A New Healing Paradigm of Consciousness Restructuring
through Dreams, Placebos, and New Science
by Graywolf Fred Swinney, 2001
Almost twenty years ago in my dream-therapy group, a very remarkable event occurred. I watched a woman heal in body and mind before my eyes. It had the characteristics of the placebo effect. I contributed very little, and what little I had done was to accompany her on an imaginative inner journey.
She had adopted a very hard and cold personality as a means of coping with a long childhood experience of repeated sexual abuse by her four older brothers and father. She was driving everyone away from her, most particularly her husband. Her body symptoms were of rigidity and hardness, and reflected her mental condition. This body configuration would soon lead to fibromyalgia, rheumatism, arthritis or some other somatic condition.
One morning a dream had awakened her in terror. In the dream she was tied onto a cart on a track and being pulled into a spinning hub covered with razor sharp knives. She felt trapped helpless and doomed in the dream, just as she had in her childhood. She brought this dream to the group and on hearing it, I invited her to re-experience that dream, which is usual in the Gestalt practice of dream therapy. What came next was unusual in this context but consistent with my shamanic bent, and in truth, response to a deep intuitive urge.
"Instead of waking up, imagine letting yourself be drawn into the knives."
She reported being slashed with flesh and blood spattering all over, but what she noticed most was the razor-sharpness, and a deep, penetrating, black cold sensation as the blades cut into her. Giving in to this pain-cold, she next became a thick layer of black ice covering a lake, very cold, very hard and very frozen. I was very fascinated because she had precisely described the personality characteristics that she wanted to change.
"Go deeper into this coldness and blackness, become it."
She entered a black void of absolute zero, so cold that nothing, not even molecules moved. Some time passed and her body began to relax. Muscles that had been tense since I first met her two years previously began to soften and flex. Asked about her experience, she answered that as she let go deeper into the void and cold, somehow her sense of self shifted, she experienced becoming the water beneath the ice. Her deep felt sense of self was now warmer, more fluid, and boundaryless. I invited her to stay in that consciousness, to explore and own it. When she finally opened her eyes after about ten minutes, there was a profound change in her personality and physiology.
We were both inspired by this event, which subsequently proved to be a permanent change in her and an ongoing influence in shaping her body and mind. This was the kind of healing work I aspired to, but seldom realized. The tools of psychotherapy and even the guided imagery processes that I used were frankly too shallow, unreliable, and often manipulative.
Something remarkable had happened, but how? I knew that I must find out. I continued exploring this deep process with other clients, retreat guests, and in dream workshops. At the time, however, I was struck by the realization that I was not the healer, but as with a placebo, it came from deep inside. It involved a profound shift in self-perception and was a restructuring of consciousness. The same was true in subsequent explorations; it was their own imagination and dreams that carried the clients into healing dynamics, not my intervention as a therapist who was in awe of the process. The healing proved to be both profound and permanent, and involved both somatic and mental diseases. Thus was conceived, gestated and born the Consciousness Restructuring Process, (CRP). In my attempts to understand it I have arrived at the following notions.
The CRP represents a basic "paradigm shift" for the healing arts. It requires the "new sciences" of relativity, quantum, chaos and holographic theories to understand and define how CRP restructures consciousness dynamics to bring such changes in body and mind. It also describes the mechanism by which placebo's perform their mysterious healing. This fundamental shift in existential perspective puts into question the fundamental models by which we understand how reality and healing work.
Culturally and socially, we are in a major crisis-evolution and science plays a significant role in this. For 300 years, Newtonian (classical) Science and Cartesian philosophy have ruled and shaped our civilization and culture. This classic science depicts a mechanistic clockwork universe in which we stand outside of nature and objectively manipulate it through our thinking and intellect. It have us technology to momentarily elevate and free us from the dictates of nature and provides the illusion of control, but its technology now threatens our existence. It is a model of separation and inevitable predictability; very little is more alien to healthy human process. We are very complex and evolving organisms, deeply interconnected with our environment. The principles that create the whole universe are within each of us, within each cell and atom of our body.
Einstein attacked two tenets: objectivity and absoluteness. Relativity theory demonstrated that everything is relative. There is no absolute frame of measurement anywhere in the universe. Our perceptions depend on our frame of reference.
Quantum Physics implies the universe is an interconnected web of relationships and within the harmony of this interconnectedness, each observer affects its constant unfolding and creates unique reality for himself. It gives us quanta, which is somehow both and yet not committed to being matter or energy. It is the essence of our mindbody level of consciousness.
David Bohm's holographic theory adds the notion that all reality is nothing more than sifting complex interference patterns (holographic negatives) created from waves emerging into space-time from implicate (enfolded) order. Pribram demonstrated that the brain's perception of reality is a hologram based on chemo-electric currents reaching the end of a synapse, and emitting waves to interact and create holographic negatives (interference patterns) in the brain.
We are complex organisms and Chaos theory best describes this. In the new paradigm, our structure of self emerges from chaos in an environment of complex interacting systems, responsive to and shaped by that environment. What else is the moment of our conception? Eventually, the structure grows brittle, doesn't respond to the ever evolving and changing environment and disintegrates back into chaos from which emerges new structure. At the personal level we experience this process as a life crisis or a disease, particularly if we fight the change. It is this dance of evolution that is reality and healthy, not the temporary forms and structures that we fix on, nor the chaos that we avoid. They exist only in passing. Our true health is in being, becoming, and accepting this ever evolving self.
Suddenly, the whole framework of reality is like jelly and there is nothing firm left to stand on. We find ourselves as part of a shifting, complex and self-creating reality; influencing it and being influenced by it at subtle levels where structure is only a passing creation of continuing evolution, transformation is the essence of reality; and reality is created from infinite potential.
How does this relate to spinning hubs of knives and healing transformations?
Nowhere are these ideas more important than in the healing arts and sciences. Natural self healing or self correcting process is something medical science does not understand and so hides behind the labels "placebo effect," and "spontaneous remission," but is something that new sciences permit and Consciousness Restructuring Process describes and accomplishes. This level of reality is also from whence come our dreams and is the home turf of the CRP.
Medical science offers no satisfactory operational mechanism for how spontaneous remission or the placebo effect work. Until recently, it has done little more than grudgingly admit to their existence. However, when I began the dream journey and consciousness restructuring work, I suspected that I was on the trail of understanding these phenomena. CRP seemed to work with the same inner process, restructuring the consciousness that defines self, our illness or health, our existential holographic perceptions of reality.
Healing, as are dreams, is a sensory not an intellectual process. Senses inform us when we are sick or well. Our dreams also reveal disease often before symptoms appear. Mind and intellect only deal with symbols of reality. We move beyond, "I think, therefore I am," into a reality of becomingness, "I am and I know this through my senses."
In this journey process one experiences a level and sense-image of the diseased self, for example being very black, hard, rigid and cold. Openings, doorways in this sensory image invite even deeper imaginative delving into the conscious dynamics that feed and maintain the illness. This deep illness image, when experienced, spontaneously self-destructures into chaotic or unbound consciousness. Since an image, thought or vision represents a specific neural firing sequence, chaos would be subjectively experienced as a nothingness, for example, a deep black coldness where nothing moves. The new sensory self-image that emerges from or is found in this chaotic consciousness, is a new easeful structure that replaces the disease, for example a deep felt sense of warmth, flow and boundarylessness.
Fundamental to CRP is that it works in REM with sensory elements of our dreams. Dreams alone are healing. Deprive people of REM--let them sleep, but prevent dreaming, and after a week, hallucinations and other mental/emotional problems appear. Within a couple of weeks, the immune system weakens and somatic illness follows.
REM is fundamental to all known life and is now known to be the best state for forming new neural pathways. It is also the most chaotic brain wave dynamics yet measured. The CRP consciousness shift is experienced in REM and we create new neural pathways through the experience of a shifting sense of self. In this way our perceptions and experience of personal reality or the fundamental existential self-hologram changes. This reflects changes in the brain's synaptic firing structure that change our body and brain chemistries through the pituitary and pineal glands to ultimately affect how our cells and mind operate. Placebos create the same type of perceptual and neuro-chemical changes, and I believe utilize sleep time REM to do so.
Shamans are masters of consciousness dynamics and altering consciousness. CRP blends shamanic technique and Gestalt dream work using imagination to reach these healing consciousness dynamics. This shaman/therapist approach bridges both worldviews, and is the essence of, and even more than both. The premise that science and spirituality/mysticism are separate is faulty. The CRP brings them together in an elegant fashion.
The CRP teaches a new way of flowing through life, provides the experience of doing so in a virtual reality experience of wakeful REM, directly alters reality perception and empowers the client. Those who practice this technique are referred to as mentors rather than therapists to more accurately describe the essence of their role. A mentor is more like a placebo than a therapist or a drug. A mentor works to bring out the best potential in the mentored.
This work is being offered through ASKLEPIA FOUNDATION and the Institute for Applied Consciousness Science, a tax-exempt and non-profit corporation. It trains and certifies mentors in the CRP and consciousness engineering, and offers healing opportunities at Asklepia Retreat in Southern Oregon. Further information is available at: http://asklepia.org or phone: (541) 475-0492.
Graywolf is a chemical engineer, a psychotherapist and is recognized internationally by aboriginal tribes and fellow scientists as a practicing shaman. He is a founding member of the Association for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences. He has contributed chapter to several books and journals, and has written two of his own, Dream Healing with Iona Miller and just recently finished Holographic Healing which is now available through the foundation.