Electric Dreams

Dreams and Themes

David Jenkins, PhD

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Jenkins, David, PhD (2006 May). DreamRePlay: Dreams and Themes. Electric Dreams 13(5).

Dreams are like bananas, they come in bunches As you explore dreams over time, you discover that certain issues and people keep coming back. Even though every dream is unique, with experience you realize that themes are recurring. You can detect these repetitions in your dream life even after a few dreams. As a wealth of “evidence” builds up, you will begin to see a bigger picture and that changes how you see each individual dream.

Dream Themes

At first it is unclear what the connection is. There are no fixed rules to follow. Sometimes it is obvious: your mother is in most of your dreams. Sometimes it is more subtle: the first dream may be about two kittens and the next dream about two children. The next dream will always be different. It will probably happen in a different location, with other people and unique circumstances, but there will be a common strand. If bandits chase you in one dream, it's likely that you'll be chased by a bear in another.

By looking carefully, you'll find that you have just a few themes, maybe five or six, going on in your dream life. For example, you might have many dreams about being late, finding yourself lost, getting chased, or falling down. Regardless of how different the context is, the theme will remain the same.

Each person's themes stay constant over many years. G. William Domhoff, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, reviewed the dreams of a woman, "Dorothea," whose dream journal spanned fifty years; that's a long dream journal. Six themes regularly appeared throughout the fifty years. Here they are:
  • Eating or thinking about food (1 in 5 dreams)
  • Losing an object, usually her purse (1 in 6)
  • In a small or disorderly room or her room was being invaded (1 in 10)
  • Dreams about her mother (1 in 10)
  • Toilet dreams (1 in 12)
  • Late or missing a bus or train (1 in 16)
What's more, these six themes cropped up in three quarters of all her dreams!

In other words, the matters that dominate your dream life now are for keeps. They are not going away. When you examine a number of your own dreams, 20 or more, you will see some common issues. This is the bigger picture: the life you are really living in your dreams.

Waking Life

To put this in perspective, waking life is also divided into themes. Most people have a work theme, a family theme, perhaps a few hobby or pastime themes, a childhood theme and so on. And, like dream themes, that's how most of our time is taken up. Of course, in the summer you will have a vacation theme, in November there'll be a Thanksgiving theme, in December a Christmas or Chanukah theme and so on. Sometimes a unique event will happen but then things go back to the regular themes.

Living with Themes

It's a big deal to me that you are going to be dreaming about the same matters for the rest of your life. It is like a career or a marriage without any of the choice. Even worse, most people are unhappy with their “choice” of dream life. Domhoff has estimated that 80% of dreams contain something negative or stressful in them. You don't need nightmares to have a seriously sub-standard dream life. The bottom line is this: Do you want to go through the rest of your life dreaming the same old thing?

You Can Transform Your Dream Self

The news is not all bad. Even if the themes are lifelong, you can change your role and your situation in your various relationships.

If you are always arguing with your mother, that can change so that you enjoy your mother's company even if your mother-theme continues for the rest of your life. You can “educate” your dream mother and show her better ways to behave.

If you are always looking for food, you can turn that around so that you have food in your dreams.

You might be a man who continually dreams about conflicts with other men. When you work on these dreams with Dream RePlay, you will typically find that the fighting diminishes, instead of guns and knives, opponents use fisticuffs and, as the intensity diminishes, they simply argue with you until finally you will encounter cooperation with men in your dreams.

If you are fearful of flying, the fear can be converted into pleasure.

The task of Dream RePlay is to transform your dream life and that means enjoying your themes rather than being overwhelmed by them. I want to change your dream life so that you continuously place yourself in the role of hero or heroine. The desired result is that the dream-You has more confidence in difficult situations and is more present to the dream thrills.

The Gift of a Dream Group

To truly transform an issue, it is best to give yourself at least three months. I strongly recommend weekly participation in an ongoing dream group. It is harder to achieve major changes on your own. One of the special benefits of being in a group is that the participants are great at holding each other's dreams in their memory banks. Often someone will tell a dream and other people will make connections to previous dreams. You can then see the progress you are making and you become highly aware of the core issues that still dissatisfy you. My own clients have had amazing success in dealing with issues about romantic relationships, relationships with their own self-care, relationships with family members, etc.

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Best wishes,
David Jenkins
Dream RePlay

email: davidj@dreamreplay.com
web: http://dreamreplay.com