“Get Lost!”… Guest Blog with Susanne van Doorn, Midlife Dreams Part 3


Susanne van Doorn is a Dutch psychologist and blogger on http://mindfunda.com .  A blog about psychology, spirituality and mythology.  Aimed to make your life easier.


Each month, Mindfunda interviews authors of groundbreaking books at its YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5_vx1eoXghIzKjIlc_-llA so be sure to sign up.
Member of the International Association of the Study of Dreams, presenter at international conferences about dreams and spirituality, she is author of A dreamers guide through the land of the deceased, a book based on her own research that distinguishes different types of dreams one can have while mourning. She translated A theory of dreams from Vasily Kasatkin, the world’ s only longitudinal research into the effects of dreams and health from Russian into English.



“Let’s get lost together. I know where to go”… by Susanne van Doorn

“We must go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us

– Joseph Campbell

My father was struggling for life. His temperature was so high that the juices of life dried up, except for that little tear that rolled down his cheek when he took his last breath.
My mother had not lived alone since she married my father 58 years earlier. One day she told me this dream: “I am walking with your father in the forest. It is just like the old days: we where talking, laughing and I feel so happy. But all of a sudden he chooses a different path, one that is closed off by a gate. I am left behind, feeling lost and incredibly angry. I start yelling, screaming and crying. I am so mad that he just leaves me behind. It drives me crazy that I am not able to go behind this fence in the forest. A fence that was not there before… A woman comes walking towards me, and as she approaches I see that it is his mother. She puts her arms around me and comforts me. Then I wake up…”

 Getting lost is an important part of life. Waking or dreaming, I am used to getting lost. And I am not the only one. Getting lost is one of the most common dream themes. And almost all of us know its meaning: we have to change something. But always when a meaning of a dream is that obvious I get into my Peggy Lee “Is that all there is? Then let’s keep dancing” mood. I have too much respect for dreams. I do not expect them to tell me something obvious. I want them to tell me something else, to inspire me to creativity, or at least have me look at a situation from a different perspective.

When I have one of those “Is that all there is? Then let’s keep dancingdreams I turn to mythology. It was Joseph Campbell who said: “Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve. And these are not disclosed unless required.”

So join me to find the the magic of getting lost. I know where to go.
Getting lost is a vital part in the hero’s journey. It is the onset of a transformation of ordinary people into heros and heroines. Remember how Odysseus spent years trying to find his way home?

King Odysseus gets his call to fight for the battle at Troy. He refuses the call. He wants to be with his wife Penelope and his newborn son Telemachus. He uses a trick to try to escape his destiny, because an oracle once told him if he went into battle, he would be away for twenty years and return a beggar.

King Odysseus became a professional in getting lost. He roamed the world for twenty years. So let’s consider him our ‘getting lost’ expert. Let’s look at my mother’s dream and see where she gets the call and refuses it, like Odysseus did.

I am walking with your father in the forest. It is just like the old days: we where talking, laughing and I feel so happy. But all of a sudden he chooses a different path, one that is closed off by a gate. I am left behind, feeling lost and incredibly angry”.

 Often we are the heroes of our own life without knowing it. The call to adventure can be something you crave for, being stuck in a dead end career, or in a relationship that has lost its glow. My mother gets this call to adventure to take a different path. And she refuses.

Odysseus is one of the few heros that is allowed to go behind the fence. Behind the gates of immortality. My mother is not allowed to do that. She is not allowed to pass through the gate to follow my father on the path he has taken. She knows it. She feels it. This is also a common theme in dreams. In “A dreamers guide through the land of the deceased” a dreamer shares her dream about guiding her grandfather through several windows:

I reach to my grandfather who lies on a bed and all of sudden a big window appears. Behind it are several other windows, all in a straight line. I know my grandfather is supposed to climb through these windows. And even though my grandfather is still afraid, he holds my hand and climbs with me through the first window. We climb several more windows and my grandfather becomes more confident. Then we approach the window that I am not allowed to pass. This feeling that I am not allowed is very, very strong. I tell my grandfather he has to go on his journey alone. He gives me a little pinch in the hand and climbs through. At that moment I wake up
A Dreamers guide through the Land of the deceased p. 26).

Odysseus, being the clever con-artist he is, manages to travel into the realm of death using the blood of a sacrificed animal to feed the death. He needs to be in the realm of death to find his way back home. He has to meet Tiresias, the blind seer. Tiresias was famous for his accurate foresight even though, or maybe because he was blind. He is the only one who can give Odysseus directions home.

If we offer our life energy to a worthy cause like finding our way home we are going to get help. Help from the blind seer, our intuition that often acts like Tiresias. The heart knows. A dream usually tells about that knowledge.

Remember how in my mother’s dream, help came in the form of my father’s mother? A woman comes walking towards me, and as she approaches I see that it is his mother. She puts her arms around me and comforts me. Then I wake up…”

This is her travel into the underworld. Her helper, my fathers’ mother Sophia has been gone for many years. Before he died, my father was convinced Sophia was visiting him. And now she came back to comfort my mother. To guide her on a new path. Like a hero, my mother was reluctant to answer the call to adventure. But she managed to build a new live. She started traveling again, she started to take long walks again, she became more extraverted. She made friends with neighbors and especially with the children next door. They loved to visit her, make her drawings and play while she was watching them.

Getting lost is a common dream theme. It does not mean that your current life is wrong. Or that you have been too ignorant or lazy to make a change. It is a gentle invitation to become the hero in the story of your own life. Let’s go and get lost together. Our dreams will tell us where to go.


In our next advent – Travis will share some ideas and thoughts around being “lost”… “Stay tuned” 😉

Dreaming Thresholds, Dreaming Crosstroads

Artwork by Vladimir Kush http://vladimirkush.com/
Artwork by Vladimir Kush

Just as the seeds of new life deep down in the soiled memories of the earth are being darkly and secretly dreamed anew, so too, our lives are stirring once more as we launch yet again upon the unknown journey of the New Year.

The period of time, which we now call “the Holidays”, once known as and referred to as “the Holy Days” has seemingly passed and many of us will now return to the actions and duties of daily life and work. Some have rested, many have supped, gifted, socialized and still others have withdrawn or retreated. Many have also been dreaming and remembering, day and night, paying attention to the surrendered visions of experience that form behind the eyelids as we sleep and restore ourselves during long winter nights, the darkest nights that are even now once more shortened and brightening, following a full yet perhaps briefly held moment of stark depths.

No less, as we go now, the call to reflect can still be heard upon the silvern wafts of moonlight sailing upon the winter winds in the oceans of sky just outside our doors and on the other side of the windowpanes knowingly navigating through the ethers of night and early mornings.

Symbolically and mythically, naturally and cosmically, this time of seasonality evokes the living energy of the threshold. Threshold gateways appear in dreams as doors, bridges, windows and portals, and more, among other deeply cloaked situations and scenarios that bespell the energy of ‘the crossroads’.

This is the archetypal resonance of a needed rite of passage in the human and the world soul. Ancient and traditional as well as contemporary cultures have marked the turning of the New Year in various ways at specific calendrical moments for ages. What lies behind is, on some level, let go of and finished, when what has passed is no longer vital or needed. What lies ahead is very likley unknown and uncertain. It’s as if the darkness itself mirrors the rich potentiality of that which falls away into the void and the stirring possibilities for what may yet emerge.

Threshold times can be times of great tension, as the craving for some sense of what is and what is to be done grips us in the midst of a great turning towards and through an invitation for emptiness, solitude and renewal.

In the dreams of many individuals, death, dying and darkness appear as echoes of this energy at this and other times. In the metaphoric and symbolic language of dreams, the people we have been, and whom we may have relied upon, are shown to “pass away” in the dreaming, as energetic and actual experiential events showing that the psyche, and the soul of individuals and the collective are in need of transformative and resuscitating movements.

The word “threshold” itself hails from the old farming practice of separating the “chaff” from the “wheat” – the valuable from the less-than-necessary portions of the harvest. To stand upon the threshold is to exist within the quality of this form of separation, and to trust that what has gone before is now falling away, while that which will come is still yet to arrive. On the threshold gateway, it may be felt that the only thing we can know is that we are “betwixt and between”. The need for certainty may be asking to be sacrificed at this time and in this place, that is to say, to be made sacred.

The tendency in modern times may be to rush ahead or back into comforting activities of the daily world, the routine of what is known, the familiar. However, we might pause once more before re-engaging our lives and projects and seek to honor this passage over the threshold of time-bound reality amid the palpable wisp of the eternal passing over the lips of the Old and New Year, to feel into the dream of our lives, the earth, the animals, the elementals and the stars for creating some vital, true spaces for the new dream to be fashioned by the divine forces that act deeply within us and speak to us through the unexpected voices and occurrences in our waking visions and sleep dreams.

As we move into the cadence of life “as we know it” we might renew our awareness around the depths of our soul’s desires by simply seeking to reflect once more upon the energy and meaning of how it feels to make the crossing yet again, from the past year into the renewing times ahead. As we do so, the wise energies in our dreams and our imaginings will be seen and felt to offer surprising and rich forms of guidance and mystery that can and will betoken the winds of change that lie just ahead on the pathways of our individual and shared lives, blessing body, spirit and soul.

Online Community Dream Work, “Across Space and Time”

MirrorWolf-2Image Credit – by www.thisiscolossal.com

When I started participating in and leading dream groups, about twenty years ago, the World Wide Web had just barely begun to be a venue for many of the activities it is used for presently. Today it’s possible for dreamers to meet from the comfort of our own homes and to call in over video to do this deeply intimate and fun work together online. There are a number of folks doing dream work in this fashion currently around the world.

Not much of a “techie” over the course of my life, the thought of doing group work with dreams over the Internet did not appeal to me very strongly at first. Having done a hefty amount of various types of group work in a wide variety of venues, I thought that it would be crucial to be in the same physical space, in order to read body language and the like. Thankfully, I was persuaded by a host of friends and colleagues to try it out, and I have to say my mind and heart have been changed on the matter.

The way myself and several of my colleagues work with dreams supposes, on the tested basis of experience, that all we can really do, honestly, is imagine another person’s dream for ourselves – the fairly well-known “if it were my dream” approach credited to both Jeremy Taylor and Montague Ullman.  It turns out that working online appears to support a further invitation to use, involve and honor our living imaginations: yet one more opportunity to also own our unconscious projections.

Online work affords many advantages: we save time, resources and money by not driving someplace physical to meet, there’s a “come as you are” element involved, it’s possible to refer to typed written records and helpful pertinent images while working and folks can even look up further info, via Google, to seek to expand the available connections of meaning while engaging with one another during a meeting. It’s as if, symbolically, we are extending the dream into a whole new arena, while we are awake, as well, dreaming the dream further and more expansively.

The experience of being online itself involves a symbolic attention to the imagination that also includes a sense of paradox; even though we are far away, we are and can be close together, intimate across space and time. On the deeper levels of the dreams themselves, to my awareness, we do seem to be connected at a distance and dream motifs of collective synergy often reveal themselves in clear synchronicities during this work. So, the two experiences are uniquely related and encourage the fostering of a deeper kind of connection, albeit perhaps ironically, at a relative distance which fosters a vital closeness of connection, nonetheless.

Participating in and hosting online dream groups appears to be one way that we may avail ourselves of the current technology, in a quality fashion, to support evermore deepening levels of authenticity and rich inner wisdom to come  more clearly into action in the waking world.

My current online group meeting takes place every other Tuesday from 10am to Noon PST, U.S. and we’re accepting new members. Please go to the groups page here to get more information and contact me to register.

Dreaming On, Travis Wernet

Projective Dream Work and “You language”, Part 2

This post continues a theme from a previous one about projection… The image pictured here is from Surrealist Painter Magritte, and is titled “The False Mirror”


Why is it that we so often speak in what I call “You language”? When discussing situations with others, we often attempt to tell friends, colleagues and other folks what we think is true or right for them. We even do this when trying to describe our own individual unique experience of life, and make seemingly all-encompassing statements about people we may know very little about. For example, when somebody close dies, we say things like, “When death visits, you feel the limits of your own mortality and you begin to question the very meaning of existence”.  This might be true, in a general sense, for all of us, but it can be harder to hear when it’s put like this. And for some, it might not be like that at all. For instance, one might simply feel sad and miss the person who’s passed away. If I were having a conversation with someone about death and dying, and felt a sense of my own mortality, why wouldn’t I acknowledge that by saying, instead, something like, “When someone dies, it makes me question the meaning of my own life.” Wouldn’t it be more honest, helpful and appropriate to say what it brings out in me versus trying to speak for others? How can we honestly do anything but speak from and about our own experience? It’s not as though it even makes sense to pretend I can know for certain what another person is thinking or feeling, let alone what she or he has gone through in the past, or will face in the future. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my own memories, thoughts and feelings from moment to moment and day to day!

Experience has been said to be one of the greatest teachers. Over time, and in my own life, I can recall several defensive arguments that took place because of people using “you language” with each other. I’ve done it many times myself. I know that when I do, part of the reason I am even tempted to do so, is that it seems it would be so much easier to be able to assign my difficult feelings and shadowy actions, the positive and negative potentials of my own existence, onto someone else, rather than face up to the challenging forces that exist within my own being. If I can cast my problems or potentials onto the neighbors, my friends or intimate partners, then I don’t have to clean up my own mess, or confront and take responsibility for aspects of my life that are anxiety producing or seem unattractive or difficult to respond to.

The obstacle to realizing this lies in an inborn capacity to be unaware of what we’re unaware of. How can we know what we don’t know, if we don’t know it? That guiding essence within each of us, what Psychology or Buddhism might call the ego, would much rather be seen as a champion with all the right stuff, than to be experienced as a perfectly flawed and complicated bundle of competing wishes, desires and qualities. This is one reason I find it so useful to work with dreams. Such visions, in my experience, provide a unique access to “the magic mirror that never lies”. Dreaming, we enter realms of the unknown where we’re given accurate depictions of previously unconsidered difficulties, and find solutions for the struggles we come up against in relation to others. It might not be easy to look at the images and situations that are reflected by dreams, but doing so allows a recognition of the unique challenges, gifts and tendencies which can be honored in seeking to discover and fulfill the souls’ deepest and dearest longings.

Here’s an example of one of my own night-world adventures, which I believe shows of how the unknown appears in dreams, as well as how projections relate to and within them.

“The Shrunken and Broken Protection Door, I’m a Woman Leading the Youth”

*Dream from May 2013:

I am vaguely aware of a structure that I find myself in. I know I’m leading a group of young people and that I’m a woman, my current age of forty-two, or slightly older. I feel a protective sense and see a doorway. The door seems to shrink just off the frame and its’ hinges as I look at it and my awareness becomes involved with somehow keeping the door closed. I also know that there’s a group outside that are waiting to get us, or attack us and I find myself concerned with fixing the door, but also with how to proceed out of the structure to get to the outside. I don’t feel it’s safe to do so with the attackers/mob out there waiting for and planning to attack us.

As the dreamer of this dream, I’m bound to find it tricky to see what’s in it for myself, because, like any dreamer, I am uniquely blind to the messages and meanings in my own material. No less, right off the bat, experiencing myself as a woman in the dream is an intriguing way for it to put me in a position that is opposite to my day-world, physical experience as a man. No matter how hard I try to imagine what it’s like to be female, while I’m awake, all I can do is make the effort to do so. On one level, the dream takes this experience a step further, and gives me a brief but real experience in the dream of feeling like and existing as a woman.

Although there’s much more that could be said about the above narrative, it relates to the earlier stated ideas in that the imagination here gives a directly felt-sense of being something that I don’t appear to be in the waking world. As I look at the dream from my conscious perspective, despite being a woman in the dream, I naturally, unconsciously, begin to project onto the dream all my ideas about what it means to be a woman, leading a group of youth, feeling protective and as if I need to insure the success of our quest. It would be easy to conclude, at least on one level, that a way I hold my inner idea of “woman” is to assume that she is motherly, protective, and is invested in taking care of her young.

The only reliable way to be sure what the dream is coming to say is to ask whether it inspires any sort of “A-Ha” response. I definitely do resonate with this possibility that the experience of being a woman in my dream is inviting me to look deeper into my own hidden layers of thought and feeling around what it means to be a woman, and that I may be expecting a kind of stereotypical role from her.

This is a very brief exploration, given the topic, but I do feel it begins to give a genuine sense of the way that dreams point out how we project, at the least, while we’re awake. I also want to emphasize that in looking back at the dream, it becomes possible to become aware of unconscious ideas, thoughts and feelings as they appear, while receiving, reading or listening to the dream. Working with the dreams in this way begins to create and honor a perceptive reality in which many of us may realize that what exists in the psyche, the inner imaginal world of each person, suggests that there are any number of unconscious ideas, feelings and attitudes which we’re not fully aware of. This phenomenon also demonstrates that it’s very likely we project such unknowns on each other, and that using an “I language” in our conversations can afford us the opportunity to realize what is true for each of us, and offers a different level of respect for each persons’ own version of reality and truth.