Healing And Therapeutic Action Of Dreams

There is a long tradition of using dreams as a base for both physical and psychological healing. One of the earliest recorded incidents of such healing is when Pharaoh’s ‘spirit was troubled; and he sent for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men; and Pharaoh told them his dream, but there was none who could interpret it.’ Then Joseph revealed the meaning of the dream and so the healing of Pharaoh’s troubled mind took place Genesis 41. The Greek Temples of Asclepius were devoted to using dreams as a base for healing of body and mind. See: Greece (ancient) dream beliefs. The Iroquois Amerindians used a social form of dream therapy also. See: Iroquoian dream cult. The dream process was used much more widely throughout history in such practices as Pentecostal Christianity; Shaktipat Yoga in India, and Anton Mesmer’s groups. See: compensation theory; movements during sleep; yoga and dreams.

Sigmund Freud pioneered the modern approach to the use of dreams in therapy, but many different approaches have developed since his work. Examples of the therapeutic action of gaining insight into dreams are to be found in the entries on abreaction; recurring dreams; reptiles. The entry on processing dreams gives information about personally using a dream to gain insight and healing. See also: the dream as meeting place.

A feature which people who use their dreams as a therapeutic tool mention again and again, is how dreams empower them. Many of us have an unconscious feeling that any important healing work regarding our body and mind can only be undertaken and directed by an expert. The expert might be a doctor, a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, or even an osteopath. Witnessing the result of their own dream process, even if helped by an expert, people feel in touch with a wonderful internal process which is working actively for their own good. One woman, who had worked on her dream with the help of a non expert friend , said, ‘It gave me great confidence in my own internal process. I realised there was something powerful in myself working for my own good. It was a feeling of co-operating with life.’ One is frequently amazed by one’s own resources of wisdom, penetrating insight, and sense of connection with life, as met in dream work. This is how dreams play a part in helping one toward wholeness and balance. The growing awareness of one’s central view of things, which is so wide, piercing, and often humorous, brings developing self respect as the saga of one’s dreams unfold.

We might think of healing dreams being about or relating to the cure of physical problems or of the emotional and psychological difficulties we face in our everyday life. In fact those issues that are dealt with, especially in the early part of our involvement in and exploration of our dreams. But we would miss one of the immense possibilities of personal wholeness if we left it at that.

Carl Jung said that any prolonged relationship with one’s dreams shows that they form what he called a meander. This is defined as meaning a winding or circular path. But Jung referred to it in connection with the wonderful illustrations found in the hand written Bibles of the past. Some of the capital letters were formed by what appeared to be a doodle, but one that formed an elegant and ornate letter.

What Jung was pointing out was that the course of our dreams seems to wander here and there, but overall it begins to form a picture that covers an immense landscape. This is perhaps something like having a jigsaw puzzle that we gradually build into a comprehensive scene. But using this as an analogy of our dreams, we would only be given one piece of the jigsaw at a time. So gradually, one piece at a time, we would build the picture. Only slowly would we see the connections between the chunks of imagery that we begin to build.

At first our dreams usually deal with the housework of the present. The tangles and pains of childhood and infancy, piece by piece, emerge into awareness to be known and integrated. Maybe the questions facing us in our important relationships, creativity and work, become the focus for many of our dreams. But if we persevere, if we gradually undo the powerful walls of preconception we may have built about who we are; if we remove the rigid belief systems that perhaps we use as a form of security; if we begin to recognise that as an individual we are an integral part of life on this earth and in the universe, then the puzzle of self we are building into a picture widens magnificently.

Our identity, our personality, that we felt to be so separate, independent and perhaps isolated, now begins to be seen as having links, flowing connections, of living energy with the far past, and with everything existing around us.

This recognition of our life as being part of the continuum that is the universe itself, and the flow of life on earth, brings about the most wonderful aspect of healing that we could find. We recognise in it the pearl of great price, the holy grail that human beings have sought throughout the centuries. And it is a goal that is within our reach. That healing is not denied us. All it takes his perseverance, courage, and love.

Perhaps we have to learn those on the way, but they are not beyond us.

Example: I was in a Quaker meeting. A man, Desmond, came in and sat on my right, a few chairs away. Almost immediately he stood up and came to me, obviously moved by spirit. He placed his right hand on my face, just in front of my right ear. As he did so I realised he was giving me healing for an ear condition I had not previously been aware of. He told me I had been eating too much. He also said the condition had arisen principally from an infected tooth.

The dreamer had in fact got a tooth condition and so the dream was very relevant.

There may be no hint of this, however, if a person simply records their dreams without attempting to find a deeply felt contact with their contents. It is in the searching for associated feelings and ideas, that the work of integrating the many strands of one’s life begins. Gradually one weaves, through a co-operative action with the dream process, a greater unification of the dark and the light, the painful and transcendent in one’s nature. The result is an extraordinary process of education. See: Second example in creativity and problem solving in dreams; yoga and dreams; Summing Up


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