Taken from AMERICAN HEALTH July/August 1987.
How to problem-solve in your dreams
Your dreams are "written" in your own private vocabulary; that's why
their meaning is often unclear (and why dream books you buy at the corner
newsstand won't explain your own visions). Moreover, the language of dreams
is sensory and visual, whereas the language of daily life is verbal. You
need to translate a dream much as you would a foreign language.
Unfortunately, the same force s that make us disguise problems in our
dreams are likely to hinder our recognizing them when we're awake. Even
Freud had trouble with self-analysis. So an impartial listener - attained
therapist - can help. "It's a collaborative process," says New York
psychoanalyst Walter Bonime, author of the classic text, THE CLINICAL USE
OF DREAMS (Da Capo Press, $29.50)
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't explore your dreams alone or with a
partner. People who keep dream journals say that over time, patterns often
To put your dreams to work solving problems, try this routine:
o Program yourself to wake up after every REM period. I did it while
writing this article simply by telling myselfI wanted to at bedtime.
But don't make it a regular habit. "The ability to maintain
consciousness during sleep can backfire," says Dr. Neil Kavey, director
of the Columbia-Presbyterian sleep lab. "If you can't shut it off, you
may have trouble remaining asleep, or you may sleep so poorly that you
feel you didn't sleep at all."
o Put a notebook and pen or tape recorder at your bedside.
o At bedtime, select a problem and sum it up with a question, such as
"Should I take this new job?" Write it down and list possible solutions.
o Turn off the lights and reflect on these solutions. Stick with it until
you drift off to sleep.
o When you wake up - during the night or in the morning - lie still. To
jog your memory, pretend you're a detective interviewing an eyewitness.
What's the last thing you remember? Before that? Going backward can help
you more easily reconstruct a dream.
o Write down or tape record all that you remember. Do it before you shower
and have breakfast.
o If you have trouble catching dreams, try sleeping late on weekends
The longest dreams occur in the last part of sleep and many of us cut
sleep short on week nights.
Once you've recorded your dream, how do you decode it? Tell it to yourself
in the third person, suggest psychologist Lillie Weiss in DREAM ANALYSIS IN
PSYCHOTHERAPY (Pergamon Press, $11.95). This may give you some distance
from the dream and help you see the actions more clearly. Then look at the
part of the dream that is the most mysterious. "Frequently the most
incongruous part provides the dream message," Weiss says.
In her dream-therapy study, Cartwright asks participants to examine and
try to change repetitive, troublesome dreams along seven dimensions:
o Time orientation. Do all your dreams take place in the past? Try
positioning them in the present or future.
o Competence to affect the outcome. Tryfinding a positive way to resolve
o Self-blame. In your dreams, do you hold yourself responsible when
go wrong? Must you?
o Relation to former role: If your divorced, do you still dream of
yourself as married? If you have lost your job, do you still see
yourself at work? Consider alternatives.
o Motivation. Do you dream of being nurtured? Can you think of a way to
take care of yourself?
o Mood. What would make a dream more pleasant?
o Dream roles: Do you like the part you play in your dreams? What role
would you prefer?
Next: Dreams Precognition