Step 1: Prepare: Place a notebook and pen or pencil beside your bed where you can easily reach them. Before you go to sleep be very intentional. Ask the Dream Mother three times to bring you an important dream and help you remember it. Intentionality is probably the most important step. Don’t forget it.
Step 2: Describe: If you wake up with a dream in the middle of the night, jot down a few important images and actions that will trigger your memory in the morning. As soon as you can, flesh it out in your dream journal with a full and rich description. Give the dream a date, number and title. Write in the present tense to keep the dream more immediate: “I am at a party,” not “I was at a party.” Note as many details — colors, objects, actions, directions, etc. — as you can. Most important, record every emotion and where in the dream you felt it.
Step 3: Examine Symbols: Begin with the first symbol (activities as well as objects and their descriptors) and record your personal associations to it. Ask yourself: If I saw this symbol in a play, poem or film, what would I think it meant? Dream example: “I’m driving a big, old, outdated car down a dark and winding road. I’m going way too fast and feel out of control. I try to stop but can’t. Afraid I’m going to crash.” What would be the first symbol or activity you’d work with? Driving. What are your associations to driving? Then big, old, outdated car. Dark and winding road. Going too fast. Feeling out of control. Can’t stop. Afraid of crashing.
Step 4: Restate: After you’ve noted your associations to the symbols, briefly summarize the plot from beginning to end, substituting your associations for the symbols. You might summarize the above dream like this: My ego (the “I” in the dream) is in charge of my journey (driving a car down a road). The way I’m traveling (car) is outdated, mechanical (I’m in a car, not walking), unconscious (in the dark), too fast for comfort, and difficult. I feel out of control. I’m afraid I’m going to self-destruct but can’t seem to stop myself.
Step 5: Create an Emotional Bridge: Look for connections between your dream and your waking life. Dreams are pictures of emotions. List the emotions your dream ego felt in order of their appearance. Ask yourself: What is the most dominant or disturbing emotion in the dream? What triggered this emotion? When have I recently felt this way in waking life? What does my dream say about my emotional life right now?
Step 6: Reflect: Consider what actions or changes might be called for in light of the messages you received. Record your insights and intentions so you will remember them. If the dream feels especially important create a private ritual to honor it and the Dream Mother.
A final note: Keep at it, but give yourself some slack. You don’t need to work with every dream. Every few days, or as often as you can, pick out the most puzzling or compelling ones. Then congratulate yourself for the important work you’ve done and enjoy the wonderful new insights you’ve gained. I hope you’ll let me know if these suggestions help.
You can find Dream Theatres of the Soul at this Amazon link.
I too have suffered from despair since childhood. It began at the age of 11 when my father died. To this day there are many occasions in my daily life when I cannot get excited about something because I know it will not last and my pleasure will not last and I will die and nobody will care and nothing I have done will make any difference, and so what?