Wouldn’t it be great if you had your own personal adviser who could offer you valuable guidance on your most pressing questions? Well, you do!
Your wise self is available to counsel you each night in your dreams. You can ask for guidance in a particular area through a process called “dream incubation.”
The idea of asking for particular assistance or for healing in a dream is not new; it dates back to at least 6 century BCE in Ancient Greece and Rome. Those seeking a healing, diagnosis, or other guidance would sleep in the shrines at Ephesus or Pergamon in order to receive a dream from Asclepius or one of the other healing gods.
Since at least the 1930s scientists have been intrigued enough by dream incubation to conduct research studies on problem-solving in our sleep. Some of these studies involved giving subjects puzzles, brain-teasers, or even crossword puzzles to look at just before bed. About half of the 76 college student subjects in a study by Deirdre Barrett felt they succeeded at dreaming the solution. In this same study, asking a question of personal relevance was found to be more likely to get a dream reply than academic or puzzle questions.
You can incubate a dream for:
- Solutions to a problem: Scientific breakthroughs have come through dreams, such as chemist August Kekule’s dream of a snake biting its own tail prompting his discovery of the structure of the benzene ring.
- Inspiration on a creative project: The Surrealists are one example of a group of artists who used dreams as creative fodder for their art. The Bureau for Surrealist Research even started an archive for dream imagery. I’ve worked with clients who received entire songs in their sleep and I myself have received ideas for jewelry designs, other artwork, and writing.
- Visiting a loved one who has died: I have had several dreams visits from friends and family who I missed and asked to see.
- Guidance in a particular area of your life: Once while on a retreat where I was engaged in personal growth work, I asked for a dream to give me a status report: What had I accomplished? What was the next most important thing to focus on? I had 8 dreams that night!
- Direct healing: On one occasion when I had a nasty headache I asked for healing in my sleep. I dreamt of a ninja shooting me in the temple (the location of my headache) with an acupuncture needle that had a little wire with mild electrical current running through it. When I awoke the headache was gone.
Ready to try it for yourself? The instructions are simple:
- Before going to bed, you may want to place a visual reminder of your question on the nightstand beside the bed. This will help to remind you of your question when you wake up, increasing the chances of recalling any dreams.
- As you are falling asleep, repeat the question or request over and over to yourself.
- Upon waking, make note of any dreams, dream fragments, images, phrases, or a song in your head that you can remember from the night in your dream journal. Even if it doesn’t appear related at first, write it down anyway.
- Look over your dreams (or dream fragments, songs, memories, etc) from your dream journal to see what they might be saying in response to your question. You might want to talk over your dreams with a friend or professional to get a different perspective. You could also take your dream to a dream group or send it in to our radio show to be interpreted.
- The answer to your question may not come right away. Sometimes there are other subjects of greater importance for your dreams to address, or you may not remember any.
- Be on the lookout for the answer showing up in waking life, too. There can be a synchronicity or sign that stands out to you, such as overhearing a comment by someone else in line at the grocery store that’s relevant to the very question you asked.
You can on occasion incubate a dream without fully intending to, simply by thinking a lot about or speaking about a topic that’s on your mind. You can also incubate a dream to receive guidance for someone else.
I have found it quite empowering to be able to receive guidance on the questions that are close to my heart. Your own wise self is ready and willing to offer assistance with any area of your life. I hope you enjoy getting to know this part of yourself better.