Varieties of Approaches to Dreamwork
Dreaming can be viewed from an immense variety of perspectives. Some of these look at how dreams address physical health concerns, stress management, or problem solving. Other perspectives focus on the nature of intersubjective communication: is dreaming metaphorical, symbolic, personal, or archetypal? The approach may focus on individual psychodynamics, developmental processes, group dynamics, psychic phenomena, altered states of consciousness and state dependency, or stages of spiritual development. Dreaming can be approached from such disciplines as psychoneurology, sociology, economics, religious studies, politics or literature. In short, just about any area of human interest can be meaningfully projected onto dreams and dreaming. Dream imagery is, after all, in part introjections of any and all realms of human endeavor. Whatever we think, whatever we feel, whoever we are is the stuff of which dreams are made. This is not to say that this is all that dream groups are. As Marvin Minsky attempts to demonstrate in The Society of Mind, to a large extent just the opposite is equally true: our waking experience is an externalization and manifestation of our most intimate and numinous intrasocial structures and processes.
Regardless of the perspective from which we approach dreaming, most framings end up being either 1) interpretive, 2) investigate objective measures (REM sleep, EEG patterns, indications of lucidity, arousal, incorporation of waking stimuli, etc.), 3) emphasize data collection for comparative purposes (content analysis), 4) categorize types of dreams or dream patterns, 5) study personality traits of groups of dreamers (pain tolerance, anxiety level, creativity, expectations, etc.), or 6) compare dream content with other areas of human experience (literature, mythology, daydreams, channeled dispensations, hypnotic phenomena, hallucinogenic experiences). We find comparative methods, such as content analysis and pattern identification methods of various types, objective studies of brain chemistry, social studies of psychological characteristics of dreamers (recallers vs. non-recallers, creativity, physiological adaptation, cultural expectations, etc.), and subjective experiments which are phenomenologically based. Clearly, dreaming may be approached from a broad number of research methodologies depending upon our purpose. These approaches reflect the priorities of different quadrants of the human holon. None of these are inherently better than any other, but each is indeed superior for particular tasks.
For example, objective methods are superior when social consensus is important and when waking problem solving and application is desirable. Subjective methods, in particular phenomenologically based ones, are superior when self-exploration, which is largely independent of the input of others, is desired, yet one still desires the maintenance of some degree of objectivity. Phenomenological methods are also superior when the researcher desires to suspend reality claims to the best of her ability and when description is emphasized. Most approaches to dreamwork have tended not to be phenomenologically based in that subject dream experiences are generally not evaluated in terms of how these experiences appear to the dreamer herself, or to those aspects of herself that have a personal stake in the experience.
Researchers and interpreters inevitably read into dream accounts whatever it is that they are looking for. If we are looking for archetypes, we see archetypes. If we are looking for repeating patterns we are likely to find them. If we are Freudians, dreams are about libido and thanatos. If we are Jungians dreams are full of shadow, archetypes, and individuation. If we are fundamentalist Christians, dreams tend to be either the hand of God or the work of the devil. If we are scientific materialists, dreams are random epiphenomena.
Most dream research emphasizes the psychotherapeutic, physiological, or cultural nature of dreaming rather than the dreamers own reflexive awareness of their dream experience. Consequently, most dream research up into the twenty-first century has not been phenomenological in approach. Reading in our schemas, biases, and world views occurs not only when we look at someone elses dream; we routinely do it to our own dream recollections. It can even be argued that this process is unavoidable, because we have no choice but to view the dream (and life itself) as Kant would say, through the schemas of our own subjective experience. While projection may be unavoidable, awareness of projection and attempts to reduce it are both worthwhile and important goals. Otherwise we will simply find in the dream what we are looking for and little more. We will simply go away from the experience validated in our own delusions.
Dream Sociometry: A Phenomenological Approach to Dreamwork
Dream Sociometry is an approach to dreamwork created by Joseph Dillard in 1980 based on the sociometric methodology created by psychiatrist J.L. Moreno in the 1930s. Dr. Moreno, a younger Austrian contemporary of Freuds, is most widely recognized as the developer of psychodrama. He also created the role playing procedures made famous by T-groups and sensitivity groups as well as by Fritz Perls and Gestalt therapy. Dream Sociometry means the measurement of dream social groups. It assumes that dream characters can be productively approached as if they are aspects of self which form internal social networks or intrasocial groups. The nature of these intrasocial groups is explored through a process of character identification, or structured role play. Preferences which are stated by each character in response to a structured interviewing process are noted in a grid called a Dream Sociomatrix. Elaborations of these preferences are collected in various Commentaries. Tabulations of this data can be used to form a visual presentation of the relationships of the various dream group members. This depiction is called a Dream Sociogram.
Dream group member explanations of their preferences are written as character elaborations in the Dream Sociomatrix Commentary. Dream group members are then asked if they could change the dream group in any way they want, would they, and if so, how would they change it? The resulting elaborations are collected in the Dream Commentary.
If, and only if, all dream group members arrive at a consensus on recommended changes within the dream group, these may be written as a Dreamage. A dreamage is used as a potent metaphorical tool for integrating and transforming consciousness.
Each dream group member is then asked the question, If I were this dreamer, living his waking life, with all of his daily relationship, work, financial, spiritual, and health concerns, would I live his life differently? If so, how? Responses are noted in the Waking Commentary.
Next the dreamer recalls some waking concern or worry. It doesnt have to have anything at all to do with the dream. Each dream group member is then asked the question, If I were this dreamer, this is how I would handle this life issue: Elaborations are noted in the Life Issue Commentary.
An Action Plan is then developed. It consists of those waking life changes that have been recommended by dream group members which the dreamer is willing to implement in her waking life. These are charted and monitored on a weekly basis.
The Dream Sociogram is created and information about dream group relationships and their relevance to associated life issues are written in the Sociogram Commentary.
Each dream group member is now asked the following question: The reason why I am in this dream and this dream group came together is… The resulting elaborations are collected in the Dream Summary Commentary.
Dream Sociometry has been used in the treatment of agoraphobia, anxiety disorder, depression, relationship counseling, identity disorder, PTSD, and career counseling. For a full explanation of the methodology, see Dillards Dream Sociometry.
In the 1990s the methodology was expanded to address waking dreams, whether manifested as personal life issues such as death, disease, financial, or interpersonal concerns. It also addresses other forms of waking dreams, such as social nightmares like 9/11 and global warming, and cultural dreams, such as religious, mythic, and literary themes.
Outline of the Phenomenological Approach to Dreamwork
Phenomenological approaches to dreamwork have as an aim the minimization of the projection which is an unavoidable component of all interpretation. Paradoxically, most do so by trusting the validity of highly individual and subjective personal dream reports. What does it mean to rely fully and heavily on the dreamers own introspective reports of their dream experience? What does a thoroughgoing phenomenological approach to dream research look like?
The fundamental purpose of phenomenology itself may at times be the same as that of dreamwork, or it may be very different. Husserlian phenomenology has the goal of being a rigorous science, which aims to identify the recurring or essential structures of the contents and processes of consciousness. Phenomenological approaches to dream work share this methodological aim of carefully observing the contents and processes of consciousness. The Dream Sociometric methodology can be used for this purpose, particularly when one tabulates preferences, reviews elaborations, and studies associated patterns of intrasocial organization. Generally, however, dreamers will primarily use phenomenological methods when they desire a method which helps them to suspend their waking bias when they approach a dream. They are not content to always discover what they suspected all along to be true.
It is important to remember that what is being studied phenomenologically is the state of consciousness of the dreamer at the time that he investigates the recalled dream narrative. Inferences about dream consciousness are normally made, but they are only that – inferences. We are not working on the dream itself but rather on our memory of the dream. Consequently, dream phenomenology does not deal with dreaming in the strict sense. It deals with dream state residue, which may be similar or radically different from dream awareness itself.
A thoroughgoing phenomenological approach to dream research gathers introspective reports from other aspects of self in addition to the assumptions of waking identity and its dream identity, which is referred to as dream self to differentiate it from waking identity. In this regard it differs from Husserlian phenomenology, which relies on the introspection of the subject, who is generally assumed to be the researcher. This method breaks down somewhat when altered states of consciousness are being explored. Clearly, the researcher who is reporting on an acid trip is not the same as the researcher who is reporting on night blindness. The destructuralization of the researcher becomes more pervasive with Dream Sociometry, gestalt, and other such subjective approaches to dreamwork where there are many subjects. There are as many potential researchers as there are discrete internal identities with which to identify. In phenomenological dreamwork the monolith of identity is destructuralized and consciousness is observed from the perspectives of its relative components.
The Phenomenological Reduction
Each individual dream group member has its own distinct consciousness. This is not a theory or a hypothesis. It is a demonstrable fact that you are urged to explore until you yourself are convinced of its truth. The distinct consciousness of your dream group members are nonetheless generally and mostly self-aspects. They are, by their own testimony, not discarnate entities, extraterrestrials, gods, or devils. They are relatively autonomous internal perspectives of which you are aware, partially aware, or unaware. Some are prepersonal, some are personal, and some are transpersonal in their level of development. Based on their own testimony and that of other self-aspects, some are very healthy while others are either stuck, sick, or both. The cause, origin, or meaning of a particular dream group member is an entirely different issue from the nature of its individual consciousness. Interpretive and more projective approaches look for meaning and find it in what the character is assumed to symbolize. Phenomenological approaches, on the other hand, emphasize the consciousness of dream characters themselves, not symbolic meanings. The distinction between the consciousness of a particular dream group member and where it may have come from basically distinguishes phenomenological approaches to dreamwork from most other descriptive approaches. This step is called the phenomenological reduction (epoch`e). It is a methodological step of stripping introspective data, such as dream characters, of their status as mental facts occurring within a real world. For dreamwork, the real world is the real world of dream experience. Interpretive approaches tend to view this real world as a type of epiphenomena dependent for meaning and relevancy on the broader, more rational, more relevant, and more meaningful domain of waking consciousness. In other words, such dreamworkers search for what a dream and its contents mean to the dreamer and his waking reality. The dreamer approaches the dream narrative with his own set of biases. These form a set of assumptions, an inchoate set of hypotheses, if you will, that direct attention while both limiting and determining what he will and will not see in the dream narrative. So the mental facts occurring in the real world of dreaming are explored to see what relevance they have for the real mental (and physical) facts of waking life. This has been the case since before Joseph interpreted dreams for Pharoah. Phenomenology, on the other hand, suspends the presumed correlation between introspective data and a real world. Introspective data are not treated as reports coming from a real internal world. Instead, the data is examined and described in their own terms, regardless of where they might have come from or what they may indicate about reality.
Phenomenologically oriented dreamwork, then, does not attempt to base dreaming on its meaning for waking consciousness or to require that dream accounts say something real about dreaming itself. The consciousness of each dream group member is taken at face value. Relevancy is based on its subjective reports, not on what expectations, assumptions and intersubjective meanings waking identity wants or needs to read into each unique dream group member consciousness.
By suspending belief in any real world that the phenomenon may have come from, the phenomenological reduction removes from consideration both the (presumed) reality status of the phenomenon and any possible causal link between the phenomenon and something else. We are no longer assuming the dream group member is more or less real than waking identity. We are no longer assuming dream group member elaborations are more or less true than those of waking identity. We are no longer assuming, at that moment, that they are aspects of ourselves, guidance from God, random biochemical epiphenomenon, or any other particular pet theory. We suspend all such assumptions and then draw our conclusions from their self-reports. We then look for patterns within those self-reports. Those patterns and the correlations among self-reports give us a phenomenological foundation for understanding a dream and its contents.
Once engaged in phenomenological reduction, the dreamworker can neither attribute a reality status to the dream group member and its elaborations nor infer the existence of something else as either a cause or effect of the dream group member. Inferred relationships to dreaming, waking life issues, the universal unconscious, relevancy to life processes such as individuation, biochemistry, day residue, are all suspended. The dreamworking phenomenologist, if she is to be consistent, cannot even attribute reality to herself. Such assumptions are simply suspended. Neither the content that is experienced through character identification nor the subjective processes of experiencing the identification are regarded as either real or unreal; they are not regarded as clues to something real beyond them. This approach is radically at variance with most objective methodologies as well as interpretive approaches to dreamwork. It most closely resembles the four-fold negation of the brilliant Madhyamika sage Nagarjuna, which overthrows Aristotelian logic, by not accepting as a foundational premise the Law of the Excluded Middle.
What are the advantages of taking such a stance toward dreaming? There are advantages that are specific to dreamwork and other advantages that are profoundly supportive of the evolution of consciousness. The phenomenological reduction disengages waking awareness from its customary attitude of assessing dream group members, their attitudes, feelings, and behavior, based on how real they are or are not, how meaningful they are or are not to them. Instead, identity, now expanded through identification beyond previous waking awareness, is aware of the phenomenon itself – the experience of being the dream group member and being those attitudes, feelings and behaviors. This qualitative richness is observed and described now by the dream group member, not by waking identity. It is more accurate to say that it is observed and described by both waking identity and the dream group member fused as one. This act of observation and description occurs without the usual resort to waking concepts and categories of waking awareness. Such constructs as waking identity, Dream Self, and dream characters are based on some assumed reality status for both the perceiver and the perceived. We do not know if waking identity is more or less real than dream group members, if Dream Self is more or less real than dream group members, or if one dream group member is more real than another. Instead, all such judgments are suspended so that all states of consciousness and sentient beings may be placed on the same ontological footing. With the implementation of the phenomenological reduction, waking experience is no more or less real or illusory than dream experience. By loosening awareness away from the typical way that we describe things, the phenomenological reduction equalizes dream group phenomena, because they are no longer observed and described with an underlying motive of ranking them according to some hypothesized reality status. The phenomenological stance, when applied to dream groups, allows the dreamer to receive all dream group members and their attendant experience equally and in their fullness. The result is powerful in its spontaneity and numinousness. Both kratophanies and epiphanies are experienced in life-transformative immediacy. Interpretive approaches feel safer because they are just that – interpretations; protective mental screens are raised between the overwhelming immediacy of blinding light, overpowering energy, and humbling majesty. Fear keeps this door closed for most of us most of the time.
The result of the utilization of the phenomenological reduction with dream characters deprives them of independent reality, what Buddhists call bhava, or own-being. The more that we do so, the more we deconstruct our own reality and the more we experience the absence of beingness wherever we look within ourselves. It is replaced with sunyata, formless emptiness, devoid of either being or non-being. Make no mistake: this is a causal level transpersonal psychospiritual discipline if approached from a through going phenomenalistic perspective.
The Eidetic Reduction
As we have seen, the suspension of dream reality claims is quite similar to what Husserl termed the eidetic reduction in phenomenological method. With the eidetic reduction, the phenomenologist attempts to identify the essential structures of human consciousness, rather than the ephemeral content or the purely personal features of individuals consciousness. In brief, the eidetic reduction is a method of imagining possible variations of the phenomenon under study. In Integral Deep Listening, the possible variations are imagined not by the experimenting dreamworker, but by the contents of consciousness themselves. Dream group members and the personifications of life issues imagine the possible variations. The gathering of varying subjective reports from various dream group members results in sometimes similar, sometimes radically varying introspective reports into the nature of experience in the recalled dream. Such variations in accounts are exactly what the phenomenologist is looking for. The Lamp Post disagrees with the Sofa, which disagrees with the Shitsu, and all of them disagree in their patterns of preferences with Dream Self.
For example, a dreamer recalls a dream of a burning building. She thinks, Ah, this is about that argument I had yesterday! This is a hypothesis formed by waking identity. It represents one of many possible perspectives. If she blithely assumes that her assumption speaks for the entirety of her identity, her investigation will stop. She has focused on the etiology and meaning of the experience rather than its consciousness itself. If, however, she were to interview various dream group members such as the fire and the building, she would probably experience a considerable amplification of her consciousness, not to mention her understanding. She might even discover that the argument of yesterday is only incidental to the concerns of her dream group members. She may come away wondering if her waking agenda is both uninformed and narrow, even disrespectful of the agendas of other aspects of herself.
Understanding of a dream, which is often the goal of our dreamwork, is merely insight, and insight will only take us so far. The amplification of consciousness itself, the transformation of limited world views, is an entirely different matter. Even if these other aspects of herself basically confirm her hypothesis, if she follows the IDL interviewing structure, they are likely to go on to elaborate how and why she loses her temper and make concrete suggestions about what she can do differently to resolve this internal conflict as it manifests in her relationships. In addition, it may suggest a dreamage, a consensus reorganization of the dream group, as a personal myth of higher order psychic integration. All of this is secondary to the potential that exists in the opportunity to own and reintegrate ones beingness as building and fire. The consciousness of fireness is rich, fierce, and empowering. When totally integrated, consciousness is fundamentally expanded. The experience of being the building awakens new possibilities of who she is. These experiences far transcend both understanding and insight. That is because they involve identification, becoming rather than preferring the objectification of analysis. That will come later in the process.
If Fire and Building express opinions that are totally at odds from her own assumptions regarding what they are about, then her waking hypothesis about why she had the dream is not only disproven; she will probably approach it with amazement and new respect. Perhaps Building will say, I need to burn down. I have to die in order to be reborn. Your anger is your attempt to avoid looking at your fear of letting go. The argument of the day before is then perhaps viewed as a catalyst for the addressing of a much more fundamental issue for the dreamer. Perhaps Fire elaborates on the nature of that issue. It might say, I purify in my uncontrollable aliveness and spontaneity. Because you cannot control me you are frightened of me. And so I come out in a perverted form, as an argument.
Is this the meaning of the dream? Is this the true interpretation of the dream? Such questions miss the point. Phenomenologists do not seek to limit reality by forcing it into some box, no matter how beautiful and desirable it may be. Does a diamond have one true facet? Does a diamond have one real meaning? Do you have one true self? Does your life have one real meaning? The sad truth is that many people waste years trying to find both and therefore experience needless anxiety if they have neither. An even worse outcome is if they become convinced that they have found their true self and that they know their lifes true meaning. At that point they stop searching, because they have managed to repress the innate ambiguity and polyvalence of both self and life. True Believers, they have drunk the cool aid, and now they want everybody else to drink it too. Permissive and open-ended ongoing feedback from your self-aspects provides a both/and approach to life rather than an either/or approach. It first demonstrates that dream groups are polyvalent, that many forms personify varying purposes and norms, each valid within its particular context. There is no one correct meaning but many pragmatically expedient attitudes, feelings, and behaviors which are internally consistent but which may violently clash with other perspectives. From this experience we gradually draw the experiential conclusion that life itself is a dream that is created and experienced in very much the same way. We open to it; we relax into it. We withdraw all of our projections onto others and ourselves; we smile at our Atman project, our need for constant assurance that we are someone, that life matters, and that anything exists that has lasting value.
These words are not a negation of life or of purposive action within it. What you do matters; who you are matters more than you know; we need you to contribute your uniqueness so that we all may benefit from the extraordinary expression of spirit that you are. However, when you take yourself too seriously, when you attempt to grasp and hold life, you experience life as suffering. Misery is optional. Integral Deep Listening is designed to provide you experiences of legitimate, authentic internal perspectives that are not based on either suffering or misery.
We begin to see how the phenomenological method helps to unknot long-tangled waking assumptions and biases. They come to be viewed as presenting one alternative, one variation, of many possible introspective reports about life. We come to see waking identity for what it is: a habitual adaptive structure of thought and feeling which is developed to get out of our family alive, to pass classes in school, to make friends, to get a job, to get people to put up with us and maybe even love us. We begin to see that we have mistaken this arbitrary adaptive response to our particular environment for the entirety of ourselves. Instead of growing beyond it, instead of deconstructing our identification with it, we build the walls of our prison higher and deeper until we are the living dead. When you interview your dream group members you will find that many challenge or contradict the convenient myths constructed by your waking sense of self. Your sense of who you are will expand as a result. Important information and relevant perspectives will still be left out, valuable perspectives and recommendations for your integral life practice that are available from other self-aspects. This endless wealth of consciousness can be overwhelming; at some point we have to break away just to digest what we have grown into.
Two different levels of eidetic variation in phenomenological dreamwork
There are at least two different levels of eidetic variation in phenomenological dreamwork. The first regards the dream narrative. While the dream narrative provides both the phenomena, in the form of each dream character, and its interactional context, it does not provide the consciousness of the dream group member itself. This exists quite independently of the dream narrative. The narrative is a dead letter. Dreamwork that focuses on interpreting dream narratives is dream pathology; it is in the business of performing psychic autopsies. Phenomenological approaches feel more like the return to health after a long illness. You feel life that courses in its richness through your being; aliveness itself is electric, no longer taken for granted. Each self-aspect that you interview will have its own insights about who you are, about your waking life issues, and what to do about them. This information may have little to do with the dream. It will transcend and include the dream just as it will transcend and include your waking sense of who you are. Your dream group members exist independently of your dream narratives. They have needs and opinions that transcend the context of the dream account, which is, after all, the dream told from the perspective of Dream Self, as remembered when you awaken. It is told from your perspective, not the perspectives of other invested aspects of yourself. Each self-aspect has its own hypotheses about the purpose of the dream narrative. It has its own story, which for it is as legitimate as the story you tell yourself. As such, each dream group member has relevance as an object of phenomenological study in its own right, completely separate from the dream narrative.
The second level of eidetic variation in phenomenological dreamwork deals not with the dream narrative but with variations and similarities in the consciousness of dream group members. Regarding the dream narrative there are at least three sub-levels of eidetic variation. First, we have the account offered by your waking self, which remembers the dream. We generally mistake the narrative for the dream itself, as if it were the one true and accurate account, since, after all, it is what we experienced! Second, we have the accounts offered by the various characters in the dream. These are unknown unless interviewed. We are limited to the first dimension of the second level of eidetic variation in phenomenological dreamwork if we do not interview at least one of the characters in the dream. Third, we have the account which is a compilation of the perspectives of interviewed self-aspects and waking identity. This third dimension does not follow automatically from the second; it must be understood and made a priority. All three of these levels are relevant; all three of them are legitimate. What we usually do with the recalled dream is create a waking myth. What we can do with the accounts offered by the dream group members themselves is expand and transform our consciousness through identification. What we find with the compilation of all three aspects of the eidetic variation is a view of the intrasocial culture and intersubjective consciousness of those aspects of ourselves which manifest in a particular dream group. The third is most likely to present an accurate phenomenological rendering of the dream narrative because it encompasses the first two categories. The creation of the Dream Sociogram is designed to provide a window into this level of eidetic variation.
Imagining Eidetic Variations
When we apply the phenomenological eidetic reduction to dreamwork we have a method of identifying the essential structures of group consciousness. The eidetic reduction is a method of imagining possible variations of the phenomenon under study. In Dream Sociometry, this imagination takes two forms: 1) hypotheses, created by waking identity, as to a) the life issues of concern to the dream group and b) regarding their patterns of preference; and 2) dream group member identification itself.
Based on the testimony of at least some dream characters, specific dream group members are brought together by a common investment in one or more life issues. Notice that this statement is based on the phenomenological methodology, not on projection by waking identity. Because it is based on phenomenological data rather than waking assumptions, it is neither projective nor interpretive in the usual sense of these terms. That is, it does not reflect projections or interpretations by waking identity. It does reflect majority or consensus projections and interpretations by interviewed self-aspects. Therefore the phenomenological method does not eliminate the perils of subjectivity, it merely kicks the can down the developmental road, so to speak. The delusions of waking identity are infused, and thereby watered down, by the delusions of other self-aspects. Because English, grammar, and its associated network of meanings are creations of waking identity, interpretation and projection can never be dismissed entirely. Each dream group member is invested in some specific way in a particular issue or agenda which is shared by other aspects of self. Because of this common investment, the fate of each of these dream group members is inevitably bound up in what happens to the others and to the fate of the life issue. This is a state of interdependent co-origination and existence.
Waking perspective is only one of a number of world views that are equally valid in understanding the genesis of a dream group, its shared life issue(s), and their resolution. The eidetic reduction involves phenomenologically imagining variations on this perspective offered by other invested aspects of self. These variations are derived from elaborations elicited from dream group members by character identification. They are of two basic types:
1) Variations that no longer appear to be the phenomenon under study – counterexamples and limiting studies. This kind of variation helps identify the limits of the phenomenons essence.
2) Variations that still seem to be examples of the original phenomenon, even thought they include different features. This second kind of variation helps reveal the phenomenons essence.
The essence or eidetic structure of any phenomenon includes all of its features that cannot be eliminated by imaginatively varying the phenomenon. Such features remain evident throughout the imaginative variation process despite attempts to imagine examples of the phenomenon that would lack these features. The essence is arrived at through the method of eidetic reduction. It is an accomplishment rather than a pre-given fact.
For example, if a dream phenomenologist is studying dream group conflict, he or she would perform an eidetic reduction by first having an actual experience of dream group conflict, such as a nightmare. Perhaps she has the hypothesis that dream groups gather for conflict resolution. She then imagines a series of conflicts which are variations of that first experience. In other words, she would recall a dream in which conflict was either experienced within herself as Dream Self, or between Dream Self and another or other characters, or between two or more dream group members. She experiences a nightmare, a dream fight with one or more dream characters, or between other characters in the dream. Another alternative would be for another dream group member or members to experience conflict within themselves not shared by Dream Self. In any of these cases, she would then imagine a series of conflicts which are variations of that first experience by identifying with dream group members and noting their preferences and elaborations. Lets say the conflict deals with flying a plane and crashing it. Some aspects want to fly. Other characters dont. Some dream group members blame other group members for the crash.
Dream group members which do not experience conflict by the plane flying or crashing or which express no opinion about the conflict shared by other dream group members would be examples of the first type of variation. Perhaps the sky and the ground either do not experience the conflict or have no opinion about it. Their elaborations and patterns of preference help identify the limits of intrapsychic conflict for the particular dream group. Their presence and elaborations may establish counterexamples and alternative ways of dealing with life issues that are non-conflictual. Such characters generally provide, through identification, a metaphorical model of life without attachment to the conflict. If the variations become so dissimilar that they no longer seem to be examples of dream group conflict at all, then they are counter-examples or limiting cases. Dream group members who do experience conflict also limit the phenomenons essence by clarifying when, where, and why specific instances of conflict arise. Perhaps they indicate that this particular conflict only arises when autonomous, impulsive decisions are made by Dream Self that nevertheless have disastrous consequences for other aspects of self. Such a pattern could be associated with intoxication, impulsive sex, and other types of behavior that dream group members themselves associate with flying. The features that are not shared are not part of the essence of dream group conflict since they can be eliminated by the perspective of one or another dream group member which lacks those features. This is a further example of the first type of eidetic reduction variation. These variations may force the dream phenomenologist to alter her original hypothesis that dream groups gather for conflict resolution. They may go so far as to disprove the hypothesis itself.
These variations alter certain features of the first experience (the recalled dream) of the phenomenon under study, in this case dream group conflict. Dream group members may remember aspects of the conflict forgotten or unimportant to Dream Self. For example, they may remember that the plane is full of criminals. They may approach it from perspectives not shared by Dream Self; the plane may want to crash. When those imaginative variations that are similar enough to the recalled dream (the experience of the dreamer) to be experienced as examples of dream group conflict, then the features they share will be potentially part of the essence of dream group conflict for this dream group because these features have not yet been eliminated through the method of eidetic reduction. They remain shared aspects of dream group conflict for the dreamer and for all interviewed aspects of self.
Eidetic reduction is an experimental dreamwork method in the sense that a working dream phenomenologist must actually identify with many different dream group members in order to imagine a large number of variations of the phenomenon under study. He does so without knowing ahead of time how the phenomenon will appear to all these different aspects of self or what their patterns of preference will be. He does not know in advance which of these identifications will prove resistant to variation and which will not. Creating hypotheses about such findings is both important to the direction of questioning and humbling in its consistent exposure of the chronic myopia of waking identity.
Summarization of the Purpose of the Phenomenological Method
Dream phenomenology aims at 1) observing ones own intrasocial consciousness in order to identify and describe the basic structures of the processes occurring in intrasocial consciousness, as well as 2) directly experiencing the basic structures of the dream group members, their attitudes, purposes, feelings, behaviors and interactions that one is aware of through these processes. The first aim is subjective and is known as noetic analysis; the second aim focuses on the objects or contents of consciousness and is known as noematic analysis.
Dream phenomenologists do not have to focus on examining the consciousness of many different dreamers in order to arrive at statistical data or empirical generalizations about dream reports. Instead, each dream phenomenologist may observe his or her own dream experience and then imaginatively vary it by taking the roles of as many different dream group members as he desires. The dream phenomenologist is searching for structural patterns that seem constant across groups or sub-groups of dream group members. A further step is reporting any discovered patterns to other dream phenomenologists, who also undertake the method of imaginative variation in order to test and corroborate the reported essence. Of course, this method can be and has been extended to the phenomenological investigation of the waking dream, particularly through the interviewing of the personification of life issues.
A thorough-going phenomenological description of a dream would be a three-fold description of
1) the conscious processes that occur as the recalled dream is imaginatively identified with by its component dream group members, including any essential structures inherent in these processes (noetic analysis);
2) the dream group members themselves, including the essential features of each: attitudes, purposes, feelings, behaviors and interactions (noematic analysis);
3) the correlations between noetic and noematic properties.
This description, to be considered phenomenological, would also have to maintain the phenomenological reduction throughout, thereby eliminating presumptions and inferences about the relative reality of 1) waking awareness, dream self awareness, other dream group member awareness and 2), the objects of these awarenesses when they are each successively identified with.
Phenomenological methodology foregoes explanation in favor of description while suspending judgments concerning the reality or illusoriness of either conscious processes or the objects of consciousness.
Dream phenomenology is primarily a practice rather than a substantive theory. It emphasizes attentiveness to the processes and contents of recalled dream awareness. Through lucidity training combined with interviewing dream characters while dreaming, this can be expanded into a study of the processes and contents of dream awareness itself. It dispenses with attitudes that allow waking awareness and its concerns, assumptions, and biases to dominate reflexive awareness.
Dream phenomenology brings to dreamwork an emphasis on observing ones own consciousness closely, from a myriad of equally relevant perspectives. It supports the suspension of waking expectations and its associated reality judgments. The experimental procedure of eidetic variation clarifies the fundamental attributes of dream group member experience.
To date these fundamental attributes of dream group member experience have been found to include such qualities and foci as:
emphasis on self-acceptance
emphasis on autonomy and inherent self-worth
desire for the fulfillment of self-aspect needs and wants
movement toward integration, consensus, and greater cohesion
the transitoriness and therefore relativity of fear and death
preoccupation with the expression or resolution of one or more specific life issues
predictability, based on the assumptions and expectations of each individual dream group member
Each of the above statements remain hypotheses based on Dream Sociometric use of phenomenological eidetic reduction. They are not statements of fact and in themselves have no reality. This is the essence of the phenomenological reduction as applied to dreamwork. As it is experienced, first the autonomy of ones inner life is overwhelming, yet benign. Next comes an extraordinary growth in self-acceptance, followed by an increasing awareness of the dreamlike nature of life. As this experience ripens, the self-sense thins and core transpersonal qualities become normal fixtures of everyday awareness. These in turn thin into a growing awareness of innate abundance, joy, and luminosity. Life is sacred. These are not experiences of transpersonal states; these are adaptations to and awakenings into, the transpersonal as everyday consciousness.