Monday, July 21, 2008


by Gina Sestak

We -- each and every one of us -- create fiction in our dreams.

Earlier this month, I had the great good fortune to participate in the 25th annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams [IASD] in Montreal, Canada. IASD is an eclectic international group that includes MDs and shamans, psychologists and writers, clergy and artists and others who share a common interest in dreams.

It is difficult to condense the all-encompassing experience of the conference into a single blog post. My days often began before 7 a.m. with a short peaceful walk in Maisonneuve Park across the street from the hotel before beginning the steady stream of lectures, seminars, panels, workshops and social events that continued to 11 p.m. or so. There were usually seven activities going simultaneously; I decided that I didn't really want a wand -- I wanted a time turner so I could participate in all of them! [FYI, wands & time turners are featured in Harry Potter.]

Here's a sample:

At 8 a.m., there was a choice between nine dream study groups and a yoga class. I participated in a group led by an Anthropologist. [Last year, I picked the one led by a Jungian analyst.] We worked one person's dream each morning, using a method developed by psychiatrist Montague Ullman. Monte was a long-time participant in IASD who died recently in his 90s. In the Ullman method, one person describes a dream. Other participants discuss the dream by saying, "If this were my dream, I would think . . ." No one imposes an interpretation on the dreamer. In the end, the dreamer may choose to share his/her thoughts and feelings about the dream and whether anything said by the other participants rang true.

One panel discussion led by our own Cynthia Pearson focused on Dreams as We Age and included one of the pioneers of modern dream-work, Robert Van de Castle, who kept reminding everyone that he was the oldest living person in the room. He's 80. There were younger people at the conference, too, of course, including several graduate students presenting papers.

Highlights included an art exhibit that featured artwork inspired by dreams, a costume ball, and an awesome dance performed by two members of the World Dreams Peace Bridge which, as many of you know, is an international internet peace group in which I participate.

I could describe the various lectures I attended -- biblical dreams, cultural considerations in working with dreams, creating artificial dreams through cinematography, normal and pathological dreaming, dreaming in color, healing dream in Welsh mythology, histories of dream research and of IASD. I analyzed my dreams in workshops by using tarot cards, pretending to be my car, and writing a short story.

I could describe the audio performance art piece, or the dream telepathy contest, or the wonderful Universal Dream Dance Circle.

But I think I'll stop here and pose a question: Has your writing been influenced by your dreams?


Tory said...

When I was younger, I used to have these emotional dreams and wake up thinking, "That would make a great story!" But I found that my emotions having the dream didn't translate when I tried to use the dream as a plot. Usually they were melodramatic and contained large loopholes that wouldn't work as a story line.

Too bad, they seemed like such wonderful stories when I was dreaming them!

Martha Reed said...

Gina, good morning. It sounds like you enjoyed a great conference.

I do have one observation; this past weekend I did some housesitting, and because I was sleeping in a strange place, and wasn't used to the noises, it felt like I woke up every hour for 2 nights running. Now, I'm not used to that, and when I woke up because of a noise (cat, bus, etc). I caught myself deeply in the middle of a dream each time. By the second night of interrupted sleep, I could tell that I was waking up and 'not processing' (my words) the full content of my dreams; the next day, all day, I felt disconnected and loggy. Maybe I'm spoiled with the amount of interrupted sleep I get, but I didn't feel back to normal until this morning, after 7 hours of interrupted sleep.

Which begs the question: what am I processing? Where does that content come from? I'll have to give that some big thought.

Annette said...

A couple of times I've written stories based on my dreams, but more often than not, I find I can use the EMOTION from a dream or nightmare. For example, in a nightmare, I'm being chased or I'm hiding from a threat to my life...stuff that (thankfully) doesn't happen in my real life. But I can recall that panic, that terror, and use it when a character is in danger.

Cathy said...

The conference sounds fascinating. I sometimes write dreams into my novels, but these dreams are fairly coherent. In real life, my dreams always seem weird, disjointed, and hard to figure out. They don't make much sense.