Peer Dream Group
Here is wonderful way of really exploring and understanding your dream. I have taught it to many people and groups with remarkable results.
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 exploration 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-five 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 often with just two people working together.
The foundations of this practice rest on an understanding, or a standpoint accepted or taken by the listener and perhaps the dreamer. It is that the person before you is an expression of life. Let’s forget anything about dream theory, because the very first step is to form an attitude to what is in front of you. Here is a being, a little chunk of life, and at the core of this living being, this living process, a process that has developed a sense of self, is the stuff of life. It is the stuff that makes heroes and saints, mothers, fathers, friends and foes. It is the essence from which arises the whole thrust of life. It is the living core of creative possibilities. If you look around you at what life does, you can see it can be a multitude of things. It can manifest as a lion or a flea, a giraffe or a tree. It is, at the same time, both a galaxy and an amoeba. And here it is in front of you as a living being.
Here is an audio example of Tony exploring a dream: Dream Exploration
At the core is the freedom to choose
At the core of this being is that freedom to choose — that freedom that life expresses in its multiplicity of forms. Another word for that freedom is potential or creativity. So at the core of the person in front of you lies that potential, that creativity, that problem solving ability that life itself expresses. But perhaps with this being in front of you that freedom, that creative ability, that potential, has got lost, forgotten or buried in some way. So our work as the listener is to help them remember, help them find their way, to rediscover or uncover their creativity and problem solving ability. That creativity and ability to solve problems is always there inside them. That wonderful ability belongs to them. So it is not for us to solve their problem or to find the way for them. It is for us to help them uncover those possibilities within themselves.
Step One – 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.
Step Two – The dreamer tells the dream. It is sometimes helpful for them to 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. The telling is not simply for the listeners, but for the dreamer. In telling the dream with skill, the dreamer discovers more about the dream and themselves.
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)
Step Three – The helpers now ask the dreamer questions to clarify for themselves the imagery and drama of the dream. The questions at this point should not be to explore the dream, but simply to gain a clear image of the dream.
Example – Q: You didn’t describe the street you were driving along. Was it a shopping centre or quiet place?
A: 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.
Q: Are you attracted to your female friend?
Step Four – 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.
Step Five - 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 above, they would close their eyes, enter into the feeling sense and imagery of the dream, and describe him or herself as the car. Literally you imagine yourself as that physical shape, as if your awareness has merged with the thing or person. Then let your immediate feelings and associations arise and be described.
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 fulfil them more readily.
As can be see, it is important to speak as if you are the chosen thing as Joel did. If it was a person Joel worked on, He should not say, “I am a woman”, or “I am the woman who turned away” but, “I am Mary. I like Joel , but I can see he isn’t really interested in me – except as a trophy in his new car.”
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. See also Talking As.
Step Six – 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 dream.
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.
Step Seven – 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. The helpers should reflect back to the dreamer what they have said, not their own opinions of the dream differing from what the dreamer has said. See Dream Processing, attached.
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 by using the technique of carrying the dream forward..
The three following techniques describe how to carry the dream forward, how to use the body in dream exploration, and how to use dialogue between dream characters. These are extremely useful tools to occasionally use in peer dream work.
This technique is wonderfully effective, and can change habits and patterns that we may be locked in. It does this by giving our mind/brain a different pathway and experience. In test it was found that imagining a situation is 70% as effective as actually doing it.
So, imagine yourself in the dream and continue it as a fantasy or daydream. Consider what it is that troubles you or is not what you want in your dream. Now take time to think how you would alter it and how to have an ending that would satisfy you. Now you can, in your imagination, enter your dream and alter the dream in any way that satisfies. Experiment with it, play with it, until you find a fuller sense of self expression.
It is very important to note whether any anger or hostility is in the dream but not fully expressed. If so, let yourself imagine a full expression of the anger. It may be that as this is practiced more anger is openly expressed in subsequent dreams. This is healthy, allowing such feelings to be vented and redirected into satisfying ways, individually and socially. In doing this do not ignore any feelings of resistance, pleasure or anxiety. Satisfaction occurs only as we learn to acknowledge and integrate resistances and anxieties into what we express. This is a very important step. It gradually changes those of our habits which trap us in lack of satisfaction, poor creativity or inability to resolve problems.
Dr. Cartwright, who is Director of the Sleep Disorder Center at Rush Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago, recommends the same procedure. She suggests “that you rehearse new endings to disturbing dreams. For example, if your father always degrades you, visualize yourself telling him that you are not going to listen to his abuse any more. Also imagine yourself stopping the dream while it is in mid-stream, and changing the ending to one which is empowering and dignified.
Once you have practiced these steps while awake, you will soon be able to recognize this bad dream once you are asleep and it recurs. Dr. Cartwright says that most dreamers are surprised to learn how quickly they can end a bad dream – simply by willing themselves to wake up. Learning to stop a bad dream is an empowering experience in itself. With practice though, she says you will soon learn to change the ending of the dream to one which more closely resembles the ending you have visualized.
Dr. Cartwright’s technique has worked for thousands of people who have participated in her dream therapy. For more information, consider going to the library and reading her book “Crisis Dreaming.” In her own words, “You do not have to let it continue.””
Example: When my husband died, for quite a few times I had this funny dream. I was walking along a field and saw a lot of sheep guiding me, and I followed them. Suddenly they disappeared into a cave. I went in the cave and a row of mummies were there. One was wearing a medallion on a chain round its neck. The dream recurred quite often. One day Tony came to me and I told him the dream. He asked me to sit in a chair and relax, which I did. Then he said for me to go to the cave, and in my relaxed state I went and walked to the mummy with the medallion. Then he said take off the bandage from the top. As I unwound it the face of my husband was uncovered. I screamed and screamed and came out of the relaxation. Tony then said now let him go. I have never had that dream since. Betty E.
The brain sends impulses to all the muscles to act on the movements we are making while in the dream. This is observable when we wake ourselves by thrashing about in bed, or kicking and shouting. A part of the brain inhibits these movements while we sleep.
The important factor is that a dream is more than a set of images and emotions, it is also frequently a powerful physical activity and self expression. If we explore a dream sitting quietly talking to a friend, even if we allow emotions to surface, we may miss important aspects of our dream process. Through physical movement the dream process releases tensions and deeply buried memories that are stored in our body. These do not release and heal by simply talking about them.
It is often enough to realise this aspect of dream exploration for such spontaneous movements to emerge when necessary. By being aware of the body’s need to occasionally be involved in expression of dream content, we may catch the cues and let these develop. Frequently all you need to do is to let the body doodle or fantasise while exploring a dream. Jung suggested this technique for times when the person was stuck in intellectual speculation. To practice it you can take a dream image and let the hands spontaneously doodle, watching what is gradually mimed or expressed. When you have gained skill doing this, let the whole body take part in it. This can unfold aspects of dreams that the other approaches might no help with. See: sleep movements. A fuller description of this process is contained in my book Liberating the Body.
Every part of a dream, whether an object, person or animal, is alive with our own intelligence. Each part has been created out of ourselves in some way, and depicts some area of our own total being. We can therefore talk with them. Such dialogue is of great importance and very revealing.
To do this, imagine yourself as one of the characters, animals or objects in your dream. It may help at first to have two chairs – one empty and one you are sitting in. The character or object of your dream is in the empty chair. When you are ready to be that character move from your chair, sit in the empty chair and speak as that character. To answer or question the character from your own identity, move to the original chair and speak from your own character.
Be playful and curious in doing this. Question the character, and when you move to that role, let whatever your feelings are as that character motivate what you say and do. Exploring your dream in this way unfolds a great deal of information that would otherwise remain unconscious. It also enables you to make real changes in unconscious attitudes or habits, as you are literally dialogging with areas of character patterning or programming, and can change them.
Example: When I spoke as the new born baby of my dream I really felt as if this was me, newly born. I had had a difficult birth and my reaction was that I wanted nothing to do with life. I wanted to stay curled up like an egg, not getting involved in the exterior world.
The adult observing me could see how this aspect of my inner life had led me to be withdrawn from social activity all my life, so I explained this to the baby me, saying – I need you to be ready to meet the world. You are a part of me and if you continue to withdraw I lack the enthusiasm to get involved with other people.
Back as the baby I felt totally vulnerable and didn’t want to take any risks – No I don’t want to come out of the egg.
As the adult again I said – Look, if you remain curled up this is more of a gamble than actually getting out and taking risks in life. Just lying there anything can get you. I had recently seen a film about baby turtles hatching an rushing to the sea. Some of them got eaten by seagulls, but the faster they were the less likely to be caught. So I explained this to the baby me.
As the baby this really got to me. I felt a change in me and a readiness to begin the journey of meeting life outside the womb.
This change really made a difference to my everyday activities. A lifelong habit of being introverted gradually dropped away. Trevor P.