NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Psychotherapy Blog: Embodied Imagination Dreamwork

In my prior blog post, Dream Incubation: Planting Seeds, I discussed Robert Bosnak's Embodied Imagination dream incubation technique. As I mentioned, Embodied Imagination dream incubations are performed by psychotherapists or dreamworkers who have been trained in this technique as a way of helping to "plant seeds" in the dreamer's unconscious mind to work on areas that are important to the dreamer.

Embodied Imagination Dreamwork

These areas might include: health issues, creative blocks, relationship issues, career decisions, or any other areas of a person's life that are meaningful to him or her. Dream incubations have also been used to help actors with their roles.

In the fictionalized account from the last blog post, Donna's therapist assisted her to come up with a composite of the images, physical sensations, and emotions associated with her desire to overcome her creative block and increase her motivation to do her artwork. This composite consisted of the various trigger points in her body, and her therapist used these trigger points to help incubate a dream for Donna to overcome her creative block.

The following scenario is a continuation of the fictionalized account about Donna's incubation:

Donna spent a few minutes focusing on the trigger points related to her dream incubation every night, as her therapist suggested. Although Donna was aware that everyone has, on average, 4-6 dreams every night, during the first three days, Donna couldn't remember any dreams.

Embodied Imagination Dreamwork

But on the fourth day, she had a dream that she wrote down immediately upon waking up so she wouldn't forget it. She remembered that her therapist told her that it was very important to write the dream in the present tense. When she saw her therapist again, she recounted the following dream:

I'm in a coffee shop seated by myself. I notice an old friend, Nina, that I haven't seen in at least 10 years. I walk over to where she is. She's delighed to see me. We chat and get caught up with each other. The scene changes: Later on, I'm standing in the corridor of an apartment building. Somehow, I can see through the wall into Nina's apartment. I see her getting ready to go out to see an old boyfriend. Somehow, I know that she wants to get him back again. She's sitting in front of her dresser mirror and putting on makeup. I can only see her in the dresser mirror because she has her back to me. I notice how determined she looks. Her eyes are very intense. She is very focused on looking "just so" because she wants her date to go well.

According to the Embodied Imagination technique, Donna's therapist listened carefully to the dream and tuned into what resonated for her in the dream. Then, she asked Donna to tell the dream a second time in the present tense. Then, the therapist asked Donna for any associations to the dream. Donna responded by saying that she has always admired Nina for being someone who is very determined to get what she wants. Donna said that, in reality, Nina isn't as manipulative or as calculating as she came across in the dream. The dream presented Nina's determination in an exaggerated way.

Donna's therapist helped Donna to get into a waking hypnogagic state so that she could reenter the dream state. As previously mentioned in prior blog posts, Embodied Imagination is not about dream interpretation or dream analysis. The therapist started by helping Donna to feel the physical environment in the coffee shop. Once Donna resonated with the physical environment, she told her therapist what she noticed in the dream when she saw Nina, what emotions she felt, and where she felt them in the body. All the while, Donna was able to maintain a dual awareness of the here-and-now as well as the dream state.

Then, the therapist helped Donna to "transit" into the Nina character from the dream. She did this by, at first, having Donna descrbe how she felt about Nina and what she noticed in detail. As Donna got closer and closer to Nina's experience, at a certain point, the therapist asked Donna to allow herself to be "embodied" by the Nina character. She asked her to look through Nina's eyes, while, at the same time, maintaining an awareness of herself in the dream.

Donna was amazed at how much she was able to get from taking on the dream character, Nina's perspective. She felt Nina's determination through the energy in the eyes and the torso. She experienced it as an energy that started from just below her navel and came up through her body and out through the top of her head. She even felt the warmth of the energy as it circulated through her body.

Towards the end of the dreamwork, the therapist helped Donna to feel a composite of all the trigger points from her own dream character as well as Nina's trigger points. Donna had a strong felt sense of the images, physical sensations, and emotions from the dream. Her therapist helped her to blend together all of these trigger points to give Donna an integrated experience of the dream.

After they worked the dream, the therapist suggested that Donna use the composite, including the energy and determination of the Nina dream character, to overcome her creative block. She encouraged Donna to spend at least a few minutes every day practicing experiencing the composite of the trigger points in her body.

Over the next few weeks, Donna practiced experiencing the trigger points in her body.

Embodied Imagination Dreamwork

Whereas before, she had problems motivating herself to do her artwork, when she immersed herself in the trigger points from the dream, she felt renewed energy and vitality. Soon, she was able to return to her artwork with the passion that she had felt before.

Embodied Imagination dreamwork is not magic. It works best if you're working on something that is really meaningful to you.

To find out more about Embodied Imagination, visit their website:

I am a New York City licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I also enjoy using Embodied Imagination incubations and dreamwork.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.