Diane led us through an enlightening, experiential journey with dreams and the necessity of healthy sleep. Before she began, Diane invited us to choose one of her beautifully prepared booklets entitled ‘Exploring our Dreams’. Each had a different image, colour, saying or pattern on the front cover and we were asked to take the one that we were naturally drawn to.
Diane gave a background to her interest in dreams and working with them and discussed how we, as therapists, might like to do the same. Everyone dreams although not everyone remembers. Firstly, however, we discussed sleep and how important it was to have the right sleep in the right amount. Quality of sleep is also sometimes called ‘sleep hygiene’. It affects our daily life, our dreamtime and how we process our daily experiences. Sleep can be adversely affected by room comfort, medication, sleep apnoea, or genetic issues e.g. Fatal Familial Insomnia. Diane recommended we have an awareness of our clients’ sleep patterns in order to help them explore their dreams effectively. The impact of their emotional, physiological and mental states is also important. One interesting revelation was that by nature we are actually programmed to sleep twice in a day, both for a relatively short number of hours. This seems similar to that of people who live in hot countries who have a siesta in the afternoon and then stay out late followed by their second sleep, rising again fairly early to begin their day. This apparently is a much healthier way of being! Diane discussed the different aspects to sleep and dreaming, such as, lucid dreams, nightmares, night terrors and false awakening.
Diane then gave a comprehensive and intriguing history of dreams and the working with them. Dreams have been discussed since ancient times and were first recorded by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia around 3100 – 2700 B.C. Dreams recorded on papyrus may be traced back to 2000 B.C. The Egyptians interpreted their dreams and, in fact, if some-one had issues causing concern they would sleep in a dream temple. Once awake a priest (Master of the Secret Things) would be consulted for an interpretation of any dreams. The Egyptians believed there were three main types of dreams: ‘Those that happened as a result of ritual; those that contained warnings and those where the Gods were demanding action’. The Chinese, Native Americans, Greeks and others all had their beliefs and theories about this subject as did the Philosophers, such as Hippocrates, Aristotle and Homer. In some cultures, dreams helped in the practice of medicine. In addition to healing, prophecies might also be given through dreams to those who slept in dream temples or shrines. The Bible refers to dreams, such as, the story of Jacob’s ladder and, of course, the Wise Men. We see this thread continuing in the work of Freud (Psychoanalytical thinking seemed to see sex at the root of all dream content). Jung saw it as how we communicate with our unconscious. He felt, Diane said, ‘that the unconscious was spiritual by nature not animalistic’; Adler, saw it as an ‘open pathway to our true thoughts, emotions and actions’; Calvin Hall thought dreams reveal things about ourselves and Fritz Perls said that ‘dreams contain rejected, disowned parts of self’. Medard Boss, whose interest was in the existential and phenomenological, saw dreams as a ‘map for guidance and inspiration which can be revisited like a treasured book’. Diane offered us the opportunity to do just that and revisited one of hers. She related a significant dream as we sat around her and listened to her story. We were then invited to ask questions, offer insights or share feelings. The result was, Diane said, that she gained additional insights into her journey with that dream and said that each time we revisit a dream we also might learn something new. Dreams are powerful metaphors, but we must remember the dreamer owns the dream we are merely bystanders.
In CBT dreams are seen as the ‘continuation of waking thought and the meaning is personal to the dreamer’. This way of working incorporates a three-stage model:
- Exploration – the story of the dream is told with feelings and images relayed in the present
- Insight– dreamer and therapist work together to establish meaning.
- Action – the dreamer is encouraged to utilise the meaning gained from their dreams and incorporate it into waking life.
Diane said she had her own ‘blend of working with dreams’, a bit like a CBT model, but simpler.
- Explore – talk through the dream in the present tense.
- Explore – the dreamer to take the first-person role of each element of the dream.
- Explore – the dreamer describes all of the emotions and thoughts that arise in each role.
We then had the opportunity to work in pairs or triads and explore our own dreams in a quiet space which was an experience filled with empathic sharing, insights and inspiration. Inspiration can be seen in the outcomes of others’ dreams too: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity; Steve Jobs’ Apple I-phone; August Kekulè’s Benzene Ring and Dmitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table.
Diane’s recommendation was that a dream diary of some kind be kept; be in a peaceful place for sleep which is cool and has low light; do not interpret the dream, just record it’s every element; discern themes and note the content by order, place, people and then ask ‘why this dream now? – what am I trying to tell myself? Diane thanked us for sharing the day with her and wished us well with our dream worlds.
Thank you, Diane, for a such a comprehensive, experiential and enjoyable day.
Some of Diane’s references which may be of interest:
‘Stages of Sleep’ Diana L. Walcutt Ph.D.,
‘Normal Sleep Patterns & Sleep Disorders’ K. Lovell, Ph.D. & C. Liszewski, MD.,
‘A little Course in Dreams’ R. Bosnak 1988, Shambala, Shaftesbury
‘The Art of Dreaming’ C. Castaneda 1994, Thorsons, London.
‘On Dreams’, Cayce E. 1989, Acquarian, London.
‘Counselling with Dreams and Nightmares’, Cushway D. & Sewell R. 1994, Sage, London
‘The meaning in Dreams and Dreaming’ Maoney M.F. 1966, Citadel, New Jersey.