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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM22-PP11: Men with mustaches and Alice in Wonderland: Engaging with the future through drawing the dreams of others

Parallel Papers Session 3
Saturday 2 July 10.15am-11.30am CEST
Paper Code: PP11
CE credits not available

Men with mustaches and Alice in Wonderland: Engaging with the future through drawing the dreams of others.

Presenter: Rose Mersky & Anton Zemlyanoy


Making a successful transition from the role of student in professional development programs in our field to that of active professional can be, for some, a great challenge. In order to support this process, the authors offered recent graduates of the “Psychoanalytic Executive Coaching” Masters Program at the National Research University: Higher School of Economics in Moscow a pilot workshop entitled “Dreaming the future of me as a Professional Consultant and Coach”. This workshop was based on the method of Social Dream-Drawing, which was developed and researched by one of the authors of this abstract. This method has been demonstrated to benefit those going through major life transitions.

In order to encourage group support and to ground the workshop into practical application, the authors made two design changes to the method:

  1. In the original method, participants bring to the session a drawing of a recent dream, with which we work intensively. In this new method, before seeing the dreamer’s dream drawing, participants make their own drawing of the dream as it is told verbally. This set of pre-verbal responses to the told dream makes available a wide set of visual images related to its content.
  2. Unconscious images from the dreams, as represented in the drawings, form the basis for the issues on the mind of the participants relating to this transition.

The themes identified and explored include:

  1. Waiting for other figures to save us, support us and accompany us (the man with the black mustache).
  2. How to integrate the new knowledge into previous work
  3. Competition
  4. How to find a place for this work in my life
  5. Barriers
  6. New unknown world (Alice in Wonderland)

Five sessions held once every other week online took place over 10 weeks in the fall of 2021. Over time, the original group of 12 was reduced to a group of 6 participants.

Follow-up interviews and author reflection will include an analysis of the value of this experience for participants and the issues of resistance to the demands of such a method. The topic of engaging with the unknown future has been an ever-present interest/concern for participants as well as for the authors. As each session began, the authors had to cope with not knowing how many participants would be present. This was a major challenge, both in terms of the schedule of that particular session and in terms of their own feelings of disappointment and failure. The questions of providing a space for healing, connection and support, especially in the space of ambiguity and competition, have also been explored in both the dream material and in the way the authors designed (and re-designed) the program. Potential further applications of this revised method, including cultural and organizational transitions, will also be discussed.


Mersky, R. (2017) Social Dream-Drawing (SDD): Research and Praxis. Ph.D. dissertation. University of West England. Bristol, U.K.