Dream Language - Self-Understanding through Imagery and Color
The following procedures for understanding and working with your dreams are predominantly self-help approaches but can be adapted for 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 with a focus on remaining aligned with 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 http://www.asdreams.org/idxaboutus.htm#ethics2
Dream Work Guide
This guide provides a simple but powerful approach for understanding a dream in relation to your waking life and inner self. Refer to the book Dream Language by Robert Hoss to explore your dreams further.
Part #1 – What Does My Dream Mean?
Step #1 - Record the Dream: tell or record the dream as if you are re-experiencing it (use first person, present tense). Give the dream a short meaningful name, one that spontaneously comes to you.
Step #2 - Life: record any emotionally significant situation that is going on in your life at the time.
Step #3 - Metaphors in the Dream Story: Look for phrases in your description of the dream, or activities in the dream, that also sound like a figurative description of something going on, or a way you feel, in your life at the time. Describe the situation, who was involved and how you felt at the time. How might this life story relate to the dream story?
Step #4 - Work with the Dream Imagery - scripted Gestalt role play (“6 magic questions”):
a) Pick one or more dream images (things or characters) that you are “drawn to”, seem important, curious or emotionally significant to you. You might try picking a colored dream image so that you can work on both the image and the color.
b) Let the Image Speak - Go back into the dream and bring the image (that thing in your dream) to your mind’s eye. Take 3 deep breaths bring the image closer and on the 3rd breath imagine yourself as that thing in your dream. Now speak as the dream image would. You can try a simple approach and just state what you are and how you feel in that role in the dream (this will provide some basic associations). A more comprehensive approach is to answer the following 6 questions and record your statements. Speak in the first person present tense, using “I am” statements. If “becoming” the dream image is too difficult then imagine yourself asking the dream image these questions, and imagine what the answer might be.
Who or what are you (describe yourself and how you feel): “I am
Step #5 - Relate to a Life Situation: Now look at the statements now as if it is YOU speaking them about YOUR life. Do one or more of the statements sound like a way you feel or a situation in your waking life? Do the “I am” and “My purpose” statements sound like a role you are playing in waking life? Do the “I like” versus “I dislike” statements sound like a conflict going on within you? Do the “I fear” and “I desire” statements sound like waking life fears and desires, perhaps feeding the conflict? If the dream character is a person you know, do one or more of the personality statements relate to a manner in which you are approaching the waking life situation? Or alternatively, does this dream character have a personality trait that you admire or wish you had more of, in order to better handle this waking life situation? Describe the waking life situation and any new feelings or awareness’s that the dreamwork has revealed.
Step #6 - Color Work (revealing additional emotional content):
a) What color was the dream image you worked on above? If none then select any other color, color pairs or color images you feel most drawn to.
b) Pick the closest color(s) in the Color Questionnaire in the next section (below) that best matches the dream color(s)
c) Read the statements for that color and select any that trigger a “connection”, that “aha” response, with feelings or a situation in your waking life. Note that the emotional themes in the table are based on ‘common’ subliminal emotional responses to color and are therefore intended to trigger your own personal associations; they are NOT the “meaning” of the color – the true meaning remains with the dreamer.
d) Describe the waking life situation that the color statement reminds you of, and your feelings at the time. e) Does the color work add a new perspective? If you selected a pair of colors, and thus chose two sets of statements, do the two sets of statements relate to conflicting feelings surrounding your situation?
Step #7 - Reflect On What the Dream Reveals: does the work with the imagery and it’s color above reveal conflicting feelings or fears in your life that tend to leave you stuck at times? Reflect on some of the statements revealed in the dreamwork that describe your feelings, beliefs and fears about your situation. Ask yourself if some of these may be exaggerated fears or misconceptions. According to Jung it is these misconceptions that dreams try to correct – with further work (below) you can therefore help your dreams to correct these misconceptions.
Part #2 – How Can I Use It To Change My Life?
Step #8 – Dream Compensation (the ‘message’): Jung stated that dreams try to correct for misconceived beliefs and fears that leave us stuck. He indicated that some dreams present information (the ‘message’ that some call it) to compensate for those misconceptions. The point of compensation in a dream is usually found by exploring the presence of: Surprise; Guidance and/or Positive Endings. In order to explore whether your dream contains a compensating message, review the dream from the most emotional part to the end: a) Did the dream contain a Surprise event or surprise imagery combination? b) did you receive direct guidance (verbal, words or otherwise) from some dream character or implied guidance in the dream setting a new direction? c) Did the dream end positively and if so what happened to bring about that positive ending? Such ‘messages’ are rarely ever literal, they are presented as metaphors, parables, analogies and associations just like every other event and image in the dream – so look for actions that might be analogous to a solution to the situation the dream is dealing with. Once you suspect a ‘compensating message’ go to Step #10. If none is obvious go to Step #9.
Step # 9 – Finish the Dream (new metaphor): If the dream did not contain an obvious ‘compensating message’ or it either did not conclude or did not conclude positively then if you can ‘finish the dream’ and if done correctly, create that new metaphor that may be useful in suggesting a waking life resolution to your situation. To ‘finish the dream’ you need to relax your thinking mind, and let your subconscious do the work. Close your eyes and go back into the dream and briefly review it until the end. Hold yourself at the end of the dream and think about how you got there, what you were trying to achieve in the dream if anything, and how you feel in the situation at the end of the dream. Now spontaneously without thinking about it, imagine a new ending (no matter how strange) that makes the dream work out in a positive fashion for everyone involved.
Step #10 – Potential Resolution: How might either the Dream ‘Message” (from Step # 8) or the New Dream Ending (from Step #9) be a metaphor (analogy) for a solution to your waking life situation? The new ending is still a dream segment so sometimes you will have to explore your associations with some of the unclear imagery (try part or all of step #4 if need be). Describe the new solution that you think the dream or new ending has provided.
Step #11 – Check it Out then Define Next Steps: Ask yourself if this new solution is healthy, practical and allows you to move ahead – OR – does it leave you stuck again? If it is healthy and practical, then imagine when you might have an opportunity to put it into practice, and define what specific next steps can you take to bring it about. Often defining just one next step is adequate. This is a necessary step in actualizing the solution. Otherwise it will fade away.
Step #12 – “Token” Reminder Image: it is helpful to have something to remind you of your new solution and next steps when you find yourself in the situation again and at risk of slipping back. Find an image in either the compensating part of the dream or the new or positive dream ending and use that image as a reminder image. Bring the reminder image to mind to help keep the solution in mind, if you find yourself back in the situation.
Working with Dream Color
Robert Hoss, MS, author Dream Language
Research in the field of Color Psychology has shown that humans respond both physiologically and emotionally to color; the autonomic nervous system and brain respond directly and subliminally in a fairly predictable manner as a person is illuminated with specific colors. This phenomenon may involve the limbic system which associates emotional memories with whatever our senses take in. This author’s research has shown color to relate to the same neurological processes and thus the same emotional associations in the dream state as in the waking state. It is likely that the limbic system is involved here as well, because is highly active in the dream state. The author has found that dream color more often relates to inner FEELINGS the dream is dealing with, and less often to what the color reminds you of, although any associations or memories that arise as you work with your dreams are worthy of exploring.
Because color in the dream and waking state relates to similar emotions, a table of common subliminal emotional responses to color is provided (reverse side) to help stimulate your own associations with your dream colors. The table was derived from color psychology research and literature, in large part the Color Test by Dr. Max Luscher, augmented with the works of C. G. Jung. The statements in the table are NOT the “meaning” of dream color and should not be used as a dictionary of color meaning – they are simply designed to trigger your own personal “aha” or “connection” with feelings or a situation in your life that the dream might be dealing with. They may or may not describe your situation exactly since they are based on responses from a general population. You may find that only one or two statements within a color cell relate to your specific situation, whereas the others do not. This is exactly how it was designed. The statements are variations around an emotional theme reported to be associated with that color. They provide a spectrum of emotions, from being filled with the emotion, to needing more of that emotional stimulus. If the table does not trigger an association then try freely associating by imagining being totally illuminated by your dream color and asking, “how do I FEEL in the presence of that color.” First explore the feelings that surface before pursuing memories or what the color reminds you of.
1) Select the colored images from your dream that you feel are important or that you feel emotionally drawn to. It is best to work with something that is not a commonly colored object (like green grass), unless it stands out. Work with a colored image where the color is optional (such as a red hat, a blue car). Also if you notice the presence of a grouping of the 4 “psychological primaries” (Red, Yel, Blue, Green) it may relate to the dream’s attempt at finding completion or closure related to something happening in your life. Work on whichever color appears most active, or if it appears that one color is obviously missing (only 3 colors present in the group), then work on the missing color as if it is something missing in your life needed to bring about closure or harmony.
2) Pick the color in the table that best matches the color of the dream image. Don’t worry if there is not a perfect match. The tables are not intended to reveal the meaning of that color but rather to trigger your own associations from the general emotional themes.
· Single Color: use the table to select the closest matching color.
· Color Pair: If an image contains a pair of colors, explore the possibility that the two colors might represent conflicting emotions about a situation you are in. Use the table on each color separately and contrast the associations and feelings they trigger.
3) Read each expression for that color (or better yet have someone else read them while you listen) and ask yourself: “Does this statement relate to a way I have felt recently or describe a situation in my waking life?”
4) Relate to Waking Life: Pick the one or two statement(s) that create the strongest “aha” connection or that reminds you of a recent situation or way you have felt lately. Describe the situation, and your feelings at the time.
5) Reflect on the Dream: How might the situation or feelings you recall above, relate to the dream. Do they clarify or complete the other dreamwork you may have done? If you selected a pair of colors, do the 2 sets of statements relate to conflicting feelings surrounding your situation?
For more information on the dream color research go to www.dreamscience.org and click on either the Science of Dreaming or Dreams and Color buttons. The topic is also covered in depth in the book Dream Language by Robert J. Hoss, published by Innersource 2005.