The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners.


Randal Churchill will be teaching
Become the Dream
Saturday, April 20, 2018
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by Randal Churchill

Working with the subconscious mind gives us the potential for deep transformation. One of the vitally important functions of the subconscious mind is dreaming. Dreams are direct existential messages from the subconscious. To enter the dream and work with it directly is an opportunity for profound subconscious shifts.

I find Gestalt dreamwork to be a wonderful method to integrate with hypnotherapy. Although it was not generally understood before the publication of the first edition of my book Become the Dream, the methods of Gestalt dreamwork tend to initiate or deepen a hypnotic state. This is a major reason why Gestalt methods can be so effective. I began consistently adding additional hypnotic techniques to Gestalt dreamwork 45 years ago, and have found them to be an ideal match. By further utilizing this spontaneous entrance to the subconscious, we can add even greater value to the methods of Gestalt.

The vast majority of therapy procedures used to discover the meaning of dreams is interpretive. The role of the therapist is to analyze the dream or, in some cases, to help the patient or client analyze it. The overwhelming number of books about dreamwork attempt to help the reader understand how to interpret dreams.

Gestalt methods, on the other hand, do not analyze or interpret. Rather than understanding intellectually, the purpose is to experience the dream and feel significant aspects of it at a core level. Dr. Fritz Perls, primary founder of Gestalt therapy, said “Lose your mind and come to your senses.” Rather than analyze it, become the dream and all of its different parts. The deeper meaning of the dream is found with Gestalt methods through your heart, your gut, your senses and feelings.

Most people have had the experience of waking up from a particularly intense or frightening dream with a pounding heart or gasping for breath. Dream images can produce physiological effects similar to those that would be produced by an actual event in real time. As Perls pointed out, when a dream is taking place it is absolutely real to the dreamer. In its own way, it is reality while it is happening.

Your dreams are metaphors for your existence. They are even more than that. Your dreams are direct messages that express your subconscious experience of yourself and the world. The Gestalt perspective of dreams is that every part of your dream is a part of yourself. This not only refers to the different persons in the dream, but all places, animals, objects, body parts, moods, weather and so forth. These parts have been fragmented or projected onto the world. By becoming the part you are taking back the power of the part. Perls, who focused primarily on dreamwork in the last years before his death in 1970 said, “You are greater than your wildest dreams.”

Gestalt helps us own all the different parts of ourselves. Anything you dream about has certain qualities and potentials you may not have been fully accepting. Persons may not be in touch with their eyes, their ears, their centers, their sexuality, their spontaneity, and so forth. Anything that you become aware of in a dream, even atmospheric conditions or time, is a different part of you that you have projected to one degree or another onto the world. Even a character in the dream which is apparently immoral or repugnant has something of value which the dreamer can incorporate. By becoming the parts and dialoguing between different parts, we take on a certain power that each character has and become so much more than we are when we project those parts externally onto persons or things. Some Native Americans have traditionally identified with different animals or birds and felt the power inherent in that symbol. There are certain advantages or strengths in any character, whether it be survival, cleverness, creativity, playfulness, ability to hide, etc.

Gestalt is an existential therapy predicated on awareness. Using our heads takes us away from the here and now, which we experience externally through our senses and internally through body awareness and emotions. Understandings can and do occur during Gestalt, but are a result of the direct experience of becoming dream characters, interacting with other dream characters, and experiencing our spontaneous physical and emotional processes.

Many who are considered dream experts have stated that there is still so much that we don’t understand about the meanings of dreams. But in fact your own creative subconscious mind, which formulated your dreams, knows exactly what they are about, and Gestalt dreamwork is a powerful tool in accessing these personal insights.

Dreams convey information specific to the dreamer. A formal interpretation could be wrong, or not as important as other aspects of what the dream is about. Unlike some methods of dream interpretation that say a house always means this or falling always means that, in Gestalt dreamwork, dreamers are led to experience what it means for them. The most important meaning is the truth of one’s experience. As the therapist, if you feel your client might be missing something obvious you can encourage staying with the feeling and noticing if there is also something else. But again, that is turning it over to and trusting the dreamer’s subjective experience, rather than giving (or requesting) analysis.

Many persons have gotten value from various methods of dream interpretation. My statements regarding interpretation are in the context of Gestalt dreamwork strategies. These methods provide us with non-analytic tools which steer away from interpretation and are consistently effective in giving us deep understanding of our dreams and solutions to the issues the dreams address. When used properly, Gestalt dreamwork methods produce meaningful revelations time and time again. And they keep the client tending toward hypnotic states as opposed to analysis, which tends to bring the client out of hypnosis. Avoiding interpretation keeps us focused on direct access to the wisdom of the greatest ally and potential therapist of all, our own subconscious minds, and also allows the potential for deep healing by way of the increased suggestibility inherent to hypnotic states.

In my workshop Become the Dream at the ACHE Conference, I will discuss how Gestalt dreamwork strategies tend to induce and deepen hypnosis and how we can integrate a range of further hypnotic methods to create the powerful synergies of Hypnotic Dreamwork™. This workshop includes a live demonstration.

Copyright© 1997, 2010, 2018 by Randal Churchill. Adapted from Become the Dream: The Transforming Power of Hypnotic Dreamwork.™

Randal Churchill is past President of the ACHE. He is founder and executive director of the Hypnotherapy Training Institute in the San Francisco area, one of the original licensed hypnotherapy schools (1978). He is author of the award-winning texts, Regression Hypnotherapy and Become the Dream, and the acclaimed Catharsis in Regression Hypnotherapy. His school website is at and information about his books is at

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