Cynthia had recently separated from her 3rd husband. They had been together 20 years. She wanted to work with a dream.
I instructed her to tell it in the present, as if it was happening, blow by blow. She said:
I am asleep on the couch. He comes and hugs and kisses me. He is telling me that he just bought a new house, got it cheap, with a big shed. It has a new bedroom and ensuite.
We walk to my house and there's a boy there who takes a large piece of timber, throws it through the window. Now John (husband) comes and his phone rings, he said that he has to talk privately now, so I figure he has a new girlfriend.
I then asked her to play some of the roles, and describe herself in each.
Firstly was the House - she said, “I am new, shiny, good quality, much better than the old house. Happy, large, spacious.”
Then John - “I am happy, want the house, it’s a miracle to buy it, I am strong, got a purpose.”
Then the piece of timber that went through the window - “I am hard, strong, powerful, the old house has no value, I just need to show its broken, make a big noise."
Then the boy - who was 13 in the dream - “I am mischievous, strong.”
Then the new girlfriend - “I am interested, curious.”
This all took some coaching, as Cynthia kept wanting to tell me her interpretations of what each element meant. But in Gestalt, we are looking for direct experience rather than pre-made judgments or associations. So I kept directing her back into an identification with each element and naming her feelings rather than her thoughts.
I asked her what stood out most - the boy. Playful, out of character.
So then I relate it to her current life - what would be something that would be out of character?
Cynthia said - to stay out all night, have a big bonfire, a party on the beach under the moon, then sleep on the beach
She said she would like to bring John, but “he doesn't like to see the wild woman in me...so I learned to dampen it down..he can’t handle the expectation he feels to be a certain way.” She explained that she tried to get him to come to rock and roll dancing with her for many years, but finally gave up.
I suggested that she stop putting herself on hold, and just go to the dance classes by herself.
I then ask her to imagine saying something wild to John, something out of character. I would play the role of John, and she could say it to me directly.
- She would tell him she wanted them to both give up their jobs, get a yacht, and sail the seas, wherever the currents took them, she would cook, and they could write poetry together.
I gave her feedback on her process - she was very clear, grounded, and in my non-defensive position as John (something he normally found difficult of course), how much I appreciated her directness.
I invited her to be even stronger, harsher, more wild.
She made some more statements about herself, her limits.
Again, I gave her feedback.
She felt very much strengthened.
In Gestalt, we design experiments to explore figures which arise. Here there were many figures in the dream, but we went with what had the most energy for her - doing something uncharacteristic.
This translated to being wild, strong, and putting herself forward, both positively and negatively
I participated in the experiment by playing her partner and giving her feedback. This helped make it more real for her, and also created a sense of safety to try out a new way of being.
Gestalt is about trying out something different, with support, focusing on the key issues that arise in awareness - dreams are very good for accessing these issues.
Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther