Guidelines for Dream Group Work
1. Confidentiality: It is essential that those sharing dreams in a group setting feel safe. The simplest way to promote this sense of individual and collective safety is for all dream work to be strictly confidential. In other words, it is understood and agreed that there will be no discussion of the dreams, or the work with the dreams, outside regular group meetings.
2. Group norms: Working with dreams in a group requires a certain amount of courage, good humor, emotional honesty, and trust, but virtually all human beings are easily capable of the creative openness and risk required.
3. Projection: When working with dreams in a group it is important to employ the “if it were my dream” format. The suggestions regarding possible meanings of someone else’s dream will be of use to the person who offers the suggestions and to the other members of the group, whether they are confirmed by the original dreamer or not.
All dream work is ultimately confession. No one has any ideas about the possible meanings in someone else’s dream without imagining and enlivening it with his or her own versions of the emotions and images the dreamer reports. For this reason, anything that is said about the possible meanings in someone else’s dream is always a projection, a reflection of the interior life and symbol dramas of the person making the comment, more than it is a reflection of the possible “objective” significance of the dream itself.
Basic Elements of a Dream Group Meeting
- Touch-in – This is a period set aside for brief statements about how and what each group member is feeling, and what he or she knows consciously about why he or she is feeling that way. Depending on the needs and tastes of the group, usually one to two minutes per person is usually sufficient for “touching-in.”
- Centering – A centering exercise speaks simultaneously to the mind, body and the spirit, saying clearly and unambiguously, “What comes next is different.”
- Dream sharing – After the centering exercise is complete, each participant is invited to share a dream, more or less without comment. Everyone will be given the chance to share a dream at the beginning of the meeting. The sharing of dreams around the circle at the beginning has two important effects: (a) It reinforces the trust and bonding in the group by confirming in actual practice that each participant present is taking the same risk of self-revelation; and (b) it builds up an ever-increasing backlog of unconscious knowledge about the deep interior lives and symbols dramas of the other dream group members.
- Intensive work with particular dreams – After everyone has had a chance to share a dream, the floor is open for people who want to work with their dreams in more depth. Whoever decides to work should share their dream again in its entirety.The only two limits to the work that can be done are the natural limit of the group’s imagination and the limit of the group’s collective sense of propriety. At the outset, if people need to ask clarifying questions, it is better to begin with these questions and answers than to jump in with “if it were my dream” interpretations (projections) and comments about the personal, archetypal or mythological associations awakened by hearing the dream.
When the “if it were my dream” suggestions begin to flow, and the discoveries of the “ah-ha’s” of insight are off and running, the exploring and projecting on the dream will continue for as long as seems generally productive, then brought to a close.
- Closing with a repetition of the centering exercise