Dreams are a way our unconscious can communicate with us. The unconscious content of any event can be revealed to us through our dreams where the material surfaces as symbolic imagery rather than rational thought and logic. Freud worked on the general assumption that dreams are not a matter of chance, but are associated with conscious thought and problems. Freud's technique of free associations played an important part in the early development of psychoanalysis. It enabled him to use dreams as the starting point from which a client could explore the unconscious.
Jung extended Freud's way of working with dreams. He paid more attention to the actual form and content of the dream. He wrote that to understand a dream you should examine it from every aspect - just as if you were to hold an unknown object in your hand and needed to examine every side of it. He moved away from Freud's fixed ideas on analysis of dream symbol meanings. Perls extended dreamwork to include the role-play method to provide a deeper experience of the symbolic meanings.
Perls believed that every part of a dream is part of ourself - not just the people, but every item, every mood, anything that appears in the foreground or the background. He advised that when we work with a dream we should play all the parts, because once fully examined we get more complete identification, and this identification with our inner world counteracts a sense of alienation in the psyche.
I believe that in a dream, we have a clear existential message of what's missing in our lives, what we avoid doing and living, and we have plenty of material to re-assimilate and re-own the alienated parts of ourselves.
- Perls, F. (1996). Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. Gestalt Journal: New York.
Every dream or every story contains the material we need to grow. If we can project ourself into every aspect of our dream, and really become that thing, then we begin to re-assimilate, to re-own what had, been disowned. Dream exploration is an opportunity for us to reclaim or re-integrate what has been lost.
A client's dreams can be used to help awaken a better understanding of psychological or emotional disturbances. Some methods focus on teaching a client to do effective dreaming to change basic behavioural patterns or overcome certain problems.
It is a process of working with a client's dreams in order to promote insight, healing and trust in the client's own inner wisdom. It assumes that the dream or nightmare is a meaningful expression from the client's inner Self
Dreamwork is expressed through artwork, symbol work, movement, reflection and writing, and role-play.