|A History of Dreamwork in Netherlands||Select for Dutch|
The history of dreamwork in the Netherlands is not (yet)
Recent history does, however, show the founding of a Dutch Dream Society, the Vereniging voor de Studie van Dromen (VSD). The VSD was founded early in 1996, after a successful ASD conference in this country earlier that year. The society is still a small but active community of dreamers, dream artists and dream professionals.
Another instance of Dutch interest in dreamwork is found in the writings of Frederik van Eeden, novelist and physician, who lives and works at around the time of Freud's disclosures about dreams. The article below focuses on Van Eeden as someone who is, at least with hindsight, a great figure in our dream history.
FREDERIK VAN EEDEN
by Tjitske Wijngaard
At an age when English and American youngsters read Thomas Hardy or Henry James, their Dutch counterparts are presented with Frederik van Eeden for literary enlightenment. Their Dutch teacher will tell them about Van Eeden’s involvement with other literary greats of the period and about his zeal for world improvement ending in the badly managed colony in the wilds of ‘Het Gooi’, the leafy suburban region just east of Amsterdam. The teacher may even quote Van Eeden’s mocking rhymes of the widely admired clergymen poets of his days. But not a whisper about his interest in dreams and certainly not about his contributions to dream research. So it was in my case. Thus, when I first started getting interested in dreams and hearing Van Eeden’s name I was nearly convinced that this could not be the Van Eeden I had been told of, the famous novelist and misguided world reformer. So it is partly from a personal righting of this wrong that I write here about Frederik Van Eeden, dreamer and dream researcher.
Terminology and Classification
To Van Eeden, born in 1860, the term ‘lucid dreams’ is attributed. What strikes me as curious is that no source attributes the term to anybody else but neither is there any source that dares state without any qualification that Van Eeden coined this phrase. General scholarly caution or is there more to it? Van Eeden uses the term ‘lucid dreams’ in his famous address to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London on the 22nd of April 1913, A Study of Dreams. Van Eeden was a fluent speaker and writer of several languages among which English, so no translator was involved in converting the term from Dutch to English. Besides, his choice of the English word matches the way he describes these dreams in his dream journal as ‘helder’, a Dutch word that has several related meanings among which ‘lucid’. From January 1898 Van Eeden continues to use the word ‘helder’ when he refers to dreams in which he is aware that he is dreaming. And when Van Eeden, in his address to the SPR, tries to rebut in advance any possible charges that the phenomenon he describes is not a dream he says, ‘If anybody refuses to call that state of mind a dream, he may suggest some other name. For my part, it was just this form of dream, which I call "lucid dreams"…’. All in all, the caution exhibited in the attribution of the term to Van Eeden seems to be of the scholarly kind, rather than based on a suspicion that it is not Van Eeden himself who coined the term.
Another term he uses in the context of lucid dreaming in the early years of his very personal dream research is ‘continuity’ - or lack of it – for the experience of continuity of waking awareness during the dream, so different from our use of ‘continuity’ in the ‘continuity vs compensation’ debate. He clearly regards this continuity as an aspect of his lucid dreams, which by the way agrees with contemporary theories about lucid dreaming. Illustrations of his use of this term:
In later years he no longer uses this term, although he frequently reports the phenomenon. Perhaps just as well as otherwise we might have had to find a different word for what we now call ‘continuity’.
Van Eeden’s classification of dreams has not found too much support, probably rightly so. To my mind it is interesting mainly in the same way that all dream classifications are interesting: they tend to say a lot about the author’s theory or vision of dreams if not always too much about the kinds of dreams that may occur. The nine kinds of dreams Van Eeden mentions (I have kept the letters he himself uses for each category), with some of his descriptions:
His classification shows his fascination with the two states of waking and sleeping and their interaction. It also shows his obsession with the dark side of life, with demons that mock and play pranks, something I will come back to later. What his classification also reveals is that Van Eeden is very serious about the subject of dreams, particularly those of himself. He has painstakingly documented and considered his dreams for over three decades.
Van Eeden sets the tone for his inquiries into dreams and dreaming in the first dream he writes down in his dream journal in 1889:
All through his journal there are frequent entries documenting dreams that we would now probably refer to as ‘pre-lucid’. He mentions nested dreams, dreams in which he is aware of the oddity of certain phenomena and a great deal of dreams of flying or floating or occasionally jumping. Van Eeden in his SPR address states that ‘flying or floating …is generally an indication that lucid dreams are coming’, a thought which many lucid dreamers would still agree with. He makes very clear that lucid dreaming is his aim. And this is where his experiments focus on: to get lucid dreams, and to test out various things once he is in that desired state. One of the main areas he focuses on is perception.
The perception of his body and the difference between his dream body and his waking body fascinates Van Eeden. His delight when he is aware of the two as separate when he is in the process of waking up shines through in his writing, ‘It is like the feeling of slipping from one body into another, and there is distinctly a double recollection of the two bodies.’ Later, when he is very sad in a dream and starts crying but finds on waking to his surprise that he has shed no tears, he wonders, ‘how I could have such a clear recollection of dreamt tears. Would it be possible for our dream or astral bodies to shed dream tears?’ In another dream he is eating a slice of cake and ‘while my mouth was full this sensation was so clear that I thought I would wake up with my mouth full. Then I wanted to wake up and curious was the moment that my mouth emptied itself and I had come back into my waking body’. Again and again, however aware he is of the difference between the dreaming and waking states, he is surprised that the actions of his dream body have so little impact on those of his waking body. In a dream in 1901 he is lucid and recalls his intention to pray and he goes on to report, ‘Then I started waking up and I was convinced that I would wake up on my knees and with my hands folded. But slowly the transition came and I turned out to be lying on my side and with my hands apart.’ But whereas in 1901 he was still surprised to have his hands in a different position on waking, his surprise in 1920 is equally great when the reverse happens, albeit in a non-lucid dream. He dreams that he is in a house with a renowned freethinker and revolutionary, D.N., and that they pray together. He reports, ‘When I woke up I felt I was lying with my hands folded as never before. So I must have folded them in my sleep (his emphasis) for the sake of D.N.’
Apart from focusing on his kinaesthetic awareness he also pays attention to perception via his other senses. His hands are often subject of his visual interest. He sees what they look like, sees the rings on his fingers or sees them in a totally different way, ‘I saw my hands in front of my face, they were brownish and covered in moss. I wondered whether this was some kind of decomposition and whether I would be able to see my skeleton-hands’. At some later stage he focuses on the way in which he sees his hands, of which he says, I can’t describe this, I saw them clearly and yet, it was as if there was something in between my eyes and its object. It is such a subjective way of seeing, I would say’. In April 1917 vision as a whole is his object of interest. He sounds nearly biblical when he starts talking about this, ‘And I reflected upon and beheld the function of seeing. I saw that this was a different seeing from that in waking life. Things seemed to have no substance, shape and colour were not consistently combined…But the most curious thing was to follow. I fell asleep again and seemed to wake up afterwards. And then I compared the seeing of before and the seeing of this moment. Although I was dreaming all the time but unaware of it. I said: "Now everything is objectively there, so now things do have substance. This real seeing is far more solid and true."’
The sense of hearing features in his dreams and reflections as well, though less prominently. In a lucid dream in 1908 he starts singing and yelling loudly, knowing that he cannot be heard, but ‘my voice echoed so clearly in the marble hall that this seemed incredible. Only on waking up truly did I realise that I had been fast asleep and had not made a sound.’ In another dream hearing crops up in a different way when he is lucid and can hear himself snore. Thus, his reflections and reports on hearing in his dreams seem to be very similar to his observations about the difference between the two bodies, both the surprise about the difference between dreaming and waking states and the awareness, from within the dreaming state, of the waking object, i.e. the body and the sound respectively.
The senses of taste and smell have a minor role to play in his reports as they would in most reports on dreams. When he has stopped smoking he first has the usual dreams of a person in such a situation of smoking followed by shame for what he has done. But then he has a lucid dream in which he is happy that he can still have the pleasure of smoking without having broken his promise to give it up. In another dream he ‘saw a decanter with claret and tasted it, and noted with perfect clearness of mind: "Well, we can also have voluntary impressions of taste in this dream-world; this has quite the taste of wine."’
For a zealous man such as Van Eeden it is obviously not enough to reflect on things as they happen, he also sets himself tasks to perform during his dreaming state. A frequently undertaken task is to find a particular person and talk with him or her, or even just to find the person. One of the people he tries to find frequently in his dreams is Myers, a friend from the SPR circle. Another person is Paul, his son, after he has died. Sometimes his intentions are more general as when his intention is to pray and ask, ‘Is what I’m trying to do at present the right thing? I have started, I am resolved and do not want to go back but am I doing the right thing? Please give me a sign.’ He then sees a small grey cloud and considers this a warning. Whether he acted on this warning is unknown. As the dream is in a period when he sets up his consumers co-operation which is going to go bankrupt in a couple of years, one might assume he did not.
His experiments with perception and the intentions he plans and carries out do not constitute all of his research into his own dreams. He tries out suggestions to himself in the dream to be acted upon in waking life; he tries some mutual dreaming; he tries to heal himself of a minor illness and the list does not end here.
But he was not only a fairly objective and systematic observer of, and experimenter with, his own dreams, he was also a man who was deeply involved with his dreams, who suffered from them and delighted in them.
Gods and Demons
Van Eeden’s moods in his dream journal often veer between utter delight and great despondency. He is a romantic in his fascination with different states of consciousness, with ecstatic experiences and deeply felt personal experiences. But there is also the high moral attitude of the Victorians and the deep regret of his own sins and failings. His demons are many. Some of them he seems to acknowledge as his own shortcomings. He has the Victorian abhorrence of his own sensuality and frequently refers to having ‘lubric’ dreams, lewd dreams of which he is terribly ashamed. There are also dreams in which he comes across lascivious women where he takes the blame at least for being attracted, if not for their appearance in his dreams. Usually, though, he locates the demons outside himself as his classification suggests. Although in his address to the SPR he does admit that ‘the real existence of beings whom we may call "demons" is problematic’ he shows no signs of locating them within. That he seems better able to cope with the demons outside than with his own sinful longings is quite understandable in this context. He often fights them or attacks them in another way. In 1901 he attacks a demon who pretends to be his, Van Eeden’s, father and reports in his journal on his words to the demon and the effect they have, ‘"how would you like it if I gave you a blue nose?" Immediately his nose turned dark blue. He wanted to resist and looked maliciously subdued. He then managed to change the blue colour into all kinds of different shapes and forms without getting rid of it. I said, "no, plain blue!" but I was not strong enough and he kept resisting.’ The fighting clearly strengthens him even if it is not always successful, and it is not hard to see why demons out there which can be hated and fought openly, are easier to deal with than one’s own admitted sins.
But although there are many dreams he is ashamed of or unhappy about, there are far more that offer him great delight and bring him peace and harmony. These are the lucid dreams in which he sees his beautiful landscapes, in which he feels uplifted and cannot stop thanking god. And he has many such ecstatic experiences, as in January 1903, ‘The scenery was beautiful beyond description, a valley with trees and flowers and mountains and a blue sea with sparkling sunlight. I began to enjoy great happiness and thanked God and said, "Beloved", and I knew that the scenery was His face.’
In the introduction of his SPR address he speaks of the people needed to take steps forward in this ‘subtle and highly spiritual order of phenomena’, and he is not overly modest in this: ‘In this field the pioneers have to be either poetic scientists or scientific poets; for it is the poet – if at least we can take this word in its highest, deepest sense – whose natural passion it is to explore the extreme regions of the human soul and whose continual aspiration it will be to create new moral values and new ways to express them.’
I am glad to have come across this Frederik van Eeden.
Fontijn, Jan (1990). Tweespalt. Het leven van Fredrik van Eeden tot 1901. (Biography of first part of Van Eeden’s life) Amsterdam: Querido.
LaBerge, S. & Rheingold, H. (1990). Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. New York: Ballantine Books.
Rooksby, R. and Terwee, Sybe J.S. (1990). Freud, Van Eeden and lucid dreaming. Lucidity Letter, 9(2), 18–28.
Van Eeden, F. (1913). A study of dreams. In Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Re-search, 26, 431–461. Reprinted in:http://www.lucidity.com/vanEeden.html (partial); in Dromenboek (Dutch translation)
Van Eeden, F. (1978). Dromenboek (Dream Journal). Ed.and introd: Dick Schlüter. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.
|Dream Research in Netherlands||Select for Dutch|
Although there is quite some dream activity in the Netherlands, this does not stretch to the field of research, as far as can be ascertained. For instance, at the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Slaap-Waak Onderzoek (Dutch Sleep Wake Research) there is nobody conducting any kind of research into dreams at the moment. At the universities some research has been done, but the pattern here seems to be that it is either as part of a larger investigation into a non-dreaming phenomenon or as an ad hoc investigation, quite often the result of an individual student who is writing his/her MA thesis. At Nijmegen University e.g. some qualitative dream research has been done to check the usefulness of Hermans’ Self Confrontation Method, a method for investigation of self and of importance attached to experiences. Dreaming constituted one of the fields in which application of the method was found to be useful. 1 At Leiden University a few years ago Sybe Terwee and his students conducted some research using the Domhoff Quantitative Method which has led to some unpublished MA theses, as far as is known. Terwee himself wrote an amusing article about his investigation into the dreams of a famous Dutch fictional character using the same method.
Of course, some anecdotal investigation can be found in the Dutch dream magazine, Droomjournaal, and in some of the Dutch dream literature. Ada de Boer’s Kleuren in Dromen (Colours in Dreams) is a case in point where she at some stage gives percentages of the frequency of colours found in the dreams of over 600 people. Such figures obviously have a function, but they are not – and are not meant to be – research in the sense of general applicability, repeatability etc.
We now wait for universities and other research institutes to tell us that we have been mistaken and that there are several pockets of dream research going on in the Netherlands that we have overlooked. Alternatively, we wait for these institutes to take up the challenge and investigate dreams.
|Dream Groups in Netherlands||Select for Dutch|
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|Dream Workers in Netherlands||Select for Dutch|
Aad van Ouwerkerk has been working with dreams since 1976, individually as well as in groups. He has been an active board member of The International Association for the Study of Dreams) and was the initiator and co-organiser of their 11th international congress in Leyden (in July 1994). He considers many people of ‘the dreamwork universe’ as teachers and/or personal friends. In his Dutch book "Droomwerk, de vier elementen van de droom" (Dreamwork, the four elements of the dream - BRES 1994) he has described his dreamwork method of confronting dream material on the creative basis of the four elements: images (earth), dynamics (water), significance (air) and perspective of the dream (fire). During the early nineties he has presented this method on many ASD-conferences. His expertise also includes imaginative therapy, mandala's, symbolic drawing and Tarot cards as a means of self discovery. He is/has been a co-editor of several Dutch dream related magazines.
Hannie van der Borst has been a dreamworker since 1990, including several creative ways and methods of dealing with the dream material. She specialized in working with dreams of children. As a primary school teacher she has a broad experience using dreamwork within remedial teaching and as an extra curriculum activity. Moreover, she is a practitioner of the Neuro Linguistic Programming as well a hypno-therapist and is counseling both teachers, children and parents on the subject of dreams of children. Recently she created workshops on mandalas and the chakra system.
Wendy Gillissen has given workshops on dreamwork since early 1999. She conducted some research for her MA thesis in 1998-1999. Subject of that project was the effect of participating in dream groups on the participants' wellbeing. Wendy applies dreamwork, as well as regression and reincarnation therapy in her work as a psychologist. Her website, which has both a Dutch and an English version, offers more information on her work: www.reincarnatietherapie.com
Strephon Kaplan-Williams, M.A., is a psychotherapist, Jungian analyst, and one of the founders of ASD. He has been working seriously with his own dreams under supervision for almost 50 years and has led dreamwork trainings and intensives for lay people and professionals since the founding of his Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Institute in 1977.
Wies van Olst works both individually and in groups. As a polyenergetic therapist, she offers the client or student a variety of techniques to help him interpret his own dreams. For example: having a dialogue with the various parts of the dream, giving the dream parts a voice, associating and working with body sense. To Wies, the purpose of dreamwork is learning from your dreams and applying the insights gained. A dreamer dreams about her daughter, for instance. When the dreamer re-enters the dream and starts a dialogue with her, the ‘dream daughter’ turns out to be her own inner child. Through regression, the dreamer goes back to her past, in order to work with her inner child. How does the inner child feel, what does she need? If she needs more fun, how can the dreamer create more fun in waking life? Eventually, the inner child may be integrated energetically into the dreamer’s body. Unconscious aspects of the dreamer can be brought into consciousness, anxieties can be faced and released.
Marjolein Zwart is an alternative therapist.
Her view on dreams is that the unconscious (your realm of knowledge) has
all the information you need. As the unconscious can only communicate by
means of images, you need to translate the symbols in your dream into
the meaning they have for you. When you dream about your partner, for
example, this usually does not represent your waking-life partner, but
it may stand for ‘love’. This symbol may therefore mean different
things for different people. There are many methods, but Marjolein uses
only those that help the dreamer focus on his or her own feelings, like:
Perls, Gendlin, Jung, Delaney, Pino, various creative techniques, inner
child and regression.
Marja de Vries
For over ten years I’ve enjoyed working with my own dreams. They have been of great help during my own healing and continue to serve as a permanent source of support and insight in myself and in life as a whole. Right at the start of my dreamwork I learned the technique of reentering my dreams to deal with unsolved situations and/or to be able to ask more questions. After several years I discovered that the work I do by consciously reentering my dreams influences my new dreams: the dreams that are in some way unfinished seem to have almost disappeared while more and more often I have lucid dreams in which I consciously can decide to do the same work while still dreaming. Recently my dreamwork and my meditation work have become progressively intertwined. For example, I experienced that I can use the same technique I use for reentering my dreams to "reenter" moments of my personal history, such as unpleasant childhood memories, and to "re-write" my past, which I found to be a very powerful way of transformation. For my art work I also use both sources: for some of my wallhangings I use images from my dreams and for others I use images I "see" while meditating and/or while using a simple form of psychic reading. The latter I apply when working on commission, so I will "see" the image/design and/or colors that will both fit this specific person, for whom I make the wallhanging, and will have precious meaning for them. The beauty of the images I get to see this way is always a surprise as well as a great delight to me.
For the last five years I have also been teaching dream workshops and have shared with people ways to understand the dream language and ways to independently reenter one’s dreams.
Dutch Websites on Dream and Dreaming
VSD (Dutch association for the study of dreams)
Droompagina (website with all kinds of dreamlinks
Website Tjitske Wijngaard
Website Dreambee (under construction at the moment, focuses on dream
books and links)
Website Wendy Gillissen
Website Harry Bosma (designer Alchera dreamjournal software)
Website Strephon Kaplan-Williams, M.A.
|Author||Select for Dutch|
Tjitske is a dream therapist with a background in comparative literature and in psychology. At present she chairs the board of the Dutch Dream Society (VSD) and co-edits its quarterly magazine. Most of all, she is a passionate believer in the beauty dreams can bring into our lives.
Her website iswww.droomcentrum.nl
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