Monday, July 05, 2010


by Gina Sestak

I spent last week at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, North Carolina,

attending the 27th Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.

This is the most eclectic bunch of people I've ever been among.  Attendees included psychologists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, educators, clergy, artists, and, of course, writers.  Then there were those, like me, who came for the fun.  [Learning is fun, right?]

I attended seminars on Shamanic Journeying (in this case, evoking mystical experience via body postures), Shadow Work (Jungian-based approach to the dark side presented by an Episcopal priest), After Death Communication (via dreams, not mediums), Welsh Mythology (viewing myth as the dream of a culture), Through the Dream Looking Glass (mapping a dream through drawing images), How Extraordinary Dreams Extend to Others and Fulfill Higher Purposes, and Dreams at the End of Life: A Tool for the Great Crossing Over (presented by a hospice nurse).  I skipped most of the hard science this year (those with titles like "Association of Neurohormones Oxytocin and Cortisol with Sleep Stage and Dream Content" and "Dream Content and Movements during REM Sleep in Parkinson Patients with REM Sleep Behavior Disorder").  There were also films, an art show, a dance performance, keynote speeches ("Cherokee Dreaming and the Politics of Repression," "The Timeless Wisdom of Our Dreams," and "Dream Content, Waking States and Well-Being: Why Dreaming is Psychologically Meaningful"), story telling, and a "Dream Ball," in which people dressed up as characters from their dreams, not to mention lots of just hanging around, eating and drinking.

The most fun of all, though, was a dream group I participated in every morning.  Titled "The Theatre of Dreams," this workshop allowed participants to stage their dreams.  A participant would tell a dream s/he had had, then direct the acting out of that dream, choosing other participants to play dream characters and costuming them accordingly.   The dream characters got a chance to give feed-back on how they felt about being in the dream.  Acting out other peoples' dreams, I played a dream group participant (type casting), a dark feminine energy figure, and half of a door.  Then we did my own dream:

A young man who made deliveries (maybe something like pizza) became a giant, then got small again.  Police were after him, waiting in a two story building with a porch.  There was supposed to be a blackout, but I saw from outside that one of the second floor apartments had lights on.  Inside, I worried that the man who had been a giant would come to the door and be caught.  Someone rang the doorbell and  I answered.  It was a young woman with dark hair wearing a ball cap and dark clothing who worked for the same company as the wanted man.  I knew she was scouting to see if it was safe for him to come to the building.  I whispered to her that the police were there.

Staging this one gave me a lot of insight, but I'm not writing this morning to analyze my dreams.   I'd like to focus on the acting out of a scene, which I sometimes also do with my writing.  It's all well and good to imagine, watching the story unfold in your mind's eye, but is that action really possible?  One way to find out is to get people to perform it.  I suspect we've all sought assistance from a significant other in blocking sex scenes (one of the perks of being a writer), and I once tied up a man in a critique group meeting to make sure my character's method was feasible.   I've asked people to move in certain ways, and crawled around the inside an old van.  What about you?  Do you ever act out scenes from your writing to figure out whether or not they would work?


Joyce said...

Interesting post!

Even though I did a good bit of sparring when I took Taekwondo, I walked through my fight scenes to be sure they would play out the way I had them written.

PatRemick said...

Can't say that I have acted out scenes other than in my head...
But what I want to know, Gina, is whether your dreams have changed since returning from the dreams conference!!

Gina said...

Pat -
I've been going to these annual conferences for years, in places all over the world (Montreal, Copenhagen, various US sites), so any impact on my dreams would be incremental. Conference attendance does tend to ramp up dream recall, though.

Laurissa said...

Very interesting Gina! Yes, I agree, learning is fun. I always try and remember my dreams, but usually I'm not very successful with it.

I've yet to act out any of the scenes that I'm writing. I'm sure it will be a necessity at some point though.

Gina said...

Laurissa -
One easy way to increase memorable dreams is to sleep with a sock (or paper bag) of the herb mugwort under your pillow. It is perfectly legal and it really works.
When acting out scenes from our books, it is important to remember that this should only be done with willing participants. Checking the effects of oleander is a no-no.