Tag Archives: Montague Ullman

Not possible for this author to make an exhaustive list of good books on dreams. The reader may be pointed in one direction, and rightly choose another better suited for her!

Indispensable Books on Dreams

Wow. Where to start? Freud started by stealing the title used by Artemidorus of Daldis. Oneirocritica [Greek for “Interpretation of Dreams,”] written in the second century A.D. is considered the capstone dream work following centuries of compilations and dictionaries on dreams. Robert White in 1970 translated the work into English for the first time, rendering it more of a useful historical artifact than an actual how-to book. Sigmund Freud used the German title Die Traumdeutung also meaning “The Interpretation of Dreams.” Published in October, 1899, Freud chose the publication 1900 as he figured both he and the Gregorian calendar were about to usher in a new era. He was right, for as much as modern psychology and psychiatry rail against Freud, he is often the starting point of direction and discussion. These two books must be on any list about Dream Interpretation.

As one can see with the list of Worst Books on Dreams, there are so many books out there, it may be helpful to discuss large classes of books that offer wisdom on working with the dream, then cites some examples. So the groups of the best books on dreams would start with this list:

  • Classics in Psychiatry and Psychology of Sleep and Dreams
  • Authoritative Works on Nightmares, Night Terrors, and Sleep Disturbance
  • Compendiums of several Different Authors approaching Dreamwork
  • Emergent Methods of Working with one’s own dreams or the dreams of others
  • Dream Books that challenge the existing order without tearing down the framework of established methods

Classics, starting with Freud and Artemidorus, make people think. Jung was not as clear a writer as Freud. Memories, Dreams, Reflections with Anelia Jaffe categorizes many of his own career-impacting dreams, such as the dream of the Phallus and the dream of the “spectre of the brocken” from which we derive the archetype of the Shadow. In order to render his 20 volume collected works more accessible, Bollingen Press published a book serving as a compilation from articles on dreams across many of his writings. Classics also include some of the works that may be mentioned below by Allan Hobson, Montague Ullman, or Calvin Hall.

Nightmares: Ernest Jones was an early Cabin Boy of Freud, a yes-man of sorts whose journal articles and other writings seem to reflect less of his own work with dreamers and more compilation of the work of others. At the risk of blasphemy on a number of fronts, he was to psychoanalysis what the Apostle Paul was to the early Christian Church – a good organizer but no author of the gospel. He was ever during Freud’s lifetime a dutiful adherent to the Freudian party line. He may be best known for his three volume biography of Freud, but IMHO his best work with the 1930 “On The Nightmare.” He traces most of his work on this to 1911, after which time it lay dormant for a number of years. John Mack made a serious contribution to the Nightmare literature in 1970 with his book Nightmares and Human Conflict. In the 1993 “Counselling in Practice” series, Counselling with Dreams and Nightmares, there is a great chapter for therapists working with nightmares followed by a creditable distinguishing chapter on PTSD, nightmares, and night terrors,  written by Delia Cushway and Robyn Sewell. Three books, three different eras, and this writer recommends that the last should be first and the first, last.

Not possible for this author to make an exhaustive list of good books on dreams. The reader may be pointed in one direction, and rightly choose another better suited for her!
Not possible for this author to make an exhaustive list of good books on dreams. The reader may be pointed in one direction, and rightly choose another better suited for her!

Compendiums or anthologies from different perspectives: The best of these is a series in the State University of New York [SUNY] Press. The General Editor of this SUNY series in Dream Studies is Robert Van de Castle, who passed away January 29th, 2014. But the editors of each book in the series reads like a “Who’s Who” of contemporary dream thought. These include Gayle Dalaney [Editor, New Directions in Dreamtending], Anthony Shafton, [Editor, Dream Reader: Contemporary Approaches to the Understanding of Dreams], and Kelly Bulkeley [Editor, Among All These Dreamers: Essays on Dreaming and Modern Society]. Length does not permit a longer discussion or more examples, yet each of these comprehensive works each present a different point of view, and in the the reader is certain to find herself or himself. The book that flipped my switch (from a counselor who happens to be a personal dreamworker to a therapist who also works with dreams in practice) is Stanley Krippener Dreamtime and Dreamwork, one of a couple dozen worthy works in the Jeremy Tarcher of Tarcher/Putnam Series on Consciousness studies. Krippener and contributors approach dreams from a healthy variety of different, and at times, conflicting approaches. This clarifies one’s beliefs more than a monograph that argues a specific point.

Emergent methods of working with dreams always excite me. Never do I feel that I have outgrown an approach. Clara Hill, a former president of the American Psychological Association, has made a viable academic tradition of training graduate students in an approach called the A-B-C, and I can read her work and marvel of how she has taken a wispy topic and given it simple form. A good working book for the public and professionals alike is Dream Work in Therapy: Facilitating Exploration, Insight, and Action. This book could fit into the category above, as several authors contribute; however, Hill offers a model that is simple with clearly defined moves at different stages of a dream. An even simpler model is proposed by Robert A Johnson in “Inner Work,” a small paperback and a quick read, nonetheless effective in implementing a four step approach. Johnson takes a dream of one of his clients, and simply carries through a discussion that has practical application for any lay reader or the most experienced dream clinician. Montague Ullman became the Johnny Appleseed of Dream Groups, co-authoring with Nan Zimmerman the wonderful book Working with Dreams. Ullman has contributed into dream ethics a democratic belief that the authority over the dream should rest with the dreamer, and not with an “Analyst” or doctor who has a higher level of knowledge about the dream or dreams in general. Many well-operating dream groups today spring from this notion.

Clinical applications of dreamwork find apt expression in Natterson’s The Dream in Clinical Practice and Bonime’s Clinical Uses of the Dream. More speciifically Jungian approaches can be found in Maryann Mattoon’s Applied Dream Analysis: A Jungian Approach. Erich Fromm’s Forgotten Language should not be forgotten. For non-Jungian approaches, another valuable strain began in 1953 with the publication of The Meaning of Dreams by Calvin Hall. 1953 was also the year of pioneering REM research published by Aserinsky and Kleitman which started to usher in the end of the Dogmatic period of psychoanalysis and its monopoly on dream analysis. Medard Boss analyzed some 20,000 dreams by his estimate in practice and offered also in the 1950s a detailed if not systematic departure from psychoanalysis in his 1957 work, The Analysis of Dreams. David Foukles has made tremendous post-Freudian contributions in A Grammar of Dreams.  And Finally, Allan Hobson’s The Dreaming Brain has become since the 1970’s the watershed book about the deterministic functions of Brain Science in dreaming.

Stephen Aizenstat’s Dreamtending is a model that draws on existing traditions, respecting the work of elders in traditions from academic to shamanic. Aizenstat’s approach invites the dreamer and those in dialogue with the dream to allow the dream images their own autonomy, their own voice, their own existence. Whereas Johnson’s Inner Work offers ideas about how to concretize the image, like suggesting the dreamer get some memento or keepsake in sight to remind the dreamer of the image, Aizenstat follows the model of Hillman’s Archetypal Psychology which leaves the images in their own realm and encourages the dreamer to meet the image there on their own ground, the liminal space of dreamtime. This honors the wisdom of the image by not holding it captive or dragging it into the light of day.

It would be a better service if this were more of an annotated bibliography, or, on the other side of brevity, a simple list of books. But my biases are my biases, and the reader of this blog should form her own opinion based on her experiences with the texts over and above what this author says of them. Sweet dreams!


MSoyer Reclining Woman

“I had a Dream about You Last Night!” When to Share, or not to Share . . .

“I had a Dream about You Last Night!” To Share, or not to Share?

Some people would avoid this statement, which sounds like the worst of pick-up lines! Truth is, many times it is inappropriate, ill-advised, or just plain wrong to share this information with someone. Yet at other times, bringing forward this information clarifies the dream and benefits both the dreamer and the be-dreamed. Let’s take up the “Don’ts” before we take up the “Do Shares.”

MSoyer Reclining Woman

Don’t # 1: Don’t pollute the workplace with an inappropriate share! watercooler1

Perhaps your dream was about a subordinate or about a superior. It may even have been a peer, often less dangerous. But when there is a power imbalance, even the best-intentioned sharing of a dream can suggest something on the waking plane that comes to the attention of employment law violations. Sexual content with a superior might suggest, rightly or wrongly, a desire for preferential treatment. A boss who hears a dream with romantic or even non-romantic overtones may question the subordinate’s motives in sharing the dream at best and might suspect gold-digging at worst. Or an unscrupulous boss might think of a way to exploit the dream Sharing with a subordinate might make that person wonder why he or she was the object in a dream, and may result in suspicion or guardedness. Even sharing with a peer, if overtly suggestive or even ambiguous, can create a “hostile work environment” if it is unwelcome.

Don’t # 2: Don’t share dream content that might embarrass the character of the dream.

Actually, I hear this sometimes in the dream group where residents share community. Since they are in a therapeutic process together, this can sometimes come off OK, and sometimes not. The rule, as with most other forms of humor or insight, is that people appreciate when a speaker engages in self-deprecating humor or shares their own corrective epiphany more than humor at the expense of others or hanging out someone else to dry for their behavior. So it is more okay to say “you were in my dream and I did a silly thing,” than it is to say, “you did something silly in my dream last night.” This is just a common sense form of social grace, perhaps, but it is a norm violated with enough frequency that it bears mentioning.

Don’t # 3: Don’t share a dream about a person in front of a group of people.

Even a harmless dream can put someone on the spot if it occurs in front of the water cooler. The object of the dreamer may feel a need to perform, laugh off the dream, and may be more concerned about what others are thinking in the moment. If they were told the dream one on one, then they may have a different, and perhaps less guarded reaction.

Enough restrictions. Now for what to DO. Sharing a dream with a person you dreamed about can deepen the dream experience in a meaningful way. Also, if acknowledges that maybe the dream represents some common meaning or task that you and the person in your dream share. So if your motives are sound, and if the situation falls in one of the following categories, reach out to the person involved, and share the dream as long as if feels safe for all and appropriate in timing.

Do share the Dream # 1: Your Spouse or Partner Appears with you in the Dream

Less so in our contemporary culture, but in many settings the sharing of dreams around the breakfast table has been an accepted and honored occurrence. And if you do not absolutly have to know the traffic report, the weather, or who was on the red carpet last night, dream sharing with your spouse or partner is a person-centered and loving way to start the day whether they joined you in the dream or not. Listening to your partner’s dream is also an act of love regardless of your presence or absence as dramatis personae.

Do share the Dream # 2: The Neglected (or Negligent) Friend

How often do I have a dream of someone that was once a more important part of my life than Kleeat this time! My college roommate recently sent me a Holiday card featuring his marriage of six months ago – of which I was unaware. He inhabits my dreams a lot, and what an opportunity that presents to reach out. After all, he and I spoke of sharing a Personal Mythology years before David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner wrote of one. So when one of us appears in the dream of the other, he and I are more likely to be able to help each other in working out the imagery of the dream than one of us might be independent of aid from the other. In fact, a dream about Mark called “Sanctuary” about 20 years ago has been the basis of many recurring dreams I have had dealing with growth and the quest for learning. So the friend can help with the dream, and the dream can help with the friend – by giving you both an entree for reaching out and talking about life, what is happening now, and the fact you miss one another.

Do share the Dream # 3: When Someone’s Health may be an Issue

OK, we have many more dreams that something bad is happening to someone we like and love than actually occurs in real life. I have a dream a relative is dying, has cancer, or is in someway weakened or debilitating. That does not give me clearance to call them up and vomit my morbid fears on them. But maybe it does suggest I call and start a conversation. I do not even have to bring up the dream, unless spontaneity suggests candor is appropriate. In reaching out, the friend may have something to tell me. Maybe my call or visit is an opportunity for that friend to share something on their mind – about me or not, about their health or not. More than 9 times out of ten I do not bring up the dream. But in nearly every case, I appreciate the dream has encouraged me to reach out. It is the connection that counts, and dreams perpetually remind me the subtle, amazing, and sometimes dramatic ways in which we are all connected. For that, I am today truly grateful!

Ao this is a partial list – feel free to post your own “Do’s and Don’ts” in the “Dream Loves a Dream” comment section!

What Dreaming Women have Taught a male Therapist

What Dreaming Women have Taught a male Therapist

Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera

In an early meeting with Count Vronsky in Tolstoy‘s classic novel, Anna Karenina,said, “if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.” As a younger therapist, armed with an advanced degree and no shortage of opinions, it was my thinking that people could easily fit archetypal patterns as defined by their dreams. Perhaps they would fit into one of Carol Pearson’s dozen in “Awakening the Heroes within: Twelve Archetypes we live by” or her earlier work featuring six archetypes. And in truth, these were helpful tools in finding the proportion of different qualities that seemed to be afoot in the dreams of the patients participating in dream groups during the 1990s. Using Pearson’s Heroic Myth Index, which is now sold separately as the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator or PMAI, (*) the patterns of patients dominant and repressed archetypes made a lot of sense.  Yet it quickly became apparent that the complexity of the human spirit and the multiplicity of dreaming contexts made it seem ridiculous for dream “interpretation” to reduce people to the shell of someone else’s archetype. And echoing Anna Karenina, Carl Jung wrote that there are “as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life.” Each dream encapsulates one or more of those situations in life in which we find ourselves, and the pattern may resonate with other patterns, but is unique to the time, place, and individual.Jung

Carl Jung:There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life.” 

So here is a top ten list of things I have learned through the dreams of those I have worked with in therapy. This is separate and apart from what I have gained from my own dreamwork, which merits a different article:

10) How we receive a dream may say as much about us as the telling of one of our dreams:

Sometimes when someone is sharing a dream, a member of the group cannot contain laughter. This is often the nervous laughter (like me laughing at my grandfather’s funeral visitation with my sister in a way that my mother never forgot or forgave!) It is important to make the detting for sharing a dream as safe as possible, and yet that unconscious laughter may indicate that the dream content is touching deeply – and in a frightening way – a member of the group. It also happens from time to time that the dreamer cannot access any feelings about the dream, but someone listening who cares about the dreamer may have an emotional reaction. So themes of codependency or transference surface repeatedly in dream group, one one does not have to be the “protagonist” to gain therapeutic benefit.

9) Relationships with others are “such stuff as dreams are made of:”

Freud decided our purpose in life is “to work and to love,” but I think the Beatles were closer in their summary: “and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” The adage rings true: few people on their deathbed regret that they did not put more time in at the office. Dreams make clear our interactions with people: A woman two years from a divorce dreaming of her ex-husband, recently remarried, as an angel; another woman who dreamed of her abusive ex-boyfriend as the Pope; these are not mistaken images. The dream suggests these women over-idealized their former mates to a saintly point that was unrealistic. Behind each of these images there is a female dreamer whose capacity to love and to bond is admirable – and more a statement about themselves than about the undeserving  object of their affection. Deb Leinhart, a local therapist of high regard, recently commented her belief that “99% of recovery work is boundary work.” Dreams offer rehearsal and experimentation with choices about boundaries – leading to more ownership on the part of the dreamer regarding their life decisions.

8) The soul has a longing for wholeness and repair

A woman I’ll call Ellie recently sat with me trying to put into frail words a dream experience she had. “It was more emotional than verbal.” As she went through step by step in the dream, Ellie accomplished the hard work of translating the images of the soul world into the framework of spoken English. A woman with a horrific abuse history, Ellie was able to relate the peace and serenity that came from elements of her dream, never fully able to comprehend the where or the why. Like many patients report, Ellie awoke wanting to return to the peace and the calming sense of the dream. So many of these dreams occur, leaving us in some way more tranquil, often without our notice of them, and certainly without our deconstruction of them for how to translate the message of the dream into action.

Certainly, dream analysis and homework from dreamtime may be helpful at times, but just as often I have to be comforted by James Hillman‘s view that the images of the dreamtime are not there for us to wrangle them into the daylight, where their message and their power is muted by solar consciousness. “therapy, or analysis, is not only something therapists do to patients;” writes Hillman in Re-visioning Psychology, ” it is a process that goes on intermittently in our individual soul searching, our attempts at understanding complexities, the critical attacks, prescriptions, and encouragements we give ourselves. We are all in therapy all the time insofar as we are involved in soul-making.” Dreams are part of that soul-making, even without our permission!

7) Dreamtime is patient:

Marie Louise von Franz wrote a fascinating book On Dreams and Death which conveys through case examples how the life’s work of the dreamtime continues into life’s final stages – and arguably beyond. There are some women I have had the privilege of working with for two years or more in dreamtime, and the evolution of their dreamlife can be amazing. Just as amazing is the gentle recurrence of dreams in similar or various forms until the life lesson is incorporated.

6) Lessons are repeated gently until the meaning is brought forth:

How true in the recurrent dreamscape. The other day, I checked in with a former client about her recurrent “tornado” dreams. In each one, she was giving instructions to her family about how to survive the tornado, and in each dream, no one listened to her. Now nearly four years into her own recovery, she no longer tries to control her family, has no need to shout for attention, and her family regards what she has to say. The tornado dreams have been quiet for a long time. “Letting go” was the lesson; now she is free to dream of other things!

5) Everyone, including the beautiful, the young, the brilliant, the accomplished, and especially the brash, all of these are vulnerable:

For those who still struggle with envy, dreamwork reinforces the “grass is always greener” rule. People who seem to have it all, still yearn inside for some of the basic things that seem to elude others. People yearn to be known and to be loved; to hold onto people and to things as they are, and occasionally to want power and control over things beyond their grasp. Perhaps some of the most fragile people are those who on the outside push people away the most. There is a richness in their dreams of relationship and longing, and working with their dreams has a sweetness that sometimes softens everyone in the room in a completely unexpected way.

4) If it is not happening, do not force it.

Words sometimes fail. Silence clarifies. Whatever I think I know, there is more wisdom in the group and in the dream images themselves than a facilitator brings to the group.

3) The act of sharing a dream with another, or the act of listening to a dream, increases accountability and ownership for one’s situation in life:

“if it were my dream, I would be looking at  . . . ” So starts out feedback often in these women’s dream groups. Sometimes there is some cross talk contained in the feedback – overly directive or overly interpretive of what the listener is telling the dreamer they should do. But more often, this type of sharing allows all the group participants to apply the generalized lessons of the dream to their own experience. Robert Johnson in “Inner Work” suggests that we avoid interpretations that take responsibility away from the dreamer. What I will sometimes ask is, “What do you think the dream is asking from you,” or “What choice does this dream seem to present to you?” 

Montague Ullman, who probably did more in the 20th century than any other human being to make dream groups effective and popular, was quick to say, ” “Confronting the message of a dream alone, regardless of one’s degree of sophistication, is to do so with all of one’s defensive apparatus ready to spring into operation should one et close to an unpleasant truth.” (From “Guidelines for Teaching Dreamwork”, in Dreamtime and Dreamwork, Stanley Krippner, Ed.)

2) Dreams are as unique as fingerprints

Having only worked with less than a couple thousand dreams of patients, it is certain I’ve not run across everything. But as many dreams as I have encountered that signify pattern, each has a style and a variation that is specific to the dreamer. 

1) No issue is too large or too small to work its way into dreamtime:

One question I often ask people in workshops is whether they would agree that sometimes when sleeping on a problem they have an answer in the morning. Not everyone agrees, but even some of the most diehard skeptics will say yes. They do not always attribute this to dream wisdom, but to me it is evidence of problem solving on a small scale. Then there are the “Big Dreams” that deal not only with our major life crises but seem to answer larger riddles of the Universe. These dreams have a “numinous” quality. And the dreamer just knows. Knows what? It is hard to say. But whatever that knowing is seems to spread beyond the dream into the larger imagination of how to handle life on life’s terms.

(*) Note: Rather than purchase the PMAI, I would recommend the purchase of the book for each individual who might be interested in taking an archetype index. For less than the price of the test, you have a lasting guide to all the theory and context.