I really don’t want to talk about anyone’s dream unless I know their first feelings on waking.
Feelings inside the dream are important, but feelings right after the experience are even more revealing. They are likely to convey whether the dream is generally positive or negative, whether its themes are of urgent or remote importance to the dreamer, and much more.
Sometimes people have a hard time describing what they feel in the wake of a dream. I gently encourage them to go beyond what they think about the dream to what they feel, including what their bodies may be telling them about the dream. In discussion, it quite often emerges that a dreamer does not have any strong feelings around a dream. To say that your feelings about a dream are “neutral” is still to answer the question, What did you feel?, and can be very revealing indeed. If your feelings are neutral, that suggests that what is happening in the dream is not of immediate or pressing significance in your personal life. You may have been looking in on things that are going on at a distance. You may have been doing some remote viewing of something that is of no great consequence to you in your current life. You may have slipped into the situation and perspective of a different person, in another time or place.
It’s always intriguing to compare dream content that might be expected to evoke a certain type of response with feelings after teh dream that are wildly different. In one of my first public dream classes, a woman recounted a dream in which liquid that might have been blood was being splashed and spattered all over her kitchen. After the dream, she had no sense of horror, or even of irritation over the mess in the kitchen. She was happy. In discussion, we found childlike exuberance in the dream scene; the liquid now looked less like blood than like Kool-Aid. Pretty soon we learned that the dreamer had been hoping for some time to get pregnant. We recommended a pregnancy test and it turned out that, indeed, she was pregnant. The dream was no horror story because it was coaching her for delivery and what would follow.
Dreams give us text, but should not be read as text. We must not confuse our dream reports with the fuller experience of the dream. The experience, fully remembered, requires no interpretation. But of course our memories of what happens in dreams is usually sketchy and clouded. Tracking feelings around a dream helps us get closer to the missing material, even if narrative content is still missing.
So, if you want to share a dream, or help someone else with a dream, remember that the first question needs to be: How did you feel right after the dream? “Right after” does not mean, after you have shared the dream with your therapist or your fifty closest friends. It means, right after.