By Dr. Angel Morgan via DreamsCloud
It's time to normalize dream sharing. When I say dream sharing, I mean learning to share dreams that were experiences during sleep, in a healthy way with our communities in waking life. This is why it's important.
Dream sharing, when done in the right way, empowers individuals with sympathy, understanding, self-esteem, and a sense of community. Having an open mind to the experiences of others and co-creating a safe, non-judgmental environment are important elements for dream sharing.
There are many forms of healing in the world, and dream sharing in community is only one of them. The potential for powerful healing on many different levels of body, soul, and spirit exists in varying capacities within dream sharing groups worldwide. No matter how diverse the cultural contexts are with dream sharing communities, one thing they all seem to have in common is that they severely contrast any cultural context based on fear.
Dream sharing in community has happened for healing purposes all over the world, within various cultural contexts that embrace varying worldviews. Although worldview is not consistent from culture to culture, the practice of dream sharing is something many indigenous cultures from all over the world have in common, from one time or another, depending on the spiritual and political landscape of that era. In some cultures, including many households in North America, it is common for loved ones and especially couples to share their dreams with each other.
To share dreams one needs to feel that it is safe to do so. A popular approach currently practiced in dream sharing groups in the United States is Ullman's (2006) method, which requires a projective technique using the words, 'if it were my dream...' and a process that leads to the dreamer always having the final say about the meaning of her or his own dream. Jeremy Taylor (1992) is also well known for teaching a similar approach.
There are three main barriers to dream sharing in our world today: 1) cultural wounding, 2) ignorance, and 3) the belittling of dreams.
Although this is changing, one of the reasons dream sharing in Western culture is not as commonly accepted as it could be, roots back to a very specific brand of fear. During medieval times, in much of Europe, one could be literally tortured or executed for talking about dreams. Due to the fact that common medieval punishment for revealing such dreams ranged from torture to burning at the stake, it is no wonder people of the time would usually 'forget' their dreams! (1)
This problem still exists today for many people, but on an unconscious level. Many people may feel afraid to discuss their dreams whether or not they are aware that their feelings have their source in a piece of history much larger than themselves. Although no one I know is being tortured or burned at the stake for sharing powerful dreams, this particular collective memory could still be a factor preventing some people, whether Catholic or not, from feeling comfortable to share their dreams with others.
This is an example of cultural trauma that needs healing (Duran, 2006), and it is one more reason there is potential for healing through dream sharing in communities. What a relief it could be for those who feel connected to this past cultural trauma for whatever reason, to share powerful inner experiences, and have them validated rather than attacked.
How we react to fearful situations in life is unique to individuals, and impacted by the cultures we live in. How we heal from fear in dreams, or not, is also unique to each individual's dream education which may or may not be lacking in one's family and/or society.
One part of dream education involves learning one's own personal dream language, as well as getting familiar with universal and collective symbolism. Drawing from a larger pool of knowledge, while retaining subjective control of dream interpretation is a skill that can be learned -- but is absent in much of today's contemporary world. Sharing dreams socially, whether they are in physical space or online, are activities that can help people learn and develop these skills.
However, when people don't understand their dreams or how they are connected to their everyday lives, it is easy to falsely believe that dreams aren't important. What seems 'normal' to most people, is the experience of waking life, which is often defined very loosely as 'reality.' Once people begin to understand that their dreams have decodable meanings that apply to their waking lives, and they develop a common dream vocabulary with other people, they realize that dreams aren't actually as 'weird' as they once seemed on the surface.
Belittling of Dreams
Yet all too often, in Western culture we hear dreams referred to as 'weird' or the people who like to talk about dreams as 'weird.' Wouldn't it be a better world, if we took more interest in the meaning of our dreams, and of other people's dreams? In my experience, the answer is yes.
When people start to feel empowered by the dream knowledge and self-knowledge gained through dream sharing, they begin to realize that dreams only ever seemed weird because they didn't understand them. Which makes sense, because anything we don't understand... we call 'weird.'
In my documentary film, Linked: The Dream-Creativity Connection, American actor-director Michael Goorjian says, "No, guys at the gym are not saying, "I had this dream last night..." -- but if that same guy had an extreme dream, it could be very impactful on who he was" (Morgan, 2010). If that 'same guy' wants to share his experience publicly in the United States, he might not know where to go with it, for fear of being judged by an under-dream-educated society. If he is lucky, 'that guy' will find a partner, a dream group, a therapist, or an online dream sharing community to help meet his desire to integrate his dream in waking life.
No matter what time period or geographical location we are talking about, if people always knew what their dreams meant, without having to consult anyone else, there might not be as much potential for healing to occur by working with dreams socially. Could one of the social purposes of dreaming be to bring people together?
Yet it is interesting the way sharing dreams has not always been supported from a religious or political perspective. People healing and socially unifying through dream sharing was probably a threat to controlled leadership in the past.
If dream education and social dream sharing is a needed, and perhaps necessary piece to help support the survival of our species (Ullman, 2001) due to its ability to empower individuals with sympathy, understanding, self-esteem, and a sense of community, then it's time to normalize it -- because we need more of it.
1. Stevens, A. (1995). Private myths: Dreams and dreaming. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
2. Duran, E. (2006). Healing the soul wound: Counseling with American Indians and
other native peoples. New York: Teachers College Press.
3. Morgan, A. K. (Director). (2010). Linked: The dream-creativity connection.
[Motion Picture]. Independent.
4. Taylor, J. (1992). Where people fly and water runs uphill: Using dreams to tap
the wisdom of the unconscious. New York: Warner Books.
5. Ullman, M. (2001). A note on the social referents of dreams. Dreaming: Journal
of the Association for the Study of Dreams. 11(1). Retrieved from
6. Ullman, M. (2006). Appreciating dreams: A group approach. New York: Cosimo.
DreamsCloud is the world's leading online dream resource, with an interactive database of more than 1.8 million dreams. Offering a 360-degree approach to dreaming -- including a real-time global dream map, dream journaling/sharing tools and the largest group of professional dream reflectors -- DreamsCloud empowers users to better understand their dreams and improve their waking lives. They offer a free app for iOS called DreamSphere and curate one of the largest available online dream dictionaries.
Blog author Angel Morgan, Ph.D., completed the Dream Studies and Creativity Studies programs at Saybrook University. Her research can be found on academia.edu. Dr. Morgan also oversees the experienced dream reflectors at DreamsCloud, providing feedback and insight for dreams submitted by users worldwide.