Outline - The way of working known as the Peer Dream Group came about from our experience that dreams are largely self explanatory if approached in the right way. An exterior expert or authority is not necessary for a profound experience of and insight into dreams if certain rules are respected and used. The dreamer is the ultimate expert on their own dream, and when treated as such, and supported in their investigation of their dream drama, they can powerfully explore and manifest the resources of their inner life.
Fundamentals of Practice
The suggestions that follow have arisen from thirty years of dream work. They have been particularly tested with a number of small groups, and are usually employed with groups of three to five people, but sometimes with just two people working together.
Find a partner you can relax with who can give sympathetic and non-intrusive support. Agree with the partner that any confidences disclosed during the dream exploration will not be told to others.
The dreamer tells the dream. It is sometimes helpful, if they tell it in the first person present, as if they were experiencing the dream as they are telling it. The telling of the dream can include any relevant information, such as immediate associations, or events directly linked with the dream.
Example - This is my dream. I am driving my car, alone. I can see a female friend and stop to offer her a lift. I partly want her to be impressed by my new car. She looks at me. Now she tells me she doesn't want a lift and I am watching her walk off with a man I do not know. .......... I have recently bought the car I am driving in the dream. I like it very much and like to have my friends ride in it. (Joel)
The helpers now ask the dreamer questions to clarify for themselves the imagery and drama of the dream.
Example - You didn't describe the street you were driving along. Was it a shopping centre or quiet place?
It was quite a crowded road, with people, not so many cars. I think this was also connected with my feeling of wanting to be seen in my new car.
Are you attracted to your female friend?
The dreamer next chooses one of the characters or images in the dream to explore. The character can be themselves as they appear in the dream, or any of the other people or things. It is important to realise that it does not matter if the character is someone known or not, or whether they are young or old. The character needs to be treated as an aspect of their dream, and not as if they were the living person exterior to the dream.
In choosing an image to work with, such as a tree, cat, place, or an environment like the street in the example dream, it must again be treated as it appears in the dream, not as it may appear in real life. One can take any image from the dream to work with.
The dreamer stands in the role of the character or image they are using. So if they chose to be the car in the example dream, they would close their eyes, enter into the feeling sense and imagery of the dream, and describe him or herself as the car.
Example - I am a car. Joel has recently purchased me, and he is driving me, largely because he feels I will help him gain respect from other people. I am quite a large car, and have a lot of power. But even with all this energy I do not make my own decisions. I am directed by Joel's desires and wishes, and enable him to fulfill them more readily.
From this short description it can already be seen there is a suggestion the car represents Joel's emotional and physical energy, directed by his desires and decisions.
The helpers now ask questions of the dreamer who stays in the role of the dream character or image. The questions must be directly related to the role the dreamer is in. So Joel, in the role of the car, could be asked - Are you a second-hand or new car? Who was driving you before Joel? Do you feel that Joel handles you well? What does it feel like to be directed where to go all the time? Do you have places you would like to go?
Joel should be helped to remain in role. If he slips out of it and stops describing himself as the car, gently remind him he is speaking as the car. Also the questions should be asked with an awareness of time necessary for the dreamer's adequate response. So do not hurry the questions to the point where the dreamer cannot properly explore his or her associations and feeling responses. If emotions are stimulated by a question allow the dreamer to discover what the emotion is connected to. By this is meant that an emotion is usually a response to something, and therefore gives information concerning what is moving us deeply.
If a line of questioning is producing promising results, do not lead the dreamer off in another direction. For instance Joel may have been asked if he wants to get out of his car and follow the woman, and show some feelings about this. A question such as 'Are there any shops in this street'? would take him completely away from such feelings.
To help ask relevant questions it is useful to be interested in the dreamer and their dream. Have a questioning mind in relationship to the dream. So do not have already fixed opinions about it. Be like a detective gradually unfolding the information and emotions behind the
As the dreamer answering the questions, let your helpers also know what you feel in response to their questions, or what memories or associations occur when a particular part of the dream is being explored.
Example - Joel: When you asked me if I want to follow the woman I immediately realised that in real life I am holding myself back from letting my feelings about her show.
When you have come to the end of what you can ask about the dream image, the dreamer should be asked to summarise what they have understood or gathered from what they have said or felt in response to the questions. To summarise effectively gather the essence of what you have said about the symbol and express it in everyday language. Imagine you are explaining to someone who knows nothing about yourself or the dream. Bring the dream out of its symbols into everyday comments about yourself.
Example - A man dreamt about a grey, dull office. When he looked at what he said about the office, he rephrased it by saying, "The dream depicts the grey unimaginative social environment I grew up in after the second world war. It shaped the way I now think, and I want to change it toward more freedom of imagination and creativity.
Work through each of the symbols in the dream within the available time.
A dream that leaves the dreamer unsatisfied, or in a difficult place, can usefully be approached with the following technique.
Alter The Dream To Find Greater Satisfaction.
Imagine yourself in the dream and continue it as a fantasy or daydream. Alter the dream in any way that satisfies. Experiment with it, play with it, until you find a fuller sense of self expression. This is like getting back into the dream, but now you are awake, and are able to see what is going on with more awareness.
Example - If you are being chased and are running away, you may have realised through the questions that you are running away from, or avoiding, directly meeting an anxiety you have about work. So now you can imagine turning around and meeting whatever it is chasing you, and acting out in your imagination some way of meeting it as the image.
Or if you discover a room in your house you have never seen before, you can now enter it in your imagination and find out what it feels like - in other words what part of yourself you are finding.
Below Are Given A Few Further Pieces Of Information Which Might Help In Any Dreamwork You Undertake.
THE DREAMER - Our current 'self image' is displayed by what we do in our dreams. If we are the active and central character in our dreams, then we have a positive, confident image of ourself. The role we place ourself in is also the one we feel at home with, or one which is habitual to us. If we are constantly a victim in our dreams, we need to consider whether we are living such a role in everyday life. Dreams may help us look at our self image from a more detached viewpoint. We can look back on what we do in a dream more easily than we can on our everyday waking behaviour. This helps us understand our attitudes or stance, a very growth promoting experience. It is important to understand the viewpoint of the other dream characters also. Although they depict views other than our dominant ones, they enlarge us through acquaintance.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE DREAM WORLD - Dreams give us a doorway into a strange and wonderful world. Although it appears to have many of the features of our waking world such as people, animals, objects and places, it is nevertheless full of subtle surprises and differences. To enter this world while asleep leaves us largely unaware of its possibilities. To take waking awareness into our entrance, as happens when we explore a dream through dream processing, unfolds the magic impact of what we meet.
When we open the door of dreams in this way we begin a journey. It has stages, problems to surmount, and things to learn, just like any journey. Many people have already travelled before us, and there are books such as Alice in Wonderland; The Odyssey; Exploring Inner Space; and Altered States of Consciousness, which describe journeys and the terrain.
Although we might meet the heights of religious experience as well as the depths of human despair on the journey, in simple terms it is primarily a journey into a confrontation with our own potential, our own fear, our own prison bars of thought and habit, our own ability to lift perception beyond what we have known before, and look at the world, and our life in it, from new perspectives. It is a journey toward greater maturity in which we face the humbling vision of our own littleness; the moving encounter with the vulnerable child we once were; the cleaning out of the store cupboards of resentment, hurt and anger; the DIY of conscious renewal of our identity; and the meeting with Love as we experience ourself as a living participant in the wonder of life. We look at birth, we meet death, we gaze into the vast depths of space out of which our being has arisen. Then we find ourselves seeing the faces of the other human beings we live with, and recognising we are all on the journey, and we only have each other. Realising we are all waves on a shoreless sea - from no port we move to no destination - we understand our self responsibility, and consider what we will to do with the momentum of our life.
POSTURES MOVEMENT AND BODY LANGUAGE - Even in everyday life, the way we hold and position our body, the inclination of chest and head, the movement of hands, are a means of communication. The apparently intuitive information in some dreams, when investigated, can be traced to an unconscious insight into the language of the living body. We all have this ability to understand body language, but it seems to be something which is inherited from our ancient forebears, perhaps developed to an intense degree as a survival need prior to the growth of verbal language. It therefore remains a largely unconscious ability. In our dreams, however, it is a major factor in how the dream is structured.
When exploring a dream it can often be extremely useful to imagine yourself making the movement or posture in the dream to see if you can define what the feeling quality is, or that you are saying non verbally. It can often be of value to make the movement or take up the posture physically instead of in imagination. By comparing the movement/posture with another one, it can help to clarify its quality.
Example: "Marilyn was experiencing emotional pain connected with her impending divorce. Marilyn had dreamt of seeing a dinosaur standing in her path, devouring all who approached it. We explored it by having Marilyn find a body posture and movements which for her expressed the feeling of the dinosaur. In doing so Marilyn did not sense anger or aggression, but she did feel like a predator which always had to TAKE to gain her own needs. This feeling immediately reminded her of her family life as a child. She remembered when she was sent shopping as a very young child of three or four, as well as buying what she had been asked, she purchased some sweets for herself. When she arrived home she was treated as if she had done a terrible thing, and that was where she began to feel like a predator. It seemed to her as if her own needs were always gained at the expense of someone else.
With this awareness, she could now see that the dinosaur standing in her path clearly related to her present situation. Bargaining to gain a realistic share of the house and property jointly owned by her husband and herself, felt to her as if she were gaining her needs at his expense, like a predator. That made her feel so awful, she was almost ready to allow her husband to take all, leaving her without house or money to start again. Her awareness of where the feelings arose from, and the unrealistic part they played in her life, allowed her to relate to the situation with less pain and more wisdom."
~by Tony Crisp