Why Dreams are Important in Depth Therapy
We all dream. The average person has four to five dreams per night and dreaming is a natural function of human beings. However, many people do not believe that they dream. Others have a sense that they do dream but cannot recollect the details of their dreams upon waking. In depth therapy, dreams are incredibly useful and rich with material that enhances the therapeutic process. Dreaming is the purest and most direct route of communication from the unconscious to the waking Ego. In depth therapy, we attend to dreams and attempt to understand this communication coming up from the unconscious.
To begin working with dreams in therapy, you first need to befriend them and reestablish that connection if you are not remembering your dreams. Putting out a notebook and pen by the bed is a symbolic first step in inviting
dreams back into your life. It sets the expectation that you will be dreaming and will be attending to them and jotting them down when you do. It’s important to write the dream down because trying to commit the dream to memory upon waking oftentimes allows the dream to slip away from you as you get further into your day. Writing it down is the first level of processing the dream. Doing so formalizes it, giving it the attention it deserves.
Recording the dream in a dream journal helps to paint the full picture of the dream for the Ego. Individual elements of the dream are all important, the scenery, location, ambiance, overall mood of the dream, characters, problem and resolution, and the overall plot. Writing the dream also allows you to revisit it in session and work the dream. Dreams expand our understanding of ourselves and are never communicating a message that we already fully consciously know. When explored in therapy, they guide the individuation process.
Some people report that they have purposefully disconnected from their own dreams or the idea of connecting with dreams now seems overwhelming or frightening. They remember having dreams in the past that were disturbing to them or nightmares and they do not want to reconnect with the dreaming experience. The more we resist the messages coming to us from the unconscious, the stronger, more blatant and more extreme those messages become in our dreams. It is important to remember that the unconscious is truly attempting to help the Ego, to guide us to a fuller and more balanced experience of Self. Also, it is important to understand that the imagery language in a dream is symbolic, and usually not to be taken literally. The symbolic imagery of the unconscious is primal. We have to approach it with a sense of openness and
Although nightmares can be uncomfortable to attend to, they are abundant with useful information for the therapy process. They show you a topic or area that needs further, more immediate attention. A nightmare is a dream that does not want to be ignored, there is a message in there that is significant and urgent and following up on the area of the nightmare can bring the Ego into a more balanced place of psychic health. In a nightmare, the Ego can experience fear, which is something the conscious Ego seeks to avoid at all costs, but facing fear in the dream can shake up psychic complacency and cause action to be taken in waking life.
Our conscious Ego has a sense of being in control of everything and also a sense that the Ego is the end all be all of our existence. This is a delusion, however, our conscious Ego is just a small part of the overall Self and is not fully in control of how we approach and interact with our world. In our dreaming, the Ego’s natural defenses are down and information from the Self can more easily penetrate. Our dreams show us what the Ego cannot see. They allow us to approach our lives in a more reflective and thoughtful way.
Better understanding your dreams, connects you with the path that the Self is attempting to navigate you on, the path to individuation. Working a dream can lead to unexpected breakthroughs in self-understanding and integration of unconscious elements into the conscious. It requires Ego strength to take action and do what it is in your power to do to assist this natural process. In tracking dreams for a period of time, patterns become more emergent and you can understand dreams at a deeper level. Dreams point you in the direction of issues and that the unconscious is aware need further exploration, understanding, and integration. These are sometimes not even areas that the Ego sees as problematic or would choose to delve into. However, following these avenues opened up by the dream can lead to an increase in consciousness and a relief of suffering.