My Masters degree is in Counseling Psychology with an Emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. The curriculum centers around the teachings of Carl Jung, a descendant of Sigmund Freud who was the first Psychoanalyst to make a connection between our dream lives and our conscious, emotional lives. In my training to become a Depth Psychotherapist, I learned the medicine of dream tending–not analysis or interpretation–and how to take deep dives with my clients to reveal messages from their unconscious. “The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of our conscious awareness. The unconscious contains contents that are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict.” Pregnancy is an especially ripe time for activity in your psyche since you are undergoing the most drastic transformation you will ever undergo. “The psyche is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious.”
What tracking dreams can help with during pregnancy
A pregnant person’s waking life is fraught with so much admin (e.g. doctor’s appointments, registry building, birth planning), that their dreams are probably not given enough heed. If you start to pay attention to them and record them, however, you’ll find your psyche working through so many feelings about your journey from maiden to mother. For example, ambivalence about motherhood is pretty socially and psychologically unacceptable, so these feelings often get relegated to your unfiltered unconscious mind and may show up in your dreams.
How to track your dreams
“But I don’t remember my dreams.” That is the most common response I hear when I inquire about dreams with my clients. That said, you may remember your dreams more during pregnancy since you tend to be a lighter sleeper (e.g. having a difficult time getting comfortable and/or frequent trips to the bathroom). Here are some suggestions that may help you recall your dreams better so that they don’t just slip through your hands like sand:
- Make it a habit
Recording dreams is a habit like any other habit. Therefore, you need to be intentional about writing them down on a daily or nightly basis–depending on when you wake from a dream.
- Keep a dream journey handy
It can be analog or digital. It can be a proper dream journal, or you could use your phone and write in the notes. If you do the latter, write the word “dream” on each entry so that you can search it easily later. Alternatively, you could make a voice recording of your dreams.
- Record dreams in present tense
Write down your dreams as if they are happening now. It will keep them fresh and easier to recall later when you want to review them.
- Use a progressive alarm clock
Traditional alarm clocks can jolt you awake, whereas a progressive alarm clock gently wakes you. The analogy I like to use is that when you are dreaming, it’s like being at the bottom of a lake, so it takes some time to leave one world and re-enter another. You are more likely to recall your dream if you exit it slowly.
- Spend some time reflecting on the dream
Whether or not you have a therapist who specializes in dream tending like myself, you can still benefit from taking some time to sit with your dreams. I am more interested in your associations to certain symbols anyways. In other words, I’m not a fan of dream dictionaries, nor do I like to say I interpret clients’ dreams. Instead I help them unpack the images and their subjective associations to the images, plus investigate the feeling tone of their dream and themes within it. I will sometimes say, “If it was my dream, I would be curious about…” Stay open about why your psyche chose certain dream figures and chose to put seemingly disjointed elements together. And be sure to stick to the images. Dreams are intimate and personal and can seem ridiculous if you don’t give them regard, however, when you tend to them you start to understand the symbolic language of your psyche then you’ll find the tincture from each dream.
Themes of dreams during pregnancy
I go in and out of the habit of recording my dreams, however, my dreams were so potent during my gestational journey that I could not help but pay attention to them. I recently went back and reread my dreams and was struck by the ubiquitous themes that I see in the work I do with pregnant and postpartum folks. Here are some common themes of dreams during pregnancy:
Loss of freedom
Disconnection from partner
Your unborn child’s well being
Not being a good enough mother
Body and sexuality
Career vs motherhood
Old self, new self
You are not alone in your mixed feelings about the metamorphosis of becoming a mother. These feelings start in pregnancy (and maybe even in the pre-conception phase) in your waking and unconscious life, and continue into the postpartum period. During pregnancy, having an awareness and understanding of your dream life can help ease your transition into motherhood.
For more on this subject, check out the book Dreaming for Two: The Hidden Emotional Life of Expectant Mothers.
Dream work education:
*Pacifica Graduate Institute: Steve Aisenstat, PhD; Robert Bosnak, Jungian psychoanalyst
*Post graduate studies: with Lionel Corbett, MD & Jungian psychoanalyst; Narandja Milanovich, PhD; Joan C. Concannon, M.A., M.F.T Certified Jungian Analyst; and dream group with Depth Psychotherapist colleagues