Night Journeys: A Therapeutic Approach to Our Dreams

Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote: “A dream that is not understood is a mere occurrence; understood, it becomes a living experience.”

For as long as there have been people, they have dreamed, and in many cultures, past and present, dreams are recognized as the rich language of the self that they are. In our modern society, dreams are usually either brushed off as fragments of the past day, or given quick, stereotypical A=B interpretations. In the early 20th century, fortunately, researchers Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, founders of Depth Psychology, established that dreams arise from the dreamer’s unconsciousness and are rich in psychological significance.

While there are many common archetypal elements common across cultures and times, each dreamer dreams in her or his own language. Using a technique called Dream Tending, I guide my clients in learning their own inner language so that they can record, reflect on, and use their dreams. The first step is to write down each night’s dream(s) as soon as you wake up. When you bring what feels like the most significant one at the time to therapy, I will have you tell me your dream, then repeat it as if it is happening. “I ran down the road to a cave” becomes “I am running down a road toward a cave.”  Often the second telling is much more detailed than the first, as the person begins to reconnect with the experience of the dream. I will ask what the dreamer senses: what do you smell? Are there any sounds you notice? What do you feel, taste, what are the emotions you are feeling right now? From there, I ask the person to identify some figure or object that stands out to them. That is the contact point of the dream, and we treat the figure as a living person or creature, asking questions, meeting them in guided visualizations, and the like. I ask my clients to work more with the dream between sessions, journaling, drawing, making music—whatever your creative process is.

Sound kind of woo woo? Or are you thinking “Wow I really want to try that!”?  I have used this method with many clients who had remarkable experiences. In some cases, connecting to the unconscious in this way even speeds up the therapeutic process. We start with one dream, and the person continues to write down the dreams. Over time, symbols, themes, archetypes, and patterns emerge. Gradually these become more apparent, and then change as progress is made. I can tell you from experience, it is an amazing process.

Want to try? Contact me and set up an appointment!

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