Some people report having difficulty remembering their dreams. With intention and making a point to keep a dream journal by your bed to write or draw the components of your dreams, you’ll find that you will be able to recall your dreams more frequently.
Another objection some people have to do dreamwork may be that you’re dreams frighten you; you have nightmares.
Many people find their nightmares decrease in intensity when brought into the light of consciousness and they are explored with support and curiosity. Nightmares typically include some negative or unpleasant dream images. According to Jung, every figure in your dream is a part of yourself. The parts of ourselves that we don’t particularly like or are afraid of, he referred to as “The Shadow.” When The Shadow shows up in a nightmare, it’s often some part of ourselves that we don’t like or want to acknowledge.
Individuals working with a “bad dream” sometimes identify the negative or scary parts as some sort of warning, a behavior that no longer serves them, or a more primitive part of themselves.
*Please note that if you are currently working through trauma, dreamwork may be contraindicated. However, please consult your therapist or psychologist because bringing a dream into your therapy session may be helpful in your process. A dreamwork group is different than a therapy group, even though there are many therapeutic benefits to attending (see above for the specific benefits of group dreamwork)
Here is an example of a dream that was told to me recently. We used the dreamwork technique of Embodied Imagination to process it.
The dreamer told the dream in real time. A friend and I are going for a walk around our neighborhood. She says that we have one stop to make because another person wants to join us. I say, “no problem”. We go up to the front door of the a house on the street, and…..who comes to the door? The Grim Reaper~ With the black cape, sickle, skeleton….the whole nine yards! He just says “Hi”, like it’s no big deal and walks out with us. So the three of us continue walking down the street. and then I wake up.”
At first, if you dreamed this dream, you might identify it as a nightmare, right? Maybe?
After she told the dream we began to explore it more deeply. I asked about how she was feeling throughout the dream, and how she felt in her body.
The dreamer stated feeling calm and comfortable with her friend in the beginning, and agreeable to including another person in their walk. She said that she was startled at seeing who answered the door, and a little scared but then when they began walking together, she reverted to feeling calm again and enjoying the walk and the company. I asked the woman to take on the role of the Grim Reaper. She referred to herself as “death”. By doing so, she talked from “death’s” point of view and was able to say why she wanted to join the two women for this walk. I also asked questions about this character that included looking at symbolism and associations she had with “death”. Ultimately, the woman (as “death”) said that People are often afraid of me, and take me literally. This can be disappointing. I’m really not that scary most of the time. Sometimes I just represent something ending in a person’s life. In this case, the dreamer identified that the ending in her life was a job that she had outgrown and wanted to leave. She explained that she was initially scared by the dream when she woke up, but after telling it and looking at it more closely, she recognized that her calm and contentment at the end of the dream was actually comforting. She told me that while endings can be difficult and mean saying Goodbye, they can also mean saying Hello to something even better. Optimistically, she said, “I’m thinking that ultimately this transition may just work out.”
Sometimes there is no clear resolution to a situation that presents itself in a dream, and that’s okay. But that is where the active imagination and dream exploration can assist with getting more clear about the types of questions and information you may be holding currently. Or something to think about from the past or future.
When I was in the dream group, we talked about people having a couple different types of dreams. Some were less intense and meaningful and seemed to be more about “day residue” or working out something that was left over from their day to day life. Other times, people have what are referred to as “Big Dreams”.
According to Jungian psychology, the contents of these dreams are representative of some type of universal archetype or myth. Some types of archetypes include: the “orphan”, the “lover”, the “hero”, etc.. These dreams can be representative of what Jung calls the “collective unconscious”. The collective unconscious, according to the dictionary definition is the part of the unconscious mind that is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual’s unconscious. The themes have universal associations; for example, the idea of “home”, “marriage”, a “quest”, “good vs. evil”, “birth and death”, etc.. According the Jung, “The unconscious mind uses symbols, metaphors, and archetypes to convey meaning.”
Robert Bosnak: “When you pay attention to your dreams, you inhabit a much larger part of your soul.”
What are your dreams communicating to you?