Dreams bring messages from deep inside, leading to self-understanding and transformation. Although dreams address all levels of consciousness, everyday dreams tend to focus on life’s unresolved emotional situations. Many of our emotional difficulties in life result from daily experiences that threaten our inner beliefs, which include our view of ourselves and of what life is all about. Sometimes, these threats are valid, but often, they occur because our internal beliefs have been corrupted by fears and misconceptions and do not match external reality. For example, as we grow up, we may get the idea from others that certain parts of ourselves are acceptable and other parts are unacceptable. Also, early traumatic experiences may grow into general fears. These fears and misconceptions about ourselves stagnate our progress in life and keep us from reaching our full potential. Dreams attempt to reverse this process. They transform us by resolving the differences between inner and outer reality. Dreams do this by “compensating” for our internal misconceptions and guiding us toward healthier alternatives.

If dreams are of such value, then why are they so hard to understand? When we dream, our speech centers are inactive, so dream communications retain only the visual and associative aspects of speech. Whereas waking language uses combinations of words, dream language communicates using combinations of images and symbolic associations. This natural, internal language is bizarre only to the waking mind. Once understood, dream communications, in many ways, appear more truthful and logical than waking thought.

If dreams are visual representations of emotional memories, decoding them should be a simple matter of reversing the process, determining what associations surface when envisioning a dream image. Indeed, that principle is the basis of most dreamworking approaches. Many dreamworking techniques, however, only involve dialogue with the rational mind, where filtering and fear avoidance can hide the emotional memories contained within the dream. In contrast, Image Activation Dreamwork is a simplified, Gestalt-based approach that occupies the rational mind in a role-play fantasy, while permitting the dream centers of the brain to “speak” and reveal emotional content. It uses a simple, scripted role-play technique, affectionately called the “six magic questions,” designed to reveal emotional memories within dream images and to associate them with waking feelings and situations.

1.Record the dream as if you are reexperiencing it.

2.Look for obvious dream-life connections. Do any feelings or goals in the dream or statements in the narrative sound like waking feelings and situations?

3.Do some imaginary work (the “six magic questions”).

a.Pick one or more dream elements that feel important, curious, or emotionally significant, perhaps a “thing” or a colored image.

b.Speak as the dream image. “Become” the dream image. Imagine how it might answer these questions. Speak spontaneously, and answer only in the first person present tense (“I” statements), recording your answers exactly as you speak them.

i.Who (or what) are you? (Name and describe yourself as the dream image—I am . . . .)

ii.What is your purpose or function? (My purpose is . . . .)

iii.What do you like about what you are?

iv.What do you dislike about what you are?

v.What do you fear most?

vi.What do you desire most?

4.Relate your answers to life. Review each statement and ask, “Does this also sound like a feeling or situation in my waking life?” Review who was involved, your feelings, and any decisions you made. Do the “I am/my purpose” statements sound like a waking role? Do the “I like/I dislike” and the “I fear/I desire” statement pairs sound like waking life conflicts, fears, and desires?

5.You may now understand what the dream is about, but to help bring about transformation, clarifying fears and misconceptions is required. Divide the statements you “connect with” into positives and negatives, for example, “that which I desire or like” (positive) or “that which I dislike, need, or fear” (negative). Contrast the two as conflicting beliefs, for example, “I am/I need/have to _____ because _____, but if I _____, then I fear that _____ will happen.” Are these logical, healthy, and appropriate beliefs, allowing progress, or are they exaggerations and misconceptions, holding you back?

6.Go back into the dream and review what you were trying to achieve and, specifically, how it ended. How might this be analogous to your waking situation?

a.Dream guidance. Look for an obvious compensating event, which appears in dreams as guidance, surprises, words, reversals, discovery, or a positive ending. Review dream actions and thoughts before the event and how they changed after the event. Dreams rarely provide literal messages. Therefore ask, “How might the event or positive ending be an analogy for a way to deal with my waking situation?”

b.New dream ending. If the dream contained no obvious compensation or ended badly or unresolved, try (a) spontaneously (very first thoughts) imagining a new ending that resolves the dream satisfactorily, (b) filling in imaginary details regarding how it is achieved, or (c) discovering how that new ending might be an analogy for a new way to deal with your waking situation.

c.Check it out. Is it a healthy, appropriate, practical resolution, permitting progress, or does it leave you stuck again?

d.Next steps. If healthy and appropriate, what specific next steps can you take in waking life, and when should you take them, to bring this solution about?

Image Activation Dreamwork also uses a research-based, color questionnaire, designed to trigger your own emotional associations, adding another layer of self-understanding. Using these methods to understand and work with your dreams quickly leads to transformation, allowing you to move more easily through life.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways.html

Author's Bio: 

Robert Hoss, MS, author of Dream Language: Self-Understanding through Imagery and Color, is Executive Officer and former President of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. A frequent guest on radio and TV, he has been an internationally acclaimed instructor on dreams for over 30 years and is presently on the faculty of the Haden Institute for dream leadership training and the adjunct faculty at Scottsdale College in Arizona. For more comprehensive information on dreams and the color questionnaire mentioned above, read the above book, or visit http://www.dreamlanguage.org.