Exploring Dreams Through Creativity

Exploring Dreams Through Creativity

By Kirsten Ross


​There I was, sitting in ​a room​ as black as a moonless night, my heart racing and terrified of the little I could make out in the space before me. Adrenaline coursed through my veins as I watched demons frantically running from wall to wall as if held captive in an asylum. I could sense the demons' agitation and knew it wouldn't be long until they noticed me.

I gazed to my right and saw an old witch with a long forlorn face, adorned in black. She appeared unphased by​ the chaos of the​se entities, or by the fact that the room had no way out. I ​d​esperately screamed aloud to the witch, “Please help me, I beg you! These demons are going to kill me if you don’t stop them!” Every second that passed was a second closer to my death. 

My head flung violently back while my body contorted through a force beyond my control. A​ torrent of ​t​hick black smoke ​began pouring out of my mouth and within that, a cacophony of thousands of screeching voices screaming the most disturbing​ thoughts imaginable.

The witch locked eyes with me ​and with unnerving calmness said, “The darkness you fear is within you."

I shot ​o​ut of my sleep, dazed and gasping for air​. I felt as though I had just truly lived through this horrifying experience. But it turned out to be just another night terror. 

Something most people don’t know about me is that I’ve struggled with severe chronic nightmare disorder throughout my life. I’ve seen doctors, dream specialists, energy healers, and therapists. I’ve done​ extensive hormone testing and even sleep studies​ involving me hooked up to a sleep monitor- all to no avail. More recently, I began working with plant medicine, which seemed to “cure” my nightmares, albeit only for a few months.

The dream I shared with you is on the mild side of my nightmare spectrum. They unfortunately get much darker and all-around bizarre. One of the things I struggle with the most in this is the hyperrealism of my dreams. The overwhelming majority of them are extremely vivid and often lucid to the point I can physically feel, taste, smell, hear, and see things as viscerally and realistically as I do in this waking realm.

The typical reaction I get from people when sharing about my dreams is, “Wow, that’s so cool! I wish my dreams were that vivid!” And to that I say, “It’s ‘cool’ if the dreams are pleasant.”

In my 20s, I developed insomnia as a result of these chronic nightmares that I couldn’t get a handle on. I was fucking terrified to fall asleep each night and relive another agonizing nightmare. There were several nights I would try to keep myself awake as long as possible to avoid the inevitable, until I felt so exhausted I would pass out.

To this day, I haven’t been able to heal my nightmares. I have, however, found various methods of channeling and transmuting the energy. Rather than allowing the fear of these dreams to consume me, I’ve learned to lean in with an openness and curiosity. I’ve always been interested in symbolism, so I try to decipher the meaning behind the people, entities, places, situations, and feelings I experience. This in turn affords me some sense of power over this big thing I often feel powerless over.

Infusing inspiration from my dreams into my art has been deeply therapeutic. The art shown above is a piece I created for Scorpio season in 2022, about a year following the dream I shared with you. 

Here was my thought process behind incorporating imagery from my dream into my art:

Scorpio is the fixed water sign of the zodiac. Its planetary ruler is Pluto- the planet of death, destruction, and transformation. Scorpio is the archetype of the witch, the shaman, and the alchemist. It’s considered the ‘darkest’ sign of the zodiac as it willingly dives to the depths of the darkest, murkiest waters, exploring all things hidden and taboo. Within the shadows, Scorpio learns to transmute all the darkness, pain, and trauma into the light. Born anew- Scorpio emerges from the underworld stronger, wiser, and more powerful than before. Because of this, a Phoenix rising from the ashes is the highest expression of this transformative sign.

With this particular artwork, I wanted to emphasize the alchemical stage of Scorpio. I took the concept of the black smoke from my dream and had it coming out of the subject’s body in my art. The black smoke represents the shadowy aspects of our psyche that we often fear or repress. Towards the top of the smoke is a Phoenix, its wings ablaze with fire, which embodies the freedom one experiences through alchemizing their own shadows. 

An invaluable takeaway from channeling some of my darker dreams into my art is the power of leaning in versus running away from the things I fear. This has been a life-long lesson for me and as someone with a lot of Scorpio placements in my chart, these lessons have been anything short of easy. That said, I truly feel the heavier experiences or adversities we face in life (or in our dreams) can often serve as our greatest teachers.

My art has become a powerful tool for delving into dreamwork, offering profound insights and ​a deeper understanding of my psyche.​ I believe that exploring the subconscious in creative ways has the potential to unlock some of the greatest mysteries within and without. Is this something you've personally explored? 

If you're looking to dive into the realm of dreamwork through creativity, here are a few questions to reflect on:

  1. Think about a dream that left you with unanswered questions or a sense of mystery. How could you use this dream as a starting point for a story, poem, or visual artwork that explores the unknown?
  2. Recall a dream that evoked strong emotions, such as fear, joy, ​anger, or sadness. How can you use these emotions as inspiration for a new creative project?
  3. Write about a dream that offered a solution to a ​personal dilemma you were facing. How can you use this dream as a source of creative inspiration or problem-solving ​in your own life?

I highly encourage the exploration of dreams in any form that feels safe and exciting to you. You never know where a little curiosity can lead in your own creativity and healing.




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