The Dreamlife of Families: The Psychospiritual Connection by Edward Bruce Bynum, Ph.D., ABPP
Inner Traditions, 9781620556320, 288 pp., 2017
Dr. Edward Bruce Bynum’s latest book, The Dreamlife of Families, was originally published in 1993 and titled Families and the Interpretation of Dreams: Awaking the Intimate Web. His background as a clinical psychologist and current position at the Brain Analysis and Neurodevelopment Center in Massachusetts give him a fascinating perspective to contextualizing the dynamically interwoven pattern between the mind, body, dreams, and reality. In The Dreamlife of Families, Bynum has found the balance between rigorously tested scientific literature on the physical dreaming process and the deeper spiritual content and meaning of the dreams, and how this plays out in unexplained synchronicities in waking life. By exploring the unconscious nature of dreams through the intimate and formative bonds of family life, Bynum has uncovered a rich tapestry of knowledge that illuminates the power of our dreaming mind.
The dream, it seems, is like a continuous tissue of images, emotions, and events woven around the psychospiritual or numinous skeleton of our primordial existence.1
The book is divided into 10 sections which all provide a vast array of both first-hand accounts by people who have shared their dreams with Dr. Bynum, and clinical data and research. Dr. Bynum begins by giving the reader a foundation of dream theory to date, including the opinions of great psychoanalysts like Freud and Jung, in addition to the history of dream analysis through ancient cultures such as Egypt and Greece. In the following section, Dr. Bynum goes into extensive laboratory research conducted on the physical aspects of sleep and dreaming, which provides the reader with a comprehensive understanding of sleep cycles and brain biochemistry.
Dr. Bynum then sets off to demonstrate to the reader through first hand accounts from clients what a typical family dream looks like and how even the most seemingly trivial dreams of family can hold vast potential in terms of unconscious content.
At times, our individual psyche appears to operate as an open field with networks of influence in mutual formation and information. During sleep in particular, the psyche is in a more expansive, relaxed, cholinergic condition. In these non-ego-dominated conditions the psyche connects or reconnects with other psyches in the field… It is almost as if we “pulse” at a certain energy level or frequency that reflects our recurrent transactional patterns with ourselves and with others. These others with whom we have a high emotional or resonant affinity are the significant persons in our life. These various members out of significant family or constellation sometimes appear to share these frequency levels that operate through and within each individual psyche.2
These connected psychic fields between the dreamer and family lead to things such as ESP, precognition, and shared imagery in dreams that Dr. Bynum explains in the next section of The Dreamlife of Families. This material covers near death experiences, in which the dreamer is able to receive messages from the injured calling for help or send a message to a love one in a time of peril. Also included are instances where deceased loved ones visit in a dream to give a final message or emotional closure. A whole section is dedicated to children of alcoholic parents and how dream work can serve as a powerful catalyst for their healing. Following that, Dr. Bynum goes into accounts of dreams that occur often during pregnancy, both in pregnant mothers and expecting fathers, as they process the changes in family dynamic that come with the addition of a new life to their family, touching on the mythological and archetypal aspects of these dreams.
Dr. Bynum also describes the therapeutic process of dream analysis in both a group setting and multi-generational family session, and the beneficial results that can be yielded through such work. When a family undergoes this type of therapy, Dr. Bynum notes “there are recurrent transactional patterns of affect and behavior and values that can be observed and stand out.”3 These patterns offer valuable insight into the family collective unconscious that can be helpful in healing and bringing new awareness to the family or group. Finally, the book concludes with a section on Yoga Nidra and lucid dreaming, which allow for the practitioner to move from waking to dreaming state or dreaming state to waking state without losing consciousness. These techniques showcase the fluidity of consciousness that can remain unbroken with proper training, and give the reader insight into how one can better cultivate their dream-life connection.
Bynum concludes by noting creativity in the dream state has lead to great works of art, literature, and scientific discovery. Utilizing the functions of dreams allows for “activation of the mind by imagery, powerful emotions, and invocation to higher intellect, cortical or other functions” that is key in any healing process.4 Prominent through the book is focus on “psychoimmunology” which is a developing field of research around how the images we hold in our minds affect the biological processes of our bodies. By working and exploring these images through dream work, Bynum describes how we can actually bolster our physical health. In the appendix, a Kemetic Imagery and Healing Assessment Protocol is provided for the reader to use along with hypnosis to gather information on their body’s own natural healing processes.
All together, The Dreamlife of Families is an immensely comprehensive work on the study of dreams. Examining the interconnection of our dreams through our family relationships has opened a window of possibility and insight, and demonstrates how our dreams hold the potential to heal us emotionally, physically, and spiritually while also serving as gateways to connect and bind our psyches in the most intimate way. By opening portals to the collective family subconscious, we can gain access to information we may otherwise not know. Connections to our family and ancestors are bridged through time and space, as Dr. Bynum reminds us “the family is a psychodynamic system, a shared matrix of energy.”5 A great potential for understanding ourselves and bringing healing to all dimensions of our lives exists within the realm of dreams. When we acknowledge the immense power they offer us as portals to make connections between mind, body, and soul, we can transcend limitations imposed by waking consciousness.
I highly recommend The Dreamlife of Families for readers who are interested in the potential that dream therapy holds, particularly in a family context. This book offers a perspective on family life that goes beyond the ordinary realm, into the trenches of the unconscious manifesting itself through our dream life. While the material can be technical at times, Dr. Bynum does a great job of refreshing the reader of pertinent information and reviewing what material has been covered in each section. It is a fascinating combination of clinical study, parapsychological research, spiritual insight, and psychology, seamlessly blended together to give readers a entrance into the realm where dream life and waking consciousness come together in universal synchronicity to illuminate the inherent connection of our psyche within the family bonds we share.