I dreamed a friend who has been very sick for a long time now volunteered to go to the airport to pick up one of the speakers for a conference I’m helping to organize. The speaker was Robert Bosnak, a Jungian psychoanalyst who specializes in dreamwork. Remarkably, my sick friend arrived looking wonderful, a good 10 years younger than he is in waking life. Despite having no real interest in psychology or dreams, as far as I know, he’d had a wonderful conversation with Bosnak on the drive over and volunteered to do a demonstration with him for the conference itself. I was amazed because this friend, in waking life, is an extremely private person. The demonstration involved some sort of physical acrobatics, and Bosnak wound up standing on my friend’s back. I was quite worried about this as among his many physical issues, he has a bad back. But he seemed to be fine, not struggling at all. He was healthier and happier than I’d ever seen him.
When I woke up I remembered that Bosnak does intend to do a demonstration, at the conference, with another friend who has a chronic physical condition, and that in fact he specializes in working with people with these types of problems.
I thought about the role dreams played years ago when I developed a mystery illness that took awhile to shake, but finally did, with the help of a very skilled and patient healer. I remembered how, recently, I woke up from a dream in which I was sitting in his waiting room and realized it had probably been too long since my last visit, so I made an appointment. I have no doubt that my dreams tell me things about my physical body my waking mind doesn’t know.
Lately I’ve been struggling with understanding how, or if, healing occurs with some of my therapy clients. I see most people weekly, and sometimes people feel better, sometimes worse. While we hope and work for substantial improvement over time, it can be hard to tell, when you’re in the midst of it, whether or not things are going in a good direction. It’s easy to think we’re not really doing anything, especially since the process of therapy isn’t generally linear. People do not get better in a predictable way. Healing takes a circuitous path, often one unique to the individual. I’ve seen and experienced it firsthand far too many times not to have faith in it, but it’s still easy to forget when a client has a bad week and I think, perhaps I’m not really being helpful. What do I really know anyway?
What I learned from my healer is pretty well summed up by something he said to me one day when I’d had a particularly bad week, and neither one of us knew why I wasn’t getting better. He said something like, I don’t know what’s happening, but I’m willing to keep working as long as you are. He had faith in the process and a willingness not to know, and ultimately, it worked where so many other attempts had failed. (I probably learned more about being a healer from that one exchange than in a year of graduate school.)
The image that stays with me from my recent dream is that of someone standing on the injured back of my friend, who could easily and happily hold that weight. The feeling that stays with me is that fundamentally, real, serious healing does happen, and often the path is through the illogical, the dream world, and the not-knowing.