Of course, the Spanish surrealist hasn’t been the only one to conceive recipes for unlocking the creative power of dreams. More recently, a number of psychologists, psychoanalysts, and dream coaches have also offered suggestions on how to mine the unconscious for artistic inspiration.
Kim Gillingham, a former actor turned dream coach
, has spent the better part of her adult life guiding artists through their dreams and developing strategies for shepherding the unconscious into creative work. Inspired by her studies with famed Jungian psychoanalyst Marion Woodman, Gillingham believes that dream analysis can open up new creative channels. “If we’re deriving our work from the ego or the thinking mind, we’re almost destined and doomed to regurgitate and repeat what we’ve already taken in,” she explained.
“But by diving down and making contact with the creative source—the unconscious—we have the chance to bring fresh material through.”
When Gillingham works with artists, she doesn’t “analyze or solve” their dreams, as she explained. Instead, she helps them identify the dream’s most vivid symbols—and how to incorporate them into artmaking. To start, all artists are asked to recall a dream, which they talk through with eyes closed, and explore its most potent imagery. Gillingham then guides them through movement and breathing exercises that help to surface “the different energies and symbols from the dream,” she said. Finally, students are encouraged to paint, draw, or sculpt with clay, “working intuitively with however [the dream] wants to come through.”
In this final stage, Gillingham encourages artists to work outside of their chosen medium. “If you’re a painter, then work with clay, or if you’re a dancer, then paint,” she explained. “Choose a medium where the ego is a little bit weaker so that the unconscious can lead the way.”