Dreams and nightmares can do an amazing job of personifying our fears in ways that are vivid and powerful. Unfortunately, these images are generally so overpowering that instead of listening to them in an integral and deep way, we simply react to them, setting up a cycle of repetitive nightmares that are emotionally distressing and damaging to one’s physical health.
For Alisa, this has been the case since her childhood, for about forty-five years. Until she was about twenty-five the nightmare was of “a dark man standing right in front of me. Very scared, my pulse races and I wake up. Since then, it has turned into a black wall that is in front of me.”
“I have worked on it with constellation work and other forms of therapy and taken medicine for it but I have still never grasped why I have it or how to stop it. I associate this big, black wall with threat and fear…”
Like Alisa, we all have our own ideas about what this wall might mean. The amazing thing is that so few of us park our own interpretations until we have first asked the wall itself. Why not? Might not it have an opinion? Might that opinion be better informed than our own? In Dream Sociodrama group members become not Alisa’s wall but their own version of a wall of fear. The difference is important. To become Alisa’s wall is projection while becoming one’s own wall puts us in touch with our own truth. By doing so, we get to know a similar reality within ourselves and learn to move toward a more respectful relationship with it. This is how Dream Sociodrama proceeds. Afterwards, Alisa is asked what she has heard all these walls say and then responds to questions to her own wall. What will it have to tell her? The following is largely a verbatim transcript of Alisa’s dialogue with the walls of group members and then her own..
Interviewing the big, dark, threatening Wall:
Wall, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?
(Group members respond…)
“I am big and dark.”
“…moist but cold…”
“I am bigger and huger than anything you can imagine. I look like I am made out steel but I am actually made out of water.”
“I am just like a normal wall. I am big, black and colder than her wall.”
(Character), what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?
“I am big, strong and solid; nothing can shake me.”
“No one can even see where I end or begin!”
“I am mysterious!”
“I have my structure; I look good!”
“I like myself. No one easily knocks me over, overlooks me. You can put photos on me.”
“I am just HERE! You can’t ignore me!”
Wall, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What are they?
That I can’t move!”
“I have the form of a wall!”
“I don’t have any peers…I am the only one!”
“I like myself…”
Wall, what aspect of Alisa do you represent or most closely personify?
“Resilence in beingness.”
“A dark form of spirituality!”
Wall, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?
“The universe! I want to be so wide! I felt my singularity. I am so black, yet water but restricted. If I expand I am the dark huge universe!”
“I would like to spread less fear! It’s my strength to create fear! I am not worried about losing my fear….”
“I would like to multiply and make a house: a cool bungalow!”
“I am waiting for something to build something – a big house for everybody! And dogs and cats!”
“I would like be able to move but not lose my strength!”
“I want to make a world tour! I want pictures of me next to the Eiffel Tower!”
(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)
Wall, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, happen. I don’t want to change. I want compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing? Why?
Confidence, 0-10. Why? “Big house: I am an eight! I am stable and earthquake-proof!”
“8…I have no need for any qualities because I am the totality of everything!” “10…”
Empathy, 0-10. Why? “I’m a wall! I have no compassion!” “I am the universe ! I have moved beyond compassion!” “3… I do have potential….” “I don’t have any- I am a wall…” “8; I am relatively stable, secure and I have the wish that all others were the same…” “I am a house so I have a lot of compassion – I protect people…”
Wisdom, 0-10. Why? 11! ???? “10…I know where I am and what I am!”
Acceptance, 0-10. Why? “In the universe everything exists so there is no need for acceptance or rejection…” “5 – I can’t accept myself better than that. I feel clumsy…” “Myself 9, others 1…The rest…I’m OK, the others are not OK! …” “I am an 8; Everything is OK!”
Inner Peace, 0-10. Why? Universe: I am complete.”…house…”I’m concrete…huh???” …Inner freedom 9 because all the other walls are there—” “I am a ambivalent: I have total inner peace and also none at all! …I give myself a ten…”
Witnessing, 0-10. Why? “10 – “I see everything go by! No drama!” “I witness people in drama! Hitting me with their fist! …” “Witnessing is boring! Why would I want to witness?” …10 universe – “I do infinite witnessing…”
Wall (or transformed character), if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different? If so, how?
Universe – “It doesn’t apply to me…” “I would be a door!” “I don’t want to score people so much!” “I can change how ever I want to be or others need me to be!” …”An Indian Chief! A real human!…” “I would be very flexible but still holding. I would be like tent material, cotton wool, flexible…I would have openings…”
Wall (or transformed character), how would Alisa’s life be different if she naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?
“I would be more calm, confident and less stressed;” “I would have a consistent objectivity, inner peace, clarity, witnessing all the time and not just when I am meditating…” “I would not have any compassion!” “She would be more solid in all her qualities. She would have inner peace without thinking about it…”
In what situations would it be good for your human to have your qualities?
“When it is time to say NO!”
“When the day to day stresses of life come up, to have that inner peace.”
“Does the universe have cosmic humor? No!”
“I am good for saying, “Up to here and no further!”
“When there is stress!”
Why did you come up today Wall, or transformed character?
“Because I was invited!”
“You mentioned that there was a black man that was scaring you…I am trying to compose music that shifts people’s relationship to blackness…The quality…how to embrace blackness as a way of surrender and find universal connection…”
“I came up because I have other qualities than to scare people…”
“I have come up because I am like a block or limit. I disturb her development! (She thinks!)”
Why should Alisa pay any attention to what you have said, Walls or transformed characters?
“We created it together and can learn from each other!”
“I think it’s a good idea everyone knows their own wall!”
“I don’t feel like a fantasy! I am worth being listened to!”
“It’s a good idea to look at your wall and get to know it! You will lose some of your feeling of threat!”
“My wall has come up because it wants to tell me to keep hitting my head against it! Instead say, think, analyze other ways to deal with it!”
“I would get a tank and mow it down!!!”
“I think it is very important my human listens to me so he changes his relationship. Instead of fighting me and getting hurt he can open his heart to me, listen to me! “I love you wall!” He didn’t want me! He wanted me to go away! The fact is, I’m here! And I won’t go anywhere! It doesn’t matter what he wants!”
Wall, would it be good for your human to stay in contact with you?
“I think it’s better that she stays in touch so she can see I am here for her…”
“Stay in contact with me; I give you protection, maybe I can hide you…Maybe she can do sports on me!”
“If we stay in contact I could really become a door and we could both benefit. She wouldn’t experience me so much as an insurmountable wall!”
“Life is not a fun without walls!”
“Walls provide protection and shelter…”
“So we can become friends…”
Alisa, what have you heard the walls say?
When I did the Constellation work about this, it said, “Why don’t you just walk around this wall?” That did not help me.”
“I hear these other walls say they can be flexible, I can build from them, you can lean against them, that I can build a door in it and move through…I was amazed at how simple it could be – a door! I can manage to put a door in my wall! I have now realized how important walls are. Without them I would be freezing my ass off! There are many different types! All walls don’t have to be like mine! I laughed a lot about Claudia’s wall having no compassion. That appeals to me to have less compassion with people and have the wall’s inner peace!”
Alisa’s wall, what do you think about what all these other walls have said?
“I am powerful and cold! I heard the same things that Alisa heard. Maybe I could be more flexible. Maybe I could have a door…A small door…Alex would fit through me..”.
Why would you want a door in you??
“Nobody has offered me a door before!”
Imagine she is going through your door again and again…, from one side of you to the other, Wall. How is that for you, wall??
“I don’t know if she will ever come back! I’m not able to control her!”
What do you need to do to control her, wall??
“I don’t want to lose her! She will leave me! I won’t have a purpose any more!”
What would you do then, wall?
“I would crumble to pieces! I don’t have a “Plan B!”
If you did, what would it be, Wall?
“I would crumble and be a smaller walls that people could jump over…”
Then imagine you are all- a big wall, a wall with a door in it that Alisa goes in and out and small walls that people can jump over…
“I am crumbling…Alisa is almost dizzy…It is better if I crumble and I am a series of small walls…I like being strong and big best!”
What sort of relationship do you want to have with Alisa, Wall?
“I would like to have the door in me – if Alisa would be willing to some back and not abandon me!”
Does Alex agree or not?
“I can’t promise because I can’t say for sure what I will do if I get to the other side of the wall!”
Group, what have you hear Alisa and her Wall say?
Feedback from the group:
“The wall doesn’t want to be left.
“It wants to stay big and strong.
The wall is saying, ‘I feel almost sick when I crumble. I don’t want to be useless.’
“The wall wants to make a deal: I’ll give you a door if you promise to come back…”
Alisa: “I hear no clear solution…” “What I realize when the others feed back what I said as the wall is that it made me sad! There’s this fear of losing, of abandonment that the wall has!”
Wall, are you going anywhere? Are you going to abandon Alisa, Wall?
Wall: “No! But I have some fear that she will abandon me! Instead of her being scared of me, I am scared that she will abandon me!”
Alisa: “As Alisa, I can’t really understand what this wall is saying! All I saw before was my panic and to hear what this wall says, that it is afraid of being abandoned, why should I continue my fear? The wall is saying it is there if I need it…”
At this point it was clear that Alisa had new questions she was asking herself but did not have any clear answers for them. She had told herself many things that caused her to re-examine her assumptions about what the wall is and why it is in her life. She now is asking herself a question that was not at all obvious at the beginning of her interview: “Could a fear of abandonment be at the root of her fear of the wall?” “If so, how?” “If so, why?”
Development is an ongoing process which is mediated by the quality of the questions we ask ourselves, others and of life itself. Integral Deep Listening is not about finding soothing, reassuring or final answers but listening to what wants to be heard. For Alisa, what wants to be heard at this point are the concerns and fears that her wall has that she will abandon it! Alisa has to now digest this highly unexpected thought and see what it does to her fear, her anxiety and this nightmare. Does it continue? Does it change? What sort of wake-up calls will come to Alisa now that she has shown respect to her wall and listened to it? This is an adventure of exploration and discovery, and if Alisa continues to practice integral deep listening, she will be told whether she has heard correctly, and what the next step in her unfoldment will be.