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The Delaney Method of Dream Interpretation

The Delaney Method of Interpretation is called the "Dream Interview". This approach to dreams aims at getting to the meaning of the metaphors your brain creates while you sleep.

Since our dreams are commentary on our lives, made up of our personal imagery, and carefully composed by our own minds, every effort is made to keep the associations, projections, and interpretations of the interviewer OUT OF THE WAY of the dreamer's effort to recognize his or her personal meaning of the dream story.

Most of the time, you will play both the parts of dreamer and interviewer, but if you can find a partner to interview you using the interview steps and the carefully phrased questions in the CUE CARD below, you will catch on more quickly.

Obviously what follows is an outline of the method. My book, Breakthrough Dreaming, covers in detail, many possible variations, the tempting pitfalls, and "Help Keys" to rescue you from dead ends you might encounter. In Your Dreams and All About Dreams also expand on the technique.

How to conduct a Dream Interview

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.

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 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.

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. This will not help him, but discourage him from feeling around inside to find the best word and most accurate word.

5 Steps of the Dream Interview







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.)

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 got it right. Invite the dreamer to change his mind, correct, modify, or amplify his description.

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.


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!"

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.)

For example a dreamer might start: "Well, the dream opens in Texas, which I bridged to a state of mind in which one is too big for his britches, lacking in all subtlety, but full of a sense of macho adventure and fun. That's just like me when it comes to women! Then......

Before You Start: Identify The Dream Elements

Different questions elicit rich descriptions for each element of a dream. 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.







Begin Your Interview


Questions that Execute the 6 Steps of the Interview


  1. Describe the opening (or the next) setting of the dram as if I come from another planet and deed to know its nature, function, and how you feel about the place. (DESCRIPTION)
  2. What is this place like in your dream? (DESCRIPTION)
  3. Is it different from such a place in waking life? How? (DESCRIPTION)
  4. How does it feel to be in this setting? (DESCRIPTION)
  5. So this setting is (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION)
  6. Does the setting which you describe as (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION again) remind you of any situation or any area in your life? (BRIDGE)
  7. How so? (TEST THE BRIDGE)


  1. Who is X? Pretend I (come from another planet and) have never heard of her before.
  2. What is X like in waking life? Describe X with 3-4 adjectives. (DISC)
  3. What is X like in your dream and what is she doing? (DISC)
  4. Do you like X or not? Elaborate. (DISC)
  6. Does X, who is (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION again) remind you of anything, any part of your self, or someone in your life? (BRIDGE)
  7. How so? (TEST)


  1. What is a Z like? (Generic DESC First)
  2. How would you describe the personality of a Z? (Specific DESC second)
  3. What is the Z like in your dream, and what is it doing? (D)
  4. So this Z is (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION). Have I got that right?
  5. Does this Z that is (RECAPITULATE THE DESCRIPTION again) remind you of anything, anyone, or of any part of yourself? (BRIDGE)
  6. How so? (TEST)


  1. What is a Y like? (Generic DESC) Pretend...
  2. Why do humans have or use Y's and how do they work? (DESC of Function)
  3. How do you feel about Y's in general? (a rich DESC always includes feeling or judgment)
  4. What is the Y in your dream like? (Specific DESC)
  5. How do you feel about the Y in your dream? Like or dislike it? (DISC can shift from generic)
  6. So, the Y in your dream is_______. Right? (RECAP)
  7. Is there anything, anyone, or any part of yourself that is like the Y which is (RECAP again)
  8. How so? (TEST)


  1. What were you feeling at that moment in the dream? (DESC)
  2. Yes, it can be difficult to find words subtle feelings. Take your time.
  3. (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)
  4. In what way were you (pleased, anxious, frustrated)? (DESC)
  5. Let me see if I have this right; you were feeling (RECAP). Is that close?
  6. Does this feeling of (RECAP again) remind you of anything or any time in your life?
  7. How so? (TEST)


  1. 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)
  2. How do you feel about this action? (Like or dislike, approve, disapprove, would you...?) (D)
  3. So the action here is (RECAP). Right?
  4. Is there any situation in your life that is like (RECAP again). (B)
  5. How so? (B)
  6. Describe the major theme or plot of your dream?(D)
  7. Is this normal on Earth? Tell me why or why not. (D)
  8. How does it feel for a human to be in such a situation? (D)
  9. So in your dream, you (or someone) (RECAP theme or plot). Right?
  10. Is there any situation in your life that is analogous to this theme of (RECAP again)?


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.


The dream interview is transparent, logical, and teachable to most people. 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 it's impact and her motivation for change.