The healing nature and phenomena of dreaming are among the oldest concerns of humanity. In fact, the oldest dream report is recorded in Sumerian texts dating from the end of the third millennium B.C.E. Dreaming is a most fascinating and perplexing experience of the mind. One might say that dreams are to the mind as X-rays are to the body: they reveal the secrets hidden beneath the surface. Oftentimes, we know that a dream is attempting to tell us something, yet its meaning eludes us. Dreams and their images hold an innate intelligence; they can support self-actualization and development by bringing to consciousness our unconscious aspects, issues, feelings, and identities.
Thus, if we pay attention to our dreams, they have a unique potential to lead us to greater self-awareness. The dreaming part of our mind is always one step ahead of our current awareness; hence, as Freud said dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious”. To tend to your dream is to travel this royal road. I purposely use the word tend instead of interpret based on the powerful method I studied in my doctoral program called Dream Tending, created by Dr. Steven Aizenstat. Through the lens of Dream Tending, it is crucial to sidestep the ego’s desire to understand, make meaning, and dominate. To work with dreams in this way one must maintain an attitude of not knowing and wonderment, meet the dream in the way of the dream, have open body awareness, and become present in the here and now.
The Dream Tending method involves FOUR steps
- First, the dreamer states his or her dream.
- Next, the dream tender asks the dreamer about personal associations to the components of the dream through open-ended questions, such as “who is visiting now and what is happening here?” The dreamer lets his or her mind spontaneously connect the dream images to any events, feelings, ideas, or scenes from life experiences that emerge. There is no one right answer, you just allow one impression to connect to the next, over and over. Observe where this process takes you and take special note if a childhood experience emerges.
- Once the process of association is complete, the dreamer can progress to the third step: amplification. In amplification, you take various themes and images from the dream and correlate them to symbols, archetypes, and figures from mythology, fairy tales, literature and other forms of cultural expression. You are looking for universal themes that connect to the dream image. The image can be amplified to a limitless number of archetypes.
- You know you have tended to a dream correctly when you get an “Aha” felt sense. The dream then transforms from a jumble of images to a cleverly choreographed message. Once you understand the dream’s message, it is important to put your newfound knowledge to work. This is the fourth and most vital step: you externalize your newfound consciousness by applying the dream’s intelligence to your everyday life.