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The Dream Specialist: When What Seems Absent is Present

Accessing Dream Energies and Events that appear to be “Unseen”

by Ken Kaplan

The last column I wrote on dreams (check archives under my name) was in November of 2010. At that time I felt complete with whatever information I had on the topic. I decided, along with Wisdom, that the door was open if something called to me for additional information. This piece is a response to something that recently stirred within.

Up until 2011 there were very few books witrten, relatively speaking, on dreams other than dream dictionaries. That has changed recently as more books explaing dreams and giving decoding techniques have appeared on the market. In previous columns I have warned against relying on dictionaries too much as symbols in dreams are unique to the individual. Most dreams workers and those who have written on this agree with that assessment.

However there is a phenomenon I rarely see addressed in the literature on the subject. I call this "that which seems absent is present". What this means is people, events, situations that are not "on stage" in a dream and seemingly unable to get information from, actually are available for that information. Often we might have a dream, for example, in which, "My father was here but he left". "I heard on the radio there was a car accident". "My mother was in the other room but she wouldn't come out". Usually these "off camera" people and events are not investigated because they appear to be not in the action. But they contain informaton for us none the less and as I said this can be accessed. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that the subconscious mind, which usually is the director of dreams, contains within it all energies of the emotional-psychological self Thus if something happens "off stage" or "off camera" in a dream, the entirety of what information the symbol might have for us still is able to be gotten.

I first encountred this issue about fifteen years ago when I was doing a dream workshop in Delaware. A woman was recounting a dream in which she was walking on a quarter mile track at her high school. She said there was a swarm of angry bees that had been there but had left and might come back. My intuition said to follow that thread so I said, "even though the bees aren't here, their energy is". Using a "gestalt technique" (all parts of a dream are you, become the symbol, see what it has to say for you), I invited her to become the energy of the bees. Again, even though they were not physically present, their energy definitely was. When she became the bees, she realized they represented a part of her that was angry and resentful and wanted to lash out over very specific issues. She was quite astonished that we had taken this unusual path and that it had yielded such valuable information, that we could tap into something that was"not there", yet in a different kind if way "still was".

Recently I went over a series of dreams with a client. A recurring motif for her was the desire to connect positively with her "male side", that part of self that takes action in the world and creates and manifests. In one dream she was dancing with a desireable man who represented this part of her. In my estimation this was a good thing, as the dream was showing she was making contact with that part. Sudenly he left and went off to make a phone call. He was gone for a short while and she was perplexed. Then he returned. I asked her if she knew what the phone call was about. She didn't know, and speculated something about "finances".

I thought the phone call contained potentially important information so I encouraged her to become the man, "follow hin" as he made the call and retrieve the conversation. This she could not do, so I took another tack. I said in the dream when he returns, ask him what it was about. So she returned to that part of the dream, asked him, became him and got the answer. He said "I had to to call the office to check my schedule to see if I could make room for you in it." This was vital information because essentially the message from inner self to conscious self was "I need to see if I can fit you in", or "can you fit me in (to our life)." This added tremendous meaning to the interaction and her understanding of where she stood in relationship to this particlar aspect of herself at that time. That they then continued the dance was a good sign as apparently room was "available" at that moment, and thus for future potential as well for this part.

If she had not been as ready, the dream would have taken another turn. He might not have returned, she may have wandered the dance hall and run into a shadow representation of this energy as someone who wished to harm her, she might have opened a door only to find herself on a dark empty street. None of this happened, they were still united, which was a favorable sign from a more knowing part of self. Dreams always express existentially what is at the moment for us, and the path they take reflects this truth. Thus in this respect, the dreaming mind, as I have pointed out before, is beautifully ruthless in its truth telling. You will always get the reality of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions from a dream as they bypass conscious resistance to reveal the heart of the matter.

I want to end focusing on a dream that invoves a gifted author (The Jew and the Lotus), Rodger Kamenetz, who also wrote an exceptionally well recived book "The History of Last Night's Dream." The book recounts Kamenetz's relationship with an exceptional dream worker from Vermont, Marc Bregman, who guided and tutored him using his dreams into dealing with many of his most profound personal issues. Kamenetz has since become a dream worker also in Bregman's lineage.

Kamenetz has a tremendously authentic understanding of dreams amd their importance to our personal lives and journey, and in 2011 shares a dream on his blog http://bit.ly/ZwSFom that has significant bearing to this discussion.

He calls the dream "losing my pants." A caveat. Kemenetz in my opinion is a man of extraordinary sensitivity, courage and willingness to make himself vulnerable. I know in his dream work he believes in establishing relationships with his clients as part of their work together and following many dreams over time. I am presuming a lot because I have not worked with him nor do I know his full process in connection with this dream, how or whether he followed up on it with other dreams or in other ways, That said, on just the "existential" face value alone (how it is presented), there might be something here that is instructive for us.

Kamentez tells of us the dream in these words,

"Im at some Jewish youth event. (Maybe I’m a youth?) I took off my jeans and wallet and put it somewhere, we are in the city. Then when I come back for them, I can’t find them. I ask a couple of the organizers. I get mad and say they should have watched things more carefully. Someone tells me it’s the city and what did you expect? I hear myself whining and complaining and I don’t like the way that feels. Then a guy is hugging me and saying that I won’t be able to get my pants back, they are lost and there’s nothing to do about it. He’s also hugging a teenage girl with his other arm. She is also distressed. I feel he is right and that I need to stop whining"

The full account of Rodger's explanation and very deep personal account of what the dream meant to him follows in the blog and you can read it fully if you go there http://talkingdream.blogspot.com/2011/09/losing-my-pants.html

I had many thoughts about his interpretation in the published form, in which he, in my opinion, correctly correlates the dream to some very strong feelings he was having about identity, self worth, and purpose in his waking life at the time. He ends his contemplation with this this thought,

"When I feel the sting of , “there’s nothing of me in it”, that’s my wallet is lost. And when I hear myself “whining” about it... it’s great because I know , no more whining. No whining allowed. I just have to go to him without my pants and wallet, to get his arm around my shoulder and hear him say, Yes, it’s lost, and there’s nothing you can do about it, that’s the way it is."

Its difficult here because as author he is using his view to make a point, but there are a number of questions I would have asked in general if I had been working with him and this information is what had only been given. And he may have done that investigation. But for our purposes here, there are some interesting questions that seem not to have been asked. And the first directly relates to our theme.

"Who took the pants and the wallet and why? Or how did they disappear". And rememember ,HE took them off. Why? (This is a question, again, through a "gestalt" technique, I would have wanted answered.)

Traditionally, as I have stated, that question (who took them or how were they lost and why) is not asked. After all the pants and wallet are gone, not to come back. Who knows who took them? But it is my contention that the energy, the presence of whoever took them, as a representation of subconscious mind's understanding IS present and can be accessed. Even if "they" or (whomever) is not physically present, their actions and motivaton can be made available, just as the content of the phone call was made available in the other dream. (Or if they were not "taken", the pants and wallet can be reached to find out why they are not there.)

This is part of the "gestalt" of the dream in which as a whole, ALL parts are present, even if not physically so. There could be many possibilities as to why the items were stolen or lost, and because it is Rodger's dream only he can truly know why. If this dream were presented to me without the biographical and psychological background Kamenetz provides, both on his blog and in his deeply self revealing book, it would be much harder for me to deal with its content without personal interaction. I am not a psychic in this fashion. With this information I can venture a speculation that the answer would be "because they no longer serve you". (again, he took them off.) The sense of self identification of youth, of family, of religious heritage has been outgrown, may be dissolving, thus being "stolen" or "lost".

At this point I am going further than the announced intention of this essay. I am doing this because I have not written in over two years, and I believe it is helpful to revisit a potential meaning of a dream in its totality, even one as ostensibly as short as this, to again remember the extraordinary depths of wisdom, clarity and the nature of the dream that inherently is both supportive and seeks to provide integration for the self through illumination of core issues.

The man at dream's end putting his arm around two people is representative of a connection to a nurturing side of male self that is present already in Kamenetz's life. (Which is acknowledged by him, even to the point of Divine connection, which I might call conduit to Source or deeper Self.) This is a good sign, just as the return of the dancing male partner in my friend's dream was a good sign. (If we have not made these connections, these symbols do not appear.)

I would then have asked the another, very important question, "what about the girl?" Kamenetz does not mention her in his exlpication of what the dream means to him (in this account) but she is key to the entire thing for she is the symbol the dream is pointing to as the crossroads of the issue, the deeper contextual part of him generated by the problems inherent with expectations of religion, family, and self. (He is a youth at a Jewish YOUTH event.)

She in my opinion represents his receptive, feminine side and this part is young (teenager, therfore in a not fiully developed formative stage) and "in distress", just as Kamenetz is distressed in waking life over difficulty in recieving a sense of his true value. I'm sure any of those who know him would not agree with his feelings (written on his blog) that

"And the question that burns is: what is it I can do that is truly of my soul, that is mine and not someone else’s? Because it feels like everything I’ve ever done was just borrowed from someone else and I came along for the ride"

How true is this? I can't answer that. But from my viewing, the dream has answered it. "Look to the part of you that can be fully receptive to value of self, but at present is not developed, and is in pain and distressed." Why? Because old identity issues, old belief systems about self are getting in the way. Kamenetz is an award winning author who has a unique and distinctive literary voice and a profound depth of soul. His contributions to the world cannot be understated. I know that we may FEEL inadequate, but our feelings are not necesarily an accurate refelecton of who we truly are. From a spiritiual point of view, this is exponentially so.

Perhaps the girl represents something from within pointing to a need for a deeper receptivity to another level of creativity. Very, very possible. Kamenetz expresses a craving for this and laments

"A lot of this has to do with my pain in knowing I am just a student of this work. And trying to compensate for that. What me a student? Yes I am literally Marc’s student, as he tutors me to be a therapist, and I’m a student of my client’s work, and a student of my dreams which sometimes tell me about the work I am doing with my clients. So I have no pants"

Dreams can have layers of meaning that contain multiple truths. Some sense of identity, male identity, is not present here, but why should being in a learning phase, as he perceives it, entail loss? This is why dream symbols are so unique for each person He says (without pants, -or wallet!!)

(not from the dream)"I have no actual guaranteed understanding of my life, of the world. I have no status. (is this true or a self judgment-Ken) I have to walk out now without pants" Then ,"But here it is not that. (Shame in previous dreams with no pants).It is just the stinging pain of loss, and the desire to regain. And here I feel my protest, my whining.. is not adequate."

I do not think we can diminish this idea that old belief systems might be blocking openness to new developments, possibilities, but my sense is the craving for self acceptance is higly significant. The two may play off one another. I think Kamenetz means they are gone in the Buddhist sense of "accepting what is." Letting go and growing up to releasing old patterns as part of adult growth (no whining) is important, as Rodger notes. But to me an important marker is the statememt, "Someone tells me it’s the city and what did you expect?" So there seems to be a belief the world is a cruel place, cold and uncaring. Where is the coldness within the author, the dreamer, that might be blocking a more authentic, "grown up" receptivity and appreciation for who self is and his place in the world, no matter what stage of development he is in? And perhaps more trust in spiritual forces within (the hugging man) as to where one may be headed? Who is also pointing out where the solution to this dilemma may truly lie? (Nourish your receptive side which appears to have ben neglected.)

I have talked about the four stages of the dream as postulated by Jung, and he forcefully emphasized that the denoument or core message is often revealed at dream's end. Thus although the issue of longing for more originality, and creativity in self as represented by a more developed receptive side most likely is present, (and agains should not be underestimated), the plethora of what might be termed anguished elements, both in the dream (particularly in the distress of the girl and "stinging sense of loss" and outrage over lost items of identity) and in his conscious reflections lead me to suspect a conflict within over self image vs reality.

Although Rodger's feeilngs are acknowledged and expressed by the dream fully, the limiting beliefs in my opinion are not supported by the dream. The resolution phase at end demonstrates the greater truth of both nurturing support and direction for guidance. From my experience dreams usually act in this manner, identifying our deepest feelings and beliefs, but inherently sheding light on healing whatever may be limiting us.

For those of us on the spiritual path and in life in general, the kinds of issues raised by this dream are extremely profound and important, even vital questions, as we succumb quite often to the conscious and unconscious pressures of American "bottom line" and "productivity" narratives. Especially for men, and young men, which is reflected in the male imagry of pants and wallet (women carry purses). Again, although he says "When I feel the sting of , “there’s nothing of me in it”, that’s my wallet is lost", I would question, is there not something more? Context is extremely important in a dream, and in what time period (Youthful male identity-trauma or distortion of youth) the wallet is lost is a vital clue. Kamenetz also says "I am retired. I don’t need a wallet. I have all I need". In a way perhaps. Wallet implies to me material identity. Yet the self castigation of "no status, no authenticity" implies on the contrary a very strong need for a "wallet", just perhaps a more spiritual, mature wallet (identity) , yet one that also grounds us in our work in this world.

"Who wears the pants in the family" is a well known expression. Growing up Jewish, in that demanding intellectual heritage myself, which has a long patriarchal history itself, with a father to whom nothing was ever "good enough", I can relate to this at a very, very primal level. What if one has value just in one's being? Kamenetz radiates one of the most sensitive, genuine and authentic vibrations of nearly anyone I have ever encountered. Aside even from the truly prodigious work he has done that has emanated from the depth of his soul, in God's eyes, isn't that vibration itself enough? As I have said, I believe the arm around the distresed young girl is the answer. Kamenetz may be a mirror for many, many of us. I recently heard a profound saying relating to this, "The lighthouse does not run all over the island attenpting to save boats. It just shines its light, and from that light all who are in need are supported and bathed."

And I reiterate, I think the answer to the dilemma, to the entirety of the conflict, would be clearer if we could ask whoever took the pants and wallet, or the items themself, why they were taken or lost.

Sometimes accessing what sems to be absent, but is present, can be critical.

I find it deeply ironic that Kamenetz questions his status and value in life in this moment, even as in the very act of baring his soul in this writing, he is displaying a great part of what makes him unique. Although he may cherish his mentor, Marc, and places himself here in a decidely lower position to his teacher, depite all of Marc's gifts, he cannot do do what Rodger does in the same way. Rodger is a born communicator whose intersection of enormous spiritual depth, gift of intellect, connection to tradition in an extraordinary and original manner, sincerity of heart, and association with this work (and other important arenas) make him one in a million, one who can combine those assets to create such a magnificent and moving look into inner life. And as periods of "feeling stuck" often are precursors in natural rhythm to periods of growth, Kamenetz may (or have already realized) new levels of potential within himself

I want to thank Rodger for his courage in publishing and revealing such a deep part of his psyche and journey. It is an outstanding aspect of his unique gift, what appears to be one that he at that time had a hard time seeing in himself, and any deeper potential that may have been waiting to emerge. And to bear with my long distance pronouncements as to some of the meaning of this dream. And again, I want to emphasize this is a leap of "chuzpah", on my part, to work with a dream without collaboration with the other. However I believe, as I mentioned, there is some merit here in looking at the dream and concurrent feelings, "as is", as they were presented, especially the issue of 'what was not present, but is". The entire process Rodger might have gone through with this dream and other dreams that carry similar associations may have entailed many elements that have been touched upon here, or perhaps not.

Marc Bregman's (Rodger's mentor) website is here for those who wish to know more about his path and "Archetypal Dreaming".


Ken kaplan is a gifted dream faciltator of over 30 years who has given many presentations publicly on the importance of dreams and has run dream groups. If you are interested in working wth him on a dream, you may contact him at kenstories@verizon.net. His fees are reasonable and he guarantees his work.

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