“There is a knowledge you understand in dreams that has nothing to do with what you are left with when you are supposedly awake. That is why it is so important to decipher dream”. (Lacan, 1973-74)
The importance of dreams, the process of their production, their articulation and their interpretation in ones everyday life is not something that has much relevance in modern life.
Perhaps we could say that they still occupy the same place they once did in antiquity, either as potential prophecies that have an ability to show a future not yet written or perhaps as something that can be deciphered through the universal symbols of a ‘dream book’. Much like the belief of dreams in antiquity, popular culture hasn’t progressed much further with the understanding and nature of dreams, as the proliferation of ‘dream books’ still have quite a presence in our literature and in popular discourse.
In the world of counselling & psychotherapy, the encouragement of asking clients about their dreams and the theoretical understanding of dreams and their links to the psychical conflicts and sufferings of clients hasn’t faired much better. A decline in the use and understanding of dreams in the therapeutic work is possibly deemed too difficult, time consuming or simply a pointless and futile exercise for both therapist and patient.
However, using dreams in the counselling and psychotherapeutic process is something that I encourage every individual I work with to do. Even a single dream that gets produced within or outside the duration of the therapeutic process can potentially lead to uncovering some of the motivating forces and primary conflicts that maybe contributing to the reasons why the individual has come to counselling and psychotherapy in the first place.
As a small blog like this is not the place for a highly complex theoretical elaboration of the unconscious mechanisms that play there part in the production of dreams, I will attempt to articulate why the use of dreams in the counselling and therapeutic process in important.
Why are dreams important to the counselling process?
In the midst of the seeming non-sense that dreams can sometimes appear to be, it is only too easy to forget that a dream is as a rule merely a thought like any other (Freud, 1925 p.112). As such, the importance of the dream lies not in its dream imagery or what is known as the manifest content of the dream but in its articulation into speech.
The dreams’ articulation into speech, the very medium of what is worked with in the therapeutic process, is what can bring to light previously unthought-of connections that can point to the most intimate parts of your life and most difficult conflicts of the your inner world. It is the process of expressing and articulating this unconscious knowledge of which the dream expresses and its links to your psychical conflicts and life that can produce the working-through of these conflicts through speech and the therapeutic relationship and process.
Why wouldn’t dream books tell me anything?
As your experience of the world is yours, highly specific and individualised to you, the same goes for your thoughts, your words and the meaning of the words you use to verbalise and express your experience. Hence, so your dreams will also have a highly specific and individual meanings and interpretations to you. Unlike the information in the popular dream books, dreams should be considered as potentially inexhaustible, there being no predetermined stopping point to their interpretation and thus no such thing as a complete interpretation of a dream.
As Freud (1925) noted that’ no one can practice the interpretation of dreams as an isolated activity: it remains a part of the work of analysis’ (p.128). In the same vein, the use and exploration of your dreams in the work of analysis or therapy is not something that is exclusively focused on but forms an important apart of the process.
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