We are all dreamers, whether or not we pay conscious attention to these mysterious, spontaneous interior experiences.
As someone who has vivid and often bizarre dreams, I am fascinated with them. While I was on summer vacation, Jeremy Taylor did a workshop on dreams at my church. I was bummed that I missed it, so I did the next best thing: I checked out his latest book, The Wisdom of Your Dreams: Using Dreams to Tap into Your Unconscious and Transform Your Life, from the library.
When I opened the book, I expected something similar to what I see in most dream books: a discussion of what it means when you dream about x (where x = a specific event or item, such as losing your teeth or teeth). Taylor, however, doesn’t take that route. He talks instead about how dreams operate on several levels to reveal information to us about our deepest selves. According to him, dreams don’t come just to tell us what we already consciously know. Dreams reveal and help us work through our deepest fears, intimate relationships, health, work, place in society, our pasts and our futures.
Taylor even posits that there’s a purpose for bad dreams and nightmares. They are not just to show us horrible images and freak us out. Rather, Taylor says, nightmares are how the unconscious transmits information that needs to be remembered and can’t be forgotten. So nightmares are not just throwaways–they contain valuable content and messages.
In the book, Taylor doesn’t only talk about dreams, but he devotes most of the book to the importance of dreamwork through the safe space of dream groups.
For Taylor, the importance of dreamwork is not just for the dreamer, but for those in the dream group as well. Working the dream benefits everyone because the ownership of the dream through the language of dreamwork helps everyone to tap into his or her own subconscious. The key is that you don’t tell somebody else what his or her dream is about because you don’t and can’t know. You can only say what the dream would mean if you were the one who dreamt it. So instead of saying “well, that means you’re clearly struggling for your mother’s love and acceptance,” in the dream group or in dreamwork, you would say, “If this were my dream, it would mean I’m struggling for my mother’s love and acceptance.” Doing that may or may not lead the dreamer to what Taylor calls an “aha,” but framing it in that way makes the statements and interpretations less judgmental and less telling somebody else about his or her life.
Although the book doesn’t seek to explain the universal symbols of dreams, Taylor does walk through dream work and explains how to uncover the deeper sense of self and the different layers of the example dream(ers) used in each chapter. He also shows the fundamental effects working on dreams and understanding/uncovering their subconscious messages had on the people featured.
He uses a variety of dreamers: prison inmates, housewives, seminary students, himself. Some are reluctant to engage in the process and some are eager. But the end result for all of them is that the dreamwork offers a profound moment of understanding for them all.
At the end of the book, Taylor offers up a list of resources for further study in the appendix.
I’m in a dream group now that closely follows Taylor’s teachings, and I’m glad I read the book.
The other books I’ve read for the Women Unbound challenge have been memoirs and written by women. When I read this book, I didn’t know that it would count for the challenge. But it does. Taylor specifically points out that dreamwork is helpful for understanding the frustrations of groups that live in a patriarchal society. It’s an explicitly feminist text–something else I appreciated about it.
Women Unbound: 9/8