To Integrate or to Overcome?

Frightening figures appear in our dreams very often–threatening pursuers, nasty looking people at the door, terrifying animals, all manner of ghosts, zombies, monsters and demons stalk us in our dreams. Some of these figures evolve into very positive beings if we can find the courage to meet them face to face (either within a dream or in waking imaginal work). Others do not evolve in a positive direction; they remain stubbornly negative and even potentially harmful to the dreamer.

In my many years of helping people work with their dreams I have often wondered– why does the unconscious mind not help us by making a clear distinction between the truly harmful dream figures and the potentially benign and helpful dream figures? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I know that most people cannot discern the difference, they are terrified by all their nightmare figures and they tend to remain terrified until they receive some specific guidance and support.

Therefore one of the most critical skills in dreamwork involves being able to make the distinction between intimidating but ultimately positive dream figures that need to be met and integrated, and truly negative figures that need to be weakened or overcome. I recently published an article on this subject in DreamTime Magazine (the journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams). Here’s the link if you’d like to read more… To Integrate or to Overcome

  • Mostafa M. Dini Reply

    Chris, First of all congratulation for the uploading of your new website with many improvements on it.
    I read your article in the DreamTime and enjoyed that.
    As I understood from the dream #1, the structure is based on a negative feedback loop. It starts with “student running in the house”; and in the end of the dream “I locked the door to the basement [which one could enter through it]. They are begging to be let in, but I just ignore them…”. So the resolution was decreasing the strength of input (running inside home).
    Dream #2 is created based on a positive feedback loop, it means that there is not a good resolution; and ending result reinforce the input to the dream.
    Input is “I saw a ghost” and the dream ends in “ghost made a hissing noise at me… I…saw it”. In other word, the ending was re-percept again; and this cycle only increases the to be frighten.
    That is a good question: “To Integrate or To Overcome”. It is a question for me that” the frightening was attached to an image of “students running inside home” in dream #1; and “seeing an angry ghost” in dream #2.
    The question is “the feeling is primary and image is picked up from memory or created to attach the feeling; or “image is primary and happens first?”. I believe that feeling is primary in the first run of the loop; as it happened in the dream #1; but when there is a bad loop, the image become primary and is re-percept and created more fear.
    So by Integration in dream#1 your DramWorking task let the fear go in a good way; and by Overcoming through “YELLING AT THE GHOST” you erased the fear of the ghost.

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