Uncovering "Life Themes"

Why? PhotoAsk the “WHY?” question to discover your Life Themes from your dreams

If you have been recording your dreams for a while, you may have discovered similarities in setting, characters’ actions, situations and/or emotional reactions.  Don’t let this valuable information slip past without slowing down enough to pay attention and pick up a hint or two.

Some say that we only have four or five different dreams throughout our lives.  At first glance, each dream appears to be new and different.   On closer examination, there may be a core value, an unanswered question or a recurring emotional reaction contained in the swirling, weaving imagery or affect of the dream.

When you wake from a dream and after you have written about it in your journal, read your notes through slowly at least twice. Then choose one line that stands out from all the rest of the dream.

On a separate page, write that one sentence at the top of the page and pause momentarily to reflect on that sentence and acknowledge any physical sensations you notice that may have been aroused by the dream.

Just below the line you wrote from your dream, ask yourself this question and write it -“WHY?”

When an answer pops into your mind, no matter how silly or scary it may be, write it down on the next line.

Follow this line of questioning.  Continue to write your intuited answers after each WHY question, followed again by asking another WHY? until you sense a strong recognition or familiarity with the last thought you recorded.

Be sure to ask WHY? at least 4 or 5 times. Don’t stop at your first answer but continue to inquire into each of your responses.

When you feel that you have identified a current life theme, begin a new sheet of paper and write a reflection on what you have discovered in this process.

You may be surprised to find themes embedded in your dreams. Working over time with this process you can explore more specific areas within your themes. New themes can emerge as you benefit from this work.

Once you recognize a life theme, you have the choice of working with it or ignoring it, allowing it to work for or against you at it’s own pace.


  1. Hannah on May 4, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    This post, as well as the previous about True Nightmares, is extremely helpful. I cannot wait to try the “Why?” technique. Also, Hendricks wrote that “Drugs and medications can cause an increase in nightmares. Drugs that suppress REM sleep produce a later effect of REM-rebound. To make up for the lost REM time, dreams are more intense than usual for the last few hours of sleep time.” Reading this, I can actually recognize that my worst and most vivid dreams take place on the days when I sleep in late (I’m on an antidepressant). I hope that other individuals with a similar problem can comment or provide insight on their own experiences.

    • Susan Hendricks on May 13, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      Thank you for reflecting on these thoughts about nightmares. I hope others will bring their point-of view to this forum. Once a “conversation” begins, it’s not uncommon for nightmares to go through changes. I’ve seen cases in which individual’s nightmares change in intensity, sometimes never to return. I wish you the very best.

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