Here are some simple suggestions from Jeremy Taylor about working with a dream group. These come from his book, Dream Work: Techniques for Discovering the Creative Power in Dreams, pages 78-86. I recommend Taylor’s work for anyone interested in dreams. He was the keynote speaker at this year’s International Association for the Study of Dreams gathering, and I quite enjoyed his insights. Here are some of his pointers:
1) Check in with everyone. Each person should comment on the past week, how they are feeling that evening, and their general mental outlook.
2) Have a brief meditation at the beginning and end of the sharing session. The session should be marked as a different time and space by these markers.
3) Initially, go around the circle and share dreams without comment before any particular dream is selected for work. This can be a dream from the past, from childhood, or from the night before. It is important for everyone to share a dream even if there is not time to discuss all the dreams in this one session. It is also important in that over time, the cumulative effect of hearing dreams helps the group become better helpers at deciphering these dreams.
Use the present tense as much as possible when sharing dreams with the group. Notice when someone slips into the past tense for distance or protection from the dream events.
If the group is large, you may choose to just share titles of the dreams rather than long descriptions.
4) Always come from a place of objectivity and support when discussing others’ dreams. Never use a tone of judgment or satisfaction at having “analyzed” or solved the riddle.
5) If someone has a deep, dark secret which he or she is hoping to keep hidden, he or she should be aware that these things often come out in dreams. The group is there to help us all understand and evolve.
6) “Never interrupt a person sharing a dream unless you have a compelling reason.” Pay attention to the telling of a dream “with as much of your whole being as possible.”
7) Remember that the “flashes and tingles and ahas you feel are always signals of truth, but that it is always a truth about oneself, and not necessarily a truth about the other person’s dream. Thus it is always true that what is said about someone else’s dream always reflects the personality and symbol structure of the person making the comment as much as or more than it reflects anything in the dream itself. For this reason it is often useful to preface any remark with the idea, “if it were my dream…”
8 ) “At the same time, it is the case that we are all one folk, and that the dream speaks the same language to all of us…Even though we can do nothing but project ourselves into the understanding of other people’s dreams, these projections often prove to be the source of insight for the dreamer.”
9) Initially the dreamer should share the facts of the dream only – not his or her insights into it. One does not want to sway the group to a bias in interpretation before giving them a chance to comment on the dream objectively.
However, if the group members prefer to share their own insights initially, that, too can be productive.
10) Once a dream has been selected to be shared, it is good to get the group member to describe the dream again. Also, let all questions of clarification be answered.
11) Group members then comment on the dream using the “if it were my dream technique…”
Taylor goes on to say that “the process described here is only one among many, and that the ways of working with dreams are limited only by imagination, nerve, and whatever constitutes the group’s senses of propriety” (86).
Many other methods of dream work are quite productive, Taylor mentions; for example, further expression of a dream by creativity (drawing painting, sculpting, writing, etc.) is often helpful. Additionally, he mentions that having a well-cared for dream journal which one creatively decorates helps remind one of the sacred process of dream guidance. Collage is often the ideal medium for decoration as many people are not confident in their artistic abilities (cover it with contact paper).
Taylor’s parting thoughts about dream groups are worth mentioning:
One of the most important reasons to work with dreams in a group context is to enhance the quality, creative energy, and enjoyment of waking life. Working with other people, sharing dreams and exploring their possible meanings and importance in our lives, can and should be an activity that brings joy – joy made all the more real and important by being shared with others. (94)
Dreams are vitally important to us, and our connection to others is a most human basic need. A dream group combines these two necessities in a joyous expression of mutual seeking. In a world in which basic truths often come in riddles, the process of connecting with others, of being understood, and of finding a deeper path of meaning, together, is most beautiful and fortunate.