G. Scott Sparrow, EdD, LPC, LMFT

Counseling and Mentoring Services

Freeing the Mockingbird

I got up at 3 am last night, and went into the den with a cup of hot coffee and sat in the dark. No phone, not laptop, nothing but my own presence and my mug of steaming coffee. I planned to meditate and go back to sleep, hoping for a deep dream. But for a while, I just sat there, feeling the comforting darkness. I thought of how invisible I was to everyone, even to those who love me. They were asleep, unaware of my middle-of-the-night vigil. I thought of all of the people with whom I had some sort of relationship--old friends, students, counseling and flyfishing clients, and Facebook friends. And my thoughts settled on the people who had friended me on Facebook, most of whom I really do not know. I thought of how we share slivers of ourselves with virtual strangers, hoping to connect in some meaningful way, and I marveled at the energy behind this immense effort, which from one standpoint is a rather feeble and pointless effort at relating. What do we really know of each other, anyway? But then I reflected on the dreams that I'd shared recently, and how people came out of the silence to make comment on one or more of them. The dreams provoked a conversation that the mere posting of a quote or a photo had not done.

Mark Blagrove, one of the presenters at the upcoming first Online Dream Research Conference (www.iasdreamresearch.org) will be reporting on an empirical study that supports the idea that sharing dreams differs from ordinary sharing--that something is activated in dream sharing that produces an altogether different level of connection with oneself and others. Similarly, Montague Ullman used to say that he believed that dream sharing had evolved to forge interpersonal connections, to build community in a way that bypassed the barriers and pretense of ego-to-ego exchanges.

As I sat in the darkness, I realized that dream sharing is one road to our salvation; that is, a way to heal the deep divisions between us. I then meditated for half an hour, then went back to sleep and had two dreams, both of which provide additional perspective that dreams may save us from ourselves.

In one, I am with several members of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. We are at a conference, and it seems that we are all shedding our clothing in some kind of ritual. As we strip down to our nakedness, I feel exhilarated. I say, "Now I know what people become nudists!" It was as if we have reached a level of sharing heretofore unachieved. It was deeply fulfilling to be there at home and revealed to my friends. 

In another, I see a paper plane, with a rectangular fuselage. It has a mocking bird imprisoned within it. The plane can fly, but the bird within it has been imprisoned, and is near death. Its wings are pinned to its body. I begin to carefully dismantle the fuselage, removing a harness from the bird's head and beak, and then lifting its body from a pool of feces and water. I hold up a container of clear water for it to drink from, and it plunges its beak into the clear water and drinks deeply. I know that the bird will survive with some additional care.

Of course, these dreams are about me. But they also provide a metaphorical perspective on what we do to ourselves. We remain closed off, parcelling out slivers of ourselves to virtual strangers without taking the leap of sharing our souls. And we imprison our natural soulfulness inside artificial structures that are supposed to take its place. If we're going to connect deeply, we need a way to reveal natural selves. And if we are going to soar to our destined heights, we must release ourselves from the artificial prisons that have become substitutes for true flight.

But will we be safe in doing so? Certainly there are always risks in sharing who we really are. And who can define what that looks like? I suggest to you that our dreams can be our emissaries of truth, capable of bringing soulfulness into relationship without artifice and pretense. They are shrouded sufficiently in metaphorical language to protect our lives from direct exposure, but they are rooted in our depths sufficiently to circumvent the ego's constant cleverness and aim to impress.

So let's share dreams with strangers and with our friends alike. Doing so could save us from shallow conversations about our differences, and introduce a surprising sense of what unites us.
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