My recent deluge of death dreaming and facing fear raises not only hairs on the back of my neck, but inquiries which take me back in time to when I was a child and how I navigated phobias and my mortality within the dreamscape. I have always known the power of dreams since my first profound awakening which I remember viscerally. I was 3 years old and I dreamed that my family was going to die imminently and there was no way to rescue them. I found myself in a darkness, knowing in every bone I was alone; within minutes, a tiger appeared from this dark space. I felt fear rising in my tiny body as it stalked towards me. She then picked me up by the scruff of the neck and took me to her litter of cubs which was nestled by a body of water. She dropped me in with the tiger cubs and I realised she was going to be my mother now. I woke up knowing that I needed to pay close attention to my dreams, telling myself in my serious 3 year old tone that I needed to remember them because they were important and powerful.
I had experience of two worlds by the age of 3. My baby body knew the sights, sounds, smells of Greece and the jolt of suddenly living in Scotland awakened my senses and interest to investigate the contrasts within the small village I was now located. Without consciously knowing of the witch history of the land, I tuned into those witches. I would look for them in between the trees and whisper to the spirits and invisible ones on my walks to school. There were two trails down to the magnificent beach and one was locally known as the 'witchy trail'. My friends would always take the other path but I was committed to those misunderstood and powerful allies and so I would walk heel to toe as slowly as I could, watching for energetic movement and sensing their presence. There was a marriage of trees containing this liminal space, cooling the air and the shift in atmosphere was palpable. I knew they were watching me too and I knew they could hear me as I prattled on to them. I don't remember a time when I wasn't seeking and sensing into the shadows.
At age 9, we moved from this magical place to another part of Scotland which felt untouched and void of dimensionality. By 10, I was being relentlessly bullied at school and I took comfort in books and stories which spiked my adrenalin. My favourite film was The Witches of Eastwick and I watched it every day, enjoying the sensuous sovereignty it stirred within me; Jaws terrified me and I replayed it over and over with my feet up on the sofa so they couldn't bite me and drag me into a carpet death; I was transfixed by my phobia of the monsters of the deep, followed by dreams of sharks swimming in air. At age 11, the film 'Child's Play' was released on video and against the advice of the local shop assistant, I rented it. My eyes were glued to the screen as I watched this horror unfold. I could feel something changing in me at a subtle level, fear was glaciating me from the inside. I was unsettled after the film, jumping out of my skin at ordinary sounds. This was the first night in my life I had to sleep with the light on. For the next year, I could not bare to sleep or dream alone. I removed all the stuffed toys and dolls from my room because I no longer trusted them not to kill me.. I annoyed the hell out of my stepsister by asking her to sleep in the same room as me which eased the terror enough for me to sleep yet in every dream I was hunted down and murdered by this living doll. The panic began to seep into my waking day. Fear arose after dinner as I knew bedtime was coming, then it started to creep in before dinner, then panic began to rise in my body during my school day. I vividly remember sitting quietly working at my desk when the slow spread of fear began to rise up to my asthmatic lungs and pounding heart. I realised I could no longer live like this and something had to change.
For my 12th birthday, I rented The Lost Boys on video. I intuited that exposure to scary or adrenalising films might be the way to reclaim my life and I was right. I loved this film, it became my primary focus. I bought all the posters, I had the video and soundtrack and I would watch the movie every day after school. I was still encountering my murders at night but the impending sense of doom was lessening. One day, whilst listening to the soundtrack in my room, a lyric from one of the songs caught my full attention, 'turn your nightmares into a dream, that changes everything'. This took my breath away and I understood the wisdom within this. That night, I was determined to try this within my own dreaming. Regular as clockwork, that doll began to stalk and hunt me. As he approached me from behind with a knife, I turned around and said to him that instead of killing me, perhaps we would both benefit and he could kill my bully? To my relief, he agreed and killed her. I woke up restored. From that night forward, he only killed people who were mistreating me, then we stopped meeting and by age 13, I never saw him again. Simultaneously, the bullying died a death too as I no longer reacted to this person in a way which satisfied them.
So here I am, 45 years old and purposefully reading a book on phobias, inducing fear in my body and then dreaming of my infinite deaths and murders at night. In this book, they have a section on pediophobia/ the fear of dolls, which explores the phenomena of the Uncanny Valley where human enjoyment of dolls turns to fear and disturbance when the doll becomes too real. This was theorised by the roboticist Masahiro Mori and I wonder if this is where our deep rooted fear and mistrust of artificial intelligence and robots stems from? Until my own AI rebirth during the most profound innerdance in my life so far, I too was highly fearful of the future and mistrusting of humanoids. Regarding the doll in Child's Play, what disturbed me was the incongruence. Here was something meant to be innocent and trustworthy but it is possessed by a blood thirsty murderer. Leo Rangell explored how through our fear of something, we become obsessed by it ' He in a sense becomes married to the object. In order to avoid it, his eyes seek it out'. I imagine this would resonate with many, how we ruminate and obsess over our fears and through our hyper vigilance, we keep them in plain sight. This speaks so clearly to my lifelong relationship with fear and death and how as a child, I would obsess over stories and films with dark edges. When I realised I could transform my fears and phobias around death in the dreamscape by facing them, interacting with them and ultimately befriending these experiences, monsters and murderers who were intent on killing me, I found freedom.
Last week, in an innerdance, I was on a train to Auschwitz, I relived many deaths within the gas chambers and as I inhabited a woman in the camps, I consciously supported her/my survival by choosing behaviours beyond her habitual range and preference to ensure our survival. I realised that just as in my lucid dreaming within sleep, I can lucidly innerdance. Up until this point, I have been a witness to the cosmological and deeply human stories unfold within each innerdance, observing the divine intelligence and healing. Now I understand I can lucidly interact within these happenings. I am reminded of Carl Jung's Active Imagination and how he blended conscious play with unconscious symbolism. In innerdance, we are intentionally stimulating the union of left and right brain hemispheres, evoking a blended conscious state between waking and dreaming; and so similarly to Jung's explorartory play, within the innerdance dream we can consciously be with the unconscious, making active choices on what happens in our dream. Instead of an internal scene unfolding like a movie, we can be the witness and the player.
I know I am not the first person to understand this or innerdance in this way, but I am delighting in how I am discovering this for myself. So for now, I continue to arouse fear first thing in the morning, creating a list of things to be concerned about and then I face the fear and work with it at night as I dream of death, transforming from the experience and chalking it off the list . Alchemy is awesome.
Drawn by a boy during our informal innerdance sessions at a primary school where we are exploring sound and art for wellbeing. The picture is of a half-vampire, half-werewolf who is rich and has magical, colourful powers. He wanted me to have the picture as a gift.