07 Dreaming - Articles

The Power of Dream Groups – Unleashing Imagination in a Living Room

Starting a dream group in 1990 really kicked off my ability to drop into the imaginal state. I wasn’t expecting that would be the case.

I went into the group thinking it was going to be very analytical, if I could just remember everything Jung said, I would be o.k. That didn’t work very well because what I had in my Jungian toolbox (faulty memory) wasn’t that helpful. Plus, although they never complained, I got the impression that people in the group didn’t want me mouthing Jung. Jung quietly took a back seat in a corner of the room.

A few months into the dream group I discovered that my ability to listen to people’s dreams as they retold them, rose sharply.  I could sit quietly, lean forward both literally and with my attention and—tune in. In this process, my awareness of other things decreased and my own self-checking (i.e. focus on myself; concern about how things were going; concern about what people thought of me), fell away. Simple concentration on the dream story being told took hold.

With that much concentration, other people’s dreams came alive in my head. Alive in the dream group session, the next day, even months later when I was thinking about something similar to someone’s dream story. To a large extent, their night dreams became my waking dreams. I worked hard to stay with them every step of the way as they entered houses, jumped over brick walls, discovered hidden books/rooms/people/rings/passages, talked with old friends/new lovers/the deceased, and wondered about why they were back in their childhood homes and schools.

Slowly, very, very slowly, as I traveled within their dream stories, I started feeling for the subtext. What was the feeling within a particular dream room, or what was the feeling aura around a dreamed object, character, place, or event?  What could my waking world heart and guts tell me about this dream?  Was a faint emotional message mingled in the dream story the real intent of this inner drama? Did my intestines know something that I could share with the dreamer that my mind could have never seen?

Obviously, even with careful, open listening, something of my own was being added to the dreamer’s dream. Each time I visualized their dream story, I constructed the dream using the materials already found in my imagination. Perhaps it was an extremely accurate account, their black cat lined up with my knowledge of black cats, but maybe not. Many a time I assumed I knew what they were describing to find out their idea of what an object was was way different from my own. Being a dream group, numerous members would jump in and give their observations created in their own heads and we would quickly have this swirling flood of imagination on top of imagination on top of imagination. But no one got hurt.  Everyone loved it. All of us were swimming in the river of imagination.

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Within a few months of bi-weekly meetings, in my simple living room, with a quickly assembled collection of friends and strangers, I got enlarged. My ears grew huge in terms of my ability to listen to dreams and thereby, story, myth, and poetry.  The connective wires from my heart and guts to my head were broadened and strengthened.  My daily, struggling self, grew in ability to stand out of the way when the time is right to let imagination come washing forward.

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How to Start a Dream Group – You don’t have to be a dream expert start one. See these guidelines and these and then cut loose. (Also see this NY Times article on dream groups.)

How to Join a Dream Group – Put out the word that you are looking for a dream group. Check Meetup.com, check local Jung groups, bookstores, coffee shops, and Craig’s List.  If you don’t find one, see above – How to Start a Dream Group.