Shamans and Jungians believe in the power of dreams to reveal the influence of archetypal energies and your unconscious on your current story. Additionally, dreams can yield wisdom from transpersonal places that give glimpses of what will happen in the future, or insights that will help you make decisions.
If you dream often, write down all your dreams and choose to work with the one you feel most intrigued or moved by. Later, you can come back to the others and work with them. If you rarely dream, or can only remember a few images or snippets of a dream, work with whatever you recall of the dream because it may contain valuable information for you.
There is no one right way to work with dreams, but I have found that following the 10 suggestions below, in order, can be very helpful.
- Go to sleep intending to remember your dreams. In this way, you cue your mind not to switch to conscious thoughts about the upcoming day before you have had a chance to recall and record your dreams.
- Record your dreams in writing or on an audio device as soon as you awaken. Don’t try to analyze them as you record them because you might forget details that seem insignificant but later turn out to be important. A dream that simply seems odd or mundane and that doesn’t evoke strong emotions might, nevertheless, contain very helpful information.
- Retell your dream aloud at least twice, and then write it down at least twice. Recalling your dream aloud more than once, or writing about it a second or third time, is helpful because the changes you make in the retelling or rewriting can be revealing.
For example, you might realize that as you are going over the dream again, you are experiencing an unexpected emotion. Maybe you will notice that you are flatly reciting the details of the dream despite the fact that the events in the dream are, on second glance, disturbing. Perhaps you have inadvertently made omissions or additions to the dream; you can explore why that is.
- Choose some dream images to contemplate. Notice what comes to mind instantly when you ponder some of the images you saw in your dream. What associations do you have to the images you recall? Don’t consult a dream dictionary or think too much about all the many possible interpretations of the symbols and events in your dreams. Your personal experiences may determine which symbols appear in your dreams and what they mean, so don’t be quick to interpret them in a general way.
Try to identify anything in your waking life, perhaps even in your past, that might be related to or associated with the events that unfolded in your dream. For example, if you dreamed of being in your grandmother’s kitchen while she was cooking, one interpretation could be that your dream was about nurturing or, more literally, your grandmother’s nurturing of you.
However, perhaps your strongest memory of being next to her as she cooked was the day your father had a heart attack and died, and that’s what comes to your mind when you recall the part of the dream that took place in her kitchen. Perhaps the dream is about being blissfully unaware of impending danger, or about your lack of vigilance, or about being in a state of innocence prior to your world shattering.
Exploring the common meanings of symbols that appeared in your dream should be left for later, after you have pondered your personal associations to the dream’s images and dialogued with the symbols or emotions that were part of the dream. You do not have to ponder every image or every dream. You might wish to focus on the ones that are the most vivid or emotionally charged for you.
- Retell the dream again. This time as you retell the dream, include any associations you have with particular images. Write down this new, expanded version of your dream that includes some of the associations you have discovered.
- Dialogue with dream images, symbols, or emotions that you feel would give you useful information. Use your working stone if you find that helpful.
A “working stone” is a rock or other physical object that represents the energy or symbol with which you will be working. This technique can help you separate your ego consciousness from the energy itself, identify with the other energy and answer in its voice, and more easily participate in the exchange of questions and answers.
Select a stone for which you have an affinity. Hold it in your hands and sit on a chair across from an empty chair that is facing you. Blow into the stone, imagining that you are transferring into it the energy of the thing with which you wish to dialogue (a symbol, an ailment, and so on). Place the stone on the chair opposite you and ask, “What message do you have for me?”
Then pick up the stone and sit in the other chair, facing the spot where you were sitting previously. Take a breath and merge with the energy of that with which you are dialoguing. Respond to the question as if you were the embodiment of the energy—as if you were the animal, the symbol, or the figure. When you as the embodied energy have answered the question your ego consciousness asked, get up and place the stone on the chair where you were just sitting.
Return to the other chair—the one where you were sitting when your ego consciousness initiated the dialogue. Ponder the answer and see if other questions occur to you. If so, ask another question and continue this process until you feel satisfied that you have learned what you needed to learn. Don’t forget that your objective, witness consciousness is available to you to review what you are experiencing and give you further insights.
- Identify what your emotional state was in the dream and dialogue with that feeling. Was there a situation in your dream that in waking life would have scared you but that seemed perfectly normal, or even amusing? Was there a seemingly benign image that stirred feelings of fear, dread, regret, or anger?
The emotions you experienced in your dream are as significant as the meaning of the symbols, and both can be dialogued with to gain information and understanding. For example, if you felt angry during the dream and don’t know why, you could dialogue with the emotion of anger. You could ask it why it appeared when you were picking through a bowl of fruit in your dream and what significance this anger has given what you are going through in your life right now. Then you could dialogue with the bowl of fruit and ask it what message it has for you.
- Reflect on where in your waking life you have felt or are feeling emotions similar to those in the dream—and where you experienced or are experiencing the dream’s themes playing out. When do you first recall experiencing the dream’s emotions and themes?
- Consider the universal meanings of symbols in your dream. Think about what else a dream image might symbolize. For example, a lake or a forest might represent the unconscious, while a kitchen might represent transformation.
When you work with your dreams to discover the wisdom they hold for you, keep in mind that a particular dream’s message can be taken literally, too. For example, if you were to dream of a Golden Retriever, it might mean that some aspect of yourself longs to retrieve something “golden” and valuable that you undervalued and overlooked, or it might simply mean you will be adopting a Golden Retriever as a pet. If you dialogue with the Golden Retriever or any other symbol, remember to engage the symbol respectfully and listen to what it has to tell you rather than arguing with it or trying to impose your ideas on it. Thank it for its insights, and end the dialogue.
- Apply what you have learned. Think about how you can use the dream’s information and energy to change your life and your story.
If you follow these 10 suggestions, your dreams can help you discover unresolved issues and problems as well as possible solutions. They can also tell you that you are ready to make a change, or you have made it on the inside and now need to begin changing your behaviors and habits in accordance with the shift you have experienced.
©2014 by Carl Greer. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Findhorn Press. www.findhornpress.com.
About the Author
Carl Greer PhD, PsyD is a practicing clinical psychologist, Jungian analyst, and shamanic practitioner. After focusing on business for many years, he earned a doctorate in clinical psychology, and then became a Jungian analyst. The shamanic work he does is drawn from a blend of North American and South American indigenous trainings and is influenced by Jungian analytic psychology. Carl is involved in various businesses and philanthropies, teaches at the Jung Institute in Chicago, is on the staff of the Lorene Replogle Counseling Center, and holds workshops on shamanic topics.
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