a. Life situation and leftovers from the day.
b. Free associations to parts of the dream.
c. Common themes and the motives suggested by those themes.
d. Current, conscious psychological conflicts suggested by the dreams,
e.g. dreaming a disliked boss dies in a auto accident.
e. Life-long, usually unconscious psychological conflicts possibly
implied in the dreams, e.g. realizing a childhood wish that a
demeaning father would die or that "defying authority is the story of
Using insights from dreams
STEP FOUR: Make use of the insights from your dreams.
By accepting your repressed emotions and secret wishes, you have
"owned' a formerly rejected part of yourself. Most therapists believe
this is healthy. The insights may result in immediate, constructive
changes, but many people seem to gain insight (parts IV and V) but
make no behavioral (part I) or emotional (part II) or skills (part III)
changes in their life. Contrary to what Freud thought, it is very likely
that specific self-help projects will be necessary to make full use of any
It is important that a person not blindly accept an insight or
solution inferred from a dream as being the truth for certain. Dreams
should never be the sole source of a self-help plan. Our conscious,
logical thoughts must also lead us to the conclusion that a particular
solution to a problem is reasonable, the best we can do. We should
never avoid the responsibility for our lives by saying, "I was told in a
dream to do it." Dreams are not a dependable source of wisdom.
STEP FIVE: Try controlling your dreams to reduce unwanted
feelings, to solve problems, or to feel better.
Perhaps uncovering the obscure, dubious "meaning" of dreams
isn't all that important. Perhaps the real question is: Do your dreams
help you cope or hurt you? Several dream therapists think so.
A respected research-oriented psychologist, Rosalind Cartwright,
has for 25 years studied dreams of people in crisis. It is clear to her
that dreams reflect our current concerns--our worries or crises. They
are designed to warn us when something is wrong. Instead of
revealing deeply hidden, childhood based traumas and wishes, dreams
highlight the emotionally most important aspect of our lives yesterday
(which may, of course, be related to an early trauma). It is also clear
that bad dreams hurt us; they make us feel worse during the next
day, undermine our self-esteem, keep our attention on unpleasant