A Few Tips for DreamWork

NOTE: The woods, the bookstore and library shelves, and the internet are all full of materials on dreams and dream work. I haven't found the tips which follow in any of them, or, if they are there, they're not quite stated the same way. I hope someone finds them helpful.

butterfly on buttercups

Be playful in dreamwork.
This "tip" is not only drawn from my deep-felt belief that being playful is a good way to do everything in life, it is vital to doing productive dreamwork. Dream symbols use a playful logic. Dreams are chock full of puns and other playful stuff. So that a wooden bridge in my dream likely is dealing with something I "would" [like to] get across or over. A boulder might be suggestive of some way I might be "bolder." But puns are just the beginning. It is my experience that free association — and the freer and more playful the better — is the most useful tool available in doing dreamwork.

The people in your dreams are *not* the people in your waking life!
That's just not the way dreams work. The people in your dreams are usually most profitably regarded as representative of your own aspirations and gifts. (Actually, all of the images in a dream are representative of the dreamer's gifts and aspirations: the people, the creatures, and the inanimate objects as well.) This is hard to learn and even harder to keep in mind, but dreamwork is not gonna be a lot of fun until you get it. Indeed, dreamwork can become very painful if you don't get it.

Share dreams with people you trust.
This matter of trust is admittedly tricky, but there are extraordinary benefits for sharing dreams; both for the dreamer and for those with whom the dreams are shared. I usually find out very quickly when I just don't feel comfortable sharing dreams with someone, after which I simply don't share my dreams with them. But that doesn't happen often. More commonly, I find I grow closer to those people with whom I share my dreams (and who share their dreams with me). And when it works right, you will be astonished how often the most powerful insights are gained through the added perspective of a second (or third, or fourth) person.

Don't expect miracles [or, don't beat yourself over the head].
It's not that miraculous things don't happen while doing dream work. They do. Frequently. But not "on call." Do dream work because you find it fascinating and fun and you enjoying digging about in uncharted lands, and because you like learning more about yourself and you feel it's important to take a few minutes each week (or each month, or each day) to devote to yourself. The miracles that are supposed to happen will happen, but in their own good time. It especially does no good at all to kick yourself for "not being good enough" at it, or to compare the quality of your insights with your perception of that of others. Dream work is truly a race which the slow and steady can win.
Don't put rules on dreamwork. Trust your own instincts.
To the extent possible, don't put things off-limits. The deeper you are able to delve into painful, embarrassing or "awkward" subject matter, the greater the reward will be for your effort. That they are painful, embarrassing and awkward is a wonderful indication that there is where the work will most fruitfully center.

But the reverse side of this is important to recognize too: No one need feel compelled to explore every image in every dream. For example, most (or maybe all) dreams contain some sexual or erotic content. You do not have to deal with this if you don't want to. Or better stated, there is no good reason to have a rule (even a private rule for yourself) saying that this stuff has to be explored; at least until you are good and ready (which might be now, or tomorrow, or in twenty years). There's plenty of other meat in the dream to make working on it rewarding. (I just chose sexual and erotic stuff because it's common in our society to be uncomfortable with that, but, for another example, if you find a dream which raises health issues, or deals with other material you find too painful or too sensitive to face head-on just now, it's perfectly fine to work on the rest of it.)

Another situation which arises when you're sharing a dream, might be where you're uncomfortable letting everyone know that you dreamt of a romantic encounter with, say, George. Fine. Change George's name. In other words, don't feel compelled to do dreamwork by rules; even rules of conventional "honesty."

Well, on second thought, there are three rules you should agree upon when you share dreams.
And they are all suggested by Jeremy Taylor.
Keep your sharing with others anonymous.
In other words, if you and I are sharing dreams, I may talk to others about the dream you shared with me ONLY if I am careful not to reveal whose dream it was. It is very bad form for me to run off and tell your dream to anyone who could possibly figure out that it was your dream. (We're back to that trust thing.)
Only the dreamer can know what meanings a dream may have!
Nothing kills the spirit of shared dreamwork as promptly and as thoroughly as smugness.
Preface any comments made about another's dream with words to the effect that, "If it were my dream...," and keep this commentary in the first person as much as possible.
I can't stress this enough. This, in my experience, is the sine qua non for doing dreamwork with others!!!

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Created: Sun Oct 5 09:44:33 EDT 1997
Last modified: Tue Jul 14 20:18:15 EDT 2009
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