Recently, I wrote a brief personal essay in response to the question, “What is dreamwork?” In this post, I offer you why you might work your dreams and some benefits I’ve received as a result of dreamwork. (I envision this as a series, evolving as I evolve, as new benefits to dreamwork arise for me personally.)
I’ve written in the past about maintaining a “dream practice,” which for myself and my clients includes an intentional engagement in the morning with the dream, recalling it and writing it down, either on paper or in a document.
Dreamwork is the next step. Working a dream is basically choosing to spend more time, more thought, and more energy on understanding the messages of the dream, feeling the feelings from the dream, or considering what the dream is, offers, or reflects back to you.
Dreamwork may be done alone, with a friend / partner, or with a teacher. For many years–in fact for most of my life–I worked my dreams alone, without quite knowing that’s what I was doing.
I am someone who, from a very young age, would often tell my dreams to someone else or ask them their opinion on what the dream meant. It was a frustrating cycle of hoping the person I was sharing the dream with would be a good and active listener, and finding he or she wasn’t a good listener, didn’t care about my dreams, or did care, but couldn’t or wouldn’t offer useful insights.
As a result, I kept my dreams to myself, and over time, learned how to engage with them on my own, in a way that turned out to be healing. It’s this experience that eventually informed the technique I now use with my own dream clients. (In that way, being forced to work my dreams alone led to something greater, and hopefully, beneficial to others.)
It’s only in very recent years, I found a teacher and dreamworker with whom to work my dreams, and even more recently, dream “friends” with whom I can sit, share, and listen to in a supportive exchange.
There are some obvious advantages to working dreams with another person over alone. The primary one is probably familiar to you if you’ve ever worked with a coach or a therapist: the feeling of being heard, listened to, and validated.
However, something I love even more, likely as a result of first feeling listened to and heard, is being questioned about my dream.
It’s not always easy to hear another person’s questions: some of us may feel defensive in response, or misunderstood. This happens to me sometimes. Sometimes I am not in the mood for questions–I’m too tired to consider the answer, or the topic is too sensitive for me to explore more deeply than I already did just in sharing the dream.
But a question is also an indicator of good listening, as well as active engagement with my dream. Most people, when they’re asking a question of me about my dream, mean well. However, I have found that sometimes the question, if it’s coming from a friend, and not a practitioner, can be a projection of their own feelings, or at least be consciously or subconsciously motivated by their own feelings.
When you work with a dreamworker, the idea is that the practitioner is professionally trained to be a good listener, able to monitor her own reactions to the dreamer and the dream, and be self-aware, so as to know when there may be potential for projection onto the client.
The dreamworker, hopefully, has spent many years working on self-awareness, active listening, and mindfulness. No human is perfect, not even the most experienced, skilled, and empathetic practitioner. But the idea is that in the scheduled dreamwork space, they hopefully show up for you and your dreams, and are focused and present on your dreams and you.
In my opinion, compared to psychotherapy, there is more room for mutuality and sharing inside of dreamwork. Certainly, there is the need for professionalism and boundaries. However, many dream images and especially archetypes are universal, and therefore there can be a benefit to a dreamwork relationship that is more interactive or transpersonal.
For some of us, when we are first working our dreams, there is a sense of comfort and ease that arises in knowing a particular dream symbol or story is not unique to us.
Also (and this is something more personal to my preferences and style), I believe mindful, mutual sharing leads us to a deeper feeling of love and compassion for each other, and I also believe there is room in a professional relationship for healthy, boundaried lovingness.
More on that in a future post, as well as more answers to “why dreamwork.” If you’re interested in learning more about working your dreams one-on-one with me, check out the Services page.