• Suzanne Jones

My Childhood Dream is My SUPERPOWER

These are my Life-Myth Superpowers… what are yours?

by Matt Stella


I am laying curled up on the back porch. Brown painted floor and railing. Crying.

About five years old.  A little boy alone, upset, in the fetal position.  The porch is

raised up from the yard like a stage, yet I must be outside of the house trying to hide

and be alone.  The little backyard is nicely manicured: flowerbeds with a nice stone

border, and a perfectly green lawn that extends to the back fence.  Closer to the

fence it’s darker in the shade of a big maple tree.  The grass there is not as lush,

with some bare spots and patches of dirt.  The back fence is a wooden wall about 6

feet high, like a stockade you would see in old forts.


Then, just like every time, an old woman in a dingy white dress comes out of the

back door of the house across the fence.  She steps out onto her back porch, which

is raised from her yard at the same level of my porch, so she can see across the

fence to where I am.  Her house is white but in disrepair, with peeling paint,

unkempt.  Her yard has no grass.  It’s wild and untended, the dirt packed down from

a sad, mean dog that’s chained to a stake in the middle of the lot, pacing and digging

wherever it can reach.


Crying harder now, I feel her looking over the border fence at me.  It’s uncomfortable

to feel that she is watching me.  And suddenly it’s unbearable and terrifying.  The old

woman in the white dress is not fully human.  Even though I’m trying not to look at

her, I realize she has the terrible head of a chicken, with her haunting, piercing,

yellow chicken eyes locked straight on me, no eyelids, a relentless steady gaze.  The

longer she stares, the more unbearable it feels.  My sobbing and panic heightens by

the second.  I know that if she keeps looking I will die.


Carl Jung and the Life Myth

I always wake up just before dying.  This is the dream I had in the night, many nights

in a row, in different phases of childhood, starting about 5 or 6 years old. Over time I

‘outgrew it’, and I did not think much of it.  Then in my 30’s when first studying

Processwork, I was asked to remember the first dream, nightmare, or recurring

dream of childhood — what Carl Jung would call the Life Myth Dream.


My Processwork therapist,was brilliant and wise.  She helped me approach this

nightmare with curiosity, then compassion, then awe.  I could see that for much of

my childhood, teens and early adulthood, my inner life was most like the child in that

dream.  Everything looked quite fine on the outside, like the house, nice, privileged,

put-together… but in the back, behind the scenes, I was depressed, afraid, insecure,

small and hurting.


Over the Edge – the Chicken Head Lady

But what about CHL – the Chicken Head Lady?  She was definitely not me.  I was

definitely not her.  The edge between my world and hers was a tall stockade barrier.

 And the awareness in the dream, the looking, was coming from the wild, scary land

across the edge.  Not from me.  In the dream, as in my life, I was most aware of

trying to look manicured like the lawn and flowers, but secretly feeling hurt, weak or

ashamed.


If you are familiar with Processwork, you may be anticipating the good part… How

am I the Chicken Head Lady!?  It was a deeply healing and empowering process

to shapeshift into her — to practice standing straight up, with the relaxed but fierce

awakeness of pre-human eyes staring straight across the edge to the source of the

suffering.  From her perspective, she was not trying to harm or kill the boy.  She was

just witnessing, unflinchingly.  Over many years, my healing and growth have been a

practice of living that dream.  It starts with noticing that in the ‘back porch’ hidden

areas of my mind, I am feeling hurt and alone, desperate not to be seen.  Any

attempt to look at it feels terrifying like it might be the end of the world.  But then to

adjust my gaze, open eyes fierce and wide, and look dispassionately straight at it,

opens me to an ancient power with no fear.  The ‘boy’ starts to disappear. He is

‘killed’ in the sense that the longer I look, the closer it is to being gone.  Even if I only

remember to do this inner work once in a while, it’s a great relief and a return to

power.


Central Polarity – Opposite Allies To Help My Clients

It has been 20 years since I was taught to view the unique, mythic themes of my life

through the lens of this dream.  As a therapist and Processworker, there is no skill

or metaskill I am more grateful for than this Life Myth Dream to guide me.  When I

have a client exposing a hidden hurt, and the shame of it being seen, I can access

true compassion.  The ‘boy’ is my ally, reminding me what it’s like to feel that

desperate panic, suffering and shame.  And the Chicken Head Lady is my ally,

showing me the impersonal paradox of detachment, awareness, and fierce

connection.  When I remember to look through her eyes, I can see straight through a

person to the seed of their suffering, and not turn away.


Giving Thanks

Over the years I’ve done more and more work with survivors of trauma and

childhood sexual abuse.  Even with a facilitator-superpower like CHL it was very

difficult at first to look straight at the heart of stories of violation and damage to

children.  But the more I could believe in both sides of the edge of my dream, and

slowly integrate the polarity as a whole, the more able I have been to work with

greater and greater suffering.  Thank you Chicken Head Lady!  Thank you scared

little boy!  Thank you cultivated land, wild land and the big edge between!

by Matt Stella, LICSW, Dipl.PW



Matt is a therapist in Boston, USA. His work with depression, anxiety, addictive behaviors

and relationship challenges has focused on the dynamics of shame, inner authority, and

transformation.  He leads men’s groups and specializes in men’s issues, including the effects

of sexual abuse and trauma on men.


Lynne Baker is a dream therapist and psychologist available for appointments at Essentially Aromatherapy Wednesdays. Book Now

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