Dream work outside the clinical setting is not a substitute for psychotherapy, or other professional treatment, and should not be used as such.
"Working with dreams" means remembering and exploring the dreams from sleep to explore their deeper meanings as a means of enriching experience and self knowledge. Each one of us is uniquely blind to the deeper meanings of our own dreams, and Dream Work helps us see what amazing gifts are there, just below the surface of "manifest content" and obvious appearance.
There are many benefits to dream work, yet one should recognise that there are potential risks. Dream work is generally a group activity and as such group dynamics have a profound influence on the approach to dream work. One should consider dream sharing that respects the dreamer's dignity and integrity; and which recognises the dreamer as the decision-maker regarding the significance of the dream. Systems of dream work that assign authority over, or knowledge of, the dream's meanings to someone who is not the dreamer can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful. Ethical dream work helps the dreamer work with his/her own dream images, feelings, and associations, and guides the dreamer to more fully experience, appreciate, and understand the dream.
Every dream may have multiple meanings, and different techniques may be reasonably employed to touch these multiple layers of significance. A dreamer's decision to share or discontinue sharing a dream should always be respected and honoured. The dreamer should be forewarned that unexpected issues or emotions may arise in the course of dream work. Information and mutual agreement about the degree of privacy and confidentiality are essential ingredients in creating a safe atmosphere for dream sharing.
All dreams speak a universal language and come in the service of health and wholeness. There is no such thing as a "bad dream" - only dreams that sometimes take a dramatically negative form in order to grab our attention.
Only the dreamer can say with any certainty what meanings his or her dream may have. This certainty usually comes in the form of a wordless "aha!" of recognition. This "aha" is a function of memory, and is the only reliable touchstone of dream work. There is no such thing as a dream with only one meaning. All dreams and dream images are "over-determined," and have multiple meanings and layers of significance. No dreams come to tell you what you already know. All dreams break new ground and invite you to new understandings and insights.
When talking to others about their dreams, it is both wise and polite to preface your remarks with words to the effect of "if it were my dream...," and to keep this commentary in the first person as much as possible. This means that even relatively challenging comments can be made in such a way that the dreamer may actually be able to hear and internalise them. It also can become a profound psycho-spiritual discipline.
All dream group participants should agree at the outset to maintain anonymity in all discussions of dream work. In the absence of any specific request for confidentiality, group members should be free to discuss their experiences openly outside the group, provided no other dreamer is identifiable in their stories. However, whenever any group member requests confidentiality, all members should agree to be bound automatically by such a request.
Silvia Camastral Ph.D - Brisbane
Process Oriented Psychotherapist