Imagery Change Analysis

People often ask me, if the dream is indeterminate from the outset, and the dreamer's responses co-create the dream as it unfolds, what do we make of the imagery? If it is, as I've said elsewhere, a "mutable interface" between the dreamer and the emergent novelty of the dream, or a "moment-to-moment vectoring" of the dreamer-dream relationship, how do we analyze it for its meaning? I am working on a paper about this very question, but I want to say a few things that might help you in analyzing imagery from this perspective.

Instead of asking, "What does this image mean?" which implies that the image is fixed, and has a fixed meaning, you might ask, "How does this image change in the course of the dream?" and "How does the imagery's changes reflect the dreamer's changes in belief, attitude or response?" Through such questioning, you can assist the dreamer in understanding how the reciprocal relationship between dreamer and dream content is a growing, or regressing process--that the dreamer is either moving toward integration of some issue, or moving away from it.  Also, when you focus on imagery changes, you end up analyzing two or more discrete images that, while different, may fit within a broad class of images. Take for instance a dream of a 48-year-old woman that I worked with yesterday. Without telling you the whole dream, consider the fact that she started by driving a car, then was on foot and nearly run over by a tractor trailer, then was in a hotel awaiting the departure of a sea cruise on an ocean liner. When she reflected on the change of imagery, she was able to see that the car, the tractor trailer and ocean liner were all ways to get somewhere, all means of transportation--and that they were moving from smaller to larger, and from smaller capacity to greater capacity. She also reflected on how the movement reflected a letting go and depending on others. Her willingness to shift from an individualistic to a relational agenda was reflected in the shift of imagery from car to ocean liner. Significantly, while she was largely alone at the beginning of the dream, or with people who did not seem to have any direction or agenda, she was with her boyfriend at the end, waiting for their ship to come in.

Focusing on how images change will naturally guide the conversation toward classes of images and away from specificity. This helps the dreamer see that a series of outwardly disparate images can actually refer to a general life issue rather than to one specific situation. Those of you familiar with various hierarchical systems of life domains, such as the Eastern concept of chakras,  or Maslow's hieracrchy of needs, will find that this shift from specific to general imagery will help the dreamer understand that a dream may reflect a struggle /and or a resolution of a basic problem related to survival, affiliation, power, service, or any of the other main dimensions of life that have been defined in such comprehensive systems. This may seem overly complicated, but in actual practice it comes across as a natural, client-centered form of inquiry. To show you how imagery change analysis fits comfortably into co-creative dream practice, I will be posting a video of working with the woman and the dream that I have mentioned here.