Storytelling and Dream Interpretation

How can storytelling help you interpret your dreams? A new piece of research by Teresa DeCicco reveals a technique.

In her article, “What is the Story Telling? Examining Discovery with the Storytelling Method (TSM) and Testing with a Control Group,” in the academic journal Dreaming, DeCicco notes that her research showed a “significant relationship” between word association and “dreamer discovery” when dreamers created a story after completing word association about their dreams. “Discovery, insight, and bridging to waking-day circumstances was more likely with [the storytelling method],” DeCicco writes. She found a “significant difference between a group that interpreted a dream with [the storytelling method] and those who used the method with word association alone.”

DeCicco explains that:

Most dream interpretations are based on two guiding principles: (a) a description of the dream and (b) associations made by the dreamer on the basis of dream content… [The storytelling method] begins with these two fundamental steps and then expands on the basic principles by adding a third step to the process. The third step involves taking the associations and making a meaningful story from them. People make meaning from events based on their own lives in terms of their experiences, personality, and perceptions.

Here’s a paraphrased, brief outline of the storytelling method of dream interpretation:

1. Write down the dream in as much detail as possible upon waking.

2. Underline the most important/salient phrases in the dream.

3. Make a list of underlined words.

4. Make an association with each word or phrase on the list.

5. Take the new list of associations and make a meaningful story from these words — in the exact order they appear on the list.

6. Try to bridge this story to any situation in your waking life and journal about it based on insight from the dream. As questions such as:

    • Does this story have meaning for you? Explain.
    • Does this story relate to your waking life in some way? Explain.
    • Does this story relate to any specific events in your waking life?
    • Did this analysis give you any clear insights?
    • If yes, write about that insight and how it relates to your life?