Dreams Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


My friend is always bragging about how she solves her problems by dreaming about them. Is this possible and how can this be learned if so?


I always wonder about people's ability when they brag too, and suspect that there may be exaggeration. But there are some famous examples of problem solving in dreams and it is an ancient skill that can be learned with a little practice.

The key seems to be two-fold. First there is the ancient technique of "dream incubation", which comes from Egypt and then Greece. The person seeking guidance or healing would sleep on the steps of the temple of the god or goddess one wanted to ask the question. Sometimes the answer would come in the dream, but most often the dream was told to the priest who might then let the person into the inner chambers of the temple to consult an oracle.

In modern day dream work, we simply set the intention before going to sleep. The stronger the intention, the better the chances for success. One technique suggested by Linda Magallon is to write the question down on a piece of paper, and if there are any images that come to mind while doing this, draw them as well. Put the paper in your pillowcase. Now I don't believe in magic, but this procedure works like magic. I think it creates the right atmosphere for our dreaming psyche to take up the problem and perhaps the crinkle of the paper in the pillow signals the sleeping brain.

The second key is to see the dream as a solution metaphorically before dismissing it. Example: The inventor of the Automatic Sewing Machine was having a problem. He couldn't figure out how to get the thread to work with the needle's hole. One night he dreamt that he was being held captive by primitive natives who where threatening him with spears. Off the head of the spears behind the blades were fancy decorations. Upon awakening he realized that if he switched the hole of the needle to the tip instead of the back the machine would work!

However, dreamers are the most satisfied with the answers from dreams when the issues are of a more personal nature.

Here are some resources for exploring dream incubation and problem-solving further.


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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