The following procedures for understanding and working with your dreams are designed for dreamwork practitioners or self-help and can be adopted to clinical practice. They are not to be considered a replacement for therapy. These approaches are derived from a unique combination of Gestalt Therapy practices and Jungian theory as well as supportive studies from recent research on the neurology of dreaming. The color procedures are based on studies of the human emotional response to color. Note that these procedures are designed for personal exploration, such that the dreamer remains the ultimate authority on the meaning of the dream. Please refer to the IASD Ethics Statement to ensure ethical dreamwork practices .
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Quick Guide for Dreamwork (below)
- Dream Worksheet in PDF (updated 05/24/2021)
- Color Questionnaire in PDF (updated 03/08/2020)
- Scripted Role-Play (“6 magic questions”) in PDF
Welcome to The Dream Bible. A free online A to Z dream dictionary dedicated to helping people understand the meaning of their dreams. Unlike other dream interpretation websites or books we extensively research dream symbols by interviewing people about the events occurring in their lives at the time of their dreams. The Hero Charles A. Lindbergh And The American Dream. Download 1 file. SINGLE PAGE PROCESSED TIFF ZIP download. Download 1 file.
This guide provides an in-depth approach that follows thenatural way that a dream deals with emotionally important matters related towaking life situations. It takes you beyond simply understanding the dream –which is only the very first step in dreamwork. It is a full closure approach,which begins with understanding the dream narrative, then going deeper into theunderlying emotional issues the dream and the dreamer (you) is dealing with, andfinally exploring the dream for clues as to the natural way the dream wastrying to resolve the problem; clues that you can apply in waking life. Theapproach is based on a mixture of Jungian psychology, Gestalt therapy,contemporary psychological theory (Ernest Hartmann MD among others) and recentfindings from neurological studies on areas of the brain active in REMdreaming. Some of the theory and research supporting this approach is brieflyoutlined below, however you may refer to the books by Robert Hoss, DreamLanguage and Dream to Freedom, or the Articles button on this site for furtherdetail.
TheTransformative Dreamwork Protocol
This guide to the Transformative Dreamwork protocol, provides an in-depthapproach designed to follow the natural way that a dream deals with emotionallyimportant matters related to waking life situations. It takes you beyond simplyunderstanding the dream – which is only the very first step in dreamwork. It isa full closure approach, which begins with understanding the dream narrative,then going deeper into the underlying emotional issues the dream and thedreamer is dealing with, and finally exploring the dream for clues as to thenatural way the dream was trying to resolve the problem; clues that you canapply in waking life. The approach is based on a mixture of Jungian psychology,Gestalt therapy, contemporary psychological theory and recent findings fromneurological studies on adaptive learning in dreams. For the theory andresearch supporting this approach, as well as illustrated examples, refer tothe Psychology of Dreaming and Science of Dreaming tabs on this site or thebooks by Robert Hoss (Dream Language 2ndEdition, Dream to Freedom). Download the Dreamwork Worksheet and ColorQuestionnaire (links above).
Not all dreams are of an emotional problem-solving naturealthough most will provide insight by, at a minimum, picturing the emotionalaspect of your waking life situation metaphorically. The protocol was thereforedivided into three parts with multiple steps which can be individually appliedas appropriate to the dream you are working with. By exploring the dream withas much of the protocol as practical, however, you will likely find that eventhe simplest of dreams, or even a single image, can provide you with a wealthof information and insight about the dream and the situation (outwardly andinwardly) that it is dealing with.
The protocol containsthree parts. Don’t stop too early. The common mistake is thinking that thedreamwork is complete after the first “aha” which generally only makes a dreamto life connection. At that point the dreamwork has only begun – the dreamitself is working at a much deeper level and has so much more to offer so go onto the next part.
- Part #1 – What Life Situation is the DreamDealing With? This phase begins afterrecording the dream, and what emotionally important situation ishappening in your life at the time. The dream storyis then explored using several tools to reveal what situation in your life thedream is dealing with. These tools explore the picture-metaphor, associationsand memories represented in the dream imagery. Understanding the dream at thislevel generally only reveals what life situation your dream is dealing with butnot how you might deal with it – there is much more dreamwork to pursue – sodon’t stop here.
- Part #2 – Exploring Underlying Emotions: Thisphase explores the underlying emotional issues or conflicts contributing toyour waling life situation. It uses two approaches for revealing the emotionalcontent pictured by a dream element or image. Ascripted role-play technique and the Color Questionnaire (seePDF download links above).
- Part#3 – Dream Guidance and Resolution:Thisphase explores how your dream (and your unconscious mind) itattempting to resolve the situation and how you might apply that insight inwaking life. The dream structure along with four clues to revealing theguidance in your dream are explored. The resultant insight is checked out andexplored as possible action steps.
Part#1 – Exploring Associations in the Dream Narrative:
Step #1 Recording the Dream
1a) Recall the Dream byclosing your eyes before writing anything down, going back into the dream andtrying to capture as much of it as you can before writing it down or recordingit.
1b) Record it as if you areReexperiencing it: it in the first person as if you are re-experiencing it (using“I am.” or “I see.” or “I feel.”). Keep any slips-of-the-tongue and spellingor phrasing mistakes – they might be important metaphors. Consider all the Elements: dream figures, objects, emotions, color,other descriptors etc.
1c)Separate the Segments: Look at scene shifts as separatesegments each dealing with the same issue but from a different perspective,bringing in new associations or memories and introducing different resolutionscenarios, perhaps learning something from the segment before. Worked on themlater as separate but associated dreams.
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How to sync icloud contacts to gmail. 1d)Give it a Title and Date it – an imaginative one thatcaptures its essence, just a few words.
1e) Sketch the Dream– as iflooking at a map from above. Optional but permits you to see relationshipsbetween dream figures and patterns and directions that provide important cluesas to archetypal processes taking place. Sketch any oddimagery or imagery combinations.
Step#2 Record what is Happeningin your Life at the Time:
It is important to not only record the dream properly, but toalso record the emotional situations happening in your life at the time whileit is still fresh. This is very important, particularly if you are keeping ajournal, to record both so that you can look for dream patterns that relate towaking life patterns. Recall any emotionally impactful situations the daybefore, positive or negative and large or even minor, which created someemotional discomfort or annoyance, or that you did not want to deal with at thetime.
Part 1 WHAT Life Situation is the DreamDealing With
Step #3 – Dream to LifeComparison
The next step is to explore your personal associations with thevarious elements and imagery in the dream in order to relate the dream story toyour waking life story. Although some persons or events from waking life mayappear in the dream, the actual event that stimulated the dream rarely appearsas it was experienced in waking life. Instead the dream captures and picturesthe emotional impact or personal “meaning” of the waking life event in relationto your past experiences and inner model or self and reality – “the unconsciousaspect of the conscious event” as Jung put it.
3a Dream Orientation: Atthe onset does the dream metaphoricallypicture some emotional situation in your waking life? Might it symbolicallypicture (figuratively or archetypally) thething that is to be dealt with in order to resolve that situation (a Shadow issue; past event, trauma, associated factor oraspect
3b Metaphors in the Dream Story– Look for phrases, word-play and action themes in the dream storythat sound like they also might describe something going on in your life at thetime. Look for the initial scene of the dream to metaphorically picture anemotional situation in your life at the time.
3cAssociations and Memories:
3d Rewrite the Dream Story andRelate to Your Life Story: Place the above associations into the dreamnarrative (in the margins perhaps) and read the new story. How it might relatein various ways to the events in your waking life?
Part #2 – Exploring Underlying Emotions
This part contains two approaches for exploring the underlyingemotions pictured by the dream imagery, perhaps conflicted emotions that mayhave you stuck: 1) role-play; 2) and color work. As a primary approach toworking with dream imagery, I recommend applying both role-play with color work(if color is recalled) to one or more key dream elements.
Step #4 – Scripted Role-Play (6“Magic” Questions)
One of the most effective approaches to exploring the underlyingemotional issues, conflicts and motivations, that the dream is dealing with, isto “give the dream a voice.” This is a scripted role-play approach I developedas a derivation of Gestalt role-play. My students lovingly termed it the “6magic questions” since it seems to rapidly reveal underlying unexpressedemotions or emotional conflicts that are at the core of the situation the dreamis dealing with.
Each element in the dream is a meaningful creation associated insome way with your life. You can choose to work on many, or just one or twowhich may be all you need to reveal the underlying emotional feelings orconflict the dream is dealing with. The best approach is to select images thatcuriously draw your attention. Work with as many as you wish to understand, butoften just one may be all you need to reveal the underlying emotional conflictthe dream is dealing with. Ernest Hartmann called it Central of Contextualizingimage which contains the emotional state of the dreamer. It could but doesn’thave to be the imposing image, and sometimes the little inorganic ones in thebackground can contain the most information (Perl’s indicated that the morealienated fragments of the personality might appear as the least human imagery.
4a Pick a Dream Image or element that curiously draw your attention. To do thisre-enter the dream at perhaps the most emotional part and look around the dreamscene and pick an image ‘X’ (inanimate or animate thing or figure) that drawsyou to it – it doesn’t have to be the dominant image. You might pick a few andwork on each one of them using this scripted role-play procedure.
4b Give the Image a Voice (scripted role-play or the “6 magicquestions”): Close your eyes, go back into the dream and bring the dreamimage or figure ‘X’ into view. Now take 3 deep breaths and with each breathmove into and “become” the image. Feel what it feels like in that role. Thenspeak as if you are the image in the first person, present tense, answeringthese 6 to 7 questions (best if someone asks and records the answers so you canstay in character):
1) Who or what are you, and how do you feel in that role:“I am ….”
Alternatively, if the dream image is a person you know from wakinglife, become that person and state: Mymost notable personality characteristics are ….”
2) As ‘X’, what is your purpose or function: My purpose is to ….”
3) As ‘X’ what do you like about what you are and what you do? “Ilike ….”
4) As ‘X’ what do you dislike about what you are and what you do? “Idislike ….”
5) As ‘X’ what do you fear the most, what is the worst thingthat can happen to you? “I fear ….”.
6) As ‘X’ what do you desire the most? “What I desire most is to ….”
7) Dialog (optional): From the viewpoint of ‘X’ look around thedream and spot the dreamer (think about what they are doing in the dream). Whatdo you want to tell them (first thing that comes to mind)?
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4c Relate these Statements toWaking Life: Read the statements back to yourself – but this time not as ifthey are that dream image speaking but now as if they are you saying them abouta situation or way you feel in your life. Do any of the statements describe asituation or feeling in your waking life? Focus on one specific situation whenyou felt that way and define your feelings at the time. Then review the abovestatements:
- Do the “I am” and “My purpose” statements sound like a role you feel you are playing in waking life?
- Do the “I like” versus “I dislike” statements sound similar to conflicting feelings, or an argument going on inside you, regarding a waking life situation?
- Do the “I fear” and “I desire” statements sound like fears and desires you have regarding that situation, perhaps fears and desires that feed the conflict?
- Does the statement from the dialog sound like it might be practical guidance?
- If the dream figure is a known person, focus on their personality characteristics and ask yourself, “Am I acting in some way like this person?” or better yet “How would they approach the situation I am dealing with?” (this may be an approach the dream is testing). If the person is acting abnormally or opposite to what they would in waking life, they could be representing a surprise or compensating element to be explored (seeing that personality characteristic from a different perspective).
Step #5 – Exploring Emotion in Dream Color
If the dream image you are working on contains color, or if thedream has some colors that stand out, then use the instructions below inconjunction with the tables 1 and 2 of the Color Questionnaire (download linkabove). The color tables list common human subliminal associations betweencolor and emotion (based on research and color psychology literature) and arenot the “meaning” of color but rather are intended to trigger your ownemotional associations between the dream and your waking life feelings.
5a) Select the colored dreamimages to work on: the image you have been working with, or those colors you feelmost drawn to or that stand out. It is best to work with something that is nota commonly colored object (like green grass), unless it stands out. Work with acolored image on which the color is optional (such as a red hat, a blue car, anorange dress). Also look for color pairing which might represent a conflictbetween emotions. Look for a grouping of the 4 primary colors – red, yellow,blue and green (if one color seems to be most active in the group of 4 or isobviously missing from the group, work on that color).
5b) Pick the color orcolor combinations in the tables that best match. Single Color: usetable 1-to select the closest matching color or use table 2 if it is a colormixture. (ex: blue-green). Color Pair: Explorethe possibility that the two colors might represent conflicting emotions byusing table 1 on each color separately or table 2 for the pair – or – explorethe possibility that the pairing/integration in table 2 might represent a pathto or state of resolution (first match the dominant hue with the row, then thesecondary color with the column).
5c) Read each statement as aquestionasking yourself: “Does thisstatement relate to a way I have felt recently or describe a situation in mywaking life?” For color pairs, read both colors using table 1 and 2 to explorewhether the two colors might represent two conflicted emotions or try table 2to explore statements that might represent a possible conflict integration orresolution scenario.
5d) Relate to Waking Life: Pickthe one or two statement(s) that create the strongest “aha” response or“connection,” that best relate to a waking life situation or conflict. Describethe situation, and the feelings at the time, in your own words. How does thecolor work add to your understanding of the dream as well as to yourself-understanding?
Step #6 – Situation Summary
At this point you should have explored your personalassociations with the dream, made various connections between your dream andwaking life situation and hopefully identified some of the emotional issues orconflicts involved. So just write down your insights at this point: whatemotional situation in your life does the dream appear to be dealing with andwhat are some of the underlying emotions or conflicts involved? The next phase will be to determine how thedream was attempting to resolve the situation so that you can use that insightand guidance to help you move forward.
(Option) Digging Deeper: If you want to explore the situation a bit deeper at this point trythese hints:
- Try inserting the role-play and color information from Part 2 into the dream story in a way that further aligns it with your life story.
- Try to define what appears to be the conflict something like this: “I need or desire ___ because ___ but if I ___then I fear ___will happen”.
- Try exploring your past (traumatic event, childhood beliefs/teachings, source of a phobia, etc.) for the originating decision that created the present conflict – particularly if a person or event from the past was evident in the dream. Reflecting on the emotions revealed above, go back to one specific situation earlier in life, when you also felt that way. What happened, who was involved, and what decision did you make at the time? How does it relate to your situation today?
Part #3 – HOW is the Dream Attempting a Resolution?
At this point, you likelyhave a deeper understanding of how the dream story relates to your life story.You may also have become aware of some uncomfortable or painful emotions, fearsand conflicts that are contributing to the situation. These are issues that youhave been unable to consciously resolve – but which your unconscious and you dream is now dealing with. At thispoint, if issues have surfaced that seem highly emotionally charged and toodifficult to deal with, then do not proceed further – such issues are beyondthis simple self-help procedure. The procedure should not to be considered asubstitute for therapy or professional help. If you feel ok about managing theinsight so far then the next step is to understand how the dream (along withthe vast wisdom and experience of the unconscious) istrying to resolve the situation.
Step #7 – Exploring the Dream Guidance
Re-orienting: Re-enterthe dream and briefly review the dream story. With the information from theprior steps in mind, explore the structure of the dream story to understandwhether and how the dream might be trying to resolve the problem. Did itcontain any of the following: 1. A metaphoric “picture” of your wakingsituation; 2. Introduction of an alternative “what-if” solution/viewpoint orinsight/guidance that caused your dream-self to change its viewpoint or actions(compensation or counterfactual). 3. Action that tested that alternativesolution or viewpoint; 4. How did the dream end – was there an emotional reinforcementof the outcome (positive or negative). Wasthere any archetypal imagery present that pictured organizing or integratingprocesses taking place (see Psychology of Dreaming tab).
7a) Compensating Action: Did thedream Introduce an Alternative Viewpoint or Resolution Scenario?
- Guidance – did youexperience a guiding figure or event (advice, action, discovery, new decision,written or verbal message)? Define the new direction or insight provided andhow it changed your behavior or thinking in the dream.
- Surprise – didsomething surprise you (action/situation opposite to expectations; unexpectedtwist; sudden discovery or insight; odd imagery blend)? How did it differ fromexpectation or provide a different point of view and how did you respond?
7b) Test/Acceptanceor Reversal – Did the dream story test the alternative scenario? Did yourdream-self (or something representing you or your view) at some point make adecision or accept the guidance or reverse its thinking, viewpoint or action inthe dream; what brought this about?
7c)Reinforcement:Positive or Negative Ending? Did thedream end positively or with a potentially positive direction to it –negatively (as in a warning) or inconclusively. If so what happened, or whatdid your dream-self do or refuse to do, that might have brought that endingabout?
Compare to Life: Particularlyif the dream ended positively, can you see any analogies between how theimplied guidance or dream solution (change in viewpoint, attitude or directionor your dream-self) might be helpful as a solution to the situation in yourwaking life? If it ended negatively orinconclusively can you see an analogy between the non-effective actions orattitude of your dream self might be like that or your waking self.
Next: If this was revealing, Go to Step #9 for the Action steps. Ifnot try Step #8, Active Imagination below.
Step #8 – Active Imagination (finish thedream)
Not all dreams have an obvious resolution scenario or guidingand compensating “message.” Most dreams don’t end positively which may be anindication that the dream did not resolve the problem but only made someattempts or tested one or more scenarios. Therefore, if the explorations instep 7 are nonobvious or if the dream does not seem to conclude, the dream canstill be used as a platform to help create a resolution metaphor to guidethinking in how best to move forward.
8a) Review how the dream ends: Take afew deep breaths and re-enter and visualize yourself at the end of the dreamand focus on your feelings at that point. Think back through the dream as tohow you got to this point. Staying in touch with your feelings, what ifanything are you wanting or trying to do at the end.
8b) New Ending: Continueto focus on your feeling as you visualize the ending of the dream. Now, withoutthinking about it, just letting the images flow and form by themselves, finishthe dream with a new imagined ending that works out positively for you andperhaps those you are involved with in the dream.
8c) Waking Life Analogy: Onceyou have the new ending it is typically another metaphor as was the rest of thedream, but one hopefully related to a resolution. If there is a lot of missingdetail as to how you got there, continue to let the imagery spontaneously formto fill in any specific actions or events must have occurred to bring it about.Think in general about ways that new metaphoric ending might be analogous tosomething that could be done in your waking life to resolve the situation orconflict the dream appears to be dealing with?
Step #9 – Action: Resolutionand Next Steps
An important steps indreamwork is to use the insight gained to help you make better decisions abouthow to manage or move forward with the situation the dream was dealing with –using the depth and breadth of your unconscious wisdomto help you in ways that the cognitive rational mind has not been able to. Thisinvolves creating a tangible solution statement from the metaphoric guidanceand insight from the dream that might be analogous to a workable solution inwaking life. The tough part is setting the ego biases aside that may influenceand misinterpret the resolution the dream was attempting – so it is importantto check it out (see below) before applying it.
Just as importantly, thedream or dream segment you are working on may not be focused on resolution – butrather simply revealing and putting the misconceptions of your waking ego intoperspective – or revealing the unconscious aspect of a conscious event as Jungput it). So if this final “action” step appears to beleading nowhere don’t try to force out a solution.
9a) Define an ApparentSolution: If obvious resolution metaphors appear to be present in steps#7 and #8, then define (in specific terms) how they might represent a practicalsolution to your waking-life situation – that you can actually act on. Note:because these are usually metaphors they too may have to be translated as youwould any dream element, using association, role-play and color tools (steps #3 to #5) tounderstand what the elements relate to.
9b) Check It Out: Youmust do an appropriateness check. Is it a healthy, practical, appropriateresolution that allows you to progress in a positive direction – or – does itgo too far to be achievable or perhaps leave you stuck again? If it is nothealthy or appropriate, do NOT pursue it.
9c) Next Steps: If itchecks out positively, then what specific next step(s) can you take to bring itabout? Imagine/picture yourself in the situation again and describe what youwould do differently this time. Turn that into specific written “next steps”that you can actually try out.
9d) Reminder Image: It canbe helpful to take away some simple visual reminder of the new solution in theevent a similar situation is experienced in the future. From the resolved orpositive ending (actual or visualized), select a “resolution” image to remindyou of your new solution.