Dreaming and Social Dreaming

I am going to talk about you, me and our dreams as an ecosystem; and about a practice called social dreaming.

I’m a psychotherapist because I have needed to learn to be quiet and listen.  And this personal experience combined with all I have learnt leads me to making a general assertion that for many of us we are much more safe, resourceful and useful if we first listen and notice because we then are part of larger systems.

Dreams are like wild life in the woods. 

If we walk mindlessly through woods our field of disturbance will be much larger than our field of perception, (Jon Young What the Robin Knows)  creatures freeze or flee from our path.

If we walk carefully, we notice more….. AND, we are noticed. We tend to think we are the noticers.  But when I am struck by the beauty of the oak tree, it really is the case that the oak tree has grabbed me.  This is not fanciful thinking, it is what the physicists of quantum field theory ( see quantum flirts in Arnold Mindell Quantum Mind Page 223) and biologists tell us, that the observer affects the observed and that consciousness is a property of all species and matter.

Essentially, events, phenomena, are participatory and the question is what kind of dance partner I am.

And something similar is true of dreams. When I wake with a dream I am still in it. Then, as I realise it’s a dream I make the effort to reach for my notebook and pencil. As I come to write I realise the dream didn’t arrive in words, it has its own reality.  There it is.  Like a deer you see in the woods, which may stay if you are quiet, or be gone in an eye blink, a dream may be noticed  and as it were walk into the clearing, or be gone.

There is no question of knowing the meaning of a dream, it has it’s own being.  It needs to be given space and time to explain itself.  If we maintain attention thoughts may emerge in the space between us. Good practice with dreams is relational, it is not a matter of leaping on them and saying this means that.  Given space, conversation between you and the dream may unfold. 


Here’s a dream that came when I was thinking about writing this piece.

I was on a train arriving at Birmingham’s Moor Street station where I needed to get off.   I wasn’t ready, I had my things spread on the table, clothes to put on, at first I had a panic but then it was alright, I knew I could get my things together in time to get off.

Just notice your responses to not being ready to get off at a station.

Our imaginations are like a film studio, a theatre company, in constant production; happening all the time. All of us dream whether or not we remember them.  Dreams are happening because you are alive just like your heart pumps blood.

Dreams are part of our thought process.

We tend to view thinking as what we do consciously, what shall I get John for his birthday, writing a report, how will I move that fence post. The imagination thinks in stories, in images, thinks symbolically in a complex ways.

As I said this dream came as I was thinking about dreaming. Moor Street Station connects in my mind with the nearby New Street Station, I often walk between the two to make connections. New Street opens to a larger rail network.

Moor Street feels personal, New Street vast and opening to the larger network, so a thought from the dream appears, about the transition from the personal to a bigger system of connectivity..

And ‘moor” also makes me think of moorland and New Street, about our addiction to the new, to consuming and our neglect of the natural.

But my dream is just one amongst many. My little dream about arrival, waking up one might say, becoming present, will in a moment of hearing may touch you sparking small memories, feelings; our collective thinking happening.

Our dreams are simultaneously personal and part of what we might call a collective twittering. Its an unheard dawn chorus.

Social Dreaming

Social Dreaming is an ancient practice revived for us by Gordon Lawrence used in modern contexts, in consultancy to organisations, industry and professional conferences, to deepen consideration of a particular issue or subject.

As part of a consultancy or conference a Social Dreaming matrix is an hour when colleagues will sit and share night time dreams that ad hoc come to mind. The are regarded as belong to the matrix created by that group, their organisation and the subject they are addressing, not to the dreamer. The dreams are not interpreted. Spontaneous associations are spoken. Following the hour, the group will have a cup of tea, reassemble and give attention to what their experience of the dreams may contribute to the matter in hand. Strange or unusual as it might seem, people participate whether or not they remember dreams. In addition to the stories the dreams contribute the process is energising.

Stories are much bigger than ideologies.  In that is our hope. (Haraway 2003 p.17.) https://xenopraxis.net/readings/haraway_companion.pdf 

The matrix may take place each day of a conference or on a weekly basis for a period of time. What is remarkable is the discovery of common themes in our dreaming, the dreams are talking to each other and we become participants.

It is a practice of politics as discovery, rather than salvation in which we wait to be rescued.  https://www.tavinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/The-Practice-of-Social-Dreaming-Guiding-Principles.pdf

A way of finding the community we have with each other and with our nature.

Up to the 1990’s we used to think that thinking happens in our heads, then we discovered it’s a whole body process. https://www.perlego.com/book/779668/molecules-of-emotion-the-science-behind-mindbody-medicine-pdf

Since then from many different disciplines we discovered everything in the whole world is communicating with everything else and we are just part of that conversation, not its epicentre, this is no longer just hippy thinking. Contemporary neuroscience, the arts, quantum field theory and biology now affirm what indigenous wisdom and spiritual traditions shows us that consciousness, is what we think of as ‘mind’, is relational and embodied participation in flows of energy. https://drdansiegel.com/brain-insights-and-well-being



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