On January 19, Dr. Stephen Aisenstat will host a webinar called Tending the Living Image: A Dream Tending Webinar.
By Stephen Aizenstat, Ph.D.
In preparation for the Dream Tending Webinar at the NYOC, we need to be familiar with three methods of dreamwork: association, amplification, and animation. The three techniques have a natural sequence, which also happens to be both their historical order in modern psychology and their order of psychic “depth”. Association comes first, and is closest to the ego; then comes amplification, which has its home deeper in the psyche; and then animation, which arises from the deepest level of psyche. Actually these processes are not hierarchical; however, it is useful here at the beginning to see them in this sequence.
Learning Dream Tending methods is not just reading about ideas. It is also experiential, because a real feel for the material can only develop through actually working with living dream images. These teaching points can be thought of as support for direct interaction with living images, which is offered in the following exercise. Living images are where the action is, and what our work is about.
EXERCISE: Association, Amplification, Animation
Choose an image from your dreams that has really gotten your attention recently. It may be a character, like a person or a creature, or it could even be something like an ocean, a forest, a rock, a building or another object. Whatever image you choose, notice what aspects of it get your attention and seem to stay with you in the time since you had the dream. Write a description of the dream figure, being as concrete and specific as possible.
Now, work with the image using association. Let your mind spontaneously connect the dream image to any events, feelings, ideas, or scenes from personal history that come up. Let one association lead to the next. Do not worry about getting the “right” answer. Just let one impression connect to the next, over and over. You can write down these associations in a dream journal as they spontaneously occur to you.
Observe where this process of association takes you. Take special not of any childhood experiences that come up. From the point of view of the personal unconscious, such a memory may be the root of your dream image, and offers an important insight into why this particular image is occurring now in your dreams.
Once you have completed the process of association, you are ready to give amplification a try. In this method, you correlate the dream image to symbols, archetypes, and figures from mythology, fairy tales, literature, theater, and other forms of cultural expression. You are looking for universal themes that connect to the dream image. For example, the image of a horse may be related to the mythological flying horse, Pegasus, or Burak, the eagle-winged horse that carried Mohammed on his journey to heaven. The dream image of an ocean may be amplified into the Source of Life or the place of the Night Sea Journey. Include contemporary as well as historical themes or characters. A character from a novel, a movie star, or a contemporary political figure may be a current representation of a cultural archetype.
There is no limit to how many archetypal themes the image can be amplified into. You may find that your dream images relate to an ancient Japanese myth as well as a modern Hollywood movie, to a poem from Medieval Spain as well as the poetry of a pop song. These amplifications are not contradictory; rather, they weave together to form a rich and complex understanding of the dream image. You might continue to discover the image’s network of archetypal connections for many years, always deepening your intimacy with it.
For now, write in your dream journal what you have learned about the image through the process of amplification. How does this expanded view of the image offer insight into your present life circumstances?
Once you have completed the process of association and amplification, you are ready to move on to the practice of animation. This is the core practice of Dream Tending, and something that you will be doing in virtually every exercise in this book. To animate an image, you bring it to life in the here and now, rather than associating to the past or amplifying it into a myth or story.
Start by imagining the figure present in the room with you. See it clearly in your mind’s eye. Even if it is wispy or indistinct, pay attention to any little bit of the image you can mentally see. Imagine for a moment that it has a life of its own, separate from all your associations and amplifications. Seeing it as a living entity, existing in its own right, what do you notice about what it is doing and how it is moving? How is it interacting with you? How does it affect you? Write your discoveries in your journal.
You have now associated, amplified, and animated a dream image. Read and compare the entries you made for each method. What happened to the image in each of these processes? What surprised you? How has each of these experiences affected you? What have you learned from each process? How has each of the methods increased your intimacy with the dream image?
Dream images are alive and embodied. This is the fundamental insight at the heart of Dream Tending and is at the heart of our work. I look forward to working with you at the NYOC Dream Tending Webinar on January 19th.