Great Escape

Inside the Far-Out World of Dream Therapy

More psychologists are incorporating dream analysis into their practices — and patients are seeing real-world payoff

Tessa Love
Elemental
Published in
5 min readAug 29, 2018

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Credit: Mike Ramirez/EyeEm/Getty

NNubia DuVall Wilson is in a frenzy. She’s packing up her entire home, and she needs to do it fast. She has only one suitcase, which she’s shoving all of her belongings into as quickly as possible. But as soon as one item goes in, new ones appear around her. It’s a relentless cycle of never being able to pack it all away. But Wilson frantically forces more and more into the suitcase anyway.

Then she wakes up.

Wilson has had this dream often, and it’s one of many that she’s brought to her therapist’s office to analyze. Together, the two mulled over this nocturnal upset until they came to a conclusion: The dream represented her attempt to bury her emotions. The more she tried to pack them away, the more they plagued her. Instead, she needed to pull them out and deal with them.

This kind of dream-led self-reflection isn’t uncommon for Wilson, a 36-year-old entrepreneur in New Jersey. She started seeing a therapist several years ago when long-repressed memories of her childhood sexual abuse came flooding back. In the process of dealing with the resulting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Wilson found relief in an unexpected way: interpreting her dreams. Today, these nightly visions guide her understanding of the underlying aspects of her waking life and help her come to terms with her trauma.

“Dream interpretation often gets lumped into the same kind of pop mysticism as tarot cards and astrology.”

“Tracking my dreams during the onset of PTSD and remembering my abuse was very cathartic,” Wilson says. “I was surprised how much I controlled my emotions throughout my life to cope.” But analyzing her dreams forced her to confront these buried feelings. Now, she says, “when I don’t remember my dreams, I am not connected to myself.”

Dream interpretation often gets lumped into the same kind of pop mysticism as tarot cards and astrology, deemed a useless attempt to assign meaning to what is widely…

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