Noel Bell interviews Nigel Hamilton, director of the CCPE


I recently chatted with Nigel Hamilton, director of the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education (or CCPE) about the Dream Research Institute (or DRI).

Launched in September 2012, the DRI  promotes research into the connection between dreams and well being from a spiritual perspective. The Dream Research Institute supports and archives a synergy of research to advance our understanding of dreams. Click here to see the current research topics. Mary Zeimer is the manager and research officer of DRI and you can contact her by email on

Since its establishment in 1984, CCPE have grown to be the largest training centre for transpersonal psychotherapy in the UK. The centre occupies a five storey Regency building located on the banks of the Grand Union Canal in Little Venice.

Click here to listen to the podcast.


Transpersonal Psychotherapy – Jungian Approaches to Imaging and Symptoms as Symbols

Jung and Symbolic Language

We are now returning to the more transpersonal focused material on the course.  We had  a strong taster in the first year during a week of creative imagination, which I personally found very powerful and transformative. Perhaps that week, upon reflection, was the foundation of the whole course for we had learned the fundamentals about working with the imagination. 

I have enjoyed the psychoanalytical theory thus far on the course and the existentialist lectures that formed a bridge from psychoanalysis to the transpersonal.  Now we are about to embark on the work of transpersonal authors such as Ken Wilber, and work with the Chakras, the planes of consciousness and the alchemical journey.   But first,  we had a lecture on Jungian approaches to imaging and symptoms as symbols

Symbolic language is the language of the soul. Remember that the shadow is not always negative.  The shadow contains all that is unconscious and might contain a positive quality.  For instance, being able to receive and acknowledge praise from others could be in the shadow as that person might not be able to easily receive compliments.

What does an image stir in you?  This is where advertising agencies have traditionally been particularly clever in targeting consumers with advertisements to sell expensive goods and services. Once you become conscious and discover what the symbol is all about it then will leave your psyche. A repetitive dream means we are not getting the message which our unconscious is sending us. In that case the image or symbol will continue to bang on the door.

Symbols and images can lead us into active imagination. Active imagination is a massive landscape containing all collective unconscious, where archetypes live and it is where Maslow referred to peak experiences.  What defines transpersonal psychotherapy is the defining orientation of the therapist namely that the client is a spiritual being.  Transpersonal psychotherapists share a lot of common ground with therapists from other schools in the way they will reflect back material to the client, mirror to the client, engage in active listening, holding and containing and so on. But the defining difference in transpersonal psychotherapy is the active seeking for the spiritual dimension.

you should be guided by the client.

It is dangerous to interpret symbols and images particularly from dreams.  You should be guided by the client. What do the presenting images and symbols mean to the client? Our job, however, as therapist is to help decode the symbols and messages from the inner world that are manifesting in the physical world. How can I help a particular client secure meaning for a particular symbol or image at this particular stage of their life? Reading a dictionary of images might inform your knowledge on the subject but might also produce the risk that you jump to conclusions.

How to work with the active imagination?

We can explore initially through association and interpretation as clients need insight. We can explore what is happening in the body. The aim is to associate where energies are getting tied up with particular symbols. Can we help clients to reclaim energy that is stifled elsewhere?

Here is an exercise on working with the active imagination. Take some mindful steps to becoming receptive by deep breathing.

1. What is your current main stressors?

2. How does it affect your body?

3. It is like ……?

4. Is there a memory where you felt like this before?

5. If this symptom was a friend what might it say about your life?

Then work with the images that come up. This exercise might help to bypass the defences with a client. Obviously one needs to tread carefully here when dealing with clients who might be experiencing psychotic symptoms.

Additional resources:

Some interesting quotes from the lecture:

Seyyed Hossein Nasr Man does not make symbols, he is transformed by them.

Myth consists of symbols that have not been invented consciously, they have just happened.  Jung

Erich Fromm  All myths have one thing in common; they are all written in same language namely symbolic language.  Symbolic language is a language in which inner experiences, feelings, and thoughts are expressed as if they were sensory experiences. It is a language which has a different logic to the one we speak in the day time. It is a logic in which time and space are not the ruling categories but intensity and association are.


The week-long creative imagination set of lectures and workshops

I had an amazing experience at the week-long creative imagination set of lectures and workshops.  What has delayed me posting updates was that I developed a nasty bug at the end of the week (perhaps this was my body telling me something). My workshop group is quite dynamic and supportive so six days together exploring our personal issues was a real treat.  I found the pebble imagination to be very deep and meaningful as well as the drawing material that followed. What occurred to me was that it will be useful to compare the personal drawings over the length of the course and how they might change over time.   The body mapping produced some insights as well as the anima and animus drawings.  However, the sub personalities creative imagination was more powerful. We then acted out psycho dramas based on what we came up with from the lectures.  That was very powerful too.

More soon…..

Resource list for creative imagaination:


Transpersonal approach to the interpretation of dreams

As I prepare for the week-long  series of lectures on creative imagination I  have been wondering about dreams.  We have had an introduction into dreams this week.  Where do we get our ideas from?  Can symbols carry us beyond our ordinary mind?  Is there a deeper wisdom beneath the mind?  Can the unconscious mind speak in symbols?  Perhaps our ordinary thinking can be linked to our ego?  I sense there are more questions than answers with this material.

There is a basic transpersonal map:

Consciousness is multi-dimensional and can be seen as a spectrum from the dense physical state of manifestation through the subtle realms of the creative imagination to the very subtle plains beyond form and ultimately to non-dual unity.

 Unity/Eternal Oneness Consciousness exists in its pure undivided original state of oneness, beyond duality, formless, pure spirit transcending yet inclusive of all other levels of consciousness. Spirit descends into form through the subtle planes becoming manifest as symbols

– this is the manner by which the Divine reveals itself in a form that we can comprehend.

The Subtle Plane of Creative Imagination The plain of symbolism or creative imagination is the intermediary plane between spirit and the manifest, physical world. Spirit descends into subtle form materializing as symbols. The manifest forms of the physical world ascend to become the templates for symbols. This is the realm of the creative imagination and dreams. The meeting ground of spirit and matter is in the heart chakra. “Very few people understand the heart. In truth, your heart is one of the masterpieces of creation. It is a phenomenal instrument. It has the potential to create vibrations and harmonies that are far beyond the beauty of pianos, strings and flutes…. Your heart is an instrument of extremely subtle energy that few people come to appreciate” (Singer 2007, p.49).

 Himma is the Sufi term used to describe the creative power of the heart to imagine, to know intuitively and spontaneously, by-passing the rational mind to create immediate understanding. It is a vital, purposeful force or energy that awakens one from limitation. The soul uses the vehicle of the body and its senses to experience life on the physical plane but flowing through is himma, the subtle capacity of penetrating life deeply, reading the signs and the secrets hidden in all things (Corbin, 1969). Via the creative imagination, we can bypass the rational mind and enter into the transpersonal depths bringing direct experience. “In this direct encounter, the thick, heavy fixated quality of experience falls away, revealing a deeper, living intelligence contained within it” (Welwood, in Hart et al (eds) 2000, p.99).

 The Manifest Plane The plane of physical forms (Dense/Gross matter). This level equates with our body and instincts. Our ego divides the world into subject and object and our thinking tends to be more concrete and rational. The Sanskrit term for this is vijnana meaning divided. Through the creative imagination, the forms of the physical world are ‘spiritualized’ – they become symbols in the subtle realms. This is an ascending movement.


Corbin, H. (1969). The creative imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi. Bollingen SeriesXCI:Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Hart, T., Nelson, P. & Puhakka, A. (Eds.) (2000). Transpersonal knowing. Suny: New York.

Singer, M.A. (2007). The untethered soul. Noetic Books, Institute for Noetic Sciences: New Harbinger Publications.

Basic General Principles

? The basic function of dreams is to express the psyche.

? The images that appear in dreams are symbols of parts of us and can reveal the dynamics of our inner life. Dreams show us in symbolic form all the different personalities that interact within us and make up our total self.

? Every aspect of the dream ultimately has something to tell us.

? Re-entering into the dream using the waking dream technique allows for direct experience and connection with the dream material.

? From a transpersonal perspective it is important that the dreamer finds their own guidance and meaning through working with the dream rather than the psychotherapist making interpretations. The therapist can share their thoughts on the dream after the client has had an opportunity to experience it directly.

The subtle creative imagination in the intermediary realm, the world beyond the material, communicates to us.  We as therapists are not here to interpret the symbols for the client.  What is the spirit world?  Our own part?  The transpersonal perspective believes in a form of  something beyond the mortal body.  For some this can be essence, God, spirit, light, deeper sources of wisdom.  For each student, their journey is an individual one.  You can’t force the unconscious but you can train yourself to dream. 

Basic skills and their application to image and dream work

? Creating a safe container for the work. Negotiating with the client –

making a “mini contract” and getting the clients’ co-operation for the exercise.

? Making sure that you the therapist are in a balanced, grounded, calm and receptive state taking time to breathe and connect with your inner presence.

? Management of time allowing for beginnings, middles and endings.

Dream and image work often moves us into “timeless” realms and clients can go very deeply into an internal space. You are responsible for managing the time effectively.

? Awareness of body language, breath and voice tone – this can become more and more refined and subtle.

? Attentive listening.

? Accurate summarizing of the image or dream symbol descriptions.

? Reflecting back the core statements that arise.

? Sensitive and discriminating questioning to clarify the images, feelings and content of the dream. Using questioning to open up the dream.

Think of your approach like carrying a basic toolkit. Your heart is a receptor that picks up subtle energies.


More soon…..


Resources and links:

Dream Moods: Dream Theories: Carl Jung

Myths-Dreams-Symbols Carl Jung

Jung’s Approach to Dreams

Dream Analysis » Dream Analysis, Jungian Psychology & Inner Work

Dream Interpretation at Freud and Jung

Dream Interpretation at Carl Jung

JUNG’S DREAM THEORY The dream theory of Carl G. Jung (1875-1961

Unus Mundus — Carl Jung, Dreams and Archetypes

Carl Jung’s Theory of Dreams