Dreams and Politics by Kathleen Sullivan
In my experience, most people who work with their dreams are political liberals. It’s not that conservatives don’t dream, (the average human dreams about 2 1/2 hours per night). It’s just that an overwhelming majority of clients during my twenty-three years as a professional dream worker are not politically conservative. This makes sense when we define some terms.
This from American Heritage: Conservative: "tending to favor the preservation of the existing order and to regard proposals for change with distrust." If that is your paradigm, you will find dream work a challenge because dreaming is a revolutionary act. Dreams are intended to lead you beyond the known into new awareness and, eventually, altered behavior.
The dream is not keen on the status quo. It wants change and when that becomes imperative, nightmares will wake us, usually against our will. Dreams lead beyond the tight little boxes of beliefs, biases, alliances, and prohibitions harbored within our family and cultural scripts. Thus, to an ultra-conservative wedged in a box that disparages disagreement with political authority, that holds sacred generations of unquestioned family values, and that cannot challenge literal and rigid religious preaching, dream work would not be appealing.
That religious conservatives are upset with the dream was brought home to me in a very personal way during a book signing in l999. I had been interviewed by 20/20 a week before this gathering at Barnes and Noble in San Jose. Therefore, the store had effectively advertised the event and brought in a surprising faction of teenagers who lurked in the stacks as we prepared for the mini-lecture. I observed the kids checking notes, jotting on pads, whispering to each other and a smattering of adults. I imagined a school research project on dreams. This notion was dispelled with the first amazing question from a boy, pushed forward by his chums. “Don’t you know that dreams are the work of the Devil?” he asked. Before I could close my gaping mouth, he added, “Aren’t you afraid of spending eternity in hell?” I had known that any television show Oprah airs on dreams is pre-empted in ultra-conservative communities (for instance, Reno, Nevada) but I had not personally experienced this phenomenon of attacking the dream.
The group’s activity was well orchestrated by five adults who stayed in the stacks coaching approximately twenty youngsters. The kids would barge into the line of people buying my book, read a question, write my answer and return it to the adults who then gave the teen the follow-question. And so it went until the Barnes and Noble manager became so concerned about the determination of the group that she summoned security to encourage their removal from the store. Before they left a beautiful blonde girl promised me sincerely that she and her friends would pray for the deliverance of my soul.
Those who learn to understand the symbolic and metaphoric language of the dream will soon discover buried personal truth that leads to healing and wholeness. This demands identifying and altering the beliefs of the past. Dreams are another way of knowing not sanctioned by any group that craves or demands mindless compliance. Dreams divulge the deeply personal truth of the dreamer. Dreams are determined to rescue the dreamer from fear-based teachings created to imprison. Dreams demand self-reflection that leads to the profound examination of unconscious values. Understanding dreams moves the dreamer beyond the literal to the symbolic. Small wonder ultra-conservative groups ban the dream before it can liberate fresh minds not already calcified into blind compliance.
Worst, and best of all, dream work presents the dreamer with the best and the worst parts of himself, urging complete identification with all parts of the self. This integration results in a kind of wholeness that cannot be controlled by outside forces. As such, the dream has no patience with exclusion, rejection, or intolerance. Nor does the dream process make space for the submission demanded by mental dictatorship. Ultimately, the dream is the Great Liberator of the authentic self.
In the service of wholeness we must always honor and value all aspects of the human psyche and experience. Our goal is the integration of opposites, so that two extremes benefit from each other.
Since 1981, Kathleen Sullivan has been a dream professional and counselor in the Monterey Bay area. She is the author of Recurring Dreams: A Journey to Wholeness and Recurring Dream Symbols: A Map to Healing Your Past. Web site: recurringdreams.com Phone: 831-372-8534. This article first appeared in the Santa Cruz Good Times.