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User’s Guide to the Dream Interview Method

The dream interview is transparent, logical, and teachable. However, it's simplicity can be misleading; it takes practice and discipline to learn.

While it is far easier to insert pre-fabricated interpretations, nothing is as satisfying or as accurate as having the dreamer discover her own meanings in her own words.

And to be perfectly blunt, most interpretations taken from any source external to the dreamer, usually lead to incorrect and often ridiculous-if-convenient interpretations that lead the dreamer away from her dream's intent. Even in cases where the interpreter's intrusion with her hypothesis is right on the money, she commits the crime of stealing the thrill of discovery from the dreamer, thus decreasing its impact and motivation for change.

Because I believe the major cause of far-fetched, inaccurate, and vague interpretations to be either the dreamer's or the expert's tendency to jump to conclusions based upon traditional, or convenient pre-formulations, I think the MOST IMPORTANT device in the interview is to ask the questions from the naive curiosity of someone from another planet. This POV of the alien allows you to ask non-leading questions that get to the dreamer's unique impressions, associations and KEYWORDS that will trigger her recognizing the enlightening metaphoric parallels between her dean and her life.

The moment you say,

"What is a motorcycle like? Pretend I come from another planet and have never heard of such a thing,"

the dreamer will have no trouble giving a quick, terse, and relatively unadulterated description in the words that will trigger her later recognition of the metaphoric meaning of the image. Other phrasings such as, "Pretend I come from another country, or have been asleep for a hundred years" Will work in many instances. But if the image is say, a cat, or a roaring fire, the alien will get the best response.

In the Dream Interview, the dreamer will usually play both roles of the dreamer and interviewer who pretends to come from another planet. The luxury of having a friend, colleague or a therapist playing the role of interviewer makes learning the process easier, but is necessary. Remember that Stephen Hawkins uses the same device of an alien inquiring to ask himself about how the universe works, so you needn't feel silly or self-conscious!

It is often helpful to ask the dreamer to give 3-4 adjectives that describe the image or action. Resist the sometimes strong temptation to fill in the descriptive words for the dreamer. Generally, this will not help him, but discourage him from feeling around inside to find the best and most accurate word native to his experience that will act as a trigger to recognize the dream metaphor.

5 Steps of the Dream Interview


DESCRIPTION: Metaphors work by highlighting a particular characteristic of a thing or enhancing your perception of it. Comparing your husband to a polar bear only works if we know what you think of polar bears. Do you think they are remote, remote, and dangerous? Or do you think of them as endangered, strong, and good providers? To get the good out of the personal metaphors you create while dreaming, it is crucial to know what you or your dreamer thinks and feels about any image or action. This is the most important step in the interview upon which everything else depends. Dreamers are often delightfully surprised to discover what they say in response to the alien's interviewer's questions. (The CUE CARD of Dream Interview questions for each step is below.)

RECAPITULATION: Here you restate the description while editing, but always following the dreamer's emphasis and tone. You ask explicitly or by your tone if you have it right. Invite the dreamer to change his mind, correct, modify, or amplify his description.

BRIDGE: Here is first level of interpretation. The interviewer asks the dreamer if there is anything in his life, any part of himself, or anyone in his life like the thing described. The interviewer, (be that a dream partner or the dreamer himself), repeats the recapitulation briefly and always in the dreamer's own words. Surprisingly, this is usually the first time the e REALLY hears his description.

If the dreamer cannot BRIDGE the image or scene to something in his life, return to the first step and get a richer description, or move on to the following images to pick up more clues and context.


TEST THE BRIDGE: Sometimes the metaphorical fit is very good, sometimes terrible. Ask the dreamer to tell you how the dream image and its description reminds her of the person, part of herself, or thing she identified.

If you hear, "Well, Margaret Thatcher reminds me of my wife in that she too is very smart and difficult. But my wife is not able to get any anything done. Unlike Thatcher she is not a good organizer, not is she competent." If you repeat the full BRIDGE question, the dreamer might take in a fuller sense of the metaphor and say, "You know! That really sounds like my business partner. She has a different color hair but Thatcher's traits are an exact fit to her!"

LINKING & SUMMARY: Here the Interviewer (or the dreamer working alone) links the bridges made so far or at the end of the interview. Since every dream is carefully crafted within a dramatic plot, it is vital to understand the dramatic thrust of the plot and see all the images and bridges make sense in the CONTEXT of the dream story.

Either the Interviewer or the Dreamer can summarize the dream, retelling the story, including the bridges made, and noting what remains unclear. (Never force a bridge. Let time and reflection work over the next week.)

As you conduct your interview, keep in mind that





Now you are ready to read the post, "The User's Guide to Dream Interview: Part Two: The Cue Card" where you will find a list of questions, crafted over the last 40 years, that are tailored to execute each step of the Dream Interview!

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