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The Dreamlife of Families

The Psychospiritual Connection

Foreword by Carl A. Whitaker
Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster


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About The Book

How our unconscious minds connect with our families through dreams

• Shows how the connected dreamlife of families reveals itself in nightmares and unusual dreams, during critical times such as pregnancy, conflicts, and medical emergencies, and in shared, telepathic, and precognitive dreams

• Explains how dreamwork can help heal our psychospiritual selves and aid in both family and couples therapy

• Examines ancient dream traditions from Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and the ancient Egyptian Mystery Schools

Our dreams, the most intimate part of us, form the truest expressions of our feelings and emotional beliefs about the world. Our dreams also reflect the complex connections of our unconscious minds with those of our families and close friends, connecting us through our dreams to loved ones near and far, living and passed on.

Integrating traditional dream analysis with family psychology, clinical science, and parapsychology, Edward Bruce Bynum, Ph.D., ABPP, details how our personal unconscious is interwoven into our larger family unconscious. He shows how these dreamlife connections and patterns are as old as humanity itself, exploring ancient dream traditions from around the world. He explains how the dreamlife of a family can be viewed as a shared field or hologram, where each family member is enfolded into the dreams of the other members. This shared reality reveals itself in family and personal illnesses, in nightmares and unusual dreams, and during critical times such as crisis, pregnancy, conflicts, and medical emergencies. It also reveals itself in cases of simultaneous shared dreams and telepathic and precognitive dreams, explaining why so many people have dreams in which a family member appears to say good-bye, waking the next day to discover the same loved one has passed away. Sharing clinical case studies from his Family Dream Research Project, the author shows how the intimate labyrinth of our dream lives is always flowing beneath the surface of our waking lives, shaping and influencing our relationships and our deep core experiences. He reveals how dreams can be healing factors as well as diagnostic signals, detailing how dreamwork can aid in both family and couples therapy.

Showing how our family’s dreamlife connects us to our ancestors and weaves us into the messages we send to our children’s children, the author offers an opportunity to identify personal and family patterns, heal our psychospiritual selves, and grow our understanding of our own minds.



Family Dreams in Therapeutic Form


Now let us turn our attention to a much larger canvas, where the boundaries defining relationships, and the connections within and between relationships, are much more varied and expansive. This includes psychic and psychological boundaries “between” individuals, and also includes the permeable boundary between body and mind within the same individual. Because it is like a ripple wave across many generations, a transgenerational theme can be seen to have a certain binding and unifying effect within a family constellation. (17) It also can be a potent method of expanding one’s own individual mind and individual perspective. The following dream is reported by a psychologist interested in transgenerational themes:

I remember going to sleep and in a dream having dinner with my father. In the dream as I sat down with my father, soon my father’s father joined us. lt was then that my father, myself and my grandfather were present. Soon after this, in a somewhat shadowy form, my grandfather’s father appeared as if he was looking over my grandfather’s shoulder. My attention was drawn to this. Finally my grandfather’s grandfather appeared in an even more shadowy sort of way. I reached my hand across the table and across the others and managed very briefly to physically shake his hand in the dream. He was not a depressing figure, but was a shadowy and distant or legendary figure. I felt some important knowledge was communicated to me. It was clear that my grandfather’s grandfather in this situation was a slave but a slave who felt like a free man.

Several years later, this same psychologist found himself the guide or the focus of large multi-family therapy sessions. The dynamics in this situation were complex in that several family systems had events simultaneously occurring. Generational themes and transactional patterns could be seen to repeat not only in the lives of individuals but across many generations at the same time. From this vantage point anyone who has looked deeply into their own family ancestry and history going back multiple generations sees not only the repetition of names and faces but also stories and claims and seemingly individual characteristics. One cannot escape at least the sense that individual styles and perhaps even individual family souls appear and disappear in and out of the height, width, depth, and time flows in this four dimensional familial matrix from another or fifth dimensional level. It appears as though there are “waves” in this sea of familial consciousness. Important archetypal family dreams may move from wave crest to the next in this sea, from one generation to the next.

The body has dynamics and processes that obey natural laws, even if we do not fully understand those laws. Medicine is fully aware of this humbling truth. However what we experience as the mind and its body are not exactly identical, even if we accept that mind is a more “subtle” form or expression of matter. We know clinically and experientially that mind and body can be experienced as vastly separated from each other at times by way of autoscopic vision, out-of-body experiences, remote viewing experiments with later verified accurate information processing, and the various forms of clinical dissociation. Different laws govern these realms and regions of experience.

From this perspective, mind in a sense incarnates in the body. The soul or aspect of consciousness we are describing associated with this familial consciousness that “descends” or unfolds out into the familial present day consciousness in a sense incarnates into that familial psychological and emotional field, perhaps from a higher enfolded order. It would be presumptuous to assume in the current era that we understand all the laws of matter and consciousness.

Even if this idea remains speculation and intuition for many people, the operation of the Family Unconscious itself is certainly clear, at least for the present generation of family members. There are recurrent transactional patterns of affect and behavior and values that can be observed and stand out. They, at the very least, function as a wave form over the discrete and individualized functions and behaviors of individuals within the system.

In multi-generational family therapy one need only have a grandparent along with a parent and child present. This form of therapy has been found to be extremely useful in issues involving substance abuse. It is also extremely useful in working with characterological and neurotic styles that manifest over generations. Finally, it is extremely powerful when looking at illness and disease patterns of families. The therapist can begin to notice in certain disease processes that sudden and subtle bodily and psychological associations and states of mind are held by members of the family across many generations. A way of assessing this in terms of body and mind, family associations, physical associations, and others would be extremely useful. In that sense, any assessment profile used would need to expand to the full range of human associations and needs.

Beyond this, the awareness of multi-generational themes can foster the sense of differentiation and liberation within the family, while maintaining deeper bonds that are necessary and that connect us to individuals, relational systems, tribes, and even nations. This is the dynamic interplay between the individual principle and the group or collective principle.

In working with this family unconscious system, the generational themes are elicited by the therapist in the same way that individual themes and relational themes are elicited in family therapy with group emphasis. It is extremely important in this form of uncovering that the work of the dream be approached in the first person and in the present tense. This allows for the dreamer’s body, mind, and senses--the whole visceral self--to be involved and in turn gives rise to bodily associations, information about family illness processes, and also the unique language that each person uses in the dialogue with themselves.

About The Author

Edward Bruce Bynum, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., is a clinical psychologist and the director of behavioral medicine at the University of Massachusetts Health Services in Amherst. A student of Swami Chandrasekharanand Saraswati and a winner of the Abraham H. Maslow award from the American Psychological Association, he is the author of several books, including The African Unconscious. He lives in Pelham, Massachusetts.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (July 11, 2017)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620556320

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Raves and Reviews

“Healthy families dream together. This is the essential good sense of The Dreamlife of Families, which carefully amasses evidence that family members dream of each other and for each other and may have shared adventures in deeper realities accessible in dreaming. He helps us recognize the vital function of ‘crisis telepathy,’ in which we receive alerts about emergency situations that prepare us to handle them and sometimes to contain them. Bynum grounds his study of family dreams in an understanding of the vital role of dreaming in human evolution. He gives us the science of the dreaming brain while recognizing that the brain is within the mind. He encourages us to expand our understanding and practice to aspire to the continuity of consciousness called Yoga Nidra in the East. I recommend this wise and heartening book.”

– Robert Moss, author of Conscious Dreaming and The Secret History of Dreaming

The Dreamlife of Families presents a novel approach to working with dream-based family interrelatedness. Drawing on a broad range of ancient beliefs, the book emphasizes African traditions especially, which are less known to modern psychology than those of ancient Greece or China. Bynum writes with a level of scholarly sophistication such that dream psychologists, family therapists, and other clinicians will learn much from the book. However, it’s also clear and entertaining and will engage families who want to utilize this approach to dreams to enrich their relationship.”

– Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D., author of The Committee of Sleep

“An effective case that nocturnal dreams can be interpersonal communications between family members. The numerous examples that Bynum provides make for fascinating reading while providing a convincing argument. I recommend it for anyone interested in dreams or the deeper levels of their own psyche.”

– William M. Boylin, Ph.D., supervising psychologist at Connecticut Valley Hospital

“A beautiful and visionary book. Bynum explores the world that lives between private and public space--the unconscious of the family. He shows us how this understanding can be applied to healing and therapy. Fascinating read for the professional and lay reader.”

– Lynn Hoffman, ACSW, author of Foundations of Family Therapy

“This book guides us to true connectedness in the family. A must-read for the serious family worker or member.”

– Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D., coauthor of Control Your Dreams

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