Family Dreams in Therapeutic Form
DREAMS IN FAMILY THERAPY
Now let us turn our attention to a much larger canvas, where the boundaries defining relationships, and the connections within and between relationships, are much more varied and expansive. This includes psychic and psychological boundaries “between” individuals, and also includes the permeable boundary between body and mind within the same individual. Because it is like a ripple wave across many generations, a transgenerational theme can be seen to have a certain binding and unifying effect within a family constellation. (17) It also can be a potent method of expanding one’s own individual mind and individual perspective. The following dream is reported by a psychologist interested in transgenerational themes:
I remember going to sleep and in a dream having dinner with my father. In the dream as I sat down with my father, soon my father’s father joined us. lt was then that my father, myself and my grandfather were present. Soon after this, in a somewhat shadowy form, my grandfather’s father appeared as if he was looking over my grandfather’s shoulder. My attention was drawn to this. Finally my grandfather’s grandfather appeared in an even more shadowy sort of way. I reached my hand across the table and across the others and managed very briefly to physically shake his hand in the dream. He was not a depressing figure, but was a shadowy and distant or legendary figure. I felt some important knowledge was communicated to me. It was clear that my grandfather’s grandfather in this situation was a slave but a slave who felt like a free man.
Several years later, this same psychologist found himself the guide or the focus of large multi-family therapy sessions. The dynamics in this situation were complex in that several family systems had events simultaneously occurring. Generational themes and transactional patterns could be seen to repeat not only in the lives of individuals but across many generations at the same time. From this vantage point anyone who has looked deeply into their own family ancestry and history going back multiple generations sees not only the repetition of names and faces but also stories and claims and seemingly individual characteristics. One cannot escape at least the sense that individual styles and perhaps even individual family souls appear and disappear in and out of the height, width, depth, and time flows in this four dimensional familial matrix from another or fifth dimensional level. It appears as though there are “waves” in this sea of familial consciousness. Important archetypal family dreams may move from wave crest to the next in this sea, from one generation to the next.
The body has dynamics and processes that obey natural laws, even if we do not fully understand those laws. Medicine is fully aware of this humbling truth. However what we experience as the mind and its body are not exactly identical, even if we accept that mind is a more “subtle” form or expression of matter. We know clinically and experientially that mind and body can be experienced as vastly separated from each other at times by way of autoscopic vision, out-of-body experiences, remote viewing experiments with later verified accurate information processing, and the various forms of clinical dissociation. Different laws govern these realms and regions of experience.
From this perspective, mind in a sense incarnates in the body. The soul or aspect of consciousness we are describing associated with this familial consciousness that “descends” or unfolds out into the familial present day consciousness in a sense incarnates into that familial psychological and emotional field, perhaps from a higher enfolded order. It would be presumptuous to assume in the current era that we understand all the laws of matter and consciousness.
Even if this idea remains speculation and intuition for many people, the operation of the Family Unconscious itself is certainly clear, at least for the present generation of family members. There are recurrent transactional patterns of affect and behavior and values that can be observed and stand out. They, at the very least, function as a wave form over the discrete and individualized functions and behaviors of individuals within the system.
In multi-generational family therapy one need only have a grandparent along with a parent and child present. This form of therapy has been found to be extremely useful in issues involving substance abuse. It is also extremely useful in working with characterological and neurotic styles that manifest over generations. Finally, it is extremely powerful when looking at illness and disease patterns of families. The therapist can begin to notice in certain disease processes that sudden and subtle bodily and psychological associations and states of mind are held by members of the family across many generations. A way of assessing this in terms of body and mind, family associations, physical associations, and others would be extremely useful. In that sense, any assessment profile used would need to expand to the full range of human associations and needs.
Beyond this, the awareness of multi-generational themes can foster the sense of differentiation and liberation within the family, while maintaining deeper bonds that are necessary and that connect us to individuals, relational systems, tribes, and even nations. This is the dynamic interplay between the individual principle and the group or collective principle.
In working with this family unconscious system, the generational themes are elicited by the therapist in the same way that individual themes and relational themes are elicited in family therapy with group emphasis. It is extremely important in this form of uncovering that the work of the dream be approached in the first person and in the present tense. This allows for the dreamer’s body, mind, and senses--the whole visceral self--to be involved and in turn gives rise to bodily associations, information about family illness processes, and also the unique language that each person uses in the dialogue with themselves.