Dreams – A Summary

DREAMS — A Summary

This handout by Barbara McGavin is based on: Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams, Three Learnings from the Dreambook – an article in The Folio , Vol. 11, No.1, personal communications with Eugene Gendlin, notes on a dream workshop by Teresa Dawson and her own thoughts and dream workshop.

A fixed dream image is like something frozen. Only through your body’s experiencing does it unfold meaning, release captured feelings, bring past and future into the present to invoke change and growth. – Eugene Gendlin


  • Some of them are for processing the day that you’ve just gone through. When you wake up, they disappear quickly. Let them go. They have already done their work.
  • Some dreams come with you when you wake. They have feelings, moods, felt senses that linger even if you can’t remember the images. They don’t let you go. There are many things that you can do with these dreams. You can write them down, taking short notes, draw them, tell a friend or repeat the story to yourself. You can carry them with you into the day, tap into them, Focusing with them until you feel you’ve got the message or energy out of them. Then they will also vanish.
  • Some Dreams come from a deep source and leave a strong positive impact and impression on you. Even if they don’t unfold their message right away, take your time with them. Treat them like precious gifts, collect them like photographs in an album, look at them in time of need. Feel their nourishing, comforting, guiding energy again.HOW TO REMEMBER YOUR DREAMS
  • Take it for granted that your body holds your dreams.
  • Catch them before you open your eyes and sit up – go over them while still lying in bed.
  • Grabbing just a fragment will often give you the whole dream. Remember the fragment in as much detail as possible.
  • If you don’t remember them visually, be aware of the moods and feelings that come when you recall them, sensing how this lives in your body. That’s what your body carries forward from your dreams.HOW TO BE WITH YOUR DREAMS


    Keeping company with the different aspects of your dreams from Self-in-Presence can give a much larger context in which the dream can unfold. From a state of Presence, you can keep company with all the different points of view without becoming entangled within them. Take your time to sense Presence in your body before you begin to relate to the dream.

    Love and enjoy the dream whether it opens or not

    Whether this dream is interpreted doesn’t really matter – you will have lots more dreams every night. Notice and enjoy how inventive each dream is. Sensing forward a bit towards a growth step is far more important that ‘understanding’ the dream. Understanding is the ‘booby prize’.

There are usually many aspects and points of view that come in a dream. When we can acknowledge each of these aspects and hold them at the same time, we can be Present with them, not identifying with one more than another. This holds a space in which they can move.


There are many different avenues.

  1. You might sit with the sense of the whole dream, how it is right now in your body.
  2. You might select the main symbol of a recurring dream and invite the felt sense of the symbol and continue Focusing from that point.
  3. You might draw or paint the dream.
  4. You might want to keep the dream at a distance, observing. You can tell the dream in the past tense.
  5. You might want to re-enter the dream as if you are re-experiencing it directly. Tell the dream in the present tense. I would suggest that you ensure that you are firmly grounded in Presence before you do this and use Presence language.


Receiving nourishment from your dream. Exercise:

What did you do in a dream you wanted to do in real life? Take time to sense what that was like to have done it in a dream. Sense how your body experiences that. Take time to find a symbol that captures its quality.

Finding links between dream and reality

• You can see both dreams and real events as kinds of dreaming . Playing with this, you could look at any day of your life as a dream. You can approach your day as a dream story with dream characters and your point of view as the Dream Self.

As you are Focusing on a dreams you can get your senses involved:

  • Besides seeing a dream, listen to what’s being said or what the Dream Self is saying. Check for smell and taste and body sensations.
  • Remember the thoughts of the Dream Self and the Dream Observer in the dream. Also, you might be aware of the thoughts of the Dreamer (your waking self).
    Action steps arising from dreams:
    Sometimes it seems clear that you should do something in your waking life because of something that comes in a dream. When an action step arises from a dream, I suggest that you take time to do further Focusing on how your body as a whole responds to that step. That way actions that arise from dreams stay ecologically integrated within your whole being.FOUR POINTS OF VIEW IN A DREAM
  • The Dreamer – the person who dreams – your waking self. From here you can tell the story of the dream. You can have feelings and opinions about the dream.
  • The Dreaming Observer – the point of observation in the dream from which you can watch what is happening.
  • The Dream Self – the one that acts in the dream that the Dreamer is identified with.

The Dream – all aspects within a dream other than the Dream Self can be considered to be the Dream.

There can actually be several points of view within the Dream itself. Each aspect of a dream may have a point of view of its own. You can relate to any of these points of view. Each of them will give a different perspective on the dream. You might spend time with one or two of these aspects.


The Dreamer


Your relationship with your dreams
• how do you feel about your dreams?
• what do you think about them in general statements, opinions, judgements?
• how do you like/dislike them?

Your relationship with this dream:

  • how do you feel about this dream?
  • what do you think about it in general statements, opinions, judgements?
  • do you like/dislike it?
  • This is the attitude you hold towards them or the opinion you have about it, e.g. “I have no clue what this is about.” “It was really scary.” This may need some attention so you are not relating to the dream from this part of you as you move to entering the dream relationship space.
  • How would you describe this dream right now?
  • How would you explain it?

The Dreaming Observer

  • Take time to find the place in your body from which you can simply observe the dream.
  • Take time to sense it until it stabilizes. Watch the whole dream.
  • What would the Dream Observer say? Often from this position you can sense the essence of the dream, receive friendly advice, message or a hint. It could sum up what could be important as seen from that side.

The Dream Self

• We are usually identified with the Dream Self and have the tendency to interpret the dream from its point of view. It can be very valuable to relate to the Dream Self from a state of Presence, relating to it as if it is a part of us rather than our whole being. From this position we can listen for what it doesn’t want and what it does want. The dream is most likely to get stuck if we simply retell the dream from the Dream Self’s point of view. When we move into relationship with the Dream Self from a place of Presence, the whole canvas of the dream widens.

The Dream

There are many other things that you can do with your dreams that are detailed in Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams. These are just five that can form a fairly smooth process.

1. Felt sense of the dream

The sense of the whole dream. How your body responds to the dream as a whole or to aspects of the dream. Take time to find a symbol that captures the whole sense of it.

2. Take time to recall the dream in detail.

What you saw. What you (the Dream Self) felt and thought at each point. You don’t have to have the whole dream. Even a tiny scrap of a dream can be very powerful to work with. Try to get it in sequence. What happened and then what happened.

3. Let associations come

When you begin to think about the dream, what associations come to mind. Just notice them and notice what resonates in your body as you are aware of both, the detail and the association. Perhaps there are connections with what happened to you yesterday as well as in your more distant past. Allow all of them to come and then protect the dream from being swamped by them. Notice what associations already resonate. And then hold a space where something more/ else/new might come.

4. Take time to find ‘help’

Any living thing is positive in some way. Anthing which is beautiful is also a source of positive energy. We can get the felt sense of this in our body before we start to be with what is difficult. It is gathering resources so that we can strengthen Presence which then makes it easeir for us to face and keep company with anything which feels scary or stuck. If nothing is obvious in a dream then we need to look at the details for something which we have overlooked that may have positive energy in it. Sometimes they stand out because they are strange or unusual, a beautifully created piece of jewellery – but sometimes they are really ordinary, the door, the bed, the wall.

It is really worth taking the time to find some ‘allies’ and feeling the positive energy in our body before going on. This helps to strengthen the state of Presence.

5. Sense for how it ‘should’ be

Often the dream shows how it is at the moment. Sensing for how it would be if it was all ok can bring a growth step. But don’t do this until you’ve been with the two parts of the dream that are in conflict (‘disagreeing’) for awhile otherwise you might fall back into an old bias. Being with each part, with their Not-Wanting and Wanting can open it in unexpected directions.


This is probably the most important part in terms of a growth step arising from this dream. This simplifies the process of ‘bias control’ as described in Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams. Look for those places where you (the dream self) want to go in one direction and something is thwarting that in some way. It might be that you are trying to catch a particular train and it leaves without you getting on it. You might have a sense of what that is about in your life, however, don’t just settle for that. You might sense how it is from the point of view of the train. Perhaps it is saying you shouldn’t catch that train.

One of the things that is really important in bias control is to be with the part of you that was identified with the dreamer in the dream and with the part that was disagreeing in some way. Not taking sides so that you can be in Presence with the whole thing. This creates a space where something new can come from the side you are dissociated from.


These don’t have to be done in this order and you can come back to any of them at any point. You would not use all these ways of helping the dream open in one session. You might notice what avenue you are drawn to.


1. Place

Visualise and sense the main place(s) in your dream.

Notice what it reminds you of.
Perhaps you have been somewhere that has felt like this.
Especially notice anything beautiful in your surroundings and get a sense of that.

2. Story

Summarise the plot of the dream: first this happened… and then… and then. Abstract the plot from the content for example:

“I had to catch a plane to get to California but I had forgotten my suitcase and my passport. But somehow I got there anyway.”
First I was going somewhere, then I found out I had forgotten something important that should have stopped me, but it was ok anyway.

You are sensing for what is like that for you in your life right now

3. Characters

Take the people in your dream and sense for what this person reminds you of. You might notice if they are people whom you know or are they strangers. Even someone you don’t see clearly can have a distinct quality of their own that you can feel.
If someone is familiar notice if they seem the same as usual.

A part of you

You might notice if the dream makes sense if you take it as a story about how you relate to a part of you that is like that.

Being that person

Sometimes it is helpful to play the character so that you can get a full, alive experience of it in your body. Sense how you would walk, move, talk. Wait and sense how it comes in your body. It can be very helpful to actually do it.
You can also play being the dreamer.


1. What comes to you?

What comes to mind as you think about the dream or a part of the dream?

2. Feeling

What were you feeling in the dream? Sense it in your body.
Pick one part of the dream. You might choose the most puzzling, oddest, most striking or most beautiful part and sense that in your body.
Then sense for:

• what in your life feels like this
• what this feel quality reminds you of what feels new in this felt sense

3. Yesterday

Scan your memory of yesterday, what happened and what you were preoccupied with.


1. Symbols

Sensing for what some object stands for in this dream.
You might take one or more of the main objects and ask: What kind of thing is this? What is it used for? Be obvious:

A bridge: crosses from one side to another
A letter: brings a message
A car: goes somewhere and can be steered by the driver
A train: goes somewhere but has to run on rails, you don’t control where it goes.

Then substitute the symbol’s meaning into the dream and notice if it opens when seen that way.

2. Body analogy

Many things in the dream can make sense when seen as an analogy of the body. For example a house. The attic might mean the head, thoughts. The main part might be the rest of the body, consciousness. The basement, underground, underwater might be parts of us that we don’t want to acknowledge, our unconscious or what is not visible.

Gendlin writes that odd-looking machines and diagrams often make sense if viewed as body analogies.

3. Counterfactual

Notice what in the dream is different from how it is in your life. Notice exactly what has changed and how. Take time to sense how this might be a correction of how you usually relate to this.


1. Childhood

Noticing anything about your childhood that comes as you have the body feel of the dream.

2. Personal Growth

Sensing for what you are trying to develop in yourself. Perhaps the dream or the characters or objects represent what you still need to develop. Notice if the dream makes sense if you think about it as a story about that.

3. Sexuality

Perhaps the dream is a story about your ways of being sexual or about whatever you are currently doing or feeling about sexuality. In the dream something sexual can express a way you are that matters most in other contexts. Or the dream may not be overtly sexual but opens when you think about it in that way.

4. Spirituality

You might sense for how the dream is about your creative or spiritual potential. There may be dimensions of being human in the dream that you don’t take much account of in your life.


1. On from the end

Vividly visualise/sense the end or any important scene. Just stay with it and notice what comes at that place.

2. Sensing what would be right here

Take time with other things before sensing for this.

15 ways to Help the Dream Open is a summary from Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams by Eugene Gendlin.