Process Oriented Psychology (or Process Work) assumes that night dreams, daydreams and dreaming processes during our waking states alike contain deeper meaning and give us indications of our immediate and future lives.
Dr Arnold Mindell created the term “Dreambodywork” which is the idea that our bodies dream all the time. It assumes that that night dreams are mirrored through our unconscious behaviour and “dreamlike behaviour” such as slips of the tongue, accidentally bumping into someone, relationship arguments, irrational images or sounds that catch our attention during the day.
Our night dreams are like snapshots or frozen pictures of a process in motion. To enter the this process and step into the flow of experience, process work has developed some unfolding methods.
We assume that the dream is happening in the here and now. We watch and listen for “what seemingly does not go along with the conscious content” of someone expressing themselves: slips of the tongue, movement signals and body language, irrational visual and auditory experiences, synchronicities etc.
By following these dreamlike flickers and fragments of experience we enter the dreaming of our underlying process and thus bring the dream into the here and now.
When we work with dreams – be it with our own or with another person’s, it is helpful to have an open mind and not follow preconceived ideas about what a dream could mean, but explore it in the here and now.
When working with another person it is particularly important to check with the dreamer for feedback. Positive and negative feedback can be expressed directly verbally but especially if the dreamer is shy to disagree, negative signals might be expressed through subtle body signals such as leaning away, looking down, possibly nodding without excitement etc. Negative feedback and boundaries need to be respected.
Recurring dreams we remember from our childhood can be seen as visual representations of long-term intrapsychic patterns underlying our life development. Unravelling a childhood dream can point towards the same life pattern that can also be accessed by processing chronic body symptoms. C.G. Jung discovered that dreams from childhood and early childhood memories contain patterns that manifest in various aspects of our lives. Those early dreams are like a map of our individuation process. As children we are closer to the spirit world and therefore pick up the mythical aspect of our whole lives.
In my private practice I often ask a client for a dream when he/she is in a big transition phase or want to make a big life changing decision. Dreams can give us a clearer image of the situation and the process that lies ahead.
When working with a couple who is in a crisis, asking for a dream of one or both partners can clarify certain aspects of the situation.
I often ask for a dream at the end of a session with a client, much as a method of checking the process and also as a summary of the session. The dream being like a map of the process can highlight aspects we dealt with in the session, in the often symbolic language of dreams.
I teach process oriented dreamwork in small groups, training anybody interested in dreams, counsellors and therapists, to work on their own dreams as well as with each other.
I encourage clients and students to keep a dream diary. Reading dreams from years back give us a deeper sense of our path in life.
A person dreamt about swimming deep under water in the ocean. She dreamt that she was breathing under water and swimming with large fish, being scared of the fish and their size at first but one of the fish swam under her so she ended up sitting on it and being carried through the deep ocean. She said: I felt so fantastic, so powerful, and what was so surprising was that I didn’t even question being able to breathe under water, - I am an asthmatic! And afraid of any deep water! She laughed.
It was her surprise at her ability she had in the dream that caught my attention. I mentioned that to her and asked her if she would like to “step into the dream for a moment and explore it”. She agreed. Together we play acted “riding on a big fish” and thus moved around the room. She laughed and said: wow this is like I can do anything – go as deep into the unknown depth as I like – with no fear, because I know I wont drown. I can go all the way down into the depth of anything! What fun!
We explored what “going into the unknown depths of anything” could mean for her in her immediate life, she said that she had been afraid of leaving a close relationship for fear of loosing herself in painful feelings and emotions of loss. But this had given her the experience that she could “ride the wave” and come out alive without “drowning “.
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