Dreams are amazing! Don’t you just love dreaming? As a child, going to sleep was one of the things I was always looking forward to, because in my sleep I could always dream. Nobody ever told me “no”, or “don’t” or give me any negative reinforcement. I would wake up and try to remember my dreams wondering what they meant; I would then sit with my mother while she would try and help me interpret them. But then I grew up, and as a teenager I was not interested in spending all that much time with my mom. I forgot about dreams, dreaming, and all those moments when I would get a breakthrough. Then in college, it all came back when for a few semesters I started reading Jung.
I tried to go back into my old habits of dreaming, but it wasn’t all that easy; I realized I was too distracted to remember my dreams so after tries and tribulations I came up with a technique (I am using even now) that allowed me full relaxation, detachment from my thoughts, and a clear path to dreaming. I always record my dreams on a voice recorder I keep close on my nightstand and at the end of the week, I go through them and experiment with dream interpretation either from a Jung perspective, or Gestalt, or whatever model might help me decode myself. Dream interpretation techniques are so rich, it’s just incredible. In counseling, regardless of one’s theoretical orientation, dreams should not be fully dismissed: they can open doors to understanding our clients better and communicate with them in a more creative way…plus, in those moments when you feel like the sessions get stuck, you can always use dreams to help you reframe a certain issue and address it creatively.
Anyways, for those interested I wanted to share my relaxation technique. I am not suggesting you should train your clients in using it; use it as a resource, draw elements from it, add your own spin to it, make it so that you are comfortable with it, and then experiment and see what happens.
I usually lay in bed and try to focus my attention on my head. I find that many times, the reason why we can’t go to sleep right away is because of the thoughts we have, so I imagine how my brain looks like. Then, I get closer to my brain (with my mind’s eyes) and I start pointing to myself the thoughts I have by attributing each one a representative image. I then imagine that each image of each thought is in the shape of a puzzle piece so I arrange each piece onto my brain to complete the puzzle. Then, I am ready to free myself from my thoughts: I imagine a strong light trying to break through the pieces of my puzzle, and when the light cannot be contained any longer by my thoughts (puzzle pieces) they burst in millions of pieces I see leaving my brain (mind). My brain is just a bright light now, undistracted (I usually have to double check the corners and make sure no images hide behind), and ready for the next phase: relaxation. I start with a breathing exercise which is also dominated by images. I inhale a bright light (I imagine it anyways) and I exhale dark smoke (if you remember the Green Mile movie, that’s what I usually imagine I breath out), in white light, out dark smoke until there is nothing but light inside myself. Finally, I try to relax my body by imagining a warm ray of sun covering each part of my body, from toe moving up to my head. By the time I get to my head, I usually fall asleep, having cleared the path for dreaming and de-bugging my mind of any thoughts that might prevent me from remembering my dreams.
Diana C. Pitaru is a counselor in training, and a student at Walden University. Her theoretical interests are in Gestalt, Art, and Narrative therapy while focusing on multicultural issues and eating disorders.