In this entry, I offer an example of how I work with dreams and how it differs from dream interpretation. This is an hypothetical dream snippet based on a real person’s dream.
Mary and her boyfriend Peter are having a chat together. Peter is wearing a pink suit that she has chosen for him. In the dreams, Peter asks, “Why do you want me to wear pink?” Mary replies, “Because I like it for us as a couple.” Peter adds, “I put it on because you said so.”
The main question that people would make, would be what does this dream mean? Can you tell me what this dream mean? Or they would go online and check any dream dictionary to see the meaning. For example, you might check Dream Moods dream dictionary and find the following statement:
Pink represents love, joy, sweetness, happiness, affection and kindness. Being in love or healing through love is also implied with this color. Alternatively, the color implies immaturity or weakness, especially when it comes to love. Consider also the notion of getting “pink slipped”.
The dreamer would fit that reply into her life and get all happy. If she was consulting a dream interpreter, this person would have a wider deeper knowledge of symbols in dreams, so it might come with a larger more elaborate description of what pink means in dreams. Yet, doing so, the dreamer is just scratching the surface of her dream.
The goal of dream analysis is to work with the dreamer and his/her dreams in a holistic way. In this specific case, the analyst would explore the presence of pink during the session, but this would be an interactive and personalized exploration, never based on what a dream dictionary says.
Part of my job is to explore the feelings and emotions present, absent or hidden in dreams, the relational dynamics that appear in them, and see if these things coincide or not with what dreamers experience in their real life.
I use professional therapeutic tools and my own intuition to probe the dream and facilitate the exploration of the dream by the dreamer.
What Does Pink Mean for the Dreamer.
To see what the color pink means in the dream, I would start by asking Mary about her personal associations with this color:
- Is pink a color that you like or don’t like? Why?
- Do you have any positive or negative association with pink? If so, which one?
- What do you think when you see a man dressed all in pink?
Connection with Daily Life.
To scrutinize the dream, we have to know explicitly if what´s in it reflects waking life or not. It could be something that the dreamer normally does, what he should do, or should not do. I would ask Mary if there is a correlation between the dream scene and its real life. Some questions would be, for example:
- Does Peter like pink?
- Is he a metro-sexual an into fashion?
- Does Peter usually wear pink?
- Are Peter´s clothes selected by you?
- Is this scene something you have experienced in real life?
- Is Peter’s reaction in the dream what he would do in waking life?
- Does Peter always prove you right?
Feelings & Emotions.
Some of the most important things in dream work are feelings and emotions, because those are the ones that we most easily suppress, and the ones that unconsciously determine our way of thinking and acting in waking life.
Feelings and emotions can be positive or negative and openly displayed in the dream. However, most of the time, that is not the case. Therefore, one of the crucial parts of any dream session is to facilitate their emergence through the inquiry of the dreamer’s connection with their own dream material.
To facilitate this exploration, among other techniques, I would tell Mary to close her eyes and imagine that the dream is happening right now and she is reviving it. Once Mary is in this “trance”, so to speak, I would ask her things like:
- What is the predominant feeling or emotion in the dream? Do you feel happy, nervous, confused, disappointed, bewildered?
- Do you notice any sensation associated with seeing your boyfriend dressed in pink?
- How do you feel when choosing your boyfriend’s clothes and that he wears her?
- Does your boyfriend’s response make you feel good? And if so, why?
- When you dive into sleep, is there any part in your body where you notice tension? For example, do you feel tension in the temples, in the pit of the stomach, throat, chest, etc.?
Clarify Things in the Dream.
As I said before, firstly, I would try to see if what happens in the dream matches how this couple behaves and relates in daily life. If not, the search work begins, because the dream is choosing this specific scene for a specific purpose. An important point in the dream seems to be, to me, Peter’s statement. “I wear it, because you said so.” We must clarify the meaning of this statement to ascertain if:
- He put the pink suit on because he loves it.
- He wears it just to please her.
- Although he doesn’t like it, he put it on so as not to have an argument with her.
- She is very stylish and he follows Mary’s fashion advice.
Mary, still with her eyes closed, still inside the dream, can directly ask Peter’s character in the dream, Why did you wear the pink suit? How will Mary know the answer? Because the first thought that goes through her mind as a reply is the voice of intuition and it is usually the right answer. It is automatic. It comes from within, not from the thinking mind.
Intuition to Get to the Core.
The dream analyst not only uses professional tools and techniques proven to work, but also his/her own intuition and empathy. Sometimes the client does not feel comfortable sharing personal things, their fears or concerns, especially if the dream is complex, or the client has just met the analyst. Therefore, it is part of my job to help the client feel good and comfortable with me, and give them guarantees of privacy and emotional security so that the client opens. You can never push a client who is not prepared or ready for exploration to go beyond their limits.
Let’s say I sense that the dream points to Mary being somewhat domineering, which could jeopardize her relationship. Or on the contrary, Peter is passive in the relationship, or a closeted gay, or perhaps too much of a macho in need of some female corrective energy for the relationship to work. The dream might be indicating that Mary is forcing Peter to be and behave in a way that is not genuine for him. She might be very masculine and needs to dress in more feminine energy because that is what balances the relationship.
All these cases and many more are possible, but we must confirm what is the right case for Mary and her life. I’m never going to tell her I believe this dream is about this or that Peter wearing a pink suit means whatever. What I will do is discuss the relationship dynamics in the dream and see what is functional or dysfunctional through an honest and honest conversation about Mary’s personal relationship.
The dream therapist investigates and directs the dream exploration boat not like a boat an automatic engine and GPS set, but like a sailboat that sails depending on the wind and gets carried away.
Exploration Brings Depth.
Discussing the meaning of the color pink, although interesting, has little juice if we compare it to the discussion about the dream as whole. During that discussion, Mary could verbalize some concerns she has about her boyfriend and that she has ruled out because she isn’t sure or just because she doesn’t feel comfortable discussing their relationship. Her unconscious could have received some clues that she has discarded in her waking life, clues that nevertheless need of conscious attention.
No matter what we end up discovering, in most cases the dreamer has an aha moment, in which something that was not clear suddenly is. Or underground feelings and emotions openly emerge and the dreamer feels comforted and relieved to express them.
The dream exploration always gives us a deep knowledge of ourselves and our personal relationships, allow us to face and correct some of our behaviors, or adjust the color of the lens with which we look at the world. Sometimes they allow us to realize very positive things that we have in our life and that we take for granted. For example, in this case we study, it could be that Mary underestimates that Peter is always open to her suggestions. Sometimes the dream analysis discovers past or recent trauma that nests in our hearts but we have not even recognize as existing. Exploring our dreams is something intimate, entertaining and therapeutic. Funny sometimes, cathartic always.
As you can see, this simple snippet is full of psychological and relational material to work on. The dream worker has many techniques and tools to achieve personal openness and the exploration of the dreamer’s dreams.
Each dream has many layers of meaning, even short fragments that are apparently irrelevant, have hidden jewels in them.
When we start working with a dream, we usually have no idea what the center or, advice or gift hidden in it is.
It is easy to consult a dream dictionary or to go to dream interpreter to tell you the meaning of what you dreamed. But to do that is to waste your dream wisdom, a wisdom that is born from within you and needs your personal involvement in its interpretation. Give power to your dreams and your internal compass and not to the dictionary or the expert.
In working with dreams we work with symbols, but those are only one element of our dream exploration.
When we analyze and explore a dream with the dreamer, the latter will discover fundamental points of his/her way of being, relating, interacting and reacting, what needs to be modified, adapted, discarded or sought after.
Dreamwork is never done to shame the dreamer for his/her dysfunctional behaviors. On the contrary, to facilitate a deep self-knowledge to lead a fuller and more satisfying life.