(home) - (dreamwork) - (psychology) - (science) - (postmodern) - (paranormal) - (literature) - (news) - (organizations) - (subscribe)

Yes, but what does my dream mean?




What is dreamwork?

Dreamwork is the way we work and play with dreams and in dreams. Sigmund Freud used the word "dreamwork" to mean the opposite, the way dreams play and work with us. But generally dreamwork means that we are doing something with the dream either while we are dreaming or with the dream image as it is recorded or remembered. 

How to start a Dream Group

1. Get experience in an established dream group. 

  • Psychotherapy Dream Groups. 
    Many psychotherapists offer dream groups. The expectations  may vary and it is important to ask at the beginning or in an information interview whether the group is appropriate for you. Psychotherapy is regulated in some areas and not in others. Find out what the regulating organizations are and what they expect from their members. For example, in California, the Board of Behavioral Science has clear guidelines for psychotherapists regarding many behaviors, such as confidentiality and physical contact. 
    Any kind of psychotherapy may include dreamwork, but the schools most commonly associated with dream groups are Jungian, Gestalt and therapists identified as "eclectic."  You might also investigate therapists who have had training in psychosynthesis, bodywork, process psychology and transpersonal psychology. 

  • Grassroots Dream Groups
    The expectations and practices of grassroots dreamgroups my vary greatly. Be sure to ask the members or hosts and leaders what the expectations are and what kind of ethical guidelines they use. To locate a local group you can contact therapists in the area and ask them if they know of any, you can view the DreamNetwork dreamworkers regional networkers list, or you can call local spiritual and religious groups which often have groups. A.R.E. often sponsers dream groups. Often member from ASD run dream groups.  Be sure to contact BADG in the San Francisco - Bay Area. You can also join one of Dream Tree's local elists for dreamwork information

  • Online Dream Groups
    If you are having trouble finding a regional dreamgroup, you might consider an online dreamgroup. The advantage of these groups is that you can sign on anonymously. You can use a search engine to find a group, post your request for a group on the Usenet Newsgroups alt.dreams or join an Electric Dreams group. The Electric Dreams groups, called DreamWheels, practice a fun and insightful method developed by Montague Ullman, Jeremy Taylor and others, but modified for online use by John Herbert, Ph.D., Richard Wilkerson and others.  More information below.  Just to pitch our resource on this, DreamGate provides a course online that backs the DreamWheel with six weeks of information about dreamwork. 

2. Start Your Own Dream Group

  • Prepare the Group Structure
    Before you start a group, decide how you will conduct the group. This includes not only how the time is going to be divided and spent, but also how you will begin each meeting, how you will brief new members, how you will handle problems that may arise and how you will close the group. Will the group have a leader or moderator that is paid, or will you practice peer or partnership paradigm dream sharing? How many people will be in the group, how often will you meet, how long, and where?  
     The Association for the Study of Dreams recommends that you develop an ethics statement, and they provide a template for this.  You can see how the Electric Dreams community adopted this for their groups. Also, Jeremy Taylor offers a guideline in his tool kit which is useful to consider and Peggy Coats at the Dream Tree has Ground RulesBADG offers information on the Partnership Paradigm. If you become a member of ASD, you can also discuss these rules on the ASD E-Study Group called Group Leaders. 

  • Find Members and Build your Group.
    Once you can present the idea and structure of your group, you can begin inviting others to join you. Ideas for where to find members: post your invitation in venues where the people you are looking for likely to see the post. Offline, this may be at a local library or church, local educational centers or places where psychologically or spiritually oriented seminars or workshops are help,  or in a newspaper or magazine that are distributed locally. 
    The best way is still word-of-mouth, telling your friends to ask people to contact you or suggest people who might be interested.
     If you are looking online for local people, use your cities website or the bulletin board of local schools and other local organizations.  The Dream Network also offers regional networking.

  • Resources for starting and running dream groups:

Intentional Dreaming

Intentional dreaming includes all forms of interacting with dreams in ways to influence the dream or dream experience. Generally this means setting an intention before going to sleep to change the dream or dream experience in one way or another. The intention may vary greatly. Some people use intentions to have lucid dreams, some use intentions to have various events occur during the dream, like flying or breathing water or walking through walls. Others use intentions to ask questions of the dream or dream-maker and look at the resultant dream as an answer to this question. Intentional dreaming is also used to control nightmares. Most well-versed dreamworkers have at least one or more special intentional dreaming techniques.




There are a wide range of events during sleep and wake that are often referred to as "nightmares" and it is wise to learn to distinguish between them. Most of what we call nightmares are simply extreme reactions and fear that accompany uncomfortable dreams that occur from time to time in most everyone, usually towards the end of the sleep cycle. Often we are awakened by a nightmare and there can be strong feelings of sadness, anger or guilt, but usually fear and anxiety. Often we are being chased, and its not unlikely for children to be chased by animals and fantasy figures, while adults are often chased by male adults.

Night terrors usually occur during the first hour or two of sleep. Screaming and thrashing about are common. The sleeper is hard to awaken and usually remembers no more than an overwhelming feeling or a single scene, if anything. Children who have night terrors also may have a tendency to sleepwalk and/or urinate in bed. The causes of night terrors are not well understood, though it appears that night terrors are from a distinctly different stage of sleep. Children usually stop having them by puberty. They may be associated with stress in adults. A consultation with a physician may be useful if the night terrors are frequent or especially disturbing.

Why do we have nightmares?
Nightmares may have several causes, including drugs, medication, illness, trauma or they may have no related cause and be spontaneous. Often they occur when there is stress in one's waking life, and when major life changes are occurring.

What can be done about nightmares?
The Association for the Study of Dreams notes that "It really depends on the source of the nightmare. To rule out drugs, medications or illness as a cause, discussion with a physician is recommended. It is useful to encourage young children to discuss their nightmares with their parents or other adults, but they generally do not need treatment. If a child is suffering from recurrent or very disturbing nightmares, the aid of a therapist may be required. The therapist may have the child draw the nightmare, talk with the frightening characters, or fantasize changes in the nightmare, in order help the child feel safer and less frightened ."

Nightmares also offer the same opportunity that other dreams do, to investigate the symbols and imagery for life enhancement. The challenge in the last few decades for the dreamwork movement has been to teach a variety of methods that replace the old phase "It was just a dream." In American schools, people like Jill Gregory and Ann Wiseman teach children coping mechanisms that allow the child to come into relationship with the dream monsters and fears in a novel and related manner. Ernest Hartmann and other researchers are finding that those who have "thin" personalities, or sensitive, receptive individuals, are more likely to have nightmares than "thick" personalities. Pioneers like Linda Magallon, Stephen Laberge and Jayne Gackenbach are teaching people to take control of their dreams and have the outcomes they wish rather than becoming the dream's victim.

 For an update on the latest sites and information, be sure to check the ED Dream Resources 

 The International Association for the Study of Dreams offers advice, articles  and books on nightmares and you will find among its members the top researchers in the field.


Wiseman, Ann Sayre (1986, 1989). Nightmare help. A guide for adults and children. Ten Speed Press.
Available only by request from Wiseman for $10. Contact at Ansayre@aol.com

Krakow, Barry, and Neidhardt, Joseph (1992). Conquering bad dreams and nightmares. Berkeley Books.

Hartmann, Ernest (1984). The Nightmare: The Psychology and Biology of Terrifying Dreams. Basic books.


Cushway, Delia, and Sewell, Robyn (1992). Counseling with dreams and nightmares.Sage publications.

Kellerman, Henry (Ed.) (1987). The Nightmare: Psychological and Biological Foundations. Columbia University Press.

Lazar, Moshe (Ed) (1983). The Anxious Subject: Nightmares and Daymares in Literature and Film. Undena.

Downing, J., and Marmorstein, E. (Eds.) Dreams and Nightmares: A Book of Gestalt Therapy Sessions. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.


Dreamwork Ethics Statement

All participants are obliged to adhere to the ethical standards established by the Electric Dreams community:

The Electric Dreams community celebrates the many benefits of dreamwork, yet recognizes that there are potential risks. We agree with the ethical position taken by the Association for the Study of Dreams ( http://www.asdream.org), in that we support an approach to dreamwork and dream sharing that respects the dreamer's dignity and integrity, and which recognizes the dreamer as the decision-maker regarding the significance of the dream. Systems of dreamwork that assign authority or knowledge of the dream's meanings to someone other than the dreamer can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful. Ethical dreamwork helps the dreamer work with his/her own dream images, feelings, and associations, and guides the dreamer to more fully experience, appreciate, and understand the dream.

Every dream may have multiple meanings, and different techniques may be reasonably employed to touch these multiple layers of significance. A dreamer's decision to share or discontinue sharing a dream should always be respected and honored. The dreamer should be forewarned that unexpected issues or emotions may arise in the course of the dreamwork. Information and mutual agreement about the degree of privacy and confidentiality are essential ingredients in creating a safe atmosphere for dream sharing.

Dreamwork outside a clinical setting is not a substitute for psychotherapy, or other professional treatment, and should not be used as such.

We recognize and respect that there are many valid and time-honored dreamwork traditions. We invite and welcome the participation of dreamers from all cultures. There are social, cultural, and transpersonal aspects to dream experience. In this statement we do not mean to imply that the only valid approach to dreamwork focuses on the dreamer's personal life. Our purpose is to honor and respect the person of the dreamer as well as the dream itself, regardless of how the relationship between the two may be understood.

The Electric Dreams Community, March 2000

Support Articles

Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (2000 April) A Brief History of the Electric Dreams DreamWheel. Electric Dreams 7(4). Retrieved July 14, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1999 November). The Origins of the Electric Dreams Community: Part I. Electric Dreams 6(11). Retrieved July 13, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1999 November). The ABZZzzzzs of Dreaming. Electric Dreams 6(11). Retrieved July 13, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1999 March). The Proliferation of Dream Discussion eLists on the Internet. Electric Dreams 6(3). Retrieved July 11, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

Wilkerson, Richard Catlett ed. (1998 October). A Short History on the Rise of Dream Sharing in Cyberspace. Electric Dreams 5(9). Retrieved July 8, 2000 on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams


Starter Books on How to Interpret Your Dreams:

Delaney, Gayle (1988 revised edition).Breakthrough Dreaming; How to Tap the Power of Your 24-Hour Mind Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
• Gayle teaches people how to conduct a Dream Interview, which allows a person to quickly understand a dream of one’s own or another without forcing interpretations on them.

Shafton, Anthony (1995). Dream Reader: Contemporary Approaches to the Understanding of Dreams . Albany, NY: Suny Press.
• A very deep analysis of different approaches to understanding dreams and the schools from which they evolved.

Faraday, Ann (1973, 1986) Dream Power, Berkley Pub.
• A very popular book which covers many contemporary approaches and has now been republished as The Dream Game.

Garfield, Patricia (1974, 1985) Creative Dreaming, Ballantine,
• A classic book which has taught many people how to work and appreciate dreams. See here many other books on dreams and their meaning at http://www.patriciagarfield.com

Reed, Henry (1991) Dream Solutions: Using Your Dreams To Change Your Life, New World Library.
• Techniques on writing and interpreting dreams from a pioneer in the field.

Reed, Henry(1985). Getting Help form your Dreams. Virginia Beach, VA: Inner Vision Publishing Co.

Taylor, Jeremy (1983) Dream Work: Techniques For Discovering the Creative Power of Dreams, Paulist Press.
• Taylor takes the difficult language of Carl Jung and provides a profound but easy to use approach to dream interpretation.

Ullman, Montague & Zimmerman, Nan (1979, 1985) Working With Dreams, J. P. Tarcher.
• This book is especially good for those interested in group dreamwork.

Williams, Strephon K. (1980) Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual, rev. ed., Journey Press
• Williams once ran an institute on dreamwork and has collected his many years of techniques and practices giving the reader a wide variety to choose from.

Wiseman, Ann S. (1989) Nightmare Help,
• This book is designed for children and for adults working with children. No longer in print, but available through

For a more complete listing look at the DreamGate Dream Bibs



(home) - (dreamwork) - (psychology) - (science) - (postmodern) - (paranormal) - (literature) - (news) - (organizations) - (subscribe)

Page and design courtesy of Richard Wilkerson and DreamGate