This is a chapter from Gendlin’s book “Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams”. In my opinion, there are no other dream books necessary.
Gendlin said that the first question needs to be asked every time. After that, scan the list and have fun with it.
The questions are for the dreamer to ask the body. So, let the question drop down into the body. Wait for a minute to see if an answer comes!
If you are asking someone else the questions, let them know that they can speak the answers out loud or keep them just for themselves.
Question #1 comes first and then the other questions can be asked in any order.
1. WHAT COMES TO YOU?
What are your associations in relation to the dream?
What comes to mind as you think about the dream?
Or pick a part of the dream. What comes to you in relation to that?
What did you feel in the dream? [Page 10]
Sense the feel-quality of the dream. Let it come back as fully as possible.
Choose the most puzzling, oddest, most striking, or most beautiful part of the dream. Picture it to yourself and let a felt sense of it come in your body.
Or pick one part of the dream.
Then ask: What in your life feels like that?
Or: What does this feel-quality remind you of? When did you ever feel like that?
Or: What is new for you in that felt sense?
What did you do yesterday? Scan your memory of yesterday. Also recall what you were inwardly preoccupied with.
Something related to the dream may come up.
Questions #1, #2, and #3 offer three ways to get associations.
If some associations came, you need not go on and on to get more. You need not ask all three questions. You can come back to them later in relation to any part of the dream.
Visualize and sense the lay-out of the main place in your dream.
What does it remind you of?
Where have you been in a place like that?
What place felt like that?
First summarize the story-plot of the dream. Then ask yourself: What in your life is like that story?
Summarize the events of the dream in two or three steps: “first . . .and then . . .and then. . .” Make it more general than the dream. This can be done in several ways, if the first way has no effect.
Example: Crossing the River Dream
I had to cross this river, there was no way across, then I [Page 11] saw a bridge further down but when I got there it was only to an island in the river.
The story-summary might be: “First there seems to be no way, then there is one, but only part way. What in your life is like that?”
Or: “First you’re discouraged, then it’s better but not all O.K. What in your life is like that?”
Or: “First it’s one big gap across. Then it turns out there is a place in between.”
Story plot summaries let you ask: What is like that for you? Where in your life are you now lacking a way? What are you discouraged about? What seems like one big gap, all or nothing, right now? What might be like that island?
Take the unknown person in your dream. Or, if you know them all, take the most important. (Or take them up in turn.)
What does this person remind you of? What physical feel-quality does this person in the dream give you?
Even a person whom you didn’t see clearly may give you a bodily sensed quality.
With familiar people: Did the person look as usual?
Questions #4, #5, and #6 can be remembered together as Place, Story, and Characters.
Next, here are three ways to work further with the characters:
7. WHAT PART OF YOU IS THAT?
According to some theories, the other people in your dreams are parts of you. We aren’t sure that’s true, but try it out:
What feel-quality does this person give you? What sense comes in your body? You needn’t name it, just have it.
If no quality comes, ask yourself: What is one adjective 1 could use for that person?
Now think of that adjective or feel-quality as a part of you.
If that is a part of you, what part would that be?
You may or may not like this part of you, or know much about [Page 12] it. But let it be here for the moment, anyway.
Does the dream make sense, if you take it as a story about how you relate to that part of you?
Example: Birthday Present Dream
The others in the club asked me to let Bill sleep with my wife. It was supposed to be a birthday present for Bill. I didn’t like the idea, and I said she wouldn’t do it anyway. In that case, they said Bill could sleep with Aunt Beth.
Associations: “That dream is really crazy. I wouldn’t let them ask me something like that. I don’t know what club this is. O.K., what’s Bill like? Bill always does only the part of the job he likes. He is unscrupulous and imposes on everybody. Hmm…that part of me? Well, yes (laugh). But I don’t like that. I’m glad I’m not like Bill. But, umm, sure, there is that part of me. Get what I want. I’d run over everybody. I don’t let it come up much, even inside.”
Now he fills that into the dream. “She should sleep with that part of me? Hmm.”
8. BE THAT PERSON?
Stand up or sit forward on the edge of the chair. Loosen your body. Now imagine that you are preparing to act in a play. The play is tomorrow. Now you are just getting ready, feeling yourself into the role. You are going to play that character from the dream. Let the feel-quality of being that person come in your body.
You can actually do this now, or just imagine it, but be sure to do it in your body.
How would you walk on stage? With a stomp, or stiffly, or how? How would you stand or sit? How would your shoulders be? Don’t decide. Let your body do it of its own accord.
Exaggerate it. Let’s say it’s a ham play. Overdo it so that the audience would laugh.
What comes to you to say or to do? Don’t make it up. Wait and see what words or moves come from the body-feel.
See if you can take that with you. If you think of that character’s image again, does the quality come again in your body?
These questions can be applied to any thing in a dream, not only to people. As in Charades, one can say, “Be that wall” or any object from the dream. Wait and sense what comes in your body. [Page 13]
(For example, you are playing the wall. You stand. Suddenly it comes to you to stretch out your arm with a stiff blocking motion, and you say, “Halt!”)
You can also act your own usual way of being, as you were in the dream. Exaggerate it, see what it is when you let it be even more so.
9. CAN THE DREAM CONTINUE?
Vividly visualize the end, or any one important scene of the dream. Feel it again. When it comes back as fully as possible, just watch it and wait for something further to happen.
Wait for it, don’t invent anything.
Later: What impulse do you have, if any, to do something back at the image once it has done something of its own accord?
These three questions are from Jung and Perls. I have made the role of the body specific.
One of the three is often enough. You would not usually need all three at once. You can use the other two later, if you need them.
Questions #7, #8, and #9, can be remembered as three ways to work further with the characters.
The next three questions are about decoding:
What is that kind of thing anyway?
Some people think there are common symbols. Others don’t agree. Try this out, and see if it opens something in this dream.
What does some object in your dream “stand for”?
Take one of the main things in your dream, and ask: What is such a thing?
What is it used for? Say the obvious.
A bridge: it crosses from one side to the other
A river: it is a natural barrier
A policeman: an enforcer of the law
A letter: it brings a message
A tractor: it is used to plow the earth [Page 14]
A car: it goes somewhere
A train: it transports and can take you somewhere, but you don’t control its moving
Baggage: your clothes as well as what you take with you
Then substitute that into the story of the dream.
Dream of the Lost Baggage:
I got on a train and when it was already going fast, 1 realized I didn’t have my baggage. I had left it on the platform.
Substitute in: You are just beginning to move or change in some way so that you don’t control the vehicle once it starts. Now you realize you are leaving your usual stuff behind. Does that fit anything going on in your life?
What would you say is losing one’s baggage? For example, you answer: “Then one’s clothes are gone and one cannot look right. I need my clothes to make a proper appearance.”
Now substitute that into the dream: You are moving in some way and you have lost your usual proper appearance? Does that fit anything?
Anything “symbolizes” or “stands for” the use, function, or usual meaning of that thing. Substitute that into the dream. See if the dream makes sense when seen or thought of in that way.
11. BODY ANALOGY? ESPECIALLY: HIGH, LOW, AND UNDER
Something in a dream may be an analogy for the body. For example, a long object may be a penis, a purse may stand for a vagina. The car may be your sexual activity. A house may be your body.
Does this fit? The attic or other high place can mean thought, being in your head, far from feelings.
Downstairs, ground level, can mean feelings, being in your body lower down, grounded.
The basement, underground, or underwater can mean the unconscious, or what is not visible.
Odd-looking machines and diagrams often make sense if viewed as body analogies. [Page 15]
What in the dream is specifically different from the actual situation?
Exactly what has the dream changed?
Example: Wall Dream
A wall (which isn’t really there) ran the whole length of my apartment, dividing it in two long halves.
If the dream went out of its way to change the situation in just certain respects, ask: Why would it make just these changes?
Or: Does the dream picture something different in value, opposite from how you evaluate it in waking life? Does someone you think of as stupid appear unusually large and impressive in the dream? Is someone pictured small, silly, or disheveled whom you in fact admire? Is something you consider worthless represented as hauntingly beautiful? See if the dream “corrects” your waking attitude. If so, try out a more moderate attitude in between.
Example: Large Father Dream
In the dream, my father came to visit, but he was huge. Linda and I just came up to his boots. And our house was tiny.
Question: “Could it mean something, if I tried out saying that he is much more important to me than I tell myself? Let me be quiet and see if anything comes to me.”
Questions #10, #11, #12, are three decodings: Symbols, Body Analogy, and Counterfactual.
The next four are developmental aspects of a human being.
What childhood memory might come in relation to the dream?
If you think of your childhood, what comes?
In your childhood, what had this feel-quality from the dream?
What went on in your life at that time? What was it like for you? [Page 16]
14. PERSONAL GROWTH?
How are you developing, or trying to develop?
What do you struggle with or wish you could be or do?
In what way are you a one-sided, not a well-rounded, person?
Could the dream or the characters in it represent what you still need to develop?
Suppose the dream were a story about that? What might it mean?
Try the dream out as a story about whatever you are currently doing or feeling about sexuality.
Or: If it were a story about your ways of being sexual, what would it be saying?
What creative or spiritual potential of yours might the dream be about?
Are there dimensions of being human in the dream that you don’t take much account of in your life?
Thief in a Mansion Dream
This huge mansion was full of gold and antiques. I was a thief. I went in and stole the sheets from under the bedspreads. The bedspreads were gold. I left them slightly rumpled.
What would you say is the difference between sheets and bedspreads?
“Well, you need sheets, but bedspreads are just for decoration.”
Do you mostly spend your life on what’s needed, with little time for beauty?
“It’s true I don’t have much time for things like beauty, for myself.”
What about spiritual things?
“Do you mean my faith? I gave that up when I was 22.”
Well, what might come if you try saying: I’ve mostly used everything for work and needs. Does something in me want my life to be more than that?”
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“Circlework provided for me a space to reflect and feel connected to myself and other women. To be able to take that feeling—that space—with me day to day provided me with a sense of empowerment and reassurance to any challenges I may face.”
-NADIA, VANCOUVER, BC