Dreamwork Theoretical Orientations and Application


According to Mary (1994), a dream can be defined as a sequence of images, thoughts and feeling that are hidden in the unconscious part of a human mind and is manifested during sleep. Dreaming dates back to human creation and have been explained by psychologists as a way of portraying the subconscious and in a spiritual way as messages from God.

All people dream whenever they go to sleep, however, we may say that we do not dream all the time but dreams come every time that we sleep. The first phase of sleep is characterized by rapid eye movement (REM phase) and it’s during this time that one experience vivid dreams (bright and lively). One may also dream during other phases of sleep but only in the REM phase that one has vivid dreams.

During the day or when one is reading books or watching movies or television, our brain records all the things that the five senses comes into contact with and when one sleep the mind starts to pick different pieces from the memory to form a dream. Due to this one may have a funny, silly or bad dream as the dream is composed of different parts from the memory of what we have experienced. For instance, when one is having a bad dream or a nightmare, he or she may have gone through stress, had a harrowing experience or is worried about something. More often than not, people try to wake up when they are having a nightmare but this does not happen.

Thus, if one wants to stop a nightmare or come out of a horrifying dream, he or she should try to think positive on the dream, for instance, if one is falling in his or her dream, he or she should try to convince the him or her in the dream that he or she is going to bounce back and surely this happens.

Different people have different feelings about dreams and some may feel that dreams have a deeper meaning while other may feel that dreams are just a mixture of thoughts. Over the years, people have tried to assign meaning to dreams by interpreting the situations, people, places and objects in the dream and by so doing they have tried to give a dream meaning. In some cases, people believe that dreams forecast the future as they argue that what they dream happens in the future (Clement & Rosen, 2000).

Dream work or dream working is refers to the art of exploring the various images and feelings that a dream portrays and stir up in an individual without looking at the meaning of the dream. Dream working seems to assign different meaning to a dream and thus keeping the dream alive. The ideology of dream work is that every dreamer has a different dream language and different locations, objects and symbols in a dream will have different meaning to different dreamers and the meaning will change as time passes. Thus, psychologist who tries to find meaning to dreams should first listen to the dreamer as he or she narrates the dream before assigning any meaning to it.

However, the psychologist should not assign a direct meaning but should try to assign a suggestion of the meaning of the dream , by so doing the dreamer will not be forced to take the assigned meaning but will have a freedom to assign a different meaning to his or her dream as it may suit her or him (Mary, 1994).

Theoretical Orientations

In trying to assign a meaning to a dream, different theoretical orientations have been used, for instance, Jung, who tries to assign meaning to dreams through the use of conscious and unconscious orientation. This theoretical orientation of dream work can be divided into conscious process and unconscious process. In the effort to understand the conscious process, Jung argues that the conscious process is divided into various sectors which include; perceptual function which help one to understand what something is (static; present and dynamic; in the power of present possibility), recognition and evaluative processes which help us make firm decisions and know the value of something and orientational function which help us deal with our ego, thoughts, feelings and desires (Jonathan, 2007).

In regard to Robert’s dream, we can assume that the dream was due to Robert’s desire to change and live a faithful live. In his dream he had seen a married priest though in the Catholic faith priests do not marry; this can be compared to time that Robert was having the extramarital affairs. The decision to end the relationship with the other woman may have been hard to make but the desire to change was greater. The married catholic priest may have represented Robert when he was having the affair and the presence of his son may have represented his family which he was separated from.

In the unconscious process, Jung tries to explain that the unknown, unconscious or the hidden parts of a human being are portrayed through emotions, instincts and dreams. The desire to express the unconscious inside our selves to the outer world has made us to have dreams, instincts, emotions and intrusions. In life, we make decisions that result to outside actions or inner fulfillment (Jonathan, 2007). In relation to Robert’s dream, the unknown which is the feeling of guilt made him end his extramarital affairs which seemed natural during the time; this is shown in the dream when the priest marriage seemed natural.

But in the actual sense, the extramarital affair was killing his marriage which is shown in the dream by the presence of his son with whom they dropped the container containing the precious blood of Jesus. Moreover, his dream shows that he has along way to achieve what he and his wife had before separating.

Another dream work theoretical orientation is the Freud theory where he argues that the content of the dream portrays the wish fulfillment and show the event of the day prior to the dream (Ken, 1990). He argues that the dream of a child is simple and show the fulfillment of the desires expressed during the day while the dream of an adult is complicated and distorted as it shows the hidden thoughts present in the unconscious.

Moreover, the dreams are difficult to explain and finding the actual meaning is difficult. Freud explains that dream happen when one represses the unconscious from entering the conscious and thus when one dream there is fulfillment of the unconscious wish. In regard to Robert’s dream, everything seemed normal for a Catholic priest to marry as it was for him to have an extramarital affair with another woman. His dream may have portrayed the events that have been happening prior to starting the marital therapy. The alter may have signified his family and his son his wife with whom they are trying to reunite the family through the marital therapy (Ken, 1990).

Due to the fact that his parents are controlling and influential, their effects on his marriage may have been portrayed in his dream when he and his son were trying to carry the container of precious Blood of Jesus up the stairs. The precious blood may have portrayed their marriage which he and his wife (son in the dream) were trying to save but due to the influence of the parents the marriage breaks but the wife tries to save the marriage by getting the towel to wipe the blood. However, the influence of the parents is insignificant as the blood soon turns into water and soaks into the carpet.

Methods of Dream Work Analysis

Dreams comes to tune up our health and wholeness, however, some dreams may confuse and make us angry. Dreams are powerful and can bring out deep and untreated emotions that are hidden within us. Thus dreams should be analyzed critically so as to get the actual meaning of them (Jeremy, 1983). There are various methods that can be used to analyze these dreams and these methods include;

Scientific method of dream analysis; in this method of dream analysis the element and the factors in the dream are associated with the present and past life of the dreamer. More information about the dreamer is required so as to come up with a more accurate analysis of his dream. It is important, however, to look at the language of the dream which is made up of images. In the images there are symbols and one need to understand the symbols in the dream and try to associate them with the life of the dreamer. In the scientific method of dream analysis, time is required as this method requires critical analysis of each and every aspect of the dream (Clement & Rosen, 2000).

Moreover, it follows a set procedure and provides information at piecemeal. In relation to Robert’s dream, the scientific method can be used to analyze this dream where all the elements and factor in the dream are associated with the Roberts life. For instance, the married priest can be associated with the extramarital affair that Robert was having, the feeling of pleasance and natural in the dream may be associated with the satisfaction Robert is experiencing now when they are reunited with his wife. Thus when analyzing Robert’s dream one need to relate all the elements and factors in the dream with his past and present life.

Story telling method of dream analysis; the continuity hypothesis of dreams explains that, dreams show the dreamers waking life which are represented in the images formed in the dream. The images in the dream are formed from the dreamer’s personality and past experiences. In the story telling method of dream analysis the dreamer is able to know how the images in the dream are related or associated with his or her personal life.

This method provides the dreamer with guidelines on how to identify and decode major images into conscious meanings (Ken, 1990). These guidelines may involve, writing down the dream, identifying and marking the core words in the writing (core imagery), and associate each word in the dream with other words which mean or have a close relation to the word and finally make short story with the associate words. In relation to Robert’s dream, this method can be used to analyze his dream where all major or the core images, for instance, the mass event are identified and an associate word is used in its place.

Robert can then form a concrete story about his dream using the associate words and thus he can be able to decipher his dream. Moreover, the images and factors in Roberts dream can be associated with his life, for instance, the married priest can be associate with his infidelity to his marriage like the way the priest is unfaithful to the church (he has gone against the chastity law of the church), his marriage can be associated with the alter and the long stair case. With this he can be able to understand his dream in regard to his past life of extramarital affairs and separation from his wife.

Symbolic method of dream analysis; in this method the dream is seen and analyzed as a whole and viewed concurrently with the external future events. This method relies on intuition and instincts and mainly relies on the skills and talent of extraordinary gift on the side of the dream analyst. This method tends to see a dream as a secret key to the unknown future and assume that the dream symbolizes some future event. For instance, in the bible when Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat cows which are eaten by another seven lean cows; Joseph assign a symbolic meaning of the dream as seven years of bounty harvest and seven years of hunger (Jeremy, 1983).

In regard to Robert’s dream, his dream can be analyzed as a whole as the differences between him and his wife are heavy and that is the reason why they are seeking the marital therapy of which if they do not the marriage can break again. The dream can also be analyzed as a whole and be looked at as the problem that awaits Robert and his wife when they get back together. The problems could be associated with the extramarital affair that Robert was having. This can be seen in the marriage of the catholic priest in his dream.


All the dreams that we have in life have a meaning and thus every individual should try to understand and analyze each and every dream. What our five senses come into contact with during our activities is recorded and synthesized in the mind to give a distorted dream. Moreover the unconscious or the hidden part of human beings is portrayed in the dream. Sometimes a dream may be repeated for a number of times so as one can take it seriously. Moreover, dream also can depict the future and thus dreams should be taken serious. Many times we do not remember the dreams that we had, thus when one dreams he or she should wake up and record the dream on a paper and try to analyze it in the morning (Mary, 1994).


Mary Olive (1994), Dream Work. Atlantic Monthly Press.

Jeremy Taylor, (1983), Dream work: Techniques for Discovering the Creative Power in Dreams Paulist Press.

Clement, S & Rosen, T. (2000), Dreams, Working Interactive. Llewellyn

Jonathan D. Culler.(2007), The literary in theory. Stanford University Press.

Ken Frieden. (1990), Freud’s Dream of Interpretation. SUNY Press.