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20 Dream Techniques


If you are new to dream work, the odds are that, with some practice, one of these methods will be blindingly more clear to you than the others and you'll mostly use that. After a while, some of the others will become clearer and you will gradually develop a reportoire of methods.

Here are 20 (and more) different techniques for working with your dreams.

You need a toolbox approach because no single method of analysis works with every dream. Sometimes you interpret your dream, sometimes you search for the meaning, sometimes you simply play with the dream in a what-if kind of way. 

These notes will give you powerful ideas that will let you play with your dreams.

I tried to put this list in order of importance but it didn't really work. They are all important. Having said that, "Completing the dream protectively" is the technique that I favor most and "Name the dream" is one that many people find very easy, so they are first on the list. Dream on! If the words "analysis" and "interpretation" put you off,  think of this as dream-play.

You'll notice that some of the techniques have a link that says "More."  That expands on the subject if you are interested.

Click below to read about these techniques:

  1. Complete the dream protectively
  2. Name the dream
  3. Free Association
  4. Gestalt
  5. Emotion
  6. You or other?
  7. Look for the pun or the phrase or the word
  8. Talk to the aggressor
  9. Connect it to previous dreams
  10. Go back to the picture
  11. Tell the dream over and over and over
  12. Fly over the dream, fly "under" the dream
  13. Add the dreams together
  14. Bring in a new character
  15. Find the myth, fairy tale, spiritual parallel
  16. Write paint, act, sing it. Turn it into a poem or a short story
  17. Tell the dream to someone else
  18. Day residues
  19. Next day events
  20. Locate it in your body
  21. Contextualizing image
  22. Look for the wish in the dream
  23. Look for a conflict in the dream wishes
  24. Recurring dreams  
  25. Try writing with your "other" hand
  26. Wait for the next dream

Complete the dream protectively

A dream is rarely a complete, closed story. Finish it: Escape from the monster, solve the problem, rescue the child … 

Using the faculties that are available to you as a waking person, go back into the dream and find new ways to end the dream. What would you do if this happened while you were awake?

Safety is important. Can you make certain that you and people you care about are safe at the end of the dream?

If you are being chased, should you try to hide, can you find something to help defend you, can you find a door you'd never noticed before, can you bring another person into the dream. ... This is just like finishing a movie plot.     Return     More

Name the dream

Give the dream a title. This often gets to the nub of the dream. Sometimes, like free association, the title that actually pops out is not what you would have imagined.     Return      More Video

Free Association

What comes to mind when you think of particular aspects of the dream?

The crucial thing here is to focus on the first thing that comes to mind, no matter how irrelevant or embarrassing it might seem (you may want to practice this in private first).

Typically done in conversation e.g. "Tell me about the tree in the garden". But you can just write down all the parts of the dream "Tree", "Snake", "Stranger" etc and then free associate to each one.     Return    More


You are every part of the dream. The people, the animals, the vegetation etc. 

In a dream you find yourself leaning on a table. Try being the table. The emphasis is on being. Not what does the table think but you are the table, what do you have to say? What is it like for you, the table, to have this person leaning on you?     Return    More



Find a corresponding emotion in your life.

You graduated 10 years ago but you still have a dream about taking a test. That might have no relevance to you today but the emotion and concerns may be relevant to something in your life -- are you being put to a test somewhere? (And don't forget to complete the dream -- declare yourself graduated).     Return  More An Emotional Vocabulary

You or other?

Does the dream focus on people who exist in your waking life. If so, consider it to be more about them and your relationship to them. If not, consider it to be about your inner life. If you have a dream about someone, consider (only consider) telling them the dream.     Return    More

Look for the pun or the phrase or the word

The language of the dream can take on a life of its own (a man dreams that the electricity goes out in his building but he uses the words "I've got no power"). Typically you don't notice the language until it is spoken.     Return    More

Talk to the aggressor

In a dream in which you are threatened, first make sure that you have done "Complete the dream protectively".

Open a conversation with the aggressor. Are they really as mindless as they at first seem (bent on causing you death or destruction?). Often the conversation reduces the threat and will change the dream. If not, continue with the first technique of  protecting yourself.      Return    

Connect it to previous dreams

Dream are like bananas: They come in bunches.  In other words, this dream probably connects with earlier dreams and later dreams will connect with this one. How did this theme occur in previous dreams?  Is the theme changing? For example, a dog bites me in one dream, licks me in the next and then talks to me in a third dream. If you put the three together, you have far more to work with than any one dream on its own!    Return  More

Go back to the picture

Typically if we go back to the dream itself, there are a very few incidents perhaps even just one visualization, from which the whole story followed naturally. But go back and find the image. Then you will see what followed from it.     Return      More

Tell the dream over and over and over

The dream cannot stay the same. You will notice new things and complete descriptions that will make the dream easier to understand.

There is an art to discerning natural extensions of the dreams vs imposed ones.     Return    More

Fly over the dream, fly "under" the dream

Take a look at the dream from the outside. See yourself/ place yourself in the dream. What would you think if that dream happened to someone else?

You experience the dream from the inside, see the dream from the outside.

What is your reaction to the person in the dream. What advice to you have for her/him?     Return    

Add the dreams together

For instance (my own hypothesis) some themes are split. So that one dream flies over the problem where another dream depicts you stuck in the mud. If you put the two together ("merge" them by having the person fly over and talk to the person who is stuck) you'll see the stuckness differently.     Return    

Bring in a new character

Needs a meditative state.     Return    

Find the myth, fairy tale, spiritual parallel

This starts off intellectually then you go back into the dream with a new consciousness.

You dream that you are in your backyard and a snake comes out of a tree and bites you. Go back and read Genesis. There's a monster and you have to kill it but you are afraid: go read Theseus and the Minotaur.

The hard part for most people is getting the idea that a dream about their backyard is parallel to a dream about the garden of Eden.     Return  

Write, paint, act, sing it. Turn it into a poem or a short story

You can do this as a form of artistic expression.

You can also do it to capture the wonder and mystery of the dream. The art work will take on a life of its own. Go back to the dream afterwards.     Return  

Tell the dream to someone else

Make sure they understand the importance of "If it were my dream".

Tell them the dream. Tell it at least twice. Let the other person ask you questions until they think they understand the dream. 

Predict what the next dream will be

After a few dreams you will notice that there is a theme running through some of your dreams. A dog bites you in one dream and licks you in the next. See if you can predict how the theme will play out in the next dream.     Return   

Day residues

What happened recently (the day before) that is reminiscent of the dream?     Return   

Next day events

Look out for things today that resonate/harmonize/remind you of the dream. If there was a special color in the dream, it's likely that you will notice that color today and that there will be some significance to when or where you see it.     Return   

Locate it in your body

Not obvious at first but take e.g. differing parts of the dream and locate them in your body. Now let your body do the talking. Walk around, breath into these parts etc.      Return 

Contextualizing image

Is there a single image that dominates the dream. You sometimes have the sense that all the words are just scaffolding and there is a single piece of the dream (usually an image but can be anything at all) that is the centerpiece. 

In that case, first try forget everything else and focus on the dominating matter.     Return   

Look for the wish in the dream

Can you see a wish that is expressed in the dream. E.g. The dream is that Billy C. and I are having coffee together. The reality is that I haven't seen him for 20 years and I'd like to see him again. His mother was very harsh on him and that makes me think about ways in which my mother was very harsh with me.     Return   

Look for a conflict in the dream wishes

Often there are several wishes that are in conflict: E.g. The dream is that an ex-girl friend is writing me a long letter. The reality is that I'd like to hear from her (especially to have her apologize for  a long list of things she "did" to me) AND I've moved on and would not want her back in my life anyway AND , when I think about the dream, I notice that my grudges against her are exaggerated.     Return    

Recurring dreams

People will often say that they have been having a certain dream or theme for years -- and usually it is something they don't like. Recurring dreams and themes will tend to change when you examine them. It is common to believe that you have been having an identical dream, or nightmare, for years. In fact this is rarely precisely true. When you examine the dreams, you'll notice important variations that will give you hints as to how to work with the dream.    Return   

Try writing with your "other" hand

Rather than write the dream down with your usual hand (i.e. the right hand for most of us), use the other hand. 

It connects to your brain differently and you will find yourself describing the dream in a different way. Return    

Wait for the next dream

Dreams are like buses, there'll always be another one.

And the next one will usually explain what you didn't understand about this dream. Return     More and Dream Series


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