Dreaming with Jean Campbell, USA
Jean, you are one of the founders and pillars of the International Association for the Studies of Dreams. Everyone in the dreaming community knows you, either as Host of PsiberDreaming Conference, or Editor-in-Chief of DreamTime Magazine, or author of books on dreams, or as the leader of the World Peace Bridge Group – to name just a few of your many roles.
But like everyone, you had to start somewhere – where does your interest in dreams come from? What do dreams mean to you personally? What motivates you to maintain your involvement with the dreaming community?
When I was a little girl, I had one of those experiences children have. I told my family that I spent the night flying down the stairs and "I didn't even hurt myself."
They laughed at my enthusiasm and told me it was "just a dream."
My response was to not remember another dream until I was in my mid-twenties. At that point though, I had a series of three dreams, so full of archetypal energy and meaningful content that I could not ignore their pull. Nor could I ignore the message that dreams in general were probably useful and meaningful.
At the personal level, I see dreams as the most useful path to self-understanding, particularly when connected with the body, as I do in the DreamWork/BodyWork method I've developed from Bioenergetic training.
And at the group level, I believe that research demonstrates that we are not only all connected, but that together we may be dreaming up the world. What better reason to sustain and support a dreaming community than that? Dreamers who consciously work with their dreams are, in fact, world leaders.
Within a seemingly narrow field of dreams you are particularly interested in group dreaming. Over the years group dreaming has been your research topic, the topic of your book Group Dreaming: Dreams to the Tenth Power and the topic of your World Peace Bridge Group. Could you please tell me what group dreaming is and why you find it so important?
In September, 2001, I issued an invitation to around 50 people saying: "If you believe that you can dream the future, and if you believe the future is not fixed, that in fact we may be dreaming it up as we go along--how would you like to join me in dreaming up some world peace?"
That was the beginning of The World Dreams Peace Bridge, a group of dreamers from all over the world.
I didn't really think there would be many people interested in dreaming a world together, but the Peace Bridge (www.worlddreamspeacebridge.org) has been alive and working together for over fifteen years now.
The question of whether or not people could dream together (i.e. have the same or similar dreams) if they were asked to do so first came up for me in 1976, after I read Jane Roberts' book, Psychic Politics, in which she talks about the dreams shared by members of her Wednesday night class.
My question was whether people could consciously remember shared dreams if they were given a target or task. Three separate experiments conducted between 1976 and 1986 by my staff at the nonprofit research organization I directed, Poseidia Institute, convinced me that shared or group dreams were decidedly possible and quite probably happening, unreported, among people all the time.
My personal experience with dream groups is that everything is fine as long as people in my group are friendly and open to each other. But the moment there are tensions (of which nobody wants to talk about) my dreams become populated by unpleasant people that I find hard to shake off. Have you had any similar experiences? What is your advice to people who are interested in group dreaming but are also frightened of having their dream space polluted by unwanted visitors?
In waking life, just as in dreams, dream researcher Dr. Ernest Hartmann points out, some people have "thick boundaries;" some people have "thin boundaries." The goal in both situations is to learn the balance of maintaining sensitivity while not being overwhelmed. Sometimes it is a matter of exercising one's will.
There are a number of things we can do, both awake and asleep, to exercise these muscles. It's not any more necessary to welcome the unwelcome visitor in dreams than to welcome a stranger to your home. It's a matter of choice.
So first, any intentional shared dreaming can be preceded by each dreamer setting the intention for an effective, focused and useful dream communication prior to entering the dream.
There are tools that are useful inside the dream too. Being lucid (aware that you're dreaming while the dream is happening) helps, but I've known people to do things while in ordinary consciousness too. Here are some steps.
1. Tell the unwanted dream character to do away.
2. Create in the waking world an amulet you can carry with you in dreams--say a toy lion which becomes "real" in dreams--and send your friend after unwelcome visitors.
3. Practice, in dream state, shifting the location of your dream, or
4. Possibly the most effective, ask the dream character why they persist in coming into your dreams uninvited, and actually listen to the answer.
We can learn to control our dream state, and there are many techniques available for doing so.
There are many diverse beliefs about the meaning of dreams among dream researchers and dream workers. What are your key beliefs about dreams?
All dreams belong to the dreamer. This is one of the key points of ethics supported by the International Association for the Study of Dreams. There are dozens of different ways to explore or facilitate the process of understanding the multiple layers of any dream, but the dreamer's understanding, the dreamers "take" on the dream, is the only one that truly matters. A mediated process of joint discovery with dreams can be a joy. I would love to see people sharing the belief that we are all dreaming together, all the time.
My feeling is that interest in dreams very much vary from one country to another. For example, in Australia I meet lots of people who tell me that they don’t dream while in my native Slovenia almost everyone has an interesting dream to tell. Would you agree that different groups of people view dreams differently, and do you feel that interest in dreams is on the increase or decrease in the USA and globally?
Not only do I believe that public interest in dreams changes from one group of people to another, but I believe it also changes from one period of time to another.
When I first began group dreaming research in the United States in the 1970s, there was very little public interest in dreams, particularly among the psychotherapeutic community, which saw dream work as New Age and somewhat dangerous. Forty years later, there is an enormous interest in dreams all over the United States.
When I say public interest though, I mean just that. I have discovered that almost all of the people I meet, anywhere in the world, are interested in dreams and long for a safe place to talk about them. It's the safety of the environment that matters.
Given that our internal well-being depends on the type of information we receive from dreams, I can only assume that the desire for self-awareness, enhanced by dream work, will continue to grow.
Ideally, how would you like the dreaming community to evolve in the future?
Because I believe that dreams are essentially helpful, I would love to see more people of all nations looking at and considering their dreams.
Jean Campbell is the Host of PsiberDreaming Conference organised by International Association for the Study of Dreams.