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A Profile of Marcia Emery

A Distinguished Contributor to the Education of Intuition

by Henry Reed


Marcia Emery

This introductory essay is followed by links to several special features which explore Marcia Emery's contribution to the field of intuition training.


Let me give you a background story that will provide a context for our tribute to Marcia Emery. The so-called "Dreamwork Movement," has been a shift in the public's viewpoint on dreams. The shift has been from seeing dreams as a "medical sample" which can be examined effectively only by a trained professional, such as a psychologist, to coming to see dreams as a natural and personal resource available for constructive use by every dreamer without the intervention of a trained professional. In short, the dreamwork movement has "de-professionalized" the dream. It means that we no longer believe that only a professional can safely and effectively make use of your dream. It means giving dreams back to the dreamer. Today, dreamers are encouraged to learn how to get help from their dreams, to learn to use them constructively in their lives. The dreamwork movement has spawned countless methods for interpreting dreams, for creating from them, and for using them in one's life in other ways. In the past, the professional dreamworker would be someone who interpreted your dreams for you within the context of therapy or psychoanalyst. The dreamwork movement has shifted the focus of those who wish to be professional dreamworker, to becoming teachers of the general public on how to make good use of dreams.

So that's the essence of the dreamwork movement.
I have been associated with this dreamwork movement and have meditated on the history of its conception and progress. From my perspective, it grew out of the "Human Potentials Movement" generally, and was birthed more specifically by Fritz Perls, who conducted "Gestalt" dreamwork sessions at Esalen, a growth center in Big Sur, California. What is significant about Perls' efforts is that he did his dreamwork in front of an audience. People could watch his work and learn from his methodology. His essential method consisted of his asking the dreamer to assume the role of various symbols in the dream. Switching back and forth between two chairs, the dreamer would play the role of two contrasting dream symbols and create dialogues between these two symbols. This rather bizarre action proved to elicit profound emotional insights for the dreamer. By conducting his method in public, Perls allowed people to see that dreamers can come up with their own insights about their dreams. People could see that a simple method could have profound results. People could imagine, "I could do that!" With this humble beginning, dream interpretation came out of the closeted secrecy of the psychoanalyst's consulting room into the open arena of the classroom, of the theater, of the public's imagination.

Whereas the classic method of dream interpretation, Freudian free association, was almost exclusively practiced in the doctor's office, and perhaps recounted sketchily in professional treatises, Perl's method was simple, direct, concrete, easy to follow and easy to imitate. It turned dream interpretation into a simple formula with dramatic appeal. It brought dream interpretation out from the darkness of private associations into the public arena of dramatic enactments.

The long and short of it was that Perl's demonstrations invited people to try their hand at dream interpretation. It wasn't long afterwards that other people began to invent alternative methods for helping people interpret their dreams. As people began to learn from these methods and share them with their friends, the dreamwork movement was on its way.

When I was
asked in an interview by the journal, DreamNetwork, about what I thought was the effect of the dreamwork movement, my answer was that if someone were to mention a dream at a party thirty years ago, the response would probably be a giggle or a snide remark. Today, however, it is much more likely that someone would respond with an intelligent remark. It is a small change, but quite significant.

There is a comparable change going on today involving intuition. It doesn't involve the deprofessionalization of intuition, as we barely recognize the class of professional intuitives (aka "psychics"). Rather, the "intuition movement," if we may call it that, involves a shift in our perception of intuition. I would say that this shift is one from assuming that intuition is something that mysteriously happens spontaneously on occasion to the assumption that intuition is a natural skill that can be invoked intentionally and is a skill that can be developed, improved and harnessed into constructive use for the betterment of life.

What most people will agree upon concerning intuition is that they know the feeling of regret over not following a hunch. When asked why they didn't follow the hunch, the answer often involves an issue of trust and the fact that intuition doesn't come with an authentication protocol for verifying its validity. "Is this really an intuition or merely my hopes or fears?" Intuition is an inner experience and has not been part of our socialization process. It has been a private experience. Our schooling has not emphasized looking within for knowledge or guidance, but rather our schools teach us to keep our eyes pointed forward to focus on the instructions given on the blackboard. We seem to have no consensually accepted way of checking out our intuitions with each other, which could help us come to accept them and to integrate them into our social world.

To give an example, nurses are highly intuitive. Their professional journals often have articles pertaining to intuition. Nurses don't need much training in intuition. It is easy to imagine a nurse having an intuition that a patient was not doing well, even if all the electronic devices monitoring the patient registered nothing out of the ordinary. But imagine if a nurse summoned a doctor because of this intuition. The nurse would say to the doctor, "I have an intuition that the patient is not doing well." What would be the doctor's response? "Well, how do you expect me to act on the basis of your intuition? The data from the monitors don't provide me with any basis for action!" The doctor has no way of responding to the nurse's intuition. But what if there were a way? What if the doctor were to respond by saying, "Wait a moment, nurse, while I tune into my intuition to see what I get... hmm... I sense some kind of undulation pattern in the patient's energy... what are you getting, nurse?" And then the nurse could share her intuitive impressions, and then the two of them could look for patterns in their impressions and begin to formulate some strategy for investigating their combined hunch about the worsening condition of their patient. That would be intuition operating in the shared social scene, in the public arena. That would spawn a revolution. Now this is where Marcia Emery comes in to make an important contribution in the history of intuition.

To read the continuation of this article

"Making Intuition Public"


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