I’ve often said that dreams can be useful in the waking life. Often patterns in a dream reflect the same patterns in our waking life e.g. behaviors, problems, and emotions that show up in dreams show up our waking lives as well. Pay particular attention to the emotions in a dream either those that are experienced by you or by some other character. Notice if there are some repeating patterns of feeling. For example, does anger keep showing up in the dream, or in other dreams? How about conflicts with characters, or between characters in the dream? Do these reflect internal conflicts that you’re having with yourself, or with people or events outside yourself?
Frequently a dream can lead to solving some vexing problem in the waking world. You can even program your dreams to deal with external issues without having to wait for them to show up in a dream. This is called Dream Incubation and to varying degrees has been used for thousands of years as a means of healing and problem solving.
Let’s focus on problem solving for a moment, after all we all have problems, right?
To get things started, here’s an incubation technique that many dream analysts and behaviorists use. Be sure to be as honest with yourself as possible–this is all private, no one’s looking.
Before beginning, OWN THE PROBLEM. Whose problem is it? If it’s not yours, then why are you fooling with it? This process is not about solving someone else’s problem. Once decided that it’s your problem you can then move on.
- Define the problem
- What are you thinking may be the cause?
- Have you thought of any solutions and have you tried them? Why won’t they work?
- While writing these down, what feelings are coming up for you?
- Can you imagine what benefits you might be getting from letting this problem continue as is e.g. is it easier, or safer to leave it be than to try to resolve it i.e. would you lose anything by solving it? Often at an unconscious level we are the reason that a problem perpetuates itself.
- How committed are you to finding a solution? If not, why?
Sometimes just the process of taking time to work with a problem can reveal a solution, but you can also move on to the next step:
- Request an answer from your dream self. For example, don’t use any “yes” or “no” questions and be precise: “ Show me why I am having problems with______________.”
- Place a notebook and pen next to your bed to record your dreams.
In ancient Greece* in such dream incubation and healing centers (Asclepia) such as the one at Delphi, people would travel to the centers and follow certain rituals designed to get the dreamer ready for a healing dream. Candles often set the mood along with a ritual bathing with the intent of cleansing both the body and the soul. Abstinence of all drugs (except those prescribed by a physician), and alcohol and sometimes fasting were required of all seekers. I suggest that you do the same. A time for prayer so as to thank in advance a healing dream from the gods or some special deity was always invoked. You can do this by thanking God, or the spirit, your own soul, or the universe for the insights to be received.
Sometimes the dreamer would meditate, or relax to the sounds of naturally flowing water, or music, or rhythmic drumming as they lay down to sleep, keeping in mind the chosen Question from the Dream e.g. “Show me why I am having problems with______________.”
As soon as you awaken from your dream, record whatever you recall. Note, that it may take more than one night to incubate such a dream. This is not unusual, oft times an ancient seeker would take a week or more. The answer will come, try not to be discouraged.
As with anything worth doing, practice makes perfect and as with most human endeavors your commitment and ‘Will’ may be tested. In the beginning the wisdom of your inner psyche may not give up its secrets easily. If the problem were easy to solve you would have by now…solved it. The ancients as well as moderns go to the Greater Wisdoms than that of their ego-selves when problems (such as health, emotional, behavioral, or social) seem to be resistant to solution through personal manipulation e.g. when you can’t figure it out and no matter what you do the problem stays stuck.
In addition to the above rituals and techniques, you might share your dreams with a trusted friend, often the other person can see things in your dream that you cannot. The ancient Greek seeker would share their dreams with a priest, the oracle or others to aid in its interpretation. Group work with other seekers can be helpful as well as can working with a trained counselor.
* Though I’ve used the Greeks as an example here, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Turks, in the Upanishads from India, the Chinese, and many African tribes, as well as many Christian saints and mystics sought guidance through this kind of dream incubation method. See http://thedreamingwizard.com/history-of-dreams_290.html for more on ancient healing and dream incubation centers.