Poetry, dreams, and the body

"Cosmic Antenna No. 2" by David Jewell..

“My dream is made in my body.”

- Eugene Gendlin, Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams

I first discovered the relationship between poetry, dreams, and the body in the process of writing my book, Iron Man Family Outing. In fact, the book was the direct result of my exploration of that relationship. I was having a lot of important dreams at the time, filled with detail and information that required my attention and action, and I was finding it harder and harder to get everything down in my journals each morning. One day I got the idea that maybe I could record my dreams more concisely as poetry rather than as prose, and it worked pretty well for me. So well, in fact, that after a few months, I found that I was writing a book … a book with a title that came to me in one of my dreams.

I was also, at that time, coming into a new form of relationship with my body. I’d been treating my body like a mechanism for most of my life, a strange and mysterious other that felt external and separate from what I thought of as myself, an unreliable machine that suffered from all sorts of inconvenient problems and breakdowns that no doctor I’d seen could explain. I know now that this sort of separation and dissociation from the body is very common among men and boys in my culture. I also know now that it’s common to another demographic group of which I am also a member: adult survivors of childhood abuse.

Somehow, and I honestly can’t say how this came about, I found that my body was, like my dreams, another rich source of imagery and information that expressed itself well in poetic language. I believe this discovery was largely stimulated by the emotional processing work I was doing at the time, in which I was taught to tune into my body as a way to locate and unlock the psychological and emotional energy I’d been forced to repress as a child. As time went on, I gradually began to see my body as a partner rather than as an adversary. I also found that my body had something to say. I only had to give it the time and the space to speak.

In a poem called “body memory” from Iron Man Family Outing, I said:

time passes but nothing is lost
I can’t fool myself
my body remembers everything.

Poetry is the language of my dreams and my body. In my experience, in life and as well as in writing, poetry, dreams, and the body are intertwined and inseparable.

Photo credit: David Jewell. Used by permission.

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Poetry, dreams, and the body by Rick Belden, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

7 thoughts on “Poetry, dreams, and the body

  1. Thank you for your comment, Sue. I was raised to believe that the emotional, psychological, and physical abuse I experienced growing up was “normal.” I was also taught that I was not to speak about it with anyone outside the family. One of my goals in sharing my story is to show other survivors of childhood abuse that it really is okay, and necessary, to break the silence that is often imposed within families. I hope that my writing can be a catalyst for growth and healing for others as well as for myself.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Patricia. Hopefully the information we share from our lives will provide useful reference points and encouragement for others who are moving through their own experiences.

  3. I really resonate with this post, Rick. I’m in the middle of an embodiment process myself, tuning more and more into this vessel of my mind and soul that I’ve felt somewhat alienated from most of my life. I’m starting to love it more as a result – feel that we’re playing on the same team.

    Paradoxically I have found that being willing to hurt my body right now gets me closer to it – that I can love it more if I dare to risk its pain. As if all the protection and padding that’s been containing it for all this time has served it not one bit and that it now needs to feel the reality of the existential toils of life. The other day I covered myself with ash. Another day, I want outside in the cold rain and walked barefoot in moss before I sat down in a cold creek and washed myself, singing joyously from the top of my lungs.

    I look forward to using nature more in my process of tuning in to my body. I thank you for inspiring me to keep going with this work.


  4. Eivind: Thank you for commenting and sharing some of your recent experience. This embodiment process of which you speak is really, in my opinion, a re-embodiment, a return to an old and forgotten territory you once inhabited as a child, and even more so as an infant. I hope you’ll be patient and cautious with the process, with yourself, and with your body, as you would with a child or an infant, and listen for all the feedback you receive as you go.

    You may find yourself retreading ground you lost or gave up earlier in life (emotional, psychological, and spiritual, as well as physical), and you may encounter some wounds from those times that feel surprisingly fresh. It may take some time for you to learn the best ways to balance the risks and intensity of new experience and new sensation with gentle care for yourself as reclaim your body and all the information it’s been holding for you.

    You’re very self-aware and I think that self-awareness will continue to be a tremendous asset to you going forward.

  5. Re-embodiment. I like that a lot. I think you’re right. Growing up in an academic home with suppressed emotions moved me gradually into my head. But I did start out in my body. I can remember.

    Thanks for the heads up about the nature of the path I’m treading. And Rick – I will be cautious and gentle with myself..