Recently someone posited a question on a depth psychology Facebook page asking how does one let the unconscious become conscious. My immediate thought was Dreamwork. Dreams being a portal into the unconscious, our nightly reveries leak into our awareness the very images, gestures and feelings that support that process.

A preceding question might be, why would we want the unconscious to become conscious? One simple answer is because when we are conscious, we have more choices. When we are unconscious, we are driven by instinct, emotional reactions and habitual conditioning.

The practice of Natural Dreamwork is to let things happen in the psyche, to engage our imaginations, to revel in the feelings that arise from the dream moments and images even when those feelings may be deep grief, pain, or fear.

And yet every step of the way, we are dogged by the conscious mind that wants to evaluate, negate, judge, control, exhort, admonish, appeal, help, cajole, and otherwise persuade us away. Its objections are prolific, ever constellating and mutating into a more attractive (to the part of ourselves that believes its machinations) version of itself.

So to stay with a powerful image, gesture or feeling that has arisen from our dream practice would seem easy enough in the speaking of it, but like clearing the mind in meditation, it requires practice, patience, and compassion with oneself.

In my current dream, I am with a group of people. Folks are lined up along the bank of a lake. Everyone is learning to fish. My first thought is there are too many lines in the water…lines will get tangled. As I see one person bring up a fish, I think “Pumpkin Seed” (a bony fish, not edible). But then I see that it is a large fat fish, lots of meat. Someone else pulls in a fish and, again, I think Pumpkin Seed. But then I see that this fish is also a large fat white fleshed fish, delicious, lots of meat.

The dream offers me several things. One, the opportunity to see how my mind’s natural tendency is towards impoverishment, looking for the problems. Another opportunity is to feeling into the grief of how this has been true in my life, how this orientation has protected me in some way from disappointments and loss and how I can feel a certain control and sense of anticipation for “when bad things happen”. A wonderful skill for survival perhaps and yet it keeps me in feelings of impoverishment even when this isn’t true in my life today. The dream is provocative in its effort to show me this negative thinking and to offer the gift of the truth for me, which is about the awe and joy of abundance. The dream brings pain as gratitude for the gift of its teaching.

My work is to close my eyes and be with the students learning to fish, to feel the awe of the big fat abundant fish and to notice where in my life when I am living from the place of “Pumpkin Seed”. This is an example of how we can work with the dream to help to bring that which is unconscious, conscious. When I can notice the Pumpkin Seed narrative, I have more of a choice. Perhaps I can shift to be in the anticipation of abundance rather than impoverishment. I may not be able to break from Pumpkin Seed thinking all the time, but I can know and begin to trust more that abundance is possible.


Laura Smith-Riva is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner from the mysterious Green Mountains of Vermont. You can read more about her work on the About Us page.