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Sharing Our Dreams

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  1. Benefits from sharing our dreams.
  2. We can start a "dream group." 

Benefits from sharing our dreams. When we talk about our dreams with other people, we learn about dreams, ourselves, and the people with whom we are sharing.

  1. We learn about dreams. When people tell us their dreams, we gain insight into their personal dreamscape, their symbolism (and their ways of interpreting or dreamworking that symbolism), and their ways of managing dreamland problems and possibilities. We can use much of this information in our own dream studies. And when we talk about dreams, this attention helps us to recall more of them; this further advances our education.
  2. We learn about ourselves. When we describe our dreams to other people, their feedback gives us different perspectives -- perhaps ones which are more honest than our own, because those people don't have the repressions and biases that distort our interpretations of our own dreams. They help us to see meanings which we don't discern because of our limited perspective and possibly because our reluctance to probe into unpleasant parts of our psyche. Also, because dreams have more than one meaning, other people's interpretations can help us to discover those additional meanings; otherwise, we might have been satisfied with the first interpretation which occurred to us.
  3. We learn about other people. We strengthen relationships when we talk about dreams with people whom we trust and love; the "trust" implies that the information will not be ridiculed or gossipped or used against us later, and the "love" means that we accept the person's weaknesses and shadowy unpleasantries which might be expressed in the dream. Within the context of dream-sharing, we can talk about our intimate feelings, our fears, our passions, and the ways in which we view our lives and the world. When we discuss a dream, we have a means of addressing an issue in our relationship without a direct confrontation; the dream itself brought up the issue, and it did so in a manner in which we can comfortably disclaim responsibility (however incorrectly) for the emotions which were expressed, because it was a dream character (and not us) who said something pertaining to the subject. Remember that a dream in which the other person appears is not necessarily a dream about that person; the character might be representing something else. But sometimes the character does symbolize that person; if so, he or she is likely to have dreamed about us in return.

We can start a "dream group." Some dreamers participate in groups in which they discuss their dreams with other people who are interested in this subject. Some ideas about dream groups:  

  1. We gain rewards from our membership in a dream group. These are the same benefits which we receive from sharing dreams with friends and family; in a group, we can talk about dreams with even more people. We develop the friendships and emotional intimacy which are engendered in an environment which is ideally a safe arena for such warm, human sharings.
  2. The members. If we cannot find a dream group which suits our interests, we can start one. The members might be from our family, our circle of friends, our co-workers, or other acquaintances. To find more members, we can write a newspaper ad, or post a notice at a community bulletin board at libraries, churches, colleges (particularly in the psychology department), senior citizen centers, health food stores, bookstores, and other places. We might want members who have common interests and backgrounds; this will encourage an immediate camaraderie and communication. However, a diverse group will generate a broader range of perspectives.
  3. The size of the group. Some groups function best with only four people; most have fewer than ten. When we have more people, we receive more viewpoints, but this allows less time per person for the sharing of dreams. (In some gatherings, only one dream is discussed in each meeting.) If our group becomes too large, we can split it into two groups. At the meetings, visitors might be prohibited because these strangers tend to inhibit members from revealing their private feelings.
  4. The location and frequency of the meetings. We might meet in the same person's home each time, or we could rotate from one to another. Some groups meet in churches, libraries, or community halls. The members need to agree on a convenient meeting time -- once a week, twice a month, or once a month. They also need to decide upon a length of time for the meetings -- perhaps two or three hours.
  5. The first meeting. This is an opportunity to meet one another and to sow the friendliness and trust which will make the group a success. The personal information which is shared helps us to interpret one another's dreams because we learn about the wakeful-life factors which will be represented in those dreams. In addition to the social interaction, we also explain our interest in dreams, our approaches to dreams (e.g., Freudian, Gestalt, creative daytime dreamwork, lucidity, or another), and the benefits we hope to get from our participation. (A similar introduction might be presented whenever a new person joins the group.)
  6. The leader of the group. Some groups are directed by a psychologist or psychiatrist who can contribute expertise (and skillful therapy for people who encounter emotional turbulence in their dreams or wakeful life); the disadvantage is that this "expert" is likely to impose a particular psychological approach toward dreams (and he or she will probably charge a fee for each meeting). In groups which are not conducted by a professional, the leader is just one of the members. The role is to oversee the agreed-upon format of the meeting; this includes starting and ending the session (and each phase of it), assuring that each person has an opportunity to contribute dreams and comments, and reminding the members of any "rules" regarding confidentiality, eclectic acceptance of differing opinions and approaches, egalitarian sharing (with no one presuming to be an authority on dreams), and so on. We might choose one person to be the "permanent" leader, or we might rotate the duty among the participants.
  7. The members must develop trust. When we share dreams (and discuss their psychological meaning), we are exposing feelings and thoughts which lie far below our superficial social persona. We must work on this intimate level in order to understand a dream. To allow us to open up to one another, the dream group must create an ambiance of respect, gentleness, compassion, and comfort -- without sacrificing honesty in speaking about one another's dreams. The dreams should be confidential; members cannot talk about another person's dreams outside of the group.
  8. The dreamer can stop the process. We should share only the dreams which we suspect will not reveal something which we wish to keep private -- but this might be impossible, because any dream could expose embarrassing or upsetting information. When we do talk about our dreams and emotions, we should not feel compelled to disclose a particular dream, or to examine a dream to an extent which makes us uneasy, or to allow other members to continue a line of questioning which disturbs us. We can stop the discussion at any point without divulging our reason. However, if we are not willing to unmask ourselves to some degree, we probably should not be participating in a dream group.
  9. The interpretations can continue. Instead of stopping the process, the dreamer might want to proceed. In a supportive group, a member is allowed to express the emotions which arise, and to cry. However, the members should probably stay on the subject of the dream itself rather than trying to analyze the dreamer's personal life. The members are not professional therapists, so they risk damaging the dreamer psychologically if they delve too deeply into the emotions which are provoked.
  10. The format of the meeting. The following format has been presented by people who have operated dream groups. We can vary the process to suit the members of our own group. The amount of time for each segment of the format can be decided in advance -- and it can be monitored by a kitchen timer rather than by a person with a watch; that time-keeper would probably receive unconscious resentments whenever he or she told a member that the time had elapsed.
    • The opening statement. After the members have arrived, greeted one another, and shared some small talk, we start the meeting. The opening statement is an opportunity for each person to describe their feelings at this moment (and their feelings since the last meeting). The information helps the other members to understand the context in which the person's dream occurred. During this time, members might also share any dreamwork creations (paintings or other artwork based on dreams). Refreshments can be served now or at the end of the meeting.
    • This helps us to relax, create a group unity, and shift our thoughts into a contemplative mode. A centering exercise can include a prayer, or chanting (e.g., OM), or meditation, or simply a minute of silence. During this time, we might hold hands with one another.
    • Everyone shares a dream. Only one or two dreams will be interpreted during the meeting, but everyone should be allowed to read a dream to the group; this allows all members to participate in the dream-sharing. However, no one is required to read a dream. During this phase of the meeting, the dreams are shared without interpretations from the other people. The members should have a copy from which to read; they might also want to have a photocopy for all of the other members.
    • A dream is selected for interpretation. Depending on the amount of time in the meeting, and the amount of time spent on each dream, we might be able to review one or more dreams per session. Whose dream should be interpreted tonight? This can be determined on a rotating basis, or the drawing of names randomly, or group consensus, or by a member's feeling that his or her dream has an urgency which requires an interpretation.
    • The dream is read. All of the members presented their dreams previously, but now they listen again to the dream which is to be interpreted. The speaker should use the first person (i.e., the dream persona is referred to as "I," not "the character"), present tense, emotional expression (with a dramatic story-telling flair), and all details of the dream. He or she can employ gestures and body language to convey the story, even to the point of standing and portraying some of the actions. The recitation simply describes the characters and activity of the dream, with no interpretation. The listeners may take notes (and they may shut their eyes to imagine the dream as they hear it), but they should not make comments.
    • The other members ask for clarification. We can inquire about details which were not mentioned, or any part which we didn't understand. We don't begin the interpretation yet; these questions simply establish the superficial "manifest content."
    • The members discuss the dream. During this stage, the dreamer offers no comments or nonverbal responses, and the other members do not look at or speak to the dreamer. This is an opportunity to give our impressions of the symbolism and emotions. We talk about the dream as if we had dreamed it ourselves, from our own feelings and circumstances rather than those of the dreamer -- and we shouldn't even refer to the personal data which we know about the dreamer's wakeful life. To emphasize this perspective, we might start our sentences with the phrase, "If that were my dream, ..." With this approach, we can express our notions freely without concern about upsetting or imposing on the dreamer; after all, we are speaking as though the dream is ours. We are likely to evoke a large range of viewpoints, some of which will be meaningful to the dreamer. One member can write the comments; they will be given to the dreamer at the end of the meeting.
    • The dreamer responds to the comments. The dreamer is allowed to maintain privacy, and not admit that certain embarrassing interpretations were true. But we would like to know, generally, whether any of our remarks seemed plausible, and whether they caused the dreamer to feel a "tingle" or "aha" in recognition of a correct interpretation. The dreamer might want to continue the discussion of the dream, with any further explanations which could narrow the focus. We don't insist that the dream has a particular meaning; the person has the freedom and privacy to develop his or her own interpretation, using some or none of the input that has been given. The discussion ends when the dreamer feels satisfied, or when the time-limit has been reached.
    • The meeting ends. The leader might ask whether anyone wants to add final comments to the discussion. Then the group conducts another centering exercise, to settle any emotions which have been stirred, and to help us to return to our regular state of mind.
    • The study continues between meetings. Dream groups are not meant to be a substitute for individual work; we should still do interpretations and dreamwork at home. And after our dream has been reviewed by the group, we will benefit by reading the written comments and giving more consideration to their validity. We can prepare for the next meeting by doing a preliminary interpretation for the dream which we plan to present, and by developing our knowledge of dreams in general so that we can contribute better-informed input for other people's dreams.
    • Dream groups can pursue related activities. Some groups have guest speakers, a lending library of books and newsletters about dreaming -- and group experiments in incubation, lucid dreaming, and other aspects of the subject. They can also attempt a mutual dream; on a particular night, they will try to assemble in the dreamscape and share an activity which will be reported at the next meeting of the group.

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