NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Working with Dreams to Develop Your Creative Imagination

Dreams and Your Creative Imagination:
I love working with dreams, my own dreams as well as clients' and friends' dreams. Dream work provides us with a unique opportunity to access our creative imagination in ways that are often not accessible to us in the normal waking state.

Working with Dreams to Develop Your Creative Imagination

What Do We Mean by "Imagination"?
The word "imagination" has gotten a bad rap in modern times, especially for adults. Often, when we hear the words "imagined" or "imagination," it has a negative connotation. We often think of these words as meaning something that is false, as in: "It was just his imagination." 

But the word "imagination" has a much broader meaning. When we can open up to our imagination, we open ourselves to our internal world of images, ideas, emotions, and our felt sense about ourselves and the world around us. 

We use our imagination to learn new things and to understand and develop new concepts. We also use our imagination to come up with creative solutions to everyday problems and in our creative endeavors. Most inventions were created with the inventor using his or her imagination to come up with new ideas. Often, these inventors came up with creative ideas through their dreams.

Children are usually much better attuned to their imagination and can enter into and out of imagined states or play with ease. They know the difference between imagination, play and everyday waking reality. But, somehow, for many of us, when we become adults, we often get the message that imagining and play are things that are left behind in childhood for the logical reality of adulthood. Even for some children who are scolded for daydreaming or "making up stories" from their imagination, they lose this precious skill early in life.

Remembering Your Dreams:
In order to do dream work, you must first remember your dreams. For most people who are motivated to remember their dreams, a simple suggestion before going to sleep as well as keeping a note pad and pen close at hand to jot down dreams is often enough to help you remember your dreams. It's important to write down your dream in the present tense as soon as you wake up.

We often think that we'll remember a dream only to have it slip away like vapor as soon as we focus on something else. Even if what you remember is only a snippet of part of a dream, write it down. By writing down even a snippet of a dream, you're giving your unconscious mind the suggestion that dreams are important. Usually, over time, snippets will develop into more in-depth memories of dreams.

Keeping a Dream Journal:
I recommend keeping a dream journal where you record your dreams. Keeping the dream journal in a safe and private place will allow you to feel free to write down your dreams without censoring yourself. Giving each dream a date and dream title and keeping an index is also very helpful in many ways. 

First, by giving titles to your dreams, you're giving your unconscious mind the suggestion that dreams are meaningful stories that you want to remember. Second, having an index of dream titles helps you to look back on particular themes.

How Does Dream Work Help Us to Access Our Creative Imagination?
When I do dreamwork with clients, I help them to get back into the dream state (also called the hypnogogic state) of the particular dream that we're working on. In this dream state, you have access to the images, emotions, and the felt sense of the dream.

A psychotherapist who is experienced with doing this type of dream work, such as Embodied Imagination, can help clients to access not only their own experiences in the dream but also tap into the experiences of the other characters in the dream. I've written about Embodied Imagination and Robert Bosnak in prior blog posts: ( I also recommend reading Robert Bosnak's book, Embodiment, available in paperback.

If you want to develop your creative mind while dreaming, you can also give yourself a suggestion before going to sleep to have creative dreams about the issue that you want to work on. This takes some practice, motivation, and patience. Using evocative imagery just before going to sleep is often helpful to incubate dreams on a particular issue.

When I work with clients who want to incubate dreams to come up with creative solutions for a particular problem or issue, I help them get into a relaxed state to use their imagination. This might involve having them focus on their emotional experience and desire related to this issue. 

I help them to sense into their experience using their five senses, as well as their imagination, emotions and felt sense. Then, before they go to sleep, they practice what we did in our therapy session for a minute or so before going to sleep in order to incubate dreams. Often, these experiences can be revelatory, accessing a deep sense of creativity that is not usually available to them in normal waking life.

I recommend working with a psychotherapist who has a psychoanalytic background and who has experience using Embodied Imagination to get the full experience of using your imagination and developing your creativity. But you can also benefit from paying attention to your dreams on your own to develop your creativity.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, hypnotherapist, Somatic Experiencing therapist, and EMDR therapist.

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.