Pros: Very insightful and well-researched work into creativity, dreaming, and psychology; flexible and adaptable
Cons: Not everyone will appreciate the very Jungian, symbolic approach
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Celestial Arts of Ten Speed Press
I admit it, I’m addicted to creativity books; I also have a strong interest in psychology. However, under most circumstances I favor a somewhat biologically-based approach to psychology, and even when I go for more traditional approaches I usually avoid the heavily symbolic, Freudian/Jungian methods. Let’s take dreams, for instance. I roll my eyes at books that tell you “snakes symbolize X; if you dream of Y it means Z” and so on; I think most of them are pretty silly, and are simply taking advantage of our desire to find meaning in everything around us. I much prefer Hobson’s work on the madness of dreaming, with its strongly neurological approach.
That said, however, I enjoyed Veronica Tonay’s “The Creative Dreamer: Using Your Dreams to Unlock Your Creativity,” and found a great deal of value in it. This alone should be a good indicator of how balanced and reasonable her approach to the subject is.
First of all, Tonay is a Ph.D. and therapist who has done a great deal of research into dreaming. She bases those equivalencies she does suggest on studies that have found certain common themes across all cultures–not simply on her own or one psychologist’s interpretations. She delves into many things that are not strict equivalencies: the differences between men and women’s dreams, the dreams of highly creative people, how we experience emotions in our dreams, common themes that crop up in dreams, and so on.
Even better, she points out that there are many ways to interpret dreams and that you have to find the one that works best for you. In many ways this is much more about seeing what you read into the dream than it is about seeing what your dreams contain.
She points out that there are certain emotions, themes, subjects, etc. that tend to crop up in dreams in general, and so it can be a waste of time to pore over those–they indicate simply that we’re human and have the dreams that every human has. It’s much more interesting to find out in what ways our dreams differ from those of most others and look into that.
Tonay uses sample dreams and series of dreams, exercises, and instructions on keeping a dream journal to teach us to mine our own dreams for insight into our emotions, our state of mind, and what might be inhibiting our creative process. She believes that much of our creative mind is reflected in our dreams, and that we can use the insight we gain from those dreams to free ourselves of unwanted baggage and to unblock ourselves when we get stuck.
We also generate a ton of interesting ideas in our dreams, and we can directly mine those for material we can use in our creative endeavors. Tonay gives examples of images, themes, and so on that various authors and artists have pieced into their works after first experiencing them in dreams.
Tonay is rather Jungian in outlook as a psychologist, and discusses such concepts as shadow qualities. Those who don’t agree with a Jungian outlook may be put off by the use of the terminology and such, but try to look past it. She’s incredibly practical in how she applies her concepts to dreaming and psychology, and there’s a great deal of value to be had in here no matter what your take on psychological theory.
“The Creative Dreamer” is useful on a number of levels. It delves into the use of dreams to more thoroughly explore the self and improve our lives. In particular it spends time on how we can use our dreams to discover what is blocking our creativity and remove those blocks; certainly I’ve been getting much more accomplished since I started reading this book, and I don’t think that’s entirely coincidence. I definitely learned some things about myself by following the ideas and instructions contained herein. The book also teaches us to mine our dreams for creative gold, unusual ideas that will provide new and interesting jumping-off points for our work.
I think “The Creative Dreamer, Revised” would be a great investment for any artist, writer, or other creative that feels they could stand to improve their creative output or self-understanding–which is to say, pretty much all of us. The writing is interesting and evocative, and some truly beautiful quotes are contained in here. Many exercises are provided to help us remember, analyze, and even guide our dreams. This is a relatively quick read, but it will provide you with food for thought for a long time to come.