The Preliminary to Analysis is the Content: How to Remember and Describe Dreams Using “NIM” and “MALA”
(Copyright Talmage Carawan, 2013-2018; for rights reserved and permitted, see the post entitled “New Publications”)
A Dream needs to be Described and Recorded Prior to Analysis
Here we have some raw material to work from. Some of the dreams presented here are my own, but most are from friends and others willing to share. They will not be presented clinically, as Freud or Jung may have done, nor will they be interpreted and analyzed in this section. Rather, they will simply be written, in an objective as possible manner, based either on my recollection of a personal dream, or the description of a dream, if from another.
There are several methods to draw forth dreams and to record them. We start with the simplest one, the Non Induced Method, which involves the least conscious effort.
A basic knowledge of psychology, psychotherapy, or psychoanalysis may be helpful in reading this section. These basics include knowledge of the consciousness, unconsciousness, transference, and generally, the psychoanalytic method. The sections on Jungian psychology define these; however, they are not required to benefit from a direct reading here.
In the Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep, a method is described in another section here, which does not rely at all on the Western approach. With this Non Induced Method of Dreaming, a western approach is taken in the interest of remaining scientific and objective, so standard terms may be used as understood by the analyst. The one thing differing from Freud or Jung is that I defer from the Clinician, or Physician viewpoint, simply relying on a scientific, analytical, logical perspective. One might well wonder what the difference would be here, and outside of the licence held by the psychiatrist to prescribe drugs, there may be none. So, in this approach, we will only be using natural methods. In those case where there may be indication of a very serious condition requiring medication, a referral must be immediately made, for we would do the dreamer no justice otherwise.
The Non Induced Method of Dreaming- Recording our own Dreams
Regarding one’s one dreams, it is best to have paper and pen handy, at the bedside preferably, and to awake not from an alarm clock or other sudden and loud disturbance, but on awakening and being aware and remembering a dream, go through it while awake, or semi-awake, to remember that part of it, then, return to sleep as undisturbed as possible. Getting up to write things down is not to be done at this point. Of course, one either needs to go to bed earlier than normal, or to be able to sleep later than normal, as we are inducing a dream state at the end of the night, rather than from the start in this case.
In this Non Induced Method, or “NIM,” we simply become aware of the dream state, and then allow ourselves to dwell at the cusp of consciousness, remaining hopefully at the most aware, but least awake state. It may take “training” to do this, but we don’t want to force any method, and by training, we refer more to simply relaxing in a natural state. This natural state, according to the Vajrayana Buddhists, is that of Natural Great Perfection, and there is more about that in the section on the Yogas of Dream and Sleep, and so this is only mentioned, for the reader’s reference. For NIM recording of dreams, no particular philosophy or science is really required. Even the word “method” tends to overdo things.
After recognizing the dream in the Most Aware, but Least Awake (or “MALA”) state, we resist any desire to get up and write down the dream, but allow ourselves to drift back to sleep. With enough time, we may move through several such cycles, drifting between Awake and MALA and Asleep, with each point of MALA being a point of greater awareness of our dream state. This may or may not be significant, however, to the content and future analysis of the dream. We might be reacting to a noise outside, or from within, our house, apartment, or hotel room, and this just serves as an interruption not related to the dream.
Of significance however, would be a point in the dream which is lucid enough, that is real enough, to trigger something in the mind which awakes us to the dream content. When we have gone through enough cycles, whether it be one, two, or several, and we finally have to get up, then sit at the edge of the bed and immediately write down everything that can be remembered about the dream, doing no interpretation, no analysis or thought, beyond that of just getting things on paper.
This is very important, as the vast majority of us, if not everyone of us, dreams every night, but we do not take the time to awaken gradually, nor do we take the time to record the dream before getting up. Once one gets up, goes to the bathroom or into the kitchen to make coffee, or even thirty seconds to put on slippers or a robe, all may be lost. That first minute is critical, to put the dream to pen and paper. Someone might use a tape recorder, digital or analog, to describe out loud, but however the recording is made, it must be done at the edge of the bed, not once one is out of the bed and going about the home.
The Non Induced Method of Dreaming- Recording the Dreams of Others
We see now how we can can record our own dreams, to capture the immediacy of them, and most importantly, to be honest and accurate with what has happened. All is up to us in this case, and it is our own honest and accuracy that promotes the validity of any subsequent analysis.
How do we record the dreams of others, using the Non Induced Method?
First, that person must be aware of NIM, and be willing to practice it. They may or may not be immediately successful, and so a discussion of their habits on awakening is required. Improvements in this threshold state are recommended, of course, following the path of NIM in ourselves.
Once they put NIM into practice, and dreams are recorded, they should submit the original material to the analyst, whether that be hand written notes, or an audio recording. Naturally, the more legible, the better, but assuming it is only likely barely legible to the originator, they will then, in person, describe what they have written, with reference as needed to the notes. Another way is for the dreamer to take their rough notes and transcribe them into something legible, presenting these to the analyst.
Now, here is where we face the greatest challenge, and it is a difficulty to surmount. The more time that elapses between the dream and its original recording, and the transference of that dream content to the analyst, the more time there is for the dreamer to interpret and analyze their own dream, very likely changing their recollection of the dream to better fit the conclusion of their own analysis.
It must be made clear that in a study of the Dream Dharma presented in these pages that an important goal is for a self empowerment of the recording, recollection and analysis, that is, the dreamer is capable of understanding their unconscious world through dreams and bringing about an improvement in their conscious life. These abilities will vary of course from one person to another, but with study and effort, this should be possible.
A more primary goal of this presentation is to be able to develop an awareness of one’s own capabilities, to know when to both seek assistance in this analysis, and whether one is indeed capable of helping another person in this process, or should be referred to someone with more experience and knowledge. In the case of requiring assistance, then a general outline for the Empowerment process will be made here, and opportunities for in person sessions will be made, as well as a course developed for distance learning.
The Distinction Between “Dreamer” and “Patient”
Note that we do not refer to someone as a “patient,” but a “dreamer.” The distinction must be made, particularly in cases where referral for more help is indicted. The Dream Analyst is not typically a medical practitioner in the commonly accepted legal context, and should not be viewed as one. Of course, there are psychiatrists and psychologists, and others that may properly present as a clinician, involved in these or similar methods of analysis, but that label must be supported by licensing and credentialing as might be required by the community. Any questions of both capability and liability must be answered directly, to the point of having the dreamer sign a statement indicating awareness of the relationship, and not confusing what may be the expectations of both the analyst or dreamer.
Some thought may be given to labeling the dream analyst a “facilitator,” in order to establish some formal distinction. However, there are compelling reasons for retain the analytic focus, as will be presented in the paper on Transference and countertransference, and more of these concepts are discussed there.