“I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to do my inner work but that I’ve had to make myself do it. I may have to make myself get up and leave it a little bit later, I get so interested. The resistance is always there. Don’t pay any notice. Just go do it!” -Robert Johnson*


      I’ve kept a dream diary for forty-eight years, but most days I still find I have a great resistance to waking up and writing down the images that appear in my dreams each night. It occurred to me that my emotions go through Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief when a dream jars me from a deep and restful sleep with its bizarre flow of images. Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.


      My sleepy first reaction is just to want to go back to sleep and catch a little more rest. I devalue and belittle the dream: “This is the most silly collection of images I can imagine. They couldn’t possibly have any significance. Writing them down is a complete waste of good sleep time that my body needs to face the challenges of the day. These images are all nonsense.”


      Then I start feeling angry at being awaken. “What a bunch of crap! These images make no sense. The Dream Maker is wasting my time with this hodgepodge of stuff that couldn’t possibly have any significance in my life. All I want to do is go back to sleep and not be bothered. I really don’t want to do this!”


      I find I can negotiate with the Dream Maker when immediate waking chores need to be met. I’ll write down the flow of events and images in an abbreviated form on a yellow sticky, sitting on the toilet if necessary. I tell the Dream Maker that doing anything more is going to have to wait until after I feed the cat and make my morning coffee. If I try to ignore my cat’s breakfast, he will type out his own profundities jumping on the keyboard until I feed him. After doing the necessary, I take the sticky and type out my dream in full on my computer. I then format it putting the words into a column on the left and work with the images within the column on the right. More negotiating is needed during periods in my life when long and difficult dreams keep waking me up repeatedly during the night. Then it’s possible to tell the Dream Maker: “Please let me get some sleep and I promise I’ll deal with all this in the morning.” This promise must be kept or the disturbances will continue.  


      I remember Goethe’s quote “No one is a hero to their butler” as I type out the dream in full from the yellow sticky. I feel sad. Some of the images are so raw, brutal, explicit, disgusting, even terrifying at times. Is this what is really going on in my relationship to these issues? I thought I was handling them so well, but the Dream Maker is showing me all the failings and flaws in what I was doing. Horrors! After all these years, I still have so much work to do.


      As I take each image, one by one, and work with it, adding the woof threads of meaning and understanding to the warp of the strange figures, the fabric and pattern of the dream is revealed. It never fails to astonish me with its specificity and profundity. The Dream Maker’s choice of images is perfect. I thought my understanding of these issues was fairly clear, but something else entirely was at work here that I missed completely and needed to know.  Not only are there images of mistakes, shortcomings and failure. Images of hope and new possibilities are there as well. They suggest a fresh way of working with people and events in my life that will lead to much more success and satisfaction in the future. What a treasure!

      I feel a deep gratitude to my therapists and teachers over the years who were so patient in showing me this sacred language and its translation. It was a great investment in time, effort and money, but every day my dreams reminded how much it was worth it. Most of all, I am thankful and in awe of the Dream Maker. Other people may call It the Self, the Objective Psyche, the Greater Personality, or the Guru within. Whatever name is used, It has brought me years of visual communications and teachings, perfectly selected and placed to stir me up and get me moving in the direction I was meant to go all along. In spite of my intense resistance, the surety of this emotional paycheck of increased self realization concluding my morning dream work has kept me waking up for almost five decades on task for what feels like the most important job of my life.


*”Exploring Dreams” Recorded Conference at Journey into Wholeness, 1990 

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Comment by Mary Harrell on February 13, 2015 at 9:45pm

Mara I previously sent a response to your  blog, but may have accidentally deleted it.  So if you by chance get two... My bad.

 I read your blog with great interest but didn't spend time with it, thinking, considering etc.  Then shortly thereafter,   BAM! I had a very big dream.  Your comments acknowledging resistance thumped me on the head and I wrote down every word and image from what I am sure is an archetypal dream that, for whatever reason came through me.  Psyche apparently was reading your blog with me, and thought, "Aha, the time is right for Mary to get this dream."  So thank you for your honest and timely words. I still do need to spend more time on figuring out what is asked of me, if only acknowledgement and some detective work, as we know archetypal dreams often don't have personal associations. Well done and again, thank you for your very helpful blog!


Comment by Leslie Birleson on February 13, 2015 at 5:51pm

Interesting fun fact, Robert Johnson's birthday is the same as C,G, every year in San Diego they would have a get together in a local park. Robert would always tell a great story, the shortest line between two points of course is a crazy circle. He told one very interesting story about active imagination were he was asked to look at the bark of 10 trees. No point going further other than sometimes dreams take one heck of a long time, patiently waiting for us

 My analysts of many years is going to a place to find a legal eloquent and if need direct collusion to this life on earth. since then somehow I'm having a hard time caring about my dreams, has always they have the patience I don't have!

 set adrift


Comment by Silvia Behrend on February 13, 2015 at 3:55pm

Thank you for a warmly personal and universally accurate rendering of the work of our lives, to become conscious and whole, which means, as you so beautifully expressed, that we submit our egos to the Dream Maker/Psyche/God. 

Comment by Leslie Birleson on February 10, 2015 at 10:42am

Another pearl of wisdom I heard fall from the lips of Robert Johnson.

( for every one step I take forward I slide back two, but since I was heading in the wrong direction anyways! it all works out).


Comment by Jane Knox on February 6, 2015 at 6:21pm

Thank you, Mara. This is a great article and I certainly can identify with the resistance. I appreciate the sage advice.

Comment by Bonnie Bright on January 30, 2015 at 6:15pm

Thanks for this great testament to dream work, Mara. It's not easy to do, but the rewards can be immense. Jung said "A dream that is not understood remains a mere occurrence;  understood, it becomes a living experience." (C.G. Jung CW 16: 252)

I heartily agree: if we DON'T do our own work to try and understand our dreams, they are pretty much going to waste. Dreamwork is really a powerful opportunity to gain consciousness.

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