I’m standing on the edge of a precipice with water below me. I see a group of about 20 men wearing shark bodies over their human bodies all diving into the water together. Another man, standing near me and wearing a dress suit, explains that at one point a human was found inside a shark. He says that scientists are unsure what caused the sudden explosion of growth in the shark population of that area. I dive into the water, and he accompanies me. We see the shark-men swimming off in the distance, and I suggest that perhaps a number of local conditions have occurred simultaneously, generating a sort of “shark superbloom.”
Oh, dreams. Are they remixes of our daytime activities, portals to other worlds, meaningless nonsense? Can we decipher the meaning of this dream by looking up “shark” in a generic dream interpretation book? Dreams have fascinated us for millennia, and I am no exception.
I’ve been called to work with dreams since I was very young. My oldest known “dream journal” is a dream scrawled in a blank address book in colored pencil from a time when I could barely write. I bored my family with overly-nuanced descriptions of my dreams at the breakfast table when I was a kid, and now my own kids and I take turns swapping detailed accounts of our dreams in the morning.
Because I care about dreams so deeply, “dream interpretation” in the pop-culture sense has held little appeal for me. This approach often feels like dreams are analyzed and generalized within an inch of their lives, with little respect for the creativity and magic they hold. However, one day in graduate school, I was introduced to Dream Tending by Stephen Aizenstat. Steve is the founder of Pacifica Graduate Institute (my alma mater), and his approach to working with dreams is soulful, gentle yet powerful, and expansive. It felt like I had finally found an approach to working with dreams that honors the psyche of the dreamer and the mystery of Dream itself.
I promptly signed up for Steve’s year-long advanced Dream Tending program, and took to it like a duck (or perhaps shark-man?) to water. As much as I loved doing the program, seeing how beautifully dreamwork dovetails with EMDR therapy has been a revelation. Clients have been able to move out of stuck places, uncover hidden layers, and dramatically deepen their therapeutic experiences, often by tending a seemingly simple dream. What I love about Dream Tending is that it is essentially ego-state therapy with a healthy dose of creativity. I jokingly call it Internal Family Systems on ‘shrooms.
One of the best things about Dream Tending is that, like an inner oracle, it offers glimpses of psyche that may be surprising, but are never more than the client is able to handle. Even nightmares can be explored in a way that is safe and generative. Dream Tending honors the process of the dreamer, both in the dream and in waking life, and can take therapy to a different level.
Curious? I can be booked for Dream Tending sessions specifically, and am always happy to incorporate the work into EMDR therapy upon request. Give us a call at (760)314-4644 to schedule!