We can learn a lot from our dreams. But sometimes we learn the wrong lessons. For example, if we have a nightmare we can learn to be more scared; if we dream stupid, non-sensical things we are likely to learn to ignore our dreams.

Here is an example of a dream that has a lot to teach us about dreaming because it deals with so much:

“I am locked outside my house in the cold, nude.” That’s it! But look at the cornucopia of questions this little dream generates:

“Can a short dream be as important and useful as a long one?”

“Can a dream that depicts a real life event be anything more than day residue?”

“Is the dreamer’s meaning of the dream the real, true and important meaning of the dream?”

“Can a PTSD-like dream teach us anything about PTSD even if we don’t have it?”

“Does this dream just reinforce the dreamer’s fears?”

Every reader will have their own answers to these questions; how can we know what answers are intrinsic to the dream and not simply interpretations that we project onto them?

While Integral Deep Listening (IDL) views such projection as unavoidable, it can be reduced. IDL does so by consulting the perspectives, opinions and interpretations that are intrinsic to the dream itself. In this case, we have several interesting points of view to consider, in addition to that of the dreamer. These are the locked door, the house, the weather (cold) and the lack of clothes. We will return to these questions at the end of the interview.

These dream characters themselves raise some pretty interesting questions:

“How can weather, which is a process rather than a “thing,” be a character?” “Isn’t ‘cold” a sensory experience rather than a quality of the weather?”

“How can the lack of clothes, which is nothing, or the absence of something, be a character?”

We can make weather a rescuer or persecutor, and these are both characters, depending on whether we experience it as supportive or threatening. In this case, the weather is experienced as a persecutor because it is cold and the dreamer feels vulnerable.

Upon reflection, the lack of clothes is really about a feeling, vulnerability. The character is “bare skin, not “lack of clothes.” So, with these assumptions in mind, we can create a Dream Sociomatrix, in order to interview these characters, collect their preferences and explanations of them, called “elaborations.”

We can then ask further questions of the characters, collecting further explanations and creating additional types of answers, called “commentaries:”

 

Three fundamental life issues

• Less dependency on external validation as I get older, because I am getting and will get less.

• How to get more external validation to generate continuing feelings of usefulness.

• Less sensitivity to what people say, misfortunes, health issues as a way of keeping myself happy.

Predictions:

Most preferring: Dream Consciousness?

Most rejecting: Dream Self

Most preferred character: Cold Air

Most rejected character: Dream Self

Most preferred action: “What to do?”

Most rejected action: Locked out

Most preferred feeling: Surprise

Most rejected feeling: Fear

Dream Sociomatrix Commentary

“The reason I like, like (a lot, love, dislike, dislike a lot, hate, don’t care about, or am accepting toward) (dream element) is…”  “What I liked/disliked most about being in this dream is…”

Dream Self: I don’t like myself a lot for getting myself get locked out. Stupid! The way this happens is the door tends to shut by itself due to drafts from the cracked window in the bedroom. There is no way to set the lock so that the door can be opened without a key from the outside. When it’s shut, it’s locked. Come to think of it, it’s a really stupid system. I can’t remember ever having to live with one like that before. While I hate this sort of surprise, I am also surprised that I do not hate the cold air, being vulnerable or scared or the exposure of my bare skin. I am realizing that I work hard at not emotionally reacting and not getting into drama out of years of experience learning it only makes it worse. Turning immediately to a solution, rather than a problem focus is also a skill I have learned and that even shows up in this dream. What I like most about being in this dream is that I don’t react as badly as I could.  What I dislike most about being in this dream is being thoughtless and getting myself into a real predicament.

Locked Door: I have no feelings one way or another about these events. However, I do like the apartment a lot, of which I am a part. What I like most about being in this dream is that it doesn’t affect me one way or the other. What I dislike most about being in this dream is nothing.

Cold Air: I like myself a lot, but other than that I do not care one way or another about these events. They don’t concern me. What I like most about being in this dream is showing up; being me.  What I dislike most about being in this dream is nothing.

Bare Skin:  I don’t like Dream Self a lot because he put me in a very vulnerable situation. He was foolish. He knew that door could do that! I also hate the door slamming, being locked out and the very unpleasant surprise. Like him, I like the house a lot, because it provides me with protection. My remaining reactions are either stronger than Dream Self’s or opposite. For example, he dislikes the cold air and being vulnerable a lot; I HATE THEM! I like his thinking what to do a lot because he needs to get us out of this mess. He doesn’t like me a lot because I’m exposed, but I like me a lot. While he dislikes his fear a lot, I like it a lot because hopefully it will wake him up! He’ll learn! What I like most about being in this dream is that maybe he’ll learn something from it – figure out a solution to keep this from happening. What I dislike most about being in this dream is feeling vulnerable and being victimized by “myself.”

House: I like Dream Self and I do feel a sense of responsibility and care for him since it is my job to protect him. So I am sorry this happened to him and I like that he is trying to figure out what to do about it. While I dislike his fear, maybe he can learn from it. What I like most about being in this dream is that I offer safety, protection and comfort generally, even if I am not doing so in this particular dream.  What I dislike most about being in this dream is the predicament Dream Self has put himself in.

Dream Consciousness: I like Dream Self a lot. I think his predicament is good! His fear serves a purpose to wake him up, to get him to think, to generate solutions! What I like most about creating this dream is it is an attempt to get him to wake up and pay attention. I think I succeeded this time! What I dislike most about creating this dream is having to scare him to get his attention, to wake him up enough to remember the dream and then hope that he will actually come to some conclusions about it that are helpful.

What surprises me about what I’ve heard is… 

What I am realizing is that every day I have some concern, some fear of getting locked out. I double check to make sure I have my key. It’s like low-level PTSD! I’m realizing that the shock of this dream is bringing that low-level, chronic anxiety into focus so that I will address it! What can I do to keep from getting locked out? Do I get another key made and hide it outside? Do I see if the lock can be changed to one that one can set so you are not locked out? What we have been doing is turning the bolt, with the key in the lock, so that the bolt keeps the door from shutting, if we are outside. Do I get a doorstop attached to the door to keep it from blowing shut? It also is making me aware that I have a general tendency toward passivity about such things – to put up with low-level chronic anxiety or inconvenience rather than quickly taking decisive action to get rid of it. Perhaps it is a form of laziness.

Dream Commentary

“If I could change this dream in any way, would I change it?  If so, how?”

Locked Door: I would be changed so I wouldn’t lock, either with a different type of lock or a door stop.

Cold Air: I would leave it the way it is. A great experience of cause and effect!

Bare Skin:  Any of those three solutions would be fine, but I vote for another key outside in the entrance hall, this one hidden in a better place…

House: I think that solution is the best.

Dream consciousness: I wouldn’t change it! It has provoked the necessary problem solving!

Dream Self: Agreed. If it were different I wouldn’t have remembered it, and the problem would not have been addressed. An example of a necessary misfortune/vulnerability/fear.

Dreamage

(A rewrite of the dream based on a consensus of dream group member recommendations.  If there is no consensus, there can be no dreamage.  A synthesis group dream is usually its own dreamage.  Read it over before sleep as an affirmation of a higher pattern of internal integration and healing.)

I go get another key made and hide it really well.

Dream Summary Commentary

(“What part of this dreamer do you most closely personify?

 “My strengths are… 

 “The reason why I am in this dream is…” 

 “This dream group came together to…”)

Locked Door: I most closely personify protection and an impersonal barrier. My strengths are my strength. The reason why I am in this dream is to present a barrier that is not easily overcome and must be dealt with artfully. This dream group came together to wake you up out of your fear of being locked out by prodding you to consider solutions.

Cold Air: I most closely personify life in its wild, natural and untamed state. My strengths are my aliveness and autonomy. The reason why I am in this dream is to help you wake up. This dream group came together to wake you up out of your fear of being locked out by prodding you to consider solutions.

Bare Skin:  I most closely personify vulnerability. My strengths are my ability to both protect you and let you know when you are vulnerable. The reason why I am in this dream is to serve as a wake-up call. This dream group came together to help you get past your fears of getting locked out.

House: 

I most closely personify security, comfort and support. My strengths are that I provide all three of those things.The reason why I am in this dream is to create a context for you to gain greater self-awareness about how you keep yourself scared. This dream group came together to help you move past your fear.

Dream consciousness: I most closely personify the contexts that precipitated this dream. My strengths are my ability to portray accurately and effectively both how you stay stuck and effective alternatives. The reason why I created this dream is to help you move beyond your fear of getting locked out. This dream group came together to portray concretely how you sabotage yourself and generate unnecessary fear.

Waking Commentary

As (this dream group member), if I were living this dreamer’s waking life, how would I live it differently? Would I handle this dreamer’s three life issues differently?  If so, how?

• Less dependency on external validation as I get older, because I am getting and will get less.

• How to get more external validation to generate continuing feelings of usefulness.

  • Less sensitivity to what people say, misfortunes, health issues as a way of keeping myself happy.

Locked Door: I only have something to say about the third issue. I am not sensitive to what people say at all. Therefore, if I were living your life I would be impervious to other’s criticisms, preferences and expectations. People generally view that as selfish, but it works for me.

Cold Air: I don’t get older; I don’t age. I don’t depend on anyone or anything for validation. Therefore, I am free in ways you imprison yourself.

Bare Skin:  While I am vulnerable and will die, my needs are relatively simple and can be addressed with simplicity and without drama.

House: Because I provide the context in which all these issues are experienced, I don’t have them. The implication then, is to become me when you want do transcend but include without denial or repression such issues.

Dream consciousness: Same for me.

Identification Commentary

If I could designate specific occasions in the dreamer’s waking life when I would recommend that he imagine that he is me, what would those occasions be?  

Locked Door: When he doesn’t want to let in disruption, criticism, loss of focus.

Cold Air: When he wants to become free of validation by others.

Bare Skin:  When he wants to find a good balance between protection and vulnerability.

House: When he wants to arrive at contexts that transcend, yet include his difficulties, concerns, problems.

Dream consciousness: The same as house, only moreso.

Action Plan

(All of the above recommendations for waking life application are not of equal importance.  You have to decide how you wish to prioritize them and what you want to do with them.  But take some action!  It is a way of demonstrating that you take your inner direction seriously.  If you have it wrong, future dream groups will cybernetically correct your course.) 

• Go to Baumarkt, get a key made and hide it in the basement.

• Access broader contexts, such as House and Dream Consciousness when you want to contextualize your problems and concerns.

• Become the locked door when you want to not be distracted or affected by the words or actions of others.

Sociogram Commentary

Overall Pattern: Conflict on all axes, ( / ) pattern.

Acceptance Axis: Dream Consciousness is very high scoring, implying that the context that created the dream is very pleased with the conflict. An excellent example of how the antithetical stage of the developmental dialectic can be viewed positively.

Form Axis: The spread between Dream Consciousness at positive twenty and Dream Self, at negative sixteen, is very wide indeed, implying an unusual degree of dissociation between the two. That in turn indicates that Dream Self and waking identity are blind and sleepwalking in relationship to the perspective on these associated life issues, when they are viewed from the perspective of Dream Consciousness. It is also interesting that DS and Bare Skin are not surrogates, as one might imagine. Instead, Skin is less rejecting than DS although it is vulnerable. All other elements are more supportive that rejecting of this group, meaning they support the creation of conditions that expose DS to vulnerability and fear.

Process Axis: The behavioral contrast here is clear and simple: being “locked out,” that is, rendered powerless and vulnerable, is solidly rejected, while asking, “What can I do?” that is, taking a solution rather than a problem focus, is solidly supported by the group.

Affect Axis: While surprise and vulnerability are rejected by the group as a whole, implying that these group members prefer more awareness and less surprise, at least of this sort, and more protection and less vulnerability, the group as a whole prefers fear even though DS hates it. This is a major perceptual chasm that shows just how out of step the perception of DS is from this intrasocial group as a whole.

Dream Group Dynamics Commentary

(In which the various dream group members are provided with an opportunity to express their thoughts on their relationships with their fellow dream group members.)

Locked Door: I feel good about my relationship with my other group members. I do my job in this dream and am preferred for doing so by the group as a whole.

Cold Air: While I am rejected by DS and Bare Skin, everyone else is either neutral or prefers me. My presence is a natural consequence of thoughtlessness and inattention.

Bare Skin:  While I experience myself as victimized in this dream, the result is greater awareness for DS, first in getting him to remember the dream, secondly, that he thought enough of it to listen to all of us, and thirdly that he is taking practical constructive action to eliminate the fears that gave rise to it

House: I agree. I am very pleased with how this turned out, despite the fact the dream was shocking.

Predictions:

Most preferring: Dream Consciousness

Most rejecting: Bare Skin

Most preferred character: House

Most rejected character: Dream Self √, Cold Air

Most preferred action: “What to do?”√

Most rejected action: None

Most preferred feeling: Surprise√

Most rejected feeling: Vulnerable

4 of 8: 50%

“What I am saying to myself is…”

Statements from elaborations are rewritten here as “I” statements.

While I dislike my fear, maybe I can learn from it.”

“I have a general tendency toward passivity about such things.”

“This is an example of a necessary misfortune/vulnerability/fear.

“I need to be more impervious to other’s criticisms, preferences and expectations. People generally view that as selfish, but it works for me.”

“I don’t have to depend on anyone or anything for validation. Therefore, I am free in ways  I previously have imprisoned myself.”

Notice that these rephrasings are essentially antidotal substitutes for cognitive distortions the dreamer has been telling himself, generally out of his awareness:

“I dislike my fear and I can’t learn from it because it is too overwhelming and real.”

“I can successfully ignore my general tendency toward passivity.”

“Misfortune/vulnerability/fear are never necessary.”

“I need listen and take to heart other’s criticisms, preferences and expectations because that’s how I show respect and learn. People generally view that as me being loving and respectful.”

“In the real world I have to depend on others for validation, so I better be nice to them and give them the benefit of the doubt.”

This is an excellent example of how Dream Sociometry uncovers cognitive distortions that we have been telling ourselves that keep us stuck in our development. Once they are identified, we can be on the lookout for them as well as ready to substitute their antidotes.

This entire Dream Sociomatrix, Commenary Series and Dream Sociogram provide a very clear example of how getting “new” information is not what we need at least some of the time. Instead, what we need is greater clarity about how we block ourselves from using what we already know. In this case, I had all the options for fixing the problem, but I wasn’t clear about the option I really wanted (to get another key and hide it) and I hadn’t given my permission to do it. This is because I had perceived resistance from my wife, rightly or wrongly, about making another key and hiding it. So in the back of my mind I had ruled that solution out. But once I objectified all of this in the process of this interview, I realized I did not know that as a fact, and so I asked her where the closest place was to get a key made. She told me and asked why and I simply said that I wanted to have another door key made and hide it in the basement where no one could find it. She had no objection and the problem was solved. So sometime this week I will go get anotehr key made and the problem will be solved. The dream will have served its purpose and I will not need to scare myself any more regarding that issue, whether asleep or awake.

This is a clear and powerful example of the type of practical usefulness that Dream Sociometry provides.

Some of the basic issues addressed by this dream group are:  

• Facing fears.

• Practical real life problem solving.

• Reducing feelings of vulnerability to the opinions, preferences of others.

Returning to the initial questions raised by this short but intense nightmare,

“Can a short dream be as important and useful as a long one?”

Yes; clearly so.

“Can a dream that depicts a real life event be anything more than day residue?”

Most observers, after reading the various commentaries and studying the Dream Sociomatrix and Dream Sociogram would probably conclude that the implications for the dreamer go far beyond one triggering waking event or even a series of similar triggering waking events – ongoing fear of getting locked out – to issues of vulnerability, passivity, problem solving and response to the opinions and criticisms of others.

“Is the dreamer’s meaning of the dream the real, true and important meaning of the dream?”

It should be obvious that I missed the meaning of the dream entirely during the dream and largely before I worked on it, even though I have worked on dreams regularly for most of my life. This is an indication of how subjective immersion in self-created delusion never goes away; you clear out some only to discover yourself trapped in more subtle yet highly significant layers of misperception.

“Can a PTSD-like dream teach us anything about PTSD even if we don’t have it?”

This dream, along with its partner waking experience, are very similar to what we see, on a much more intense level with PTSD: The processes that underlie both are similar; the effective interventions for both are similar.

“Does this dream just reinforce the dreamer’s fears?”

Yes and no. If ignored, if not listened to, such dreams reinforce fears, just as nightmares reinforce symptoms of PTSD. However, when a dream is respected and listened to, as this one does, fear is not reinforced. Rather, it is contextualized, in that it is found to exist within a constructive structure that makes sense and provides a path to greater healing, balance and transformation within the life of the dreamer.