Deirdre Barrett teaches at Harvard University and is Past President of both the International Association for the Study of Dreams and The Society for Psychological Hypnosis. She is the author of The Committee of Sleep (2001) and Supernormal Stimuli (2010), and the editor of Trauma and Dreams (1996).
Dreaming is connected to both pain and healing: on the one hand, traumatic events often haunt us in our dreams, in many cases re-traumatizing us, but on the other hand, the language of our dreams is far more creative and imaginative than that of our waking consciousness, and this can be used to our advantage in our quest to heal. Dr. Barrett’s dream incubation method harnesses the power of dreams, helping us rewrite our narratives, and glimpse inspiration, solutions and possibilities. Following the publication of Tanya’s story “While You’re Talking In Our Sleep,” in which Deirdre and dream incubation played a crucial role, we are excited to share our interview with Dr. Barrett about dream incubation, her experience studying and engaging with dreams, and the opportunity offered by dreams to imagine new narratives for ourselves. We invite you to read Tanya’s story before listening to the interview and scroll below to read how to do dream incubation as discussed in the interview!
HOW TO DO DREAM INCUBATION:
This is a quick guide to help you practice dream incubation at home. The purpose of dream incubation is to intentionally focus your dream content before bed in order to address any pain, challenges, problems, or question marks in your life. Or to just have some fun. Dr. Deirdre Barrett of Harvard Medical School developed this accessible technique in order to help people leverage the healing and creative problem-solving power of our dreams.
1. At bedtime, suggest the content of your dream. It could be a person, a topic, a question, a problem or challenge you are currently facing. Formulate it as a simple phrase or sentence: “I want to dream about x”. Write it down and look at it.
2. Visualize the content in your mind’s eye. If you’re trying to dream about a person, visualize them. If it's a problem you've been stuck on at work, visualize the notes or the pieces of the puzzle that you're trying to put together. If you are not visually inclined, and don't relate to the term “your mind's eye” use visual props: find a photograph of the person or place. Our dreaming mind is very visual, so this step is important.
3. When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, before you open up your inbox or check Instagram… ask yourself what you were dreaming about. Have something available on your nightstand that you can document your dream with, either a paper and pen or a dream-journal app on your phone. Document as much of your dream as you can remember.
The more you practice dream incubation, the easier it will be!