Hi, Electric Dreamers. I am Bjo Ashwill and am writing a monthly column on my
experiences of creating a computer software program that does very detailed
analysis of dream narratives. You are welcome to visit my web site and check out
DreamSpinner, the software program I will be describing. http://www.spinner-soft.com.
In this column I shall describe, over time, how to use the computer's power
to store, group, analyze and retrieve information from our dreams.
DreamSpinner's greatest power is working with long "over time" dream
series, although it can work with individual dreams as well. How do metaphor
patterns change over time? That is the question that began my journey toward
This 3rd column will look more closely at the category (metaphor ) system I
created for DreamSpinner. I first became intrigued with the Hall/van de Castle
coding system years ago when I stumbled upon the book, "The Meaning Of
Dreams" by Calvin S. Hall. Finally, a logical system where I had a
structure to put those wildly amazing images of mine into. I liked the way
elements of the dream were categorized. The book described up to 16 categories I
found helpful. Things like Setting. Characters. Actions. Emotions. Objects.
When I read this book, in the early 1980's, I was computer illiterate. I
created a notebook with columns for those above 5 categories and began to list,
by hand, dream by dream, items into those 5 categories. Keeping in mind that I
now have over 3700 dreams recorded, you can imagine how daunting the task
appeared. (and indeed was.) I am not a patient person and was unwilling to work
slowly through those dreams, until I was 92 years old, to unearth the secrets of
Hence my interest in computers. A very useful device for many jobs. Later, in
the early 1990's I needed to categorize more specifically what was in my dreams.
I am eternally grateful for the Hall/van de Castle coding system. I based the
DreamSpinner category (metaphor) system directly from the Hall/van de Castle
system. (for a more complete description of that coding system please check out
the Qualitative Study Of Dreams Website: http://psych.ucsc.edu/dreams. (Domain
Here is a partial list of the basic Hall/van de Castle categories.
Success and failure
Misfortune and good fortune
Objects (Architecture, Nature, Implements, Body Parts etc.)
Modifiers (adjectives and adverbs)
Negative, temporal, food
Looks pretty simple. But then, each category has sub categories and the whole
system gets much larger.
- Level 1 - Characters
Level 2 - Character's Age
Level 3 - Adult
Level 2 - Character's Numbers
Level 3 - Individual
Level 2 - Character's Identity
Level 3 - Relative
Immediate Family Members
level 4 - Father
Level 3 - Social Role
And on it goes. In the Hall/van de Castle coding system, each dream is hand
coded to each of these sub categories. An example coding is Father: 1MAF
(Individual, Male, Adult, Father).
This is where DreamSpinner expands and is different. DreamSpinner uses every
word mentioned in the dream narrative. Many of those words had no place to be in
the original Hall/van de Castle system, since it wasn't built to use all the
words, because people hand coded events and objects. DreamSpinner semi-automates
the coding process by creating a "Dream Thesaurus" and putting like
meaning words together in a sub category.
I will use the example of the metaphor "water". Classic dream
dictionaries will say things like Water is the unconscious, or water is
emotions. One dictionary defines it as the embryonic fluid and Mother. They go
into more detail saying If you dream of deep calm water, then...
Rivers are often defined as the Life's journey. How the river runs will tell
you the progress of your Life's journey.
The Hall/van De Castle coding system codes nature, which is a sub category of
Objects. The coding symbol is NA. All outdoor objects found in nature are coded
NA. Water is coded NA right along with Heavenly bodies and plants. You would
then search out the water dreams from the nature dreams.
DreamSpinner breaks it down further, using informal categories found in G.
William Domhoff's book, "Finding Meaning In Dreams: A Quantitative
Approach." And creating sub categories to accommodate the words found in my
Earth And It's Mineral Elements
Natural Bodies Of Water
Small Contained Water
Water Connected To Oceans
Edges On Water
General Water Related
Water Change Of State
Water Used By People
Water Weather Elements
With this category system in place, you then DreamLink each word in the dream
narrative which hooks the individual word into the category for you. If you
choose to change it's category or duplicate the word into more than one
category, it is an easy edit. "Snow" for example is under at least two
categories. "Water Change of State" and "Water Weather
The next step is to chose your definition of a dream set you wish to look at.
Do you simply want to look at a dream set that has the word water in it?
Do you want to see all dreams in the "Water" category? (In my dreams,
that is nearly 1/3 of all my dreams.)
Do you want to examine only the "Natural Bodies Of Water?"
Do you want to only see the "Rivers" sub category?
Do you only want the word "river"?
Each of these queries will give you different information. All of it helpful.
It's like examining an elephant from different perspectives. You will gain
detail from each view which helps create the over all impression.
You see then just how uniquely personal and complicated a
"metaphor" can be. Add more complication. In DreamSpinner, you can
create dream sets for more than one metaphor at a time. For example, you can
look at the dream set "Rivers" and limit that set to only rivers that
As you can imagine, raging river dreams have different meanings than calm
rivers, or deep rivers.
I chose to create a Rivers dream set. I learned that out of 1120 linked
dreams 42 of them had words from the "Rivers" sub category. (which is
3.7% of all my linked dreams.)
I learned there is a higher incidence of Animals. The list of most frequent
characters was Strangers, Then The Dreamer and 3rd Animals. This is not the
usual spread from my base set (norming set) of all my linked dreams.
There is a higher incidence of usage of windows and doors. (transition
symbols). (This makes me wonder am I going IN or going OUT! From what to what am
I entering or exiting.)
There is a higher incident of Friendly communication social interaction and
Friendly helping interactions.
There is a higher incidence of POTENTIAL physical harm (Aggression) and a
lower incidence of actual physical harm. (This leads me to wonder do I see
possible aggression where none exists.)
There is a higher incidence of POTENTIAL Appear and less actual Appear. (This
leads me to wonder about potential creativity and why am I not allowing the
actual creativity to flower.)
Rivers often portray the current progress of relationships in my dreams. My
dreams use strangers and animals to show me how I'm doing with
"relationship" itself. Perhaps even relationship with aspects of
myself. These are not about specific relationships with people in my life. Other
metaphors are used for those.
Armed with this list of questions, I now know what to be specifically looking
for when I go into each dream of the River set and explore.
You see, DreamSpinner doesn't have canned answers. It just creates a wealth
of raw data from your own dreams to lead you into areas you might not of thought
of exploring. Next month, I will show you how this gold mine of data is created
for you. Meanwhile, I am creating a metaphor page on my Website (http:www.spinner-soft.com)
so people can share their dreams based on a metaphor set and share what they
think the metaphors mean to them. And read what others think it means in their
dreams. A community of sharing personal meanings of dreams. It will be several
months before it is up, but check us out every so often and see the changes. See
you next month.