Hear it First Hand.


Dr Sally Gillespie

Interviewed by Dr Susannah Benson on Mar 31, 2016

When did your interest in dreams begin?

I was always interested in my dreams, even as a child when I experienced each night the adventure of having another world to live in. My interest became more active when I was 21 and went travelling overseas. My dreams were very intense at this time, probably because I had left home and family. I started writing them up in my journal each morning and then would continue on writing about my feelings and the metaphors and symbols that resonated with me. Probably reading the journals of Anais Nin around this time also contributed to my growing involvement with my dreams.

What led you to extend your interest into the public sphere?

When I lived in England as a young woman I studied astrology with a Jungian analyst called Liz Greene. She frequently referred to dream in her seminars, so when I started doing astrology charts for others I would inquire about their recent dreams. Later I trained in Jungian psychotherapy and extended my work with others into running dream groups.

Do you have a regular dream practice?

Yes I still write my dreams down more mornings than not, and then work on from there though reverie, somatic awareness and further writing.

Could you share a dream with us that was transformational for you?

Seven years ago after doing some writing and speaking on a panel about climate change and depth psychology I was stopped in my tracks by a dream that seemed more like a vision; an experience so intense that not only did it halt my back peddling from further climate change work, it left me with a resolve to commit the rest of my life to actively engaging with it. In my dream I had an apocalyptic vision of the end of the world through climate change. I saw whole continents sinking beneath the sea as water levels rose while millions of people were attempting to cling to land and their lives. I clung to a rope swinging above the Earth as land masses shifted around beneath me until I let go and dropped into this catastrophic world, and became one of many grasping for the heaving shores. Then in the midst of this overwhelming horror crept some tenderness, when a desperate poodle swam into my arms and I cared for him as best I could, even while feeling the fruitlessness of everyone's struggle to survive.
When I awoke from this nightmare all I could think was How do I respond to this? How can I respond to this?” The experience of dropping into this world in upheaval was shocking and awesome. Any possibility of distancing myself from climate change reports collapsed through this dream which awakened intense feelings of vulnerability for myself and all beings on Earth, propelling my personal consciousness towards collective realities. I did not believe my dream was precognitive or prophetic, but I did feel that it cracked my psychological foundations, rupturing myths about the primacy of personal autonomy and independence. The dream crashed through my justifications and denials, insisting that I live and work fully in the knowledge of the seriousness of climate change, recognising and accepting that all my known parameters were being reshaped by the chaotic upheaval of our planet’s climatic patterns. I felt strongly that this dream changed how I think about the rest of my life. Within two years I retired from my long term psychotherapy practice and embraced fulltime doctoral research into the psychological experience of engaging with climate change issues.

What do you feel has been your most important contribution to dreamwork?

Teaching dream work to student and practicing counsellors and therapists was a particularly rewarding and stimulating experience for me. There is still a lot of work to be done to extend dream work into the repertoire of helping professionals from all backgrounds. More recently integrating dreams into my doctoral research around the psychology of climate change has proved to be significant. 

What has been the most important  learning or insights you have gained from honouring your dreams?

More than anything else dreams have taught me not to be seduced by my own egoic thoughts and judgments. Working with dreams is so wonderfully freeing in the way it loosens awareness from the habitual and often very limited way of seeing self, others and world. Knowing that there are so many different ways of experiencing and understanding the situations we encounter through my dream has definitely helped me to feel more resourceful and creative in life. The experience of feeling both accompanied and guided through life by my dreams has been a tremendous gift and also a stimulating challenge.

What advice would you offer to anyone wanting to learn how to work with their dreams?

Keep it simple and stay close to the dream itself. Finding someone to share your dreams with is a great boon but never forget the importance of being with your dream and spending time with it through reflective writing, drawing, movement or breathing. Also write down and work with those dreams that you don’t like! 

What are your hopes for the future of dreamwork personally and collectively?

That the sharing of and reflecting on dreams becomes more invited and accepted in public discussions as well as personal ones. 

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Study Your Dreams

Embodied Imagination 3 year Dreamwork Training Program commences March 2016.

Embodied Imagination 3 year Dreamwork Training Program commences March 2016.

The Embodied Imagination Approach developed by Robert Bosnak works with dreams and waking memories and is practised with individuals and groups in the felds of psychotherapy, medicine [triggering the self-healing reflex], theatre, business, art and creative research.

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Dr Sally Gillespie

Dr Sally Gillespie Dr Susannah Benson

In this interview, Dr Gillespie shares how the experience of feeling both accompanied and guided through life by dreams has been both a gift and a challenge. She shares how following the impact of a powerful dream, she retired from her long term psychotherapy practice and embraced full time doctoral research into the psychological experience of engaging with climate change issues.

  • Mar 31, 2016

“Inspiration, new knowledge, renewed sense of clarity and direction, new connections and lots of joy.”2014 Dream Alchemy Conference