Dream Work II: Strategies for Working with Dreams
In my last posting I shared some thoughts about the theoretical background of dream work. The focus there was on meaning of dreams and their place in human consciousness. In this posting I will speak of the practical matters and techniques involved in dream work.
1. The first step is to set the intention to remember dreams. Each night as you are falling asleep simply affirm that you will remember your dreams. Affirmations can be as simple as “I will remember my dreams from tonight.” Or “I open my heart and mind to the energy of my dreams from tonight.”
2. You need a small note book or recording device (commonly part of a smart phone). As you awaken during the night or in the morning simply scribble a few words down or record a few words. This dramatically increases the likelihood the dream will be remembered in the morning.
3. In the morning express gratitude for this dream as a gift from your psyche.
1. In the morning soon after you awaken take time to write the full dream down with as much detail as possible. A separate notebook for dreams or using your journal and integrating them into your reflections on your life both work.
2. The work here is to write down as faithfully and completely as is possible all details, especially, aspects which seem illogical, irrational or nonsensical. It is in those details that the psyche is most present.
3. Just as logic and rationality are not important, spelling grammar and punctuation are not important at this stage.
4. Some people find it helpful to write in present tense as though the dream is happening as you write. “I am walking down the street in a dark ally in an urban setting and suddenly I see an elephant.”
5. The more you work with your dreams the more easily this will flow. Sometimes is slow in the beginning but after a while remembering and recording simply becomes a normal process in your life.
6. Sometimes dreams come in fragments while at other times they are long and convoluted. Simply accept and be grateful for whatever form you are given.
LISTENING TO THE DREAM
1. There is no single correct way to understand dreams and sometimes different dreams require different approaches.
2. After recording the dream breathe quietly for a few moments so that it sinks in.
3. Then write down the associations to the dream; that is, write down the ways it connects to your life. Comment if you see a basic theme in the dream. Is it about captivity and freedom, love and loss, or struggle and achievement. There are, of course, thousands of possible themes.
4. Other questions include: What does this dream want me to see about my life right now. Why am I having this dream this week? What does the dream want me to look at that I am avoiding?
5. Some people like to use online dream dictionaries and they can be a valuable resource especially early on. They often provide generic meanings of images and symbols. They are basically grist for the mill in the listening process. If you are interested in dream dictionaries, google “dreams” and you’ll find several options. But the only correct meaning is the one that feels right to you. You and the dream are the final authorities.
6. Some dreams are filled with spiritual symbols, images of divine beings, spirits, gods and deities. They are a real blessing when they occur. I usually think of beautiful beings, stars and lights as spiritual symbols.
7. One approach to dreams, the gestalt approach, suggests that every detail in every dream is a part of you. It came through your psyche, so it is you. A building is you, so which part of you? Anyone and everyone in a dream is an aspect of you. The work from this perspective is to dialogue with each detail and discover which part of you it is and what it wants you to see. It can be worth while to write out a dialogue with that part of you.
Setting intentions, recording dreams and listening to the dreams are the building blocks of dream work. Dreams can be a valuable part of spiritual practice because in dream work we are widening the channel from which the great truths emerge. We are opening ourselves to gifts from our deepest inner resources.