"15 Simple Guidelines..."
by Dick McLeester
When we look at the broad culture we live in, one sees considerable misinformation and fear regarding dreams, mixed with honest curiosity and excitement.  Collectively, we are babies when it comes to understanding the language of our dreams; most people do not understand how to share dreams with others in a way that will be a positive experience, one from which they may learn something new.   Sharing in dream groups is an excellent way to turn this around in a safe, confidential environment.
If we are to have any effect in educating the broader public, we can help by learning and practicing the simple rules that might make sharing dreams a safe and positive experience, anytime, with anyone.  The following guidelines were drafted to serve this function.  I originally put them down on paper when a local group organized a community theater piece called Dreamdance of Ata, inspired by the novel The Kin of Ata.  Suddenly, 100 people in the area began gathering in 12 groups to share dreams.  While their task was to look for good theatrical material from each group, for many this was a new experience in dream sharing.  It seemed an intriguing idea, yet one that could have disastrous results if there were no guidelines to follow.  The following was my response.

1)     Dreams are private experience.   No one has to share any dream unless they feel safe and make the decision to comfortably do so;

2)      Confidentiality  Dreams are not material for idle gossip.  Remember that the dreamer has taken a big risk opening up and sharing their inner world with you.  Act with sensitivity and caring both in the dream sharing process and afterward.

3)     Always tell the dream in first person present tense, as though you are experiencing the dream right now.  This helps you to connect with and reexperience the dream, as well as making it much easier for others to listen.  I suggest you write it down in this way as well.  This may take an effort at first, but makes a big difference in the long run.

4)      Be as expressive as possible in the telling of the dream, showing the movements and emotions of the dream whenever you can.  Really ham it up so as to bring it to life for the listeners.

5)      Save any "foot notes" about the dream and its relation to waking life for before or after telling the actual dream.  This enables the listener to hear the dream itself and avoid confusion between the dream and any commentary about its relation to waking life.

6)      When listening to a dream, actively LISTEN!  Our task is to see how well we can hear and experience the dream.  We must never interrupt the dreamer.  Many people are poor listeners, and dream sharing challenges us to improve our active listening skills.

7)      Once the dream is completely told, listeners can express appreciation and curiosity about the dream.  Don't worry about what it might "mean" or how it relates to waking life.  Just look for a deeper experience of what is really going on.  Ask good questions, ones that invite more description of the dream and its experience.

8)     The dreamer is the leader.  The fact that it is their dream should be respected at all times.  Other group members are encouraged to give the dreamer lots of space and encouragement to say what is understood or is puzzling, or what they would or would not like to do by way of exploring their dream.

9)       The dreamer does not have to discuss anything they choose not to.  Whenever someone shares a dream, they are sharing more of themselves than they realize.  At times it will happen that an issue comes up after we have looked at the dream for some time which is embarrassing or difficult for the dreamer.  If this happens, the dreamer is encouraged to say so and request that the session end at that point.  Or the dreamer may wish to look at another part of the dream, or push ahead even though it is difficult.  The choice is theirs and always respected.

10)      Never tell anyone what their dream means.  You never know anyway.  When you feel that you do know, at best you know what it would mean if it were your dream.  Even if it is true for them as well, you rob them of the chance to discover it themselves.  Try to frame an open-ended question instead that encourages them to describe what the dream would be for them.

11)      After spending time with the dream itself, we can ask "bridging questions", about how the dream might relate to the dreamers waking life.  Give the dreamer plenty of time to tune in to their body and intuition for the answer to questions asked, to note the "aha" or tingling" experience of things falling into place.

12)      When the dreamer makes new discoveries, follow their lead.  Build on the connections they make.

13)      Respect mystery.  Do not get caught in the feeling that everything needs to be understood and interpreted.  We need to become comfortable with the unknown, which will continue to bring us gifts.  Learn patience.

 14)     Try and always end the sharing asking if there is anything new that has been learned which can be acted upon in waking life.  If at any point the dreamer seems overwhelmed by new discoveries, ask them to focus on small things they can do to act on this in their waking life.  This grounds the energy in the waking task and the overwhelmed feelings dissipate.  Remember:  change takes time.

 15)      Remember where you are when you tell or ask to hear a dream.  Our culture is quite anti-dream in many ways.  Many people have been hurt and have received misinformation about their dreams.  Few know how to really listen to someone elses' dream.  Don't be surprised when others do not welcome the opportunity to share dreams.  Share these guidelines with those you would share dreams with, so that it might be a positive process.

Dick McLeester is Dream Network's Book Review editor and has been engaged in the 'Dream Movement' for decades.
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