What Is Dreamwork?
The definitions are not "set in stone" and not everyone agrees on them.
Dreamwork is a term currently used to describe a particular way of working with dreams where the facilitator will ask the dreamer questions, but not give an absolute interpretation of the dream, or dreams, in return. (The Wikipedia definition for dreamwork is reasonable at the time of writing this.) It is up to the dreamer to interpret what feels true to them based on the dialogue that occurs with themselves... or with a facilitator. Archetypal Dreamwork can be called a category of dreamwork. Many use the terms interchangeably or see it as the same thing. Natural or Experiential Dreamwork are similar terms.
What type or tradition do you practice in?
The Dreamwork practice I do and the community I belong to are members of the Association of Dreamwork Practitioners. This tradition has evolved from Freud and Jung and continues to be evolving. It roughly aligns with a specific way of working with dreams where the focus is in questioning, and holding off on interpreting absolutlely. The focus is mainly on:
- The space or distance between these things
- How a person is in relation to the world
I believe that, in general, most powerful message is often found in the feeling of a dream and is an experience-based entity. So, no matter how one tries to define it in words, it is hard to put to words. (I had a dream about this). Certainly the traditions of Jung and Freud and the spiritual books all have influence upon me.
Why what you feel is important and how dreams can help:
It has been said that without feeling, one does not have a sense of being truly alive. No matter how many dream symbols and meanings you may come up with, if you miss the feeling of the dream, you may be missing the richest part. Dreams can teach us to feel. They can help guide our intuition. They can help teach us a language around it.
The feeling in a dream often contains an "inner knowing" or memory (“gnosis" is the ancient term as I understand it). I sometimes say this is the dream as the heart understands it, (or feels it... like intuition). The "heart" may know something that the "head" doesn't know. By head knowing, terms like ego or mind are sometimes used, depending on how one defines them... but again, I find much of what I have learned defies words and labels. (Some great spiritual books talk of a "hearts knowing" language.) For example, somebody's "head knowing" may say a dream is just about sweeping the floor. And that's it. And that's not wrong. That's one of the meanings. But often there is more. If you slow the dream down and get a person to "feel" the action of sweeping the floor, they may feel sadness or resentment or joy or a number of other things depending on their past experience of sweeping, or they may not. And another part of the dream may bring something up. But a feeling often brings out a memory, and this memory brings insight into patterns and feelings a person still holds onto. Patterns that may no longer serve them. Or patterns they want to foster and expand. What seems a simple dream is often, but not always, not simple.
Working with Dream Facilitators:
I personally have often found it hard to capture my "dream feeling" alone. I have had many clients that say the same. It's great to work with your own dreams. But I find revealing dreams to another person can be far more vulnerable, and the possibility to "find the lesson in the feeling of the dream" is both more rewarding and fruitful when working with a dream facilitator. But there's no rule book.
When I first started following my own dreams I had some profound seeming symbolic dreams. When I tried to feel into them, there was no feeling. One of the questions my facilitator asked was: "Have you ever had profound things happen to you and not felt the impact of them? Or just not felt?" The unfortunate answer from me was "yes". That was a hard lesson. I don’t want to just be a zombie in the machine of life. But on many levels, I felt that’s how I had been living. (This indeed may show up as a machine in dreams, or as a zombie.) There is a Buddhist saying that roughly translates as "You can be in bliss just sweeping the floor”. Which I can take to mean that the energy we bring to an activity can be as important (or more important?) than the activity itself. I have found it hard to find this “bliss” alone. I have found some. But I’m hopeful I can find more. As a facilitator I have found that even if I do nothing other than be a supportive ear, the courage the person has to come to me and "release" the dream to me may be enough to change the way they feel. Maybe even change the way they relate to the world. Sometimes I will point out that there was an option or hope in the dream that they hadn't seen before. Just the very act of sharing can be rewarding.