Electric Dreams

The DreamSpinner Column: 

Working Dreams With The Power Of Computers

Bjo Ashwill

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  Ashwill, Bjo (2000 June). The DreamSpinner Column: Working Dreams With The Power Of Computers. Column. Electric Dreams 7(6). Retrieved July 14, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

Hi, Electric Dreamers. I am Bjo Ashwill and will be 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. 


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 creating DreamSpinner.

First, a quick introduction of myself. I am a counselor, a dream worker, a performer, writer and director. I have been interested in dreams all my life. My dad once told me that I used to tell him incredible stories. He now realizes I was describing my dreams to him. Too bad he didn't write them down for me!!

In the mid-1970's, I had finished my Master's program in Counseling Psychology, experienced a divorce and struggled with the debilitating results of Rheumatoid Arthritis. My dreams became a stronger fascination for me and I began to consistently write them down. Now, thirty years later, I am the proud curator of over 3500 dreams. The important question became: "How Do I Sort Through ALL that material and make sense of it?"

To get people up to speed on what DreamSpinner is all about, I reprint here the original Abstract I wrote for the Berkeley, California ASD conference where I first presented the concept of DreamSpinner. The present day evolution of that program isn't yet capable of all I envisioned. But step by step, it is getting there.

Presented At ASD Conference, 1996

Dream search has been going on for thousands of years. We peer into our dreams in many different ways and styles. Now the computer is an additional tool we can use to glean those insights. The computer is like a multi-faceted lens. We can choose to move in close and personal, like a macro lens on a camera, examining the fine details, magnified. We can swoop out like a telephoto lens and see the detail in relation to its dream environment. We can even fly up to outer space in a satellite view of the entire inner world picture.

In addition we can imitate the workings of our dream creator, Ms. Creativity, Herself, by using the raw material of the dream narrative to break apart, reassemble, and tumble unlike things together. This creates insight as we spin through the mosaic of our lifelong metadream.

Jung suggested a 100 dream series to work with when he analyzed someone's dreams. I extend that to every dream a person has recorded. I believe it is all one dream, when viewed from a longitudinal point of view. It is our "body of work" over a lifetime.

I began this work in progress computer software package because I kept asking myself, "Didn't I dream that symbol before?" I used WordPerfect 5.1. I recorded my dreams. Then I created some rather lengthy macros to do the tasks I needed done. The centerpiece is the capability of searching all your dreams for a particular symbol and creating a sub file of only those dreams. I added the ability to figure the percentage of times this symbol appears in the total master document. I created my own personal symbol dictionary from the dream narratives which is many times more complete than any symbol dictionary you can buy.

I loved the speed with which I could pull together information. If I had decided to check out if I'd ever dreamed about cats before by skimming each dream in my dream journals, I'd still be here working on the first symbol. From this simple beginning, more and more ways to use this information gathering method became evident.

When the software package is complete, I will be able to choose many different styles and techniques to view or play with the material. I can use left and right brain techniques, depending on my personal style and mood of the day.

The centerpiece is the great search engine. From there you can:

1. Create your own personal symbol dictionary.
2. Create dictionary of different cultural and spiritual interpretations of symbols and words.
3. Count and tabulate the most frequent (chose your own number) symbols in your dreams.
4. Create categories of your dream material. Examples of categories are : male characters, female characters, neutral characters, settings, objects, actions, emotions, colors, etc.
5. Pull together sub files of all the dreams you've ever had with a particular symbol in it.
6. Find dreams where two symbols often show up in the same dream.
7. Do archetype searches.
8. Examine problem solving techniques implied in dreams.
9. Create a time line and examine the changing of a symbol over time.
10. Time line events. Analysis of ages mentioned in dreams. Same age as dreamer, generational (parents) what specific ages of childhood.
11. Tracking special dates like birthdays on a time line. Do I have reoccurring dream motifs?
12. Search out the many faces of the shadow.
13. Create lists. Example: Pull up every "she says" sentence. What is the feminine telling you over and over.
14. Search all the first sentences of each dream. Create theme list.
15. Search all the last sentences of each dream. Create future direction list.
16. Do numerology.
17. And the bottom line: Use the computer to reorganize the material to create new spontaneous relationships with one's own set of symbols.

Not only is the information intriguing, but you can then use other techniques to gain more insights. Such as:

1. Dialoguing with dreams characters and images.
2. Describing and doing a character analysis of the dream characters.
3. Placing symbols in relation to each other and exploring what this might mean.
4. Changing the dream. Rewriting it.
5. Do line drawings to depict the dream images.
6. Create a dream. Take sentences of dream and translate into sound and graphics.
7. Look at plot lines of dreams
8. Break dream into specific scenes.
9. Tell the story of the dream in general terms to get the basic plot and structure.
10. Generate list of tasks dreamer can do in waking life. (example: dreams hiding in small place. tasks: stretch body out, make large gestures. get into open large spaces. open something symbolically. declare self.)
11. Like the Make up stories game, leave blanks for adjectives nouns and verbs from your dreamwork to be filled in.
12. Keep a day residue journal.
13. Work dreams from the different perspectives: physical health, sexual, spiritual, work, relationship, childhood events, family, etc.
14. Keeps track of all your dreamwork journaling, connected to the individual dream.

This is a partial list of what this computer software can be capable of.

People ask, "Aren't you just chopping up the dreams into little pieces?" "Won't that destroy all the built up meanings of the wholeness of a dream?" I must answer yes. I am chopping up the dreams and separating out pieces that were created to be together. The implication I hear in the voices of my questioners is that this destroys any value the dream may have. I disagree. I think it augments what we already are learning from working a whole dream. We are given the gift of a complete dream. The simple act of trying to translate that into language alters it. I honor my dreams as they are. Using the computer to tease out more insights does not take away the whole dream. It still is there.

This column will discuss the many steps I needed to take to create the current version of DreamSpinner and what fascinating things I learned on this journey.

Subjects like:

1. Creating categories.
2. Dealing with left brain computers from a right brain mind.
3. User tips for DreamSpinner.
4. Completing the circle from left brain to right brain and back.
5. Finding the patterns in your dreams with examples from my own dream series.
6. And much, much more!

I hope the column will be interactive in the sense that you may have questions or comments you would like to make about your own dream journey with computers. Please email me at dreambjo@hotmail.com with any thoughts, comments, questions or suggestions.