This is an old article of mine on a dream technique, which I submitted to the TAT (Truth and Transmission Foundation) a number of years ago. I have just reworked it slightly, but not that much has changed from the original. I utilize this technique when counselling clients and doing dream work. I adapted it slightly in later years for “spiritual” purposes or what some may call the subtractive path though it work just as well for psychological purposes. It is a very powerful dream interpretation technique which is not readily know in the dream interpretation field. It also might be useful to read this article to familiarize yourselves with the foundations of dreams and dream interpretation as I currently see them https://edwardtraversa.com/introductory-guide-dream-interpretation/
You may or may not have not heard of this technique before. Personally I have not come across it in the literature before, but then again that does not mean it does not exist somewhere in the literature. There seems to be elements from a few different branches of psychology combined in this technique, so it is difficult to attribute to one school and one school alone. If you have heard of this technique, could you let me know who originated it?
I learned it of a very wise and talented counsellor, and have used it on many occasions with good success, both personally and when I was working with clients as a counsellor. It almost always tells us something about the dream and in turn us, since we are the dreamer of the dream.
It is very good at uncovering different layers of the dream. So let us see if you the reader find it useful.
The first thing we need to know about dreams is that the very first line of our dream tells us what the dream is about. The last few parts of the dream tell us what to do. There are different phases in a dream relating to different things, and also the timing of the dream may be important, e.g. did it occur early on in the sleep period, or later just before arising for the day. Lots of different things factor into dream interpretation. Consequently, let us keep it simple and focus on the first line of a theoretical dream example.
Let us assume that this is a first line of a dream.
“I am traveling to a purple house.”
That first line will tell us what the theme of the dream is, but the catch is that one of the layers of the dream is that the dream theme is hidden in symbols. One layer may be what I would term the surface layer, where most may interpret the dream as relating to a change in direction, or travel or perhaps just starting to think about moving to a new house.
That may well be a correct interpretation at a surface level and if it fits it fits. However, a dream always is layer upon layer upon layer of meaning. Furthermore, it almost always has multiple meanings. So let’s provide an explorative technique to get into the more hidden and deeper stuff that may often not reach awareness.
If we look at the first line of the dream again;
“I am traveling to a purple house.”
We want to take the key symbols from that sentence out. In this example, we would have:
I or possibly even I am
For each word write down 6 to 10 words that you associate with the word, try and make them the first things that spring to mind rather than something you give a lot of thought to.
For example if we use house as an example, here are a few words that come readily to my mind:
Sleep, comfort, relax, garden, bath, safe. List these next to the word house.
Do the same thing for each symbol.
Now say each association out loud. Don’t say it in your mind, physically speak the word. This is very important.
As you’re saying each word, watch your body for any reaction. If you twitch suddenly, if yours voice croaks, if you have some difficultly saying a word, or if you have an emotional reaction to a word no matter how small make a note of it. It’s the words that create a reaction of any type that you want to keep. The rest can be discarded.
You may have to do this a few times to get yourself really focused on your body and emotional states. That’s ok, the more you practice the easier it will become.
Let us assume that I had some form of reaction to the words ‘comfort’ and ‘safe’ for house. Let’s also assume that I had some reaction to some words like ‘explore’, ‘movement’ for traveling. And some reaction to the words who, me for the word I.
We then have these words to play with:
Comfort, safe, explore, movement, who, me.
You can also throw them around a little on paper.
Who me explore comfort? Safe movement and so on.
One of the deeper themes of the dream then may be about exploring things in relative safety and comfort. It does not particularly contradict that surface layer if it fits; it just adds depth to it. For example, it may still be about a change in direction, but we have added the elements of desiring safety and comfort when and if that change occurs.
The next phase of this technique is to look at the opposite side of the symbols that we have had some sort of reaction to. For example, if the theme of the dream is about exploring things in safety and comfort look to some of the opposites.
Think of the word safe and think of some opposites to that, e.g. threatened, fear etc. Whatever pops into your mind. Again do not dwell on it too much, rather just write down the words that immediately spring to mind.
Do the same for each word of the theme.
You should nearly always end up with a positive theme and a negative theme. So that at one level the dream is about safety or comfort but at another level, it’s also about fear or feeling threatened etc…
In other words, there is an aspect of you that feels fearful or threatened which sheds a bit more light on the subject.
One of the objectives of this technique is to bring things out into the open that would normally pass our attention. If we continue on with the next line of the dream and then the next, we may be able to view the dream in a completely different light. Then see how the theme of the next line relates to the first and so on. The more of the dream we do in this fashion the more crystal things will become.
If you find things aren’t really clear on the first run through, then go deeper into the symbols. For example, in our little example, take the words for house: Sleep, comfort, relax, garden, bath, safe and write 6 to ten words for them and start the process again.
You could go on forever and forever like this, but usually one or two iterations are enough to get the hidden symbolic meanings out into the open.
When it’s in the open, you have it in psychological consciousness. Then you start negating the inherent concepts so that the technique becomes a negation technique. Neti, Neti, some of the eastern traditions would say.
For instance let’s say the dream turns out to be something like a fear of being outside a comfort zone, then you can really go to town on that and challenge that fear.
Who is afraid? What comfort zone? Where did the idea of a comfort zone originate? Was this concept learned and from who? If it was learned, can it be unlearned? Etc. Challenge the unconscious assumptions that the dream technique has bought forward. Where we want to end with it is, a place where the dream has no energy or intensity to it. It still resides in memory, but it does not affect us emotionally or psychologically. We learn what we can from the dream yes, but once what is needed to be learnt is learned, we turn the dream into ash.
In this sense, the dream technique has been adapted to not be integrative in nature. We do not want to add to the illusion of self, and add more theories, dogmas, beliefs etc., what we want is to discover what true self is or indeed if there is any such thing in the first place.
As an aside, this technique also works on daydreaming or visions in meditation.
Some points to remember: don’t get too caught in the obvious, for example many may say that the colour purple represents spirituality, but it’s also the colour of bruises. So at the end of the process you may just want to reflect for a while on the images that the theme of the dream brings into mind.