Electric Dreams

So You Want a Career in the Field of Dreams?

Richard Wilkerson

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Wilkerson, Richard (1999 April). So You Want a Career in the Field of Dreams? Electric Dreams 6(4). Retrieved July 11, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

Note: Book suggestions are with an eye towards people who have in some way made a career in dreams and have told their story or the story of other dream careers people. RCW

I have had many questions about how get into the field of dreams.

First the bad news.

I often feel that there was more money made last weekend for the latest blockbuster movie than for all the dreamworkers since the Interpretation of Dreams a hundred years ago in 1900.

Gayle Delaney, dreamworker extra-ordinaire has said that no one yet has really made a living doing just dreamwork. And having been on Oprah and Donahue, written tons of books and traveled with her dream show world wide, she should know!

Now the Good News:

Without full time professionals, how does the field evolve? Well, people do other things as well. Here are the most related I am aware of...

1. Psychology. Especially Jungian psychology, which has a heavy dream focus. Many dreamworkers have mental health training and many are psychotherapists. The general overview doesn't exist to my knowledge, though many books cover dreamwork from the original theories. But how it is now practiced in late 20th century culture is usually dealt with separately from school to school. And interesting study that looks at the practices and beliefs of several health care workers is:

Dombeck, Mary-Therese B. (1991). Dreams and Professional Personhood: The Contexts of Dream Telling and Dream Interpretation Among American Psychotherapists. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

If you are interested in dreams, the more Jungian education you can get the better. I say this not only as an advocate for Jungian psychology, but because Jungian work runs through nearly all contemporary dreamwork and theory and has deeply influenced the Dream Movement. Jung's story is a must, start with :
Jung, Carl. G. (1965). _Memories, Dreams and Reflections_. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Electric Dreams Links : Carl Jung

2. Publishing and Lecturing and Workshops. Books are the main contact source for the dream worker and the more successful dreamworkers are also giving seminars, lectures, workshops, conference presentations and getting as much air time as possible. Most are still neglecting the Web, but some progress is being made. There are some writers who use dreams as rhetorical devices in their books and screenplays. There are a few scholars who write about dreams, but not many. One of the newest twists is Dream in Business. These workshops get people in business to use dreams as a way to bring the office into a better mode of communication.

If this area of dream show interests you, I would contact everyone possible on the Association for the Study of Dreams Who's Who list.

3. Science and Medicine. Sleep disorder clinics and clinicians are on the rise, though dream specific research is on the decline. The focus here is on problems with sleep and some work can then be done with dreams through the backdoor of nightmares and other dream related sleep issues.

Be sure to get a hold of the ASD journal Dreaming and see the Electric Dreams links to Sleep organizations.

4. Religion. As Ron L. Hubbard once said to the Campbell, editor of Analog Magazine, "heck, all the money is in religion!"

There has yet to be a Church of Dreams, but I suspect we will see them in the 21st Century. More often, pastors and priests and ministers take up dreamwork as a adjunct to pastoral counseling. Note for instance the success of Jeremy Taylor, who is a Unitarian minister and now has a full workshop and dream tours schedule. However, this came after 20 or more years in the trenches. Non-denominational dreamwork is becoming more popular as self improvement often includes dreamwork an spirituality.

For more information, I recommend reading Taylor's dream story in Taylor, Jeremy (1992). Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using Dreams to tap the Wisdom of the Unconscious. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.

There are many other fascinating stories of dreamworks. See the collection at http://www.dreamgate.com/dream/bibs/

5. Lucid Dreams. This seems to be almost its own category of dreamwork. Stephen LaBerge has done the most to make lucid dream technology, science and psychology a life's profession. The topic continues to draw lots of attention. Many others are rapidly developing products.

For more on this topic, stop by the Lucidity Institute Online at http://www.lucidity.com And the Lucid dream story of LaBerge can be found in the classic Lucid Dreaming By Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D.

Electric Dreams Lucidity Links

6. Anthropology. Many people in the dream field are anthropologists. They study not only what other cultures have to say about dreams and dreaming, but our own as well. They look at how the dream and dream interpretations function in the culture and what the mean to the individual in this context. For more information, see Jayne Gackenbach's site http://www.spiritwatch.com I also recommend reading *at least* the introduction to Barbara Tedlock's

Tedlock, Barbara (Ed.). (1987). Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations.Cambridge University Press.
--------. (Ed.). (1992 edition) Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations. Sante Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.
--------. (1981). Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Educational Needs of a Dreamworker

Courses specifically. Some of these you might have to get outside of traditional institutions.

1. Jungian psychology. Get a lot of this. Read all you can on your own. You might want to start with Jung's memoirs, Memories, dreams and reflections. But I also like the illustrated Man and his Symbols. I don't think there is a richer system of dreamwork on the earth., and most of what is used today in groups and by individuals stems from the work of the Jungians.

2. Other psychologies: Ask for the basics and history. Freud, Adler, Jung, Maslow, Sullivan, Erikson, even Skinner. But also look into Frederich Perls, Mednard Boss, Bonime, Montegue Ullman, Arnold Mindel, James Hillman. Try to get as close to having a session with them as possible. Obviously this isn't possible for many as they are dead, but move from the generalizations about them to finding out what an hour with them was actually like. If you can afford therapy, try out different kinds of therapy yourself. Very Important to get as close to first hand experience as possible. If you get deeply into psychotherapy, I find the Object Relations therapies quite interesting and a way of bringing forward classical psychotherapy. Kohut and self-psychology forms a bridge between object relations and human potential and wholeness oriented therapies.

I highly recommend Raymond J. Corsini's Current Psychotherapies for a quick journey into several types of therapies at the experiential level.. Fossage and Loew put together a comparison of dream therapies in Dream Interpretation, A comparative Study second ed 1987. Its a little dry, but interesting. A more exciting new comparison is Anthony Shaft on's Dream Reader. Also, Gayle Delaney has a good comparison dream book called New Directions in Dream Interpretation.

3. Anthropology. Again, much of dreamwork has a cultural component. Exposure to alternative cultures allows for a wider grasp of individual issues and offers a unique way to find a context for dreams. On dreams & anthropology, read Barbara Tedlock's (1987). Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations. Cambridge University Press. and Devereux, George (1969). Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books

See the Dream Anthropology bibliography at


4. Literature. I feel that getting the sense of what writing and literature is about has helped me with dreams. Interpreting stories is something the fields share in common, and they enhance one another. Dreams are often interpreted using literary criticism's techniques, not only the simple dynamic structures of plot and character, but the more elaborate philosophies of criticism with investigate the psychological and political forces in all narratives. In Dreams, See Jones, Richard (1979). The Dream Poet. Cambridge, MA: Schenkman Publishing Company and States, Bert O. (1988). Rhetoric of Dreams. London: Cornell University Press.

For more see:
Rupprecht, Carol Schreier (Ed.). (1993a). The Dream and the Text: Essays on Literature and Language. NY: SUNY Press.

5. Religion and Mythology: This could be under anthropology or literature as well. Both religious studies and mythology look at stories that struggle with the creation or understanding of the meaning and value of life. Be sure to read Joseph Campbell's The Masks of God. There are several in the series, all great. I would read Mircea Eliade's The History of Religious Ideas as well, also a kind of mythologically based text. Push through on religious studies to the esoteric/ mystic side of the religion. We hear a lot of horror stories about Islam in the West, but we rarely hear about the fabulous Sufi traditions. Again, be sure to check out Carl Jung on his rendition of Christianity and Western religions.

6. Philosophy: while philosophy has done very little in its investigation of the world of ideas to explore dreams, I find it invaluable in the understanding of dream techniques and where they are coming from. All forms of interpretation are motivated by other ideas and powers. To the degree that we learn to be conscious and aware of these, we won't as often fall prey to being the victim of the idea. Also, being able to deeply question the assumptions and categories we live by is very similar to a lot of dreamwork which does the same. Of course, one might point out Descartes as an example of a philosopher who made a career on dreams. It was the dream that led his to posit that he could not really be sure of reality, only that he existed thinking it was real.

7. Science. Understanding the functions of dreaming used to be clearly separated into those who wanted a clear biological answer and those who wanted a psycho-spiritual answer. Now the fields mix and blend and having a good background in biology, physiology, chemistry, etc., can help in sorting out the psychological from the physical. We used to think about schizophrenia, for example, in moral terms. Something was wrong with the person in that they failed to use their will power to come up to snuff and therapy involved getting them back on the right road of consensus reality. Now we know that there are terrible chemical imbalances, many genetically informed. Therapy may still involve helping the person adapt to reality, but it no longer assumes the person is *trying* to be weird. In dreamwork, we may make use of a nightmare to investigate some deep soulful path, but its also important to check out the physiological components and influences. The more science we have, the better we can refer these clients to appropriate care.

Graduate Programs

I'm not aware of any at this time that offer advanced degrees in Dreaming. The Association for the Study of Dreams offers Continuing Education Units at its conferences. Www.asdreams.org

However, there are people who do offer graduate studies in dreams. For a full list (as collected to date by Don Kuiken) see http://www.asdreams.org/subidxedugraduatestudies.htm

Dream Centers and Resources.

Jill Gregory at the Dream Library and Archive has helped many other dream centers get started and many dream careers get going for many years. For more information go to the Dream Library and Archive: