Some therapists will use "dream interpretation" to help a patient understand himself, but understanding will not cure symptoms. Our goal is to find blocked memories and to cry. Without the tears, dream interpretation is a pleasant, but useless, parlor game. The more you cry, the more your mind will heal itself, and when the pain is gone, the understanding will take care of itself.
Free Association and "Flow"
The way to find old feelings in your dream is to break your dream down into pieces, then look at each piece and "free associate". In other words, you look at each piece and ask the question, "What does it remind you of?" One piece of the dream may remind you of something which reminds you of a second thing, and a third. You will be forming a "chain of associations."
Let's say for example that you see an old fountain pen in your dream, so you ask the question, "What does the fountain pen remind you of," and you watch your view screen for the answer.
Let's say that the fountain pen reminds you of your grade school, so you ask the question, "What does your grade school remind you of?"
Let's say your grade school reminds you of your 3rd grade teacher, so you ask "What does your 3rd grade teacher remind you of?" And as you think about the teacher you might feel tears. Perhaps you'll remember that you loved your 3rd grade teacher, or that she looked like your mom, or she punished you severely. Hopefully, with a little practice you'll find an old feeling by using the chain of associations.
You can also use the question, "What is it about the fountain pen?" "What is it about your grade school?" It has the same affect. Use whichever question is more comfortable for you.
Your chain of associations may have only one link, or it may have several. Just keep asking the question until you run out of answers.
The Way to Find Old Feelings in a Dream is to Break the Dream Into Pieces, Then Ask, What Does Each Piece Remind You Of?
Free association is easy and natural for me, but some people have difficulty with it. Nancy had trouble with it in the beginning, but she eventually got better.
Learning to free associate takes practice. It's like being in a dark room and you have to develop your sense of touch to find your way around. It's a totally natural instinct for me. It's natural for you too, although you may not have used your instinct for a very long time. Once you develop this wonderful instinct, you'll be able to find the pain hidden in your dreams, without using the formal questions.
Dreams Are Tricky
Sometimes you can free associate from your dream and not find any meaning, but the next day you'll suddenly know exactly what it means. So it pays to look at your dreams more than once. I have found new meaning and new tears from dreams over a year old.
Sometimes a dream will make no sense frontwards, but when you flip it around and look at the story backwards, the meaning becomes clear. I honestly don't know why, but I've seen it more than once. Perhaps it is just a simple way to disguise the meaning. Freud helped me figure it out.
When I first started working with my dreams, I used to look at the major parts of the story and ignore the minor details. But Freud told us that you can find feeling from the most insignificant detail of a dream. I did not believe him when I read it. (After all, everyone says that Freud is out of date.) I did not believe it until Sept. 10, 1989. Nancy and I were driving home from visiting our daughter in Kansas City. To make use of the driving time, I decided to tell Nancy a dream I had the previous night. I felt bright and cheerful that day and there was no reason to expect a discharge! I free-associated from each part of the dream except I skipped over one minor detail because it seemed so insignificant. After running through the dream twice with no tears, I gave up and we changed the subject.
Twenty minutes later, on a hunch I decided to tell Nancy of the minor detail. It was a hole in concrete...that's all it was. It reminded me of Legos... then Tinker Toys? then Lincoln Logs. The childhood toys were suddenly vivid? I could smell the box and taste the Tinker Toys in my mouth? and all of a sudden I was yelling and bawling, while going 60 miles and hour on Interstate 35.
Nancy quickly put on her seat belt and offered to drive. It was a wonderful discharge, and it proved Freud's point: sometimes you can find feeling is the insignificant details of the dream.
About The Author
This article was excerpted with permission from the book "Cure by Crying", by Thomas A. Stone. A graduate of Drake University with a degree in mathematics, Tom Stone spent 20 years in his own business before uncovering his childhood pain. A frequent guest on talk shows, his discoveries are receiving international attention.