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What Everyone Should Know About Dreaming & Dreamwork

1. What is dreaming?

  • Thoughts we have while asleep (Aristotle)
  • "A dream is a private myth, myth is a public dream" (Joseph Campbell)
  • "The spontaneous flow of images not wholly under the control of the waking ego" (TT)
  • An activity which human beings engage in 24 hours per day (Jung)
  • Present in at least 3 forms: night dreams, day dreams and ìtwilight dreamsî (the hypnogogic state between waking and dreaming; active imagination)
  • We all dream every night, 4 or 5 times, each dream lasting 10 - 30 minutes.
  • Physiological characteristics:
    • The body is usually still (except in sleep walking)
    • The eyes are closed, but there are "rapid eye movements" as the eyes scan back and forth beneath closed lids (REM sleep = dreaming)
    • The dominant (linear, verbal, rational) hemisphere is idle, producing alpha waves, while the non-dominant (visual, non-linear) hemisphere is active

2. Why is dreaming important? How is it connected to myth-making?

  • Dreaming is a frequent source for new ideas, inventions, insights, and sometimes prophetic glimpses of future events.
  • Jung believed that in dreaming in the psyche enters into a state not limited by clock time.
  • Because dreaming occurs in a ìliminalî state between waking and dreaming, known and unknown, conscious and unconscious it lends itself to mythologizing.
  • Most religious traditions depict dreaming as a state in which human beings meet and converse with gods, goddesses, angels, familiars, spirits, etc or gain deeper insight into the nature of reality.
  • The relation of dreaming to waking is reflected in the Hero's Journeyó leaving a familiar place (waking reality), entering another world with strange and magical beings (dreaming reality) and returning home with gifts or insights (back to waking with remnants of the dream remembered).

3. What are some of the limits or problems with dream interpretation?

  • Dream interpretation is based upon a verbal version (dream-text) of a non-verbal event (dream as images & sounds); hence it is two steps removed from the experience of dreaming.
  • Just as a painting or music cannot be fully captured or reflected in words, so too a dream cannot be fully understood by a verbal interpretation
  • Interpretations are always distorted by assumptions and complexes of interpreter.
  • Interpretations make a dream understandable to the waking ego, but often at the cost of its inherent mystery. A good interpretation leaves the door to the unknown open.

4. How are Freud's and Jung's views of dream interpretation different?

  • Freud believed that dream images where disguised versions of dream thoughts or wishes which could be discarded when the deeper dream-thought or wish was detected. He assumed that dream thoughts and wishes often involved sexuality or aggression. He established a system in which the therapist is in a dominant position: the patient lies down at a reclining angle while the analyst sits to one side and takes notes. The dream analyst is always right because his/her interpretations are confirmed if the dreamer agrees but also paradoxically confirmed if they disagree via the doctrine of resistance.
  • Jung emphasized that dreams are mysterious, we can never fully grasp their menaing. We must circumambulate dream images not treat them as disposable envelopes for dream-messages. He assumed that dreams may be about any aspect of human life. The analyst and dreamer are in a more mutual relation: sitting face to face, looking at the dream together, both admitting that the mystery of the dream will exceed their ability to interpret it. An interpretation is useful if its helps the dreamer grow by integrating dis-owned parts of themselves. The analyst is not always right.
  • Freud worked mainly within the personal unconscious using "free association".
  • Jung worked with both the personal and collective unconscious; later Jungians also attend to the cultural unconscious. Jung used personal associations, archetypal amplification and active imagination.

5. How can dream images be processed using the "4 states of consciousness" model based on D. Bond's Living Myth?

Take a single dream image from a personal dream or a shared dream and consider it from the following perspectives. For example, a dream image of a door at the end of a long corridor.

Objective consciousness

  • What is the image's function in the dream -- it's kind, color, shape, texture, age, condition, etc.?
  • What is the image's function is waking life? What does it do? What is its central purpose?

Symbolic consciousness

  • What does this image mean to me? What does it remind me of? What is it like? What are my personal associations?

Mythological consciousness

  • How does this image function is mythology and ritual? What is its universal meaning or function? (archetypal amplification)
  • If I re-enter the dream and watch the image how does it appear? What happens if I talk with the image? or draw it? (active imagination)

Subjective consciousness

  • What happens if I identify with the image and let it speak through me?
  • What is this image's version of the dream? How does it "see" me?