Dream Therapy: Dream your way to health and happiness: Book review by Kelly Bulkeley in DreamTime magazine.
Clare Johnson’s Dream Therapy (the title of its UK edition; a US edition titled Mindful Dreaming is due out in April of 2018) is a warm and welcoming invitation to explore one’s own dreams as a source of valuable personal insight and guidance in waking life. The book is written in clear and engaging prose, and it would serve as an excellent ﬁrst text and companion for readers who are brand new to dreaming.
When people who have never before paid attention to their dreams begin to do so, the response of their dreaming unconscious is often strong, surprising, and bordering on the overwhelming. Johnson anticipates this and helps readers create a solid grounding in their sleep patterns, journaling practices, and mindfulness exercises, all of which supports readers as they process what they are experiencing and prepare themselves for further exploration. Although she does not shy away from the darker shadows that emerge in dreaming, Johnson emphasizes the healthy and ultimately transformative potentials of dreaming: “When we open the door to our dream images and stories, we open the door to an entire new world of creative and healing possibilities.”
It’s always appreciated when the author of a book on dreams is willing to share one of his or her dreams, if only to give some sense of the personal context and originating motivations involved in the writing process. Johnson describes a dream she recalls from age three that has had an enduring impact on her life:
“The dream was so vivid, colorful, and real, that afterwards it seemed to give itself a title: ‘Drowning in a Turquoise Swimming Pool.’ That dream marked the start of my fascination with dreaming. There was so much light and beauty in the dream, at ﬁrst. I was loving playing in the water, until I felt myself sinking too deep and beginning to drown. Then I panicked. But in a ﬂash of lucidity, I realized I had a choice: I could either stay in the dream and drown, or wake myself up. I chose to wake up. That childhood dream has become a metaphor for my life.”
Her dream has certainly borne fruit in this book, which expands on the capacity for lucid self awareness that was precociously disclosed to her in this highly memorable dream of drowning. Johnson’s basic approach is to build on current research on the psychological values of dreaming, and then show how a more mindful and proactive approach can enhance those values. Her doctoral studies focused on lucid dreaming as a creative writing tool, and this new book widens her lens to consider lucid dreaming as a means of energizing and rejuvenating all aspects of life.
Johnson covers many common themes in the modern study of dreams, including nightmares, dreams of illness, dreams of grief and loss, sexual dreams, children’s dreams, and many others. In each case she shows how anyone, whatever their previous background in dreaming, can gain profound insights from these experiences. Beyond that, she shows how a few simple exercises can open the way to a much deeper and more dynamic engagement with the dreaming imagination:
“Dreamwork is a little like magic because it allows us to dissolve the veil that covers our own hidden, unconscious world. Once the veil is gone, we can clearly see the state of our life; what it lacks and what it needs to become healthier and happier.”
Dream Therapy is highly recommended for anyone new to dreams, especially people who are already interested in humanistic and transpersonal modes of psychology.