Bramham Therapy was excited to welcome Val Parker, a psychodynamic psychotherapist, group analyst and supervisor,…
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Stephen Bushell, a Jungian Analyst, skilfully led our delegate group to learn how to begin working with dream material using a Jungian approach.
Stephen encouraged us to cultivate an attitude of not-knowing; to suspend the rational mind in order to become more receptive to the unconscious and let the symbolic nature of images speak. He emphasised the importance, when working with dreams, to simply ask questions without the need to find answers: “to wait upon what emerges and to suspend the desire or need to capture or know it!” The unconscious seeks to be made conscious; in this way, meaning simply emerges (we do not actively make it).
Concept of Unconscious
He clarified that Carl Jung defined the unconscious into two sections:
- the personal unconscious which relates to an individual’s personal life history such as repressed memories, overwhelming affect which had to be split off, or missed creative potential; and
- The collective unconscious which is the container of the whole of human history, and can include meaning-making represented by endeavours such as art, poetry, religion, literature, dance etc. This gets ‘laid down’ on an energetic level and contains archetypes (eg the great mother).
What has been lacking in the personal unconscious of an individual can be compensated for in the collective unconscious, eg good parental images.
Split off from the mystic world
We all dream but often we don’t remember. Our dream world is going on all the time but we only tend to dip in and out briefly. As a modern culture we have become split off from the mystic world and from symbolism, and yet we tend to need this in order to find meaning. Stephen warned against confusing signs with symbols. The former are concrete and clear and usually point to one specific thing, eg a road sign signalling danger ahead. Symbols, on the other hand, represent the best possible way to image something which remains unknown.
Working experientially with a dream and a dream image
Firstly, as a group of delegates we were put into breakout groups of just two, where we shared with our colleague a real dream. Our partner was asked to note down the setting (place, location, building), cast (people, animals, machines, natural environment), narrative (plot, sequence of events) and conclusion (if there is a resolution).
Secondly, we were to note down any feelings from each section, as well as associations, context (what happened the day before), connections and memories within these different sections. Furthermore it is possible to expand or amplify the image or dream material by using myth, culture, religion, fairy tales, etc, from the collective unconscious.
Thirdly, we were asked to focus on one image from the dream, then to draw this without judgement and without trying too hard in order to let the unconscious show itself. This is another way of amplifying the dream material, and to see how dream images can change, flow and transform.
Stephen encouraged us to foster in ourselves and our clients the idea that dream material is sacred and of high value.
When working with clients, Stephen’s personal approach is to ask the client to tell the dream for the first time when in session (rather than sending an email ahead of the session). He encouraged us to make notes whilst with the client in order to capture the various items mentioned above (setting, characters, conclusion, feelings, images and amplifications etc). Writing notes additionally models to the client that we are taking their dream seriously. During the telling of the dream, the therapist can notice the client’s tone of voice or other body language/gestures, especially if there’s a disconnect from feeling.
This was an inclusive, interactive, experiential day that was was full of rich soulfulness. Stephen guided us with care and safety, and many of us felt braver and more skilled to ‘have a go’ at working with our clients’ dreams as well as our own, and with an appetite to learn more.
I’d like to thank Stephen for his skilful guidance and all our delegates for their openness and willingness to participate with their ‘not-knowing’.
Average feedback scores from our event:
Organisation of event: 4.9 out of 5
Speaker: 4.8 out of 5
Feedback from our event:
“I have found the day to be well paced, and well balanced between information giving and experiential activities. And would love more from Stephen!” Kelly P
“Thank you Wendy and Stephen for another brilliant day. I had some reservations as I am not hugely confident about my own dreaming or working with dreams. I have found the day accepting and inclusive and I have got a lot more out of it than expected.” Kate Blockley
“I am left with deep long lasting insight. Stephens approach is gentle and non threatening/judgemental. Thank you Wendy too for your hard work and care.” Sally Walters
“This has been so helpful as a way of working and thinking about dreams. I like Stephen’s approach and would like further training on dreams if Stephen does such training. Thank you for the professional organisation of the workshop. I always enjoy the events you offer.”
“I really enjoyed this time and space; the learning and experience. Thank you to Stephen and Wendy and to everyone taking part. I found the ‘human to human’ quality and ethos that you have created and held throughout, Stephen, very affirming. Thank you so much.” Dawn Wilson
“Wendy thank you for superb organisation, again. I really enjoy Stephens way of holding the space, his pace of words and thinking…Inspirational day. I feel left with some real insight and courage to allow dreams and working with dreams into my consulting room. Connection to the ‘bigger’…collective…humanity…universe…all feels profoundly present today, and I very much value this.” Jaana Laidlaw
“Thank you to Stephen, Wendy, the group as whole and especially the people I worked with in the breakout rooms. Hugely thought and feeling provoking” Anonymous
“Thank you Stephen for an enriching day, thank you everyone” Anonymous