A Workshop on Focusing and Dreams


There are many valuable ways to work with dreams.

This workshop offers one way.


Dreams are a rich source of energy and information, from another level of consciousness


Dreams also offer rather easy access to a felt sense. Most people can easily remember how parts of their dream FELT.



What Gendlin says about dreams


The most important thing is to welcome the dream, thank it, appreciate it for coming. Even if you don’t know what it means, if you welcome it, you open the door for more to come.

Gratitude opens up a channel.



The brilliance of Gendlin’s contributions


1)         One does not have to decide between different theories of dream interpretation. Every one of them CAN have value


2)         Instead of taking it as a statement or fact, each theory of dream interpretation (Freud, Jung, Adler, etc.) can offer particular QUESTIONS, that can be offered to our felt sense to check for rightness for us.


His book is titled “Let YOUR BODY Interpret Your Dreams”


You can allow your felt sense to let you know when the interpretation is correct.


And, not only is this a useful way to make sense of your dreams, but Gendlin’s way of working with dreams can carry us forward in our lives, bring new energies into our living.



Two levels of working with dreams


1)         Working with the dream questions that are in Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams

2)         Three newer discoveries

a)   Working with “the life in the dream”

b)   Working with “the bias” in the dream

c)   “How should it go?”

(Gendlin’s article on this is at http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2007.html I strongly recommend it, as I learned this from him.)




The Basic Process


1)         Write down the dream.


2)         Appreciate the dream for coming, as we thank parts that have come during Focusing.


3)         Ask yourself “What comes for me about this dream?” 

It could be thoughts, feelings, felt senses….


[At this point, I pause to let people do this part of the dream work for themselves]



4)         Go over the dream slowly, and underline parts that seem to have meaning.


5)         For each of those underlined parts, ask “what comes for me about this section?” or

“What else in my life might feel like this?”


[At this point, I pause again to let people do this part of the dream work for themselves. Then, they are invited to share what came for them – this can be content, or any sense of what the process was like for them. This allows people to participate without necessarily having to reveal any sensitive content with the group.


Then, I do a demonstration with one of the participants.


After the demonstration, participants ask questions about what came for them (not interpreting the other person’s dream!) in watching. And, any questions they might have Then we go on to the next step.]







The Life in the Dream

This can take two forms

a)         Something that FEELS alive, luminous, especially powerful. This is about intensity of energy, not attitude. You can find this by its feel quality in the dream.


b)         SYMBOLS of life:

A plant, an animal, a young child, something archetypal such as the ocean… These may not be so easily apparent, and one may need to think about the dream to find them.


 The life in the dream offers us a NEW energy. We can be with our felt sense of it, and savor it, let it enter and resonate within us.


(time to try this, in the group, then those who wish can share out)



[here we stop for questions, and also ask participants if there is anything in their dream that felt as if it might be ‘the life in the dream’]



The Bias


The part of us that is conscious of itself often has a bias.

Ask a kind person what they need to do to improve, and they often say “to be more kind”

Ask an assertive person, and they often say “I need to stand up for myself more.”

An energetic person often will say “I would like to do more, get out more…”


When we seek the bias, we check if the dream is offering us other energies that may be helpful to us, that we may need to grow - but that we are not recognizing or accepting due to our own bias.



Process for working with biases


1)         Identify a bias


2)         Find some level of connection with it that feels right to you.



Identifying the bias

[Also, see Gendlin’s article at http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2007.html]



It is DIFFICULT to find your own bias.


Because, it is yours!

So, this is often more easily done by a sensitive other person.


The bias is often “Where the dream says one thing, and the dreamer says something else”


Examples of the KINDS of things that might be signs of the bias:

in the dream, someone gave me a gift, but I didn’t think I should take it”

in the dream, people wanted to help me do something, but I didn’t think they really meant it”

in the dream, some people invited me to join them, but I wasn’t sure they wanted me there”

in the dream, he gave me some advice, but….”


Example -  someone dreamed that Gene Gendlin came to him with a magnificent horse, but he was not so sure about accepting it.  When he awoke, he interpreted the horse as increasing his ego and was proud of himself for not having accepted it.


As skilled as he was, he did not see this as his bias. It is hard to see one’s own biases.

To his credit, once this was pointed out to him, he began accepting the energy of the horse from his dream, acting as if he were the horse. Within an hour, he became much more alive and playful and energetic, and remained that way during the rest of the workshop.



Connecting with bias energies



Can try on the energy (acting as if you were that other part, and feeling its energy in your body)


Often, this is a part that one has negative judgments about, perhaps a rude or selfish part.

However, to quote Gene Gendlin:

“Two grams of rudeness will NOT make YOU a rude person. However, it may very well prevent you from being victimized.”


These energies are like spices – sometimes we just need a little bit of them in our lives to make it better.


        You can explore holding both sides: your own energy in one space, and the other energy in another space, and see what wants to come


        You can explore being with the  felt sense of all of it, the whole situation, and see what feels to be a right next step


[here, we stop and ask people to think about anything that might be a bias, and offer a few suggestions for ways to work with their biases, without doing full demonstrations. }


What should happen next?


Another step that can be done, even if one has not done any of the previous steps, is to be with the dream, and then see what wants to happen, how it wants to continue.


As Gendlin says “What should come next?” What would feel right to happen at this point?


[this can be a great next step for participants, whether or not they have been able to find a bias or the life in the dream]






Additional Notes


For those who have watched Gendlin’s wonderful dream work done live, you will notice that I have added some additional structures.


Gendlin talks about dreams, then does a demonstration with a volunteer, then asks for questions. When working with a volunteer, he asks the person to tell him their dream out loud. Gendlin then reflects it back to them.


While it is not absolutely necessary to write a dream down, there are some advantages to doing so.


1) The process I have described includes the elements that Gene offers in his demonstrations,  AND, it also allows each participant to have their own direct experience of at least some of the steps of Gene’s dream work.


2) By writing their dream down and then underlining parts that seem to have meaning, it allows more felt sensing of some of the subtleties of the dream.


3) Doing this also allows someone to come back to their dream later, to work on it a bit at a time. Clients can begin working on their dream at home, then bring it in to their therapists where more work can occur.


I ask everyone to write their dream, and do the first several steps of this process, before stopping to do a demonstration. I save Gendlin’s new discoveries for after the demo, so that participants are not be overloaded with information.


The rest of the presentation concludes with Gendlins’ three subsequent discoveries. When  there is more time, participants can let their dreams continue and see where the dreams go.


I also want to give my own opinion about the importance of the first steps of dream work. Yes, you can jump right to the three newer discoveries and just use them – focusing on the bias, the life in the dream, letting it continue. Those are very powerful movements.


Yet my own sense of it is that being with the whole dream, and then being with the different aspects of it, helps harness more of the energy of the dream. This allows the three newer processes to be even more powerful, when done subsequently. It is like letting a fruit ripen more fully before picking it.


It takes more time to do this, but I find that it is time well spent.