Electric Dreams

The Dangers of the Interpretive Approach

Strephon Kaplan-Williams

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Kaplan-Williams, Strephon (2002).  The Dangers of the Interpretive Approach.  Electric Dreams 9(5). 2002 Vol. 9 Issue 5.


The Dangers of the Interpretive Approach

2002 Strephon Kaplan-Williams

Reprinted with permission from:

Kaplan-Williams, Strephon (2002).The Dangers of the Interpretive Approach. CONSCIOUSNESS NEWSLETTER 2002(14). Available Online via subscription at: http://www.dreamwork2000.com/Sitemap/email.html1


So many people do it. I have done it myself. 

We interpret other people's actions, their personalities and the symbols in their dreams. We interpret reality, giving our viewpoint on how things are for another person. 

Yet, there is an issue. What do we do when someone feels they need help and so goes to consult and expert? They certainly want the expert to give the knowledge they know. As more than one student has said to me,  

"Why won't you answer my question? You are the dream expert. I am not the expert here!" 

 Yes, there is a need to know. In response I and others have tried to describe for people techniques for working with dreams so that the dreamer him or herself can come up with the meaning of a dream. But there are certain ground rules in approaching dreams and life.  

- Never interpret another person's actions or personality. 

You will most likely be projecting your own personal content onto another person. Your personal content is important to you, but why use another person as your projection mechanism?  

Projections onto others do seem to influence, even unconsciously, those projected upon. The above principle said positively might run like this. 

 - Take one hundred percent responsibility for your own feelings and reactions rather than putting these onto someone else or a situation or event.  

When we take responsibility then we are integrating and making conscious our content. We are living from ourselves rather than in projection out onto others. We come to know ourselves as we really are.  

We can project the positive as well as the negative out onto others.  

The task and the commitment here is to commit to always taking back ones projections onto others and find those dynamics within oneself.  

The interpretive approach to life and dreams starts from a different viewpoint. The interpreter says to him or herself what I think about things is also right for others. 

 Dream symbol books and software are good examples of the interpretive approach. In this approach the interpreter takes the symbol out of context as in the following example.A writer-interpreter says the number 11 means "intuition, mastery, spirituality."  

We must ask, who told her this? Did God speak directly to her about the meaning of numbers?  

As a dream psychologist I suggest that what happens to the uninitiated when they have the number 11 in a dream or other symbolic situation and they see some "expert" telling them how wonderful their number 11 is, then their little ego is going to get inflated and see itself more important than it is. 

Of course writer interpreting about the number 11 is offensive not only to the psychologist but to the philosopher as well because of its fallacious thinking. 

What does the number 11 mean then?  

Far from me to give you an interpretation from God or inflated ego or esoteric lore. We ask instead,   

How does the symbol function? 

If you find the number 11 in your dream you can ask yourself, What happened at age 11? Or, How has the number 11 been important in your life? This is dreamwork. This is responding to your own dream yourself and coming up with your own responses. 

 "Mastery" as in the quote example from the interpreter?  

Does this interpreter consider herself a "master?" She does not seem to lack any reserve in putting out her stuff for everyone to believe in.  

I hate to think how much time is wasted by beginners in believing in interpretations. Not only wasted time but believing and going down paths in life not right for one.  

The corrective is to throw the interpreters and interpretations out the window into the garbage heap for re-composting into something more objective and compassionate for the fellow journeyer in life. 

If you want then to not interpret others or their symbols the following are suggested as commitments to practice: 

1. Develop your own wisdom source from both an objective and an inner place. Do not rely on other people's opinions for how you should see things. 

2. When someone starts interpreting you or your dream stand up to them and assert your right to your own experience of your own dream and life source. 

 3. Learn to objectify your reality. Try to take in whatever feedback comes your way as helpful to you to broaden your viewpoint. Not following interpretations does not mean you simply close off to feedback. You can handle any feedback if you also are committed to owning your own reactions to others as your own and not caused by them.  

4. Ask questions rather than give answers. The best guides in life try to be mostly objective in helping others with questions that evoke their own wisdom functions and responses. 

 5. And of course give up gossip, telling stories about others. Every story we tell about someone else is really a story about some part of ourselves not fully integrated. At least I have found this to usually be so. 

6. Work with your own life incidents and symbols as your own. Keep taking back projections onto others. You can know you are in projection when you have an overly intense positive or negative emotion concerning someone else or a situation. Ask yourself, what in me is being evoked and how can I own and deal with that in myself?  

7. Take feedback from others by opening to them in objective ways. Take in what they have to say about you. Be a non-defensive personality. Do not withdraw but deal with things coming your way. Integrate! Integrate! Taking things in does not mean they are right for you. But open to what feedback can teach you. Do not reject it out of hand! 

8. Commit to living an integrative and conscious life. If you are already practicing being honest and open with yourself and others, rather than defensive, then you will be that much more able to operate in life from your own deepest sources. You might even have a chance at becoming wise! A wise person I define as one who has knowledge coming out of direct experience, rather than information coming from others. 

In closing, some of our readers might find some of my statements as pronouncements of the truth and therefore interpretive for others.  

While I hold to the proposition that each must develop their own truth function in life I also hold to the practice that to take objective stands on what is important in life is also one of the ways of searching for what is real and what is not. 

The corrective that I try to practice in stating my insights about life is that I am open to feedback of whatever kind, and believe me, there have been some difficult moments as well as fine and respectful moments. To put myself out in public, as with these newsletters, requires objectivity on my part to then deal with all reactions that come my way. 

Believe me, I do not close off to any reaction. I do open to the issues

there and I do respond. Almost all these newsletters are written in the heat of the moment concerning some issue. So then these words always come out of immediate and direct experiencing in interactions with others. 

 Hopefully these little essays are practices in consciousness and so have relevance for others as well?  

Strephon Kaplan-Williams


We dream to wake to life


Strephon delivers messages the public in weekly e-mails. You can sign up through http://www.dreamwork2000.com/Sitemap/email.html1

Thanks to Strephon Kaplan-Williams for permission to re-publish this article on Electric Dreams.

This material is 2002  Strephon Kaplan-Williams.  It may be distributed  freely by electronic means, including e-mailing, radio and Television, but not as a collection for commercial benefit. All publication rights, electronic and in print and otherwise, remain solely with the author. 

Be sure to stop by the Dreamwork2000 Website, which contains the *fabulous* Dream Cards, a tarot like collection of dream themes developed by Strephon Kaplan-Williams. Strephon also offers an ongoing consciousness forum where he and his students give suggestions for dreamwork. 



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