Like many I’ve been curious about my dreams for years.
My mother was a Jungian Analyst and growing up we talked about dreams a lot at the breakfast table. She often annoyed me because instead of offering insight or answers she always said “well, what does that character mean to you?” Bah. I just wanted her to tell me what it meant! Ultimately her questions succeeded in making me interested in some kind of inner journey of my own.
Dream analysis: finding a meaning of the dream
In my 20s I came across the book by Robert Johnson Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth. This gave me a practical and accessible way of studying my dreams. I studied it furiously and spend time journalling and deconstructing/interpreting dreams.
Johnson’s approach comes out of a Jungian one. That is, a recognition of the unconscious mind and a language of symbols and meanings by which the unconscious mind tries to express itself to the conscious. Our humble task is to find the meaning and thus help more unconscious material be related to consciously. In Active Imagination we find a way to dialogue and relate to these symbolic parts of ourselves. My therapy work often involves these kinds of dialogues and I encourage clients to continue the inner-relating outside of my office. Important work indeed.
Dream Tending: listening from inside the dream
Lately I’ve been introduced to a different approach. Instead of trying to look for symbols and find meaning, the practice of Dream Tending invites dreamers to enter the dreamtime through the images in the dream itself.
Renee Coleman, Psychotherapist, DreamTender and author of Icons of a Dreaming Heart says “we enter the dream on its terms and on its turf, so that the “intelligence” of the dream is listened to from inside the dream.”
Renee might ask: Who is dreaming? Where is dreaming happening? And, From where does the light of dreams emanate?
She makes a distinction between the action of dreams, on the one hand, and the activity of dreaming, on the other. The action of dreams refers to the content, whereas the activity of dreaming has more to do with what’s happening through the dream. See Renee’s blog Action versus Activity for an example.
DreamTending is an approach developed by Dr. Stephen Aizenstat—founding President of Pacifica Graduate Institute, core faculty member of the Institute, and clinical psychologist.
A personal experience of Dream Tending
Over a year ago I was gifted a Dream Tending session with Renee. By phone, she guided me back into the dream. I told it to her in intricate detail in the 1st person. That process itself was hypnotic. She then related my dream back to me, also in intricate detail. That process created an intimacy or known-ness that I’ve not often had from a stranger on the phone! In a way it felt like she entered the dream with me, as my guide. She guided me through it in a way I’ve not experienced before. I came to know the “characters” in a closer way. I was able to feel my way through it, rather than just think about it as I’d done before. I came out of it feeling more experientially engaged with important forces within me. I felt able to touch into the light inside the dream and know that it was with me outside of the dream too.
Whichever the way, I’m grateful for my dreams for consistently reminding me of a bigger, deeper and more interesting picture of life than my conscious mind, which likes to get preoccupied with the importance of day to day reality, offers!