Different questions elicit rich descriptions for each element of a dream. But the simple device that came to me in a college class in 1971 has been the invaluable keystone of the Dream Interview Method: Pretend that the interviewer comes from another planet and therefore asks for descriptions from the POV of someone who does not already have fixed notions about the dream images. Regularly remind yourself, or the dreamer if you are working with another person, that you come from another planet and have never heard of such a thing or person before. The result is lightening access to the relevant thoughts and feelings of the dreamer without any contamination from you or what you think such an image should mean!
We have kept this list of elements as simple as possible for clarity's sake. When in doubt, use the questions from any element that seem most promising. For example, things said or heard in a dream work well with action questions. Grandmother's house requires SETTING questions followed by PEOPLE questions to discover
What grandmother was like and therefore, how she colors the experience of the house. THE FOLLOWING "CUE CARD" QUESTIONS are shaped to best elicit the dreamers relevant descriptions for each element. FOLDED into each element's questions are the DESCRIPTION, RECAPITULATION, BRIDGE, AND TEST-THE BRIDGE questions. A flexible use of these guidelines works best, and you will soon get a feel for the appropriate follow-up questions that are sometimes necessary for a particular image or theme/action/plot.
Most of my students print out this list to keep beside them as they interview themselves or another dreamer. It gives you confidence and a good starting point.
- Describe the opening (or the next) setting of the dream as if I come from another planet and need to know its nature, function, and how you feel about the place. (DESCRIPTION)
- What is this place like in your dream? (DESCRIPTION)
- Is it different from such a place in waking life? How? (DESCRIPTION)
- How does it feel to be in this setting? (DESCRIPTION)
- So this setting is (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION)
- Does the setting which you describe as (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION again) remind you of any situation or any area in your life? (BRIDGE)
- How so? (TEST THE BRIDGE)
- Who is X? Pretend I (come from another planet and) have never heard of her before. (DESC)
- What is X like in waking life? Describe X with 3-4 adjectives. (DISC)
- What is X like in your dream and what is she doing? (DISC)
- Do you like X or not? Elaborate. (DISC)
- So X is (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION). Right?
- Does X, who is (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION again) remind you of anything, any part of your self, or someone in your life? (BRIDGE)
- How so? (TEST)
- What is a Z like? (Generic DESC First)
- How would you describe the personality of a Z? (Specific DESC second)
- What is the Z like in your dream, and what is it doing? (D)
- So this Z is (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION). Have I got that right?
- Does this Z that is (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION again) remind you of anything, anyone, or of any part of yourself? (BRIDGE
- How so? (TEST)
- What is a Y like? (Generic DESC) Pretend...
- Why do humans have or use Y's and how do they work? (DESC of Function)
- How do you feel about Y's in general? (a rich DESC always includes feeling or judgment
- What is the Y in your dream like? (Specific DESC )
- How do you feel about the Y in your dream? Like or dislike it? (DISC can shift from generic)
- So, the Y in your dream is_______. Right? (RECAP)
- Is there anything, anyone, or any part of yourself that is like the Y which is (RECAP again)
- How so? (TEST)
- What were you feeling at that moment in the dream? (DESC)
- Yes, it can be difficult to find words subtle feelings. Take your time.
- (If the dreamer is stuck guess very general terms.) Were you pleased, displeased? Anxious, relieved, frustrated, perplexed, certain? (Always give opposites so you don't seem to express an opinion. If the dreamer accepts your word for a feeling, ask for elaboration)
- In what way were you (pleased, anxious, frustrated)? (DESC)
- Let me see if I have this right; you were feeling (RECAP). Is that close?
- Does this feeling of (RECAP again) remind you of anything or any time in your life?
- How so? (TEST)
- Describe the action in this part of the dream. Pretend I come from another planet and tell me if humans usually do this, (Play tennis with a baseball bat, swim in a mountain lake, if cars actually fly, etc.) and why? (D)
- How do you feel about this action? (Like or dislike, approve, disapprove, would you...?) (D)
- So the action here is (RECAP). Right?
- Is there any situation in your life that is like (RECAP again). (B)
- How so? (B)
- Describe the major theme or plot of your dream?(D)
- Is this normal on Earth? Tell me why or why not. (D)
- How does it feel for a human to be in such a situation? (D)
- So in your dream, you (or someone) (RECAP theme or plot). Right?
- Is there any situation in your life that is analogous to this theme of (RECAP again)?
LINKING & SUMMARY:
When you have bridged to a few, or all the major images in the dream, link the bridges together and narrate the dream story including the images as dreamt connected to their bridges. Then ask yourself or your dreamer how he or she now understands the dream and what parts remain unclear. Valiantly resist with all your might the temptation to give another your hypotheses about the meaning of the dream.
With Practice, a flexible, but careful and orderly use of these questions and your addition of appropriate, non-leading follow-up questions tailored to a given dream will become second nature. When you or your dreamer is able to make strong bridges and link them together, you will feel an exhilaration and great satisfaction in discovering the meaning of the dream. And, if you have followed the steps of the interview, you will know that the meaning came from the dreamer, the only one on earth who can be sure of the meaning of his or her dream.