Our bodies and dreams may be our closest links to the unconscious, expressing the soul’s longing through image, breath, gesture, the rhythm of our step, and the music of our speech. Unresolved physical and emotional wounding is often held in the body, in stasis, until it can be brought to consciousness. Once contact is made, the flow of unconscious material can find expression through the body, so we can come to terms with it. Movement that emerges from a genuine source within us, when made conscious and integrated into lived experience, is by its very nature transformative.
From our earliest beginnings, empathic relating by the other is an essential component in the formation of the self. Affective mirroring and embodied presence provide a foundation for the development of consciousness in the cells, and a sense of well being and belonging in the world. Recent advances in developmental neuroscience underscore this, pointing to the right brain’s receptivity to nonverbal elements such as facial expression, voice tone, movement, affect, music, imagery and the play of symbols in dreams and poetry (Schore, 2003; Wilkinson, 2006).
Dreamdancing®, developed by Tina Stromsted in the 1980s, integrates verbal dream sharing with embodied methods such as Authentic Movement, structured movement explorations, somatic awareness, vocal work, drawing and writing. These practices engage the energies, feelings and action of the dream to help bring the dream’s message to consciousness. Through sensitive, inner listening, gestures emerge in a dance that speaks directly from the nonverbal, emotional midbrain where the images are formed. Dreams, says Somatics pioneer, Stanley Keleman, can be understood as rehearsals for action — the body speaking its mind (Keleman, 1975, 1999). As she crystallizes a sequence of movement that gradually engages more of her body, the dreamer is able to commit herself more fully to the action. It is within this dialogue of gestures that the conflict or message of the dream is embedded.
During Dreamdancing®, each dancing woman has a silent witness who attends to her dreamdancer’s dance and to her safety in the room. (The dancer’s eyes are closed, to better attend to her inner experience.) As the witness watches the mover’s dream unfold, the witness also pays attention to the dream’s impact on her own body and feelings (somatic countertransference). It is the attitude and experience of the witness that invites the body of the mover into the room, where potentials held in the dream may touch and awaken both women. Community is also nourished by Dreamdancing®. Many times, group themes and stories emerge from the collective body (Adler, 1994), seeking insight and integration into daily life.
Early shamans and traditional peoples from many cultures respected dreams as oracles. Ancient Greeks made pilgrimages to Aesclepian temples where dreams were incubated to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of physical and soul illnesses (Meier, 1989). Today, Dreamdancing® and body-sensitive psychotherapy can provide a temenos where dreams may be further explored through movement that springs from an inner source (Stromsted, 1984, 1998, 2001).
Please visit the Workshops page for more information about upcoming workshops.
Adler, J. (1994). The Collective Body. In P. Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler, and Joan Chodorow (pp. 190-204). Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999.
Keleman, S. (1975). Your body speaks its mind. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Kelerman, S. (1999). Myth & the body: A colloquy with Joseph Campbell. Berkeley, CA: Center Press.
Meier, C. A. (1989). Healing dream and ritual. Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag.
Schore, A. (2003). Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self & Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self. (2 Volume Set). NY, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.
Stromsted, T. (1984). Dreamdancing: The use of dance/movement therapy in dreamwork. Unpublished master’s thesis. John F. Kennedy University, Orinda, CA.
Stromsted, T. (1998). The dance and the body in psychotherapy: Reflections and clinical examples. In D. H. Johnson & I. J. Grand (Eds.) The Body in Psychotherapy, Berkeley & SF: North Atlantic Press & California Institute of Integral Studies.
Stromsted, T. (2001, January). Re-inhabiting the female body: Authentic Movement as a gateway to transformation. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 28(1), 39-55.
Wilkinson, M. (2006). Coming into mind. The mind-brain relationship: a Jungian Clinical Perspective. East Sussex, England & NY: Routledge Press