Thursday, February 26, 2009

Alcohol Addiction and Dreaming

My colleague Heather Higgins and I embarked on a research study to investigate the dreams and the meaning derived from dreams, from recovering alcoholics (DeCicco & Higgins, 2008; 2009). We found that alcoholics dream about their past, their issues revolving around their addiction but most imporantly, more than 90% of the participants had a revelation about their own waking life addiction. There was a significant difference between the discovery of alcoholics and the discovery of non-alcoholics. Though the discovery from the recovering alcoholics about their addiction varied (e.g. I drank to numb the pain of relationship rejection, I drank to feel more alive and confident etc.) it was highly salient and relevant to them. This study revealed that dream work was not only important to people recovering from addiction but also, could be a valuable tool that they could use throughout their lives. It appears that addiction recovery and management programs could benefit from adding dream interpreation to the process. Dream work may help with waking day triggers, with past issues that have not been addressed, with becoming aware of high risk thoughts, feelings and behaviors, or any other issue that needs to be attended to, regarding addiction.

Heather Higgins is an addictions councellor who runs Dream Interpretation Workshops in the East Toronto Area, Ontario Canada. She can be reached at:

Her workshops are titled: Dream On... (Nice)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dreams, Death, Dying and Beyond....

When working with terminally ill patients very early on in my professional career I noticed that they often had dreams with religious or spiritual imagery. Patients would tell me that they dreamt of Jesus coming to get them-lovingly taking him or her by the hand and the two of them walking away together. Another would recall the Buddha, smiling and giggling, telling him or her not to worry that he would soon be there. Still others dreamt of beautiful angels coming for them, or a God figure holding and rocking him or her, in peace and tranqility. The imagery appeared to the dreamer in the paradigm that they were most comfortable with in waking day. Though these are some of the hardest dreams to have, to hear, and to accept, they appear to be very much a part of the human experience. Most importantly, these dreams can be of great comfort to the dreamer, as they are often filled with peace and grace. These dreams can also be of great value to the dream worker, as they can help the dreamer go into the imagery and find the deepest longings, wishes, desires and meaning that can be linked to waking life. End of life issues can be difficult to accept but dreams and the inner life of the dreamer can certainly help with this process. By working with death imgery one can accept life more fully and hopefully find meaning in it in order to live every moment of every day to it's fullest.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Saved from Surgery

A woman has a 12 year old son who is 1 day away from exploratory surgery. Weeks before, the boy suddenly had become paralyzed from the neck down and would not speak. After many rounds of testing, doctors could not find anything physiologically wrong with him, so they decided to peform he exploratory surgery for the purpose of testing. The night before surgery the mother dreams that she is asking her son, "Is this mental or physical?". The next morning upon waking, she asks her son if he is "faking" and to her surprise he answers "yes". The correct diagnosis of somatization disorder is made and proper treatment is followed up. The boy had literally shut down his physical body due to having too many stressors in his life.

Dreams will consolidate information, provide new solutions to problems, and guide the dreamer in waking life issues. Often the emotions surrounding a problem mask the solution in waking day. The dreaming mind can untangle the emotions and provide valuable, new insights.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Black Wedding Gown!

A dream workshop participant tells me that 25 years previously, she had a dream on the night before her wedding. She dreams that she is about to walk down the isle to get married and suddenly her wedding gown turns black. Upon waking, she feels this is a warning dream and tells her father about it. Her father reassures her that it is "just a dream" and that she is having wedding nerves. Sadly, the marriage is very unhappy and painful for her, for 22 years.

How can we really know if a dream is a warning dream or not? Dream interpretation with a method that links dream imagery to waking life is the best source of information. These methods consolidate the emotions, memories and life experiences of the dreamer in dreams to waking life information. By doing systematic dream interpretation then the guess work is taken out of dreaming and it is no long...just a dream.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Mind-Body Connection for Healing

A young man develops a serious gastrointestinal disorder and is repeatedly hospitalized to try and get the disorder under control. Over a period of 2 months his health is getting worse and all forms of pharmacological treatment are not working. He has, at the time, a recurring dream.

He dreams that he is at a social event and there is a large buffet table with beautiful food. He approaches the table and discovers that the meat on the table is decayed and rotting. He looks under the table and sees large masses of rotten meat.

Upon waking he decides to stop eating meat for a while. His symptoms abate over 2 weeks and he begins to feel better. He wonders if the meat (as indicated in his dream) is actually related to his failing health so he is tested for allergies. He discovers that he is in fact "allergic" to meat and if he stays off meat his health is much better. In fact, his drug therapy works only if he does not eat meat-if he eats meat then the drugs cannot control the illness.

The mind-body connection is clearly revealed in dream imagery and can be very helpful in providing useful information. There are numerous case studies and research studies that have shown that dream imagery is related to one's illness. More importantly, the imagery can help the dreamer find treatments and lifestyle changes that may improve health.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nightmares From Lettuce

Recently a man tells me (to his amazement!) that he is having nightmares every time he eats lettuce. He has noticed this pattern over a long period of time and is pretty sure that lettuce is the trigger of his nightmares. How could this be? It turns out he has a serious gastrointestinal disorder and lettuce is in fact, a trigger for a painful episode in waking life. His body knows that lettuce is toxic for him. The dream imagery is a mechanism for his body to tell his mind that lettuce is his illness trigger.

Scientific research has shown that foods do not necessarily trigger dreams of any specific theme. That is, chocolate does not ellict sexual imagery and meat does not ellict imagery of aggression. However, if foods are linked to illness-then dream imagery and food will ellicit a warning to the dreamer.

The mind-body connection is one of the most important purposes of dreaming.