Over the next week or so, I am going to cover my ten favorite ways of working with dreams without buying a dream dictionary.
It’s not that I think dream dictionaries are useless. Actually I have one and consult it at least once a week. However, the dream dictionary can only provide one way of working with dreams, which is the cultural significance of a symbol or some pan-human experience such as shame, mortality, or stress. To put it mildly, our dreams are much more than the dumping grounds of our culture’s symbols and our fear of realizing we are butt-naked in public.
Dreams, like any imaginal or hallucinogenic event, have dozens of emotional, cognitive, and physical layers to consider, as well as significance on the personal, communal and transpersonal levels. To say a dream means one thing is to have insulted a dream.
The Quest for Experience
Luckily, traditional “dream interpretation” is not the only way to honor our dreams. As world mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”
With this in mind, the quest for meaning seems better suited for the interpretation of dead languages, not for the rich sensory experiences of our dreams, some of which we feel more alive than in our day-to-day existence.
So these 10 ways of working with dreams all have one thing in common: a unique way to extend the experience of dreaming. Don’t worry, meaning is still part of the package, but it’s not the only end result of working with dreams.
A Holistic Approach to Working with Dreams
Instead, this approach to dreamwork brings a fuller and richer sense of the dream, it highlights our fears and passions in life, and reminds us of our unique possibilities as well as the dangers we face as individuals, and as a culture.
By no means are these my “patented” methods or anything like that — most of these techniques are thousands of years old, but have been forgotten in today’s information-saturated world. What we’re after here isn’t information, but knowledge.
And maybe if we’re lucky, and accidentally can’t look away: wisdom.
Some of these dream work methods you will probably be familiar with, and a few will seem a little bizarre at first, but all together these “dream deepening” techniques bring all of our best capabilities to bear on our uncanny, yet somehow deeply familiar, participation in the dream world.
Stay tuned. The next article in this series is about Dream Sharing.