Dreamwork with Prisoners began in November 2017. For the past year, I’ve worked with about a dozen inmates and some of their family members, receiving approx. 2-4 calls per day.
They tell me their dreams/nightmares, I offer an interpretation and work through solutions for day-to-day challenges. They also send me mail – in the past year I’ve received about 100 letters and have mailed about 150 letters in return. I’ve heard more than 50 dreams from inmates and from the mother of an inmate.
One First Nations inmate who dreams (often nightmares) every night had some encouraging words about the Dreamwork initiative. He has been incarcerated since March 2018 but has not yet received his sentence. Here is what he wrote about the work we’re doing with his dreams:
“Dear Rachel … I love getting mail from you. It is always uplifting and for the most part makes me have wonderful days. You tell me nice things about myself that I tend to overlook on a daily basis and you are teaching me new ways of coping with my life, my nightmares, my relationship with my girl friend and many other things as well…I greatly appreciate all of your time and energy that you have been spending on me to help me work through my nightmares and mountain of other issues and baggage that come along with me as a person. I think it’s just amazing that one person can be so helpful in transforming someone like me. I can honestly say that you are making me turn into a better man and person.”
When I read what he wrote, I felt inspired to continue growing this project even more.
The costs of running this program include paying for a phone line which can accept collect calls from the jail ($70 month) plus an additional $1.50 per call which goes for a maximum of 20 minutes. Usually phone costs run between $150-$275 a month.
Costs of ink, stamps, envelopes, paper and a post office box run about $80 a month.
The total approximate costs for the year are $4260. Last year I paid these expenses, as well as receiving $1100 from others who are supporting this work.
These expenses support receiving 2-4 calls a day and writing 1-2 letters a week to 2-10 people.
I’d like to sustain this level of work, which is about $355 a month, or $4,260 annually and I’d like to see the program grow to include even more inmates who were beginning to inquire into Dreamwork but I did not have the funds or the time to be able to respond to their needs.
If you would like to contribute to this work, please send me a personal message or email at email@example.com to work out details of an e-transfer.
I’d like to thank everyone in this group for their support and encouragement throughout this past year and share that I’m very excited about what’s opening up in the year to come!
Metaphors have always interested me. For as long as I can remember, when I watched a movie or listened to favourite songs, I would consider the storyline a metaphor and think about how the message of the metaphor offered a solution for change. In Grade 9 English Literature class I learned that the best stories (and metaphors) always include a serious conflict which the protagonist faces and overcomes. Conflict in literature can always be grouped into three categories: 1) Human vs Nature … this would be stories with people who face terrible environmental challenges such as blizzards, floods, tsunamis, fires, earthquakes, etc. 2) Human vs Human … which is when one human sets out to threaten, attack, kill or destroy the life or property of another human such as in war, abuse, robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder, etc. 3) Human vs Self … the most challenging conflict of all, when a human being is faced with the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenge of confronting their own inner issues with fear, anger, jealousy, or grief.
The actions people take when they are confronting their own “inner demons”, as we say, can lead them to ascend and transform themselves and the problem or it can lead them to the lowest places of abasement and even death. We allow ourselves to break when we allow the conflict around us or within us to destroy our enthusiasm for moving forward in life. We “break” or “get broken” when we allow ourselves to believe that we do not have the skills or resources to overcome the battle.
In the past 10 years as I’ve been working through dreams and nightmares, my own and others, I’ve been walking through some of the most challenging issues where people are confronting their own painful & traumatic memories of horrors they have faced or confronting their own terrifying visions of a negative future. When a human being is in conflict with their own Self, it means their True Self, the highest and most capable part of themselves, is trying to aspire to some positive goal or vision for their life but they are blocked by some deep-seeded fear or rooted anger which prevents them from getting to where they want to go in day-to-day life. When someone can look their fear in the face and confront it, learn the lesson and transcend the challenge then they transform and change. In literature we call this type of character a Dynamic one. They overcome something huge within themselves and then they behave somehow very differently at the end of the story than they did at the beginning. These are usually the characters we call heroes or heroines and we love them for their amazing gifts, capacities, virtues and abilities.
When the person faces an inner challenge within themselves and do not take the lesson or change, then they often fall into pits of despair, or take negative actions based on fear, or do immoral or illegal actions for revenge from their anger. In the worst case scenario, this often leads to patterns of addiction, mental or physical health issues, or even criminal activities. Often times, when a character behaves like this in story, they are unlikable. They may have anti-social tendencies; they may be narcissistic and self-centered in their actions; they may be rude and disrespectful with their words. Sometimes, these types of characters learn to love their negative ways and the power it wields them, since they learn to use their negatives to intentionally harm others. These characters do not want to change. They don’t want to change themselves and they resist change in their own environment. Taken to the extreme, it can be described that these characters are so immersed in their own ego that they are willing to stop at nothing to protect what they see belongs to them. They are the ones who end up causing the conflict for other humans in their families, schools and workplaces which we looked at in point #2.
When a character in a story does not change and they are behaving in the same way at the end of the story as they were in the beginning then they are said to be a Static character. You can see from this example that it is possible for a person to change for the worse, meaning they could begin the story acting like an addict and by the end of the story be an addict willing to kill to get money to feed his addiction. This would not be a Dynamic character because in truth, he has not changed internally. He lost the battle with himself and his actions are merely more of the same, just amplified.
In stories – whether the plot comes from a movie, a song or a dream – there are Dynamic characters and Static ones. Often times, a good writer will use the negatives in a Static character to highlight the positives in the Dynamic character and that’s how their heroism emerges in the end. The best of stories has a protagonist at the beginning who has a huge fear (perhaps caused by the negative action of an unchanging person filled with ego) and they confront their inner fear, then take positive action to move forward towards their goals and those goals or visions create an uplifting environment for their family, workplace or community. This is how they put the pieces back together, restore their strength, and go for their goals.
I’m working on a book which explores these dynamics of change in more depth, using the metaphors of jail to examine the way ego traps people in patterns which don’t change and keeps them static instead of moving upwards. I’m also exploring dreams from people who are currently serving time in jail because sometimes the dreams of these so-called “criminals” show more potential for growth and change then people who call themselves “upstanding citizens.”
The book explores how a person who is stuck in a static, non-changing, and negative pattern can try to break the spirit of someone they are interacting with in family or work situations. A Dynamic person who is willing to change can take a good & close look at the broken pieces of their lives and use their skills, talents, virtues & natural gifts to put those broken pieces back together. That is how things change & transform for the better.
More on this topic is coming soon.
Take a look at the sections on Dreamwork With Prisoners to learn more about the work and contact me by email if you are interested in supporting the initiative. Financial donations are always welcomed and money is used for postage costs & collect calls from the jail as inmates can only make collect calls. There are also opportunities for volunteers open to writing to inmates to offer encouragement in moving forward in their lives. Message me for more information and watch this site for more details as they emerge.