How To Use A Dream as a Tool for Self Development: A Case study

This dream is part of a series of four blogs. 
How to Use A Dream as a Tool For Self Development
How to Analyse a Dream with an Archetype in 4 Easy Steps
Q & A: 7 Questions and Answers about Dreaming and Mythology
Four Smart Questions and Answers About Dreams You had not Thought of Yourself

Self development is on top of the Maslow pyramid, and I always wondered why.

self development
Image: Simply Psychology

Because I have always had that innate need to understand myself better. I had no clue about this world and why people did the things they did. But I knew intuitively that if I was able to understand myself, my life would become so much easier. Because as Nietzsche said: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how“.

Psychologist Maslow created a hierarchy of needs in 1942. I was right, his theory was never empirically confirmed. But it is a very useful tool to give someone insight into his own life. Today I will show you how a dream can give insight into the path of your own life. Six easy to follow steps. Let me know in the comments what you think about this case study. Do you have suggestions? I would love to hear them.

Self Development Through a Dream Step 1

The first thing you are going to need is a dream. If you have trouble remembering dreams here are ten useful tips.

self development

Can it be any dream? Well, I prefer dreams that evoke emotion. Because when emotions come into play in a dream, you are certain that it contains an important message. That is why nightmares and negative dreams are relevant clues for self-development.

Let’s analyse a dream of one of my clients. It is a short dream about a murder. A dream with an assassination is a clue that the Self is changing.

I am standing with my parents and brother in the street, and all of a sudden, a man comes running towards them and stabs my brother down“.

The dream is short, but had a big emotional impact on the dreamer. That is why she contacted me.


Now you want to get more information about the emotional background of the dreamer. This step is not always easy when you analyse your own dreams. Having an independent, knowledgable vision can add so much value to your dreams. But here is how I do it. I ask the dreamer to tell me the story of his (or her) life. So if you want to analyse your own dreams, sit down and tell the story of yourself, to yourself. You might be surprised about what you hear yourself say.


Here are the questions I use:

  • Who are your parents? Many times in dreams patterns from childhood re-occur. This question will enable you to search for these patterns.
  • What were the challenges of your parents? While growing up, children become more aware that their parents are not almighty. Some people have the tendency to “inherit” their parents’ challenges, sometimes as an unconscious way to remain loyal to them.
  • Do you have brothers and sisters? 
  • If yes: how do you relate to them? Sibling rivalry is a core element of self-identification. This question let’s you determine if that is the case with your client.
  • What is the word that describes you best? Usefully people have great difficulty answering this question. Motivate them not to give a perfect answer, but the first one that pops into their mind. This first answer usually gives a vital direction for possible meanings of a dream.

This step can be very healing for clients. For most people it is a blessed relief that they are finally able to tell the story of their life to someone who actually listens. As an objective observant, you can add value by putting the story of their life in a bigger, mythological perspective.


Once you have the background information, it is time to focus on the dream.

I am standing with my parents and brother in the street, and all of a sudden, a man comes running towards them and stabs my brother down“.

This is dream narrated in the third perspective. The dreamer is an observer. the man comes out of nowhere and acts violently. Because the dreamer is of the female gender, the animus immediately comes to mind. How has the dreamer integrated the innate male principle, represented by the animus, in her daily life and actions? I decided to ask the dreamer to re-tell the dream story from the perspective of the murderer. In this way, she would be able to become more aware of this energy.

“I see four people standing in the street, and I want to show them my power. I need to be acknowledged. If I hurt the most vulnerable member, I will be acknowledged”.

Now your first question is going to be: why is your brother vulnerable? (That is why you always ask about siblings in the intake). The dreamer had told me that her brother needed extra care. The dreamer felt it was her responsibility to protect her brother, but in doing so, her own strength was diminished. That is why she was the outsider in the dream story. The next step is to let the dreamer re-tell the story from the perspective of the brother.


“I am standing in the street, protected on one side by my father, on the other side by my mother. My sister is standing on the side, she usually is a bit further away emotionally in our family. Even though I am protected I am being stabbed down by a mad man”.

You can see how the dream, told by the perspective of the brother, already reveals a great dependency upon the parents. For a woman, setting the power of the anima free, usually means stepping away from her parent (and that is why you ask about the relationship of the parents in step 1). The urge for self-development in this dream is apparent. Finding your own path. What does this dream advice the dreamer? The answer to these kind of questions are found in mythology.


At first sight, there does not seem to be any mythology in this dream. But there is one symbol is charged with mythology: the knife. Knives have a place in religion and magical ceremonies so this is an invitation for you as a dream consultant, to explore mythological options.


In my eyes, (a dream belongs to the dreamer, always make sure that the dreamer knows this is your suggestion), the sword resembles the magical sword of Joan of Arc. Joan listened to her inner voices, and followed her own path. She embraced the strength of her animus. There are even suggestions that Joan actually was a man.


The last step is to take action. Self development requires action. Formulate an action point together with the dreamer. It is vital that the dreamer suggests an action point. You want the motivation to act on a dream to come from within. My client decided to sit down and write a conversation with her animus. Writing is good for the brain.


A week after the consultation, I mailed my client to ask her about her action. The dreamer had gained insights into her relationship with her boyfriend and with her parents. She told me she had become more independent and felt more powerful.

I would like to know what your ways of working with dreams are. Do you agree with my steps? Or do you follow another process? I would love to hear from you.

Photo in leader: Kyle Glenn


What is Mindfunda about?

My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independant site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.

This posting is categorised as How To

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    2 thoughts on “How To Use A Dream as a Tool for Self Development: A Case study”

    1. Hi Susanne, Great article! I love your way of retelling the dream from each person’s perspective. This creative approach is so rich, and deeply insightful. Sometimes I forget to turn the dream telescope around like this, so thank you for the reminder! It’s reassuring to read that nightmares of ‘murder’ are frequently the psyche’s way of letting us know that the (Higher) Self is changing .. and therefore not to be feared. Hope the day finds you well. Blessings always, Deborah.

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