As a Jungian analyst, I keep in mind that dreams give a broader, more inclusive idea of what is going on in the individual’s psyche and deeper layers of the unconscious. I believe the dream provides an accurate snapshot of an individual’s mental and emotional health that can enhance the ego’s outer, often limited, perspective of life, events, personal and inter-personal interactions. When a patient tells me a dream, I take note of details and shifts in affect, body language, and what I energetically feel in my own body. I ask the patient what he/she feels the dream is saying. I ask about what he/she feels in the dream, not outside of the dream, and what he/she thought about the dream afterwards. We begin with the first sentence of the dream as he/she reported it and consider the details that outline the setting for the drama to begin. For example, is day or night? What season is it? Is the setting familiar, odd, or peculiar? And how so?
We go through the dream step-by-step, image-by-image, and talk about details and associations that are closely associated with the dream. As we do this, I note any details that are overlooked or overemphasized. I hold the dream without knowing beforehand what it means or what the outcome will be. I note my own associations, stories, and myths that come to mind as we work on the dream. I consider which of these might be helpful to share, that will amplify the dream, and lead us forward or provide a different perspective. I also decide which can be forgotten and note my own counter-transferential reactions, knowing the dream is not mine. I look for emotional or physical reactions in my patient when we talk about the dream and consider these reactions to be unconscious sources of information.
As I work in analytic sessions, I often remember previous dreams the patient has reported and pay attention to repetitive patterns, images, and themes. After we have done as much work as we can on the dream, I encourage the patient to reflect on it and to keep it energetically alive in his/her psyche between sessions. I believe this holding of the dream is important and that the more we can work with a dream from a sense of wonder and curiosity, the more the patient and the unconscious will respond. I believe it is a two-sided relationship—actually, three, including me—and I pass this perspective on to my patient in a way that resonates with him/her.