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Chagall dreamI’m going through a phase of dreaming a lot - experts will remind me that I actually dream each and every night; so its probably more accurate to say at the moment, I am more aware of my dreams. Sometimes I can remember the dreams in vivid detail, sometimes there are 3 or 4 a night each with a different “scene”, but which carry a similar flavour and feeling to them. It can be hard to catch my dreams, but generally the greater my intention to listen to the messages contained within, the more my dream world comes alive.

There is a general fascination with our experience of dreaming. Scientists range in opinion as to the function of dreams - from random brain activity to processing of information for storage. My own experience tells me dreams are not random: there is too much synchronicity and emotional affect in- and post-dream for me to ignore. Freud and Jung both pointed to how much dream material can reveal. Freud famously stated that “dreams are the royal road to our unconscious”. He considered that things appearing in our dreams could be read as symbols and can point to our very deepest wishes and desires. A reference to water would signify birth, or the undertaking a journey being representative of death as two examples. Jung read dreams in a different way - in contrast to Freud, he did not see dream material as indicative of repressed material that is not allowed in to the awake mind because of morality. Jung brought a perspective that allowed dream material to be looked at both objectively and subjectively - less reliance on interpretation, more emphasis on what the dreamer made of the dream. In effect, Jung saw dreams as the bridge between our conscious and unconscious mind.

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intimacy means that were safe enoughSomething that often comes up in my work as a therapist and role as teacher of therapists is “intimacy”. We might crave it, we might push it away, we might do both. How on Earth as people with different needs, do we “meet” - how do we form relationship in a satisfying way? Can we do this AND feel safe?

What is intimacy anyway?

We might use this word exclusively in reference to sexual relationships. Yet, if we pause and consider the feelings we get from being in ‘intimate relationship’ with a partner we might recognise there are emotional and physical aspects to intimacy, to being close. We might also recognise that we need one in order to have the other. We might use words such as closeness, trust, openness, comfort, safety, reliability, honesty - to name but a few. I might add such characteristics are flavours of the therapeutic relationship: the ability to hold a client in their vulnerability requires, at some level, a degree of intimacy.

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whole greater than sumI mentioned a few weeks back how being in groups can offer a useful experience in which to explore aspects of ourselves; to look at dynamics that feel familiar to us - literally familiar, as they often originate in the family. I had the privilege of working with a group of trainee therapists at the weekend, taking them through the main principles of Gestalt therapy and witnessing them in relationship. A group of some 20 individuals, by the end of the weekend they were experiencing how the group takes on a form of its own: the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Group working is one of the main reasons I gravitated to the Gestalt psychotherapeutic frame during my training. Gestalt values highly group process to help individuals move towards ‘wholeness’: to bring awareness to the experience the Self is having in the here and now, the present moment. Of course, this can be facilitated in 1-2-1 therapy, the therapist providing prompts to bring the client in to the present and share what is happening in the relationship, and how it is being experienced. The beauty of group work is that the group and its members take on a transferential quality - we get to meet our Mothers, our Fathers, our siblings, our teachers…and, often outside of our awareness, our Selves that are projected on to other group participants. Gestalt invites a couple of ways that offer the opportunity to catch hold of what is being experienced - slowing down to check inward, and an ‘experimental’ approach that helps to magnify experience. We used a series of exercises over the weekend: from those designed to bring more contact to the inner experiencing of the body, mind and environment; through to exercises inviting different parts of self to come forward and exaggerating some of their qualities and needs; and on to those that take the relationship with self in to the relationship to others.