June 10th 2017 - Dreams and Dream Work in the Therapeutic Process
When you are dealing with nightmares, recurring and puzzling dreams, or metaphors that are difficult to decipher, dream work as part of your therapeutic process can be particularly valuable. Dream work is like an expedition in uncharted territory: it helps you create a map of your inner landscape, and uncover treasures from the depths of your psyche’s mysteries. Shedding light on your dreams can be instrumental in the recovery from emotional problems and distress.
Dream work can provide key directions to healing and wholeness. Remembering and understanding your dreams can help you know and care for yourself better by allowing unconscious beliefs into conscious awareness. Healthy choices and decision making may feel less daunting as a result, and the distance between mind and heart no more than a breath.
Dream work combines the science of the mind with the art of listening to the soul. As articulation of space and time, dreams can be viewed as messengers from our subconscious mind. They can carry and reflect to us energy we have denied ourselves, and help us bring “blind spots” to consciousness.
Dreams can appear to compensate for one-sidedness where we may have become biased in some way. They may add infusions of humour when we’re in need of a good laugh, or wings when we have become rigid or downtrodden in our daily routines. Dreams can also illuminate our automatic coping mechanisms, such as fight, flight, freeze or submit reactions in our relationships. To get our attention, dreams often seem strange, exaggerated, if not bizarre, yet tend to bank on how we use language in waking life to describe our everyday experiences.
Dreams, with their imagery and symbolism from the deep unconscious, will often pick up health issues long before our conscious mind becomes fully aware that something is going on. We would do well to not discredit such warning signs when they appear. Taking dream signals seriously may prompt a call to a therapist, a physician or other kind of health specialist. Burn-out, mental fatigue and certain somatic illnesses, if detected early, may be “nipped in the bud”, or even prevented, when we pay attention to our dreaming mind.
When we look at our dreams as uncut jewels rather than dull and garbled nonsense, dream work as part of psychotherapy or psychoanalysis becomes the inner lab for separating the rough from the precious facets of our internal wisdom and riches.
Our psyche bears both distinctly unique as well as culturally shared features. Dreams can show us layers of all aspects, and help us discern how collective issues may be influencing our personal interests and pursuits, quests and limitations.
Among the dream symbols that seem to top the list of shocking or scary are dreams of death and dying. Rarely do they really have anything to do with dying, but rather point the dreamer to an outmoded way of being they must transform. A death dream may thus depict the need for radical change in the dreamer’s life.
While dream dictionaries can be useful tools for looking up a specific symbol or image, they can also obstruct deeper personal meaning. When you learn to interpret your dreams as your soul’s inimitable form of expression, you create your own source of reference. Gaining intellectual and emotional insight into your dreams in the presence of a knowledgeable therapist can open up abundant possibilities of transforming self-defeating patterns from your past, and strengthen hope for your future.
Ursula Carsen R.P.
URSULA CARSEN, REGISTERED PSYCHOTHERAPIST
Toronto, Ontario M6C 3L2
Photo and article by Ursula Carsen