Would You Let Yourself Be the Next Clive Barker? Dreams, Creativity and Self-Understanding

Naomi Epel’s Writer’s Dreaming, a collection of interviews from writers on how their dreams influence their creative process was given to me by a friend recently. I was delighted to have this book, being involved in several book projects myself and having had more than my share of complex and intricate (okay, crazy) dreams.

When I got to the chapter on Clive Barker, of Hellraiser fame, I was tempted to skip it. I will confess I have not read his works and have not seen any of the Hellraiser films, so I have no right to any opinion on the man at all. But really, his name did not jump out to me as a great author of our time, as say a Maya Angelou or Isabelle Allende.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself underlining line after line saying, “Yes, I understand this!” “I have thought this very thing myself!”, etc., etc. One of the things I have seen in my dealings with others, as well as in my own conscious evolution, is the struggle between different “realities”. Truth shifts with our perspective, and this is complicated enough without taking our dream life into consideration.

Consider these paragraphs from my new pal, Clive, on page 40 of Epel’s book, on the interplay between waking and sleeping life, and the process of allowing the unconscious/subconscious life to be acknowledged, and given validity as an expression of some aspect of oneself and one’s experience:

Now, the idea of putting those things [here he means dream images] into art is an important and interesting issue. But simply to talk about them as things which have meaning, which are intimate self-confessions is, it seems to me, the primary act. The secondary act is the turning it into art. And it may be something that people don’t feel predisposed to do. [He adds later that people have lots of opinions about what constitutes art, so this might inhibit their desire to pursue artistic expression] But to simply say I am whispering to myself through the lattice of my consciousness, I am whispering to myself, I am telling myself, What is that thing? What are those many things? And saying, I don’t mind what I hear. I don’t mind. I forbid myself nothing. I forbid my subconscious, and therefore my consciousness nothing, is the beginning, I think, of great health.

That’s pretty strong stuff. I mean, how many of us distance ourselves from our dreams (night dreams as well as day dreams), and censor ourselves very closely so that only “realistic,” “rational,” and otherwise acceptable thoughts gain our notice.

His comments on existential aloneness and the necessity of learning how to accept oneself fully are equally compelling. He is referring to the process of writing here:

This is an almost meditative activity, it seems to me. It’s a question of sitting quietly with yourself and saying, the only company I have in all the world is the person I am. And everything else can go away from me, everybody else can go away from me. It is within the bounds of possibility that all the people I love most in the world could be gone tomorrow. I have to be at peace with this myself. And a third of this “myself” is a sleeping self. An important third, perhaps the most important third. So, let me be quiet with myself and sit with myself and like myself, and what my subconscious is telling me.

Again, a very, very tall order for most of us. Even to acknowledge that fundamental fact, that we are all we have in the end, is way too real for most people to even come close to acknowledging.

Clive Barker. Once again life has blown my mind.

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