OU blog

Personal Blogs

Design Museum

B822 Techniques Library 'Working with dreams and imagery'

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 5 Feb 2013, 06:05

There's a warning on this activity, that the techniques may draw up uncomfortable events from your past.

This also highlights a major problem with such techniques:they can throw up the unexpected.

I like to think I have ample experience 'working with dreams' ; I have used them to develop story-lines and ideas, even to some degree for personal cognisance so it felt like an obvious one to give a try.

Context is vital, picking the right activity or game for the people you are working with.

How well do you know them?

It also makes me realise that I'd like to be in a working environment with the kind of colleagues and friends where I could employ such techniques.

I feel like a big fail; there are two activities suggested for problem solving, or creativity, innovation and change: keeping a dream diary and this, which offers ways to explore a dream's meanings and to re-enter and work with this environment created by your subconscious.

There's plenty troubling me at the moment but I find repeatedly that holding onto a dream is like chasing autumn leaves in a stiff breeze.

Take this morning; just a few moments awake I recall I had been dreaming and that it had been a 'good one': vivid but apparently not memorable enough. I tried all the tips in the book to recover or return to the dream: you have to place yourself exactly as you were as you had the dream. I still can't get it; I feel like MacBeth clutching at the dagger; it is always just out of reach.

By way of example I have a snippet of a dream from a few days ago: returning to the campsite after some kind of trip or activity in the woods I find my tent has gone: everything has been removed, as if I had never been there. The plot is bare. Why should I be thinking this as I return to work after a two week break?

The 'activity' is then to work with and develop your feelings about this moment, been to re-enter the dream, not simply to see what happens next but to change or influence the outcome. This then MAY offer a solution or at least an understanding of your feelings so that you can deal with them.

How to work with a dream or metaphorical image:

  • Entering the dream
  • Studying the dream
  • Becoming the images
  • Integrating the viewpoints
  • Reworking the dream

Appreciating, reflecting, looking forward and emerging

P.S. I just returned to work and couldn't have entered a more friendly environment, my desk as I'd left it.

P.P.S. I realise why I am 'losing' my dreams: stress. I'm waking up with a jolt, some unpleasant thought in the back of my mind.

Steve Jobs was hugely influenced by Zen Buddhism; this I understand would play to the importance of intuition. Intuition alone is not enough; this for Jobs was also the product of intense effort to get his head around an issue; he immersed himself in it until, to paraphrase the historian E.H.Carr he could 'hear it speak'.




Glouberman, D. (1989) Life Choices and Life Changes Through Imagework, London, Unwin, pp. 232-6

Isaacson, W. (2011) Steve Jobs. Little Brown.

Share post


New comment

Yes unexpected things do crop up so we have to be mindful and responsible. Just made me think that health and safety assessment 'no rsk' culture shouldn't be so vehemently detested by me! I don't read biographies...but, I just might get a Steve Jobs one. Maybe you could recommend? Also, I either don't dream much or remember dreams...but recently I did remember a dream about being in childhood family context, and losing my iPad which I suspected someone had stolen...and going into a small shop/P.O. and being served by the devil although he was disguised, and the devils dog followed me out...then I went into a room where I was to take a multiple choice history exam, but unfortunately when I sat down I must have fallen asleep in the dream and woke when thevexam finished...but the American teacher was unexpectedly nice and let me do it while she sat and marked the others! Bizarre! Anyway, although I am a bit sceptical about dream analysis I do think dreams might reflect real stuff. Either re organising stuff learnt that day, or, what you ate, or, whether you are cold or hot in bed, or whether you have detected something around you eg. the recent noisy gales, or, current concerns or preoccupations. Perhaps even concerns that in the daytime one avoids thinking about. I have dreamt about the devil before, I really think the devil concept must have really intrigued me as a child! Not that I ever swallowed the God or Devil stories as true...although I did swallow the Jesus story...but that's a whole new topic and I seem to have rambled on abit! Sorry smile)

New comment

Ps, glad you enjoyed returning to work..that's nice smile Pps, you might well be right about remembering your stressors on waking shuts out you remembering your dreams...I also wonder if when you ( generic) are stressed then sleep patterns are altered...also, when stressed I personally sleep less, and I think my body might prioritise non REM sleep and so I actually don't have as many REM dreaming sleep periods during stressed times? ( conversely, when depressed I sleep more, and dream more)

New comment

Hi Jonanthan

there is another technique you can also try when awake which is helpful -

guided imagery

a type of meditation where in your thoughts/imagination you go to another place

some of these have specific things to do whilst there

others allow you time alone

and a third type brings forward others with whom you can converse

I find it helpful to use these as they are accessible at any time of day or night

also they can act as a positive aid to the dream techniques you are using, because they send messages to your psyche and subconscious that you are willing to talk, and more importantly, willing to listen

It may sound a bit odd but it does work and has a beneficial impact on your life


Design Museum

New comment

I strongly recommend Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, so much so that I have started a discussion group in Linked in.
Design Museum

New comment

Stress can send you to bed, literally to sleep and shut it out. I have done this before. Tonight I go to bed after an hour seeing how many turns I could put in on the indoor snow slope in Milton Keynes.
Design Museum

New comment

I will make some space to do some guided imagery: any suggestions on how to approach it (I tend to fall asleep doing these things, I find it easy to cat-nap).