Our lives are divided into waking and dreaming. The gap between the two lies in the process of dream work and can be analyzed by dreamworkers. The esoteric nature of dreams makes it hard to pin down and interpret them, hence the need for dream interpreters and dream analysis. Dreamers can get valuable insights from seemingly inane dream scenarios. In some cases, you can even find solutions to problems that are plaguing your waking life.
What is Dream Work? Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, defines dream work or dreamwork as a process of distorting messages into the cryptic symbols and scenarios in your dreams. For instance, a dog in your dream is a symbolic stand-in or distorted imagery of a loved one. The process of reverse engineering or analyzing the product of dream work is dream analysis. There are four aspects or steps in dream work. They are as follows:
Condensation: This aspect of dream work occurs when two or more dream symbols or unconscious concepts are combined. For instance, you might dream about a stranger whose facial features are combinations of people you know in reality. In another example, your anxiety about work and fear of insects may manifest as a house infestation.
Displacement: In the second step, what seems like a mundane thing in the manifested content can suddenly have deeper latent meanings. The opposite could be true. In addition, what seems sinister may actually be harmless upon deeper dream analysis. This is the process of displacement. So, when you dream of death, it can mean a new beginning or an ending of a terrible phase in your life. In other sources, displacement is the process of projecting a dreamer’s issues into something unrelated. For instance, innocence may appear as a pristinely white dress.
Secondary revision: The dream then gets revised in an attempt to make your dream narrative more coherent. By revising certain elements to make a dream scenario make sense, certain dream symbols can be interpreted differently based on this new context concocted by your subconscious.
Considerations of representation: In this last step, imageries can appear as puns or wordplay which adds another layer of meaning to an object in the dream world. This ingenious process of dream work relies on the dreamer’s past experiences and knowledge for crafting witty symbolisms. For example, finding salt in your wound could be a reference to the idiomatic expression “adding insult to injury” or a lot of bananas in your dream could mean going crazy as in “going bananas.”
What is the Job of Dreamworkers? Dreamworkers are the people who uncover the hidden meanings of dreams. They are also called dream interpreters, dream analysts, or sometimes even psychoanalysts. Dreamworkers essentially break down the symbols within your dream and interpret them using different methods, such as free association. Although there are general meanings to specific dream symbols, the different experiences and background of individuals can lend a whole new meaning to common dream symbols. This means the job of dreamworkers is to work with dreamers on an individual level, or sometimes as a group activity, to devise more accurate interpretations of a dream.
Dream Work in Group Therapy or Psychotherapy. Because deep-seated trauma can get repressed and buried in the subconscious, dreams can provide a wealth of hidden meanings that can unravel a person’s traumatic past. This is why dream work has been used as a tool in psychoanalysis to help mentally unwell patients face their fears or achieve closure from past trauma.
Those cases are complex and need the expertise of trained professionals. But ordinary people can also benefit from dream work. Sometimes we are blind to our self-destructive patterns, for instance, or unaware about possible threats to our well-being. Enlightenment and self-awareness can often be achieved by paying attention to our dreams.
There are tons of resources online for dream analysis and ways to integrate your experiences into the interpretation. Simply recording your dreams can help you find patterns or spot recurring dream scenarios which you can dissect using your current state of mind or existing issues you may be trying to resolve. Ultimately, dream work allows you to explore your subconscious and get to know yourself better in the process.