Have you ever had a dream that was so real, that after you woke up you thought that it really happened? The feelings just seemed to stay with you throughout the day, and somehow you felt very impacted.
These kinds of dreams are, most of the time, a way that our unconscious is communicating with us. The messages that it is trying to portray must not be ignored, for they are expressions from the truer, unbiased self. If listened to, they can guide us in an important decision, in a relationship, or help to resolve a past trauma. And that’s just the beginning.
So how does one go about decoding these mysterious nocturnal images? There are many philosophies on how to figure out what these dream symbols mean. There are dream interpretation dictionaries, religious books, dream analysis experts, the list goes on and on. But what I have found time and time again, is that no one else is an authority on the symbols of your own dreams. Why? Because it is your brain that created the symbols in the first place; your own mind with it’s past experiences, preferences, dislikes, and ways of seeing the world. Therefore, you are the key to decoding the meanings.
So if you are the key, then what can you do to figure out what your dreams are trying to tell you? This is where Gestalt Therapy techniques are very powerful in this process. Gestalt techniques aid in discovering a greater awareness and understanding of how you truly think and feel inside. You will be guided in a dialogue with yourself, and it is a very surprising and enlightening experience. Thoughts, feelings, and reactions that have been buried seem to surface in an amazing way, and through these exercises the meanings of your dream symbols become clear. It is a very active and experiential process, one where you speak, act, emote, draw, or whatever else comes to mind. It is instinctive and intuitive. Not only will you better understand the meanings of your dreams, you may find that something inside has also changed. You walk away a newer, better person. This is the result of Gestalt dreamwork.
While my principal way of approaching dream interpretation is with Gestalt methods, there are many other techniques and approaches to decoding dream symbols that I use in my dreamwork sessions that are very useful and relevant. But I always remain true to the belief that you are the authority of your own dreams, and that I am simply a guide who has learned through experience how to discover their rich meanings.
In addition to individual therapy sessions, I hold weekly dream groups. These are groups of 6 or fewer people who explore their dreams with me and the group. The group setting allows for feedback from other members that can be very valuable. It is a bit like a personal growth group, but with a focus on your dreams. Please contact me if you desire to sign up for a group. They are held on Saturdays.
As a member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, I am including the following Ethical Statement which I abide by in my work:
IASD DREAMWORK ETHICS STATEMENT
IASD celebrates the many benefits of dreamwork, yet recognizes that there are potential risks. IASD supports an approach to dreamwork and dream sharing that respects the dreamer’s dignity and integrity, and which recognizes the dreamer as the decision-maker regarding the significance of the dream. Systems of dreamwork that assign authority or knowledge of the dream’s meanings to someone other than the dreamer can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful. Ethical dreamwork helps the dreamer work with his/her own dream images, feelings, and associations, and guides the dreamer to more fully experience, appreciate, and understand the dream. Every dream may have multiple meanings, and different techniques may be reasonably employed to touch these multiple layers of significance.
A dreamer’s decision to share or discontinue sharing a dream should always be respected and honored. The dreamer should be forewarned that unexpected issues or emotions may arise in the course of the dreamwork. Information and mutual agreement about the degree of privacy and confidentiality are essential ingredients in creating a safe atmosphere for dream sharing.
Dreamwork outside a clinical setting is not a substitute for psychotherapy, or other professional treatment, and should not be used as such.
IASD recognizes and respects that there are many valid and time-honored dreamwork traditions. We invite and welcome the participation of dreamers from all cultures. There are social, cultural, and transpersonal aspects to dream experience. In this statement we do not mean to imply that the only valid approach to dreamwork focuses on the dreamer’s personal life. Our purpose is to honor and respect the person of the dreamer as well as the dream itself, regardless of how the relationship between the two may be understood.
Prepared by the IASD Ethics Committee
Carol Warner, Chair
Association for the Study of Dreams