The Wisdom of Your Dreams: Using Dreams to Tap Into Your Unconscious and Transform Your Life: by Jeremy Taylor

The first dream book I read by Jeremy Taylor came out in 1983, 40 years ago. The one under review is Taylor’s final contribution, which came out in 2009, the year the Red Book was published. It is loaded with a career of insights garnered from his lifetime commitment to the psyche and to group process. Taylor was a Founder of the International Association for the Study of Dreams and devoted himself to carrying the value of group dream work into the world at large. Von Franz claimed to have worked with 75,000 dreams in her lifetime. Taylor…150,000 dreams. Hmmmm. While Taylor’s book may not be thought of as a “classic,” the criteria used in selecting books for this review, his work does have staying power.

In this book, Taylor distills out from his experience and his expertise 10 statements or principles on dreams and group dreamwork that are worth the time and space to give in his own words:

~ All dreams come in the service of health and wholeness.
~ The generic message of every remembered dream is wake up and pay attention.
~ No dream comes to tell you what you already know.
~ Only you, the dreamer, can say with certainty what meanings your dreams may hold.
~ Certainty about the meaning(s) in a dream usually comes as a wordless “aha” of recognition.
~ All dreams have multiple meanings.
~ Dreams speak a universal language of metaphor and symbol.
~ All dreams reflect the dreamer’s inborn creativity and ability to solve life’s problems.
~ All dreams reflect society as a whole, as well as the individual dreamer’s relationship to it.
~ Working with dreams in groups builds community, intimacy, and support and begins to impact society as a whole.

The last tenet is probably the one with the greatest consequences for his understanding of group dreamwork, as it underscores the importance of doing group work with dreams in the larger sense. It reminds one of Taylor’s roots. He started out as a community organizer. The other nine statements can possibly be picked up from reading Jung on dreams; clearly, Taylor incorporates Jungian psychology throughout his text. But this notion of building community through group dreamwork is a special feature throughout Taylor’s work. It turns out that group dreamwork works against anomie.

However, we know that Jung was especially suspicious of groups…which presumably would extend to working with dreams in a group setting. Why, you might ask? He felt that in a group the individual sank to the lowest common denominator defined by the group, thus forfeiting his or her individuation process to “group think” and “group behavior.” For Jung, groups were more like mobs.

Taylor, while largely advocating a Jungian approach to dreamwork, celebrates what goes on when people regularly get together to work on their dreams. Group dreamwork builds connection and intimacy among participants. And, while he says that no special training is necessary to process dreams in a group, he has a very definite sense of what it means to work with dreams in a group context that is both effective and speaks to Jung’s concerns as well. This includes clear parameters as well as guiding principles that the group agrees to follow. We will get to those shortly.

It should be stated that the Jung Institutes, especially in the United States, generally include training in group process. I do not know for sure, but I suspect Taylor’s vast experience in group process and his approach to working with dream groups has infiltrated the institutes. Briefly, if you were to participate in a dream group using Taylor’s approach, here is what you could expect.

First and foremost, the group process is protected not just by confidentiality but by set parameters that establish a safe space for all involved. Jungians refer to this as a temenos or sacred vessel, in which individuals are not forced to turn themselves inside-out to participate, but rather speak from the head-heart connection on a voluntary basis.

In chapter 6 of this book, Taylor goes on to elaborate what he has learned over the many years of group dream work. Here you are brought into how a dream group “works.” There is also an appendix with a transcript of an actual dreamwork session.

After a touch-in and centering exercise, one dreamer presents a dream to the group either by reading or recalling his or her dream. The group listens, taking care not to interpret. The dreamer then repeats the telling of the dream. Individuals are encouraged to ask any clarifying questions as to the dream content, again careful not to interpret.

After questions have been asked and answered, the individuals in the group employ the “if it were my dream…” format that Taylor has made famous. The content that follows from the group is based on the individual projections of the responders to the dream.

Now, one may wonder: is the group not hijacking the dreamer’s dream and by projecting onto it taking the dreamer farther and farther away from the “truth” of the dream for the dreamer? Based on Taylor’s profound trust in both group process and the psyche, he would answer with a resounding “No!” By using the format, “If it were my dream…” the dreamer is assured that there is no pretense of knowing what the dream means for the dreamer. What is going on in the group is that each individual projects their own unconscious material and enhances or enriches the values present in the symbols presented in the dream. Judgment and interpretation are kept to a minimum, if not eliminated entirely.

In some sense, this is the same approach Jung uses with an individual when he asks the dreamer for associations and amplifications. Because dreams are polysemic, and because this is a group process, the dreamer benefits from the group as “resource.” Something is always added, not taken away in a dream group. In Taylor’s experience, there are regular and amazing “ahas” and an overall sense by dreamers of appreciation and insight that come from this approach. This in turn creates intimacy and community among the participants brought on by connection at the level of each person’s dream maker, i.e. the soul.

Those who wish to have this experience are invited to sign up for the upcoming Dream Study Seminar sponsored by the Library and facilitated by Laura Hensley, LMHC, who has considerable experience and expertise in running dream groups using Taylor’s approach. Her co-facilitator will be Chris Dixon, LMHC, a Jungian psychotherapist working out of Lakeland and a member of the Library board. The group will be limited to the first 8 participants to register, but with the option to be placed on a wait list for the next group. We are anticipating this as an ongoing offering from the Library.

Dreamwork is a spiritual practice for Jungians. The dream group gives a safe place to work with your dreams and will not only evoke a sense of commitment to the group, but it brings a positive attitude toward the unconscious itself. This is a good thing! Jung reminds us: “The unconscious shows us the face we show it.” This approach also moves dreamwork out of the consulting space, and hence one could see that Taylor is “democratizing” the process of working with dreams. Also, he would insist, a good thing. If this appeals to you, please consider signing up for the Library’s first group.

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