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How to Work with Your Dreams

I have long been fascinated by my dreams and have enjoyed keeping a “dream

journal” off and on for many years. In the spiritual direction training course I took,

we had a lot of time devoted to looking at dreams. I’ll just share here some possible

ways of working with your own dreams. Most of all what we were taught is that


nightmares always have some positive message that your mind is persistently trying

to get you to pay attention to. With that in mind, here are some techniques for

unpacking the messages in your dreams. Which also reminds me to say that dreams

all have many layers – and sometimes the obvious layer is not the most important

one. So, to get to some of the other layers of your dreams, you might consider;

Keeping a dream journal where you write out in detail everything you remember

about your dream as soon as you wake up. The process of writing the details down

often reveals more details as you write. Trust your hand!

After you have written the dream out, go back and underline each of the nouns in

the dream. Make a list of these nouns and also your associations with each one. Not

associations that are necessarily related to the dream, but just in general, what do

you think of when you see each word. For instance I might have dreamed

something that contained a cat – my associations with that might run something

like; The play CATS, purr, fur, soft, sneaky, my childhood cat Cinderella, stuffed cats,

rodents, hair up on the back, wildcats, tiger, meow, Siamese, aloof, etc. After you

have made this list – sometimes you have a “hit” – a sense that something resonates

out of these associations. So maybe the dream wasn’t so much about a cat as my

own sense of aloofness, for instance.

After you have written your associations, give the dream a title. This also is

sometimes revealing.

Make a simple drawing of important parts of the dream Stick figures are fine. Or,

make a map of the setting of the dream. Or, make a collage about the dream.

Finally here are six “Magic questions” that can help you unpack the dream. These

questions were devised by the late UU Rev. Jeremy Taylor. Select one of the

important images in the dream and complete these sentences;

I am a ___________________.

My purpose in life as a ___________ is ________________.

What I like about being a ____________ is

What I dislike about being a ____________ is

What I fear about being a ___________ is

What I hope about being a ______________is.


dream may not be about an actual event – it may be using an actual event to show

you something about your own life. Enjoy the journey of your dreams!

And if you are like most people who don’t remember your dreams, here are some

tips; Put a pen and pad of paper beside your bed. Remind yourself as you are falling

asleep that you want to remember your dreams. Upon waking if you remember any

piece of a dream – write it down and work with it. You don’t need the whole dream

to get insights. It is imperative to write the dream down as soon as you awaken or

even a few words scribbled in the middle of the night will help. Dreams, as we all

know, are very elusive and can slip through the net of our consciousness very

quickly. Eventually your mind will get the message that you do want to remember

and honor your dreams.

The Dream-keeper – by Langston Hughes

Bring me all of your dreams,

You dreamer,

Bring me all your

Heart melodies

That I may wrap them

In a blue cloud-cloth

Away from the too-rough fingers

Of the world.

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