Dreams and Wholeness
Yin Yang Split
Lately, and these things seem to come in spurts, I’ve been asked to do a fair amount of dream interpretation. I only look at dreams one way — the way suggested by Fritz Perls, founder of the Gestalt Therapy Movement.
Here’s a definition of Gestalt Dream Work:
Frederick Perls (1893–1970) is the founder of Gestalt therapy. Gestalt therapy seeks to fill your emotional voids so that you can then become a unified whole. Perls believes that dreams contain the rejected, disowned parts of the Self. Every character and every object in a dream represents an aspect of the Self. You are the tornado, you are the attacker, you are the broken down car and you are the dusty book. Perls rejects the notion that dreams are part of a universal symbolic language. He believes that each dream is unique to the individual who dreams it.
So, think about it. You are everyone and everything in your dream. Not what you expect, right?
You dream of a conversation with your mom, or a roll in the hay with your first sexual partner, and you think you’re actually talk or rolling with the real people. One recent dream I was told about featured mommy showing up as the daughter was getting up from a roll in the hay, which is also “interesting,” but I digress. Mom is not in your head, nor is anyone else. As we keep repeating, everything in your head is imaginary, and each imaginary character is written, produced, and directed, by you.
In the kind of dream work we do, then, everyone in the dream (plus every thing) is you, interacting with… wait for it… you!
The Divided Self
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time, and even have been watching for photos, to illustrate. (like the one above.)
OK, so more than 5000 years ago the Taoists invented (no surprise) Taoism. One of the key principles is that of yin and yang.
Now, you may be slightly familiar with this concept — it divides the world into “sides.” The word “yin” originally referred to the shady side of a mountain, and yang to the sunny side.
But key to all of this is the phrase, “…in relationship to…”
A temperature of 70 degrees F is yang …in relationship to… 32 degrees, and yin …in relationship to… 100 degrees. This applies to everything — everything is how it is in relationship to the other side of the pole.
Here are a few common yin / yang pairs:
I grouped the last four for a reason.
- The front of the body is yin, the back is yang.
- The left side of the body is yin, the right, yang.
- The lower body is yin, the upper, yang.
- The left side of the brain (which controls the right (yang) side of the body, is yang.
- The right side of the brain, (which controls the left (yin) side of the bodyis yin.
The amazing part, for me, is that the Chinese had the divisions figured out eons ago. Right down to the brain split, which we in the West only began to get a handle on last century.
Take a look at the lead photo. You’ll actually see the dividing line on the chest and belly. Everyone has this dividing line — it’s just easier to see on the skinny.
So what, you ask?
Well, the key to whole living is that our yin and yang natures be balanced. I like to propose 100% / 100%. This is not the “normal” state of affairs, as we are brought up to lean toward our gender. So, women in general tend toward yin, men toward yang. To our detriment.
These energies (or brain states, if you must be “Western”) work best in harmony, and harmony is best if balanced. I could then say that my work on myself, and my work with my clients, is to identify the imbalance, and strengthen the depleted side, while cooling any excess.
Using myself for an example, I spent my first 32 years “doing yang.” I was mouthy, angry, cruel, obsessed, demanding. All signs of out of control yang. In 1982, I began an experiment. I tempered my yang nature by shutting my mouth, and at the same time, I began to “trust my guts” (which are inside, intuitive, and therefore yin.) I did this for 13 years (wow… insight… this paralleled my years in the Ministry — I got kicked out exactly 4 weeks after I re‐claimed my yang side… hmm…)
In 1996, I did Phase 1 at The Haven. One exercise involved Jungian Shadow Work. I’ve written about this before, but what I saw, in a guided visualization, was a big guy in Japanese armour coming toward me with a katana (sword) raised. he swung it for my head (to split me in half?) and stopped just above my head. He reversed the blade, handing the sword to me, with these words:
“You can kill, or you can heal.”
I took this to mean that I could let go of my “excessively yin exercise,” and take back the power contained in yang.
Or to put it another way, I could begin to truly enact my true, undivided nature.
OK. So what do I see with clients? Most of my clients are in exactly the same boat I was in.
The men are working on leaving the aggressive nature of Yang on the side for a bit, while, like me, learning to trust their guts (instincts) — the yin side.
The women are learning to enact (the yang side) their passion , as opposed to “just sitting there in a pile of emotion.”
90% of my clients are women, so let’s look there
Most of my female clients are stuck on the yang, “actually living out of their lives” side. In other words, they have good ideas, great instincts, and a lot of creative charge. They have been conditioned to stuff their passion, repress their desire to be whole, and to somehow metaphorically become dependent on a man to provide the “yang side.”
Standing forth, owning their own responsibility for their lives, becoming self‐sufficient — becoming strong — this is their task. (It’s also why I’m with Darbella — she’s had her act together since we met…)
In bodywork, I tend to start with the client face down. I stand at their head, and look down their body. Almost invariably, I will see imbalance in the body. One shoulder higher, one hip or butt cheek either higher or twisted. A left — right “disagreement.”
Or, I might work on the legs, and one leg will be all “Ouch!” and the other, not so much, or even “dead.”
Same with parallel points on the back, chest, pelvis.
Next week, I’ll give you a chart that relates chakra points to yin — yang. For example, the root chakra is about security, so yin is, “I feel safe and secure.” Yang is, “I know my place, I own my space, and I know I belong.”
See the pattern, and why unity trumps the split?
Finally, here’s a dream I was told 15 years ago. The person with the dream was a “theoretical artist.” By that, I mean that her parents brought her up to be a success, and in their world, artists were deadbeats. They took her paints away, physically and emotionally. She wanted to express herself, but it wasn’t happening. Theoretical.
Waddya mean I don’t know how!!!
The scene of the dream: her bedroom. She’s alone, and engaged in solo‐me‐time. (I’m intentionally being coy.) Her ex husband (who in real life she despised) came in and said, “You’re not doing that right. Let me show you how, and you’ll finally really enjoy yourself.” She got pissed off (in the dream…) and told him to take off, colorfully.
Instead, he sat on the bed and watched, and sighed a lot. She continued doing what she was doing, furiously, and without result, other than to discover she was “rubbed raw and irritated.” Then she woke up.
Now, if you pretend this dream was about her ex, you’re knackered.
Nope. Remember, this is her dream, in her head.
I said, “This is about you and making art. What you are doing right now is tentative, and not working, yet you keep doing it (or, in her case, not doing it, as she wasn’t painting…) the same way, and irritating yourself — but being raw and angry isn’t changing anything. Your ex is actually your disowned yang side, and that side is offering to help you do things differently. He wants to take you by the hand, guide your hands in another way, and help you to produce something exciting and chargy. Your way isn’t working — ”his“ way involves getting off your ass and actually doing something different.”
My clients often bring in dreams featuring a struggle with a member of the opposite sex, sometimes gentle, sometimes violent. In each case, the “other” is the disowned side of themselves that is desperately attempting to get through to the blocked side. The blocked side is scared, and often pictures the blocked energy in a scary way (ex‐husband, “uncle Louie, etc. )
Remember, we are “comfortable in our discomfort” — our natural side feels normal, and the “other side” always feels threatening. (Hell, mine was an 8 foot tall ninja guy…) Nonetheless, getting anywhere with this requires a firm resolve to step into the darkness of vulnerability and openness, and actually doing something different.
More on how this looks, next week.