I have written previously of how imagery can be used in a person centered manner to provide insight and facilitate understanding. Another traditional aspect of therapy which can seem alien to those of us operating in the here and now is the use of dreams in the therapy room. As my approach is integrationist I take a similar stance when a client wants to discuss a dream. If a dream is important to them, and they clearly think it is if they bring it into the room, then it is completely person centered to explore the dream.
I am prompted to write by a dream of my own which has stuck with me throughout the course of the day, the imagery and emotions very clear. Following on from my belief that if a dream seems important, then it is important, in the here and now, this dream has meaning to me. In examining my own dream I hope to show how dreams can be used in person centered counselling.
I awoke with a very clear image. In the dream I had removed my breasts, as easily as one removes a bra. They lay on the bed next to me, unharmed but separate from me, and I was calmly, and dispassionately discussing them with a close friend.
Meaning can only come from within. In this case it was not a sexual dream. I asked myself the question “What do your breasts mean to you?” The answer came immediately, they are a symbol of motherhood, of the nurturing of my children. I breastfed both of them, and was at one point a breastfeeding counsellor. Going a little deeper I have read the work of Melanie Klein and find her approach personally and professionally useful.
It occurs to me even as I write that one of the breasts in my dream had a bruise on it. Instantly I see the link to Klein’s theory of the good nurturing breast and bad denying breast. This reinforces my inital belief that the breasts in this dream represent my self as a mother.
Working in the here and now.
This is a time of change and flux for me, after years of being a stay at home mum I will be graduating soon and embarking back into the world of work. This has been planned, however as with all change it causes anxiety. The dream makes me wonder how much I am concerned about balancing work and family, in a way that I have not had to do. Will I be able to cope with not being instantly available as the good nurturing breast is? I have to remind myself that as a parent I have encouraged independence, believing strongly that children need to be viewed as individuals to grow and thrive.
This causes me to ponder on my own relationship with my mother, who worked throughout my own childhood, and with whom I am not close, and a whole other avenue of thoughts and investigation open up.
By exploring this one dream I have not only uncovered anxieties in the here and now, but going deeper have uncovered issues that are seemingly unresolved. If this were a session of therapy I might guide it to a close here, since it seems that there is a new area to be explored which might deserve its own full attention.
One dream, which stayed with me, addressed in a person centered way, but with my knowledge from other disciplines, opening up to me new areas of growth and personal exploration. Dreams can be ephemera, or they can be meaningful, only the dreamer knows the difference, and what can be more person centered than that?