Why Hypnosis and Dreams ?

The combination of dream work and hypnosis is truly a profound and transforming experience where the healing nature of dreams, and the potential of hypnosis as a therapeutic and personal growth tool, comes to the fore. This type of regression is recommended to anyone wishing to seek self-knowledge and actualisation. Even a sliver of a memory of a dream can be useful in this work. This is an exciting and ever so personal exploration of your subconscious mind where you get to unlock and know the secrets of your dreams.

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to train your dreams for problem solving

Do you have a problem you can't seem to find a solution to? Do you have to make an important decision but feel stuck and can't make up your mind?

Believe it or not you can use your dreams to solve a particular problem and find creative solutions to your dilemmas.

Intentionally trying to dream about a particular problem is called "dream incubation". This technique was used once by the Ancient Greeks to try and find cures to their illnesses. In modern times Western Psychology uses it a bit differently, here's how:

  1. Summarize your problem in one sentence and write it down on a piece of paper or notepad.  Put the piece of paper on your bedside table.  Keep a pen and paper handy together with a flashlight.
  2. Optional: if you have  any objects associated with the problem put them on your bedside table or somewhere you can see them while lying down. 
  3. Before going to bed read the piece of paper and concentrate on what you want to solve for 5 minutes or so.
  4. Once you're lying down in bed visualize the problem as vividly as possible and condense it into one single visual representation / image
  5. Optional: picture yourself dreaming about the problem , waking up and then writing down the solution on your notepad
  6. Tell yourself aloud 3 times that you want to dream abut the problem and then repeat in your mind as you drift off to sleep.
  7. When you wake up lie down quietly before getting up. Write down whether you remember any trace of a dream and if so invite more details to return. Move as little as possible from the original position you woke up in. Write down any impressions. 
  8. Repeat this procedure every night. You should get results within 1 week.  
Leave comments if you've tried this and you've been successful!




Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Use your Dreams to Find Solutions

Often inspiration comes when least expected: in the shower, when you're doing your grocery shop or when taking a walk. One place we never seem to expect it is in our sleep. Some of us think of sleep as if we were computers: we switch off during the night and that's it. This comparison however is very incorrect.  When you sleep you simply enter a different mode of thinking.

When your eyes are closed and your body cannot move your subconscious comes up with ideas that your conscious mind would not have considered during your waking state: under these circumstances your creativity is freed and your problem solving capacity increases.

Sometimes it is even possible to change the course of a dream: you can willingly fly towards your favorite destination or your could use this ability to overcome anxiety or make a major life decision.  Seems too good to be true? Think again.

There is an array of famous people who is known to have found inspiring answers and solutions to problems in their dreams.  In 1950 the mathematician Don Newman had a breakthrough during sleep which gained him the Noble Price in medicine; modern Engineers Paul Horowitz and Alan Huang found inspiration in their dreams for their laser telescope controls and laser computing designs; Mary Shelly dreamed of Frankestein and Stevenson Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, while Beethoven, Paul McCartney and Billy Joel found musical ideas came to them in dreams; even Gandhi's idea for a non violence approach to the liberation of India came to him in a dream.

So how does this work when some dreams seem to be so inspiring and others so trivial and non sensical? Why do some of us, at least some of the time, dream of amazing art projects or technical innovations in detail while others are lost in dreams that don't make any sense at all? Research suggests that dreams can seem bizarre or strange because when we sleep the biochemistry of the brain changes and can affect how we think but while we sleep we continue to focus on the same kind of issues that concern us during the day. So if we spend our waking hours worrying about work chances are we will dream  about that too, and if we spend that time trying to solve a complicated puzzle chances are our dreams will be related to that too.

Sometimes people ask "why dream at all? what' s it for? " but we never hear the same people ask "why do we think during the day?" So, why should we try to find a simplistic function for our dreaming state since we wouldn't do that for our waking state? Waking thought is for everything, so why reduce dreaming to one function only?

 We could write page after page recounting the different dream theories offered by psychologists since Freud expounded his idea that dreams express repressed sexual impulses from our unconscious and it certainly would be a fascinating endevour but none of these theories offer a comprehensive view of all types of dreams. Just as waking thought has different functions such as planning, reminiscing, ruminating, imagining etc dream cognition encompasses different modes of thinking.

It is well known that we all dream more than we think we do: this is because we can more easily  remember the dreams we have had  when we wake up right after a REM phase. Sleep researchers Aserinsky and Klietman discovered that human slumber goes in 90 minute cycles , each one of which contains a period of REM (rapid eye movement) during which we dream.

 In the past twenty years PET scans (positron emission tomography) have made it possible for us to see which areas of the brain get activated when we dream and it has been discovered that parts of the cortex associated with visual imagery, emotion, and the perception of movement are even more activated during REM than when we are awake, while the areas associated with logic and socially appropriate behavior are less engaged. This makes sense when we think that most dreams involve visual imagery, movement, emotion but not particularly logic or socially acceptable behavior.

Why would this make sense from an evolutionary perspective? During normal waking hours we filter out of our consciousness scenarios that are illogical or abnormal because it would be unsafe to not do so , while during sleep this is not necessary; on the other hand tackling problems in a creative way when in the safe state of dreaming could prove very insightful.

During the nineties more and more studies came to the conclusion that sleep is important for the consolidation of new learning: having a nap just after learning something makes it much more likely we will remember it afterwards. It seem that REM sleep has a role in memory in that the more REM sleep you get after learning the better you will recall  emotionally charged material. Another finding was that REM sleep in correlated with  problem solving, heightened performance and the capacity to articulate what has been grasped before sleep.

The next major breakthrough in research came when in 1972 sleep researcher William Dement of Standford University decided to conduct an experiment in which he tried to seed people's dreams with a specific problem . The findings suggested that, given the problems had relevance to the subject's life he or she would find the most interesting solutions during sleep especially when major life decisions were involved. It was also found that such solutions would present themselves even just after 1 week of   "incubation practice" during which the subjects would think about the problem right before going to sleep.

 This makes sense when we think that the areas of the brain that restrict our thinking to the logical and familiar are inhibited during REM sleep and such lack of activity is crucial when it comes to creativity. With this in mind it is easy to see how it is possible to train your dreams for problem solving. In my next article I will give you a simple exercise that will allow you to train yourself to do just that: find new creative solutions to specific problems you have and get inspired in your sleep!


For further reading try these books and articles:

The committee of sleep: how artists, scientist and athletes use dreams or creative problem solving. B
Deirdre Barrett, Crown (Random House) 2001

REM, not incubation, improves creativity by priming associative networks
D.J. Cal, S.A. Mednick, E.M. Harrison, J.C. Kanady and S.C>Mednick in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, Vol 106, No25. Pages 10130- 10134 , June 23, 2009

Sleep Enhances Category Learning
Ina Djonlagic et al, in Learning and Memory, Vol 16, No12, pages 751-755; December 2009

Dreaming and Offline Memory Processing
Erin J. Wamsley and Robert Stickgold in Current Biology, Vol 20, No 23, pages R1010-R1013, December 7, 20120

Stuff that dreams aren't made of
1993 paper by Donal Symons, University of California, Santa Barbara

Answers in your dreams
Deirdre Barrett

Unlocking the lucid dreams
Ursula Voss

The International Association for the study of dreams








Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dreamworking

There is more to dreams that meets the eye. Once you learn how to understand and appreciate your dreams you can begin to utilize them to aid you in seeing things differently. Dreams can help you advance your self development by allowing your to face a problem and solve it. 

It is very likely that most of your dreams could at first at least be quite negative. This is because dreams tell you about inner conflicts you are experiencing. This is a good thing. Conflicts cannot be resolved if you don't acknowledge them and they are not just going to go away by themselves.
If you choose to confront a problem instead of avoiding it you will be able to move on to better things. 

Even though part of the content of your dream may be familiar, the context can be unfamiliar. Often the story can be muddled and the circumstances surreal. This is because creative imagination is the language of the subconscious and metaphor here reigns supreme. Logic on the other hand resides in the conscious mind and the two might not mix particularly well when you are asleep, at least at first.

While on one hand your dream may include the people , events , sights and sounds that make up its "characters", the meaning of the dream lies underneath the surface level. The deeper meaning cannot really be grasped by your conscious mind because it is not an intellectual concept but an 'emotional' state or feeling.

While Freud used to believe that the reason dreams can be so indecipherable is because your unconscious may be trying to protect you from disturbing underlying messages, I believe the truth is slightly different. The fact that the mind responds in very similar ways during dreams to when under hypnosis tells us that the two are similar in that we access a similar state when either deeply relaxed or asleep. This state is similar to the state children are in til the age of 6. It is also the 'creative' state artists find themselves in when 'inspired'.

What if the fact that we feel so alienated from our dreams only reflects the alienation we experience from our creative selves? If this is the case then we can help ourselves understand our dreams by allowing ourselves to enter the creative space more often and vice versa. Perhaps you could ask yourself what the feeling of the dream was and paint it. Or write a story about it. Or make a collage. Or simply close your eyes, relax, recollect the feeling and let images come to mind. Then write down the first word that comes into your mind.

When trying to understand dream symbols keep in mind that many have been given universal meanings. These meanings, while useful as a guideline cannot be taken as the absolute truth. Saying so would be the same as saying that a chair  in my painting means the same thing as the chair in Van Gogh's. While there may be archetypes that connect our collective unconscious, we assign very personal meaning to our own symbols and need to 'tune in' to them rather than looking outside for explanation.

For example: drowning is said to symbolize a fear of being engulfed by an unexpressed need, but maybe water represents an overwhelming emotion to you instead, or perhaps you are simply afraid of water due to a past traumatic experience . What is important is the feeling  attached to the image or the metaphor you are dreaming of. So ask yourself : what was the feeling I got from the scene?

The key to understanding yourself better is to try and bridge the gap between your emotional creative self and your rational analytical self. Remember, they do not need to be enemies.  Instead they could be best friends. Imagine: if they worked in harmony what more do you think  could you achieve?




Monday, June 25, 2012

Exploring Symbols

One of the best ways of unravelling dreams is to explore and understand the symbols within it. Dreams are created by our subconscious mind and Imagination is the language of the subconscious.

Your dreams are visual symbolic representations of the way you feel at the moment you are dreaming. Dreams translate your way of experiencing and interpreting reality into images and stories, so try to select the images that leave a lasting impression.

Symbols aren't just objects; they could be people, places, colours, numbers, even words. Ultimately only you are qualified to interpret the meaning of your symbols but some of the following techniques may be useful in trying to decipher what the symbols mean to you.


  • Isolate the symbol you wish to understand
  • Look up its definition in a dictionary. This can sometimes trigger associations that you might have previously overlooked. 
  • Look up its definition is a dream dictionary. A lot of these might be completely arbitrary but again, this is just to help you think outside the box.
  • Don't take the meanings you find as final. Symbols mean different things to different people. 
  • Draw the image that interests you.
  • Write a few lines (or even a story)  about the feeling it inspires you with. This could give you fresh insights.
  • Tell someone about the dream: putting the dream into words can bring out different aspects of it and the person who you are recounting it to may contribute with ideas of the their own. 
  • Look at myths, folklore or fairytales. Some symbols such as a snake, a witch or a dragon are often found in stories. Maybe a symbol you have dreamt has played a role in a story or a myth. This could inspire new ways of understanding what's behind the image. 
  • Use free association. This method was used by Freud for dream interpretation. Proceed as follows: think of the symbol, then allow your mind to wander through any words that come into your head and see where the train of thought leads you to. 
  • Use direct association. This method was used by Jung. He believed that thoughts and associations should always refer directly back to the symbol. Proceed as follows: think of the chosen symbol. Holding it in your mind write down all the associated ideas and images that come to you. You will find that certain themes recur and certain symbols become familiar. 
  • Finally my own method: Close your eyes. Tell the dream in the present tense to yourself (as if you were re-living it now)  Imagine being the symbol. Describe yourself. What's your purpose? 


Have fun! In time you will learn to understand your own unique dream language.

A note: if you have a recurring dream this is very likely to be very significant and important for you to explore. Recurring dreams present us with issues that we need to pay attention to. It is our subconscious 's way of telling us there is something we need to deal with.

If you have a dream that stays with you and despite all the above techniques you still are at a loss I can help you understand what your subconscious is trying to tell you by using hypnotic dreamwork. If you do not know what this is, have a look at my previous article

http://dreamtherapyedinburgh.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/what-is-dream-therapy.html

and feel free to get in contact with me by writing to info@hypnotichealing.co.uk

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ways of Analyzing Dreams

From a therapeutic point of view it is not necessary to analyze dreams, because dreams speak a different language from the language we use in waking life and we can understand dreams better if we explore them while we are in a state of mind that is similar to our 'dreaming" state. That is why hypnotic dreamwork is so successful where other techniques fail.

However, rationally understanding your dreams can prove a useful tool in self exploration and can prove interesting in itself.  So if you still wish to go ahead and try to analyze your dreams rationally you need to have a dream diary and enough 'material" recorded.

Of course, the more dreams you have recorded the better, as this will allow you to be able to spot similarities and make associations.  Before you go any further decide which dreams are worth studying more closely and including in your analysis.

Some dreams will be more significant than others. Of course you wouldn't want to analyse a dream that you found uninteresting or a dream that was obvious in content and meaning (such as for example a dream about needing to go to the toilet after which you woke up needing to do exactly that) . Dreams that matter are those that possess special resonance such as dreams that give you a feeling that stays with you (whether positive or negative)

After you have sorted through the dreams you consider significant you ask yourself some questions:


  • Is the 'place' where the dream is set somewhere you have been to recently or in the past?
  • How does this place make you feel?
  • Try describing the setting: if for example you have dreamt that you were back at school and were taking a test , some of the words that might come up could be "young", "teacher", "test", "exam". 
  • How do you feel about these words? Do you feel pressure or stress or anxious when you think about those things?


Other questions to ask yourself are:


  • Who are the people in your dream? (if any)
  • What role do they play in your (waking) life ?
  • If they are people you never met before do they remind you of anyone you know?
  • What qualities do they have?
  • Once again, try to think of words that might describe them. Are they young, old, sweet, helpless, powerful, free, vulnerable, trapped etc? 
  • Does this relate at all with your current emotional state? Does this say anything about how you feel at the moment in your waking life?


Finally, think about the feelings around your dream:


  • how did you feel during your dream? 
  • How did you feel immediately afterwards? 
  • Have you felt a lot like this recently? The emotions in your dreams can give you a clue about how you feel in your waking life.


Once you have gone through a few dreams you may be ready to move on to find possible parallels among them so you may begin to understand your own unique dream "language". Ask yourself :


  • do certain themes appear regularly? 
  • do you have similar kind of dreams in times of stress?
  • do you see any patterns emerging?


We all create our own dream language. A big part of this language is made out of symbolic imagery. The best way to understand the language is to understand the symbols and what they mean to you.

Remember: your  subconscious has created your symbols so only you can truly understand what they mean. Although your rational mind may not understand them your subconscious does, and the subconscious is the seat of the emotions. This is why it is important to always connect to the feeling  behind the image.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Analysing dreams

You cannot begin to understand your dreams until you remember them. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to keep a dream diary. Over time you will find that you begin to gain an insight into your dream world, and into some of the events that influence your life. You will also become more familiar with the images of your unconscious mind and will begin to recognize and understand your own symbols.

Keeping a dream diary
Buy a notebook specifically for this purpose and keep it with a pen by your bed at all times. That means that even if you wake up in the middle of the night you can scribble down your recollections of your dream, or dreams, immediately. It might also be useful to keep a torch by your bed.

As soon as you wake up and before you start writing close your eyes for a few seconds and try to recapture some of the images in your dream. Most dreams are a series of images and remembering one could trigger the recollection of a sequence. If you can't recall any images, try to remember how you were feeling as this, too could trigger a fragment of a dream.

Now start writing. You could use the left hand page of the notebook to record the dream and the right hand page for your subsequent notes and comments. It is essential that you write your dream diary before you do anything else in the morning, so as to make it a habit. The more conscious you are in waking life, the more unconscious you will be of your dream world and any activity such as having a shower or making a cup of coffee will shift your concentration and dissipate the dream.

Try to include as much detail as possible, even the parts which don't seem to be relevant or don't make sense to you. Writing in the present tense will make the dream seem more immediate.
Once the bones of a dream have been recorded you can begin to flesh them out. One approach is to look at the dream in categories. For example  you could analyse it under the following headings:

Significance:  Is there a direct link between the dream and the day's events? Or does the dream reflect something from your past life?

Theme:  Did the dream have a main theme running through it? Were you running away?  Is it a recurrent dream?

Setting:  Where did the dream take place ?


People:  List the cast of chracters


Feelings:  Make a note of any emotions you experienced in the dream. Were you angry, scared or frustrated?

Words or phrases:  Did any words or phrases in the dream jump out or seem to have particular significance?

Other notes:  Was a particular color, time of day or season important in your dream?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Preparing to Sleep and Dream

A peaceful night's sleep will create an environment in which dreams will flourish. Make going to bed a pleasurable ritual, a time when you can put the day behind you and concentrate on the relaxing night ahead. If you are in the habit of going to bed late, retire earlier. The natural human sleep pattern is to sleep early and wake early, so don't stay up late "pottering" or watching television.

Relaxation Techniques

Think of your bedroom as a restful haven in your home where you can get away from the stresses of the day. Don't put computers or piles of work in the bedroom. Keep lighting soft , low and warm and tidy away discarded clothes and other clutter.

A long soak in a a warm bath has a soothing effect on the body and can be further enhanced by adding aromatherapy oils. Essential oils are concentrated so add no more than 5-10 drops to a full bathtub (no more than 2 drops for children) and consult your doctor if you are pregnant.

Experiment until you find the fragrances that work for you but three oils are traditionally considered best for sleep. Lavender helps with insomnia, tension and tiredness; sandalwood is purifying warming and soothing and jasmine is a balancing oil which helps to relieve stress.

If you enjoy reading bring your favorite book with you or try listening to appealing music while you learn to let go.  Bathing by candlelight will also make the occasion more relaxing and special. Most of all, take your time and allow yourself to fully enjoy this private personal space and time set aside just for yourself.

Massage a few drops of lavender or chamomile oil into the soles of your feet before going to bed, as both of these will act as a sedative. Putting a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow will also help to induce sleep.  Avoid caffeine drinks such as coffee and tea at least an hour before retiring as they will probably keep you awake. Instead have a bedtime drink such as hot milk with honey, chamomile tea or lemon balm (a good restorative for the nervous system).

Once you are in bed, unwind physically by concentrating on the different parts of your body in turn, from your toes to your head. Think about each part and make sure that it is relaxed before moving on to the next: "I relax my toes, my toes are completely relaxed. I relax my calves, my calves are completely relaxed, and heavy.  I imagine my thighs are relaxed, I breathe through my thighs while taking a deep breath and this breath makes them relax... I imagine a white light of relaxation moving in as I breathe in and carrying all my tensions and worries away... I imagine this white light to be like a river... carrying downstream all that is not needed right now... letting go of thoughts, knowing I will be able to still find them downstream if I so wish tomorrow morning... I let my thoughts go to sleep too... I let go... I allow my torso to relax... I imagine my arms to be heavy and relaxed, limp and lazy, as heavy as lead, as relaxed as a wet dish cloth... I relax my hands... I relax my jaw... and so on and so forth.

Alternatively first tense and then release each group of muscles, starting at your toes and moving upwards through your calves, thighs, hands, arms, bottom, stomach, neck and face, giving your mouth, eyes, cheeks and eyebrows separate attention.

Finally, if you do sometimes have trouble dropping off to sleep, try not to worry about the amount of sleep you are getting, as your body will eventually make sure that you get all the sleep you need. The  the Law of Reverse Effect says that the more you worry about not going to sleep the more you will keep awake. Paradoxically if you accept that your sleep may be delayed and that you still are getting a rest by lying down quietly you are more likely to eventually fall asleep.  There is no point watching a pot that never boils. Do something else (read, write down your thoughts on a diary, listen to music, or just daydream) and eventually sleep will come. 

One good way to think about it is realizing that not sleeping is not really as bad as you may make it out to be. Think about it: you probably had a night in the past when you went to a party or had such a good night with a lover or a friend that you didn't sleep much. The day after the memory of that time kept you buzzing and you didn't really care that you had a couple hours sleep instead of eight full hours. This shows you that , far from being a catastrophe, not sleeping is just a slight inconvenience. You can still function if you don't sleep, albeit it would be preferable to sleep plenty but by re-framing not sleeping as something you can cope with, you don't allow your anxiety to get the best of you, and relaxing becomes easier.

However if you have persistent symptoms do make an appointment to see me or another qualified hypnotherapist who will be able to help you directly by teaching you self hypnosis and other techniques and giving you post hypnotic suggestions for a restful night sleep.

Preparing to Dream

Before switching off the light, tell yourself that you will relax body and mind, go to sleep quickly and sleep uninterruptedly through to the morning. Or simply repeat to yourself "I will remember my dreams". Say this as an affirmation, a positive and gentle way of telling your subconscious that you feel in control and you are interested.


Just as essential oils can help you to relax, certain herbs are thought to be conducive to dreaming. The following herbs can be put in a small sachet and kept under your pillow.
Mugworth is said to aid dream recall and also to induce "prophetic" dreams. Rose has a relaxing smell and like Mugworth  is supposed to bring prophetic dreams - especially those of romantic nature. Rosemary is useful for warding off nightmares and bringing restful sleep; it is also said to be effective if you want a particular question answered in a dream.

Finally, hang a "dream-catcher"  above your bed. Originating from Native American culture, this is a net woven on a round frame decorated with beads and feathers. The net is thought to catch bad dreams, which evaporate with the first rays of the morning sun, while the good dreams drift down onto the sleeper below.