The dream you tell is rarely the dream you dreamed.
By the time you tell your dream to another person, your dream has passed
through several stages. If you carefully examine the process, you'll see
that a number of layers, almost archeological layers, have gone into
constructing the dream.
Reconstructing these layers can change your understanding of the dream.
I dream that I go into my living room. I see my desk, but nothing is on it.
I know that my boyfriend has stolen the computer that was there.
Sadie and her ex-boyfriend had broken up recently, and he had taken a number
of items without Sadie's consent. So it was no surprise that Sadie was
certain this dream was about how the ex had ripped her off.
However, when I asked Sadie to recall the dream as it had originally
occurred, Sadie realized that she only saw a bare desk in a room. The room
felt like her living room, but nothing about the room corresponded to her
waking-life living room, and she had never seen that particular desk before.
As we pondered the fact that her ex was not actually in the dream, Sadie
realized she had jumped from that simple setting to the idea of her
boyfriend stealing from her.
It was as though her thought processes went like this:
"This is a room. It is a living room. It must be mine. It is mine. There is
a desk. There is nothing on the desk. There ought to be something on this
desk. There ought to be a computer on the desk. The computer must have been
stolen. My ex must have stolen it."
When she first told me the dream, it seemed to be a fact that her ex had
stolen the computer. Now we were aware that we didn't know that anything had
From seeing how she initially understood her dream, Sadie realized that,
since the break up, whenever anything went wrong in her life, she tended to
blame it on her ex.
Peeling off the Layers
Like an archeologist at a dig, you discover that your experience of the
dream occurs at several different levels:
With practice, you can separate out these stages (this list is not fixed,
you may find others). The understanding of the process can radically revise
your assessment. What had appeared as a fact-her boyfriend stealing the
computer--then was seen as an invention in her own mind. Sadie had made a
brilliant discovery: Her ex was now a convenient scapegoat.
- You experience the dream while you're in it, using your senses.
- You make connections and explanations during the dream.
- As you wake up, you achieve some distance from the dream and revise your assessments.
- When you tell the dream to someone else, or write it down, you add explanations or take parts out to communicate what was important to you or to make sense of things you cannot explain.
An Example--Christine's Dream
I dream that I see my father in a green raincoat. He is coming to protect me
because I am in danger.
When I asked Christine what she actually saw in the dream, she realized that
she saw a figure in a green coat. The green of the coat reminded her of the
raincoat her father wore when she was in junior high school. That's how she
"knew" it was her father. Knowing that it was her father made her feel a
sense of safety, which then made her feel she must be in some danger.
The concept that safety and danger went together was a fascinating insight
Try an Experiment
With your next dream, write it down in your usual way and then go through
each part of the dream and ask yourself how you know that fact.
You will write with certainty that some things actually occurred during the
dream. But when you go back to examine those statements closely, observe
where, during the dream, you made something up to explain what actually
Then consider how you might have added to the dream when you woke up and
told it to yourself.
Finally, consider what you needed to add or change in order to communicate
the dream to someone else or to write it in your journal.
All of these processes are a natural part of dream telling but sometimes we
are more creative than is necessary.
Your mind will always naturally fill in the important blanks and create a
more coherent story.
The gift of reconstructing the dream is that, when you become aware of these
different "layers" of the dream, you create the ability to jump out of the
assumptions you are automatically jumping into.
Dream Analysis By Telephone
A phone consultation is a great way to begin your exploration of dream work.
It is also perfect when you don't have the time to attend a regular class
but want to discuss a particular dream.
David is available for dream consultations by phone. The current cost is $50
per hour. A typical dream analysis might consist of a 30-45 minute
discussion of the dream and a follow up after the next dream.
David's hours for telephone consultations are Monday through Friday, 10 am
to 7 pm, Pacific Time. To make an appointment, please email him with two or
three times when you are available and your phone number. He will e-mail you
back with an appointment time, payment information and request a
confirmation. David's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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