One of the main reasons so many in our society are suffering from a dream drought is that we are not encouraged to share dreams and often don't find the experience rewarding when we do so. The simple four-step Lightning Dreamwork process, which I invented in 2000, gives us a way of sharing dreams that is fun and fast and orients us to give helpful, non-intrusive feedback and guide each other towards action to embody the creative and healing energy of dreams and apply their guidance. Once you have mastered and internalized this technique, you can do it just about anywhere, with just about anyone.
If you are playing dream helper, you need to lead the person who is sharing with you through these four simple steps:
1. Get the story, with a title
Encourage the person sharing to tell their experience as simply and clearly as possible, avoiding too much autobiography or self-interpretation. We claim real power when we learn to tell our stories so that others want to hear us, and sharing dream reports this way is wonderful practice. A story needs a title, and so much from a dream pops into focus and perspective when we give it one.
2. Ask three essential questions
The first is about feelings, especially first feelings after the dream, which are the first and often the best indicators of whether the material is urgent or not, negative or positive, personal or less so. The second question is the reality check and it has two aspects. Ask what the dreamer recognizes from the dream in the rest of their life (including the life of imagination) and also whether it is possible the the dream will manifest in the future in some way, literally or symbolically. Next, ask the dreamer: What do you want to know?
3. Play the "If it were my dream" game
Now you are ready to offer feedback. It's very important that you should do this the right way. Your purpose is not to presume to tell another person what their dream (or their life) means. Your role is ti help the dreamer become author of meaning for their own dream, and their own life. You are free to offer any associations you like - including episodes from your own dreams and your own life that come to mind in the presence of the new dream that is being shared. You can take a Freudian view, or a Jungian view, or a transpersonal or shamanic view. However, you will offer your feedback by saying "if it were my dream", owning your own projections.
4. Get an action plan
Dreams require action! If we don't do something with our dreams we do not dream well. The appropriate action may range from shamanic shopping - getting the red shoes or the stuffed giraffe featured in a dream - to doing prep for the job interview rehearsed in a dream, to writing, drawing or crafting from a dream, to going back inside a dream (through the dream reentry technique) to gather more information and possibly dream the dream onward to healing and resolution. A dream may of course require much tending. You may find yourself walking with a certain dream for days or years before it yields all of its meaning in the light of subsequent events and discoveries. However, the time is always Now, and it's good to do something with a dream right away. For temporary closure in dream sharing, you can ask the dreamer to come up with a bumper sticker, a slogan or banner that harvests something from the dream as a forward-moving statement.
But what do you do if you are dealing with a person - maybe yourself - who maintains that they don't remember dreams, from the night before or from the last three decades? You can start by suggesting, gently but firmly, that it's simply not true that they have nothing from the night. Their dreams may have left a wisp or a crumb, a sense of color, a snatch of a song. Even when no content whatsoever is recalled, there are thoughts, feelings, sensations that linger. We all have dream hangovers even when we don't recall what caused them. Such elements may give you the seeds of a conversation in which you'll find yourself playing the Lightning game.
Another approach with the dream amnesiac is to ask them to pull up the last dream they remember, maybe from many years before, even as far back as early childhood, when something may have scared them so much in the night that - in the absence of adult support and understanding - they scared their dreams away. Recalling, tending and reentering an "old" dream of this kind can amount to trans-temporal healing, and result in soul recovery: the recovery of the magical child, the beautiful bright dreamer who went missing from a life when the world seemed too scary.
Of course, even prolific dream recallers have dry spells. When I sit down to breakfast with a circle of dreamers, as is often the case at residential retreats, people are made to realize, very quickly, that a story is expected of them. Saying "I got nuttin" is just not acceptable. If you do not have a dream, you can bring a story anyway - from your life memories or your imagination.
I think of Graham Greene, who became one of England's best-loved and most prolific novelists and literary entertainers. His appetite for dreams and stories was trained over the three months he was required to spend, at age 16, in the home of one of the first shrinks in London. Graham had suffered a nervous breakdown at the fancy boys' school where his father was headmaster, and had to be removed from view while he recovered. His treatment was simply this: the shrink required Graham to appear in his study at 11 a.m. every day, ready to deliver a dream report. There were days when Graham did not remember a dream, so he developed the ruse of making something up that sounded like a dream. So he acquired the gift of story, which can be the gift of making worlds.
So we come to my plea for action, the kind of action through which we contribute to the rebirth of a dreaming society, person by person.
Make it your practice to find someone with whom you can share a dream or story by our Lightning process every day. If you can't do this face to face, do it by phone, by Skype, by email or text, or within a private social media forum like the "secret" Facebook pages where members of my trainings and online courses are having the best time sharing dreams and life experiences.
Your dreams are social as well as individual, personal as well as transpersonal. When you make sharing dreams a regular social activity, you'll find you bring joy and juice to any day, grow wonderful deepening friendships, and harvest essential guidance for soul and survival, for navigating your life roads in this world and the many worlds.
For much more on the Lightning Dreamwork game, see my book Active Dreaming. For the application of this process to experiences from everyday life, see Sidewalk Oracles. On trans-temporal healing with the child self, see Dreaming the Soul Back Home. For a full account of Graham Greene's dream life, see The Secret History of Dreaming.
Photo by RM: "A wonderful nine-yer-old dreamer shares a dream with our dreaming family on Gore Mountain".