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Pamela Gerloff

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If This Were a Dream, What Would It Mean?

Posted: 06/01/11 05:55 PM ET

Sometimes I do a particular kind of contemplation. Taking the view that events in the "outer" world may be understood as a reflection of both my own inner psyche and our national and global collective consciousness, I ask myself, "If this were a dream, what would it mean?" Then I sit quietly and let recent news events enter my awareness. I don't think, judge, or analyze. I just sit there silent-minded, perceiving. As I do this, themes, meanings, and messages begin to form. I notice what stands out for me -- maybe similarities among the stories; or contrasts, opposites, anomalies; some items may "pull" me, others drift away. Sometimes insight comes immediately, sometimes it unfolds over time.

Recent news has been particularly rich in meaning. On the chance that my perceptions might resonate with you, or perhaps stimulate different insights of your own, here are a few thoughts from my May 2011 contemplations.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. These stories broke practically simultaneously, emphasizing, for me, the importance of paying attention to this theme -- which was, no, not the tiresomely repetitive theme of public men's private sexual escapades, but the tiresomely repetitive theme of abuse of power -- abuse of the power and privilege that come with rank, now known as rankism. What surprised me was that this time, more people than ever saw the abuse of power in these situations -- and they said so. Former Los Angeles Times reporter Tracy Weber; Catholic Priest Father Edward Beck on ABC News; Christian Evangelical Jim Wallis; Nancy Gibbs, et. al., in a TIME magazine cover story, to name a few. That was the new part of this recurring nightmare. Some even raised the issue of the complicity of a culture that fails to hold people in positions of power accountable for abusing that power -- what I call the "Alpha Dog Syndrome," when the rest of the pack remains silent while the Alpha does anything he wants, even if demeaning, exploitative, or abusive -- out of fear of reprisal, rejection, or banishment from the group. In France, the Strauss-Kahn dream has ignited a raging debate about societal attitudes and behavior toward women.

As I pondered these dream images -- in particular, our individual and collective abuses of the power of position -- another article I read this month gently nudged itself into my awareness. "Our Twins Have Autism and We're Participating in a Miracle" by Ocean Robbins, who wrote movingly and eloquently about the power of love and the new life it is giving his family.

"The conventional belief is that autism is a life sentence, and that autistic kids are never going to be able to function in the 'real world' without massive assistance. And indeed, our twins do have some major struggles. At age 10, neither of our boys is fully potty trained or able to attend school. Very recently, a sweet and well-intentioned pediatric neurologist told us, 'There's really nothing that can be done.' But we have recently discovered an extraordinary program, called Son-Rise,that turns this conventional life sentence ideology on its head..."

Co-incidentally, a YouTube video shared on Facebook included footage of Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Dr. James Gilligan discussing his 25 years of research on violent prisoners. His conclusion? Even the most violent of criminals can be rehabilitated. "There is no human being that cannot be reached." His explanation? Violent criminals are "love-starved." Most people tend to take basic levels of love for granted, just as most of us take oxygen for granted. But when your oxygen supply is cut off, you can't breathe, and eventually you die. Same with love. He says:

"Without love, the soul cannot survive. It dies. That's what these men were telling me. Their souls had died. That's why they were capable of killing other people....I have seen the most violent people we have. When I first started out with many of them, I thought they were hopeless. I thought there was nothing we could do. They were untreatable, incurable....I was wrong. I've known some of these men for 25 or 30 years now, people who were off the scale, who were mute, paranoid, multiple murderers, who'd been killing people even after they got into prison or jail--we were able to work with [them], and turn [them] around, so that they haven't harmed a hair on anybody's head for the last 25 years, and in fact are engaged in constructive work."

The message of all of these dreams? We are changing, humanity, we are changing -- transitioning from a world that glorifies the Power of Position to a world beginning to understand, and apply, the Power of Love.

Not surprisingly, the road is a bit bumpy, as we can see from all the recent tornadoes. At usual levels of perception, we might attribute them to global warming, weather flukes, or other causes. And in "real life," the devastation they are causing is heart breaking. But if I look at them as a collective dream, they signal to me something deeper. The turmoil of change, experienced on some level as destruction, loss, trauma, grief, or sadness. Emotions coming to the surface, inner demons being expelled. Destruction making way for something new.

In the silent musings of my heart, our collective dream is telling me that we are shifting toward a consciousness that understands a truth humanity has been struggling for millennia to learn: The power of love to heal is absolute. We are beginning to perceive that those with the least power among us -- such as the rising tide of autistic children in our midst -- or the prisoners whose violent behavior leads us to label them as unredeemably damaged -- are often our greatest teachers of this truth.

When Osama bin Laden was killed at the beginning of May, I posted a blog questioning our collective celebrations of any killing. The enormous, even unprecedented, positive response from readers -- nearly 200,000 Facebook "likes" on this site alone -- showed me that there are enough of us now who are ready and willing to embrace the new consciousness that is emerging.

If this were a dream, I'd sigh with relief that the "End of the World" did not occur this month, as had been expected by some -- because it gives us time to set things right.

If this were a dream, I'd say we're beginning to wake up.

And that's good news indeed.