Grades 1 Through College Level
Drawing Dream Images
Procedure: Give out paper, crayons, chalk, paints and modeling clay. Instruct students to draw a single image or scene from a recent dream or one they remember with particular vividness. (Note: recent dreams allow for greater identification of life circumstances that are often reflected in the dream. Earlier dreams from life histories are more difficult to decipher simply because the student tends not to be able to confirm speculation about their meaning. But for the purposes of dream drawing and exploring the feelings the imagery causes, any vivid dream image is appropriate.)
Have students take approximately 20-30 minutes to create a dream drawing. If they complete sooner then take less time. Encourage the use of color, lines indicating motion, jagged lines indicating fear or frenzy, anything they can do to reflect not only what they saw, but how they felt, and what if anything went through their minds. To the extent possible, allow students to select the writing implements, colors and clay they want to use. Not all students will want or need the clay, but many find that a particular monster, blob or snake can best be depicted in clay. Some will do a full drawing, with clay figures as props to amplify the qualities involved. Encourage students to raise a hand or ask others for the colors they need. Let them have more paper as needed too, since some will find they require more space, or spontaneously recall a related scene or image that feels important. Stress that this is not an artistic endeavor, but a chance to get a dream image on paper so that it can be viewed from a different perspective. Emotional expression, not artistic quality is the priority.
Group Viewing: When students are done, have everyone walk around the room silently and view all the pictures. Instruct them to notice their reactions to the pictures, particularly how they feel as they view them and what the images make them think about. This should only take a couple of minutes. Then have students take a seat with their pictures.
Dreamer's Display Their Pictures: If possible, have the students arrange their chairs so that they can all see each other, as in a circle. If this is not possible, then ask each student to stand (and come to the front of the room if necessary), to hold up their picture, and explain what it is, and a little about the dream it came from. After they have made their explanation, invite students to comment about how this picture makes them feel, either when they viewed it a moment ago, or now. Notice if the students "caught" the emotion in the picture, even if they did not understand exactly what the scene was. Inquire if others have had this type of image in their dreams. Ask the dreamer if this was the only time they have dreamed of this image, or if this is a recurring theme. If so, how often do they have this dream? And for how long has it been recurring?
Speculation on Relevance:: For this exercise, it is usually best to be cautious in speculating on the relevance of the dream's image. Only encourage this, if the class has caught the notion of being sensitive and serious about it, rather than joking and casting aspersions. However high school and college students usually are intuitively good at wondering about the situations and feelings that catalyze dream imagery. The purpose of this exercise is to notice how making a representation of a dream image allows us to have a different experience of it. When we view the "creation" in this way, it loses its power over us, and we are able to see connections to real life that are invisible when in the throes of a dream memory. When dreams are "stuck" inside our heads, it is difficult to understand them. When we make external images of them, through art or writing or even retelling them, they become patterns we can understand more objectively. Also viewing these creations in a group allows us the benefit of other's impressions – often these are uncannily astute and point out things the dreamer has failed to notice.
Processing: You may want to congratulate dreamers on how well their drawing captured a particular quality in the dream; in a sense allowing everyone else to "taste" that moment as if they were dreaming it too. This can be seen in the choice of color, the scale of images, and the starkness or shading involved. Many people have noticed that drawing which is unrefined by artistic technique is particularly rich in psychological overtones. This type of discussion also allows people to experience their dreams as special, creative, extraordinary reflections of their lives and feelings, rather than peculiarities and mysteries. This exercise is a good way to lead into the study of dreams and dream interpretation because it takes the focus away from interpreting and places it on expressing and appreciating dream imagery.