Psychological Self-Help

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Looking for possible meaning
STEP THREE: Look for possible meaning in each element of the dream
(or skip to step 5 if spending hours searching for dubious meanings
doesn't interest you).
Before starting to decipher the dream, it is helpful to have the dream well
in mind, at least outlined and maybe written out. Also, you will probably profit
greatly from discussing your dream with someone or a group you trust and
can be completely open with, perhaps a dream analysis group (Ullman &
Zimmerman, 1985) or a therapist or an insightful friend, probably not a lover,
a parent, or your minister. It is important to realize that the first reaction of a
highly trained and very experienced dream analyst to a dream is usually: "My
gosh, I have no idea what it means." (If a snap judgment about the dream's
meaning does occur, the wise person might wonder if it is a mental trick to
avoid the real meaning.) So, don't be discouraged by doubts. The whole
process is like solving a great mystery with lots of detective work to be done
to uncover the motivations--the unconscious wishes and the defenses--
underlying the dream. 
Here are several procedures for investigating the meaning of a dream (in
method #3 we have already discussed Progoff's [1975] Intensive Journal
Carefully select someone (or a small group) to work with you over a period of
time--you can't keep a dream journal and analyze your dreams in a single
hour or two. After step one of relaxing and surveying your body, feelings and
mood, describe your dream as if it is happening right now. Be specific about
what happened and what emotions you experienced in the dream. Tell it all as
you remember it. No one should interrupt you or ask questions until you are
through. Be blunt and honest. Be graphic; don't leave out gory or
embarrassing details, that defeats the purpose. (Even if you are working by
yourself, tell yourself or write out the entire dream.) 
As you are telling your dream--and as others are listening to it--each person
should also pay attention to parts of the dream that fascinate him/her, bore
him/her, embarrass him/her, irritate him/her, make him/her want to confront
or rescue the dreamer, remind him/her of some past experience or of
something else about the dreamer, etc. These reactions may be resistance--
drawing your attention away from upsetting thoughts and feelings. These
avoidance reactions may be used to advantage by considering them as
possible clues to some of your own conscious and unconscious feelings which
may influence how you interpret the dream. 
The point is: Don't be in a hurry. Don't make snap judgments. Don't be
judgmental or moralistic, realize that "everything is true of everyone" (see
method #1). Remember your unconscious parts are very different from your
conscious parts (and the latter doesn't like it). Watch for avoidance
tendencies--"I don't have time today," "I won't get anything out of it," "my
partner can't help me with this." In reality, others can often see your
unconscious motives better than you can, but a helper should never insist
that his/her brilliant interpretation is right. The dreamer should take the lead
in analyzing his/her own dream. He/she can ask for more ideas or stop the
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