The Dreaming Media A Dark Spirit Arises From The Collective Unconscious by Howard Brockman
Do you ever get offended by the violent headlines that greet you when you pick up the paper in the morning? What about just before bed when you catch the network news at 11:00? If you have children, it is likely that you tried your best to sheild them from seeing in Newsweek or hearing on TV or radio the graphic details of the sexual affair that “captured our attention” with oral sex and the semen stained dress. Is the world going to hell or is this just the natural progressive evolution of a “free society” to report the truth of what is really happening in the world? I have my own theory about this and I have to admit it troubles me.
Professionally, I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice doing psychotherapy. For over 10 years, I studied Process-oriented psychology (POP) with Dr. Arnold Mindell (Arnie). During that time, I participated in many large group seminars and have personally facilitated process-oriented groups. I gained fascinating insights into how field theory works in groups of people. For instance, I learned how when someone in a group is disavowing a strong emotional experience because it causes them anxiety or discomfort, someone else in the group field becomes the unsuspecting channel for that same emotional experience. It’s remarkable, as though a spirit or ghost floats out of someone and inhabits and possesses someone else! Since this is an experience of the collective unconscious group field, the manner in which the repressed emotional experience from the first person finds expression in the other person across the room is often unsuspected, and is usually intense and incongruent.
An unanticipated insight has recently emerged from these experiences in the collective field of process-oriented groups. I have become aware of the relationship between the collective field generated by the very large group we call society and the mass media which purports to inform and entertain this society. More on that in a moment.
Over the last year, I have immersed myself in a new therapy model called Healing From The Body Up (HBLU). This model, developed by a research immunologist Ph.D. named Judith Swack, addresses mind/body problems by incorporating NLP, Applied Kinesiology, Process-oriented psychology and energy-based interventions. It addresses deeply entrenched trauma-related emotional and behavioral patterns that basic cognitive therapy frequently does not resolve. (If these terms are unfamiliar to you, don’t worry about it.)
I have continued getting more comfortable integrating this new therapy model into my practice and, recently inspired by a monologue from Garrison Keillor, I have developed a new protocol which I call “The Dreaming Media.” Let me say at the outset that I fully acknowledge Arnie Mindell’s influence, whose background is in both physics and Jungian psychology.
As my family and I were returning home from a weekend event, we tuned into “A Prairie Home Companion” on NPR. It so happened that Garrison Keillor was doing his monologue. I love his monologues and try to listen to them regularly. But this one got dark. As he was describing an elderly man in his adult daughter’s kitchen eyeing a squirrel eating at a bird feeder, he described how the elderly man got out his hunting rifle and proceeded to “assassinate” the squirrel in a step by step manner. It was richly detailed story telling and I felt very uncomfortable that my seven year old son Jaime was being exposed to such graphic violence as the “imagined” assassination was carried out. I realized we had all just been contaminated by the “dreaming media.” This was profoundly troubling.
Arnie Mindell expands the meaning of the word “dreaming” to include many of the behaviors we do unconsciously while we are “awake” during our day to day activities. Thinking in POP terms, I realized after listening to Keillor’s monologue, that he was “dreaming” as a part of the collective field. From that awareness has emerged this new protocol, a structured way to deal with media-related emotional issues using this new HBLU therapy model. Without going into the details of the structured protocol, let me present what underlies the “Dreaming Media.”
The “Dreaming Media” We are living in the information age. We are bombarded constantly by information in all manner of different and insidious forms. Some of this information we actively seek. But other information which influences us is less intentional. Such information is essentially like any other form of pollution: we get contaminated by it, leading to profound consequences for us, both personally and societally.
The most pernicious element of the pervasive influence of media pollution on our lives is that it generates an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness by portraying ever increasing violence to people and to the earth. Even more importantly, energetically and emotionally, we end up experiencing a profound feeling of lack of safety. This becomes true in many different contexts: in our body, our school, our neighborhood and, sadly, in our relationship with the archetypal stranger. More than any other theme repetitively promulgated by the media, this message, that we are no longer safe in our world, continues to present itself to us as “news.”
Theoretically, the media is dreaming because it has become the channel or vehicle for what Arnie calls the unconscious “collective information float,” that is, those parts of us which each of us disavows and judges as negative or bad. We are uncomfortable with these parts of ourselves because they are primitive, powerful and highly charged emotional energies. This is what C.G. Jung called our “shadow.”
Violence and sex are becoming more graphic and in your face via the media because of some fundamental lack of acknowledgment of these primitive parts within us. What this suggests is that we are not constructively dealing with our sexuality and other primitive impulses, such as anger and rage. In all probability, we were told when young that our sexuality was not beautiful and natural, and that our angry responses to frustration were not acceptable. So, from a very young age, because we were taught and conditioned to believe that these basic and essential aspects of ourselves were bad and inappropriate, we have, in turn, conveyed these same messages to our own children. Hopefully, more aware and caring parenting practices are growing, but I question to what degree these more “enlightened” views are actually integrating into the culture at large. This, too, worries me.
I do want to acknowledge that it cuts both ways in regards to the media, and this concern of mine addresses only the shadow side of the disavowed parts of ourselves. We just as quickly and unconsciously split off parts of ourselves that most people would characterize as “positive:” the heroic, the Divine and the lover, to name just a few. Great art (through all forms of media) has always inspired us to acknowledge and to aspire to these most uplifting aspects of self. But this article concerns itself with a discussion about how our own personal difficulties in dealing with “undesirable” parts of ourselves end up contributing to a larger, more threatening collective shadow which is becoming more powerfully expressed through all forms of the media.
Since we are all part of the collective field, we are all channels for disavowed or split-off emotional material from others, often very dark and shadowy. To give you an example, in a process-oriented group, it may happen that the person sitting next to me is very uncomfortable with his anger. He does not like to get angry nor does he like anyone else getting angry. Anger is scary for him. Psychologically, he disowns his “angry part.” Strangely, a person on the other side of the room will soon find them-selves becoming very angry. This person has become a channel for the emotional energy of the person who disowns his anger. The expression of that anger is often strong and threatening, exactly what the first person is so uncomfortable with. This is a phenomenon of the collective unconscious group field. And it is happening on a global scale with each one of us participating “unconsciously” and contributing to the collective group field.
What happens when millions of people disown or disavow their own sexuality or their angry feelings from their conscious life? That energy has to go somewhere. Therapists know some of it ends up causing chronic physical problems and various forms of addictions. Much of it becomes part of the “collective information float” (or in Jungian terms, the collective shadow). It circulates in the global field, energetically seeking the path of least resistance, much like what happens to the water from an intense thunder storm that quickly becomes a flash flood.
The media has tremendous influence over our lives. Prominent individuals (even folksy Keillor) as well as popular music, feature films and best selling books are unwitting channels for disavowed and shadow energy from the collective. Like the Borg collective in the Star Trek mythos, the media for most of us is the vehicle through which we experience vicarious connection to the universal, with others like us yearning to heal our fundamental existential sense of aloneness. Like the Borg drone, it is via the media that we can experience the “sounds of the billions of voices of the collective.” Global satellite wireless communication and the “world wide web” bring this reality ever closer to each of us. The media is fast becoming the vehicle through which we unconsciously attempt to heal our core soul wound of feeling alone in universe. Therein lies the seduction and the power of its seductive grip on each of us. This is how we remain vulnerable to what is being funneled through the media. It is essentially like a dark spirit that we have some relationship to. Since it contains parts of ourselves in it (that we disavow), we look to it to inform us about ourselves in ways we cannot access directly through our own personal experience, for these are the ways we have not been sufficiently supported ourselves.
It is very dangerous to be unaware of and unprotected from this ever-increasing influence of the media in its various forms. This dreaming media can stimulate triggers for old trauma and it can generate new trauma by burning horrific images or persistent internal auditory worry loops into our consciousness.
So what is one to do about all of this? How can we protect ourselves from this intrusive phenomenon?
First, become sensitive to how offended you are when the local newspaper continues to overemphasize violence in the headlines and feature stories. As this awareness evolves, notice how you may feel less safe in the world, or in your community or your schools. Pay attention to the media you invite into your life—the movies and videos you watch, the newspapers and magazines you read. Actively reflect upon and identify any links between your feeling states (especially anxiety or depression) and the media you experience. Pay attention to your teenagers when they express hopelessness about the future and proclaim that, from what they “gather,” suicide is a viable alternative to the horrific reports of declining rainforests and diversity of species.
As you become more sensitive to how you are affected by the media, you will begin to wake up and take action. When Garrison Keillor’s monologue gets into assassination and my child is listening, I decide to turn off the radio! When movies are rated PG or PG13, make the time to determine if the information is going to be informing your child about things you immediately know to be inappropriate. Stay connected to and aware of what thoughts and feelings persist within you after seeing a movie or getting the daily newspaper.
My hope is that, as we become more aware of the collective shadow both seducing and assaulting us through the media, we will begin to do our own shadow work.
Just what does it mean to “do our own shadow work?” It means to get clear about your personal values, not allowing media intrusions to violate these values. Get proactive. Write letters to the editor. Demand news that is encouraging and inspiring rather than depressing and fear inducing. If you are uncomfortable with aspects of yourself, do whatever you can to heal the wounds and reclaim all of your inner parts. Do your own spiritual work so your connection to Source is solid and does not depend upon an illusory sense of interconnectedness via the media. Take more personal responsibility and stop feeding this monster that the dreaming media continues to channel. After all, what’s “out there” is really just inside, waiting to be acknowledged and healed.
Howard Brockman is a therapist with a private practice, Integrative Healing Technologies, in Salem, Oregon. Having been trained in Kundalini yoga and meditation, Process-Oriented Psychology, Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP, shamanic journey work, and more recently, Healing From the Body Up, Howard continues to work deeply in the mystery of mind, body, spirit healing. He can be reached at (503) 370-4546, or by email.