Electric Dreams

"Changing" the Dream

David Jenkins, PhD

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Jenkins, David, PhD (2007 April). DreamRePlay: "Changing" the Dream. Electric Dreams 14(4).

One of the goals of my work is to help you have more pleasant and fewer stressful dreams. Although last night's dream cannot be changed, it is a steppingstone to your next dream. You can imagine variations on the current dream and this re-working influences future dreams. You replay the dream on order to spell out what you really want to happen. You can have allies, say what needed to be said; and even end the dream in a different way.

Action changes the dream

The key to DreamReplay is action. Action is very different from understanding. For instance, saying "The horse is a symbol of your instinctual energy," may help you understand the dream but it doesn't alter its outcome

Instead, I would rather ask "Where do you want to go, what do you want to do, now that you are riding the horse?"

Action - an action of the imagination - changes the dream. And influences the next dream. If you cannot or do not imagine something different, you and your dreams are guaranteed to stay the same.

Most often, you take the action that continues the dream in the direction you wish to go: "Now that you have said goodbye to your mother, what do you want to do next?" Often the dream leaves you stuck with unwanted feelings and then the action required is to express yourself. For example, someone might embarrass you in a dream and make you feel bad. You would work out what you really want to say to that person. Speaking this to the imaginary person is taking action.

Dream action is governed by the dream situation

You are not completely free to imagine any action to resolve the problem in the dream. You are governed, even controlled, by the particular dream situation.

Think of the dream as a rowboat in a strongly flowing river. You have some choices about what to do, but you have to flowt downstream-there is no way of changing that. You could ignore what is happening to the boat and drift wherever the river takes you. Or you could use the oars or learn about the currents and the winds in order to steer the boat as best you can. In the same way, you have some choices within the general direction that your dream is taking you, but you must work within the reality of the dream.

It can be tempting to take an easy action when you are in a difficult situation. For example, suppose you dreamed you were walking through the park and saw your boyfriend necking with your best friend. If asked what you'd like to have happen next, you might want Superman to come out of the sky, beat them up, and swoop you away. That might be very satisfying but it wouldn't really affect the dream since you've basically abandoned the world of your dream to people who are "doing you wrong." It would be better to articulate clearly to your dream-girlfriend and your dream-boyfriend what you are feeling. (Afterwards, Superman can whisk you away). Even in a difficult situation, it is important for you to take charge rather than exit the situation. After all, it's your dream.

Forget your best behavior

Dream life is, in many ways, much more rough-and-tumble than waking life. The people who visit us in our dreams are often neither subtle nor polite and the problems faced are most often not intellectual problems. You have to work at the level of the dream characters. If someone is about to kill you with an axe, you could imagine talking to him nicely. If that works, congratulations. But you will usually find that your action must equal the energy of the dream. In this example, talking is not the same as getting help, hiding, or protecting yourself. If your dream-husband is insisting that you have to visit his relatives and you are sure you do not want to, the key question is: What kind of "No" will this dream-husband understand? You may have to express yourself far more strongly than your waking-life husband would require.


You don't change a dream just by talking about it. You have to ask yourself what would make a significant change to the dream.

In next week's column, we'll discuss how to talk to dream characters - they are easier than waking life characters in that you will always know what is true and more demanding of your skills since they are harder to train.

Dream Groups

Dial-In Dream Groups: Whether you live far away or close by, a phone group allows you to get a sense of dream work in a very convenient way. With this new work, I hope to communicate the pleasure and the excitement of dream work to many people.

The Saturday drop-in group ($20) is from 10 am to noon at 2315 Prince Street in Berkeley. The nearest major cross street is Ashby and Telegraph. Please let me know if you are coming.

DreamRePlay web site: http://dreamreplay.com