For example, Delaney's interview with a woman who dreamt she'd had sex with her old boyfriend, George, might go like this:
Delaney: What is George like?
Dreamer: Extremely handsome and dashing, but I couldn't get close to him.
Delaney: Why did you break up?
Dreamer: He was critical and kept me at arm's length.
Delaney: Is there anyone in your life now who's sort of like George?
Dreamer: I'm dating Michael. He's handsome and dashing, but he's blond. He's not at all like George. Last night before I went to sleep I tried to talk to him about our relationship, but he put his arms straight out and said he didn't want to talk about it.
Delaney: So is there any parallel between the dream and real life?
Dreamer: Now that you mention it ...
Delaney says if friends told the dreamer that Michael was just like George, her subjective bias would prevent her from seeing the parallel. But subjective bias can be overridden in the dream state. "Dreams bring objectivity to everyday experience, and this dream revealed her unconscious pattern of choosing men like George."
"Dreams are pretty transparent, but most people never try to decode them," says Freeman. "It's like learning a new language." He teaches a four-week dream interpretation class and says when students begin, they view the symbols literally. "Dreaming they fell down stairs must mean they fell down stairs," he says.
The device both Freeman and Delaney use to get dreamers past the literal symbols and discover how the symbols act as a metaphor for what's happening in their lives is to have them describe the people, setting, mood, and actions in a dream as though they're talking to someone from another planet. They say dreamers can use the interview technique on themselves, and Delaney suggests questions you could ask if, for example, you dreamed about losing a purse or wallet:
- What is a purse or wallet? Pretend I come from another planet and have no idea what one is, why humans use them and what they carry in them.
- Why would a human such as yourself care if your purse was lost or stolen?
- How do you feel in the dream when your purse is lost or stolen?
- Is there anywhere in your life where you feel the way you feel in the dream when you realize your purse has been lost or stolen?
- How so? Be as specific as you can.
- Having identified the relevant area of your life, is there anything you could do to change the situation?