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Dream Tending

Dreams are the royal road to the consciousness

Freud said, “Dreams are the royal road to the consciousness.” Dreams can release emotional steam from our daily lives. Dreams may be an inner resource, especially during difficult times. Dreams are alive and have their own wisdom.  Reasoning and intellect pales in comparison to dream tending, which approaches all life’s deep questions from a different perspective.

To begin to tend your dreams, start with a dream journal at your bedside, a soft light and an intent before you fall asleep to remember your dreams.   The first step in dream tending is recording the dream.  Do this immediately upon waking, even if it is the middle of the night.  The primary skill in working with dreams is listening with your whole being while sitting on interpretations.  The following process to tend to dreams is from Robert Johnson’s book titled Inner Work.

Four steps in dream tending:

  1. Make associations: Every dream is a series of images. By making associations with the dream images we can discover the meaning these images carry for us. Essentially this highlights the personal significance of the dream image. The same image can evoke different associations or reactions from different people, thereby it is recommended to forego interpreting dreams of others or referring to a book on dream images.  A dream image cannot be separated from the individual who dreams it.

When making associations avoid chain associations.  For example, if image A leads to B and then B leads to C and C leads to D – then the original significance of the starting image A can get diluted.  The image Johnson uses to convey what is the preferred method is that of a wheel with the dream image A being at the center and the associations proceeding from it radiating outward from that center. In other words, always come back to the original dream image being studied and proceed with associations from there.  Images from our dreams connect us to our deepest parts of our self.

  1. Connect dream images to inner dynamics: Inner dynamics refers to anything that is going on inside of you as you see the dream image.  So what is arising in you as you experience the image from your dream?  What feeling, conflict, attitude, mood, emotional event is being experienced?  Every dream shows us some way in which we are accepting or resisting our inner self. Dreams are a reflection of the unconscious, or that which were are unaware of within.  Dreams almost always are aimed at the inner level or interior life.  It is fruitless to attempt to understand an external situation unless you identify the psychological patterns within you that affect it. So useful questions may be:  What traits do I have in common with the image?  What are the main characteristics of the person in the dream?  How do I describe their character/personality traits?  How do those traits show up in me?  Every dream is a portrait of the dreamer.  Be compassionate with your self as you explore this as dreams often show us extremes to get our attention.


  2. Interpretation: Interpretation is the bringing together all the information of the first two steps in the dream tending into a unified picture. The interpretation is a coherent statement of what the dream means to you personally.  Useful questions are: What teachings from this dream are most meaningful to me? Why?  What is the central message of this dream?  What is the dream advising?  Is the dream directing me or guiding me?  Is there an overall meaning of the dream for my life?  Dream interpretation bests sums up the meaning of the dream for your life, while also potentially containing an application to your waking life.  While dreams may have many interpretations, the dream interpretation that arouses you, provides insights, or liberates you from behavioral patterns is most likely the correct one.   Follow the small, subtle clues in the dream.  If there is some image that keeps coming up for you, tend that one no matter how insignificant it may seem.   If an interpretation does not seem clear, then make an argument for and against the interpretation you are reviewing.


  3. Ritual: Ritual is a symbolic behavior that is consciously performed.  Ritual is a demonstration of respect and reverence that taps us into higher consciousness, higher power.  A dream ritual is a physical act that affirms the message of your dream.  It could be something practical, or it may be symbolic.  Keep your physical rituals small, subtle, physical and performed in silence.  In short, make them doable.  Talking tends to place our dream experiences on an abstract level.  Talking about a dream lead to its contamination.  Instead of a vivid, private experience, we wind up with an amorphous chat when we talk about dreams.


Imagination and dreams come from the same source…both are communication from the Divine.   Happy dream tending!

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