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Sleep and Dreams

Sleeping and dreaming are vital to emotional health. Perspectives of a psychotherapist.

Updated: 2018-03-02T12:24:47.496-05:00


Dreamwork for Healing Childhood Wounds


(image) I just finished reading an interesting and moving story written by Edward Bonapartian, an avid dreamer.
In The Stories of Our Lives, Ed writes with a strong and clear voice about his journey in dealing with the effect of his mother's alcoholism, beginning after her death. He shows us how his dreams were an integral, brutal, and beautiful way for him to move forward in life. As he explored his dreams in groups and workshops, he began to trust the intuitive emotions that accompany dreams to help him understand his dreams as well as the dreams of others. This story shows us how dreamwork--and responding to our dreams--creates balance in waking life.
This book is not only about the writer's dreams, it is a life story. In many ways, it is the story of our lives as well. Without awareness, we all spend the present reacting to the past. He shows us that our dreams can help us understand that and move forward. His is a journey of grief and anger, and a powerful message of hope for us all.
Order Edward Bonapartian's book HERE.

Understanding Dream Function Useful in Psychiatry


Researchers are writing about an exciting new link found between lucid dreaming (awareness while dreaming) and psychosis.

Lucid dreaming creates distinct patterns of electrical activity in the brain that are similar to the patterns in the brain made by psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia. In lucid dreaming, the brain is in a dissociated state. Some psychiatric conditions involve an dissociated state while awake (i.e. psychosis). This discovery offers the potential for new therapeutic tools for psychiatrists.

Implications for the future:
  • Dream researchers can apply their knowledge of dreams to psychiatric patients, building a useful tool for psychiatry.
  • Neuroscience investigators can utilize knowledge from sleep research to interpret data from acute psychotic and dissociated states of the brain-mind.

How to Incubate a Dream


Before you attempt to incubate a dream, it might be helpful to
To incubate a dream, begin by choosing a topic.
  • How to improve your health.
  • Insight into your state of mind.
  • Resolve a recurring nightmare.
  • Ask for creative inspiration.
  • Insight into relationship problems.
  • Insight on how to better pursue one of your personal goals.

What's important is that you truly want whatever you select and that you will honestly appreciate and make use of it once it comes. Incubation is a powerful process and should be given appropriate respect. For the purpose of this experiment, try to find something that applies directly to your life right now.

Formulate an incubation question, making it open-ended. The dreaming mind responds symbolically and does not do well with yes/no questions.

As you get into bed, hold your question clearly in your mind for a few minutes, repeating it as a mantra. Affirm to yourself that you will have and clearly remember a dream that reveals an insight, an experience, or both.

Stir up some emotions about the topic as you repeat your question. Dreams speak the language of emotions.

As you drift off to sleep, keep your question in mind, all the while feeling the emotions involved, trusting that the exercise will be successful. If other thoughts distract you, return to your incubation focus.

Upon waking, whether in the morning or during the night, record any dreams or thoughts that you've had. Don't judge the content, simply record what you remember.

The dream answer may or may not be obvious to you at first, but trust that the process is working regardless, and try to put any insights you get into practice. Ask someone you trust to reflect upon the dream answer with you.

Even if you don't remember a dream or cannot understand it, your dream may still have an effect. An insight may arise during the day, and you may not even consciously connect it with your dream incubation. The dream's meaning may also become clear at some later date.

Dreaming is about Waking Up



Fabulous workshops today by Robert Moss.

In modern Western societies, we think of dreams as sleep experiences. But for many cultures, dreaming is fundamentally about waking up.

Language in dreams


How does language play a role in our nighttime dreams? A presentation this morning citing several studies delineated some interesting facts:

  • Dream language is most often grammatically well-formed and contextually appropriate.
  • Dream language has an easy sense of rhyme, rhythm, and puns.
  • People who use words for a living, specifically writers, tend to have more language in dreams.
  • Language in dreams is mostly tied to social interaction.
  • Oftentimes, words in dreams may seem literal, when in fact they are metaphorical. For example, if you dream that you are "riddled with cancer," it may have other meanings, such as being puzzled by someone in your life who is a Cancer (astrological sign).
  • Thinking is common in dreams as evidenced by words such as "ask, think, decide, wonder, tell."
  • Thinking occurs in the majority of dreams in contextually appropriate ways, but often nonsensical to waking reality.

In the words of David Kahn, "There is so much we need to learn.... a lot of work yet to be done."

The Element of Surprise in Dream Interpretation


Working on a dream in a group setting or with a psychotherapist often leads to deeper and more meaningful interpretations of a dream. Look for the surprise in the understanding of the dream. To paraphrase Theodor Reik, one of Freud's students (from Surprise and the Psychoanalyst, 1935), "the meaning of a dream... should come as a surprise to both the client and the therapist."

For Therapists: Working with Nightmares


SHOULD I CALL IT A NIGHTMARE?A nightmare is any dream that is so intense, so frightening, that it disrupts your sleep and leaves you in a heightened state of psychological and physiological arousal and discomfort.QUESTIONS AND FACTS ABOUT NIGHTMARES*Nightmares are typically more common in children. One out of every four children experiences at least one nightmare a week; up to 30% of adults experience one nightmare a month and 6% weekly. Recurrent nightmares often begin in childhood and often portray the dreamer as being chased or threatened by unknown people, monsters, or animals.*What contributes to having a nightmare? Oftentimes narcotics, medication, and withdrawal from REM-suppressing drugs, including opioid analgesics can cause nightmares. Some researchers have also identified certain personality traits common to people who experience chronic nightmares including thin boundaries, creativity, sensitivity, defenselessness, and an openness to experience. Nightmares are also more common during periods of unusual stress, at the onset of medical problems such as temporal lobe epilepsy or psychiatric disturbances, such as depression or schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Nightmares also increase after a traumatic event in waking life. *What affect do nightmares have on waking life? As a result of a nightmare or recurring nightmares, people often experience disorientation, confusion, anxiety, a fear of sleep, and general agitation for hours, days, or even weeks later. Research has also reported a co-occurrence of insomnia, chronic fatigue, compromised immune function, impaired psychosocial and interpersonal function, depression, and occasionally substance abuse in adults who have frequent nightmares. *Are nightmares REM-related? Nightmares tend to occur late in the sleep cycle (closer to morning); however, nightmares have been reported during non-REM sleep across the entire sleep cycle, particularly for nightmares that occur after traumatic waking life experiences. *What about nightmares as a result of a trauma? Although post-traumatic nightmares vary considerably with regard to their duration, frequency, and the exactness with which the traumatic event is re-enacted, they tend to gradually lose their intensity and similarity to the traumatic event as the trauma survivor navigates through the process of recovery.DREAMWORK WITH NIGHTMARESWhen working with nightmares in treatment, it is important to keep a slow pace. A client may feel resistant to exploring a nightmare because it can cause emotional distress. It is important to recognize that a client may resist talking about nightmares in order to protect the therapist from being traumatized by the material, or out of fear that the therapist cannot manage the intensity of the content, or cannot manage the client’s emotional reaction to it.As a result, it is important for the therapeutic relationship to include a sense of safety and trust. A discussion about confidentiality and the limits of confidentiality is usually done early in treatment; the therapist also needs to be sure that the client has access to an effective social network. Additionally, the therapist should have an adequate knowledge of the client's personal history. In the early sessions, the therapist can gather information about the onset of nightmares, nightmare frequency, nightmare intensity, presence of sleep disorders, and treatments sought for nightmares. Then the therapist can explain the benefits, the process, and the therapeutic goals of nightmare work. It would be important to tell the client that as dream work begins, it is normal to experience an exacerbation of nightmare frequency or severity. Follow up on this regularly. And check in often with the client about any questions or concerns he or she may have.The work done on one nightmare can be spread out over three sessions. Begin by having the client tell the dream in the present tense[...]

For Therapists: Dream Work in a Group


Chapter 5 of Clara Hill’s book Dream Work in Therapy (2003) discusses working with the Cognitive-Experiential Model in a group.

With a group, the therapist could use the Cognitive-Experiential Dream Model in same way that they would work with a dream individually. There are three stages.

  1. Exploration.
  2. Insight.
  3. Action.

In each stage, the therapist defers to the dreamer first, and then turns to the group for their thoughts about the dream. The group members respond to one or two images from the dream as if the images and the dream were their own, a technique borrowed from consummate dream group leader and author Montague Ullman. The therapist keeps the group moving from exploration, to insight, to action. In the insight stage, the group leader can ask the dreamer and other group members what the dream means and then guide the group in elaboration, looking at the different levels of interpretation. Upon entering into the action stage, the leader can ask the dreamer first to talk about how he or she might change the dream. Other members can talk about how they would change the dream and offer ideas for action. The dreamer ultimately decides what the action idea will be. Close with asking the dreamer how everything discussed fits together for him or her.

The advantage of dream work in a group is that the dreamer benefits from hearing input from other dreamers, input that can expand his or her understanding of the dream. In addition, the other group members benefit from working with someone else’s dream as if it were their own, developing insights and understandings about themselves. Dream groups work well for people who are going through separation and divorce as well as people who are grieving a loss. They provide social support during a stressful time when dreams tend to be more vivid.

I believe that the disadvantage to this approach is the time required to work through one dream work is two hours. It is my understanding that two hours is too long for most people looking for group therapy. It may be possible to do good work with a dream in a group setting using less than two hours. Another disadvantage may be that only one dream gets covered per group session.

For Therapists: Behavioral Work with a Dream


Chapter 3 of Clara Hill’s book Dream Work in Therapy (2003) delineates the third stage of her Cognitive-Experiential Model of working with dreams. Her first two stages—Exploration and Insight—are followed by the Action Stage. The action stage is designed to help a client make a good decision about what, if anything they want to do in response to a dream. The therapist’s role is to help the client establish and/or clarify intentions to carry out a plan of action.Change the DreamThe first avenue of exploration for a client in the Action Stage is to change the dream. The client can change the dream in fantasy. The therapist could ask the client, “Are there any changes you would like to make in the way you handled the situation with XYZ in your dream?” The goal is for the client to feel playful with the dream. For instance, if a client did not like how she handled interacting with a dream character, she can talk and fantasize aloud how she might change that, what she might say or do differently. If the dreamer seems stuck with coming up with ways to change it, Hill (2003) recommends making a suggestion by saying, “If it were my dream, I might change it by….” The author cautions us in that dreamers who think their dream is a message from a Higher Power may not want to change their dream. In that case, creating a sequel might be more appropriate.Create a SequelA sequel to the dream involves continuing the dream and giving it a different ending. A client used this technique with a particularly poignant dream she had. At the end of her dream, she regretted a lack of exchange between her and a professor she admired. In her fantasy sequel, she changed the ending, and had a conversation with him, seeking a blessing from him.Conjure Up A Dream HelperHill (2003) recommends that if the dreamer was helpless in the dream, he or she can conjure up a dream helper. I use this method when working with children who have particularly frightening dreams.Nightmare SufferersChanging the dream is especially helpful for people who suffer from nightmares. There are several ways to work with a nightmare. The therapist asks the client visualize the nightmare and stop it before it becomes too frightening. Then the therapist guides the client in relaxing to reduce anxiety with a mantra, progressive body relaxation, or focused breathing. Whenever intrusive thoughts return, the client can use the relaxation to calm his or her anxiety. The therapist then helps the client change the nightmare into a more positive outcome using the Neurolinguistic Programming Swish Technique. This requires rehearsal, but the idea is to replace the upsetting and anxiety-producing image with a positive image in waking life so that it can then have a positive effect on the dreamer and the dream. Since there is something to be learned from a nightmare, it is helpful for the client to both battle and befriend the frightening dream image. The client can rehearse asking the frightening dream image, “Who are you?” “What do you want from me?” “Why are you here?”Translating Changes to Waking LifeAnother way the therapist guides the client in taking an action in response to the dream is facilitating a discussion (which may come naturally out of the conversation anyway) about translating the changes in the dream to changes in waking life. See what the client comes up with, naturally. The therapist can help the client rehearse behavioral changes, give feedback, and reinforce what the client has learned regarding different behavior.Ritual as ResponseOne of my favorite rituals is to honor the dream through a symbolic act. A simple act can be a response to a dream. For instance, one client dreamt a powerful dream that included the color orange. Her response to the dream was to purchase an orange candle to put on her nightstand. Another woman dre[...]

For Therapists: Enhancing Insight and Understanding of a Dream


Helping a client develop insight and understanding into a dream can be creative for the therapist, an opportunity to offer more input. STEP ONE: Ask the client for an initial interpretation. Respect the client’s point of view.Assess how eager the client is to learn more about the dream, the level of desire for understanding the dream content. The client may be more interested in a concrete understanding of the dream or a more abstract or symbolic understanding. The therapist may already have a sense of the client’s personality and what level of understanding is desired or needed.Listen for what part of the dream the client leaves out.Notice whether the client is satisfied with this level of interpretation with their understanding or if they want more.“Anything else this dream could mean?” “What else could this dream be about?” STEP TWO: Explore the dream more deeply. When helping a client interpret a dream, there are three levels of meaning that could be addressed, depending on the client’s level of interest. CONCRETE: the dream is interpreted as an experience unto itself. The therapist helps the client look at the dream as if it were something the client had lived through. A good question at this stage would be, “How did you feel about yourself in the dream?” WAKING LIFE: how does the dream related to waking life events, including thoughts and feelings about the present, past and future. INNER PERSONALITY DYNAMICS: This is an especially effective way of looking at a dream in which there is a lot of conflict, or with a dream that has images that seem disowned, bizarre, out of the ordinary, or symbolic. Inner parts interpretations can be further divided into three categories: Parts of self interpretation consists of helping the client look at some or all of the images in the dream as parts of him or herself. Carl Jung believed that each image in a dream represented a part of the self. Gestalt dream work is similar, as is the two-chair exercise mentioned in my Dream Exploration post.Childhood conflicts interpretation involves looking at how the dream shows various conflict originating in childhood but present in everyday life. Examples are the client's attempt to establish an identity separate from his or her parents, interpersonal styles learned in childhood that are maladaptive, or deep-seated personality conflicts, most of which originated in relationship to early attachment figures and were perpetuated through interpersonal interactions.Existential-spiritual interpretation. The therapist can ask the client what the dreamreflects about his or her relationship with a higher power or the meaning of life. Look for themes of isolation, freedom, and death anxiety. Studies show that clients value the therapist’s thoughts and reactions to their dreams. If the therapist remains attuned to the clients feelings and comfort level, the therapist can reflect, “I wonder if the dream might mean….” As always, the therapist needs to remain attuned to his or her own motivations for the words spoken to a client. If the therapist hears any disagreement from the client, or feeling of being misunderstood, the therapist should ask for the client’s reactions to the therapist’s thoughts. The therapist needs to keep in mind that any communication on his or her part should help the client say more or lead naturally to an action in response to the dream. To further help the client, the therapist can ask the client to summarize the learnings, themes, and meanings gleaned from this stage of the dream work.from Clara Hill's book Dream Work in Therapy (2003). [...]

For Therapists: Tips for Exploring a Client's Dream


In chapter one of Dream Work in Therapy (2003) Clara Hill delineates five steps for the exploration of a dream with a client. Hill's kind of dream work is collaborative. The therapist is not the "dream expert." Together client and therapist figure out the meaning of the dream. I like this approach, because it gives the power and ultimate meaning-making to the client. The dreamer's associations to the elements of a dream take priority. And oftentimes the meaning of a dream comes as a pleasant surprise to both the client and the therapist.STEP ONE: The client tells the dream to the therapist in first-person, using the present tense. The therapist takes notes, just a word to record 5-10 objects, people, actions, thoughts, and feelings from the dream. If a client brings in a written copy of the dream, it is okay for the client to review it once; however, it is best to tell the dream from memory. This helps the dreamer move into the dream space. If the dream is overly long, ask the client to pick the section of the dream that seems most salient. According to Hill (2003), it is okay to present any dream, no matter how old, as long as it is vivid and the client is motivated to work on it. Find out if the dream is a recurring one and how recent it is.STEP TWO: The therapist helps the client to become immersed in the feelings connected with the dream."How did you feel during the dream?" "How did you feel when you woke up from the dream?" "How are you feeling now, as you retell the dream?"These questions can help the client reconnect with the dream and build arousal and motivation for change.STEP THREE: The client explores the dream, chosing five to ten images with which to work: an object, person, action, thought, or feeling using DRAW for each.Describe the dream image in-depth. The therapist can facilitate this with questions like: "Describe the dream image to me as if I were from another planet..." (Delaney, 1988).Re-experience the image. "What are the feelings at that particular moment in the dream?" "Go back into the image and relive it, stating the feelings as you go through the image."The therapist can do a little Gendlin-like work (feeling the experience and sensation in the body) or Gestalt empty chair technique. For people with nightmares the therapist can help the client with a little breathing and relaxing to ground themselves so that they can manage their anxiety. Associate to the dream image by searching memories, experiences, thoughts, and knowledge that relates to the image. The therapist can facilitate that by asking question like:“What else do you think of when you think of (the image)?” “What is the first thing that comes to mind?” “Tell me more about that.” “What does that mean for you personally?” “What is the purpose of a (image)?” “Any particular memories associated with (image)?” Waking life. Ask the client to explore waking life triggers for each image.STEP FOUR: The therapist summarizes the dream for the client. Sometimes hearing the dream and associations repeated back in a succinct manner helps the client put it all together and figure out the meaning; however, if the summary takes the flow away from the client, or if the exploration process has been long, the therapist can gently move the client into the insight stage. [...]

A Dream Recording Ritual Creates a Resonance with the Unconscious Mind


In Clement and Rosen’s book Dreams: Working Interactive (2001), they list eight steps to take in recording dreams. The authors call it the Ritual Process of Dream Work. Although this is something many of us dreamers may do naturally, the author’s point is that a ritual strengthens the recall of dreams, creating a resonance with the dreaming mind. Here are the eight steps plus one of my own:
  • Have the proper writing materials available next to the bed: a writing utensil and a journal used only for dreams. They recommend a journal with an inspiring cover or something with symbolic imagery. One year I took a spiral notebook and clipped pictures from several magazines and made a collage that echoed the imagery in my dreams. This task was an action in response to a powerful dream. The authors also recommend having space in this journal to sketch dream images.
  • Upon waking, move slowly back into your usual sleep position or the way you were lying when you woke up. The position of you body can help you recollect the dream. Collect the dream mages. Sometimes this can be done by moving from the most recent image upon waking and then moving backwards in the dream. I think of it as looking at the cells of a reel-to-reel tape, pulling down scene by scene until you remember as much as possible, and then running it forward.
  • Stay in the dream feeling as you begin to record it. They write, “You can cultivate a kind of split consciousness by remaining relaxed, teaching yourself to wake up the aspect of yourself that writes, while allowing part of your mind to remain in a kind of reverie….” (p. 10).
  • Record the opening scene as you remember it. Use present tense.
  • Record the scenes as they occur without worrying too much about whether the changing scenes make sense or are in sequence. Sequence is helpful sometimes, but not always important. “Dreams cut and splice time and place like a mad movie director….” (p. 10).
  • Write down first impressions about the dream, what it might mean, associations and feelings.
  • Set the journal aside.
  • Share the dream with someone you trust, someone patient and interested. Often in the verbalization new insights come up. Also, keep the dream in your mind throughout the day, meditating on it in your spare moments (I do this everytime I use the bathroom or drive the car). Or you can let the dream go and simmer just below consciousness.
  • Note any new insights that have come up as a result of this dream. Think about how you might respond to the dream and its message to you. How might you incorporate the dream into your daily life? I usually do this as I am going to bed that night. I feel that it sets the tone for more dreaming.

Fire as a Symbol in Dreams


My friend dreamt about a building on fire. When she told me her dream, I vividly remembered a client's dream from fifteen years ago. She dreamt her home was burning; it was dreamt at a time of devastation in her life, the destruction of an important relationship. More recently a client told me about a spiritually significant dream in which a fire surrounded a passageway. The dream was symbolic of the transformation going on in his life.
Since the beginning of mankind, fire has been a means of survival, essential to life itself. As such, in dreams fire may appear as a symbol of our drive and desire for life, our passions, and where we spend our energy, time, and money.
In dreams, our emotional life is depicted symbolically in exaggerated form. Fire as a symbol can be either positive or negative. Pay attention to how you feel as you tell or relive the dream and how you felt when you were dreaming it. If the feeling in the dream was negative (fear, anger, panic, a sense of danger) then the fire may represent frustration or anger, destruction, or self-destructiveness. Are you trying to rescue people from the fire? Maybe you are trying to salvage something from the destruction. Is the fire out of control? Perhaps there are emotions out of control or suppressed anger.
If the feeling in the dream is calm or positive, then the fire may represent something else. A fire in the hearth may represent the passion for the homelife. A candle or lantern may be the light of guidance or wisdom about yourself or your situation.
Transformation may also be represented by fire. In the alchemy of dreams, a fire may be the burning off of old ways of being, old attitudes and beliefs, and the melding of the new. It is a cycle, for as you burn off the old ways, what is left is ash out of which something new can rise, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. This may be the culmination of something creative. Fire destroys, but it also cleanses and purifies.
Examples of positive fire images: a campfire, fireplace, stovetop, torch, or a candle.
Examples of negative fire images: house on fire, volcano, wildfire, forest fire.
A dream of a fire may also represent what is going on in the body such as an actual a fever.
When working with a dream, always look for word play and common phrases or clichés. Are you a hothead? Do you have a fiery temper? Is something in your life “going up in flames? What is about to erupt? Is something cooking?
Dreams have many layers of meaning. A dream is usually stimulated by something that happened the day or two before, which also has deeper roots. My client's dream about a fire in her house symbolized the destruction of a relationship. It was also about her anger and issues with her family of origin that contributed to the destruction of the relationship (it was her parents' home it he dream). A house is almost always a symbol for yourself--your self image, your emotional self, the way you live your life. The house is where you "live," emotionally.
Pay attention to your dreams, for "a spark neglected makes a mighty fire" (poet Robert Herrick).

Hudson River Landing and Precognitive Dreams


What makes a dream precognitive (seeing the future)? For a dream to be considered precognitive, must it be exact?

Last night I watched the news report about the U.S. Airways landing on the Hudson River. Incredible story; but it wasn't until I settled into bed and reviewed my dream from the night before that I saw an interesting connection. The night before I dreamed that I saw the Statue of Liberty neck deep in water and people swimming in the frigid river.  Looking at this picture, it is as if the windows are the eyes, the tail is the raised arm of the statue.  The dream contained no fear, no anxiety, no need to warn anyone. In fact, it all seemed quite normal.

If this dream was precognitive, "so what?" What good does it do to have a dream that foretells the future when you cannot pin down what it's about?

Let's discuss precognitive dreams. Tell me your thoughts, readers.

If you are interested in telepathic dreams--dreams that are a communication from one mind to another--read a previous post about it here.

Dream Recall


Studies show that most people dream five or six times a night. How many of these dreams do you recall? If you are like most people, you might remember one a night, if at all.First of all, to recall dreams well, you have to sleep. For more information on catching your forty winks and a good dream, read my post on sleeping well.Before sleep, re-read a couple of dreams from your journal, which connects you with your dreaming mind. As you go to bed, repeat to yourself, "I will remember any beneficial dreams when I wake, either in the morning or during the night." Or, "I will spontaneously awaken when I need to without an alarm" (which can be set fifteen minutes later as a backup), since alarms can shatter dream recall. You'll be surprised at how much more you can remember as you write, speak, draw, paint, etc. Be playful, patient, and persistent. Although most people start having success the first week or two, dream recall is a mental muscle that may require some time to get back into shape. If your recall is poor, trust that it will come in time. Trying too hard or being too serious can limit your progress. Dreams thrive on attention. The best way to improve dream recall is to record one dream every morning. This builds a connection to the dreaming mind. The part of your mind that creates dreams is exceptionally sensitive and responsive. Your subconscious mind responds to any interest you show in your dreams. So as you pay attention to your dreams, it responds with rich, profound dreams. And as you regard your dreams as important, they will become more relevant for your waking life.Record your dreams right upon waking. If you cannot remember any of the dream, gently move back into the position you woke up in. Magically, it is as if the body holds the memory of the dream. With your eyes, closed see if you can recall an image or a feeling. Allow yourself to move back into that image or feeling. See if you can pick up a piece of what happened right before that. Continue in this way until you have gone back as far as you can with the dream. Then review it forward. Once reviewed, gently slide your dream journal over and begin recording. You may even find in the act of writing the dream, it almost slides down your arm into your pen and on paper. New insights come with the writing of it.If you cannot recall a dream like this, write whatever is on your mind when you wake in the morning, even a fragment or vague feeling. No fragment or dream is too small or too ridiculous. Record the dream right upon waking. If you wait until later in the morning or after a conversation, the dream is usually diminished or gone. Write the dream in the present tense to bring you back into the experience of the dream. "I am walking down a rocky road...." Record everything, including how you feel. Especially note two things: anything bizarre or unusual in the dream and a central dream image if there is one (an image that carries particular power for the dreamer). Don’t immediately try to link the dream to anything when you're writing it down (i.e. don't try to analyze it). Even if you feel like the dream is "meaningless," don't throw it away. Ignoring dreams results in reduced dream recall.I find that whenever my recall is limited, I either give myself a break from dream work for a few day or weeks (respect the need for an ebb and flow with dream work) or I write down something... anything. The first day, perhaps all I write is "I wish I remembered my dreams." The next morning I might write: I dreamt something about a fish. The next day I might write: I woke up with a song in my head. A day or two later I am recording full-blown dreams.[...]

The Public Restroom


Have you had a dream image of a public restroom? An overwhelming urge to relieve your bladder? Trouble finding a place to go?

As always, dreams have their own unique qualities. They are a mystery that only the dreamer can solve. That being said, there may be some commonalities that we can comment on here.

First of all, when you have a dream like this, consider the possiblity that you really do have to urinate. Oftentimes physical sensations and outside noises make their way into our dreams.

Otherwise, you can look at this image as symbolizing something in your life that is causing you pressure, something you need to get rid of. Ask yourself these questions:

Is it a public matter? Is it personal? Do you feel exposed? Vulnerable?

These types of dreams may be about the following:
Are you having a minor annoying conflict with someone in your life (i.e. are you "pissed off" about something)?
Do you need to speak your mind? Relieve yourself in some way?
Are you feeling trapped with no options about how things are going to go?

As Richard Wilkerson writes in Self Help Magazine:

"The key here, I feel, is not in finding a good place to urinate, but in learning ways of being in the predicament itself. This is what Jung calls a real symbol as opposed to a simple sign. A real symbol has the ability to hold the tension long enough for a whole new paradigm of consciousness to emerge."

As always, your thoughts and associations are welcomed!

Shoes in Dreams


You have brains in your head.You have feet in your shoes.You can steer yourself any direction you choose.You're on your own, and you know what you know.And you are the one who'll decide where you'll go.~~Oh the places you'll go. Dr. Seuss Have you ever dreamt about shoes? Old shoes? New ones? Dress shoes? Shoes and feet move us forward along our path. To dream of shoes often is to dream about the path we are walking and our role in life. Some people think to dream about shoes is to dream about one's soul (shoes have soles).Of course, shoes in dreams can represent many things. It all depends upon the dreamer. Often when we dream about an image, we are sampling that image from popular culture, our childhoods, and literature. For instance, here is a nursery rhyme that is stuck in many of our unconscious minds:There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.She had so many children, she didn't know what to do.She gave them some broth without any bread,Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.Hmmm. And here are some other shoe quotes and injunctions that are a part of our culture:When you meet a stranger, look at his shoes.Keep your money in your shoes.Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.Don't put your shoes on the table.I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet. ~Ancient Persian SayingWhen you read any of those quotes, or maybe think up some of your own, notice whether it seems to connect to your dream in some way. Notice too, whether your body or mind gives you an "aha!" feeling.Cinderella is a folk tale worth mentioning. Did you lose your shoe in your dream? Or did you dream about a glass slipper? When Cinderella puts her foot into the shoe, is it symbolic of her sexual desire for the prince? This might be too Freudian for most, but still due consideration. Perhaps it is simply about a new love interest or a desire to add some romance to your current relationship.Songs, too can come up in our dreams as images, a reciprocal resonance. For instance:...But don't step on my blue suede shoes...You can do anything, but lay off my blue suede shoes.Our shoe are often symbolic of who we are, or who we would like to project ourselves to be:These are my new shoes. They're good shoes. They won't make you rich like me, they won't make you rebound like me, they definitely won't make you handsome like me. They'll only make you have shoes like me. That's it.~~Charles BarkleySpeaking of being handsome, shoes are often perceived as an enhancement to our appearance. Lost shoe, broken shoes, weird looking shoes, mismatched shoes, ill-fitting or tight shoes, shoes that hurt? Perhaps your actions and behaviors at odds with what you really want or believe. There is an obstacle.Shopping for shoes or wearing new shoes? Perhaps you are changing roles.You've forgotten your shoes? It's likely that you are unrestrained, refusing to conform.Outdated or old shoes? Perhaps outdated or old ideas are preventing your progress; conversely, maybe you are accepting who you are.So now, dear dreamers, what do you think giving a shoe away might mean?[...]

The Moon in our Dreams


Who can stand outdoors beneath the light of a full moon and not be in awe of her beauty and her mystery?

Right now, research is underway on the moon's effect on our dream life. Click here to read more.

And if one were to dream about the moon, what might it symbolize?(image)

  • Feminine energy.
  • The intuitive.
  • Madness or lunacy.
  • Romance and our earthly impulses and passions.
  • The unconscious.
  • Growth and fertility.
  • The moon's relationship with water also associates it with imagination and creativity.
  • A full moon may symbolize some kind of completion or fullness.
  • A half or crescent moon may indicate stages of progress.
  • Notice whether you have a sense that the moon is full, or waxing or waning, misted in clouds, eclipsed or hidden. All of these factors can help you understand its meaning.

Automobiles and Transportation in Dreams


What does dreaming about an automobile mean? Frequently the car you dream about represents you, your ego, your personality, your life, your ambition, and the direction your life is going in.What kind of car are you driving? On occasion, the vehicle you are driving may represent your physical body. Often pregnant women dream about driving a small bus or minivan as their bodies grow. If you are driving a sportscar perhaps you love a thrill, speed, and power.What color is the automobile? Red may symbolize your anger. It may also symbolize male sexual potency and drive.Are you in the driver's seat? Or are you taking a backseat? Being in the driver's seat might symbolize being in control of your life. Someone else in the driver's seat would mean that someone else is in control of your life. Are you just along for the ride?If you are driving the car, this might represent your ambition, your drive, and navigating the direction of your life. You are traveling through life with conscious control of your direction.If you are driving and you are lost, perhaps you do not have a sense of direction right now or you feel lost in your life.Notice who is in the car with you. Other people in the car may represent those actual people in your life, or they may be repressed aspects of your personality.How are the tires? Are they flat? Are they worn and old? (Maybe some old ways need to be changed) Do they need air? Or are they blown out? If you have a flat tire, maybe your life is slowing down. Two flat tires? Well, probably you're not getting very far right now. Watch for health issues. Or ask yourself, what in your life is feeling deflated right now?In the dream, notice issues of conformity or rebellion. Are you obeying or ignoring the rules of the road?What about issues of safety or danger? Did you narrowly miss an accident? Were you in a car crash? Perhaps something in your life is in conflict with another. Or maybe you have had an experience that was jarring.Riding a bus could represent your relationship to society, specifically trouble getting onboard or getting off.Riding a bicycle may symbolize the need for some balance and/or hard work in getting to where you want to go. Are you traveling up or down a road? Trouble riding the bike might suggest difficulties with balance and a flat tire may mean you're not getting anywhere fast. No balance, no bike... again, take a look at your health. Maybe you need some recreation, exercise, and balance in your life. Also, since a bike is usually acquired some time in childhood, this may have to do with issues beginning in childhood.Is your car parked? Maybe you need to stop and turn your attention elsewhere. Are you having trouble finding your parked car? This may symbolize not knowing where you want to go in life.Is the car overheating? Look for health problems. Or perhaps you are expending too much energy and getting burnt-out.And if you dream that your car is stolen, perhaps you are feeling robbed of your identity.Click here to read a post about roads.[...]

The Caffeine Buzz


My last post on sleep got me thinking about caffeine... coffee to be exact.

According to a 2007 survey reported by the National Coffee Association, young adults are the fastest-growing segment of coffee drinkers and 60 years old and over are the heaviest coffee drinkers.
  • 18-24 age group: 37% drink coffee (up from 31% of respondents in 2006 and 26% in 2005).
  • 25 to 29 age group: 44% are coffee drinkers (down from 47% in 2006).
  • 40 to59 age group: 61% are coffee drinkers (up from 59 % in 2006).
  • 60 and older: 74% are coffee drinkers (up from 73 % in 2006).

There is a lot of buzz (wince) about the health benefits of coffee (of course... more research is needed). An article in the New York Times reports that coffee is not a diuretic, it cuts the risk of cardiovascular disease, it has no effect on hypertension, and it has no (known) link to cancer. It also helps reduce the chance of Parkinson's disease and type 2 diabetes. It can even boost athletic performance. The down side? Sleeplessness, anxiety-like symptoms, and stomach upset.

Sources of caffeine gleaned from a variety of sources:

Starbucks brewed coffee, venti 415 mg
Starbucks brewed coffee, grande 330 mg
Starbucks brewed coffee, tall 260 mg
Monster (16 oz.) 160 mg
Starbucks Vanilla Latte, tall or grande 150 mg (my personal fave)
(add an extra shot and this drink is up to 225 mg)
coffee, drip (8 oz.) 145 mg
Dunkin' Donuts coffee (16 oz.) 143 mg
coffee (6 oz.) 125 mg
coffee, brewed (8 oz.) 107 mg
Red Bull (8..3 oz) 80 mg
coffee, espresso (1.5 oz.) 77 mg
tea (6 oz.) 50 mg
Red Bull (12 oz). 34 mg
Coca-Cola (12 oz.) 34 mg
green tea (6 oz.) 30 mg
chocolate candy bar 20 mg
hot cocoa (6 oz.) 15 mg
decaf coffee (6 oz.) 5 mg

Vivarin 200 mg
appetite control pills 100-200 mg
midol 132 mg
extra strength excedrin 100 mg
NoDoz 100 mg
excedrine 65 mg
Vanquish 33 mg
anacin 32 mg
Triaminicin 30 mg
dristan 15 mg

According to Clinical Psychopharmacology made ridiculously simple, caffeine has a mild, transient antidepressant action. But the complication is that more than 250 mg a day can

contribute to a decrease in slow wave (deep) sleep; slow wave sleep is already
decreased in depression and the further erosion of this form of restorative
sleep often worsens depression. Caffeine also contributes to frequent
awakenings during the night.

So... would you like to join me for a cup of coffee?

What is Sleep to a Dreamer? Everything!


What good is a Dream Blog without a post or two about sleep? Dreams and sleep are integrally connected. So let’s take a look.This post is not for the people who purposely deprive themselves of sleep on a regular basis. As a working mother, I understand the necessity and the allure of shaving off an hour or two of sleep here and there. Sometimes sleep feels like a luxury. Sometimes we just want a little time to ourselves and it happens to be at 11 p.m. And I know someone who thinks she's tougher because she sleeps less, that going to bed before 11 is for "sissies". But this post is not for her or the other sleep-depriving souls. This post is for all of those individuals who suffer, who long for a good night's sleep and find it eluding them night after night.What is insomnia?Insomnia is the personal experience of poor sleep accompanied by impairment in daytime function. It is common in people aged older than 55 years. Out of individuals who report chronic insomnia:85% remain untreated. 66% report having poor knowledge of available treatment options.20% resort to either untested over-the-counter medications or alcohol in attempts to improve their condition. Effects of Sleep DeprivationSleep deprivation impairs our ability to regulate our emotions and our ability to make rational decisions. Sleep deprivation also affects dream recall. It can impair our immune systems and brain processes such as learning and memory, which in turn effects school or work performance and lead to memory lapses.Lack of sleep can also cause us to overreact to bad experiences. In a recent study, people who were deprived of sleep for 35 hours were 60 % more reactive to negative emotional stimuli. Our depression, emotional lability, and irritability is bad news for our marriages, friendships, as parents, and at work.Some studies are also showing that people who do not get enough sleep at night weigh more. The theory is that less than 7 1/2 to 8 hours prevents the appetite hormone from being released, thereby increasing our appetite the next day. Additionally, people may eat more to keep their energy levels up.Medically speaking, sleep deprivation can lead to higher mortality rates, increased risk of heart disease, and increased risk of stomach problems. Many psychiatric disorders are linked with abnormal sleep patterns. New research discoveries show that individuals who suffer from both depression and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) often find that use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) relieves both disorders. CPAP is the most common and effective treatment for OSA. CPAP provides a steady stream of pressurized air to patients through a mask that they wear during sleep. This airflow keeps the airway open, preventing the pauses in breathing that characterize sleep apnea and restoring normal oxygen levels. Reasons for Trouble SleepingPerhaps your sleep deprivation is not self-imposed. What are the possible reasons for difficulty sleeping? Some of these may seem obvious to you, but it is always good to review:Exercising before bed can keep you awake late into the evening. If you exercise in the evening, try to finish at least four hours before you plan to go to sleep. Staying away from a caffeinated beverage in the evening may seem obvious to you, but I have to mention it here because I treated someone once for a sleep disorder, only to find that she was drinking iced tea with her evening meal. Drinks such as coffee (even decaf has small traces of caffeine), some teas, and soda contain caffeine. Anything [...]

Creativity and Dreams


Throughout time there has been a connection between dreams and creativity. Friedrich Kekule dreamt up the shape of the Benzene Ring. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was inspired by a dream. Paul McCartney dreamt the song Yesterday. Elias Howe dreamt how to develop the needle for the sewing machine. Jack Nicklaus dreamt up a new golf swing. Stephen King says that his dreams affect his writing, that many of his novels originate in his dreams, and that his dreams help his resolve his blocks in his writing. Anne Rice uses her dreams in her writing. If you want to read more about these creative dreamers go to Bella Online.

When I write poetry, I use dream imagery as it provides a rich source of metaphor and meaning.

A reader who posts on this blog has a post about her artwork and its connection to her dreams on her blog. You can see it here at a Life with a View.

What are some of your dreams that have led into something creative? Please feel free to share your experiences here and links to your artwork, poetry, writing, or discoveries!

Telepathic Dreaming


(image) This was the winning telepathic dream:
There was a pirate’s ship, an old boat. People are standing on the periphery because the are afraid they’ll lose their heads. Someone with pigtails is there. I have a strong sense of the color orange.

Abre los Ojos


Upon a recommendation from a friend, the movie Open Your Eyes, upon which Vanilla Sky was based.

Waking Life Trailer


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I saw this animated movie about dreams a long time ago. A young man floats in and out of philosophical discussions, all the while wondering whether he's conscious or dreaming.