Dreams have been described as ‘letters from the unconscious’; they are a communication from the wise, unconscious part of us that is inhibited and censored by our conscious minds. Dreams can tell us what we really want, but are afraid to admit to, and they tell us about our relationships, career and life direction. Dreams reveal our destinies and authentic self and reveal our true purpose and life path.
In psycho-spiritual psychotherapy, we explore the imagery and messages in dreams to gain insight, understanding and enrich our lives.We explore dreams, learn how to keep an effective dream diary and learn a simple but effective method to unlock and understand what our dreams are saying. Through group-sharing, role-play, conscious dreaming, ‘holding’ the symbols and ‘continuing’ our dreams at vital points we are able to acknowledge and accept the wisdom, guidance and help that is offered to us through dreams.
Why are dreams so important?
Ancient Vedic wisdom points out that we live our lives in a cycle of three states or conditions. They are Waking, Dreaming, and Deep Sleep. Throughout the entirety of a human life we are in one of these three conditions.
Curiously contemporary human beings are mostly asleep in their waking lives and wakeful or attentive to their dreaming lives. We wake up and spend time with anyone who will listen recounting our dreams of the previous night, because very often it is more interesting to us than what we call ‘normal’ life.
And there is a reason for this. With the diminishing, in the outer world, of the sacred- the realms of mythology, ritual and symbol – the ceremonies of insight and guidance have now become internalized. When you’re asleep your guard is down, the usual inhibitors are relaxed. So that is the time that the unconscious rises and makes itself heard.
There is a further reason for our interest in dreams; we have become compulsively visual people. Of the five senses, sight is the one most emphasized in modern society. We take in, experience and evaluate other people and the world about us chiefly through visual impressions. The other senses are important too, but they are assembled around the central visual image.
We have become beings who crave visual distraction – TV, video, in our pockets, in our homes and the workplace, in our cars, magazines, pictures of food on packaging, photography, cinematography, 3D spectacular visual images abound. So is it any wonder that we have begun to experience the world as if it were a kind of Blu-ray video presentation – spectacular, over-stimulating, sense-numbing, emotionally and visually invasive? By comparison the world may seem rather unspectacular and pedestrian.
The dream world however knows nothing of such limitations as those in waking life. They are truly wild. We fly, perform tremendous feats, and defy restrictions of time, place and normal inhibitions. Dreams entice us with fantasies of pleasure; we can meet people we feel supernaturally close to, perceive light and clarity beyond the vividness of waking life and perform actions and deeds which we may feel guilty or shamed about.
What value is there in listening to what your dreams have to say?
People have dreams and ignore them when they may save their lives. Or at least inform or guide their lives. People who habitually read their horoscope or ask advice of a wise friend or relative may routinely dismiss their dreams. Yet the dreams they ignore possess the very wisdom they seek.
Dreams offer us a world of symbols and guidance that draws us into an intimate relationship with our shadow side – that part of our psyche which we have disowned.
By learning ways to understand our dreams we gain access to a plethora of deep unconscious wisdom which leads us to inner wholeness and personal integration.
What about dream dictionaries – are they not sufficient for guiding us to a valid interpretation which we can do on our own?
Dream dictionaries have their place. But far better than consulting a book which tells you what your dream means is to find out for yourself. That way you are already connecting with the deeper wisdom which is yours. Dream dictionaries tend to be over simplistic – a kind of building block method and, by definition, they don’t have much to say about the dynamics, the sequencing, the interrelationship of symbols and the deeper layers of personal meaning in your dreams.
What are the methods you advise for working with dreams?
There are many dream methods from analytical interpretation to Gestalt, from Jungian to waking dreaming, archetypal and transpersonal approaches, symbol immersion, re-entry and so on. To me the most important aspect of listening to our dreams is essentially practical and it concerns the restrictions of time. Most of us have so little time to work with our dreams and yet we dream every night and mostly our dreams have something unique to say to us. So I think the crucial point is how to work with dreams effectively and quickly enough that it becomes feasible for us to keep track of where our dreams are directing our attention, or to stay in relationship with what Arny Mindell would call “the dreambody” – the aspect of our psyche that offers dreams to us.
So I have devised a simple, effective and rapid way to work with dreams which I teach in my workshops. At the same time if a workshop participant has already adopted a dreamwork method I honor that, because it seems to me that each of the diverse methods has something to offer.
So it’s really about having a relationship with your dreamlife?
By entering into a relationship with your dreams you can develop a dialog with the unconscious mind, request specific guidance and access deep wells of wisdom. Which brings us back to where we started – the three states of Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep. The sacred syllable OM, or A-U-M, is the sound of the universe and it is the direct experience of transcendence, manifesting as inner radiance.
Breaking down A-U-M, the A is the waking state of consciousness, the M is the state of transcendent consciousness and the mediating or transitional sound in the middle is the U, which is the dream consciousness. So dreams mediate between our waking self and our transcendent self.
The mythologist Joseph Campbell tells the story of a conversation he had with Jung. Jung was hiking in Africa with some friends when they happened upon a group of indigenous people. The unfamiliarity led to a stand off in which each group seemed to be assessing what potential threat there might be. They had no way of communicating to each other. When each group relaxed and felt OK about the other a primitive basic communication arose and, according to Jung the sound he heard was OM… OM… OM.
This seems to me to be a good metaphor for our relationship to the world of dreams. At first they are threatening because they’re unfamiliar. Then, as we develop a relationship to them we sense an underlying unity in them and also in our relationship to them. They are really a part of us, a kind of secret, lost part that we can re-own and finally possess which makes us richer in our soul life.
In our soul life rather than our ego life?
Each dream is a challenge to our sense of separation, to our ego-centered self. The dream encourages us to bridge the gap, open communication and resolve the differences between different parts of our selves. The result is an experience of inner unity that we radiate outwards in our waking lives.