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Shelves devoted to dream in bookstores and libraries contain much gold, but also much dross. I thought I’d share some of the titles I’ve found helpful over the years, and invite others to do the same.
I won’t mention dream dictionaries (I have a number of those, but most tend to present a one-size-fits-all approach to any specific dream image, which limits, rather than expands, understanding; I rarely open any of these anymore unless I’m completely baffled by an image in a dream – consulting a dream dictionary doesn’t give me an interpretation, but can provide a nudge that helps jumpstart the association process to get past the blockage – though, frankly, I find a competent symbol dictionary, of which I also have several, even better for that).
And, wouldn’t you know, right after dissing dream dictionaries I come up with an exception:
That 59 page intro to dream psychology is what makes this more than the usual dream dictionary: Ackroyd spends much time delving into Jung (and others), providing essential grounding: his nuanced approach is clear in the description of his dream image entries. This would be the dream dictionary to have.
Some of the following are easy to find and relatively inexpensive via Amazon and elsewhere, while others I am surprised to learn are now rare, commanding prices of several hundred dollars (almost makes me wish I hadn’t scribbled so many notes in the margins – but then, I didn’t collect any of these for their investment value)
I’ve also linked the titles to their entries on Amazon for convenience to learn more, but there are purchasing alternatives online (such as Powell’s Books)
Inner Work, by Robert Johnson
Johnson’s Inner Work was a game changer for me. Though I had read lots of Jung, I had trouble nailing down what he meant by the term “active imagination” (he refers to that a lot, but never really clearly describes it or gives examples in any of the volumes of the Collected Works that I have). Johnson provides multiple examples in “Inner Work” – wonderful for working with dreams. After that, when Jung would mention active imagination, I had a better idea of what he meant.
Tracks in the Wilderness of Dreaming and Embodiment: Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art, and Travel, both by Robert Bosnak.
The first title by Bosnak above really blew my mind as I realized that the characters we meet in our dreams have their own backstory and dream lives; whether dialoguing with a dream figure through active imagination, or stepping outside the dream me and into another character in my dream, this opened a whole new world – many new worlds – as I learned the surly conductor collecting tickets aboard the train in my dream had a sick child at home, or had just discovered his wife was having an affair, adding depth and dimensions galore to each dream beyond the concerns and occupations of my waking ego!
Dream and the Underworld, by James Hillman
A classic from the founder of archetypal (or imaginal) psychology that upended everything I thought I knew about dreams – starting with the awareness that my dreams had their own life and direction, so to speak, and didn’t exist just to serve my needs.
Waking Dreams, and Invisible Guests: The Development of Imaginal Dialogues, by Mary Watkins
These slender volumes don’t focus on dreams alone – very valuable studies by one of the founders (along with Hillman) of imaginal psychology. A key take away for me: “Imaginal,” as in imaginal realms, or imaginal psychology, does not mean not-real.
The Secret History of Dreaming, by Robert Moss
Robert Moss has written multiple solid works on dream for a popular audience, as opposed to depth psychologists or academics in general – but his work is grounded in depth psychology, and he knows whereof he speaks (he has been working with dreams for decades, and speaks from experience – his, and that of others. This book I find valuable not so much because it presents principles of effective dreamwork (Moss covers that in several other titles), but because of the historical anecdotes he shares about dreaming.
Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations, by Barbara Tedlock
Even though Jung (and post-Jungians like Hillman) really speak to my experience of dreams, I find it’s important not to paint oneself into a procrustean bed (see how easily I mix my metaphors – must be the Gemini in me). Anthropologist Barbara Tedlock edits this collection of 10 different anthropologists on the ways in which dreams are remembered, recounted, shared (or not shared), interpreted, and used in a variety of primal cultures.
and the Gold Standard:
Dream Analysis: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1928-1930 (a 700 page transcript of sessions of the dream work seminar Jung conducted, in English, with a number of psychiatrists and psychologists), which provided a detailed, up-close look at how Jung himself applied active imagination),
and Children’s Dreams: Notes from the Seminar Given in 1936 – 1940 (468 pages of transcripts of Jung working with psychologists on dreams)
Both volumes are dense (not a complaint – far from it – so much is packed into any one passage that I needed to sit with what I’d just read for a while and let sink in, then read it again) that it took well over a year each to get through – but these, for me, are the gold standard when it comes to dreamwork.
I own many other books on dream, but these are the works I find myself returning to and referencing over and over.
For anyone into dreamwork, please feel free to share what works best speak to your experience?
tie-dyed teller of tales
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