“Journey to the Healing Heart of Your Dreams”
Creative Restructuring Process in
by Graywolf Swinney
Individuals and family systems do not readily conform to the predictable
mechanistic laws of Newtonian science and Cartesian philosophy which have
provided the basic paradigm underlying contemporary medical and psychological
sciences; instead, they are complex systems that seem to be as much ruled
by chaos as by order. It is most often the compulsive and rigid structures
and behaviors displayed in the individual, group, or family’s interactions
that define dysfunction and evoke pain. To better understand and
help change these complex systems requires understanding of and comfort
with chaos and the dynamics of complex systems.
Chaos was an integral aspect of the change model proposed by Virginia Satir
in her work with groups and families in crisis and change. In her
presentations, Satir proposed that a family or group operates in a structured
manner until the intrusion of a foreign agent or influence throws it into
a process of dissolution that eventually leads to chaos as the structure
disintegrates. Eventually evolving out of the discomfort and chaos,
a new structure appears that after an integrative and adjustment process
becomes the new order for the system. The therapist’s role is to
help the family through this process to adopt a more healthy, viable new
But Satir did not have the opportunity of living to see the advent and
establishment of chaos theory and complex dynamics in the life sciences.
So while recognizing the importance of chaos in the change process, she
did not see its scientific and philosophical implications, fit, and integration
with her therapeutic model.
The Consciousness Restructuring Process (CRP) therapy described in this
paper does make that integration. It provides scientific substantiation
for the basic change models proposed by Satir. Consciousness Restructuring
Process therapy was developed independently, but influenced by Satir’s
early work. When the author presented the CRP model at two recent
IHLRN conferences, the confluence of the two models was immediately apparent.
Consciousness Restructuring Process is a practice and philosophy of therapy
that reflects the paradigm shift in the scientific base of healing to the
models of the new sciences. The therapy and philosophy are best understood
in the context of chaos theory, quantum physics and relativity theory and
the new views of natural process implied by them. At the same time
it is consistent with a broader range of spiritual philosophies and healing
practices. Further, it provides a far more accurate model of the
human condition and interactions than is possible with psychologies based
in classical science alone, and as noted in many aspects parallels Satir’s
model of change.
Most therapists realize that we are not the orderly and predictable beings
that we would like to believe we are. We seldom structure our personal
lives and relationships through cause and effect chains of logic.
Instead our lives seem constantly beset and affected by random events outside
of our plans. Indeed, the sole reason for the existence of the insurance
industry is to protect us from loses due to some of these “accidents.”
More often than not, we are ruled by complex interplays of emotions, thoughts,
values, and beliefs, personal myths, physical-biological condition, all
shaped and driven by energies hidden deep within the psyche and beyond
our understanding. We are seldom ruled solely by intellect and rational
Freud called these deep and hidden aspects of consciousness the id, and
saw therein our drives and instincts. These and subconsciously stored
primal memory experiences along with our responses and reactions to them
gave rise to the behaviors and defense mechanisms which by and large define
personality, behavior, sense of self and our ego.
He saw the id as a chaotic and confusing aspect of our organism, barely
controlled by the super ego. Acting out, it would defy the constraints
of acceptable social behavior. He attempted to understand and to
shed light and reason into this chaotic morass of seething primal energies
and instinctual drives. He employed such indirect psychoanalytic
techniques as: free association, dream interpretation and transference
He believed that exposed to the light of awareness, these basic forces
that drive people, can and would change. Since then, aside from the
staunch behavioristic psychologies, most therapies and therapists have
operated with the essential aspects of this concept as axiomatic, and developed
increasingly more precise, sophisticated, and apt ways and practices of
finding, understanding, and/or attempting to release these trapped energy
systems and memories.
Consciousness Restructuring Process Therapy
Consciousness Restructuring Process as a technique involves consciousness
journeys in which the therapist guides the client’s full awareness into
direct rather tha indirect experiences of the chaotic self scape of the
id in the pre subconscious. The journey is a multisensory imagery
process that involves the therapist entering co-consciousness (intuitive)
states and interactions with the client. The Mentor guides him or
her (following the lead of the Journeyer’s process) to the basic trapped
energy patterns or consciousness states that underlie the manifested disease
symptoms, and then beyond.
In one sense, it is like the healing journeys of shamanism, where the shaman
journeys into his client’s unconscious to return from this underworld with
the lost soul which is seen as the basis of illness. At the same
time it equally reflects aspects of Erickson’s concept and process of co-consciousness
work, a shared consciousness state that gives the therapist intuitive insights
about the client that manifests as images or stories, which when offered
to the client, enhance the healing imagery and process immensely.
To begin the journeys, these underlying energy patterns or states are initially
identified at superficial levels through their form as encountered in a
number of reiterative or nested ways. For example, in the symptoms
presented; from dreams or from images incubated by such techniques as drumming,
chanting, or meditation; or by noticing and observing the behavioral and/or
emotional patterns displayed in the opening portion of the session.
The essence of this disease energy pattern is then followed through progressively
deeper levels of consciousness into its more primal imagery manifestations
until the client is guided to experience the existential, multisensory
image or consciousness state which contains the pattern in its most basic
form. This is called the ‘primal existential self-image” since it defines
the client’s sense of self and his world in a primal sensory form.
The journey then continues beyond this bound or trapped consciousness energy
pattern into the unstructured, undifferentiated, or unbound consciousness
which existed prior to its formation. From within this chaotic or
undifferentiated consciousness a new primal image spontaneously appears,
a state of ease rather than disease which provides a new foundation for
the self. More complete and detailed descriptions of the consciousness
states, imagery, and the process itself may be found in DREAMHEALING: CHAOS
AND THE CREATIVE CONSCIOUSNESS PROCESS, (Swinney and Miller, 1992), [CCP
is now known as CRP].
The Mentor or therapist helps the client to do this using the journeyer’s
own imaginative process and the multisensory imagery flowing from it.
It is a death and rebirth process--the diseased aspects of the bound consciousness
dying to be reborn from chaos, as the Sphinx arises from the flames.
The new image, in subtle and/or overt ways, restructures not only
the client’s personality, from personal mythological levels and belief
systems to behaviors, emotional and intellectual responses, but also seems
to affect physical structures. Example changes include body chemistry,
muscle tension, immune system function, food preference, and the function
of various organs (liver and pancreas) have all been reported.
At an internal level, this is the process described by Satir in her family
systems change model. The client usually just notices the changes
in behavior and physiology as the basic change in self-image begins to
affect surface manifestations physically and mentally. Clients have
reported feeling effects, changes, and having significant insights pop
up several months following a Journey.
In terms of therapeutic technique or practice, it is a process of becoming,
or yielding to the various images suggested by the imagination--of temporarily
identifying with them. It is superficially much like Gestalt technique,
but differs in that it takes the client into the deeper experiences and
consciousness states of an image, rather than working at ego levels of
awareness and exploring the relationships of images within the ego as in
Gestalt Therapy. It also involves using a broader range of senses
in the imagery than is normally done in Gestalt therapy, including what
often appear to be extrasensory experiences, that is senses that cannot
be described with simple sensory terms. A case study later in this
paper gives illustration of the technique.
Consciousness Restructuring Process and Chaos Theory
The journey, and the underlying consciousness states which are eventually
reached conform in all essentials to the dynamics of chaotic systems as
described by chaos theory. The journey itself resembles nested fractal
images on a computer screen. We amplify a small part of it to find
the essence of its form repeated at deeper and deeper levels. It
also reflects the dynamics of chaotic systems in that bifurcations or
unexpected trajectories occur during the unfolding journey, the flow of
imaginal imagery shifting and taking unanticipated new twists in unpredictable
The healing or unstructured transformative consciousness energy beyond
the bound consciousness also reflects these dynamics. New structures,
experiences, and images arise from within it to replace the painful and
diseased images. The butterfly effect, whereby small changes
in the initial conditions may have large impact on the system’s development,
is also descriptive of the process and its effects.
The new structures or primal existential self images that manifest during
these journeys are profoundly healing. They provide balance and deeply
felt sensory repatterning: an internally, deeply sensed freedom for one
who was trapped, peace for one who was agitated, wholeness for one who
was scattered. The new state reflects the nature of the journey experience
itself and the guide’s influence in the forming of the new self image.
In this sense, the Mentor or therapist is in part the strange attractor
influences this new existential self-image that self-organizes and emerges.
Over a period of time this new image reshapes the personality and behavioral
patterns to reflect the balance and creative process that evoked it.
Just a small perturbation boot-straps itself into macro changes.
The imagery forms encountered on the edge of this primal undifferentiated
consciousness or “chaotic consciousness” are primal archetypal energy patterns.
They seem very basic and in one sense suggest archetypal images and themes
from the collective unconscious as described by Jung. However, the
primal archetypal images emerge deeper than the mythological material.
They are sensory based, not mythical, in nature.
In another sense, they reflect basic patterns of matter and energy forms
encountered and repeated in nature from atomic to cosmic levels: spirals
and vortices; black holes in black space; felt senses of great antiquity
and accumulated wisdom’ simultaneous experience of the polarity and unity
of the masculine and feminine or yin/yang; a sense of total interconnectedness
with every atom in the universe.
The journey phenomenology includes a “place,” usually a gray fog, where
both everything and nothing exist simultaneously, the perfect union of
black and white, absence of any color combined with all color. These
and many more states and sensory images have been described and identified
during these journeys. They are also remarkably similar to experiences
reported by mystics in their ecstatic experiences; to the feelings, sensations
and images reported by those undergoing spiritual healing experiences;
and to the transformative and religious consciousness states described
by early LSD experimenters.
What’s in a Name?
We have used several names to describe this therapy: Over the years
we have called it Dreamhealing, “Fractal Therapy,” Creative Consciousness
Process. “Dream Journeys” is another name that derives from the observation
that journey occurs in the awakened side of dream or REM consciousness.
However, not all journeys begin with dream recall; we also use symptoms
or feelings to enter the stream of consciousness. Often during journeys
intense REM is observed and subjects report intense physical sensations.
REM seems to be a crucial ingredient in the repatterning process.
Often dreams are used as gateways to the process so that the journey is
into the depth of the dream. Another model we have used is the “Shaman/Therapist”
and Mentoring models, which reflect the fact that it embraces a synthesis
of scientific and mystic approaches to therapy and healing in both technique
and philosophy, and that the journey itself involves both participants
entering into altered consciousness states.
There are several philosophical differences that distinguish this process
from previous therapies. For the most part, psychology follows the
medical model which in turn is based in classical Newtonian science and
Cartesian philosophy with its mind/body split. In brief, this systems
posits cause-effect chains of events that follow certain laws and define
the shape of reality.
In this conventional model, disease and healing are both caused by outside
interventions: disease from such causes as a viral or bacterial invasion,
carcinogenic contamination, emotional trauma. Healing or cures are
brought about by eliminating these agents and/or correcting the damage
they have done chemically, surgically or through catharsis. Symptoms
are treated by suppression or elimination, and the illness or diseased
component of the organism is isolated for treatment. Dissolution,
chaos and death are to be avoided at all costs and healing or cure is seen
as an end point.
The philosophical base of Consciousness Restructuring Process of natural
healing differs from this in many ways. In this revolutionary model,
reality is a twilight zone between structure and chaos, form and formlessness,
neither one nor the other, yet both. Structure evolves from chaos
in an environment of complex interacting systems, and is responsive to
and shaped by the environment.
Eventually structures set and grow rigid and in doing so become less responsive
to the environment which is constantly evolving and changing. The
rigidity and inability to respond to the evolving environment ensures the
fracturing and disintegration of the structure back into chaos. At
the personal level this is what we experience as a life crisis or a disease.
But eventually new form or structure emerges from the chaos. It is
this dance of evolution and change that is real, not the temporary forms
and structures that exist only momentarily in our perceptions.
This is how the universe appears to work from cosmic to subatomic levels,
and we are no exception. We dance with death and dissolution daily,
indeed momentarily: at the cellular level whose collectivity is our physical
being; at the level of ideas, thoughts, concepts, emotions, beliefs and
values that define our mental being. All are born and die only to
come back in new form again and again, each time evolving, each time similar
but different, and each time real only in the moment. It is the futile
clinging to them that creates the discomfort, pain, and disease.
Healing and health are present when we live this flow of self evolution.
They are not an end state, but rather a constantly evolving and self-creative
state of being. Disease is when we are lost in, trapped by, or hanging
on too tightly to either the chaos or the form, and living outside of the
flow of creative evolution. The soul itself, as in the shamanic model,
seems lost or trapped.
Symptoms and diseases are the organism’s way of calling attention to our
stuck states and actually provide the opportunity for us to evolve past
our current form. In other words, the disease or crisis is an opportunity
to transcend the old and become a new more-evolved being.
Symptoms are surface manifestations of more deeply rooted splinters of
disease and are an attempt on the part of the organism to resolve the problem.
A splinter buried in the toe can become infected and fester causing a myriad
of symptoms, from fever and internal chemical imbalances, to spinal misalignment.
With a cold, the fever, sneezing, pain, lack of energy, and other symptoms
have their purpose to move fluids more rapidly through the body to flush
out the viruses and force to restrengthen the immune system. The
heart and force of the symptom is a healing drive.
Pain and discomfort indicate that something is wrong and emanate from that
aspect of the organism that is damaged. To heal we must go to the
source of the pain. Thus, the dream journey is to embrace the fear
and discomforts with which we surround and protect our wounds, to pass
through them, not to avoid them.
It is only at the site of the wound itself that we can tend it, and the
healing comes from within, a natural self-organizing internal process and
an integral part of the being needing healing. The therapist is at
most a mentor or guide to the inner healing states of consciousness.
Healing and disease are as much, perhaps more a matter of the form our
consciousness assumes than any other factor.
Since healing’s a matter of mind over matter,
And matter’s a matter of mind,
In matters that matter, when healing’s what matters,
Then flow is the right state of mind.
Using the Consciousness Restructuring Process in Family Systems
Although the process of Consciousness Restructuring Process therapies was
not developed exclusively in the arena of family therapy, it did evolve
in a practice in which often entire families became active in the therapy.
So, although our experience is limited to a few instances, we can show
some ways in which this process has been used in family therapy situations,
and suggest other ways that it could be used.
The immediate family consists of Gary, Mary, and Brad. Gary and Mary,
the adults are both professionals, have independent careers and are in
mid age. Both have had previous marriages and had subsequent relationships
which proved disastrous. Shortly after Gary and Mary committed to
a “life” relationship, Brad (Gary’s teenage son) who was being both emotionally
and physically abused by his biological mother, decided to stay with them
after his summer visitation with Gray. Mary has one grown daughter
An overstrict and competitive father and a physically and emotionally abusive
passive aggressive mother, both emotionally unavailable, had helped Gary
shape his attitudes to life, women and authority figures. He was
having trouble with all three and lived it our in a series of relationships
in which he was abused, betrayed and eventually abandoned by women.
In his previous marriage he had been repeatedly physically and emotionally
abused by his wife. His way of coping with life was as to be a rebel,
hard to pin down and not trusting of anyone. People were constantly
taking advantage of him, using him and then casting him aside. He
had built a powerful body pumping iron, but seldom lifted his fist against
anyone in his adult life.
Mary’s background was similar in many ways except her coping mechanism
was that the unpredictability and uncertainty of life was best handled
by bringing order, neatness and control into all situations. In this
she was compulsive.
The two coping mechanisms had come into conflict. Gary’s rejection
of authority and material things, his unwillingness to plan ahead or be
pinned down, and his often sloppy and messy ways were in direct conflict
with Mary’s penchant for order, organization, neatness, and planning ahead.
This brought them into couple’s therapy soon after they had begun cohabitation.
In the initial couple’s session, (before Brad entered their lives), the
background and history were explored, and the patterns of interactions
identified. Bandaid measures were suggested: a process of “time out”
to soothe their escalating angers and fears, back off from the confrontations
where violence was becoming a possibility, look inside to indentify the
part being threatened or hurt, and find a way to take responsibility for
it before coming back together. They further agreed to come in for some
individual sessions to work individually on this internal stuff.
In her individual session, Mary noted that the time outs were working well
and they were getting along much better. Her compulsive cleaning
and neatness, she admitted, was a predominant aspect of her life in all
areas and sometimes too much even for her. She physically experienced
it as a tightening and deadness-pain in her chest.
I invited her to forget the intellectual content and focus entirely on
that pain. The image that came to her was of a black metal sheath
surrounding her heart. I invited her to go inside the sheath which
she soon experienced as a confining and suffocating rigid airless void.
Her eyes now closed and eyelids fluttering in REM, she entered deeper into
the void and imagined letting go of breathing. She began sliding
rapidly down a frictionless chute at ever-increasing acceleration, out
of control and was terrified, the physical sensations now affecting her
solar plexus as well.
“Stay with it; I’m with you,” I said and did experience it with
her. We catapulted into the blackness of the void and she reported
falling into nothingness but soon a white net appeared to catch her and
settled over her. Wherever it touched her it brought a deep sense
of security, peacefulness and connectedness. It mostly concentrated
on her chest and solar plexus. She stayed in that consciousness state
for some time letting it act on her.
Returning from the journey she soon realized that most of the journey experiences
were actually sensory memories of her experiences of childhood including
an intellectual tie in of it being how she felt hiding in a closet to escape
her father’s wrath. The memory was no longer as “charged;” the peaceful
consciousness state was now more her sense of being, and seemed more real
than the memories.
The next session she reported noticing that she was getting less compulsive
about things, and more tolerant. We continued with journeys over
the next several weeks; all amplified and re-enforced her first one.
With the inner growing security her improvements continued and the relationship
improved. She shared her Journeys with Gary who had been working
with me and taking his own journeys prior to meeting Mary.
When Brad showed up for his summer visitation, appointments ceased and
a ‘honeymoon’ period was enjoyed. When Brad decided to remain with
Gary and Mary, they brought him for a session because he was up tight about
calling his mother to let her know he was staying. He accurately
predicted that she would guilt trip him, perhaps as far as threatening
suicide, which it turned out she did. Using his feeling of helplessness
in being responsible for his mother’s well being to initiate a journeys,
his imaginative process took him to a very powerful state in which he experienced
himself as a crystal like being who had the power to transform any energy
touching him into rainbows. He used that sense of self in his call
and handled it very well.
With Brad’s entry into the family scene, the situation soon worsened after
the initial honeymoon. Brad, much like Gary in his ways, and Mary
soon began to clash. She was getting little help from Gary whose
profession often took him away on extended trips and left Mary to supervise
Brad. When she got tough, he got resistant. The family structure
was evolving into Mary being the ‘over-compulsive bitch’ who no one could
please. Gary and Brad were the ‘sloppy incompetents who could nothing
right.’ All were trapped in their own internal structures by which
they perpetrated this reality.
In the late fall we received a panic call from Mary. The honeymoon
was over, things had deteriorated to a critical state where she was now
considering asking Gary and Brad to find their own place. After an
individual session with Mary to let her vent, Gary and Mary returned for
another joint session. Brad resisted joining them. The result
was another coping strategy to deal with the ‘tit for tat’ arguments and
developing roles as ‘Bitch’ or ‘incompetents.’ This time Gary followed
up with an individual session.
The “band aid” strategy from the joint session was working and he felt
that Mary’s previous sessions had resulted in considerable changes for
her. But his concerns about the damage to Brad from his years with
his alcoholic and abusive mother, and his basic paranoia and distrust in
others and, more deeply himself, had him depressed and feeling helpless.
We used a dream in which the content and symbols reflected his depression,
fear, and helplessness to initiate a Journey in which Gary ended up experiencing
himself as a powerfully flowing river. In this state of his being,
he is now dealing with his problems without trying to run uphill.
[His personal mythology that had emerged in earlier sessions was with Sisyphus
who kept pushing a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down on him
each time he got near the top].
Gary and Mary, in sharing their journey experiences with each other, have
revealed much about their deeper selves and they are now perceiving each
other far past the coping mechanisms each had developed and finding deeper
levels of understanding and connection. Confrontations have become
less frequent and more rapidly and easily terminated. That is where
the situation now stands. Future sessions are scheduled to get Brad
more involved, and because Gary and Mary want to delve even further into
freeing their creative energies and self empowerment.
In brief, we used joint sessions to explore family dynamics and help each
see the context in which they play out their personal parts in the drama.
Individual sessions and journeys brought about individual changes which
helped shape a new process of interactions which, since the journeys are
based in imaginative and creative processes of imagery, are also imaginative
and creative in helping diffuse old explosive possibilities.
The above outlines one use of Consciousness Restructuring Process in Family
Therapy. There seem countless possibilities for using it. Two,
one of which has been used and one contemplated and waiting trial are outlined
Using the CRP journey technique in whole family session in which one member’s
journey is shared by the whole family has had very interesting effect,
bringing new levels of insight and understanding to all. It facilitates
rapport and family identification.
It has been our experience in families and indeed in groups of all types
from workshops to lecture demonstrations, that those observing a journey
most often find it carries them along and triggers much inside themselves.
Just as certain dreams, by touching universal or shared themes, transcend
the personal and belong to a more expanded group, so too do journeys, particularly
among family members who share similar consciousness patterns.
The following method is one which we have considered but not yet had opportunity
to use. In this approach, we propose using an improvisational psychodrama
format in which a family could be asked to begin by acting out a typical
dysfunctional pattern of theirs. Then, as with the individual journey,
focus in on some aspect of this pattern, and in that focus have the drama
become what is happening within that aspect.
An example might be becombing what is happening within one of the actors.
This process is repeated again so that the family drama becomes like an
individual’s journey, going deeper and deeper, more primal and less rational,
into the pattern. The actors may find themselves being an emotion,
color, odor, sound, some other sense, or perhaps an image such as a vortex.
The family could be guided in this way on a collective journey through
the dissolution of the old pattern into the chaos and subsequent self-organizing
emergence of a new existential collective consciousness pattern.
We suspect that done as a family group, this dramatic journey would have
profound impact on improving the dysfunctional system.
Individuals and family systems are in reality complex systems and conform
more to the reality and dynamics outlined in Chaos Theory than to the classical
science that provides the current paradigm for most psychotherapies.
Virginia Satir’s philosophy and therapeutic models of change reflect her
intuitive understanding of this. The Consciousness Restructuring
Process is a therapeutic technique and philosophy that is consistent with
Satir’s work and with complex dynamics and its implications, and it provides
a robust model for guiding individuals, families, and groups through crisis
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