Guest Post: Dreams as a Healing and Necessary Other by Kayla Bowen

"The labyrinth is a wonderful symbol to represent dream work, which is essentially a journey of self-discovery down to those deepest, most hidden places of ourselves in our unconscious. " - Kayla Bowen
“The labyrinth is a wonderful symbol to represent dream work, which is essentially a journey of self-discovery down to those deepest, most hidden places of ourselves in our unconscious. ” – Kayla Bowen

“Last night I was working through an article on information by design by Edward Tufte. Tufte is an American statistician and professor, educated at Yale, who has revolutionized the field of information design. The article I was reading, “The Cognitive Style of Power Point: Pitching Out Corrupts Within” makes the case that Power Point, as a presentation tool, significantly compromises the ability of presenters to communicate information, especially detailed scientific information.

Tufte’s research led him to conclude that NASA’s use of Power Point in deliberations relating to an incident upon the launch of the Columbia space shuttle led NASA engineers to conclude that the shuttle was safe to reenter the earth’s atmosphere, when in fact it was not, leading to deaths of several astronauts. His reasoning is that Power Point artificially forces presenters to chunk evidence together unnaturally (in slides), in which there is not enough room to adequately explain key points with sufficient supporting details. Furthermore, Power Point imposes often unnatural hierarchical relationships upon data and supports the role of presenter as authority, which has a chilling effect on intelligent discourse.

But, what does Edward Tufte’s research on Power Point’s ubiquity in presentations across the disciplines have to do with dreams?

As I read through the article, many of Tufte’s points dealt with the idea of information resolution – the depth, density and vividness of information. Power point slides are simply not able to capture information in a high resolution format, their structure is too limiting and predefined. I began to ponder the ways in which we divide our days likewise. Our daytime hours become like the slides of a powerpoint – our days and hours divided and subdivided into small sequential segments, often predictable, and often defined by the hierarchies of prioritization and “to do” lists.

While order and control are necessary for survival in our contemporary society, could it be that such tight control and segmentation of our lives squeezes out the possibility of high resolution living? Could it be that our obsessions with ordering life in an unnatural and predetermined sequence of hours and days might compromise the richness and depth of our experiences?

When I examine the world around me and notice all of the various dualities – night and day, male and female, summer and winter, autumn and spring, among many others, I realize that waking and dreaming states exist in a necessary and healing balance with each other. Dreams provide a direct contrast to the ego’s white-fisted control of our waking lives, and perhaps, in this respect, by acknowledging and appreciating our dreams, we can breathe a new level of depth and resolution in our daylight hours.

Our dreaming hours lack the limiting structures that define our waking hours, such as space, time, gravity, predictability, cause and effect, and so on. Dreams are a safe way for us to experience chaos as a necessary balance to order, to experience flight as a necessary balance to the laws of gravity, to experience timelessness and/or simultaneous action as a necessary balance to the linear progression of time, to experience absurdity as a necessary balance to pragmatism, to experience horror as a necessary complement to boredom and our obsession with the status quo.

This other, the state of the dreaming mind, seems to me to be necessary to provide balance, restoration and healing. Delving into the chaos, unpredictability, and undefined experiences within the safe context of our dreams allows the mind a rest from its work of ordering, analyzing and predicting. The mind is free to simply be and experience without the compulsions of organization as survival. When one compares the “resolution” of dreaming experiences to those of waking life in those terms, it is interesting to note how much more vividly and memorable dreaming experiences can be. I often remember the details of my dreams more easily than I remember what I wore to work yesterday.

Researchers have suggested that dreams may be necessary for survival and for health, and I wonder if it is not because dreams provide a healing and necessary balance to our attempts to create order and control in waking life.”

Kayla Bowen is a collector of visions and sharer of tales, a wonderful source for creative explorations of dreams with a sharp insightful mind and open caring heart.  Her work is both intellectually informed and highly compassionate.

Or you may prefer to define her by what she does, as:

Editor of COLLECTIVE Magazine,
blogger at dreamrly.com,
dream work educator and dream group facilitator.

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you, Kayla, for this insightful piece. With this I very much agree “Dreams provide a direct contrast to the ego’s white-fisted control of our waking lives.” It has been my experience that in dreams we have access to our inner Self, or to a level of consciousness not available to our waking brain and ego. Our inner Self sees things much more clearly than we do and through dreams often forces us to confront mental and emotional walls we are blind to because they are so much a part of our psychological landscape. Dreams enable us to rise above invisible walls. This is one of the reasons dream work can be so rewarding. Paying attention to our dreams, absorbing the feelings they evoke in us, no matter how uncomfortable, helps us break the code of their hieroglyphic-like symbols and can literally transform overnight.

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  2. Kayla’s fine article with a most interesting point causes me to think of another place where immensely powerful technology is possibly…simplifying things, in this case dreaming, in possibly untoward ways. I cite the example of the hugely successful film, Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan. Maybe a bit like Power Point a film like Inception is terrific at catching our attention in a flashy, special-effect rich way. It uses all sorts of information, some gleaned as I understand, from the IASD, International Association for the Study of Dreams to present a story in which a young man’s dreams are invaded by an “inception,” dream theft crew, to plant a “false dream.” The film uses many if not all of the conceits of the action thriller genre including shoot outs, killings, car chases and crashes, etc. The “killing” of someone in a dreams is “harmless” becasue it simply wakes the person so killed up. I feel this is an enormous simplification, even a dangerous one, perhaps in the fashion of Kayla’s point on Power Point.

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