By Bette Freedson
“I had a dream last night about high school, a really scary dream.” Kitten announced, settling herself in the middle of the couch and slowly leaning forward.
A college student and an artist, Kitten now brings imagination and feeling into her therapy sessions, something that was limited for the anxious fourteen-year-old when our work began five years ago. Now imaginary cartoon characters come to life through Kitten’s gifted hands and her technological skill, becoming actors in an online comic strip, heroes in ideas for video games, and representations of aspects of Kitten’s own expanding and multi-faceted sense of self.
In this parallel process, Kitten is learning to reach into her intuitive mind while consciously experiencing somatic sensations that allow Kitten to feel the essence of each character’s personality, sense the emotions in their stories, and more fully appreciate a felt sense of the growing ego strength within herself.
“Want to tell me about the dream?”
“Yes, I do. I was wandering around in the school lost, in a maze. I didn’t know how to get out; every way was blocked. I woke up before I got out and something about the dream made me feel very uncomfortable.”
“When you were a freshman, you had occasional difficulty finding your way around. But eventually you got a handle on the pods and places, including my counseling room. You know, mazes in dreams can sometimes have symbolic meaning. Any interpretations?”
“Maybe…” Kitten said, appearing somewhat pleased with herself. “But I want to show you something first.”
“Sure.” I wondered if this might have something to do with her dream.
“I had my new online drawing class.” Kitten said, her eyes lighting up. “I want you to draw a shape on your white board, and I’m going to make a character from it.”
I did as instructed and marveled at how Kitten’s facial expression brightened and her body tone relaxed. As she entered her state of creativity, I felt myself entraining to Kitten’s energy with a felt sense of my own aliveness.
“Now,” Kitten said, leaning toward me with a gesture that told me she was taking charge of my white board. “Watch this!”
Thoroughly enjoying participation in Kitten’s creative moment, I watched as characters emerged from my oddly shaped lines. Kitten accessorized them with hats, scarves and mittens, bestowed upon them personalities ranging from fun to funny and from loveable to scary, finishing our creations with story lines born out of the artistry of our mutual imaginations and the alive energy of soma and soul.
Over the years of our work together, Kitten has come to understand that many of her imaginary characters and those that appear in her dreams are parts of her, emanating from her inner mind. Dreams, I explained, come from a similar place—representing aspects of ourselves. We can create new dream stories by using daydreams to change night dreams.
It is as easy to draw images in the mind’s eye as it is on a tablet or in a sketchbook. Images can be changed and we can feel the emotions and sensations of these changes inside. We can imagine and feel comfort and confidence in the same way we create and recreate story lines for imaginary characters.
To experience the wise artistic resources of her own soma and soul, I invited Kitten to go back into her dream to find some meaning that might help her feel more comfortable and perhaps even to change some of the images to solidify that new meaning.
Kitten leaned back into the couch, trusting our relationship. Changes in her breathing and posture assured me she was in a light trance. Now I invited her to feel the parts of her dream in the same way she really feels her characters, almost as if they are parts of herself.
Within a few moments, Kitten shared that she had seen herself back in the dream. She was finding her way out.
Remember H pod?” She asked, a bit teary.
“Yes, what about H pod?”
“It was right by the door!”
“How does it feel to you to be finding H?”
“I know I can go Home.” She hugged herself. “It feels really good. I feel warm all over.”
Suddenly, with eyes open, and still a little in trance, Kitten asked. “Can we do one more character?”
“Sure.” I drew two overlapping circles.
“This one is going to represent my confidence!” She was laughing and breathing easily, drawing into life a new character and drawing from herself the alive artistry of her soma and soul.
Seeing Kitten’s creativity come alive was not only inspiring, it was fun. I experienced a felt sense of exhilaration, smiling to myself, and remembering other moments in other sessions that have felt almost like magic was in the making.
Why, I wonder, is it so important for all of us to immerse ourselves in imagination? To understand our dreams and to see what is reflected back to us for application in the here and now? Whatever the reasons, I do know this:
As insights elicited within the unconscious mind are utilized by the conscious mind, and absorbed into the body, a powerful collaboration takes place. When we immerse ourselves in the wise, creative artistry of soma and soul, we can find meaning.
In our creativity, in our dreams, and in the complex beauty of our own self-parts reside the gift of soul wisdom and the gift of feeling fully and gratefully alive.
Bette J. Freedson, LCSW is a clinical social worker, certified group psychotherapist, and the author of Soul Mothers’ Wisdom: Seven Insights for the Single Mother. Bette’s specialties include stress management, parenting issues, recovery from trauma and the development of intuitive insight. She maintains a private practice in southern Maine with her husband, Ray Amidon, LMFT.
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