5 Creative Ways to Work with Your Dreams

Robert Johnson’s 4 Steps to Better Dream Interpretation is an excellent process for understanding a dream. In addition to his process, or in place of it if you prefer, this post is about creative ways to work with your dreams. The ideas come from The Art of Dreaming by Jungian analyst, Jill Mellick.

The Art of Dreaming

Mellick’s The Art of Dreaming is a small book (7″x 7″, 184 pages) that is chock full of information about how to work with your dreams. There are sections on working with dreams in five minute, or ten to fifteen minute, time frames. In this book you will also find information on working with nightmares, animals or figures, and recurring or series dreams.

Whether you wish to work with your dreams through voice, movement, wordplay, imagination, or paint, there is literally something for everyone in this book. I have chosen to share five of Jill Mellick’s activities, using the Liberty dream I described in this post as a way to put flesh on the bones of each activity.

1. Write a Poem

Jill Mellick offers numerous useful suggestions for writing a poem based on your dream. They boil down to:

  • Omit–words that are repetitive, vague, modifiers, qualifiers, explanations, abstractions; any parts and any details from your dream that you don’t think belong.
  • Keep–immediacy and certainty; use ‘you’ rather than he/she/it if there’s another person in your dream; include sensory descriptions whenever possible.
  • Do What Feels Right–use short lines; break the lines wherever it makes sense to you; stop when the poem feels complete; own it – be absolute and exaggerated.

Then be prepared to be surprised. I didn’t see this coming when I first started working with my Liberty dream.


Give Me Liberty
Liberty waits in the wings

Waits for the usual roar of the crowd
Is unused to the silence.

Does no one care?
Or perhaps they don’t know to expect her.

Royal purple velvet caressing her cheek
The anticipation of limitless possibilities
One tiny step away.

One giant leap away
From who she was.

Was she so awful before?
Does she deserve to die?
Her edges will be softened
Limitless possibilities made manifest.

The world does not know it yet
But it wants
It needs
Liberty to step forward.

 2. Make a Collage

Do not try to make a collage, or any other artwork, that is a direct representation. Instead, choose colours, images, and shapes that evoke feelings and sensations from your dream.

Dreams have a superior intelligence in them…which leads us. They show us where we are wrong; they show us where we are unadapted; they warn us about danger; they predict some future events; they hint at the deeper meaning of our life, and they convey to us illuminating insights.

Marie-Louise von Franz

In the case of my Liberty dream, I simply went through drawers of magazine and calendar images pulling anything that felt right. The whole process took less than half an hour and I’m very happy with the results. When I have time, I will use Robert Johnson’s four steps to dream interpretation to explore the meaning behind my collage.

collage as way to work with your dreams

Alternatively, a collage can be examined using Mellick’s questions some of which include:

  • Which pieces are closely connected to others literally or visually? What do I associate to those connections?
  • Is there a particular collage piece around which all the others seem to fall into place? What is its shape and colour? What draws me about this piece? Are its shape and colour and dominance metaphors for something about the dream or me?
  • To where does my eye return in this collage? What associations do I have to this place? (pp.108-109)

3. Remove and Replace Elements

Take the list of elements from your initial dream interpretation (see post). Remove each element one at a time and notice what changes in the feeling of the dream.

Element I miss a sense of…
women’s washroom choice, need and confidence
Mr. Liberty compassion, softness
long line urgency to make a change
public place comfort with history

4. Make an Energy Painting

For this activity you will need a sheet of paper and your choice of pastels, markers or crayons.

Close your eyes and reimagine the dream until your body feels the feelings from the dream. Then half-open your eyes and let your non-dominant hand choose a colour. Use your breath to send the energy from your body through your arm and on to the page. Keep your eyes open just enough to choose colours and to keep your work from running off the page. Otherwise, you’re just trying to let your unconscious make the decisions.

Once I tried this, I was especially happy to read Jill Mellick’s reminder to avoid interpreting and critiquing. She says, “If I were to critique from an artistic standpoint the energy paintings I have done over the years, I would call them ‘Mess I,’ ‘Mess II,’ and so on.” Thank you, Jill.

work with your dreams energy painting

5. Draw a Mandala

You will need a square sheet of paper and a pencil or black marker. Use a plate or cup to trace a circle onto the paper. Add colour if you wish.

Our dream images, even if we don’t remember them, invade our waking awareness as patterns. By these patterns we live. By not recognizing them, we live unconsciously.

Fred Alan Wolf

A mandala is a circular image of wholeness. It contains patterns of curved lines and/or geometric shapes such as equilateral triangles, squares and circles.

Look for mandala images in your dream. The wheel of a car, roads radiating out from a city center, flowers, gemstones and actions like dancing in a circle are all examples of mandalas.

Of all of the activities this was the least helpful to me, probably because I couldn’t find many mandalas in my Liberty dream.


Work With Your Dreams

When you work with your dreams, Jill Mellick tells us that you move through four phases:

  1. An intentional departure from ordinary awareness,
  2. An inner journey into the imagination,
  3. A return to ordinary awareness, and
  4. A reflection on the journey. (p.25)

I’ve never felt particularly imaginative, so love that dreams give me an opportunity to experience that part of myself. And Jill Mellick’s many creative activities allow me to have fun exploring those dreams. I hope that some of these ideas will do the same for you.

Do you do any work with your dreams? Is there anything in this list of activities that you might like to try? Please share in the comments below.

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  1. I love the work you did to analyze your dream with the first four creative activities. Like you, I did not see many useful results with the mandala activity although there may be something there but we just fail to see it right now.

    Both your poem and your collage blew me away! I really like the last stanza of your poem…very powerful imagery there. Bravo! I believe what you said there to be totally true. Your collage was stunning…I love the image of the woman in the red dress. She is naked underneath, you can tell, but the diaphanous red material gives a bit of modesty. Her head is up and the whole figure catches the eye and makes me want to follow her gaze. The Russian Dolls at her feet are a no-brainer, as far as I am concerned since pulling apart the big doll representing your old self-reveals the liberty doll inside. The books and pens are also part of who you are and must be represented in the collage, naturally. The clock in the top corner (also where her eyes are looking) conveys to me that it is time for liberty to emerge. The totem pole in the background could represent the various parts of you built up through the years.

    I hope you don’t mind me sharing what I interpret the collage as. Like I said, it blew me away – so beautiful and so packed with meaning. 🙂

    1. I don’t mind at all, Susan. In fact I very much appreciate your interpretation. I was in the same place with my interpretation except that I wasn’t sure what the totem pole was about. What you suggested does resonate for me.
      I’m looking forward to trying the mandala some other time, after I’ve done a bit more research into mandalas and when I have a dream that seems to make more use of a circular image.

      1. Glad to hear what I said about the totem pole resonated with you and that you don’t mind me putting my two cents in when interpreting your collage. 🙂 That may be the case with the mandala….only helpful with dreams that have a circular theme, a series of events that lead back to the beginning maybe (that come full circle).

  2. Once again, this is fascinating reading, Karen.
    Now I’ll just have to remember one of my dreams so that I can implement some of these activities!

  3. Thanks, Donna. The activities are fun to do with an important dream, and I think we do tend to remember important dreams a bit more than others. Again, though, not so sure about that. I’m interested in learning more.

  4. Wow, what a powerful poem! The Mellick activities seem like an intriguing way to get beyond the rational, analytical way of responding to dreams.


  5. I agree, Jude. I’m looking forward to trying several other Mellick activities. One, where you turn the dream into a fairy tale, sounds particularly interesting!
    By the way, you mentioned a dream journal in another comment. Mellick suggests titling every dream. If you ever keep another dream journal, I’ve found that titles lead to some really interesting insights.

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