Imagine if you could enter an alternative reality, where limitations of time, space, and gravity were non-existent, where you could fly, breathe underwater, and explore limitless dimensions of reality (and unreality) safely. Imagine if in that space, you could meet with someone who knew your deepest secrets, those beyond even your own awareness, and they shared wisdom that enabled you to move forward with heightened awareness, purpose, growth, healing, and wholeness. Imagine if that experience was free, and you could do it while you slept.
Imagine if you had that experience every single night and ignored it completely!
The Gestalt perspective on dreamwork
Dreams are messages from the subconscious mind, windows into unseen parts of our psyches that provide us with an opportunity to bring what is unknown into the light, and integrate the disparate parts of ourselves. Freed from the restrictions of the waking world, dreams use symbolism, feelings, and experiences to show us new perspectives, insights, and information, and ultimately serve to expand our awareness and facilitate healing.
From the Gestalt perspective, every part of the dream is considered a disowned or fragmented part of self. Every character and object in your dream is part of you: You are the car and the driver, the pursuer and the pursued, the explorer, the house, and the monsters that lurk within.
The first step to working with your dreams, of course, is to remember them.
Set your intention by placing your notebook or preferred recording device next to your bed with the commitment to write down whatever you remember in the morning. I use an audio recorder on my phone, so I can mumble what I remember into it without opening my eyes, then transcribe it on my computer after I’ve had my coffee.
When you wake up, don’t rush into the day. Lie in the same position with your eyes closed, and see what fragments you can catch. Be patient. Even if you are only left with a lingering feeling, write that down. As you practice recording whatever you have, your dreams will become clearer and easier to recall.
Write them down
Write your dream in present tense, e.g., I am running through a shadowy alley. I feel panicked. This helps you drop back into your dream more vividly and relive the feelings and experiences.
Include your feelings in the dream, as these are often key to understanding its wisdom. Make a note of every detail you remember, especially if it is odd, interesting, or out of place. Nothing is irrelevant or accidental.
If you like, give your dream a title. Don’t think too hard about this, but name it with the first thing that comes to mind. The title that comes up for you is often quite telling in itself.
Work with them
Take some time to speak or write as the various objects and characters in your dream, embodying them as disowned parts of self. In a video from 1970, a student of Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy, becomes a lake from her dream in response to his prompt: “Lake, tell me your story.”
I’m a round, round lake. I feel perfect… You would like to come in me because [I am] very beautiful… You can swim into me very easily, there is nothing murky on my bottom, my bottom is of pure sand. When you come in the middle of [me] there’s a surprise… It might frighten you or you might like it very much, but right in the middle of me [there’s something] that is very strange… you don’t see it from the shore…
You can also dialogue with your dream symbols, or hold conversations between multiple characters or objects. Notice how you feel as you embody each one, and let the words flow spontaneously, without censoring or overthinking. Let your feelings guide the process rather than your preconceived ideas or intellectual analysis.
When you feel like you’ve finished working with your dream, don’t let what you’ve learned fade from your memory.
How you honour each dream is a personal decision, but it’s a good idea to anchor it into the physical world through art, writing, or ritual. You may wish to journal about the experience, make commitments that emerge naturally from the process, or find closure through writing letters that you burn.
Your dreams are as unique, complex, and beautiful as you are, and embracing them is the perfect journey into deeper self-awareness.
Gestalt therapist James Simkin once stated, “My preference is to have somebody… to work with, as I am very good at disguising and keeping myself from becoming aware.” Working with a therapist who understands the practice will always reveal deeper layers and perspectives that are hard to see for ourselves. Click here to talk to us about how we can help.