by Marichel Vaught
We all have them — the dreams that make complete sense to us during those hours of rapid eye movement. And when we awake, we can’t help but remark, “What the…?”
Or, have you ever dreamt of something you have a profound fear of (such as clowns) and think, ‘Clearly I dreamt of them because they frighten me and someone mentioned a clown at work the other day.’ But what if the presence of a clown in your dream was your subconscious telling you that perhaps you simply don’t like wearing makeup?
That is the type of scenario explored in the “Dreaming Back to Earth: Integrative Experiential Dreamwork” workshops led by Jackie Earle-Cruickshanks and Mary Kay Kasper. In these workshops, dreams come to life as they are reenacted with other participants in the group who, alongside yourself, portray people or objects in the dream. As the reenactment progresses, the dreamer is asked how he or she feels at that moment. After having experienced one workshop, I can say it’s amazing how a simple dream can bring to light one small speck of something that, by just becoming aware of it, can change your whole outlook on an ongoing personal issue or how you deal with the world in general.
Like anyone probably would be, I was skeptical at first. First, you’re sharing your dream. Second, there’s a theater aspect in performing in front of other people. I consider myself an introvert, so there already were two cons involved. However, after hearing how doing the dreamwork has been able to help alleviate fears, change negative personality traits into positive ones and give dreamers the overall relief of self-awareness, I decided to give it a shot.
Prior to the workshop, we were told that there is no reliance on any sort of dream dictionary. A dream about a clown may have very different meanings for different persons. Dreams are personal and manifest themselves uniquely in each individual. It’s YOUR dream, so only you can get meaning out of it. It was nice to know that whatever I got out of my dream was my own. No one could tell me my interpretation was completely wrong or even right. Said Earle-Cruickshanks, the approach is “non-judgmental and non-shameful.” You could even experience something that is eye-opening for yourself as you play a role in someone else’s dream. The dreamer may even reenact a role in their own dream not as themselves to see it from an entirely different perspective.
During a dream portrayal, the dreamer can stop at any point if they start to feel uncomfortable. Throughout the process, I felt supported and safe. Without going into detail, I realized that thoughts and issues in my wacky recurring dream really DID bother me and were affecting how I interact with the world, mainly society and my family. It was an “Ah-ha!” moment. Afterward I felt unburdened and, surprisingly, happier. I exclaimed, “That was cool!” like someone who just got off an exhilarating amusement park ride. I was already excited to participate in the next workshop.
Now, keep in mind, these are MY experiences because it was MY dream manifested from MY own mind. The experience could be different for the next person. This practice is certainly not for everyone, and it’s not a one-and-done deal. It is an ongoing journey — kind of like yoga for the mind. It is also just one of the many types of dreamworks out there. According to Earle-Cruickshanks, there are dreamwork practices that utilize art or music rather than reenactment.
Earle-Cruickshanks was a school psychologist and therapist for over 30 years. She has been a student at the Center for Archetypal Dreamwork in Eden. Kasper has a master’s degree in counseling, a degree in ecopsychology and is currently a case manager at Washington County Mental Health. Both have been practicing dreamwork for several years and continue to do so because of the benefits the practice has had on their own lives.
“Integrative experiential dreamwork saved my life,” said Earle-Cruickshanks. She has been able to cope with the trauma she experienced as a child. There was a noticeable difference in her outlook, she said. “I became less angry and less arrogant.”
For Kaspar, it has helped alleviate fears she once had and has helped her connect more closely with the natural world.
It makes sense that our dreams affect our outer lives. Our subconscience could be sending us messages. If we can focus on that and explore what our dreams are trying to tell us, we can potentially come to understand what sets up our fears and self-doubts and be better connected to the world around us.
I met with Earle-Cruickshanks and Kaspar twice, and it wasn’t until I engaged in the dreamwork activities that I fully understood its purpose.
Earle-Cruickshanks and Kaspar offer free monthly workshops. The next workshop is scheduled May 10, 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. at the Kellogg Hubbard Library basement. Jackie Earle-Cruikshanks can be reached at 522-6889 or through dreamjourneying.com. Mary Kay Kaspar can be reached at 207-400-7268 or through wayofthebirch.com