Matthew HarwoodJungian Analysis, Psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems
”In each of us there is another whom we do not know. He (or she) speaks to us in dreams and tells us how differently he (or she) sees us from the way we see ourselves.’ (CG Jung)
I have been studying dreams for over 40 years. My experience leaves me in no doubt, firstly, that every dream has meaning and, secondly, that every dream contains an important message or healing experience. This is even true of those dreams which we tend to dismiss as ‘just fragments’.
For example, I have found that dreams often provide invaluable diagnostic information about what is going on within the unconscious and/or some kind of clue about what needs to happen for the next ‘individuation’ step to be taken.
If you come to work with me in therapy you will be asked to keep a ‘dream journal’ in which you write all your dreams. Whether or not you choose to bring a dream to work on in a session is however entirely your choice.
Two Ways of Doing Dream-Work
There are 2 different ways of working with dreams in therapy:-
INTERPRETIVE: Aiming to understand the symbolism and what the dream is trying to say.
EXPERIENTIAL: Using techniques to work with the dream in a more direct way.
Quite often we will find ourselves ‘interweaving’ both methods.
The Interpretative Method
The INTERPRETIVE method was mainly how Jung used to work. It consists mainly of discussing the dream and exploring the associations & amplifications until the deeper meaning starts to emerge.
The Experiential Method
Here are just a few of the techniques which I find it useful to employ:-
- Using Active Imagination to enter into the dream afresh and seeing what unfolds. This is sometimes called ‘dreaming the dream onwards.’
- Using objects or Sand-Tray to recreate the dream in the room.
- Using techniques from Gestalt Psychology and Psychodrama (eg the ‘empty chair’ technique) to bring the dream more alive and shift your perspective.
- Using the technique of Focusing to feel into the ‘felt-sense’ of the dream and seeing what ‘felt-shift’ arises.
- Using the tools provided by Internal Family Systems (IFS) to dialogue with the sub-personalities.
- Inviting you to paint or sculpt the dream in order to help you make a stronger feeling connection with the dream and let it ‘speak’ to you in a deeper way.
‘The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul…’ (Jung)
Whichever method is employed, working with your dreams in therapy can lead you more quickly into your underlying, core issues and accelerate the progress of your healing journey. As Jungian Analyst, John Sanford, has written:-
‘Life has many twists and turns, and each of us has a destiny to follow and fulfil that is like a thread that weaves its way in and out of all that happens to us. Our dreams help us find and follow this thread’