Thursday, May 28, 2009

5 Reasons To Practice (and Teach) Dream Interpretation: Reason 1

Research and practice have given us many concrete reasons to implement personal dream interpretation programs, and, to teach these in our practices. The first important reason is that dream interpretation can aid in the process of exploring emotions. The inner world of emotions can often be confusing and bewildering. Emotional lives can be embedded with layers and layers of complex emotional elements. For example, one can be very angry at someone and yet very drawn to that person as well. One can suddenly feel sad and anxious without knowing how or why this is occurring. Similarly, layers of guilt, sadness, relief and excitement can all exist at the same time. Disentangling emotions is often a difficult process and this is where dream interpretation can be of great benefit. Once the underlying emotions are teased-out and recognized then appropriate action can be taken in waking day. This action will then be based on a more conscious experience than mere reaction. Dream interpretation programs, especially those that involve more than one technique, can help reveal the layers of emotions playing into a waking day issue.

A woman recently began dream interpretation as part of her therapy program since she was experiencing disturbing, negative imagery. She was recently diagnosed with kidney problems and entered therapy because she wanted to have a more balanced mind-body approach to her heath. With her first interpretation technique she discovered that her recent health issues were triggering pain and guilt for having given her infant daughter up for adoption 30 years previous. These feelings were buried deep in her unconscious mind and were only recently coming to the surface while sleeping. With further exploration she was able to tap into the feelings of unworthiness, which was paired with feeling she had no right to recover from her health problems. She began to explore these complex, entwined emotions consciously with dream interpretation. Still further, she was able to come to terms with her remorse, sadness, and acceptance of her life decisions, and where they had taken her.

Dream interpretation is a courageous practice of self-discovery and especially, of the complex emotions that contribute to the human experience. Though it can be difficult, dream work can enrich one's life and contribute to a more conscious, emotional experience of life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dreaming in many languages

I have been travelling throughout Italy for the past several weeks and going between two languages-English and Italian. After several days and nights I have found myself dreaming in both languages. As I speak more and more Italian in waking day, I use more Italian in my dreams. I find myself and other characters speaking Italian and English. Interestingly, those people who only speak Italian (e.g. colleagues) are in my dreams only speaking Italian. Those who speak both Italian and English (e.g. my son) speak both languages in my dreams.

When I am in an English-only environment then my dreams include only English speaking characters, including myself. Of course this represents the continuity hypothesis which states that there is a continuity between waking day events and dream time imagery. However, there appears to be more complex circumstances here. As I transition between English and Italian, my dreams seem to be problem-solving, assimilating cultural differences, and helping me learn the language (I dream in both languages sometimes-as if I am teaching myself the language). Once again, the consciousness of dreaming reveals the complex layers of this mentation. Studies exploring cultural differences, language acquisition, and dreaming should yield fruitful results.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cultural Differences in Dreaming

In a recent study (DeCicco, Zanasi, Musolino & Wright, 2009) we investigated the differences in sexual imagery between a Canadian sample and an Italian sample of participants. There were differences between the two groups for female imagery in target (who they were having sex with), emotions, and for sex categories. Interestingly, there were no significant differences between the Canadian males and the Italian males. In a closer look with a second study, the differences became smaller and the groups only differed in one category (number of body parts in the dreams for male dreamers). This is an important category since previous research has found that the number of body parts is correlated with discovery of sex, rather than other waking day issues (King, Decicco & Humphreys, 2007).
What was surprising to us however, was that the dreams with sexual content did not differ as much as expected. Given cultural differences, we would expect the samples to differ across each other but also, by gender. Though we did have significant findings, they were not as large as expected.
Another study examined the "meaning" of sex dreams with a Canadian sample and found two basic factors: sex and relationships. It would be interesting to extend this study to an Italian sample to see possible differences in meaning for sex imagery. Since this study has not yet been conducted, it is an important next step. In fact, dreams across cultures are indeed scarce and should be considered in future research projects.