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
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.
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.
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:
- An intentional departure from ordinary awareness,
- An inner journey into the imagination,
- A return to ordinary awareness, and
- 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.