The “Deep Dive” with Intensives
The other night I had an interesting dream. I was swimming in a deep ocean with my kids. I could see my two boys floating ahead of me just beyond my reach. I could feel the coolness of the water and the contrast of the dark blue depth below me and the bright glow of the sun above. In depth psychology, the image of water is referred to as a symbol of the unconscious. Dreams remind us of a vast ocean of emotional experience that we have yet to fully understand.
As I floated along in the watery recess of my dream, suspended in a world of unfiltered truths and hidden emotion, I could sense an encroaching fear. The shadows in the water grew ominous. I looked at my beautiful boys floating ahead of me, and my fear grew stronger. I watched as a shark revealed itself from the darkness below. The feeling of powerlessness ignited inside of me, followed by a rush of adrenaline. In such a vivid dream, there was no use in trying to look away. I felt torn between wanting to ignore the fear and knowing there is something to learn from it.
Denial and suppression are a powerful force in the human psyche with the ability to turn dreams into nightmares. In therapy, we refer to our “blind spots” as parts of ourselves that we cannot see, often avoid, and are scared to look at. In an Intensive, individuals courageously show up willing to confront their fears; seeking to understand what’s inside themselves.
In the case of my dream, it’s possible that the shark that I am afraid of is me. Depth psychology teaches us that much of what we see in others is a projection of ourselves. The function of denial and suppression is to keep a distance from emotions that we don’t want to feel. In an Intensive, we practice being vulnerable in the present moment. By increasing self-awareness, we have the ability to create new perspectives and find meaning in the feelings that we avoid.
In my dream, I could sense that there was a lesson to be learned. It felt too real to simply wake up or discount. Perhaps all dreams are trying to teach us about something that we are avoiding. As the shark grew closer, I could feel my chest tighten. For a brief moment, I could feel the pain of knowing all that I love and hold tightly will one day be gone. The shark was there as a reminder of my greatest fear and deepest pain. I saw the shark open its mouth and show its teeth. I felt like I was drowning. In one swift bite my children were gone. Words don’t describe the feeling of grief; it’s a pain that has its own language. I was left floating alone staring into an abyss where I once saw the people that I love playing and laughing in the sparkle of the sunlit water.
In a different time in my life, before I understood the meaning of “doing my own work,” it would be easy to say “I had a nightmare.” Now, I can say sat that I had an awakening. Working for Intensives, I often see our participants having awakenings. Intensives offer an opportunity for a “deep dive” into discovering who we are; to feel the emotional truth inside ourselves, so that boundaries, healing, and communication can come from a place of deep connection and understanding.
Perhaps there is a shark in each of us waiting to be understood. In my dream, it’s possible that a part of me was the shark, the ocean, the scared parent, and the vulnerable child. When we connect to the different parts of ourselves, we learn how to bring the unconscious into awareness and create the capacity to live a more meaningful life. Whether through therapy, attending an Intensive, or simply journaling about our dreams, a meaningful life depends on our ability to seek new understanding. For me, the shark was a reminder that all that I love in this life will one day be gone.
Part of becoming a Self is learning how to allow emotion to flow through you. Each time we open ourselves to feeling and understanding our internal experiences, we create the capacity to feel and understand others. This is the gift of staying curious about what we can learn about our Self. Each moment provides opportunity to forge deeper connection, to see where emotions get stuck, and to be open to new possibilities for growth. As a father and a therapist, my dreams often merge with the experiences of my family and the feeling of diving deep into the healing process of an Intensive. Each day I am reminded that discovering the emotional truth of who we are has the power to set us free, but it’s not the mind that will get us there, it’s all in the heart.