Many of us dream appreciators have experienced the dissolving of defenses in dream groups, where we have seen into the core of human beings, realizing how similar we all are behind our individual differences.
As Montague Ullman puts it (Reflections on Life Inside and Outside a Dream Group, Dream Appreciation Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 3, Summer 1999):
As any analyst knows, resistances are slow to change. The restructuring of character in therapy has been likened to the slow peeling off of the top layers of an onion until the desirable core lies exposed. The most startling realization that dawned on me once I became involved in experiential dream group work was the plasticity of our defensive structure and how resistances melted away once the dreamer experienced the support and stimulation of the group in the atmosphere of safety and trust that is generated.
People vary in how rapidly this dissipation occurs, but the fact that it can occur even on a first encounter in a group of strangers leading to the initiation of profound transformative change is the significant point. The outer layers of the onion are still there, but temporarily invisible so that the rich, creative, nurturing potential of the core lies exposed. Once the dreamer has tasted the core, one gets to it more quickly on the next occasion.
The dream group ends, and we return to our normal life with its numbing daily routines. What remains of the atmosphere of the group? The refreshing water of dreams seems to have been absorbed into the sandy desert of daily life.
Dream work informs us of the remarkable self-healing mechanism we all possess. I have outlined the reasons why, once we leave the special ambience of the dream group, the outer layers of the onion become very visible again, but the taste of the core remains with us, enabling us to deal a bit more effectively when old defensive patterns threaten to re-emerge. They no longer come into being as unconsciously and as unchallenged.
We know that it is impossible not to become irritated now and then by our fellow men. The reasons can be very trivial, or so unclear that we cannot understand why somebody irritates us. This may happen in dream groups, too. We don't like someone's face, for known or unknown reasons. It may happen in the beginning of the group, at the first glance, or it may rise during the dream group process if the member in question does not show respect for others.
It is usually true that we cannot dislike someone who honestly shares a dream. This coin has an another side, though: we can dislike a person who does not honestly share a dream. In fact, during dreaming when our defense mechanisms have been dropped away we seem to be most honest, but during the waking state there is always a possibility for dishonesty, even in sharing a dream.
It is very rare that the dream process must be interrupted because of the dreamer's or the group's behavior, and the cause of the conflict examined and settled before the dream can be taken up again. I have seen it happen perhaps a couple of times during the last twenty-two years I have been in dream groups. In all those instances we have been able to continue the process after the interruption.
If the irritating dream group member shares his dream, the dream usually sheds light on the reasons for his behavior. By seeing the human being behind his bulwark we are more able to see how his resistance is an important shelter for him. We see the necessity of this shield for him, and we may recognize in the mirror of his dream how we ourselves have used similar shields against each other.
Lessons about human psyche learned in dream groups can be applied outside of dream groups, too. Though dreams are the honest language of the true state of our fellow man, our waking state communication contains many kinds of doors into our psyche, too. The skills acquired in the art of listening makes us more capable to see these doors, and open them without violence, thus maximizing the possibility of getting contact with a real human being, not only the masks he has put up to be able to cope with his surroundings. The repeating dream group experience (and not only theoretical knowledge) which verifies that there is always an innocent human being inside his thorny appearance, has helped me to remember it better outside of dream groups, too, teaching me the conditions needed to find the way to the innards of the defensive bastions. ...The taste of the core remains...
The dream group process is learning to find the true nature of human being. This raises the question of what is this true nature that is reflected in dreams. Through centuries it has been debated whether human race is ultimately good or bad. At first the answer seems to support the former alternative. I feel that this statement does not do justice to the deepest nature of the human soul. To be good is too one-sided, too conscious, too fabricated. Good and bad are conclusions, societal definitions and judgments, very much dependent on the values of the individual and his society.
Better word than good or bad to describe the core of human being is 'innocence'. I feel it to be more touching, more shattering revelation of the human being than goodness. In innocence there is pureness, there is total openness, total vulnerability, total shelterlessness. The core of dreams is innocence, the primordial state of life, paradise state of the human being before he had tasted the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Innocence is not conscious of itself, without the knowledge of being naked, without the fig leaves of psychological resistance to conceal the truth of its nakedness.
I feel that this innocence, totally powerless against the outside forces, is the most powerful force of all. It is a state which does not resist anything, so there is no need to put up a force against it, no need to attack. It is the state of limitless trust and confidence, a state under the influence of which even the enemies disarm themselves.
This is the most valuable lesson of dream groups in the long run; to learn to know our deepest innocence, to know that there still is the Garden of Eden within.