The Secret of Dream Work

The secret of dream work is that you don't need dreams to do the kind of work we do on them. These same techniques, once mastered by long and diligent work with dreams, can be applied to waking life with radical results.

Free association

Lie down and get into a relaxed state. Let your mind wander along any one of its innumerable habitual channels of association. The important thing is to let go of all conscious control and direction. Let what arises arise, and then let it move on to the next thing spontaneously, automatically. But each time you become aware that you are in the middle of a thought, focus on it; not on the thought itself, which is as shopworn and stale as our conscious minds themselves, but on the images behind the thought. In the pictures our minds have collected, there is a vast reservoir of information that has never been adequately processed because our consciousness was too narrow and constricted at the time by conditioning to perceive the seemingly infinite dimensions of feeling tones present. When these pictures themselves, the images upon which our thoughts are based, are revisited in this way at a later time - especially after we have worked extensively with dreams- we bring to them the much wider dimensions of consciousness we have become capable of in the interim. We can enter directly into the consciousness of those who touched our lives long ago. We can revisit the consciousness of the person we were then. When we can do that, it becomes apparent that we are not the same person now. We feel and understand who we are in a transformed way.

The thoughts that meander incessantly through our minds are wrong. It's not that they are in error. But they are based upon an inadequate sampling of the original experience itself. The beauty of the human system is that this experience has been ingrained directly into our brains and bodies in the form of pictures and patterns of tension. It can be revisited by revisiting the pictures directly and its hidden wealth harvested long, long after the fact. The tensions can be released directly into spontaneous emotional expression.


We have at our fingertips not only this vast reservoir of our own experience but also the near infinite experience of all the people, places, and things that have ever touched our lives, even in the most marginal way at the time. These other characters and settings can be revisited directly in the form of the images they have left imprinted in our minds. For if they touched us at any little spot, they touched us with the whole of themselves. And the whole of their wisdom and insight as well as the depth of their sickness and pain - the two categories are not something different one from the other - is ours for the asking. "Ask and it will be given to you," the Bible says, "Seek and ye shall find." If we will take the time out from our daily and meaningless chatter with ourselves and with those around us, if we move to that protected place of peacefulness within us from where the images of our past can be viewed directly, we can strike up meaningful dialogue. Of course, we find with our minds what our hearts always knew. Of course, it may turn into tears. We let our body cry. We let our heart feel what we never let it feel before. And each time we do this, we take a burden off it. Ours becomes a healthier heart. We find that the dialogue and contact with those around us in our waking life then becomes more meaningful and true.

We don't have to wait for dreams to work with these things. What goes on when we're dreaming is going on all the time. Dreamwork is an invaluable training and a prerequisite for this kind of waking work with images. Too few dreamworkers realize this. They become fixated on dreamwork, like a grade school pupil who keeps flunking and never makes high school There is a step beyond this waking imagery work. You graduate from the graduate school of consciousness when you take these same processes into waking life itself, when you can work with and revision your daily episodes even as they are happening.


You find that a radical reframing of a situation springs readily to mind even as it is happening. You see directly how the ways you are approaching an individual or a situation are habitual and invalid. You see others directly and nakedly for what they are behind the mask and the role they appear to be playing. You notice what's missing as well as what's happening. Of course, the analysis of a situation is the recognition and acceptance of your feelings in that situation. When you feel what you are fully, you can't help but accept it, and love it. You can quit trying to make it otherwise. This happens naturally. Like I said, the human organism is an amazing instrument. We need far less control than we imagine. These things happen naturally and spontaneously when we quit interfering with them. We have been conditioned to wander around in a false dream reality all day long, but it is in our nature- if only we would allow it - to awaken from this dream of false notions into a reality of deep involvement.

...and so on and so forth

The same holds true for all the other multitudinous techniques of working with dreams.

Dreamwork itself can become incidental to the expansion of awareness. Ultimately, only by letting go of dream resolutions and resolving our conflicts in waking life can we free our dreams for deeper purposes. Their deeper purpose is to always lead us further and further toward the shores of fuller awakefulness. Is there an end to this and thus an end to dreaming as enlightened ones like Krishnamurti suggest? I don't know, I doubt that I am anywhere near that point. For me, dreamwork can still be a powerful tool for growth. I've seen the process thwarted, however, in certain individuals who, for all their prowess in the world of dreams and imagination, are unable to translate the resolution of their conflicts to waking life and so, like a branch stuck between two rocks in a fast running mountain stream swishes back and forth repeatedly with the current, all their movement is getting them nowhere.

Yes, what I am saying is that dreamwork, like everything else, can be an escape from life. A woman I know who is afraid of sexual relationships with men has the most incredible sexual lucid dreams with orgasms and the whole bit. Her dream prowess is like the exceptional hearing developed in certain blind people - a compensation for a defect. She pursues her dream work rigorously and has made it a profession because it enables her to sidestep her defect. And consequently, it is also ruining her life. Needless to say, there is no telling her this. Our blind spots are our hurt spots. Who appreciates the doctor who would reopen the painfully infected wound? I'm not a therapist anyway and am not about to stick my fingers in her mind. If knowledge could heal, how whole we would all be! Only the full experience of the present waking situation heals. Dreams are an avenue, not a substitute. This is a secret that some of the dream therapies ignore and some of the greatest dream workers today only pay lip service to.