What did you expect?

An introductory exploration into the connection between body movement and dreams

Expectation is a powerful phenomenon, elusive by nature, ever-present. This is highlighted in dreams, where one’s experience is not constrained by physical laws but by our beliefs and expectations over what can happen. Movement teacher Ido Portal, is known to asks his students “What is your dogma?“, questioning why somebody puts time and effort to practice certain movements. This could be health, status or curiosity about what the body is capable of. In Wheeler’s et al. Clinical Training Guide for the Student Music Therapist they discuss the importance for a therapist to explore their “Personal Theory of Helping”. A therapist’s personal theory as to why people participate in therapy and how it affects them. This theory will, conscious or unconsciously, affect the decision they make.

It is worth becoming more aware of our expectations because they will shape the way we engage ourselves in an activity and how we perceive its effects.

Curiouser and Curiouser”: my journey down the UX rabbit hole
What do you expect to see at the other side?

In order to take a closer look at my own expectations I venture into a short free writing exercise on the topic, my personal beliefs on dreams and movement. While doing so, I try to postpone my judgement on what it is I am writing.

For me, dreams are infinitely creative, a place where I can lose myself, a refuge. It contains a higher source of wisdom than is available in most situations in daily life and all of the dream connects me to the more subtle processes of the world inside and around me. It is a space to have fun and explore just what it means to live a human experience. Dreams and especially big dreams strengthen my belief that I am on this planet for a specific purpose and sharing them gives me credibility towards the people around me. I connect with my dreams because they help me remember who I truly am. Movement heals, supports and improves my physical and mental health, it is a way to express myself and it’s skill and knowledge is a form of status among peers. Exploring movement gives me the self-confidence that I have a choice to improve and expand my possibilities to interact with the world.

To give an illustration of how expectation can mold a practice I will share a bit about my current exploration of dreams and movement. My intention is to help heal injuries which limit my physical movement, through dream supported physical rehabilitation or dreamphysio in short. Below are two recent examples:

  • I put the intention to become lucid in the dream and give healing energy to my left ankle and foot, my following (non-lucid) dream . “… I am standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus, while waiting I perform a yoga posture, the backwards bend, with a twist, literally, twisting my feet as such to stand on the outside of the foot sole…” (10/05/2020). Upon execution of this posture in the morning I sense that this activates the muscles connected to the pinching feel in my left foot.
  • “…I end up with Ido Portal in some kind of movement space, like a dance studio. He is showing me things. One is the Wide-Legged Forward Bend. We move around a bit, I tell him I have a hard time moving my legs. He challenges me to go into contact improvisation only with the legs. Together we dance/move in many different ways, gently, slowly progressing. It’s quite a long session. I am half-lucid, realising that I am really training my legs and I try to be mindful of the movement and sensation in my legs, staying with the principles I know from contact improvisation as best as I can. …” (29/04/2020). Upon waking I feel energised and motivated by the gift I received from my inner movement coach.

Before reading the existing theories on dreams and movement I invite the reader, dreamer, mover to follow my example, take a moment and reflect what your beliefs, expectations and ideas are about dreams and movement. And why not share them in the comments below with me and other readers to reflect on it as a group.

animation contact improvisation GIF by weinventyou
Moving, dancing, playing, reflecting

How was it?
What kind of assumptions or ideas came up for you, when contemplating movement, dreams and their connection?


Below is a short overview of what I found throughout my literature study of dreams, dreamwork, movement psychology and dance/movement therapy. For sources I refer the reader to the footnotes.

Throughout culture, religion and history dreams have shaped the way we perceive and function in the world. Dreams were used for healing of disease, guidance in daily life and divination about the future. However, beyond the utilitarian view of dreams, many cultures respect dreams as a phenomenon which in itself is a fundamental part of the human living experience. Research does not reach a strict consensus on the necessity of dreaming, however, together they show that dreams can have diverse and adaptive functions which support healthy growth, creativity and resilience to unexpected change.

As much as humans are born with the ability to dream, new born babies have the ability and desire to dance. Movement is a child’s first language, it is pre-verbal, a child learns through movement and interaction with the world, through movement a child will express its needs and desires.  This holds equally for adults, whom still express themselves using a lot of body language.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn

Benjamin Franklin.

Kinesthetic learning or learning by doing, is one of four learning styles and has been shown to be common as predominant learning style among adults. Daniel Wolpert, a neuroscientist working in the field of motor control and learning, argues that our brains are made to produce adaptable and complex movement. Movement is our only way we can change the world around us and he believes that movement holds the key to understanding the whole brain. Dance has been part of our culture since the beginning of times and was part of spiritual, emotional and physical healing. It can have multiple meanings touching on the dancer’s social, cultural and spiritual dimensions.

Looking back, dilly daddling through existing theories, research and some personal experience, I hope I have kindled a kindred curiosity in you to delve deeper into the dance between dreams and movement. If you feel connected, triggered or simply flabbergasted by the topic please share your words with us through the comments below.

Wheeler, B. L., Shultis, C. L., & Polen, D. W. (2005). Clinical training guide for the student music therapist. Gilsum. NH: Barcelona Pub.
Bulkeley, K. (2016). Big dreams: The science of dreaming and the origins of religion. Oxford University Press.
Cartwright, R. D. (1974). The influence of a conscious wish on dreams: A methodological study of dream meaning and function. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 83(4), 387–393
Revonsuo, A. (2000). The reinterpretation of dreams: an evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming.  Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 
Clara E. Hill, Sarah Knox (2010). The Use Of Dreams In Modern Psychotherapy. International Review of Neurobiology. Academic Press.
Barrett, Deirdre (2001). The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use their Dreams for Creative Problem Solving—and How You Can Too. New York: Crown Books/Random House.
Goddard, S., & Lazarev, M. (2018). Movement : your child’s first language : how movement and music assist brain development in children aged 3-7 years.
Othman, N., & Amiruddin, M. H. (2010). Different perspectives of learning styles from VARK model. In Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences (Vol. 7, pp. 652–660). Elsevier.
Hanna, J. L. (1995). The Power of Dance: Health and Healing. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 1(4), 323–331.

One thought on “What did you expect?

  1. Very interesting. Never reflected on my dreams in the way harald exposed it below. After reading his post I will definitely trie to apply some of his proposals.

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