World Dreaming Conference, Australia 2011

It was early morning hours. I was staying in a shared mixed dorm in a hostel close to the building hosting the World Dreaming Conference in Sydney, Australia. I did not have money to pay for a hotel and wanted to be close to the building to join in the first Shared Dreaming session. All the participants came together, sat on their scattered chairs and shared fragments of dreams, the one after the other.

I woke up around 6 o’clock sensing someone staring at me. In front of my bed there was a young man. He said: ‘Goodmorning’ and asked what I was doing in Sydney. When I told him that I came for the Dream conference, he asked me if I believed in my dream. I looked at him annoyed that he woke me up and startled with his directness. He said: ‘If you want to work with others dreams, I think you need to believe in yours first.’ and left.

A few minutes later at the conference room, people were sharing impressions of dreams and responses, a collective free association, a scattered poem emerging collectively and spontaneously from the group. Therapists, researchers, academics, aboriginals, natives, immigrants, locals. We all exchanged in the language of dreaming, impacted by the history of the place. The teachings of the aboriginals, the war, the troubles of the younger generations as they were trying to make sense of the pain of their ancestors thinking with their hearts. Someone from the group shared a dream of monkeys their skin is pulled by humans. As she said with this group I felt both that I am the monkey and the human at once. In one of the sessions we met with Helen Milroy, an aboriginal psychologist. She said: ‘We are strong, but our strength does not come from us. It comes from our language, land and family. This is what was taken of us.’

I came with two colleagues and friends Mary and Amanda, to facilitate a myth enactment, following the Sesame method of Dramatherapy. The session was powerful, moving and playful. Play and myth helped us create new meanings with the collective pain we were witnessing. There was so much joy.

It was a wonderful and a difficult time. I remember being moved and impressed by the wealth of heritage, the courage of people to take collective responsibility and transform our pain through art and science. I remember going from session to session listening about the wonders of Psychology. Different approaches competing how sufficiently, efficiently they treat human pain. It dawned on me how I was part of a group of people making money out of treating human pain. I remember feeling nausea, wanting to vomit years of trying to be professional and academic enough, forgetting sometimes things that matter the most and not cost: language, land, family. What kind of power and strength these things give us? What it means to be detached?

Jumping from session to session I ended up to Roy Bowden lecture, a writer and leading therapist in New Zeland talking about his work with Maori people.  He talked about therapy as fleeting moments of creativity, starting and often ending with the understanding of our cultural diversity.

What kind of therapy we do? How are we organized by the institutions we belong in to give it? What does it mean to create therapy organized by traditions, history and landscapes? What kind of language we need to stay sensitive to the sensibilities of our histories?

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