Questions & Answers
What is Dreamwork?
From an historical and cross-cultural perspective, dreamwork in its most basic essence is the process of recalling dreams and integrating into awareness their residual impressions. The recollection of dreams is exponentially enhanced by some act of recording them, which brings focus and provides a more reliable source than just memory for later review. Recording a dream also helps to manifest it into waking life for whatever purpose is useful to the dreamer, whether it be to exorcise demons or to breathe life into inspirations.
What if I don’t have dreams?
Many persons claim never to dream. The discovery of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycles has debunked this fallacy. In the 1950s, sleep researchers discovered that for certain periods of each night, the eyes of all sleeping subjects would dart quickly back and forth and up and down behind closed or mostly closed eyelids. Decades of research have led scientists to conclude that with the exception of persons suffering from certain physiological disorders, all human beings have REM sleep cycles and that during REM sleep we enter into a dream state. Other studies have shown that except for the primitive monotreme family which includes the echidna and platypus, all mammalian species have REM sleep periods. So presumably, all but the lowest order of mammals dream.
What if I can’t remember my dreams?
Many persons go for years without a single dream recollection. Although there are natural physiological processes that inhibit dream recall, remembering dreams is an art anyone can learn. Dreams are hard to remember because they are not stored in the part of the brain that governs long-term memory. Upon awakening, dreams tend to dissipate rapidly. Brain chemistry differs markedly in some respects between sleep and wakefulness. Chemical changes occur in the brain in the moment of awakening, and these changes seem to be accelerated by physical movement. Just a few simple movements upon awakening can wipe out all dream recall. A dream is a house of cards: one careless movement and it collapses. Think about your dream in the moment of awakening while remaining in a repose of utter stillness.
What do sleep cycles have to do with remembering dreams?
There is a strong tendency for human beings to sleep in cycles of 90 minutes, briefly wake up, and then return to the next 90-minute cycle. While dreams may occur during any sleep period, they are more easily recalled immediately upon awakening from REM sleep. The REM period typically occurs at the end of each 90-minute sleep cycle, but the length of the REM period varies. During the first sleep cycle, the REM period may last for only five or ten minutes, and these dreams tend to be hard to recall. The REM period lengthens with each successive sleep cycle. The last cycle – typically the one that comes with early morning light – is the longest and may last typically between 25 and 45 minutes, although some may last more than one hour. Dreams from this final REM period are the longest, most complicated, and most easily recalled.
Why should I bother to remember my dreams?
The contents of dreams typically touch upon matters within the field of immediate consciousness during the preceding sixteen hours of waking life. Reality and dreams are, in the end, interconnected. Dreams give meaning to waking reality, and waking reality provides the stuff from which dreams are made. Dreams tap deep into the individual and collective psyches, bringing forth oceans and universes of information and knowledge. Dreams provide experiences, often more interesting and moving than anything occurring in waking reality. In dreams, a person can love and hate to a degree as intense as in waking life. Humans seem to learn best through experience, and dreams can provide this fertile learning ground. Dreams are communications between universes separated from each other yet participating in a common unity. The contents of dreams typically touch upon matters within the field of immediate consciousness during the preceding sixteen hours of waking life. Paying attention to dreams can therefore lead to insights and revelations about waking life, but as seen from the radically different perspective of the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind has the ability to tell us truths we staunchly resist in waking life, and the ability to break through the closed systems binding our perceptions of the Universe. Dreamwork is the one of the most important resources we have for accessing the hidden wisdom of the unconscious.
Do dreams have anything to do with health?
Dreamwork, health, and healing were recognized as intertwined threads in the cord of human life throughout the ancient Mediterranean. Health and wellness are among the earliest documented purposes of dreamwork. Hippocrates (460 - 377 BCE) is traditionally recognized as the father of Western medicine. He was a native of the Greek island of Kos, where stood the chief temple to Asclepius, the God of Medicine. Hippocrates was a dreamworker who used dreams as a diagnostic tool. The culture of dreamwork and healing endured for over 3,000 years before being swept away by the version of Christianity that was finally adopted during the decline of Rome. Even at the turn of the 20th Century, the diagnostic function of dreams was sufficiently established among physicians for Freud to feel comfortable in discussing it pretty much as a given fact in his The Interpretation of Dreams.
What if talking about my dreams makes me feel weird?
Interactive dreamwork is immensely rewarding. However, it is important for truly meaningful dream sharing to find another person or group with whom you can share intimacy in an environment of safety and trust. Dreams are sacred and sharing them with the profane is ill-advised and may be harmful. It is casting pearls before swine. It cheapens your dreams and contaminates the pure stream of communication from your unconscious. Sharing dreams leaves you vulnerable in many ways, for dreams may peel away your defenses and expose weaknesses that sometimes you have concealed from your own ego. They may also reveal weaknesses to others who are important in your life. Sharing dreams with skeptics or close-minded doubters is toxic, and sharing dreams with the opportunistic, who may use the information against you, can be disastrous. For this reason it is often wise to proceed cautiously at first; you should avoid, for example, sharing sensitive nightmares in a group setting until a strong bond of trust has been formed.