  4. Write down everything you can recall even if it does not make sense.
  5. Try not to allow your ego to edit the dream recall. It is best to let the dream flow through you as you write it down.

THE FOUR STEPS TO INTERPRETING YOUR DREAMS[2]

1. Making associations.

Go back through the dream identifying each image, symbol and/or dynamic and its associations in your life. For instance, let’s say you dreamed about playing tennis with your father in Florida. Associate your thoughts and feelings about playing tennis (dynamic), your father (image) and Florida (image). If by chance you played with a particular tennis racket in the dream this may be the critical symbol in your dream. Pay particular attention to the symbols for they hold the transformational power.

2. Connecting dream images to inner dynamics.

Inner dynamics are the internal processes that go on in your head and body. It is your energy system, your attitude, your emotions, your moods, your pattern of thinking and relating to others. Go back through your work in the first step and identify the connections between your associations and your inner processes. For instance, let’s say the action in the dream has your father lobbing a high ball to you and you swing and completely miss it. Where in your life are you looking up to hit? And have you already swung and missed or are you about to? What does the HEAD FLEXPOINT RADICAL RACQUET symbolize?

3. Interpreting.

By this point you may already have an idea of what this dream means. At In this step you should tie together all the work in step one and two, looking for a central theme. Dreams always reveal something you do not know. Now let’s say with the above dream your dear friend (reminds you of your father) gave you a lead for a job interview in Florida that you think is way above your head. You fear you will swing and miss thereby disappointing your friend. Now the particular tennis racquet the transformational symbol in the dream makes great sense. It suggests you should use your head, be flexible and dare to be radical on this job interview.

4. Walking around with your dream.

To really know if this interpretation makes sense you must live with it. Hold it in the back of your mind as you go through the day to see what occurs during the day to support or add to your interpretation.

Now if this dream went unanalyzed it is very possible you would swing and miss falling into your childhood pattern of missing lobs from your father. However, by bringing the dream to light you can consciously interrupt this pattern by using your head, being flexible, staying focused on the ball and strategically planning your radical shot leading to game, set, match.


[1] Adapted from Gayle Delaney’s Living Your Dreams: The Classic Bestseller on Becoming Your Own Dream Expert

[2] Adapted from Robert Johnson’s Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth

A Cure for the Midlife Crisis

The Midlife Crisis

How to recognize a midlife crisis?

  1. You have the desire to start over.
  2. Your marriage is stale.
  3. Your career is less than adequate.
  4. Your life seems rudderless.
  5. You feel more impulsive than ever.
  6. You just bought a brand new red convertible.

The midlife crisis has less to do with the passage of time than it has to do with psychological experience. That is, the ego achievements of the first half of life have been accomplished: you have a wife/husband, children, pets, home, career, car, Ipad, etc. But what you don’t have is happiness. It is at this specific moment in your life that you begin to wonder about your legacy – what impact will you have on the world?

The midlife crisis is a wakeup call sent from your alienated soul. The first half of life is the domain of ego. Childhood patterns developed to protect the ego unconsciously run your life. Up until now you have been living what I would call a societal egoic life. The rules and roles that run your life, unconsciously, are not your own. To say to someone — you are a chip off the old block — is very true. Until you consciously choose the values, roles, and rules you will live by, you are simply a chip off the old societal block. Who you think you are is what Jung called the persona, the mask you show the world. Midlife is the time to emerge as a unique individual soul.

It could be said that acting out the midlife crisis — having the affair, changing careers, buying the red convertible — is a defense against the reality of death. Said differently, the existential task of midlife is to make sense of your life before you die. This means a transfer of power from the unconscious ego, to the conscious soul. Death is a reality that is easy to deny in the first part of life, but cannot be denied in the second part of life, although there are huge industries — plastic surgery for one — built around helping you continue to deny death. That aside, death creeps in with every wrinkle, every gray hair, the flabby belly, the hormonal changes, and aging children.

So what is the cure for the midlife crisis?

SOUL CONSCIOUSNESS!

The consciousness I am referring to is a state of being. It is not your identity (social persona); it is not your ego-consciousness; it is not your shadow (the part of your self you deny and repress). It is your ever-present self-awareness. Ego is focused on objects, obsessed with the past and the future, and leary of the present moment. Soul, on the other hand, is eternally present, alive and moving towards wholeness — its evolutionary purpose. Ego speaks in language; Soul speaks in symbols. Ego’s purpose is to protect the self from harm, and propagate the species. Soul’s purpose is to create, to love and move towards wholeness.

Jung outlined several steps in the project of one’s soul journey, a process he named individuation. They are:

  1. Encounter with the Shadow
  2. Encounter with your Soul-Image
  3. Encounter with your God-Image
  4. Emergence of the Self

I will talk more about these stages of individuation in another post. For now here is James Hollis, the author of The Middle Passage, identifying the end of the midlife crisis:

We know we have survived the midlife crisis when we no longer cling to who we were, no longer seek fame or fortune or the appearance of youth. The sense of life as a slow taking away, the inexorable exeperience of irreplaceable loss, is transformed by relinguishing the old ego attachments and affirming one’s deepening descent into the mystery. (Hollis, 1993, p. 113)

Ego and Soul, Jung and Wilber, side-by-side

Figure 1

I’ve been meditating on Ken Wilber’s four quadrants and Jung’s model of psyche for years unable to reconcile the two, that is, until this morning when it occurred to me that I needed to separate Jung’s model of psyche into the inside and outside perspective of the upper left quadrant, the subjective quadrant (See Figure 1). The inside of the subjective accords with Jung’s idea of the soul, timeless and present. The outside of the subjective accords with the ego, embodied in time and space.

The core of the problem in reconciling the two models is that Jung’s model is topographical, a representation of the landscape of psyche at any point in time. Whereas, Wilber’s model is progressive, a representation of psyche in stages of development. The majority of Jung’s work dealt with bringing the ego into relationship with the self, or soul. So it makes good sense to break his model into two parts, one relating to the ego and the other relating to the soul or self.

Figure 2

Typically Jung’s model of the psyche is shown stacked with the lowest level being the collective unconscious and the highest level being consciousness. However, when I break Jung’s model into two parts it not only accords with Wilber’s work it begins to align with the bilobed brain (See Figure 2). The left hemisphere of the brain relates more to ego and the right hemisphere relates more to the soul.

In making this adjustment we see Jung’s concepts of persona and shadow as creations of a developing ego. Both of which are components of Jung’s personal unconscious. On the right side we see Jung’s concepts of Self and Anima/Animus as components of the collective unconscious in relations to the soul.

Why is it important to make these distinctions? Besides integrating Wilber’s great body of work with Jung’s, there is value in understanding the developmental stages of Jung’s concepts. What I mean to say is there are aspects of persona and shadow that relate directly to ego at specific stages of development. The persona we showed in 2nd grade is not the same persona we show as an adult. This applies to the shadow as well. In fact, all three concepts — ego, persona and shadow — relate to material world. Whereas, the three components of the collective unconscious — soul, Anima/Animus, and Self — relate to the spiritual world. The spiritual world is eternal in space where soul ascends states of consciousness to the highest step, the nondual. On the other hand, ego , trapped in the material world, is left to evolve in time through various levels of development.

Making these connections between the two models of psyche helps to reconcile Wilber’s idea of enlightenment and Jung’s idea of individuation. For Wilber enlightenment occurs for those who have mastered the highest level of development at this time and mastered the highest state of consciousness, the nondual. For Jung individuation occurs when one has mastered the personal unconscious and has ascended through the layers of the collective unconscious to the Self. There is an important distinction between the two. For Wilber enlightenment is I AM GOD. For Jung individuation is I AM IN RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. This is where Wilber’s idea of the 1st person and 2nd person perspective of God helps situate the two. Behind both the material world collapses.

Psychologist or Clergy?

In the last essay entitled “Psychotherapists or the Clergy” of Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung wrote that Freud’s theory of sexuality and Adler’s theory of power are “hostile to spiritual values, being, …, psychology without the psyche” (1933, p. 228). His claim is that the psychology built on the medical model focuses on psychopathology following the experimental findings of neurology which gives little to no credence to the reality of psyche in its own domain. Instead they reduce everything to biology — chemical processes and hormones.

As a depth psychologist my training, education and experience is in “psyche.” I am not trained in psychopathology. To be licensed as a psychologist you must know the manual of psychopathology — Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – now in its fourth revision. Depth Psychology is for adults without mental illness, and I do not work with people with severe mental illnesses.

Jung said,

“All creativeness in the realm of the spirit as well as every psychic advance of man arises from a state of mental suffering, and it is spiritual stagnation, psychic sterility, which causes this state” (1933, p. 225).

He observed over the many decades of practicing psychiatry a common origin of neurosis – spiritual emptiness.

Jung was the first to require his analysts to be analyzed before they could become analysts themselves. He asked,

“How can I help these persons if I am myself a fugitive, and perhaps also suffer from the morbus sacer [holy disease] of a neurosis” (1933, p. 236)?

Interestingly there are no requirements stated, other than what is required by the accredited doctoral psychology school one attended, about the number of hours one needs to have undergone in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. My school, Pacifica Graduate Institute, required 50 hours. I have participated in over 5,000 hours of psychodynamic analysis, a much more intense and deep psychotherapeutic treatment.

The question I am left with, also the point, albeit subtle, Jung made in his essay, is — are licensed psychologists trained to heal neurosis? If they are trained and tested in psychopathology how does this lead to healing? Doesn’t one have to be trained in healing to be a healer? Shouldn’t one be healed themselves to be deemed a “healer?” Perhaps this is why psychiatrists are mainly pushing pills these days. I believe it is nearly impossible for licensed psychologists to heal neuroses if they have not learned about “psyche.” Perhaps this is why most of their treatment modalities, i.e. cognitive behavioral therapy and skill building, never really touch the depths of your soul, the originator of neuroses.

All ye with weary hearts and neurotic symptoms are welcome to my consulting room. Let it be known, I will not diagnosis you with a psychological illness; I will, however, tend your soul.