Electric Dreams

DreamShare : An Online Dream Community

Judith Gips


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Gips, Judith (2002 December). DreamShare : An Online Dream Community . Electric Dreams 9(12). 

Dreamshare, an interactive, peer-led, moderated on-line dream discussion, is open to new members. The letter that follows will explain some of Dreamshare's procedures as well as the philosophical and practical underpinnings of this group. We are, as always, a work in progress. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to bring them to the attention of the group moderators at dreamshare-moderator@yahoogroups.com .

This dream sharing conference is open to all who want to work with us in a supportive, nonjudgmental cyber-climate, exploring the fascinating and revealing world of dream experiences. Members are free to post dreams they have had, ask general questions about dream-related matters or dream themes, dialogue about any dream on the list, and ask for commentary on their own dreams.

Dreamshare is somewhat unusual among Internet dream sites, in that we work to build some of the trust and intimacy that we associate with a well-functioning face-to-face dream sharing group. What this means, in practical terms, is that it is a moderated forum in which all posts, including those of the moderators, are approved by at least one other member before appearing in the general discussion.

In joining a moderated group, you are, in effect, accepting that some posts may be delayed, discussed with you or by a group of moderators, edited, or deleted before being posted to the entire group. The vast majority of submissions here are approved without problem, but please understand that we will sometimes act preventively to maintain group tone and cohesiveness

The original members met on another dream discussion board in the spring of 2000. We decided to start a moderated conference, in order to help to stay on-topic and build a sense of trust and mutual respect. Dreamshare has been meeting "in cyberspace" since May 2000. We are something approaching the ethnic, cultural, international, and intergenerational mix that many of us have hoped for. We also have considerable diversity of spiritual beliefs and practices, and of lifestyle and perspective.

In trying to replicate some of the intimacy and group intelligence of a well-functioning face-to-face dream group, we have needed to face some of the differences between working in the same room at the same time with others, and communicating through the disembodied medium of cyberspace. This has presented a challenge at times as well as an opportunity, and thanks are due to everyone who has contributed to this effort, whether or not those people are still participants in Dreamshare. Without their contributions, it couldn't, and wouldn't, happen.

We have also learned from some mistakes and unanticipated challenges, and some of the guidelines have been revised to continue to make this a safe, dynamic and entertaining dream site.

Before you attempt to comment on anyone else's dreams, please keep the following in mind:

a) This is a supportive environment, based on the principles of kindness and respect for all. You will encounter people with beliefs, practices, habits, and language very unlike your own at times, both when posting your own dreams and when reading the dreams and comments of others.

We encourage people not to censor themselves when relating dreams here. We understand that dreams often involve situations, issues, and images that may be painful or embarrassing to our waking-life selves. Our own relationships to death, loss, violence in ourselves or others, old family dramas, racism and other forms of prejudice and discrimination, and long-held secrets may be evoked by our own or someone else's dream material. There are no types of dream that are unacceptable, but language that insults someone or a group (e.g., "I was being chased by a bunch of worthless Arabs") or that is clearly designed to titillate or shock rather than to share an honest sleeptime dream and the feelings it brings up (e.g., "It feels so good when I have a wet dream, ummm.") will not be posted.

Obviously, there is an element of subjective judgment to all this, on the part of the moderators. We'll do our best to be respectful of the dream life, the dreamer, and the other members.

In responding to any dream posted, a member needs to be calm and open-minded. Our feeling is that an insight is worth little if it is hurtful to the person for whom it is intended.

One of the benefits to doing group dreamwork is that we can find common ground and shared intelligence with people with whom we might have little in common in waking life. Thus, a basic guideline for all members is to be courteous (a word that, like "courage", means something of the heart) and take an active interest in understanding others. Someone whose spiritual beliefs or lifestyle are far from your own is part of the same Big Picture as yourself.

b) In the same spirit as the above: Only the dreamer can say for certain what his or her dreams mean. Borrowing from friend and mentor to this group and its founders, Jeremy Taylor, (whose dream-related web site, www.jeremytaylor.com. we recommend strongly to all), we urge all participants to enter the dream world by imagining themselves in the dreamer's shoes, and stating their opinions in the first person as much as possible. For example, I might say, "If this were my dream, the wedding dress might be about commitments I want to make public" when responding to someone's dream about shopping for a wedding dress. Many group members have experienced insights into their own issues using this process, as well as sharing something of value to the dreamer.

This is not a hard-and-fast rule for posting, but we urge that everyone consider and experiment with the "if it were my dream" approach when commenting on anyone else's dream. Please be judicious in what you say, and practice consideration. "Insights" that shame or criticize others will usually be poorly received, and they tend to lead everyone away from the feeling of safety. Use of the "if it were my dream" format is not necessarily a guarantee of mutual respect: for example, comments such as "if this were my dream, it might be telling me I really don't know what I'm talking about" are probably too harsh to be of value to many dreamers.

On this note, we have learned through experience that we are all human and subject to human frailties. In a group where people are
encouraged to "be themselves" on-line, you will undoubtedly feel more rapport with some people than with others. Not every dream or dreamer will evoke equal interest and empathy in each of us. This is okay; it's not necessary, or necessarily desirable, to comment on every dream or for any individual to interact with every member. We prefer that you confine your responses to those where you have a genuine sense of empathy with the dreamer.

Please be civil, and as clear as possible on your inner motivations and dramas before you write even to private e-mail out of anger or unrecognized hostility.

c) Clarification questions and dialogue are encouraged.

It's a good idea, though again not a strict rule, to indicate in the text of a dream submitted whether comments are welcomed or sought, if this is a touchy or painful matter for yourself as the poster, if there is graphic violence or sexual imagery involved, or if there are other issues of which you feel that we as readers and fellow members of Dreamshare should be aware.

If there is some part of a posted dream that is unclear to you as you read it, or you want to know more about a dreamer's waking life, go ahead and ask, keeping the principles of courtesy and kindness in mind of course. One good thing about e-mail is that we can dialogue without the time constraints that might exist in a face-to-face dream group. Before you comment on someone's dream, you might want to make sure you understand what it is that you are discussing. (This is often considered to be a necessary first step in the "if it were my dream" approach.)

d) We understand that there are privacy concerns unique to the Internet. You may choose to remain anonymous, using only your "screen handle" or you may give your name at your discretion.

We ask all prospective new members to introduce themselves, saying a little about their interest, and experience if any, with group dreamwork. As a friend on another forum put it, people speak more comfortably and honestly when they know who else is in the room. Some members' introductions are available in the Files menu, and can be reviewed by selecting "Files" from the Main Page. From time to time, we may request that continuing members re-introduce themselves as well. It can be interesting, and cast more light on the dream as well as the dreamer, to learn more about your Dreamshare "neighbors."

In a similar vein, if leaving the group after active interaction, a brief note either to the moderators or to the group as a whole is appreciated. If there is some way we can meet your needs better, we'd like to know about it. (See also item h))

Please respect the confidentiality needs of everyone on this conference. Some of this is basic Netiquette, and it is especially important here. Don't discuss the people involved here with others outside the conference, especially if they are identifiable by name or life circumstance. If anyone outside our membership list is interested in these dreams, refer them to the moderators. Do not repost anything that appears on this conference, or publish it in any form. Do not post anything here that did not originate with you, whether it is a friend's dream or an interesting piece of news. You may reprint published material on dreams that is excerpted as long as the source is credited fully.

In this same vein, you are free to email anyone whose personal address is available as a co-member of Dreamshare, but please respect their needs and rights to decide what mail to receive and to answer, and on what schedule. Remember that people are busy with their jobs and lives as well, and an answer may be forthcoming but not precisely when you want it.

If you decide that this place is not right for you, there will be no offense taken if you decide not to participate. Please don't stick around to post angry "flame" messages, practical jokes, teases, or any form or harassment or putdown. Life can be hard enough as it is, and people are sharing a vulnerable part of themselves when talking about their dream life. As moderators, we will put our collective foot down about this sort of behavior.

e) Everyone needs to understand that this is an egalitarian space in which the validity of someone's opinion is judged by the response of the dreamer and the people reading the dream, and not by credentials of any kind. No one, including the moderators, is here in a "professional" capacity. Psychotherapists are as welcome as anyone to join this list, as equal members of the Dreamshare group. You are encouraged to consult a mental health professional of your choice if you are seeking such services. This list is for mutual help and enjoyment, and may well have a beneficial effect on your life, but it is not psychotherapy as the term is commonly understood. All participants: please be prepared to be a peer to anyone on the list; this is not a place to seek, nor to dispense, "expert advice." Even suggesting that someone may need to speak with an expert is sometimes seen as interventive and/or intrusive. Be very careful.

f) You are not obliged to comment on every dream, to visit or post on the list every day or at any given interval. It's better to wait until you have the time and opportunity to write a meaningful response than to simply hop in because you feel you "should."

We actively discourage "over-posting." This is rather a subjective judgment, but as a general guideline, more than five posts in any 24-hour period may be excessive and give the impression of someone talking over others during meetings.

Don't become too impatient if there is no response for a while after you post a dream. If some dream of really major impact to you has gone without response for some time, you can ask, courteously, if anyone is able to work with this dream. Please remember that Dreamshare is an all volunteer effort, and we are all busy people.

g) We will be posting suggestions, as we go along, for improving dream recall, working with dreams alone and with other people, resolving some "nightmare" energy and other problems, and related topics. Please feel free to post questions on these issues; there may be some wonderful ideas shared in this way, and it will let us know what others want by way of improving their relationship with their dreams. Again, we recommend, highly, the books and materials available from Jeremy Taylor for a broad introduction to working with dreams and the unconscious; see his web site cited above for ordering information, or ask at your local bookstore.

h) Please let the group know when you are exiting as well as entering the group, either by posting or via one of the moderators. This helps build the kind of "caring circle" we envision and diminishes the "invisible cafe" feeling. Repeated subscription and unsubscription is discouraged. We have found that multiple arrivals and departures can be quite disruptive, especially if there is some emotional agenda involved. If you are going to be absent for some time but think you would like to return to active posting in the future, please consider a "no-mail" membership in Dreamshare instead of leaving the group. Email a moderator for the group if the mechanics of changing delivery options are not clear.

i) There is a functioning group of several moderators (about 7 active at the time of this writing, November 2002.) You can find out who they are by reviewing the "members" page; moderators are marked with a star. Because all posts are approved in advance of appearing, there is a fair amount of work involved in reading and following the discussions on the site. This can sometimes result in a delay before a post appears on the group list.

At times, a post may also be delayed if there are some questions about its suitability or timing. .

j) As a practical note: please send plain, unenriched e-mail text whenever possible. We welcome artwork and photos, which can be uploaded to Files, but to prevent virus spread and make attachments easier for all to read, we encourage non-HTML mail if possible. Not everyone can read posts with a lot of "bells and whistles." Contact a moderator if this is unclear.

k) We encourage you to enjoy your dreams! We regard the dream as a living entity, a visitor that deserves to be treated with respect and gratitude even if it sometimes speaks a language that is difficult to understand.

As we see it, it's a mistake to separate and reject dreams that are powerfully frightening when they occur, from the rest of our dream life. The difficult dreams that some call "nightmares" or "bad dreams" are often those that have the most valuable of gifts for us. As you continue to explore your dreams, you will come to see beauty and perhaps humor as well as precious guidance in all kinds of dreams.

The Dreamshare group.

P.S. In the interests of building group caring and rapport, we also encourage friendly support and sharing of our waking-life triumphs and setbacks. We'd like to recognize birthdays, graduations, and other important milestones in each other's lives, express condolences to the bereaved, and send healing thoughts to those afflicted with illness or other difficulties. We have a regularly scheduled healing circle based on mutual dreaming; details on that will be given in a separate post in the near future.