Threads, Knots, Tapestries

by Fredrica R. Halligan

"Truly our lives are our best creative work." (p. 254) Thus Tess Castleman concludes her literary journey through Jungian approaches to dreamwork and synchronicity, all the while offering her readers her own observations of dream groups and other "tribal phenomena." Tess Castleman is herself a creative Jungian analyst and experienced leader of dream groups. Her book is a rich compilation of dreams, stories and theory that blend well and make for delightful, almost easy reading.

In part one, "Threads," Castleman gives a brief overview of Jungian theory, showing how archetypes and complexes can provide important cues for understanding dreams. She introduces us to "the magic of the dream maker," which, she says, "lies in the work that can be uncovered by examining images, feelings, metaphors, and symbols that appear in dreams. This is the language of our deep, archaic, ancient brain---which is also the language of literature and poetry." (p. 15)

A sense of the mystery and reverence of working with dreams is caught, almost by contagion, when we travel with this author into the deep inner realm where dreams inform our lives and show us the uncanny capacity to reveal what is happening and to predict where we should be heading. The inner wisdom from the deeper Self is a sagacious and trustworthy guide in our path of psychological individuation and spiritual unfolding.

Part two, "Knots," gives the reader a sense of being present where dreamers in ongoing groups invite each other into the process of decoding their dreams. A most intimate encounter indeed! Castleman encourages her dreamers, knowing that the trail is not easy to travel alone. Yet how important it is! She writes:

The amplification of the dark, the unknown, the shameful, and the frightening is just where the psyche needs to go, because this is precisely where the energy lies. The emotional "charge" is where the trapped libido lies in latent potential. (p. 77)

What are the common themes that may be drawn to the surface when group energy constellates? These themes may include the darker elements such as confusion, depression, dependence, narcissistic woundedness, loneliness, poverty, but also the enabling aspects and strengths such as leadership, competence, authority, love and (above all) the archetypal Self. Self is that inner wholeness and spiritual core toward which all dreams ultimately lead us.

The self-disclosure of shared dreams promotes an intimacy that binds individuals together in a psychological "tribe." Group members find commonalities that draw them together. They start meeting outside the dream group sessions. They may care for one another in numerous ways. It is often not long before synchronicity, a meaningful coincidence, emerges:

Some meaningful coincidences can be explained as pure chance, but as Jung writes ".the more they multiply and the greater and more exact the correspondence is, the more their probability sinks and their unthinkability increases, until they can no longer be regarded as pure chance but, for lack of a causal explanation, have to be thought of as meaningful arrangements." (p. 265)

Here's where Tess Castleman's book begins to get really intriguing. In story after story she gives examples of synchronicity such that, sooner or later, the open-minded researcher may gasp: QED. I believe she's right!

For Castleman, the group field tends to enhance the opportunities for synchronistic adventures, since we are affected by each other, creating wars, falling in love, and forming families by our contact with each other. "When adults come together to discuss dreams, they too are affected by each other, and the entirety of the group forms a personality." (p. 101) This "tribal field," as she calls it, is a central theme of her book. In the exquisite vulnerability of dream groups, this leader has found that the bonds of intimacy are such that the unconscious of members is attuned in remarkable ways.

The field can be observed in the form of synchronicity. Dream group members have an uncanny habit of dressing in the same colors or in the same clothing on given days. Dreams will be congruent beyond the average level of coincidence..we almost always identify a theme. Sometimes everyone's dream will actually be about the same issue. (p. 102)

Here I can confirm Tess Castleman's observations. In my current work environment where the staff members are very compatible with one another, we frequently find (to our amusement) that a majority of the individuals have chosen to dress in the same colors. In my own family, I have encountered two occasions where two or three family members have had essentially the same dream on the same night. (That's quite amazing, and feels like a synchronistic exclamation point that says: "Pay attention to this!") And once in my professional life, I experienced a dreamer in one work setting seeming to have a dream "for" another dreamer, whom she did not know, in an entirely different setting. In that case I was the only common link between the two dreamers, but both were deeply involved in their own unconscious dream processes and the compassion of one seemed to reach out to the pain and distress of the other.

In part three, "Tapestries," Castleman takes a broader perspective, articulating how the "psychoid" space, where psyche and matter intersect, plays out its dramas in the tribal field. Following Jung, she writes:

Synchronicity.confronts ego consciousness..Breaking out of preconceived notions is the first and foremost challenge..Jung said, "Dreams prepare the psyche for the events of the following day." ..It is remarkable to even entertain the notion that dreams prepare one ahead of time for actions that cannot be known by ordinary consciousness. (p. 153)

In the tribal field, there are times when dreams warn of impending dangers, and times when one person has a dream for the whole tribe. Castleman tells the poignant tale of Black Elk's dreams that foreshadowed the destruction of his entire Native American nation. Like the Lakota shaman or the heyoke trickster, the dreamer called to receive a message for the entire tribe may serve as an important access point for the collective unconscious to voice its warnings or its suggestions of possibility. It is therefore beneficial not only to listen to our own dreams and try to decode their mysterious messages, but also to listen to the dreams of those around us, listening for the common themes, ready to honor the dream that speaks for the tribe. As Castleman speculates, "Perhaps inner reality and outer reality intertwine." (p. 190)

We can get glimpses of the mystery of life when we are open to observe the synchronistic happenings and the prognostic dreams that can and do occur from time to time. In this important sense, dreams are about connection, inclusion and a sense of common purpose that bind the members of a community together into a sacred "tribe." The tapestry of our lives shows the interweaving of our common humanity. In the tapestry we see the wholeness and we know our sense of unity, one with another, each one with each and every other.