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Scenes from a (Psychic) Nudist Colony

By Montague Ullman, M.D.

Dream Appreciation Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 4, Fall 1998

Someone I know is an ardent member of a nudist colony. He seems perfectly normal in every other way. I have often wondered what it might be like to wander about in the company of others au naturel. The closest I have come to it is by analogy to what happens in a dream group. Here a dreamer sharing a dream is undressing psychically and is there to be seen in his or her emotional nudity.

The analogy almost ends there as the others in the group are fully dressed. The analogy picks up again, albeit in a slightly different way. In a true nudist colony everyone undresses at the same time. In a weekly dream group they take turns undressing, one each week.

There is, however, one stage of the process where, after hearing the dreamer's dream, group members make the dream their own and make their own projections available to the dreamer for whatever they may be worth. In sharing their feelings in response to the dream and their metaphorical translations of the imagery, each member of the group psychically undresses to some extent exposing a bit of his or her own psyche to the dreamer and to each other.

Both physical and emotional nudist colonies are something out of the ordinary and are not easily carried over into daily life. There are laws against physical nudity in public and, in a society where dreams have a very low priority, there are no legal constraints, but not much room is made for sharing them in any serious manner. Newcomers to both "colonies" have to learn how to feel at home in their new surroundings.

Some tune into it more easily and naturally than others. Once the adaptation is made, a special sense of solidarity evolves. Once you feel safe there is the freedom of being known and accepted for what you are, physically for the nudist and emotionally for the dreamer. In both instances you end up with a better view of what may need some adjustment. There is a naturalness to the experience that only occurs, if at all, under very special circumstances in ordinary discourse.

Never having had first-hand knowledge of what goes on in a nudist colony, I cannot speak for whatever benefits may accrue. I do know what life is like in a dream group and I suspect they have certain things in common. In both instances it takes some daring and a bit of getting used to, but once the plunge is taken a deep commitment soon follows and both activities become integrated into everyday life. I can vouch for the addictive nature of group dream work. Even though participants contract for only four weeks at a time, there are some who have been in my groups for five years or more. I suspect that in both instances there evolves an "in-group" feeling and that others are missing out on something important in their lives. As far as dreams are concerned, they are.

Those features of life in a dream group that could with much benefit find a much wider audience than now exists include the following:

1. The dreams we produce have evolved out of a natural healing system (the REM or Rapid Eye Movement stages of sleep) and are analogous to other physiological healing systems of our body. Each of us possesses this built-in emotional radar on the ready to call attention to areas of our life that need attention. The veracity of our dreams provide us with our own emotional antibiotic system in the form of metaphorical imagery to help in dealing with any situation that arises. Discovering that can be very consoling.

2. With practice, the skills needed to provide the dreamer with the help needed to be in touch with a dream can be learned and mastered. Everyone in the group, regardless of their background, learns what is involved by way of sensitivity and judgment in the healing process. They each have learned how to function as healers to the dreamer. That is another uplifting discovery.

3. The experience of being with others in the totally nonviolent context of a dream group allows us to not only emerge from our own darkness but also sensitizes us to the social and institutional pressures that perpetrate the darkness. There is room for much change in this world of ours and any deeper insights into what needs changing is a good thing. By their allegiance to the truth, our dreams bring us closer to a more moral vision of what life could be like.

Finally, there evolves a subtle but quite palpable sense of cohesiveness that earlier I referred to as a sense of solidarity. It goes deeper than that. As we get to know each other through the mutual sharing of dreams, there occurs something more akin to a feeling of communion. Regardless of any particular religious orientation, the notion of the brotherhood of man takes on a new meaning. Under ordinary circumstances, it is always potentially available, but is more apt to be felt in fits and spurts or else when dire circumstances bring people together. In my weekly groups it simply surfaces as soon as a dreamer begins to tell a dream. As it does, there is an extraordinary feeling of confidence and competence that no matter how difficult the piece may be, the orchestra will be in tune.