© 2004 by John D. Goldhammer

I refuse to become a seeker for cures.
Everything that has ever helped me has come through what already lay stored in me. Old things, diffuse, unnamed, lie strong across my heart.
– Adrienne Rich
from “Your Native Land”

I remember a client who once told me, “I’m sick of being labeled with one of those personality disorders from that horrible big book and then having the therapist try to fix me.” A compelling, unnamed longing for our own life and identity often motivates us to join some group or seek out a psychotherapist. Unfortunately, many contemporary therapies, while well-intended, often focus on un-natural medications, social re-adaptation, and continuing conformity, leaving persons in the same or worse circumstances.

So how do we find natural remedies, ways to help reconnect with our own genius, our own distinctiveness and way of being the world? A process I have come to call “Radical Dreaming,” uses dreams, dream images, and dreamwork as tools to facilitate the life-changing process of reconnecting us to our essential nature. In this process of freeing our authentic self, dreams, with laser-like precision, point out those outside influences and ideas that threaten to extinguish our creative potential or harm us in any way. Here’s an example:

Peter, a nerdy computer programmer in his early forties, hated his job and the company he worked for. He had just begun taking a new prescription drug for anxiety and depression when he told me about a scary dream he called a nightmare:

It was just getting dark and I was standing outside and realized that there had been a nuclear war. Everywhere I looked I saw blackened remains, a burned-out landscape. It was horrible! Then three, white Atlas rockets landed like space ships, the kind that carry nuclear warheads. As I watched, three alien beings came out of the rockets’ doors. A strange, green glow came from the doorways. I woke up really frightened wondering how aliens can be in U.S. ICBMs?

After working on Peter’s dream using the Radical Dreaming approach, Peter understood the true impact of his devastating bout with depression, how it had effectively wiped out his world¾the “burned-out landscape.” And he realized, with a look of real shock, that the three, white ICBMs in his dream represented the outside world’s remedy he had chosen as well as the actual, three white pills he took each day¾a powerful, synchronistic allusion to the gravity of the pharmaceutical establishment’s attack on his “depression”¾a quite real “alien” invasion of his psyche.

From this dream he began to rethink his approach to his depression. Instead of chemically altering his brain chemistry so that he would not feel depressed and could continue the status quo, Peter began to consider other alternatives including exploring what his depression wanted, using his depression as a catalyst to change his life and his career, to stop depressing his hopes and dreams and his unlived life. It makes sense that we would feel depressed when we depress who we are in order to conform to outside rules and expectations.

A lot of our “depression,” which has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., may well be the consequence and symptom of “non-being,” of an unlived life. This also means that depression can be one of our most valuable signposts, a red flag, a symptom of spiritual distress, a deep inner protest about something we are doing to ourselves. To mindlessly obliterate our depression with drugs, shutting down our natural alarm system, and numbing our innate human sensibilities, is nonsensical and perverse.

Peter’s dream helped him redirect his life by illuminating foreign influences that ironically were preventing him from getting to the heart of what his depression really intended: to free him from living someone else’s life!
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Author's Bio: 

John Goldhammer, Ph.D., is a dream researcher, psychotherapist, and author of three books. “Using Dreams to Heal Depression” is adapted from his newest book, Radical Dreaming: Use Your Dreams to Change Your Life (Kensington Publishing / Citadel Press). John lives in Seattle, Washington; Email: jgoldhammer@mindspring.com.