The use of dreams in homeopathic treatment
Homeopaths have used dreams since Hahnemann’s time. Our repertories and provings contain many references to dreams, yet there are many questions about how to effectively use dreams to help locate the simillimum. I would like to address why we need to use dreams more than in the past and show some techniques that assist in using dreams in homeopathic practice. Finally, I will present a case where the remedy is found through a dream and give some suggestions for developing the ability to use dreams.
Much of what I have learned about the use of dreams is from my mentor and supervisor, Jungian analyst, V. Walter Odajnyk. Dr. Odajnyk is an analysand of both Marie Louise von Franz and Edward Edinger who were well-known colleagues of Carl Jung. I am very grateful to the four of them, for their research and teaching.
Why use dreams in case analysis?
Our predecessors asked about food desires, physical modalities and sensations and often got clear, straightforward answers. It is rare for a contemporary homeopath to treat an individual who has not had most of his or her mental, general and physical symptoms suppressed. We live in a very complex and over-medicated society that is reluctant to allow any physical symptom to go untreated or any mental symptom untrained. Most people live a life that is so removed from nature that symptoms are intellectualized and unreliable, making for a very difficult time finding the correct prescription.
Fortunately, dreams lie outside our ability to manipulate them. We cannot create a false reality in our dreams or influence them with our will. Material that is suppressed from the conscious state moves into the subconscious and is frequently expressed through the dream state. Because the dream is an attempt on the part of the organism to heal itself, when used and analyzed accurately, material from dreams can lead to some of the most reliable symptoms in a case. Although they seem ephemeral, dreams are actually objective facts about a person’s mental and physical state.
Carl Jung said that the most likely reality is that there is no such thing as body and mind but rather that they are the same life, subject to the same laws, and what the body does is happening in the mind. This relationship is already quite clear to homeopaths on one level, however, we often use dreams in a way that misses this connection. We use the dream as if it were a separate symptom out of the context of the entirety of the case.
We need techniques that will help us to use dreams so that they enrich the “red thread that runs throughout the case”. Used in this way, dreams give a clear picture of pathology, lead us to the remedy and help us to understand the process that is about to unfold.
Techniques of dream analysis
Similar to homeopathic case taking, techniques of dream analysis are more like non-techniques, an informed and intelligent “stepping out of the way” and allowing the process to unfold.
One of the most important approaches to using dreams is to understand that no dream stands alone. It is meaningful only in relationship to the individual dreamer. Therefore, even though there are symbols in dreams that frequently have particular meanings, they are only valid symptoms if it is correct and helpful to the dreamer. The dreamer must be in agreement with the analysis. If the dreamer disagrees or only just “goes along” it cannot be reliably used as a homeopathic symptom.
To receive accurate information from a dream, we allow the person to speak about his dream with only a little question here and there when stuck. It is the dreamer who makes the associations in the dream, who puts the pieces of the puzzle together. The equivalent to the case taking “what else” when applied to dream analysis is, I don’t know what it means, what do you think. Or, what do you associate with (this or that aspect of the dream). As the process goes on the information will unfold and, if the homeopath can keep his/her “not knowing” mode long enough, a very surprising and complete picture may emerge.
Dreams that are given during the homeopathic interview are subtly different than the dreams that are dreamt for psychotherapy. This is because the dreamer dreams the dream for himself and for the therapist. In the case of the homeopathic interview the dreamer’s psyche knows it is working within the symbolic realm of homeopathy, so the information will often be coded with images about the remedy. Also, the clients associations will be more likely to be directed towards the remedy. All this goes on from a level that is beneath the conscious mind, it comes from the center of the psyche of the client to the receptive psyche of the homeopath. The more receptive the psyche of the homeopath is to the dynamics and interactions of the dream state, the more this will happen. The psyche has its own intelligence and does not speak to those who will not or cannot hear what it has to say with an unprejudiced ear.
The symbolic realm
When we work with dreams we are entering into the world of imagery and symbols, a primary way that human beings experience our inner and outer world. This symbolic realm is pre-verbal and often points to a greater reality than can be expressed in a more linear form. Symbols and imagery can lead us to the reality of an individual’s dilemma because, being so fundamental, they are a connection between the mind and the body. Symbols are defined by Carl Jung as an expression of a spontaneous experience which points BEYOND ITSELF – that goes beyond the limitation of rational thought. It is the best description or formula of an unknown fact.
Very often, that unknown fact is exactly what we need to know to find the simillimum. The following case helps to illustrate how the symbolism found in a childhood dream points not only to the simillimum but helps us more fully to understand what needs to be healed in the individual.
This article and case were first published in Simillimum, 1999.
Chevalier, Jean and Gheerbrant, Alain, Dictionary of Symbols, New York, New York, Penguin Books, 1996
Jung, C.G., the Practice of Psychotherapy, Princeton N.J., Princeton University Press. 1985.
Whitmont, M.D., Edward C. The Symbolic Quest, Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press. 1991.
Von Franz, Marie- Louise, The Way of the Dream, Boston, Mass. Shambhala Publications, 1992.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Adam Elsheimer; Jacob's dream
Keywords: dream analysis, symbols, Carl Jung