Three Questions Regarding Doing Group Dream Work

Ironically, the very fact that you remember such a dream is a reliable indicator that the you, the dreamer, can deal creatively and transformatively with the problems that life presents. If this were not the case, you would not even have remembered the dream. All dreams (even nightmares!) come in the service of health and wholeness, and no dream ever came to anyone to say, "Nyah, nyah--you've got these problems and you can't do anything about them!" The more emotionally charged, or urgent the dream, the more likely that it points to a creative possibility previously hidden from the conscious mind, in response to a pressing waking life problem.

1. What is the meaning of the "universal language of dreams"?

2. What are some useful tips for starting your own shared leadership dream group?

3. How Do We Create Safety in Peer Led Dream Groups?

1. What is the meaning of the "universal language of dreams"?

This is one of the ways of talking about the intra-psychic reality Carl Jung calls "archetypes of the collective unconscious," or, alternately, "symbolic patterns of meaning in the objective psyche." The most important thing to remember, from my point of view, is that anything worthy of the noble name "symbol," (to say nothing of "universal" archetypal symbols), has inherent in it multiple levels of meaning simultaneously.

A reasonably good example is the image of blood in dreams. When blood appears as part of the manifest content of a dream, it is very likely to carry a collective/archetypal symbolic implication associated with "blood relations/family/tribe."

The question: Are you of my blood, or are you not? is universally asked and understood in the same way , in all cultures, all periods of history. At the same time, the appearance of blood in the dreams of a male is very likely to evoke more anxiety and distress than a similar appearance of blood in the dreams of a woman, for farily obvious reasons, many of which are associated with the direct feminine experience of child birth and the menstrual cycle, which men may appreciate or even identify with, but which men will not experience.

At the same time, there will also be all sorts of levels of meaning of blood that relate to the individual dreamer's specific, unique personal experience - a professional butcher, a surgeon, a hunter, et al, will carry (emotionally) the image of blood in a dream differently, then, say a passionate vegetarian or a person who has suffered trauma in battle, or a train wreck, etc. All these levels of meaning and significance will co-exist with the dream image simultanesously.

2. What are some useful tips for starting your own shared leadership dream group?

Ideal numbers start around 5 and begin to peter out around 10 (the more folks you have, the longer each piece of work exploring the dream is likely to take).

Ideal meeting schedules are regular and range from once-a-week to once-a-month. Don't forget to consider creative solutions such as doing the work over the internet, or on the phone.

Every dream group (at least in the early stages) should have a mutually agreed number of meetings. People may be interested enough to want to continue the group, but every group out to have a regular rhythm of self-reflection and re-examination of its purpose and reason for being. Groups often bond up and continue the same membership for years, but they all need to look at their evolving process; sometimes some members of the group may want to leave, or to take a break at regular intervals.

If and when an on-going goup begins to feel "stale," it is a good idea to try new techniques of exploring the dream (e.g. Gestalt work, making dream art and/or poetry, dream theater, mask making, various shamanic techniques like drumming, etc). You can even hire a pactitioner of one or more of these techniques as a temporary facilitator.

The most important thing is to understand that ALL the various techniques of exploring dreams, even the most seemingly "occult" and "magical" are ultimately based on unconscious projections. I believe that the group projective "if it were my dream" techanie is the best foundational practice to use in exploring th edeeper meanings of dreams.

3. How Do We Create Safety in Peer Led Dream Groups?

The "if it were my dream" technique is the gratest safety net there is in the work. If a group feels that a particular dreamer's issues are greater than the individuals in the group care to deal with, they should just say so - being particularly careful to use the "if this were my dream" form.

"If this were my dream, it would be pointing to issues in my life that really deserve the focussed attention of a trained professional. I wouldn't want a group of non-therapists to poke around in them." (Just an example of how that might be said in a non-accusatory, non-rejecting way. The heavier the issues that precipitate the need to speak, the more important it is to OWN the projections when speaking about it.

©Jeremy Taylor 2004