by Richard Wilkerson

Wouldn't it be nice to have a friend that worked on our self-improvement while we slept? According to contemporary researchers, we have six of them every night! Who are these friends? They are our dreams.

While sleeping, dreams restore our psychological balance, keep us mentally oriented, and allow us to explore new avenues not always available in waking life. And as with all friends, the more we listen, play, and interact with them, the better friends they can become.

Shouldn't dreams be handled only by qualified therapists? While there are a few who feel this way, the vast majority of dream-concerned professionals believe that with a few simple precautions, we can all enjoy the benefits of dreamwork. Dreamwork is the process of recalling, recording, and finding the meaning and value of a dream. For some this means looking at the language of the dream in the form of symbols, while for others the dream inspires them to paint, sculpt, write stories, enact plays, and try out new forms of social interaction, both in and out of the dream itself.

The precautions are very simple and widely accepted.

  • You are always the final authority on what the dream means. Others can offer insight and suggestions, but no one knows what the final meaning of the dream will be for you, except you.
  • Dreams come in the service of wholeness and health. If you find an interpretation that does not fit this, perhaps you need to change methods of interpretation. Dream interpretations that lead you toward self-criticism, depression, or despair are simple wrong and if these conditions persist, you may wish to seek help from others.
  • There is no such thing as a dream with one meaning. If you feel stuck on one meaning or feel another person is pushing a different meaning, it's time to reconsider your methods and approach.

Learning Dreamwork

Although the techniques used by psychotherapists sometimes require years of training and practice, basic dreamwork can be learned very quickly and easily through books, seminars, workshops, classes, and personal instruction. If you live in an area were these resources are not available, you can now use the Internet to learn the basics, join classes and dreamgroups, and exchange ideas on dreams and dreamwork. The basic idea is that dreams are saying something that can be understood; we simply have to learn the new language.

Here are a few techniques from several popular dreamworkers, each of which is a great start on learning the new dream language and using your dreams for self improvement, insight, and creative expression. Note, however, that most dreamworkers use several techniques, not just the ones mentioned below:

Gayle Delaney -- Generalize. One mistake people make is to say, "What does the dream tiger mean to me?" Rather than being so specific, first talk about what a tiger is and does for you, how it is predatory and strong, and how it hunts. Then we can apply this to our life, "What in my life is predatory, strong, and a hunter?"
Jeremy Taylor -- Touchstone. When trying on various interpretations, ask your inner self about it. Only if you get an "aha" feeling of recognition can you say that a resonant chord has been struck.
Rita Dwyer -- Dream Questions. What questions does the dream ask? By mapping out various answers we can tie the themes and emotions to our daytime reality.
Carl Jung -- In Service of the Unknown. What new information is the dream bringing? What thing that you never knew before? Each dream provides something unknown.
Henry Reed -- Incubation. Focus on a problem you want solved before going to bed, and then view the dream as the answer to that problem. Don't worry about the answer being irrational; eventually new insights will emerge.

Fariba Bogzaran -- Painting the Dream. Re-create the dream by drawing or painting an image that you feel strongly about. Often what wants to be painted will change during the actual painting process; allow this to happen.
Linda Magallon -- Release the Dream. While we may want to use the dream to get answers or insight into our life, its sometimes nice to allow the dream (and the dreamer) to just have fun. Talk to the dream as if it were a person and ask what it wants to do. Often, this leads to dreamers flying and other extraordinary dream activities.

With just a little attention and effort, these and other dream techniques allow us to find in dreams a surprisingly complex and rich array of ideas, images, suggestions, alternatives, emotions, and imaginative doorways. A hundred years ago, Freud looked to dreams and found a whole new branch of knowledge. I have suggested that each morning we can find in dreams a friend. What will you find?


Go to Dreamwork II


Richard Wilkerson is general editor for The Internet Dream E-zine, Electric Dreams, and director of DreamGate, the Internet Communications and Dream Education Center. He writes the Cyberphile column for the Association for the Study of Dreams Newsletter.


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