Electric Dreams

Dream Sharing in Cyberspace

Jeremy Taylor 

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Taylor, Jeremy (1997 June). Dream Sharing in Cyberspace. Electric Dreams 4(6). Retrieved July 26, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric- dreams  

Reprinted from the AOL HUB DreamShow Pages
permission by Jeremy Taylor

I have been exploring dreams with an eye to discovering their deeper meanings for almost 30 years. I have written down and worked with more than 10,000 of my own dreams and probably 100,000 dreams of others during that time. This work has convinced me that our dreams always have multiple meanings, and that those meanings are always helpful and supportive to the dreamer, if only they can be "unpacked" at any level of depth.

Until I came to THE HUB to host "The Dream Show," all my experience helping people figure out what their dreams mean was gained by speaking to individuals and groups in person, on the telephone, or in written correspondence.

I decided to give on-line dream work a try, even though it means that I have to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in front of my computer out here in California at 6:00 A.M. (which up until now has not been my habit).

Initially, I had some reservations about working dreams through this distinctly "cool" and physically isolating on-line medium. When I imagined as carefully as I could what it might be like, I was particularly concerned that the "flat" and highly compressed computer communication format might inhibit the flow of imagination, intimacy, and mutual respect so necessary for good dream work.

In fact, I have found the emotionally and physically "flat" format of computer chat between people in widely separated locations appears to enhance many important elements that make group exploration of dreams so productive.

The fact that every participant appears on the screen identified only by his or her screen name means that the sense of safety and anonymity so necessary for productive dream work is assured. I've also found that the necessity of compressing our questions and comments into to two-line "sound bites" in order to send them to the communal screen serves to discourage needless verbosity. This "compression" of ideas required by the AOL's format tends to draw us all into the work at a deep level more quickly than is sometimes the case in face-to-face dream groups.

I am also very impressed with the sense of emotional equality that is created by the fact that everyone's comments appears on the screen in the same bland type-face with the same "inflec tion." In face-to-face dream work, the comments of participants are always weighted to some degree by our responses to their physical appearance and the timbre of their voices. People have prejudices about who they want to listen to and take seriously, and who they want to dismiss. On the screen, all that is gently wiped away. All comments appear equal, and the participants are much freer to discover insights for themselves in the various remarks without unconsciously pre-judging the speaker.

I regularly find myself musing more freely and "speaking" more openly as I sit comfortably in my ergonomic computer chair, sipping my morning fruit juice, physically much more comfortable and relaxed than I sometimes am doing face-to-face dream work (sitting in a metal folding chair in a drafty church basement). I can only imagine that this "relaxation factor" has a positive effect on all the other participants as well. Presumably, we are all comfortably ensconced in our own private, safe, comfy computer chairs, free from the judgment of others, and thus more able to think and intuit creatively and sensitively about our own imagined versions of the dreams being discussed.

In the virtual dream group, people are free to come and go as their interest and energy dictates, without distracting or offending other participants. By the same token, people are much freer to simply watch, listen, and generate their own "aha's" of insight without participating directly in the work. Such people are commonly known as "lurkers," and "lurking" is a perfectly acceptable activity in this context.

In the virtual dream group, the host has even more influence over the process than in a face -to-face group, since he or she has the power to determine which comments go to the screen. All the problems of differing levels of sophistication and seriousness among participants that arise in face-to-face dream work still exist in cyber-space, but the format allows the host to keep people from interrupting each other, talking too much, or making gratuitous, rude, or insensitive remarks. Balanced against this is the problem of the host/facilitator's unconscious projections and "counter-transference" issues. The unconscious biases of the host have even more influence over the group process than in face-to-face dream work, precisely because the host has so much more influence and control.

In "The Dream Show," the problem of the exaggerated influence of the host over the content and tone is offset by the fact that there is also a 24-hour bulletin board associated with the program where people can leave their dreams for others to comment on and can make suggestions and ask questions without any censorship from the auditorium host. This bulletin board has turned into a vital and eclectic community forum all on its own.

Albert Einstein was fond of saying that "If you can't explain what you are doing to a reasonably intelligent ten year old, you probably don't really know what you are doing." This principle of simplifying and clarifying even the most abstruse and emerging intuitive understandings of one another's dreams regularly comes into play in computer connected dream work. Some of the lyric poetry may be lost in the process, but the "haiku" remain.

Every morning, there is a wide sample of the dreams of people from Canada to Florida, and across six time zones (counting Hawaii) shared over the computer connection. It's like taking the pulse of the continent's unconscious. Computer-assisted "virtual dream groups" will never replace the richness, vitality, and intimacy of face-to-face dream work, but they are another way to explore the creative possibilities that are our birth-right as human beings.

(c) Jeremy Taylor