Do you frequently feel anxious and are unsure on what you can do to overcome those feelings? If you answered, “yes” then dream work therapy could be just the thing to help you reduce your feelings of anxiety. To help understand how dream work can help reduce feelings of anxiety and what a typical dream work session would be like, I have interviewed psychotherapist Genevieve Jacobs.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I’m a psychotherapist in private practice and professor of psychology in Vermont since 1993. I earned my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, and my undergraduate major was in Transpersonal Psychology with an emphasis on Depth Psychology. I held my first “Dream Salon” with Tom Verner, PhD, in 1991 and I’ve been immersed in both group and individual dream work continuously ever since, teaching a variety of college courses in consciousness studies. I spent my teens and 20’s sailing around the world in a small boat, with my husband and cats. So I think I started my education in a classic mode of experiential learning! In addition, I learned a great deal about the dream world from both my own intensive lifetime of journal-keeping and from listening to the dreams of my son as he grew up. I have also become a devotee of yoga and have begun to integrate traditional psychodynamic views of the psychology of the unconscious with spiritual views from Vedic and other wisdom traditions.”
What type of impact can feelings of anxiety have on someone’s overall life?
“Anxiety can be both sharpening and dulling of one’s consciousness. While normal anxiety (stimulation of the nervous system) is a desirable part of life and adaptation, if it becomes chronic, one might experience the negative side of overwhelming anxiety manifesting in a bewildering–and paradoxical– array of protective defenses including: nightmares and anxiety dreams, numbing of the senses, paralysis of one’s ability to make decisions or take action, dissociating (spacing out or mind-fog), hyper-vigilance, hyper-alertness leading to sleep problems. This may be too much sleep or too little! Sometimes chronic or traumatic anxiety can lead to inaccurate, persistently negative and paranoid perceptions, impulsive actions, jumping to conclusion, etc… In other words, an overly-stimulated imagination and an utterly exhausted physical condition. Obviously, in such a depleted state, emotional dysregulation and mood fluctuations begin to cycle more extremely until, in the popular vernacular, “burn-out” or unfortunately dramatic catastrophic outcomes such as broken relationships or scapegoating or resorting to “self-medicating” substance abuse or illegal behavior. Anxiety leads us to feel that we are edgy, walking on tenterhooks, or walking on eggshells around others who suffer from anxiety.”
How can dream work reduce feelings of anxiety?
“The operating premise of psychodynamic psychology is that all of nature seeks BALANCE of energy, as in the laws of physics. “As above, so below”. Our dreams are nature’s way of attempting to communicate some very ancient wisdom, in a most loving, friendly, caring way, to help bring the wild pendulum swinging back towards a gently rocking, spacious center within ourselves, to find the ground of being, and to trust our deepest security within the un-changing center of the phenomenal world. In other words, listening to our dreams, even the scariest “nightmares” can help us find the path back to center, calm, and the safety of our true home, within ourselves, in the most essential sense of the word “home”. Ancient people referred to this center as “Axis Mundi” or the center of the world, that which holds up the heavens for each of us. Its location is within.”
What would a typical dream work session for anxiety be like?
“Dream work is the process of listening and expressing with the utmost sensitivity, responding to what’s happening within the secret vast cosmos of a person’s imagination, or, psyche. As Jungian psychologists James Hillman and Robert Bosnak put it, we must always “Honor the symbols of the Dream World”. To do this, we learn to tell our dream in present tense, slowly, with plenty of space to allow us to enter fully into the Dream World. We try to be as honest and true to the manifest dream content as possible–in other words, as little “translation” as possible at first. On the second telling, we might choose to use art materials, or dramatic enactments, or poetry/writing exercises to invite the dream to open up its meanings to us. We might begin to “amplify” the dream, asking questions of the dreamer about facets of the dream symbols or setting or action or resolution. We refrain from “analysis”, preferring instead to work interpretively, as artists sharing in a creative process. The dreamer begins to find his or her own ways to relate the emotion, action, and “problem” along with solutions generated by the dream…relative to one’s own waking life. It is an approach that I would describe as transformative of one’s feelings as the effect of music can be: we begin to integrate deeply and this brings a great sense of belonging, of meaningfulness, and of relief from the angst of modern life.”
Thank you Genevieve for doing the interview on how dream work can help reduce feelings of anxiety. For more information about Genevieve Jacobs or her work you can check out her website at www.wateranddreams.com.
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