Dreamworking Guide and Worksheet
Working with Imagery, Color and Wisdom in Dreams


 

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 http://www.asdreams.org/idxaboutus.htm#ethics2 


 

  
 Index

Quick Guide for Dreamwork (below)
Dream Worksheet in PDF
Color Questionnaire (below) or download in PDF
Protocol for Exploring Emotion in Dreams in PDF
 

 

 

 

Dream Work Guide

This guide provides an in-depth approach that follows the natural way that a dream deals with emotionally important matters related to waking 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 the underlying emotional issues the dream and the dreamer (you) is dealing with, and finally exploring the dream for clues as to the natural way the dream was trying to resolve the problem; clues that you can apply in waking life. The approach is based on a mixture of Jungian psychology, Gestalt therapy, contemporary psychological theory (Ernest Hartmann MD among others) and recent findings from neurological studies on areas of the brain active in REM dreaming.  Some of the theory and research supporting this approach is briefly outlined below, however you may refer to the books by Robert Hoss, Dream Language and Dream to Freedom, or the Articles button on this site for further detail.

Part #1 – Wording with the Dream Narrative: Association/Metaphor

Step #1 - Record the Dream: re-enter the dream and tell or record it as if you are re-experiencing it (use first person, present tense). Recording it as if you are re-experiencing it creates more meaningful metaphors that you can better relate to waking life. Give the dream a short meaningful title, one that spontaneously comes to you.

Step #2 - Life:  record any emotionally significant situation (positive and negative) that is going on in your life at the time.  It may or may not relate to the dream but if it does it provides valuable information necessary for understanding the dream.

Step #3 – Look for Dream to Life Associations and Metaphors:  we start by collecting information on the dream to life associations that are apparent in the dream narrative. Avoid trying to form a full analysis of the dream at this point, and focus on the “detective work” of just listing and investigating associations.

a) Metaphors: Look for phrases in your description of what was happening or how you were feeling in the dream that also sound like a figurative description of something going on, or a way you felt, 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?

b) Define the Imagery: personal associations pictured by some of the key images (things) in the dream can be revealed if you define (in your own words) the function or purpose of those images.  If a character in the dream is someone you know the dream has likely pictured that person to represent a personality characteristic so define the personality of that person, also in what ways is it different than you, and the same.  Now plug these definitions back into the dream narrative in place of the images; re-read it and see if it now sounds like it relates to a situation in your waking life.

c) Memory Associations: if a particular scene, action or character in the dream spontaneously triggers a past memory – review that memory.  If the dream contains a character from the past, ask yourself what past situation comes to mind that involved them. If an emotion within the dream feels like something you have felt in waking life, review the situation. Then ask yourself how any of these memories or feelings relate to what is going on in your life at the time of the dream.  

Note that at this point you may have a sense for what it is in your waking life that the dream is dealing with.  But you are not done – understanding the dream to life connection is only the very beginning – not the end of the dreamwork.  Avoid “analyzing” the dream at this point, you are only beginning to collect information – and we are about to go deeper.

Part #2 – Exploring Emotion pictured by the Dream Imagery

Researcher Ernest Hartmann, MD, found that dream imagery pictured the emotional state of the dreamer. Fritz Perls, MD, developed an approach for revealing the emotional content and conflicts represented by each dream image – it is called Gestalt role-play. The emotions that created a dream image are revealed if we give that image a voice.

Step #4 – Give the Dream a Voice (scripted Gestalt role-play or the “6 magic questions”):  Re-enter the dream, perhaps at the most emotionally charged point, and re-visualize the scene around you, noticing all of the elements and imagery in the scene.

a) Pick one or more dream images (things or characters) that you are “drawn to”, that seem important, curious or emotionally significant in some way. If there are many that draw your attention, it is good to work with more than one.  For expediency however you might focus on the most curious or perhaps least humanized (thing versus person) image (Fritz Perls considered these to be the most alienated parts of the personality or to contain the more important emotional material to work with).

b) Give the Dream Image a Voice - 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 (“become” it and imagine how it might feel in the role it is in). Now speak as the dream image would. To help guide this process, answer the following 6 questions as that ‘thing’ in your dream would answer them, and record the answers. 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.

  1) Who or what are you (describe yourself and how you feel): “I am ______”
      (Alternatively - if the dream character is someone you know, then as that person: 
      a. describe your personality; b. in what ways are you like the dreamer; 
      c. in what ways you are different.)
  2) What is your purpose or function (what do you do)? “My purpose is to _________”
  3) What do you like about being that dream element? “I like ____________”
  4) What do you dislike about being that dream element? “I dislike ____________”
  5) What do you fear most as that dream element? “I fear _____________”
  6) What do you desire most as that dream element? "What I desire most is to ______”

Relate to a Life Situation: Now switch perspectives and review the statements as if it is YOU saying that about a situation in YOUR life.  Do one or more 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 #5 – Working with Color:   Color in a dream is meaningful and relates to emotion, or combines with other images to add and emotional modifier to the overall meaning of the image. Research in the field of Color Psychology has shown that humans respond both physiologically and emotionally to color; the autonomic nervous system and limbic system (“emotional brain”) respond subliminally (below the threshold of consciousness) in a fairly predictable manner as a person is illuminated with specific colors. The limbic system (which is highly active when we dream) appears to retain the same color to emotional associations as in the waking state. We can therefore use some of the common color to emotional associations from waking state color research, as statements to trigger our own emotional associations, based on the colors that appear in our dreams.  These statements are listed in the Color Questionnaire at the end of this procedure. Note that the emotional themes in the table are NOT the “meaning” of the color, nor are to be used as a “symbol dictionary’; they are intended to trigger your own associations. The true meaning always remains with the dreamer.

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.

d) Describe the waking life situation that the color statement reminds you of, and your feelings at the time. Does the color work add a new perspective?  If you selected a pair of colors, and thus chose two sets of statements, might the two sets of statements relate to conflicting feelings you have had related to the situation?

Step #6 – Dream to Waking Life Summary: Reflect on what you have learned from the metaphor and association work in Part 1, and the emotional exploration from the Gestalt and Color work above in Part 2 – an summarize the personal emotionally charged situation that you think the dream is dealing with.  In particular were any emotions, emotional memories or conflicts revealed that you are feeling or struggling with in waking life. Did the dreamwork touch on any beliefs that may be misconceptions, or behaviors that may be impeding your progress?   

Part #3 – How Can I Use it To Change My Life?

We have now collected the information on what the dream is dealing with; both the external waking situation and some of the underlying emotional struggles that are involved. We are now ready to return to the dream to explore the natural way that the dream was trying to resolve the problem. Carl Jung observed that dreams have a “transcendent function” that helps bring about growth, a transition from one state to another accompanied by a new awareness or attitude. Ernest Hartmann saw that dreams weave new information into old memory systems, driven by what is emotionally important to us, to bring about new insight and learning. The dream, even if it ends without resolution, may therefore contain clues as to the natural solution it was working on; insight that might be adapted to practical waking life solutions.

Archetypal Patterns: Carl Jung observed that the process of personality balance, integration of conscious and unconscious parts of our self, and transcendence, is pictured by Archetypal patterns. Observing these patterns (step 7a) doesn’t provide direct guidance but can help us understand the processes taking place.  A basic pattern of the overall transcendent process is a symbolic “death and rebirth” where the ego has given up (on some belief or course of action) since nothing seems to work, and journeys inward for a solution. Death of the Ego - The dream reflects this in imagery such as the dream ego (you or someone you identify with) going underneath or into darkness, and death or fear themes. Journey - The next stage is a journey inward to find a new self or belief system that works, resulting in such imagery as: being lost; trying to find something, your way or your way home; geometric pattern of attempted closure and completion (walking in a square or circle, 4 with 1 part missing, or 3), the circle, 0, square and 4 relating to completion.  Conflict is often symbolized as an identical pair, and integration as a pair of opposites. Balance or imbalance often appears as a balanced or unbalanced mix of male and female characters, where a male/female pair pictures balance or integration. If a male or female character becomes the focus, that dream segment could be dealing with a masculine or feminine aspect of your personality that is represented by the character – so if the character is known to you, defining their personality can provide valuable clues.  Compensation - During this process the dream might present a scenario that opposes or “compensates” for the prior actions or beliefs of the dream ego and guides it in a new direction. The unconscious guiding force often enters as: a shadow personality, from the left or from darkness; as a wise or divine being that directs or provides insight; a guiding event or discovery; or in the form of spoken or written works – usually not literal but as a metaphor. Rebirth – If the dream ego reverses itself and follows the guidance or receives new insight, the dream will emotionally reinforce that segment with a positive ending which Jung identified as “rebirth”.  Alternatively the emotional reinforcement can appear as a warning to in Jung’s words “bring the conscious mind back to reality and warn of the dangers of our present course”.   

Neurological Observations: The processes observed by Jung and Hartmann are to varying degrees supported by some of the recent results from PET and fMRI studies on brain centers that are active during REM state dreaming. The active centers appear to have the capacity to: detect that something is wrong; plan and mediate a solution via a series of “what-if” dream scenarios (which deal with the problem an it’s associated memories); provide guiding cues to influence those scenarios; and emotionally rewarding a dream scenario that achieves the anticipated outcome, learning in the process.  The dream scenarios appear to compensate for ego misconceptions as Jung observed, or in other terms it places the dream ego in a juxtaposition of opposites, allowing us to experience a new way of viewing and resolving the problem.  By looking for these activities using some simple identifiers listed below (steps 7b through 7e) the dream can provide clues that are valuable to finding a more natural solution in our waking life

Step #7 – Dream Guidance:  look for these guiding actions from the perspective of the “dream ego” which is you in the dream or some character you identify with.

7a – Archetypal Patterns (optional). This step is useful if the dreamworker has a familiarity with some of the more basic archetypal patterns, some of which are summarized above.  It doesn’t necessarily always guide you toward a solution, but rather shows the resolution processes taking place; the process of personality balance, integrating conscious and unconscious material, and transcendence (moving from one state to another), which can be helpful in sorting out what is happening.

7b - Positive Ending - did the dream end positively or with a potentially positive direction to it?  If so ask yourself what happened that brought it about? 

7c – Surprise - did something surprise you; an action or situation opposite to what you expected; an unexpected twist; a sudden discovery or insight; perhaps an odd blend of imagery which reveals something from a different perspective?  Did the dream present a scenario that was opposite to the direction, attitude or belief of the dream ego prior to that point? How did it differ from expectation or provide a different point of view?  

7d - Guidance - did you experience a guiding event (advice, action, discovery) or message (written or verbal)?  Define the new direction or insight that this guidance provided in the dream and how it changed the behavior or thinking of the dream ego in the dream.

7e - Reversal - did you/your dream ego character at some point in the dream reverse your thinking, attitude, belief or direction?  If so what brought this about?

NEXT: If any or all of these reveal information that sounds like it might be an analogy or metaphor for a solutions, then jump to Step #9 to explore how it relates to your waking life situation.  If none is obvious go to Step #8 below.

 Step # 8 – Finish the Dream (new metaphor): If the information above was not clear, or if the dream did not conclude or did not end positively then you can ‘finish the dream’ to 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, and get in touch with how you feel at the end of the dream.  Now spontaneously without thinking about it, letting the first images that come to mind flow, imagine a new ending (no matter how strange) that makes the dream work out in a positive fashion for everyone involved.  

Step #9 – Closure

9a – Define a Solution:  How might the observations from step #7 or from the new dream ending in step #8 be a metaphor or analogy to a solution to your waking life situation?  Note that all of this information including the new ending, is in the form of metaphor and has to be related as analogy. Sometimes to sort out the analogy, additional work on the imagery involved (defining the image or giving it a voice) might be required. Once the analogies are sorted out, describe the new solution, that you think the dream or new ending is suggesting, as it relates to the waking life situation the dream appears to be dealing with.

9b – Check it Out:  Because you are “interpreting” a solution from the metaphors that you worked on above, you need to check it out before acting on it.  Ask yourself if this new solution is healthy, practical and allows you to move ahead – OR – does it leave you stuck again?   If these are positive then proceed to the next step.  If not, do not apply the solution you defined; a bit more work on this phase of the dreamwork may be required.

9c - Define Next Steps  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.

9d – “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 that represents the solution from within the dream or the new 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

http://www.dreamscience.org/images/CosmicGelDm4.gif

Color Questionnaire

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 the 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 suggests that same neurological processes that associate color to emotion in the waking state, maintain those associations in the dream state. This is supported by the discovery that the limbic system, which is involved associating emotion and emotional memories with whatever our senses bring in) is highly active in the REM dream state. The origins of these associations within the unconscious brain centers, suggests that dream color more often relates to subliminal inner FEELINGS that the dream is dealing with, and less often to what the color reminds you of or what you read somewhere that it meant, which are cognitive processes that are relatively inactive during REM dreaming.

Because color in the dream and waking state relates to similar emotions, a table of common subliminal emotional responses to color is provided (below) 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 feeling in step 4 relate to the dream story and the rest of the dreamwork you have done.

 

R

E

D

1) I feel intense, vital or animated. 2) I feel transformed. 3) I feel assertive, forceful.  4) I feel creative.  5) I want to live life to its fullest.  6) I want to win, succeed, achieve.  7) I feel sexy or have strong sexual urges.  8) I have a driving desire.  9) I need something to make me feel alive again.  10) I need to be more assertive and forceful. 11) I need to get out and enjoy myself.
12) If red appears as blood or inflammation – it may relate to an illness or injury

O

R

N

1) I want to expand my interests and develop new activities. 2) I want a wider sphere of influence. 3) I feel friendly and welcoming. 4) I want more contact with others. 5) I feel enthusiastic, outgoing and adventurous. 6) I am driven by desires and hopes toward the new, undiscovered and satisfying. 7) I feel driven but need to overcome my doubts or fear of failure. 8) I must avoid spreading myself too thin.

P

I

N

K

1) I feel romantic or loving toward someone or something; 2) I am feeling very sensitive about something; 3) I feel nurturing and /or gentle and soothing; 4) I am feeling compassionate; 5) I am avoiding aggression or want to calm my aggressive feelings; 6) I need romance; 7) I need nurturing; 8) I need something to calm me down; 9) dealing with this feeling of assertiveness is new to me; 10) the driving energy I feel is new to me

Y

E

L

1) I feel a sense of joy and optimism. 2) I feel alert.  3) I am seeking a solution that will open up new and better possibilities and allow my hopes to be fulfilled.  4) I feel the new direction I am taking will bring happiness in my future.  5) I am hopeful.  6) I need to find a way out of this circumstance or relationship. 7) I need a change. 8) I may be compensating for something.  9) I am acting compulsively.

G

R

E

E

N

1) I need to establish myself, my self-esteem, my independence.  2) I want recognition.  3) I need to increase the certainty of my own value and status, through acknowledgment by others of my achievements or my possessions.  4) Hard work and drive will gain me recognition and self esteem. 5) My opinion must prevail.  6) I must hold on to this view in order to maintain my self-esteem.  7) I want what I am due.  8) I must maintain control of the events.  9) Things must not change. 10) Detail and logic are important here. 11) I need to increase my sense of security.  12) I need more money to feel secure.  13) I want to withdraw and retreat into my own center.  14) I need healing or better health. 

B

L

U

E


1) I feel tranquil, peaceful and content.  2) I feel a sense of harmony.  3) I feel a meditative awareness or unity. 4) I feel a sense of belonging.  5) I need rest, peace or a chance to recuperate.  6) I need a relationship free from contention in which I can trust and be trusted.  7) I need a peaceful state of harmony offering contentment and a sense of belonging.

V

I

O

1) I like to win others over with my charm.  2) I feel an identification, an almost "mystic" union.   3) I have a deep intuitive understanding of the situation.  4) I feel a sense of intimacy.  5) The feeling is erotic.   6) I seek a magical state where wishes are fulfilled. 7) I yearn for a "magical" relationship of romance and tenderness.  8) I seek to identify with something or someone.  9) I need intimacy. 10) I engage in fantasy in order to compensate for my feelings of insecurity.

B

R

O

W

N

1) I seek a secure state where I can be physically comfortable and relax or recover. 2) I am uneasy and insecure in the existing situation. 3) I need a more affectionate environment. 4) I need a situation imposing less physical strain.  5) I want to satisfy the physical senses (food, luxury, sex). 

6) If it is a Natural or Wood Brown: a) I am concerned about matters of family, home, or my "roots".  b) I am concerned with a son or daughter.  c) I am searching for my true self or natural state of being. 

7) If Dirty Brown: it may relate to a physical problem or illness.

G

R

A

Y

 


(free of color) 1) I want to shield myself from those feelings. 2) I feel emotionally distant, only an observer. 3) It is as if I am standing aside, watching myself mechanically go through the motions. 4) I want to remain uncommitted, non-involved, shielded or separated from the situation.  5) I do not want to make a decision that will require my emotional involvement. 6) I have put up with too much and wish to avoid any further emotional stimulation. 7) I am trying to escape an anxious situation. 8) I am compensating for something.

B

L

A

C

K


1) I am anxious and don't know why.  2) I am fearful of or intimidated by the situation.  3) I have been dealt an unacceptable blow.  4) Nothing is as it should be.  5) I refuse to allow it/them to influence my point of view. 

6) I can’t accept the situation and don’t wish to be convinced otherwise.  7) I feel the need for extreme action.  8) I am in revolt perhaps to compensate for my situation.   Jung: Black and Darkness represents the unconscious realm. Moving into darkness = suppression, turning within, or a “death of the ego” (first stage of transformation).  Beautiful Shiny Black = a positive view of the unconscious from which a new self emerges.

W

H

I

T

E

1) This is a new experience. 2) I’m becoming aware of new feelings. 3) I’m experiencing a new beginning, a reawakening a transformation. 4) I have a new outlook, a new awareness. 5) I feel pure and innocent.  6) I feel open and accepting.  7) I feel unprepared.  8) I feel alone, isolated.  9) It feels cold or sterile.  White grouping or mixing (pastels): with a color can be a transformation of the emotions represented by the color, adding a calming, a newness, enlightenment, emergence or re-emergence theme.

COLOR
GROUPS

RED/YEL/BLU/GRN – a grouping of the 4 “primaries” may represent completion or a balancing of something within the personality.  A missing color, may be associated with an emotional element missing from the dreamers life that is needed for closure.

BLACK & WHITE (patterns) - may represent the forces of unification, an integration of conscious (white) and unconscious (black)  from which a greater self emerges; a unity of opposites; an internal change.

GOLD & SILVER - Integration of the masculine & feminine qualities of the conscious & unconscious.
 

Copyright: Robert J Hoss Dream Language 2012.  For information write to bob@dreamlanguage.org

Permission is granted to copy this guide for personal and educational use with proper reference to the author

 

Dream Masters