Archetypal Projective Dreamwork

jenna burke art
“Be humble for you are made of earth, be noble for you are made of stars.” -Serbian Proverb

Archetypes are the building blocks of any story. Universal patterns of human experience appear in beloved childhood fairytales, popular tv shows, Renaissance paintings, and even coffee shop conversations. Utilizing the principles of archetypal projective dreamwork listed below, we can share and reflect on stories from our dreams and waking lives to gain deeper meaning, creative insight, health, and wholeness.

All dreams speak a universal language.


Human beings share the same origins—we are all made of sand and stars. Archetypes are the essence, the core patterns, of any idea/image. Human beings have evolved within and through universal archetypes (such as sun, moon, hand, trickster, child, hero). This shared dynamic is reflected symbolically in dreams and art.

Each dreamer is the sovereign authority on their dreams and their imagined versions of the dreams of others.


We each have individual perceptions and experiences of universal archetypes—for example, different mothers, fathers, and even unique perceptions of the oceans and sky. While we share origins and an enormous amount of DNA, our individuality makes the meaning of dream content unique to each person. Like viewing a painting, we each perceive the dream and its significance from our relative locations.

All dreams have multiple layers of significance.


All perspectives are legitimate and exist simultaneously.  A single dream image has multiple meanings depending on the context in which it’s examined (such as career, physical health, spirituality, relationships, global culture) and the person engaging with the dream. The perceived essence of a dream can even mature over time like a fine wine.

Stories from waking life shared during dreamwork are relevant to the work at hand.


Whatever comes up is what’s up. Any waking life narrative discussed during dreamwork is related to the dream being explored. It indicates that the story from waking life has layers that up until now haven’t been speech-ripe, but are ready to be examined in the context of metaphor.

All dreams bring new insight in the service of health and wholeness.


Life is growth and movement. There is always more to learn and express about ourselves and our relationship with the cosmos. Our psyches have the natural urge to present us with what is most relevant and helpful to this growth, pushing our edges to expand what we consciously know with unconscious (not yet speech-ripe) understandings. As Spiritual Dreamworker Jeremy Taylor says, “There is no such thing as a ‘bad dream’—only dreams that take a dramatically negative form to get our attention.”



All dream group participants should maintain anonymity in all discussions of dreamwork outside of the group. If confidentiality is requested, all dreamers should be bound by this request.

When talking about someone else’s dream, begin with “in my imagined version of the dream…” (or something of that nature) and speak in first person (“I”) as much as possible. This cultivates awareness and demonstrates respect for each other during dreamwork.

I abide by the statement of professional ethics adopted by the Association for the Study of Dreams.

© 2015 Kelly O’Leary, Dreamwork Muse
with a tip of the hat to Jeremy Taylor