Dreaming

Your First Therapy Session

This is the time of year when it’s common for people to think about starting therapy. You may have decided that you want to approach a therapist and may have contacted someone and made a date for an initial consultation. But then the reality of having the first...

Is Therapy For Me?

Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year can be difficult times for many people. We spend the holiday with family in a more intense way than normal and this can reveal strains, tensions and ruptures that we normally overlook or don’t like to admit in our daily lives....

2022 Another New Year Another New Normal

2022 looks set to be another unique year. Here in the UK, covidwise, we start the year arguably in a better place than 2021. As Omicron continues, it’s becoming the new normal to take a lateral flow test before meeting family and friends. But many of us are still...

How To Survive Christmas 2021

Christmas can be challenging for many people but this year especially it will be difficult for most of us one way or another. We may have to make do with phone and video calls to stay in touch with people who we would normally be with. We may be posting presents...

Perfectionist

Are You A Perfectionist? Do you have very high standards?  Do you find yourself putting yourself under pressure to look as good as you possibly can?  Work as hard as you possibly can? Do you have an incredibly strict fitness regime? Be the perfect parent? Do...

Decision Making from Cupid and Psyche

Whilst visiting Florence a few years ago I saw many beautiful works of art in the Uffizi Museum. However, I was struck by one sculpture in particular: Cupid and Psyche. As well as the intricateness of the piece I was also moved by the entwining of the figures and...

FOMO

The last 18 months have changed many of us in ways we would never have thought. We may find ourselves not wanting to join in social and group activities. We may not feel as sociable as we once did. This is not surprising after not being allowed to get together with...

How To Manage Stress

The last 16 months have impacted us in multiple ways. Stress may have crept in quietly and eroded away our resilience or crashed in at times unannounced and knocked us off-kilter. We all need a certain amount of stress in our daily lives to get us out of bed in the...

How to survive the summer holidays

Are you dreading the summer holidays?  Or excited for them to start? Or maybe you have mixed feelings about them. Here are some ideas to make the most of the break Don't over plan. Firstly, children need downtime as much as adults, especially at the beginning and...

Working with the Unconscious in Psychotherapy

The uniqueness of the psychoanalytic model of psychotherapy is that we work with the unconscious. But what does this mean? What exactly is the unconscious?  What is the Unconscious? Practically speaking, in the field of psychotherapy, the unconscious is the part...

Photography by Gregory Pappas on Unsplash

Psychotherapy and Dreams

During an initial consultation with a potential client, I often ask about their dreams. Do they dream regularly? Do they have significant dreams from childhood? Do they have recurring dreams? This is because as a psychodynamic therapist I work with the unconscious. We believe that some difficult events have been pushed deep into our unconscious so we don’t remember them and therefore don’t need to think about, or be troubled by them. Usually, these things are hidden in our psyche, sometimes forever. But if something happens to remind us of an event, then it may bubble up from our unconscious into our consciousness. Dreams are a classic way this can happen, making the unconscious more conscious through no conscious choice of our own.

A Little History of Working Therapeutically With Dreams

Historically, dreams have held great interest: religious texts often have dreamers (usually prophets) who are able to see the future, for example the character, Joseph who interprets the Pharaoh’s dreams predicting future famines. Even today – as in the past – the theory holds that dreams can be prophetic i.e. they are messages from God or a higher power about the future. Some people even believe that dreams can be clues to past lives that we may have lived. In 1900, the Psychoanalyst, Freud, called dreams the “royal road to the unconscious” in his famous work The Interpretation of Dreams. His main theory was that a dream represented a ‘wish fulfilled’: something we unconsciously or consciously want to happen. Some everyday examples in a modern context: we dream of being on a desert island snorkelling with dolphins may indicate we’re working too hard and need to reflect on our current work life balance. Or if we dream of living in a flat shared with fun loving friends we hang out with after work, maybe it’s time to start saving up and move out from living with our parents. A colleague of Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, took Freud’s work further. He too saw great value in dreams but the way he worked with them was more complex. He asked the dreamer for their associations with the dream content and then explored these personal, cultural or universal associations with the dreamer. As a psychodynamic therapist, this is my preferred method of working with dreams. I often work with people who suffer from nightmares and night terrors. These can be very disturbing whatever age they happen, and it can take time to understand what significance and meaning they may have on the dreamer.

When Do Dreams Happen?

Scientific research into dreaming suggests various functions: they can process emotions; they can process events from the day (both the trivial as well as significant) we didn’t have time or capacity to resolve, and they can erase memories for us. Scientifically, dreams can happen at any point whilst we sleep but the most significant ones generally happen during our REM sleep which happens at a later stage of our sleep cycle.

The Mystery of Dreams

But there is so much still unknown about dreams. I think that is why so many of us find them fascinating. Whilst the neuroscientists continue their important work discovering more about dreams, I believe that as in psychotherapy, generally the dreamer is the most important person to make sense of the dream. Join me next month as we delve into the subject a little more and in particular, look at ways of recording your dreams.

My next post will be on dream journaling…